by Swami Krishnananda
The relativity of space and time is the reason why it is possible for everyone to transcend space and time and attain realisation of the Ultimate Reality. If space and time were a hard screen of steel or iron, impregnable and impossible to cross over, our attempt to go beyond them would be permanently obstructed. Inasmuch as the whole world, including our body, is a product of the space-time operation, there is only space-time, and there is nothing else anywhere. It is a dance of the activity of the space-time complex that appears as this whole world and even as individuals like us. Some philosophers say that we are totally caught within the phenomena, and there is no possibility of contacting the Ultimate Reality. If that is the case, we are doomed forever.
But it is also said that space and time are relative. You must understand the meaning of the word 'relative'. In the sense of relativity, one thing hanging on the other is called relation. If one thing exists because of another thing, neither of them exists independently. As there is a borrowed existence on both sides, no side can exist entirely independently. Time is necessary for space; space is necessary for time. In order to understand this mystery of the relation between space and time, modern thinkers have abandoned the use of the word 'and' between space and time; they call it space-time. There are no words to say anything beyond this peculiar combination. What can we call the combination of space-time? We always see space and time, but we never see space-time. It is a necessary logical deduction that is arrived at by the observation of action through the interaction of space and time.
As we are also the product of this relative interaction between space and time, the whole world-stuff being that, there is nothing permanently existing anywhere—neither our body, nor the world of nature, nor the sun, moon and stars. The whole thing is a mysterious performance, something like a magical performance, projected by an indescribable phenomenon we poorly call space-time. It is a poor description because we have no way of saying anything more than that.
But Self-realisation is a great possibility. If we are mere puppets, products of this indescribable phenomenon of the space-time complex, then there is nothing more to say. It is like living in a concentration camp without knowing where we are staying, why we have come, and what we are supposed to think. It is a complete blockage of even the process of thinking, because of space-time intervening even in the process of thinking. Philosophers who are very acute in this matter concluded that even the mind cannot act without space and time. So who is going to think of that which is above space and time?
This subject, which is so intriguing to any mind, has been discussed in detail in the ancient philosophical text called the Yoga Vasishtha. The intention of the writer of the Yoga Vasishtha is that scientific arguments will lead us nowhere. We have already heard the conclusion of philosophical arguments that we can do nothing, that we are slaves under the pressure of the operation of space and time. But this is not so. How is it not so?
There is a story beautifully narrated in the Yoga Vasishtha, which is a long Sanskrit poem comprised of 32,000 verses. It contains many stories illustrating the nature of the relativity of all things, and that nothing really exists by itself. What is this story?
There was, in ancient times, a king called Padma. He had a queen called Lila, and ruled a large kingdom extending thousands of miles. The queen was so attached to her husband that she did not want him ever to die. With grief in her mind as to how the death of her husband could be avoided, she consulted the courtiers, ministers, and learned pundits of the king's assembly. "Is there any way to prevent the death of my husband?" They all said, "There is nobody who can prevent death. There is no remedy for that. Everybody who is born must die."
Shocked to the core, weeping, striking her breast with grief, the queen went inside her room and burst forth in agony, deeply praying to the goddess of learning, Saraswati. Many days passed in the queen's great austere prayer to have a blessing from the goddess of knowledge.
The goddess appeared and asked Lila, "What do you want?"
"I do not want my husband to die. Please bless me," Lila cried, "Bless me with this boon."
The goddess did not answer the question. She simply said, "When he dies, cover his body with a cloth, and remember me."
After many years, the king died in a room of the palace. The queen was at her wits end. She again wept and cried, and called Saraswati, "Please come and bless me. I have lost everything. "
Again Saraswati, the great goddess appeared. "What are you asking for?"
"I want to see my husband, wherever he is," the queen replied.
"Oh, I see," she said. "I shall take you to the place where your husband is living."
She touched the queen's head, and they were transported to another order of space and time where her husband had reincarnated and was ruling another empire.
The queen looked around. "Where am I?"
Saraswati, who was beside her, said, "This is the empire of your own husband who has reincarnated into another space-time."
"Where is my husband? He was an old man, 72 years old," the queen said. "My husband was 72 years old. He died only yesterday."
"Don't ask questions. Just listen to whatever I say," said Saraswati.
"No, not possible," Lila cried. "What are you saying? A person who died yesterday has been reborn and is now 72 years old? Are you saying that he was born in this world 72 years ago, having died only yesterday? I cannot believe this. Don't confuse my mind. Oh, Goddess, bless me. What are you saying?"
Saraswati said, "I will confuse you further. Somewhere in another space-time there was a Brahmin couple who were very poor, living in a little room. Poverty was their only property, misery was their fate. One day they saw a large procession in which the king of the country was being carried on a palanquin. 'Oh,' they said, 'What a glory! If only we too could have that experience of being king and queen.' With this deep thought, they died."
Continuing her story, Saraswati, the goddess, said, "Listen to me carefully. This Brahmin couple who died eight days ago were reborn as yourself and your husband in another space-time, where your king ruled for fifty years, and died."
"What are you saying?" the queen said. "People who died eight days ago have been reborn in a kingdom where the husband ruled for fifty years? What is the connection between eight days and the fifty years of our lives?"
"Keep quiet and listen to me further. This old man is your own husband, born again in another space-time. He is 72 years old."
Again Lila was shocked.
Saraswati continued. "Don't utter these words, 'How is it possible?' Yesterday can become tomorrow; tomorrow can become present. There is no systematic arrangement of the order of space and time existing permanently everywhere in the cosmos. This idea of past, present, future is connected with the way in which the consciousness perceives the operation of space-time outside, and in the operational process of any individual observer being conditioned by the space-time there is an interaction of relativity between seeing and the nature of the object, so that you cannot know what is actually happening. But if this relationship of the observer and the observed phenomena of space and time changes during the process of evolution, then immediately today becomes tomorrow, and a person can come tomorrow and leave yesterday. In this circumstance of there being an infinite number of space-time relations on the basis of infinite types of connections between the seer and the seen, there are infinite universes, and infinite gods are ruling these infinite universes."
"Where is my husband now?" asked Lila.
Saraswati replied, "Here he is, a 72-year-old man."
As they were speaking, the empire of this 72-year-old man was invaded by inimical forces. Suddenly war broke out, and the old king rushed with this military force and entered the barrage of military operations. In the Yoga Vasishtha this war is described in very great detail. Every little thing that happened in the war is described. Sometimes the invader appeared to win; sometimes the king appeared to win. Finally, the old king died.
Again Lila cried, "You tell me this is my husband, and now he has died a second time. Oh, I am going crazy. I don't want to hear anything more."
Saraswati said, "No, you cannot be crazy because of my grace. I am only enlightening you. Now, what do you want?"
"I want to see my husband," the queen replied.
When Lila said she wanted to see her husband, she did not expect to see the old man. She wanted to see that form which was dead in a room in a different space-time. It so happened that the old king (the one who Lila was seeing in a new space-time and who had just died) also had a queen, and by chance her name was also Lila. This is a mystery which the Yoga Vasishtha does not explain.
Then Saraswati, the goddess, said, "Here is your husband. He has a queen like you, and she resembles you. Her name is Lila."
"Oh! I did not expect that my husband would have another queen. I am the queen," she said.
Sawaswati replied, "In the relative cosmos, you cannot say 'mine'. There is no 'mine', and neither you nor anybody else has any interconnection. This interconnection is a false operation of a dancing process of space and time, and you are confused because you are attached to a particular relationship of space and time."
"Now, where am I finally?" said the queen. "I want my husband."
Immediately Saraswati's grace operated. She allowed the soul of the old king to enter the corpse which was covered with a cloth. The king got up, as if from a long dream. He could not understand that he was ruling an empire in a different space-time, and that he had waged a war and had died there. Nothing was known to him. He simply shook himself and woke up.
Saraswati, for whatever reason, also brought the second Lila back to the very room where the king had died and re-entered his corpse, so now he had two queens.
Lila could not understand this. "I don't understand anything. Don't make me mad!"
"No, you will not be mad by, my grace. I am only trying to enlighten you," Saraswati said.
Then King Padma ruled the kingdom once again, with two queens.
"I will tell you something more," said the goddess.
"Don't tell me anything more," Lila said. "It is enough for me!"
"No, I want to illumine you properly. The entire kingdom of thousands of miles that your husband was ruling was actually inside the room of that Brahmin couple who died."
Lila said, "No, the room was so small, approximately ten feet by twelve feet in that kingdom, whereas my husband's kingdom was thousands of miles."
"Space-time operations are mysterious. They can delude you into the belief of anything whatsoever, and you will not know what is actually happening. The large kingdom of Padma was actually inside the room of the Brahmin couple, which was so small."