Overcoming the Condition of Space-Time
by Swami Krishnananda


(Spoken on June 10, 1973, continued from the talk given on June 9, 1973)

Yesterday I made a reference to the part played by space and time in our awareness of things. One of our friends here has requested me to speak a little more about this, dilating upon the subject of space and time, though whatever I have spoken yesterday is quite sufficient for the purpose of conducting our consciousness in meditation.

To explain what space is and how it influences our evaluation of objects, we have to analyse a little bit the circumstances under which space becomes a vital part of our experience. Space is a relation between objects, especially a relation between the perceiver and the perceived. This is one of its special characteristics among many others. There should not be an externalised perception unless there is a relation. The very meaning of externalisation is the ability to get related externally. When we say there is an object, we imply thereby that there is also an observer of the object. There is a further implication that this observation of the object is through a relation.

Now, this relation is impossible unless there is a third element between the observer and the observed. This differentiating element between the observer and the observed is space and time combined together, called space-time, which is the subject we were speaking about yesterday. This extent of understanding is sufficient for our practical life, but the question takes us far deeper than the mere definition that space-time exists as a relationship between the subjects observing and the object observed.

Without this third link being intimately connected with the observer and the observed, it cannot become a link. This link is similar to the umpire in a game. The third element is connected both with the object that is observed and the observing consciousness. It is on account of this double activity of the presence called space-time that perception or an awareness of the object outside becomes possible. This means that the object is in space and time and the observing subject also is in space and time. Both are located in space and time; and it may appear, with a superficial definition, that space-time transcends the subjectivity of the observer and the objectivity of the observed in the sense that it is capable of bringing together into a sort of union two unrelated elements – the observer and the observed.

But what sort of connecting link is this space-time between the observer and the observed? It is the relation between two terms. Now, peculiarly enough, the terms cannot be explained without the relations, and the relations cannot be explained without the terms. The two terms, or the two elements which space-time connects, are explicable only in terms of this relation. It is something like a definition that we give of an object, which is always with reference to something else. Qualities or attributes with which we define objects are not independent existences, but are relative in the sense that they are meaningful only by an exclusion of characters other than themselves. White is other than what is not white, red is other than what is not red, and so on. We cannot know what a cow is if there are no objects other than cows, so exclusion is a part of the definition. When we explain or define the terms of the relation called space-time, we find that such a definition is difficult enough because a term taken independently by itself has no characters which are definable, so that we cannot give an independent explanation of an object. The explanation or definition of an object is only in relation or with reference to what connects it or with what it is connected.

This becomes a little more intelligible to us when we compare this space-time relation of objects and subjects as we see it in the condition of dream. We have space-time and objects in dream also. This analogy is only to give an idea of what this relationship means in its vital connection with the terms related. The objects of dream are not independent of the space-time in dream. The mental functions and the psychological conditions of the dreaming individual are responsible for the projections in the dream. The conditions responsible for the dream as a whole are also responsible for the nature of the space-time projected and of the objects that are made visible to the dreamer. There is a single conditioning factor which has manifested itself in a variety of forms as space-time and cause, and objects and observer. All these things that we have in dream are manifestations of a single conditioning factor which has become responsible for the dream.

Likewise, it appears that there is a supernormal conditioning factor which may be said to be responsible for the manifestation of what we call space-time and also the objects and the observers thereof. This supposed existence of a transcendent conditioning factor of space-time, objects and subjects has bred a philosophical doctrine especially prevalent in the West but not unknown to the East, namely, the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. The primary qualities are supposed to be what are called the attributes of objects which are independent of relations. Whether such attributes exist or not, we shall see a little later, but this is the assumption at least that there are objects in the world and they have certain characters of their own independent of the factor of their being observed by someone else. That means to say, certain objects, or perhaps all objects, have certain characters or attributes of their own even if we are not to know them or see them. Such characters are generally called primary qualities.

The primary qualities of things are something like mass, extension, motion, etc. But the related qualities, qualities that are superimposed on the object and which are apparently present in the object only during the time of perception or cognition, are called secondary qualities – for example, sound, touch, etc. These are regarded as secondary qualities of objects, not necessarily inherent independently in the objects themselves in the way in which they are experienced by subjects. Therefore, philosophers draw a distinction between what are called primary and secondary qualities.

The reason for this distinction is the assumption, again, that there is such a thing as an independent cosmos other than our mental operations. There is a universe which is extra-mental so that, we may say, everything is not merely a mental creation. There is a universe which is definable by characters independent of qualities that are observed only during the perception of the universe.

This comes from our analogy of the perceptions in dream, that the entire dream process is made possible by a single factor which is the reason behind the rise of dream itself, and this factor, though in a very strange manner, becomes space, time, object, causality, and the subject in dream. How it happens, how the mind manifests itself in all these ways is a wonder by itself. There is a causal, logical reason in dream. Everything is not slipshod and chaos. There is tremendous reason and science and logicality, there are objects which affect us pleasurably and miserably, there is space-time, and there is every blessed thing that we see in waking.

But with all these externalities, separations, isolated locations and varieties that we see in dream, we know very well on a subsequent analysis and examination thereof that both space-time and objects are mental, although it appears that objects are independent of space-time. We do not run after space and time; we only run after objects, which is proof that the mind takes objects as independent by themselves. In the dream condition, the objects which affect us in a pleasant or miserable manner are taken as existent by themselves independently. We have friends and enemies even in dream. There are objects which we like and dislike in dream, but these objects are peculiar externalisations of certain conditions of the psychological organ. This psychological organ, in its manifestation of objects, has also played the trick of expressing itself as the necessary space and time together with the manifestation of these objects so that a reality may be bestowed upon the object.

The mind is wonderful. Its workings are miraculous. How beautifully it manifests itself as all the necessary conditions which are needed to make us believe in the reality of external objects! Now, this analogy will tell us that the conditions of space and time which are necessary for our belief in the reality of objects, and the objects themselves, are both projections of the psychological organ. Not merely the space-time and the objects, but also the observer himself is conditioned by the factors of dream so that the dreamer is taken aback by the horrors of dream or is pleased by the pleasurable objects of dream. This means to say that the dreaming consciousness is involved in the conditions responsible for dream so that the whole world is one setup which connects all factors into a network.

But who connects them into a network? This question as to who could do it has given rise to the doctrine of the primary qualities and the independent existence of the cosmos. If we are not to believe in an independent existence of the universe outside us, we cannot explain how these miracles would be worked at all because no particular individual can be regarded as the creator of the world. No one would deliberately create a prison for one’s own self. No one would like to suffer deliberately, and yet suffering comes upon a person. There is what is called chance and fate, an accident which takes possession of the lives of people and gives us the proof that there are powers and laws which operate beyond the possibilities of the mental operations of man.

Space and time, on account of this reason, are regarded as real as well as ideal. I have given the reason why they are real and why they are ideal. They are ideal because they are necessarily connected with the observing process in the observation of an object, but they are real in the sense that they condition even the observer himself so that, as we discussed yesterday, everything in the universe may be regarded as phenomenal.

There are many features of space and time, and we cannot discuss all of them in one day. This ideality and reality, whatever it be, of the setup of space and time has another peculiar characteristic in that space-time cannot be a single permanent factor under every condition. It is not true that there is only one order of space-time in the entire creation.

We have a beautiful story in the Yoga Vasishtha of how space-time is relative on account of certain other factors operating behind it. What are these factors? The involvement of the observing subject in space-time is the cause of space-time being relative. You may ask me, ”What do you mean by ‘relative’?” It means that it is subject to alteration in accordance with the conditions of the observing subject. In the modern theory of relativity it is said that space-time changes its form and conditions in accordance with the location, the position and the velocity of the observer. Our speed of motion and the position in which we are placed will also determine the character of space-time in relation to the object that we perceive.

The conditions of the observer which determine to a large extent the nature of space-time connecting the object are psychological in a very special sense. Here, by the word ‘psychological’, I do not mean psychology in the ordinary popular sense of the term. It is psychology in the deepest sense, as yoga would take it perhaps. The entire determining conditions of the individuality of the human being may be regarded as psychological conditions – not merely the thinking faculties, not merely the self-arrogating faculties, not merely the remembering faculties or the understanding or the willing, but all these put together, and what is much more within us.

These conditions making up our personality, about which we have studied previously, are also largely responsible for the character of space-time determining our objects of perception in the particular world into which we are born. The samskaras within us, the impressions of perceptions of the past, the tendencies, the desires fulfilled as well as unfulfilled – in short, whatever is within us making us what we are in our individuality and personality – have a direct impact on the external atmosphere into which we are born, and we have a corresponding type of space-time into which we are set to be born. That is what we call rebirth in a new world.

When we die, we are reborn into a new world, as we say. What is this new world? Is it above us or below is or to the right or to the left? Where do we find this world into which we are born after dying? Where is that world? How far is it? It is not far away. It is here just where we are, but it is a different condition and order of space-time. Where is dream? It is just here, where we are sitting. It is not somewhere far off. Though the dream world is perhaps entirely different from the waking world in every respect, it is just here where we are sitting, under our very nose. It is not away physically or geographically.

Likewise, the world into which we are born after our death is just here inside this very hall. It is not far off. Hell and heaven are here itself, but they appear to be very far and entirely unconnected with our experience in the previous realm into which we were born on account of a new atmosphere that we create by the projections of our psychological conditions. Again I have to underline, this is to be understood in a very special sense. The space-time condition determining the nature of the objects of our experience are vitally connected with our personalities, and they go on changing every time our personality gets changed. Does it mean that there is a world for each individual, then? Not necessarily, though sometimes under special abnormal conditions of the mind we seem to be in a world of our own, but we need not take this as a general feature of our experience. It is something abnormal and very special, occurring only sometimes, not always.

We can be born into a common world of perception and experience on account of the similarity of the conditioning factors. “If a boat sinks and everyone on it dies, what is the sin that all those people have committed?” you may ask me. “Have they all committed the same sin? Otherwise, why should everybody go into the water at one stroke?” Well, it does not mean that everyone has identically performed the same kind of mistake, but there are certain similarities.

We are human beings. We call ourselves humanity, mankind. We are humanity or mankind because of certain general characteristics among us, but it does not mean that we are all identical among ourselves. Each person is different in every character from every other person in the world, yet we have a special general characteristic of the species called man. We belong to the species of mankind, humanity, and we distinguish ourselves from other beings like animals, etc., notwithstanding the fact that we have peculiarities of our own which manifest themselves whenever they are necessary. We do not die at the same moment. We have got different types of experiences under different conditions, which means that there are independent factors in us in spite of our generality of human species. Likewise, there are certain conditions which become responsible for our being born into a common world.

Many of us are in a single world of this earth, for example, the earth plane. This earth plane is a single common experience for all of us. It is a particular space-time into which we are born. But this particular space-time is necessitated by the collective activity of the psychological tendencies of all the individuals born into this world. Sometimes we say that Christ is the Son of Man, but what do we mean by ‘Son of Man’? Everybody is a son of man. Well, it has a special meaning. He is the son of mankind, not the son of one man. Christ is a force – or for the matter of that, any incarnation of divinity is a force summoned by the collective asking of humanity, so that we can say mankind has given birth to this incarnation. This is why we say Christ is the Son of Man.

Similarly we may say this particular system of reference called space-time into which we have been born and which we are experiencing and under which condition we are contacting objects, all this is necessitated by or summoned by or required by the collective force of the psychological tendencies of all the individuals born into this setup. Some psychologists such as Carl Jung call this the collective unconscious. Though this term was coined by Jung, we were aware of the collective unconscious much before his birth. Collective unconscious is the basic repository of psychological stuff which conditions the entire human species, not merely one individual, and this peculiar collective unconscious to which I am making reference is something transcending even Jung because it has engendered the birth of the whole world, not merely the human species.

The story of Lila and Padma in the Yoga Vasishtha demonstrates this truth of the relativity of space and time.  It is a very interesting, absorbing story which tries to prove how the vastness of space and the immensity of time and duration can be purely conditioned by psychological necessity. Everyone should read it.

The vastness of space is not an absolute fact. It is relative to certain conditions. Even without referring to the story of Lila and Padma in the Yoga Vasishtha, we can have reference to our own dream world. What a vast space is the space of dream, but it is contained within our head. We are only imagining that space. It is not wider than the space inside the room in which we are sleeping. We travel far in a jet plane in the dream world without moving from our bed. There can be motion even without real motion, there could be travel without real travel, and there can be expansion without real expansion. So space, time and objects can seem be there even if they are not really there because of the need of the psychological nature to fulfil certain potencies hidden within.

The length of time and the extension of space, which are intimately connected with each other, are, therefore, also vitally related to experiencing subjects. Space and time are not independent of each other, because we cannot think one thing without the other. When we are in space, we are also in time. We are somewhere, and also somewhen. This identity of spatial and temporal characters has made people come to the conclusion that our grammatical usage of the terms ‘space and time’ is not wholly appropriate. It is one factor, one condition that has split itself into space and time. If they are really two they could be separated, but we are unable to separate them. Nor can we see space by itself without an individuality connected  with it. The assumption of individuality at once projects externality, which is the same as spaciality. The moment we begin to dream, the space of dream also is projected, which means to say the moment we individualise ourselves, we also externalise ourselves. Individualisation and externalisation are simultaneous or perhaps identical processes. The moment we are individuals, we are externalised into an observing subject of something outside.

Now, the reality of space and time is a difficult subject to discuss because it has many colours, like that of a chameleon. What space and time is cannot be defined without reference to the conditions which have been behind their manifestation. When we say space and time, we must ask, “Whose space and time?” Is it the dreamer’s space and time or the waking one’s, or the space and time of the Gandharvas, the Pitris, the Devas or Brihaspati? There are so many realms, but these realms are nothing but various space-time orders. Svargaloka, Pitriloka, Gandharvaloka, Rishiloka, Satyaloka, Vaikunthaloka, Kailasha – so many wonderful descriptions of heavenly regions and nether regions are given to us in our Puranas. Do these exist, and where do they exist if they exist? Where is Indraloka, where is Svarloka, where is Patala? They are all here, as I mentioned, just inside this hall. Vaikuntha also is here, Kailasha also is here, Naraka also is here, Yama is here, Indra is here; all are here because all space-times are here only. They can be conditioned according to the projection of our consciousness.

This is a mystery. There are very few textbooks which describe these mysteries. The only one that I have seen is the Yoga Vasishtha, and there is another parallel to it called the Tripura Rahasya, especially the Jnana Kanda which goes into the depths of these mysteries of the relativity of perception. I have also read a modern writer’s book of science fiction which is very much akin to what we read in the Yoga Vasishtha. It is based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, a book called The Science Fiction. It is very absorbing, so interesting. He describes that the past, present and future really do not exist. What can be past can also be future to some other person. What may be past to us may be the future to someone else and the present to another person under a different order of space and time.

Mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva nimittamātraṁ bhava savyasācin (Gita 11.33): “I have already killed these people,” says the Vishvarupa. How has He killed these people? They are still alive. The Vishvarupa in the Bhagavadgita speaks, “Arjuna, all these have been destroyed by Me already. Why are you worried? You become only an instrument. You need not destroy them. They have already been destroyed by Me.” The future is regarded as the past. “I have already destroyed them,” the Vishvarupa says. How is it possible? It is because the consciousness of the Virat is different from the consciousness of individual perception. When a procession comes from Lakshmanjhula to Rishikesh and a line of people is watching the procession, the people in Lakshmanjhula will say it has gone – the procession has gone, it is past – but the people in Sivananda Ashram will say it has not yet come – it is a future. And when it actually comes, it is a present. One and the same event can be a present, a past and a future under different positions. So while to the Virat it was a destruction that had already taken place, for Arjuna it was yet to take place. The Science Fiction tells us all these things. Past, present and future are operations of the mind, conditions of certain permutations and combinations of space-time, so that we cannot say whether we are in the present or the past or the future.

We are in a wonderful world of absorbing mysteries. I am only going into these details in answer to a request to enlarge upon this concept of space and time a little more, and I shall revert back to the subject which I took up yesterday: how this is an important subject to be dealt with in meditation. I am now continuing what I said yesterday.

During the practice of meditation, we are confronted with the principle of space and time, on account of which the mind gets distracted, jumps from one object to another object, and it becomes impossible to concentrate the mind on any particular object. The difficulty of concentration of the mind on any given object is due to the existence of space and time and the variety of objects. As long as there is a variety of things, the mind will naturally try to experiment upon the validity of its contact with various objects. Why does the mind go to objects? It is because of the pleasures it seeks and the things it is distressed about inside. The infinite bliss of the Absolute has been lost by the mind on account of its isolation, externalisation, individualisation, so it is trying to regain that infinite that has been lost. How does it gain this infinitude? By contacting an infinite number of objects in a mistaken manner. Why does our mind jump in meditation? Because it wants infinitude. It is not satisfied with one object. We give it a dot on the wall or a candle flame or a pencil, but does not want all this. It says, “I want infinity. I have lost infinity and, therefore, give me infinity.” But we are giving it only a candlestick, so it jumps and goes to some other object.

Unfortunately the poor mind does not understand what has happened to it, and it also does not know also why we are giving it a candlestick rather than the infinite. We have given it as a necessity, as a medicine for its illness. It wants the infinite no doubt, but it cannot seek the infinite through this object.

The reason is that the infinite is not an externalised condition. We concluded yesterday by saying that the universal, though it is present in every particular, is different from the particular because the particular is characterised by particularity. The object is characterised by objectness, which is not the case with the universal. Though it is true that the mind seeks the universal, it cannot find it in any object because there are two specific characters of infinity or universality. One is Selfhood.

I shall refresh your memory, though I have already mentioned sometime back what Selfhood and indivisibility mean. Selfhood and indivisibility are the special characteristics of universality, but we cannot find these characters in an object. Objects have neither selfhood nor indivisibility. So in spite of the fact that the mind goes to varieties of objects, it is not satisfied. We may give it thousands of objects for its contact and possession and enjoyment, it will remain the same crying child and very unhappy because we cannot get what we have lost by coming in contact with things which have not the characteristic of that which we have lost.

The indivisibility of the universal and the selfhood of the universal cannot be seen in any object of the world. Why are the objects not indivisible? Well, a very plain truth it is: they are divided by other objects. The exclusion of themselves from other things is divisibility, but the universal is indivisible. There is nothing excluding it, and it excludes nothing, so anything that excludes something is not the universal, and, therefore, it is not the real. You have lost the indivisible and you are trying to find it in the divisible. This is not possible. So tell your mind in meditation: “My dear mind, don’t go to objects.”

The other character of the universal is Selfhood. Now, this is a more difficult concept than even indivisibility. Selfhood is the character of subjectness, the impossibility of being converted into an object. Consciousness is of that nature. It is a Self. Consciousness is the same as Self. Our Atman is chaitanya. Prajñānam brahma (Ait. Up. 3.1.3), says the Upanishad. Consciousness is the subject, and consciousness alone can be the subject, nothing else. It is the only thing that cannot be externalised or projected into space and time, and the only thing that cannot be an object. The character of Selfhood is only in consciousness, and that you cannot see in an external object. It cannot be seen in any object because the objects are outside consciousness, and consciousness does not want anything outside it because it is in itself indivisible.

Thus, it is the consciousness within you that is seeking the perfection that has been lost in the universal. It is the consciousness in you that meditates. It is the infinite within you that seeks the infinite without in meditation. Who is meditating? It is the infinite itself that is meditating. That is why it is not satisfied with objects.

Now you know how you can control the mind by a rational process of teaching the mind apart from pranayama, tratrika, dieting, austerities of various kinds, etc., which are also helpful. This is a very philosophical and rational process of instructing the mind why it should not run after objects, why objects cannot give you the satisfaction of having gained what you have lost and are seeking through meditation.

How could the concept of space and time be overcome by a meditational process? How could the mind avoid getting into the belief in the reality of objects? By transcending the concept of space and time. Through a gradual methodology and technique we overcome the limiting factor of space-time in meditation and commune ourselves with the object. The communion of the subject with the object is what is generally known as samadhi. It is the absorption of the subject with the object, and vice versa. In this condition of the union of the subject and the object, the space-time limitation is lifted up. The screen is lifted and we see ourselves in union with what is really there outside.

Unfortunately for us, what is really there in the object is in us also. That is why the object is asking us to come to it and is summoning us. It is our own dear father and mother or brother or friend present in the object, calling us. “My dear friend, my dear child, come. You have left me and gone.” That which is deepest in us is also the deepest in the object, and the deepest in the object asks us to come to it. That is the reason for desire.

Desire has a very profound and rational basis, but it manifests itself in a very irrational manner. The reason for the manifestation of desire in the minds of people is the presence of the eternal, the Absolute, the universal in the particular. But the reason behind the dissatisfaction that comes as a consequence of contact with the object is the divisibility of things, the impermanence of objects, and the belief that things are really external to consciousness. This is why contact always leads us to suffering, misery. No one is happy merely by physical contact. The Bhagavadgita tells us that contacts are wombs of pain, but we are always after contacts. Visual contacts, auditory contacts, tactile contacts, gustatory contacts, olfactory contacts are all contacts only, but they are creators of further suffering for us.

Therefore the yogi, the meditator, the seeker of Truth or the sadhaka, should learn the art of controlling the senses and seeking not pleasures in the objects of sense. The pleasure is not in the objects of sense. “My dear mind, do not run after objects of sense. You will gain nothing from them. You will reap only misery. All is pain in this world,” says Patanjali in one of his sutras. Duḥkham eva sarvaṁ vivekinaḥ (Y.S. 2.15): All is pain because all contact is pain. All contact is pain because all contact is, unfortunately, an irrational and impossible attempt at contact with reality through the senses. You are trying to do the impossible through the senses. Reality cannot be contacted through the senses merely because they are senses, merely because they seek only objects.

The art or the technique that you can adopt in meditation for overcoming the condition of space-time and freeing the mind from this fickleness on account of which it runs to different objects is meditation on the connection of the object with yourself and the connection of the object with other objects, so that when you meditate on one object it is as if you are meditating on all objects.

Space and time are not going to defeat your process if this technique can be adopted in meditation. To bring the analogy of dream once again, just as objects seen in dream are not independent of space-time in dream, objects in waking also are not independent of space-time in waking. They are mutually related. Space and time and objects and causality – these are all mutually related processes, one impossible without the other, and one becoming explicable when the other is explained. They rise and fall together, like the dream world. When the dream world rises, everything rises simultaneously.  Space, time, causality, objects – at one moment you see everything, but when it stops or ceases or falls down, everything collapses in one second. The dream world collapses with all its spaces and times and objects and the observer. The world is a simultaneous shristi, as the Vedanta tells us. When you see a world, you do not see only space first or time first or objects first. All things are seen together. You cannot see space without objects or objects without space and without causal relation, etc. It is a network.

So when you meditate on this internal relationship of objects with the other factors, without which the existence of the object itself would be impossible, the mind would become calm. The mind becomes calm for want of objects. The objects excite and stimulate the mind, but if the objects have ceased to exist in the way they did earlier in this new meditational process, the mind has no reason to run after objects. This is the philosophical method, the jnana yoga method, in meditation.

There are various other methods also to which we shall revert later on in our subsequent sittings. Today I have only confined myself to an explanation and discussion of the purely philosophical technique of contemplating by locating the object in its vital connection with the scheme of the whole cosmos so that your meditation becomes a cosmic meditation, a Vaishvanara Vidya as it is called in the Upanishads. The Vaishvanara Vidya is a cosmic or universal meditation practised by the universal principle in your own heart. God seeks God in your meditations. It is not man meditating on God; it is God Himself meditating on Himself, as it were. One thing cannot meditate on something else without an undercurrent of connection between the two elements.

So I conclude by saying that the world has become a fearful monster before us on account of our not understanding its makeup. We fear the world because we do not understand the world. We are completely out of tune with it, and therefore, out of touch with it, and so it has become a problem for us. We do not know what to do with this world. It has become a question which we cannot answer. But this question has arisen merely because of a problem that we have created within our own selves first. It is a purely subjective problem, and when that is solved there is a simultaneous opening up of the mysteries objectively also so that we are no more in a subjective world or an external world of objects, but we find ourselves in a system of universal relations, and then it is that we become blessed.