Saturday, September 26, 2009

Question for the weekend

We have some incredible stories in our rich culture, some of them stretching our limits of imagination. Among the several religious, mythological or fictional stories, did you come across any mention of time travel? I hope I dont need to clarify that I am not taking of rebirths here but traveling into the past and future.

I find it incredible that for a civilization that could put in words some thoughts that are for most humans beyond the wildest imagination (in its literal sense), there is hardly any mention of traveling across time. In my opinion, it doesn't take a flash of genius to come up with the idea of time travel. We all have the impulse in us to wish we could go back into the past to change something, or peep into the future. But here we are, with hardly any stories on time travel. Is there a method to the madness?

We do have a fairly well-defined concept of time, don't we.


Gandaragolaka said...

At the top of my head, the one story I can think of, about concept of time itself (not time-travel, per se) is that of Raja Muchkunda from Srimad Bhaagavatam:

He was one of the Kings of the Earth who helped the Devas in the Devaasura sangraama. After the Devas won the war, he lived for a period of one year in svarga-loka.

But when he returned after that year, he found that many yugas had elapsed on Earth and people had forgotten not just just him and his dynasty, but even the name of his kingdom.

Puzzled, he went back and enquired what happened. Indra told him that time elapses differently in svarga loka when compared to Martya loka (Earth)--one second in svarga is equivalent to many centuries on Earth.

Of course, how this incident helps Krishna kill a demon king from Greece named "Kaalayavana" is another story.

Hindu Fundamentalist said...

gandaragolaka, the concept of gods, demi-gods having different time horizons is mentioned on several occasions. for example, pitrukarma is done yearly because our year corresponds to their day. in fact, the cycle of universe, which is 4.32 billion years of expansion and contraction each, corresponds to a brahma day. but no mention of gods travelling across time.

various laws of nature have been defied in our stories on countless occasions but the only immutable law seems to be associated with time.

Xinhua Ram said...

I don't have an answer but, just dwell on the meaning of Kaalatheetha. Beyond Time! There is no such concept in any other culture nor in Science.
Eckhart Tolle's ideas on time find resonance among Advaita folks.

Dirt Digger said...

Ancient Indian philosophies are quite intertwined with the history that it takes much effort to separate the concepts.

Hindu philosophies have also been deeply linked with the concept of karma which defines future actions based on past results which almost rules out making changes to the past.

Interestingly though, there are several mentions of travel across dimensions through astral planes by the various rishis and other spiritual beings which have to assume time travel since time is relative :)

Gandaragolaka said...


I see your point. That could be because we see "vidhi" as something inevitable, and as Dirt Digger said, the karma-siddhaanta would be violated if Gods be able to travel through time and change the flow of kaala-chakra.

Hence, even the Gods (the English word 'God' is itself a debatable topic, because each God is more a 'padavi'--a position, rather than an individual) cannot travel through time, which is created by that One who is beyond all attributes like rupa and guNa.

Also, it may sound like chest-thumping for actually not having come-up with that idea, but time travel may not be such a great idea after all!
It may be--
1) a desperate desire for a second chance to things better,
2) a guilt that goads people try to erase past mistakes,
3) or even a sign of weakness of not being able to bear a personal loss.

To stand by the truth, to rise to the circumstance, and to take tragedies on the chin is a hallmark of sanaatana-dharma.

Hindu Fundamentalist said...

XR, a very good point you raised about kaalaatheetha. wonder what is it that is beyond time - gross matter, mind, aatma? the word itself is heavily loaded with meaning.

DD, your explanation of linking it with karma is quite interesting. on the issue of different astral planes having different time horizons, i will put in a different perspective. different living beings on the planet have different life spans. a dog has a life span of 20 years, a man for 100 years and a tortoise for 300 years. they all go through the cycle of birth, reproduction and death during this life span. each is living one life span but with different time horizon for the life span. no life form is traveling across the time zone per se.

Gandaragolaka, I am glad you have mentioned that each god is a position. most hindus fail to grasp this.

i am actually quite happy to see that we did not come up with the idea of time travel. not just because it sounds illogical. but also because karma is a beautiful concept to tie humans to the moral path.

our understanding of time is quite profound:
we had extraordinary time scales -- way way beyond anything required for the entire humanity for the next few thousand years. we saw the life of the universe in billions of years and we had much larger time scales.
the smallest amount of time mentioned is thruti (3x10^-8), which is probably the time associated with a thought.
we conceived of astral planes, each having a different time horizon.
we were aware of the state of kaalaatheetha where time loses its meaning(?).
but we dont talk of matter/life moving across time.

if we proceed with the assumption that there is logical coherence in our understanding of time, is it possible to deduce something from the patterns?

Xinhua Ram said...

HF, it is better if you directly read from a Jeevan Mukta. I suggest 'I Am That' by Nisarga Dutta Maharaj.

I should caution that it is not for the faint hearted.

Hindu Fundamentalist said...

Thanks for the tip. Will pick up the book when I get some time.