Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore
“Time and Tide wait for no man” says the adage. Time moves on inexorably, whether or not we wish it to. No one, however powerful, can make a second stand still, nor can he make it move faster. When we are engaged in an extremely absorbing endeavour, we find that Time just flies. On the other hand, when we are imapatiently awaiting the outcome of some event or the other, the very same Time appears to crawl. For young lovers engaged in exchanging sweet nothings, the passage of Time appears extremely rapid and an hour spent in each other’s company passes like mere minutes. On the other hand, to the anxious husband pacing restlessly outside the delivery ward at the hospital, awaiting news of his first progeny, the hands of the clock seem stuck and unmoving. Thus, the pace of passage of Time may appear fast or slow, depending upon our perception: however, Time neither flies nor crawls—it moves at its own unvarying, sedate and uniform speed.
Most of us have regular occupations, which account for the major portion of our waking hours. And to fill the hours of leisure, we have varied ways. Some spend all their spare time in front of the Television, as “Couch Potatoes”. Some others, being votaries of physical fitness, spend their leisure at Gyms, toning up their bodies and building their biceps. Yet others, interested in the fine arts, patronise music concerts and art galleries, deriving a lot of pleasure from these aesthetic pursuits. Cinemas too attract their share of votaries, who forget themselves once they enter the theatre and the lights go off. Gambling in its various forms (ranging from Cards, Casinos, Racing, Speculation in Stocks, etc.), perusing pulp fiction etc. take up the time of some of our brethren. Urged by our teachers to take up some hobby or the other, many of us have become addicts to philately, numismatics, voracious reading etc. to fill our spare time. Others like me resort to writing to spend time, irrespective of whether or not their words attract anyone’s attention and interest. Yet others simply sleep—there were several people who spent entire lifetimes in sleep—Muchukundan, Rip-van-vinkle and KumbhakarNa are examples. For some others, idle gossip with kindred spirits occupies all their waking moments. This is brought out by the following sloka, which sets out the various ways in which people spend time—
“KAvya ShAstra vinOdEna kAlO gacchati dheematAm
anyEshAm tu manushyANAm nidrayA kalahEna va”
We hear a lot of people complaining about time being difficult to pass. “Pozhudu pOgalai” is a complaint we hear often. For these complainants, Time just stands still and has to be practically pushed on. What a pity indeed, for, little do they realise that every passing second second brings us that much nearer to the end of our lives. Each hour that passes without anything useful having been done, is a wasted hour indeed. And before we realise, these idle hours add up to days, months and years of ill-spent time, with absolutely nothing to show for the part of life that has slipped away unnoticed, except perhaps gray hairs.
That brings us to the brass tacks and the million-dollar question—how to spend our time? This may appear to be a silly question, for there are any number of pursuits one could adopt, as enumerated above. However, to qualify the question further, how to spend our spare time productively? The productivity meant here is not related to conversion of our precious time into cents and dollars, but to something else, which might even be intangible, which would result in self-improvement. Again, by “self”, we refer here to the soul inside us and not to the physical shell.
There is a beautiful word in our SampradAya—“KAlakshEpam”. Though it literally means passing of time, its popular purport is that of listening to eminent Acharyas or scholars propounding the intricacies of one or the other of the great works that have been bequeathed to us by merciful poorvAchAryAs. The term has thus come to mean the spending of time listening to uplifting utterances, whether of the Lord or of Acharyas. It is thus that we hear of “Bhagavat Vishaya KalakshEpam”, “SrI BhAshya KAlakshEpam” “Srimad RahasyatrayasAra KalakshEpam” etc., alluding to the productive passage of hours in the pursuit of enlightenment. This usage, in turn, appears to have originated from the sree sookti of Sri Tirumazhisai Piran, in Nanmukhan TiruvandAdi—
“taritthu irundEn AgavE tArA gaNa pOr
viritthu uraittha ven nAgatthu unnai—teritthu ezhudi
vAsitthum kEttum vaNangi vazhipattum
poositthum pOkkinEn pOdu”
Azhwar shares with us his own experiences in passing time and lists the seven different ways in which his lifetime was spent—
1. “Teritthu”—refers to the blissful contemplation of the Lord and His glorious attributes, with overwhelming devotion and love. This makes the hours pass in a jiffy.
2. “ezhudi”—Among the numerous ways of enjoying the rare delight that is Emperuman, is to write His names. Even today, we find several people continuing this hallowed tradition by writing Rama nAma. It is the practical experience of these worthies that putting the Rama nAma to paper affords them great inner peace. Just as the infatuated lover finds joy in penning his beloved’s name, for the devotee, writing the Lord’s names gives infinite pleasure. Azhwar thus tells us to spend time in writing down the Lord’s names. This would also refer to composing paens of praise, in prose and verse, on Emperuman and His glory, so that it would benefit oneself and others.
3.“VAsitthum”—Another admirable way to spend our waking moments is to read—not of worldly affairs or pulp fiction which are of negligible value, but of spiritual matters, especially tales of the Lord, stotras on Him composed by His admiring votaries and so on. Veda PArAyaNam, Sriamd Ramayana ParAyaNam, Srimad BhAgavata ParAyaNam, aruliccheyal anusandhAnam etc. fall under this head.
4.“KEttum”—Delightful stories of the Lord and His exploits, enthralling descriptions of His innumerable auspicious attributes, the glories of His devotees, etc. form nectarine inputs for the audio faculty. “KarNAbhyAm bhoori vishruvam” “Bhadram karNEbhi: shruNuyAma dEvA:” are some of the prayers enshrined in the Upanishads, praying to the almighty that only the best of sounds, viz., Bhagavat BhAgavata kathA, fall on our ears. Ipso facto, this calls for eschewing lending our ears to idle gossip and accounts of mundane matters. It is to enable the unimpeded flow of such sacred sounds that our ears have not been provided with shutters, unlike our eyes which have eyelids.
5.“VaNangi”—This might be construed as a physical _expression_ of devotion, with all the symptoms of enthrallment that affect a devotee in the throes of Bhakti, as described by Sri Kulasekhara Perumal in Sri Mukunda MAlA—
“ baddhEna anjalinA natEna sirasA gAtraischa rOmOdgamai:
kanthEna svara gadgadEna nayanEna utkeerNa bAshpAmbunA”
This “vaNakkam” is thus an act involving almost all parts of the body, with the head bent in devotion, the hands folded in supplication in the “anjali mudrA” which floors Emperuman, eyes filling with tears of joy at the sight of the Lord or His devotees, each individual hair on the skin erect with delight, the voice aquiver with emotion and each individual part of the body vying with the other to express its devotion separately.
6. “Vazhipattum”—This refers to performing worship, various ways of which have been described by poorvAchAryas beginning with Sri Ramanuja (in his “nityam”). Performing TiruvAradhanam to the Lord is such a delightful experience as to be a pursuit par excellence, filled with overwhelming joy. This Bhagavat ArAdhanam is only a daily practice session, to remind us constantly of the indescribable bliss of Kainkaryam that awaits us, as PrapannAs, at the end of this birth.
7. “Poositthum”—This we may take to be a variant or a component of Bhagavat ArAdhanam, involving the worship of the Lord with garlands of fresh blooms or of verses. And this type of worship is to be offered only to Emperuman Sriman Narayanan, as Sri Nammazhwar avers—“dEvan emperumAnukku allAl poovum poosanayum tagumE!”
This, then, is how time is to be spent.
Sri Nammazhwar too, whose entire life, every waking moment of it, was spent in the contemplation of the Lord and His glory, wonders how it is posssible for mortals to pass time except through the blissful perusal, utterance and propagation of sacred words full of the Lord’s magnificence and grandeur, His innumerable auspicious attributes, etc.—
“KAr kalanda mEniyAn kai kalanda AzhiyAn
PAr kalanda val avayittrAn—seer kalanda sol
ninaindu pOkkArEl soozh vinayin Azh tuyarai
en ninaindu pOkkuvar ip pOdu?”
For those who are at their wits’ end as to how to “kill” time, the aforesaid prescriptions should come in useful.
Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore