Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 09 Apr 2020


How can time be defined in terms of space?

Note: This article is meant for intellectuals only

[Dr. Nikhil asked: In Your answer to the question “Why did God create the universe through a very slow process of evolution?”, dated March 09, 2020, You have stated the following: “This picture also includes the fourth relative dimension, time, which gives the exact time in terms of distance, at which the accident took place.” Based on it, I would like to know how time can be defined in terms of distance (or space)? As per special relativity, space-time is one continuum and there is no concept of simultaneity. But it does not literally mean that time is defined in terms of space or length.]

Swami replied: We hear older people in villages saying to youngsters “Why are you not rising from the bed? The time is now two full hands after sunrise” (Bāredu poddu ekkindi” in Telugu). What is the meaning of two full hands after sunrise? It means that the sun is at a height of two full hands from the point of sunrise (horizon), which is about 10 a.m. Here time is stated in terms of distance. After all, time on earth is nothing but the distance travelled by the earth on account of its rotation about its own axis and its revolution around the sun. One rotation of the earth around its own axis is 24 hours and one revolution of the earth around the sun is 360 days. Each zodiac sign is 300 and 12 zodiac signs cover 3600. So, in one year, the sun transits all 12 zodiac signs. In the absence of space, no other thing can exist in creation. Hence, everything exists relatively with reference to the absolute existence of the three-dimensional space. Of course, the so-called absolute existence of space is also relative with reference to the ultimate absolute existence of God. This is because the Veda says that space originated from God (Atmana ākāśaḥ sambhūtaḥ). God, being the creator of space, is unimaginable since anything beyond the three dimensional space is unimaginable to us. Conversely, everything other than God is imaginable to us, even if it is not known to us at present. The entire imaginable creation around us is thus relatively existent with respect to space. Thus, creation, which is imaginable is said to be māyā or mithyā, which means relatively existent with respect to the three dimensional space. God, of course, is the ultimate absolute, whom neither our mind nor our intellect can reach since both cannot cross the boundary of the imaginable creation to touch the unimaginable domain. The unimaginable domain itself is God.

The essence of the theory of relativity (māyā vāda), is that the existence of the relative product depends on the absolute existence of its cause. The product’s existence can therefore be defined in terms of the existence of the cause. Within the imaginable domain, there exists a chain of causes, which are absolute with respect to their products. The existence of the products is relative with respect to their causes. The ultimate cause within the imaginable domain, where the chain ends, can be only the three dimensional space. Ancient logic (tarka śāstra) said that sound (śabda) and volume (parimāṇa), which is the result of the multiplication of the three dimensions of space, are the characteristics of space. But science (modern logic) clearly proved that sound is not the characteristic of space and that only volume (three dimensions) is the characteristic of space. Science has proved that sound is produced by the collisions between tiny particles of the medium such as air and that sound cannot propagate in space (vacuum) without the medium. There is no need to be confused with the fact that space is also necessary for the propagation of sound energy. Space is necessary for everything; not only for the propagation of sound. With this correction, we can say that everything can be defined or represented in terms of the three dimensional space. It is especially convenient to define time in terms of the three dimensions of space since time is absolutely based on the dimensions of space alone.

Because of this reason, we find that in the Veda, in the sequence of the creation of the five elements and other items in creation, time is not mentioned separately. It is said that space was produced by God first, followed by the gaseous form of matter (air), visible forms of energy (fire), liquid matter (water), solid matter (earth), plants, food and awareness. Time is not mentioned as a separate item since its existence is finally proved to be relative with respect to space. Other items in creation at least have an independent existence even though that independent existence is only apparent. It is apparent because it is relative with respect to their respective causes. But time does not even have that apparently independent existence like other items of creation.


|Shri Datta Swami| Baaredy poddu ekkindi vaada Atmana Aakashaha Sambhuutah maaya midhya shaastra shabda parimaana