How does our sense of (psychological) time get created? How is this related to avoiding feelings we end up labelling ‘negative’?
In this (severely) edited dialog with physicist David Bohm in The Ending of Time, J. Krishnamurti broaches the possibility of ending psychological time:
K: Now how am I . . . to be free of time? . . . Can time as thought come to a stop? The memory of experiences, hurts, attachments . . . can come to an end when the very perception asks, what is it? What is hurt? What is psychological damage? The perception of it is the ending of it. Not carrying it over, which is time. The very ending of it is the ending of time. . . .
Trying to understand Krishnamurti’s proposition, Bohm focuses the discussion on a specific example of being hurt:
DB: The first thing is that there has been a hurt. That is the image [of ‘me’ being hurt], but at first I don’t separate it. I feel identified with it.
K: I am that.
DB: I am that. But then I draw back, and say that I think there must be a ‘me’ who can do something.
K: Yes, can operate on it.
DB: Now that takes time.
K: That is time. . . . Let’s go slowly into it. I am hurt. That is a fact. Then I separate myself—there is a separation—saying, I will do something about it.
DB: The ‘me’ who will do something is different. . . . It projects into the future a different state.
K: Yes. I am hurt. There is a separation, a division. The ‘me’, which is always pursuing the becoming [In this dialog, the word ‘becoming’ refers to the ego trying to become something], says, I must control it. I must wipe it out. I must act upon it . . . . So this movement of separation is time.” (p. 72)
DB: . . . A person is thinking that the hurt exists independently of ‘me’, and I must do something about it. I project into the future the better state and what I will do. . . So I am hurt and I will become non-hurt. Now that very thought maintains the hurt.
K: That’s right. . . .
DB: Now if you don’t maintain it, what happens? Suppose you say, I won’t go on with this becoming?
K: Ah, that is quite a different matter. It means I am no longer thinking, no longer observing, or using time as an observation.
DB: You could say that is not your way of looking. It is not your theory any more.
K: That’s right. . . .
DB: Because you could say time is a theory which everybody adopts for psychological purposes.
K: Yes. That is the common factor; time is the common factor of man. And we are pointing out time is an illusion . . .
DB: Psychological time.
K: Of course, that is understood.
DB: Are you saying that when we no longer approach this through time, then the hurt does not continue?
K: It does not continue, it ends—because you are not becoming anything.
DB: In becoming you are always continuing what you are.
K: That’s right. Continuing what you are, modified . . .
DB: If man feels something is out of order psychologically he then brings in the notion of time, and the thought of becoming, and that creates endless problems. [This last statement is from p. 23.]
(Excerpted from pp. 69-73 of The Ending of Time, by J. Krishnamurti & David Bohm (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985).)
In the following quotes from Dynamics of Time and Space, Tarthang Tulku uses the word time in a broader sense than just psychological or linear time, as the word is used in the above excerpts. With this provision, however, one can see remarkable similarities in content to the above.
When we lose contact with time, we have cut the dynamic central to our lives. . . . Subjectively, there is the sense that time is flickering, like a film not properly adjusted on its reel . . . . There is strain that goes nowhere. . . .
These structures are in place before consciousness fully forms. . . . they give rise to nervous agitation or uneasy pain . . . .
If the momentum of time’s forward conducting persists, the agitation and its underlying ‘flickering’ intensify. Suddenly there is an abrupt break, as if the reel of film . . . had snapped. Everything freezes—movement vanishes. . . . Pain has been transformed into the fixed and rigid structures of linear time. Consciousness emerges into a temporal order in which time is a hostile force . . . . Time in its pastness grinds us down . . . feeding us the lifeless recordings of the past and the seductive fascinations of the future.
Caught in this fabricated past and future, we are divided against ourselves. Our knowledge and energy are spread across the linear length of the temporal order. Thus, when we set a goal, we assign a part of our constructed identity to that goal. Now it is as though a part of us was ‘out there’ in the future along with our projection, pinned against the temporal horizon of the present moment.
Increasingly confined, we find it deeply disturbing just to inhabit the successive moments of our lives. . . . The specific ‘point’ of time that we occupy lacks all capacity to hold time’s dynamic. Life goes out of the present, drained away ‘across’ time.
We may respond by withdrawing into a dull numbness that has a quality almost like being shocked or stunned. . . . In our worn-out dullness, we are like a baby that has cried itself into exhausted sleep.
If we could awaken at this point to the feeling of pain, we would actually be close to the original dynamic of the time that we have lost. But this alternative is not available, for we are too closely identified with the pain. As ‘I’ merge with ‘having the pain’, I become the victim of what objectified time has presented. I possess the pain and am possessed by it; in this feedback I repossess it, tightening its hold. Awareness arises only in the wake of recognition, and so can lead only in the direction of further identification.
Accepting the reality of the pain assures its continuation. (pp. 295-7)
Through a direct focus on the painness of pain, this ready interpretation can be recast or re-projected. If there is no ‘I’ as subject—no one making efforts with regard to the pain—there will be no pain to be identified. As pain enters experience and is projected into awareness, it is received without labels and identifications and reactions. There is nothing to be conditioned and no one to be caught. Without the subjective framework, pain is stripped of its solidity.
. . . In this new arriving of what time presents, the logic of temporality defeats itself. The past is gone, the future not yet arrived, the present too short: ‘I’ am nowhere. (p. 305)