Kaala (time) exists in two forms – the subtle, transcendental form and the gross form. The all powerful time which is the shakti of the Lord Himself, is unperceivable, transcendental, subtle and it is called mahakaala. It becomes perceivable when it is seen as controlling everything that exists. It is perceivable only in movement and this expression of time is called kaala. Kaala is said as the gross form in the sense that it is perceivable as seen controlling everything. The lord, using the gross power kaala creates and controls this creation.
Srimad Bhagavata explains, “Time in itself is without any modification and insubstantial, without beginning and end, but it gets a form or expression when it causes the stirring of the gunas of prakriti at the beginning of a creative circle”, Srimad Bhagavat (3,10,10). The time that is infinite and without any modification is called mahakaala. The whole creation is on the lap of mahakaala; and at the end of the creative cycle the entire creation enters in mahakaala. Mahakaala is not perceivable to the ordinary mind. It is very subtle and it does not express itself. There is creation only because of mahakaala. Mahakaala always exists; only thing is it cannot be grasped by the mind. Mahakaala is also said as the fourth state.
Life is the play of time. The time we experience is related to movement. If there is movement then there is time. Time expresses itself as movement. Everything in the material world is controlled by time.
Kaala (time) is based on the movement of the earth. Earth takes 24 hours to spin on its axis and 365 days to go around the sun. In another planet, time is based on the movement of that planet. For example, planet Saturn takes thirty years (comparing to the time in earth) to go around the Sun. Outer space does not have the concept of time. Since time and direction are related to the movement of Earth, there is no time or direction in outer space. Even on earth time differs in different places. Day time in one place is the night time for the opposite side of the planet. Therefore, time is based on the movement of planet earth. Time is absolutely needed for humans to survive. Even though all other beings are subject to time they are not aware of it.
Kaala’s influence on the material world
Any object in the world takes birth, grows, and is destroyed by time. Any object in this world passes through these three phases; which indicates that any object passes from one phase to another automatically by the passage of time. Any movement is subject to time and anything static is non-subject to time. In Vedantic terms, whatever is subject to time and has movement is called prakriti; whatever is non-subject to time and movement is called purusha. Purusha is beyond time and movement. We realize the movement and passage of time by our mind.
Time and mind
We experience time only when we are awake. Time is based on the movement of earth and it is experienced by the mind. In deep sleep, in meditation or in some exceptional physical conditions like coma or swoon, we are not aware of time. Mind moves on a static substratum, Atma. The power behind the functioning of the mind is Atma. Physical body is based on the mind and so body is also subject to movement and time. One cannot expect anything permanent from something which is always subject to movement. Permanent pleasure is experienced only from the static substratum, Atma. Mind experiences pleasure from Atma through the anandamaya kosa (bliss layer). When one wants to transact with the world, attach the mind to the material world. During meditation place the mind on the Atma. The power to switch the mind from external to internal is called maneesha. When we are based on Sat, that is presence and existence, whatever has passed is considered as past; whatever is to come is considered as future. Therefore, the center point is the present, that is Sat, which is pure existence.
The objects subject to time and movement are subject to destruction, because kaala (time) itself is an expression of Mahakaala. The movement along with time comes to a standstill and folds back till the next cycle begins from mahakaala.
Ancient method of calculating time
In the vedic period, when there were no scientific development or electronic instruments to measure time, people used a very unique and accurate way of measure time. The way they calculated time is well explained in Srimad Bhagavata.
In the beginning of the formation of the universe even before any type of combination took place and solidify as objects or materials, paramanu or ultimate material particle existed. Paramanu are ultimate material particles. They existed in large numbers and can be conceived only as an irreducible unit. The period required for the sun (sun rays, the indicator of time with respect to the movement of earth) to pass a paramanu, which is the basic building block of the material universe, is called a particle of time (paramanukaala). An atom or anu is a combination of two ultimate particles. When three atoms join together, it is called Trasarenu. The period required for the sunlight to pass a trasarenu is called trasarenu kaala. In the ancient times, when there were no scientific equipments like microscope, the visible very minute floating particles that can be seen in a sunbeam coming through a window slit is considered a trasarenu. The period taken by the sunlight to pass that very minute particle is called trasarenu kaala. The time required for the sunlight to cover three trasarenu is called truti. A hundred trutis of time make a vedha. Three vedas make one lava. Three lavas make one nimisha or moment (one minute). Three such moments make one kshana. Five kshanas make a kashtha, fifteen kashthas make one laghu, and fifteen laghus make one nadika (i.e 24 minutes in modern time system). Three such nadikas make a muhurta. Six or seven nadikas make one prahara or yama. Eight yamas make a day and night of man. A fortnight is fifteen days and fifteen nights. Two fortnights (one white and one dark) constitute a month. Two months together form a season. Six months make one solstices of the sun. There are two such solstices, one dark and one bright and these two constitute a year. From this description given in Srimad Baghavata we understand that in the ancient period, calculation of time was based on the sunlight covering the minute particles floating freely in the atmosphere. After the Vedic period many methods were used to indicate the movement of time like sand glasses, and calculating time by seeing the sun’s position. Another method used in ancient time to measure time was, large disks with markings on it were placed in the open space. There were markings on the disk and a needle was also placed on it. The shadow of the needle falling on the markings on the disk indicates the accurate time. The position of the shadow changes according to the movement of the earth. Such ancient instruments for measuring time are kept for exhibition in some places in India.
Indian astronomy and time
According to Indian astronomy, time has a great impact on the human system. The spin of the earth, our body system, our destiny and nature are all so closely related to each other. Our body system is very closely connected to earth, other planets and the sun. Based on the place we live everything like time, body system and nature changes drastically. This in turn affects the working of our mind and brain. Time is not only the concept of the mind; it is deep rooted in our system.
According to the modern time system, every two hours is called a unit of time, lagna. Mind changes for every lagna. Mind means the thoughts, feelings and emotions. Every sixty hours (two and a half days) the mood and emotion changes. Suppose, we are in a negative mood then the negativity reaches a peak and decline within sixty hours. Many factors including the spin of the earth, moon, sun, other planets, climate etc affect the mind drastically. Every morning from 4.30 AM to 6.30 AM is called the Brahma muhurta. It is the most creative time within the 24 hours. At this time the nature will be highly charged as well as our mind.
Indian astronomy divides the path of the earth around the sun as twenty seven segments. Each point is the place for the twenty seven nakshatras (stars). Each segment is again divided in to four minor segments called padhas. When the planet earth moves from one point to the other point, moon also revolves around it causing full moon and new moon. In these twenty seven segments sun plays a very significant role on the planet earth. When the planet earth moves along the passage from one point to another, human body and mind responds and corresponds to this movement accordingly. This is said as the connection between the macrocosm (unda) and the microcosm (pinda).
According to the Indian astronomy, the entire solar system moves on an elliptical path around the very big star or the center star (which in Indian astronomy is said as vishnu nabi), in our galaxy. It is said in the yogic science that it takes 25920 years for the solar system to complete one circle around the vishnu nabi. When our solar system comes near the big star, the intellectual capacity of the beings on earth will rise and will be high (satya yug). When our solar system moves away from the big star then the intellectual capacity of the beings on earth will be low (kali yug). The yugas in the Indian astronomy is calculated based on the movement of the solar system on its elliptical path around the big star or vishnu nabi.
The time taken by the sun to traverse from one constellation (rasi) to another constellation is called a solar month. There are twelve such constellation and twelve solar months. Twelve such solar months constitute a solar year called samvatsara.
Time matters only when a person identifies with his physical body. If a person identifies with Atma, then time does not matter. Therefore, time is important for the physical existence. It controls the nature and organizes life. A person has to surpass time (kaala) to enter in the spiritual realm. A person’s physical existence is based on the cyclic movement of time.