काल kāla – The Time-Spirit

Usually the word काल kāla refers to time.  With reference to the present time the word used is वर्तमानकाल vartamānakāla; with reference to past it is अतीतकाल atītakāla; with reference to future it is भविष्यत्काल bhaviṣyatkāla; morning is प्रातःकाल prātaḥkāla; evening is सायङ्काल sāyaṅkāla; an auspicious time is शुभकाल śubhakāla; an evil time is दुष्काल duṣkāla; and an unseasonable or bad time is अकाल akāla.

The word काल kāla comes from the root-sound कल् kal meaning to reckon and measure.  As time is a movement measured, it’s called काल kāla. The Supreme Reality, ekam sat, conscious of itself holds all within oneself without reference to time. So, that One Reality is Timeless. When this Timeless Reality extends itself to bring out what is contained in it, the creation begins. This self-extension of the Supreme for the purpose of the objectivisation from the initial subjective state is measured by movements and events. This is called काल kāla or TIME.  In the Gita (10.30) Bhagavan Krishna says: कालः कलयतामहम् kālaḥ kalayatāmaham: I am Time the head of all reckoning to those who reckon and measure. The Immeasurable Timeless Reality becomes measured by TIME.  This TIME assumes triple status for creation – त्रेधा नि दधे पदम् tredhā ni dadhe padam (Rigveda, 1.22.17). This triple status of time is experienced as past, present and future. Here, it’s a relative experience as what we call past was present once, and what we call present is what was future before and future is what will become present and then past after a time. It is indeed a continuous movement, a Time-sequence which is an infinite continuum (अक्षय akṣaya, अखण्ड akhaṇḍa) of apparently definite parts which are, in fact, the characteristics of Time or काल kāla. And the supreme reality itself is that Time Imperishable – अहमेवाक्षयः कालः ahamevākṣayaḥ kālaḥ (Gita, 10.33).  This काल kāla again is the destroyer of everything (कालोऽस्मि लोकक्षयकृत् kālo’smi lokakṣayakṛt, Gita, 11.32). Therefore, another meaning of काल kāla is death. And the Shakti of काल kāla, the Time Force, as per the experience of Tantra, is काली kālī, the dark one, the transformer of the world. The darkness of काली kālī is the preparatory time of night before the dawn.

All those who move harmoniously with the continuous flow of the Time are survived by the Time which is imperishable and is never spent. And all those who do not follow this eternal law are but spent by the Time itself – कालो न यातो वयमेव याताः kālo na yāto vayameva yātāḥ (Bhartrihari, Vairagyashatakam).

कालाय तस्मै नमः kālāya tasmai namaḥ – We submit ourselves to that imperishable and indivisible काल

kāla – The TIME SPIRIT.

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