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The Myth of Time and Space || Acharya Prashant, with youth (2012)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
8 min
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Questioner (Q): What is Time and Space?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The answer is actually pretty simple, and you do not need a physicist to answer this question. The answer is that time and space are properties of your mind. Mind means time and space. There is no time and space except in your mind. Because you have a particular quality of mind, so you watch things in time and space. There could be another species for which there is an entirely different quality of space.

Your space is three dimensional. There could be another species for which the space is, for example, seven dimensional, which you cannot even imagine. We cannot even imagine seven-dimensional space. We always imagine things in three dimensions. Time and space are properties of the human mind, nothing more than that, nothing less than that. Difficult to understand but that’s what it is.

We do not exist in time and space, time and space exist within us. The definition that you gave: if there is time, there is change—yes, time is very closely related to change. Because the human mind perceives things as changing, because the human mind perceives certain objects here and there, the variable that measures this change is called time. There is nothing except that. Similarly, because the human mind sees things as distinct from each other—there are two different things, so that variable which quantifies their distinction is called space.

Time and space are nothing but variables that measure the degree of isolation. Given one particular time, the variable that measures isolation is called space. If at one particular moment I want to know how different you are from each other, then variable is space. And if there are two different moments, then the variable is time. That’s all there is. Human mind is fragmented. It sees things in distinction to one another, and it only considers two variables while making the distinction—time and space, and both are related to each other, that’s it.

Physicists can never explain it because the definition cannot come from physics, the definition comes from philosophy. Physics borrows it without understanding it. Now, what is this escape from ‘now’? Because our mind always sees things as disjoint, this property of mind is called fragmentation. So, mind sees everything as distinct. It never wants to stop in this moment because this moment is not a part of time. ‘Now’ is not a part of time. ‘Now’ is separate from time.

Time is only two things: past and future. There is no ‘now’ in time. But reality exists only in the now. In the now, mind does not exist. Mind wants to exist either this side or that side of the axis. The human mind disappears in the now. Only one thing can remain in the now and that is attention. Only attention can exist in the now. Mind is the sum total of past and future influences, and memories, and desires, and hopes, and fear, and all that. Mind does not exist in the now. Attention exists in the now. Mind exists only in past or future.

Okay, get to the moment when you are solving some really difficult question of, say, differentiation or calculus or something, are you really thinking while solving that question? Think carefully. When you are attentively solving a question, are you really thinking? You think only when you pause. When you are really solving it, you are nothing but your attention, there is no mind then. It will sound strange to you. So, are we solving without using our minds? Yes. The approach to that question—real approach, in this that the question can be understood and hence solved—is through attention, it is not through thought.

When you are completely immersed in solving a problem—everyone has done this, right? It cannot be that you have cleared JEE and not solved a problem attentively, everyone has done it, am I right?—When you are really solving it, when you are really immersed into it, see that you are not thinking. You are just attentive. You are fully attentive. You are not thinking. You think only when attention is broken, then you think, then you go into memories and all that. You all drive a car or a bike, don’t you? Those who are fluent drivers, when you are riding a bike, are you thinking about how to ride it?

Q: No.

AP: But yes, if you have recently learnt how to ride, then you are, of course, thinking. Or if there is some problem with the bike, then you must be thinking. But till the time attention is there you are not really thinking. In the now, there is no thought, there is only attention. What will the mind do in the now? Its function is to only think. There is no need to think while in attention. But because the mind wants to exist in the past and the future, it will not be attentive. It will escape from the now, and where will it go? To the past or to the future.

Time and space go together. In time, mind will either go to past or future. In space, it will run away from here. So, what is function of the mind? To always escape from here and now. That is the nature of the mind. Mind is the result of external influences and always wants to go towards the outside. You only think that the mind belongs to you. It comes from the outside and wants to go to the outside. Only that which you are remains with you, and what are you? You are pure attention. You are nothing but pure attention.

You want to find who you are? If I am not my identity, who am I? You are pure attention. Give pure attention to something, and you will know who you are. When you are completely attentive, then you discover who you are. Completely attentive not towards any particular thing but just attentive.

I am not talking about concentration that “I am concentrating on one problem.” Completely attentive on everything—just attention, not lost in memories, not lost in hopes and doubts, then you discover who you are, then there is an absolute clarity about what I am; there will remain no doubt. If you are fully present here, not in the mess, not in that classroom, not to the place we will go to in the evening, then you know you are completely attentive. So, this escape from now is the only function of the mind.

And one thing which you can take away from this workshop—you can forget it later if you want—is that it is the function of the mind to escape from here and now, but it does not go with your permission. Your mind is not in your control. You call it ‘my mind’, you call it ‘my choice’, you say that it is my decision and such things, but the fact of the matter is, your mind is never your mind; it is never in your control. Is there any doubt regarding this? Should I prove it you that your mind is never in your control? Should I become the master of your mind for the next one minute? Yes?

Q: Yes.

AP: I don’t even know your name, but I can become the master of your mind, alright? Within the next one minute all of you will be thinking of monkeys. I command you to think of monkeys! Disobey me if you can. I command you to think of monkeys! Disobey me if you dare to. Yes, is there even a single soul here who can disobey me? You have not been thinking of monkeys? Not even red monkeys or white monkeys? Small and big? Not thinking about Langurs with long tails? ( laughter )

Who am I to you? Nobody, just a stranger, but still within a matter of a few seconds I can become the master of your mind. Do you know how susceptible the mind is to external influences? Do you see that? Anybody can make your mind do what they want you to do, instantaneously. And you call it ‘my mind’, how is it your mind? Is it your mind, really? Huge monkeys are still dancing there, how can it be your mind? They entered without your permission, and they will leave without your permission.

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