Chapter 23 — The Vicissitudes of Time

Rama speaking:—

1 By their much idle talk, ever doubting skepticism and schisms, men of little understandings are found to fall into grave errors in this pit of the world. Good people can have no more confidence in the network of their ribs than little children like fruit reflected in a mirror. Time is a rat that gnaws off the threads of all thoughts that men may entertain about the contemptible pleasures of this world.

There is nothing in this world which the all-devouring time will spare. He devours all things like an undersea fire consumes the overflowing sea. Time is the sovereign lord of all, and equally terrible to all things. He is ever ready to devour all visible beings. Time as master of all, spares not even the greatest of us for a moment. He swallows the universe within himself, whence he is known as the Universal Soul.

Time pervades all things, but has no perceptible feature of his own, except that he is imperfectly known by the names of years, ages and millennia (kalpas). All that was fair and good and as great as Mount Meru has gone down into the womb of eternity, like snakes gorged by the greedy garuda.

There was no one ever so unkind, hard-hearted, cruel, harsh or miserly, whom time has not devoured. 10 Time is ever greedy even though he devours mountains. This great gourmand is not satisfied with gorging himself with everything in all the worlds.

11 Time, like an actor, plays many parts on the stage of the world. He abstracts and kills, produces and devours and at last destroys everything. 12 Time is constantly picking up the seeds of all four kinds of living beings from this unreal world, like a parrot picks up ripened fruit from under the cracked shell of a pomegranate and nibbles at its seeds.

13 Time uproots all proud living beings in this world, like a wild elephant uses its tusks to pull up the trees of the forest. 14 This creation of God is like a forest, having Brahma for its foundation and its trees full of the great fruits of gods. Time commands this creation throughout its length and breadth. 15 Time glides along constantly as a creeping plant, its parts composed of years and ages and the dark nights like black bees chasing after them.

16 Time, O sage, is the subtlest of all things. It is divided though indivisible. It is consumed though incombustible. It is perceived though imperceptible in its nature. 17 Time, like the mind, is strong enough to create and demolish anything in a trice, and its province is equally extensive. 18 Time is a whirlpool to men; and man being accompanied with desire, his insatiable and uncontrollable mistress, and delighting in illicit enjoyments, time makes him do and undo the same thing over and over again.

19 Time is prompted by his rapacity to appropriate everything for himself, from the meanest straw, dust, leaves and worms, to the greatest Indra and Mount Meru itself.

20 Time is the source of all malice and greed, and the spring of all misfortunes, and cause of the intolerable fluctuations of our states. 21 As children play with balls in a playground, so does time play with his two balls of the sun and moon in his arena of the sky.

22 Upon the end of a kalpa age, time will dance about with the bones of the dead hanging like a long chain from his neck to the feet. 23 At the end of a kalpa age, the gale of desolation rising from the body of this world destroyer causes the fragments of Mount Meru to fly about in the air like the rinds of the bhoja-petera tree. 24 Time then assumes his terrific form of fire to dissolve the world in empty space, and the gods Brahma and Indra and all others cease to exist. 25 As the sea shows himself in a continued series of waves rising and falling one after another, so it is time that creates and dissolves the world, and appears to rise and fall with the rotation of days and nights. 26 At end of the world, time plucks the gods and demigods from their great tree of existence like ripe fruit.

27 Time resembles a large sacred fig tree (ficus religiosa) studded with all the worlds as its fruit, resonant with the noise of living beings like the hissing of gnats. 28 Time accompanied by action as his mate, entertains himself in the garden of the world, blossoming with the moonbeams of the Divine Spirit. 29 As the high and huge rock supports its body upon the earth, so does time rest itself in endless and interminable eternity.

30 Time assumes to himself various colors of black, white and red (at night, day and midday) which serve for his vestures.

31 As the earth supports the great hills that are fixed upon it, so time supports all the innumerable ponderous worlds that constitute the universe. 32 Hundreds of great kalpa ages may pass away, yet there is nothing that can move eternity to pity or concern, or stop or expedite his course. It neither sets nor rises. 33 Time is never proud to think that it is he who, without the least sense of pain or labor, brings this world into play and makes it exist.

34 Time is like a reservoir in which the nights are mud, the days lotuses, and the clouds bees.

35 As a covetous man, with worn out broomstick in hand, sweeps over a mountain to gather particles of gold strewn over it, so does time with his sweeping course of days and nights collect all living beings in the world in one mass of the dead. 36 As a miserly man trims and lights a lamp with his own fingers in order to look for his stores in each corner of his rooms, so does time light the lamps of the sun and moon to look for living beings in every nook and corner of the world.

37 As one ripens raw fruit in the sun and fire in order to devour them, so does time ripen men by their sun and fire worship, to bring them under his jaws at last.

38 The world is a dilapidated cottage and men of parts are rare gems in it. Time hides them in the casket of his belly, as a miser keeps his treasure in a coffer. 39 Good men are like a garland of gems, which time puts on his head for a time with fondness, and then tears and tramples it down. 40 Strings of days, nights and stars, resembling beads and bracelets of white and black lotuses, are continually turning around the arm of time.

41 Time looks upon the world like the carcass of a ram, with its mountains, seas, sky and earth as its four horns, and the stars as its drops of blood which it drinks day by day. 42 Time destroys youth as the moon shuts the petals of the lotus. It destroys life like a lion kills the elephant. There is nothing so insignificant that time does not steal.

43 After sporting for a kalpa period in the act of killing and crushing of all living beings, time comes to lose its own existence and becomes extinct in the eternity of the Spirit of spirits. 44 After a short rest and respite, time reappears as the creator, preserver, and destroyer of all who remembers all. He shows the shapes of all things whether good or bad, keeping his own nature beyond the knowledge of all. Thus does time expand and preserve and finally dissolve all things by way of sport.