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Beyond Time and Space
Depak: Hi, Arlindo. Is atman beyond time and space? Do we need to meditate beyond space and time, which in turn will merge with atman? If yes, how then can we realize atman, since we are inside space and time? Shed any light on these doubts, please.
Arlindo: Hello, Depak, good question. As you probably know, pure atman is free of all attributes and qualities. It is nirguna (without gunas). The gunas are the subtest energies emerging in creation once maya begins operating. Once maya fully comes into activation it projects an apparent reality we call the dualistic world of subject and objects.
The initial projection is the three gunas (the building blocks of creation). Sattva, being the intelligence and knowledge of the entire creation, is the very creation but in potential mode. But it cannot create without rajas, the energy responsible to combine and project ideas and knowledge to begin producing the “soup of creation,” which later on, with the development of tamas (grossified energy), manifests as the physical universe.
Space is the subtlest of all elements – it pervades all other elements and consequently all objects created in it – but all five elements depend on atman, or pure awareness. Space is free (independent) of all other elements, but space depends on atman, or pure existence/awareness. The bottom line is that awareness is the only independent principle without which creation is impossible, not even as a vague dream.
The word “beyond” is a very misleading one because it implies action/space/time. The best way to phrase it is that awareness/atman pervades, sustains, maintains and recycles the entire creation within its space-time projection, but it is altogether something other than the projected creation, other than space and time. It never modifies with the presence or absence of the objects (the three gunas + five elements) appearing, always modifying and disappearing into “itself,” creating a sense of time.
Time is only a function of space and the objects appearing in it. The human jivas intelligently perceive the objects, gross and subtle, and by doing so they experience each thought-object one at the time. This phenomenon gives rise to a sense of duration of experience and interval between them. But in reality there is only space pervading all apparent objects to produce the seeming perception of duration of thoughts/objects because in mithya nothing remains the same from one moment to the next; they appear, modify and disappear.
If you wish to meditate “beyond” space-time, my suggestion is that you meditate on the self, or awareness, alone. But since the self cannot be objectified, because it is the ever-present subject and not an object of knowledge or experience, we will need to meditate on something which represents the self, a symbol of the self.
And what would be the best symbol of the self/atman? The scriptures! Why so? Because it is a body of knowledge that self-reveals the self to the apparent jiva. And it does so by canceling jiva’s wrong notions about the nature of reality to reveal the nature of the jivatman to be the one and the same as the non-dual, limitless, all-pervasive self (the only self there is). Furthermore, scriptures were not created by jivas, but self-revealed to human jivas by Isvara. That alone makes the scriptures the best symbol of the self.