“There is a bridge between time and Eternity; and this bridge is Atman, the Spirit of man. Neither day nor night cross that bridge, nor old age, nor death nor sorrow. Evil or sin cannot cross that bridge, because the world of the Spirit is pure… To one who goes over that bridge, the night becomes like unto day; because in the worlds of the Spirit there is a Light which is everlasting.”

Chandogya Upanishad [1]

Time seems to always be chasing after us. We feel trapped by the narrow span of our years. Our experience of life is bound by our physical consciousness.  As long as we remain in this material reality, we are caught in the grip of “Father Time”.

In the Ethics of the Fathers (4:17) we are told: “one hour of spiritual bliss in the world to come is better than all the life of this world.”

According to the Hasidic Master, Dov Baer of Mezeritch, the meaning of this saying is:

“What you can live in the next world in one hour, you would need to be in this world several thousand years to experience; just like a person can see in one second in a dream that which it would take one year or more for him to do.”

In the higher worlds, there is another relationship with time. We see with a broader vision and a different set of expectations and parameters. In the supernal realm, time is no longer our enemy. We do not work against the clock, but rather through it and beyond it. We treat time as just another aspect of existence to be taken into account in our plans. It is one factor that will affect the overall design, but the work reaches further and higher than any limitations that it creates.

Einstein saw time as the fourth dimension, the fourth aspect which defines the boundaries of our physical reality. To move beyond these restrictions is to move beyond the physical confines of this material world. To transcend time is to learn how to live in the consciousness of the heavens.

The Hasidic Master, Nachum of Tchernobyl, teaches that the great tzaddikim who were masters of Ruach Kodesh (the Holy Spirit) like Shimon Bar Yochai, lived on a level that was “above time”. Therefore, they were able to touch upon the teaching that was received in their own generation, as well as the wisdom that future generations would reveal. This, he says, is the reason why we find in the Book of the Zohar teachings of Rabbinic sages who did not live until hundreds of years after Rabbi Bar Yochai.

A Master of the Holy Spirit is joined to God’s overshadowing presence at every moment. He lives in a unity of consciousness that spans the higher planes. He is able to glimpse into the Universal Mind of God at will. He sees time in the Eternal Now.

The Master of Ruach Kodesh is not only beyond time; he is also beyond space. The Baal Shem Tov teaches, “You are where your thoughts are.” When we live in the unity of conscious of the higher planes, this becomes literally true. The Master of the Holy Spirit can be anywhere.

This is how the many instance of the Baal Shem using kefitzat haderech (teleportation) were made possible. This is also how the Baal Shem could be in more than one place at a time. It is not a question of learning a secret name of God or a magic formula; rather it is a matter of knowing how to link into a “place” that is above time and space.

A realized soul acts simultaneously in the moment and in the eternal and the infinite. He can be both in this world and also with those on higher planes. He helps those in this physical reality by reaching up to touch the supernal source and drawing down its light and power. He is a master of the Holy Spirit and therefore also of time and space.

Sri Ramana Maharshi takes this spiritual perspective on time and space one step further. A unity of consciousness exists, he says, not only in the higher worlds but also in this world. This awareness is not some special spiritual state; rather it is our real nature and our true identity.

In answer to a devotee who complained that it would take him years to realize the Self (the Atman), the Maharshi replied:

“Why years? The idea of time is only in your mind. It is not in the Self. There is no time for the Self. Time arises as an idea after the ego arises. [2]

When a guest at the ashram asked Sri Ramana to extend his grace to him although he would soon be a thousand miles off. Sri Bhagavan told him, “Distance does not count in the Self.“ [3]

In response to further questioning, the Maharshi explained in more detail:

“What is time?” he asked. “It posits a state, one’s recognition of it, and also the changes which affect it. The interval between two states is called time. A state cannot come into being unless the mind calls it into existence. The mind must be held by the Self. If the mind is not made use of there is no concept of time. Time and space are in the mind but one’s true state lies beyond the mind. The question of time does not arise at all to the one established in one’s true nature.” [4]

“In that state there is Being alone. There is no you, nor I, nor he; no present, nor past, nor future. It is beyond time and space, beyond expression.” [5]

The Self is not limited by time and space. In fact, it exists even in the absence of time and space. Therefore, the Self is both nowhere and everywhere. Or as Annamalai Swami told one of his students who asked if they could contact Sri Ramana Maharshi even though he was dead:

“Bhagavan is at all times and in all places…Radio waves can be received anywhere. If you tune yourself to Bhagavan’s wavelength, which means abiding in the Self, you can be aware of him broadcasting his grace wherever you are.” [6]

Or, to look at it another way: Sri Ramana once proclaimed that he had twenty different bodies in twenty different worlds. He then asked those present, “if one of them suffers, am I to grieve?”  [7]  Multiple individual selves occupying numerous bodies in various worlds are all only different manifestations of the one pure consciousness which is the Self.

There is still another side to the issue of time. It is true that all things will eventually come to fruition. We can rest assured that every one of us will one day become realized and reach our goal. The Plan of God too will ultimately be fulfilled, no matter how long it takes. Yet we do, in fact, strive to accomplish our tasks in their allotted timeframe. This is because we know that even though all roads lead to the mountaintop, some will be more difficult than others. This, in essence, is the real difference that time makes. The more time it takes, the more trial and tribulation we must go through, and the more pain and suffering we will experience. Therefore, in order to minimize our suffering as well as the suffering of others, we strive for the highest in all that we do. We work to complete the work of our personal spiritual evolution in this very life. We labor to fulfill our mission in the Plan of God. We struggle to conquer time and space as best that we are able, until the moment comes when we too become Masters of Ruach Kodesh in our own right, and can transcend the time/space continuum at will.



Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1.  Chandogya Upanishad 8.4.1, translated by Juan Mascaro 
  2.  Sri Munagala S. Venkataramiah, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi 
  3.  Talks 
  4.  Talk 
  5.  Talks 
  6.  David Godman, Living by the Words of Bhagavan 
  7.  Krishna Bikshu, Referring to the Self and the Lokas, in The Mountain Path, July 1965