Individual Exclusive Concentration and the Ignorance of Time

Sri Aurobindo points out another area where human individuals live in an exclusive concentration on the surface, and that is in our perception and relation to the phenomenon of Time.

“…man, though a really indivisible stream of Tapas, of conscious energy in Time, capable of acting in the present only by the sum of his past force of working, creating already his future by his past and his present action, yet lives absorbed in the present moment, lives from moment to moment, and is therefore in this superficial action of consciousness, ignorant of his future and ignorant of his past except for that small part of it which at any moment he may recall to him by memory. He does not, however, live in the past; what he recalls is not the past itself, but only the ghost of it, a conceptual shadow of a reality which is now to him dead, non-existent, no longer in being. But all this is an action of the superficial ignorance. The true consciousness within is not unaware of its past; it holds it there, not necessarily in memory but in being, still active, living, ready with its fruits, and sends it up from time to time in memory or more concretely in result of past action or past causes to the superficial conscious being,–that is indeed the true rationale of what is called Karma.”

There is a lot here to consider. For most of us, bound to the sequential divided movement of Time, and unable to experience the real unity of the past, present and future in one seamless movement of conscious-force in manifestation, it may be hard to conceive. We find it hard to truly recognize that our “present” is in fact the result of our past, just as water in a river, while ever changing the specific unit of water, nevertheless carries out an action of movement that results in carving out canyons and erosion of a watercourse in the present, as it has done in the past, and will do in the future, and eventually drops the eroded material, along with water, into the ocean. There is an experience of consciousness that can be attained by the true inner being whereby it can live in a living conscious awareness of the three times as One and Indivisible.

The limitation we experience, then, is, as Sri Aurobindo points out, “a second absorption, a second exclusive concentration which complicates and farther limits the being, but simplifies the apparent course of the action by relating it not to the whole infinite course of Time, but to a definite succession of moments.”

Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Book 2, Part I, Chapter 13, Exclusive concentration of Consciousness-Force and the Ignorance

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