If you are writing a history then fifty years may be regarded as one short period. If you are not writing a history then fifty years is a very long period. Whether it is before or after, depends upon your convenience and your standpoint. So succession of moments that definition of Time is valid in terms of the standpoint that you take; wherever you want to stand, you stand there and then look this way, it is before that it is after. So now we have two definitions of Time. Time as succession of moments, which we saw, is not entirely valid because if it was a real succession in which there was a real division between one moment and the other then that gap can never be filled up. Therefore, it is only a kind of convenient definition of Time, depending upon your standpoint.
The other definition of Time is that it is duration. All duration is extension– this is another definition I am presenting. Extension is a process and it constantly goes on increasing, extension is a process of expanding. Expanding means that it has a certain kind of a beginning and then it moves forward. Therefore, without a beginning just as in the case causality, – cause and effect, we had come to the conclusion for beginning. Here also, if it is an extension, it must begin to extend somewhere. Here we are not taking causal effect, merely the movement of extension but even movement of extension has to have a beginning. But beginning in such a thing which itself is not extended because if it is extended, it must have a beginning. An extension, which has a beginning in something, which itself is an extension then that extension must have begun somewhere else. So its beginning must be in something, which itself is not extended. Therefore, we can say that Time is a succession of moments behind which there is a duration, behind which there is something which itself is not extension and that is what is called Timeless.
The Vedanta speaks of the Timeless Reality. So you may say that the grounding of Time is in something that itself is timeless, therefore, the idea of extension does not apply to it, the idea of duration does not apply to it. It is a Timeless, from which the Time moves out. But you will immediately see when I speak these words there is a discomfort, – a timeless from which the Time moves out. If you ask the question, when does it move out of the Timeless? The answer is impossible because ‘when’ is a concept which is applicable only to time movement. When there was no Time, in the timelessness there is no time. So how can you say that it arose out of it on this date because there was no such time at all, the idea of Time does not belong to that. Therefore, it is said that Timeless is fundamental, the movement of duration is phenomenal and it is a result of the convenience of your consciousness.
According to the convenience of consciousness, you can measure it and whenever you measure there would always be a before and an after in the movement of succession. Once again from the rational point of view, you have three concepts, – time as a succession of moments; time as duration and the grounding of Time in which there is timelessness. It is, therefore, said that time as duration and time as succession of moments is a category of consciousness. How the consciousness looks at the process of extension and when you look beyond the category of consciousness, time disappears. There is only Timelessness.
It is this timelessness, which is also called eternity. So you have three eternities, the eternity which is timeless, the eternity which is a duration, which in itself is not successive and eternity which is successive and all the three can co–exist. It is not as if once the time becomes duration, timeless ceases that Timeless remains. It is sthānu, it is stable. The duration does not rule out the possibility of cutting it into successive movements, so all the three can co–exist. Such is the concept which we arrive at through reasoning but it is also the concept which we arrive at when we have the Supreme experience. It is not only that by reasoning we arrive at this concept but also when we go into deep experience of God or Reality, you find it has all the three statements about it. It is beyond what is called Space and Time. It is eternal Time in the sense of eternal duration, which corresponds to the trikāla drishti of the Rishi and there is the eternity of successive movement of Time.
There are three ways in which you look at Reality – Timeless Reality, Timeless duration and Timeless movement of succession. So both from the point of view of your reason and the point of view your experience, that Reality is timeless in the sense of beyond all time movement, It is time eternity in the sense of a duration and it is time eternity in the sense of successive movement of moments.
Let us concentrate once again on the Timeless Eternity − the first term, which is called Brahman in the Vedanta. The Brahman is Timeless; there is no application of Time on It. It is a ground of Time but it is not itself connected with Time. You cannot even say it is always the same because the moment you say that it is always the same, time is already applied to it. It has no extension because extension moves out of it, so it is not extended. So unextended that to which no concept of time can apply that is the meaning of Pure Existence.
Pure Existence is that to which no extension of any kind of time movement can be applied that is the definition of Pure Exsitence. But then what happens to the extension if it comes out of it, somehow it must be in it otherwise how can it come out of It. Therefore, it is said that it is that kind of existence, such that all extensions can enter into it, just as if you have toys of clay, you break them; they all go back into formless clay. Similarly, all duration, all succession of moments enter into It, they cease to be duration and succession of moments. But from where again you can build up just out of the same clay, you can make any forms that you like. The only magic in the world or in the Reality is this –– that there is a Reality such that being formless, it can give rise to forms and these forms when they go back, they cease to be forms and they become formless. This is the example that is given in the Upanishads – the gold remains gold even if you make a lot of ornaments out of it. Ornaments are called to be ‘name and forms’ and when you break them, they again go back into the original, which has no form itself, such is the relationship between the formless and the form.