From Bhagavad Gita Decoded. Chapter 11
11.32 Śrī Bhagavān says: I am the mighty world-destroying time. I am now destroying the worlds. Even without you, none of the warriors standing in the hostile armies shall live.
11.33 Get up and gain glory. Conquer the enemies and enjoy the prosperous kingdom. I have slain all these warriors; you are a mere instrument, O Savyasācī (Arjuna).
11.34 Droṇa, Bhīṣma, Jayādṛta, Karṇa, and other brave warriors have already been slain by Me; destroy them. Do not be afraid; fight and you shall conquer your enemies in battle
Kṛṣṇa explains in these verses what He really is.
‘I am time, kālo asmi’ says Kṛṣṇa.
‘I devour and destroy the world, loka-kṣaya-kṛt.’
kālo ‘smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ I
ṛte ‘pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye’ vasthitaḥ pratyanīkeṣu yodhāḥ II 11.32
This is one of the most potent truths uttered by Kṛṣṇa in Gītā. He has earlier talked to Arjuna about Ātman, about rebirth, about the nature of karma, about doing work without getting attached to the result of work and about His glories.
For the first time, He takes off His mask and says matter-of-factly, ‘I am the Destroyer.’ He pulls no punches in responding to Arjuna’s query, ‘Who are you, and what is your purpose?’
‘I am kāla, time,’ says the Lord, ‘and I destroy.
Time never stands still. It moves on. Nothing can stop the flow of time. Nothing can bring back time. Nothing can move time forward. Time destroys.
The future constantly moves into the present, and then into the past. At the frequency of our life, we can only see the present, and remember what we can of the past. The sad part is that though we can only experience the present, we constantly try to escape the present. We are forever caught in the fantasies of a future we know nothing about and the regrets of a past we never really lived when it was our present.
Our entire story is one of missed time. We destroy time. We allow time to destroy us. We miss and kill the present, which is the only facet of time that is available to us. Instead of being where the present is and shaping our future, we fantasize and let the present as well as the future be destroyed.
The only certainty in our life is that when time moves on, it is forever lost. However much we may regret and repent, nothing will change what has happened. But we do have the power at the moment of the present to rewrite our future. Every human being has the freedom and free-will to choose his action at the present moment. He can let go by default and claim that whatever happened was predestined. Predestination is simply the choice that we did not exercise.
Only when we are aware and complete in the present moment, can we rewrite our future. Not when it is still the future and not when it slips into the past. The first is impossible and the latter is too late. By being grounded in the present state of completion, one can become aware of the future and one can shape one’s future. We need to use all our intelligence, energy and creativity to live blissfully in this moment, not in the incomplete thoughts about the future or regrets about the past.
Kṛṣṇa is stating a simple fact here. ‘With or without you,’ He says, ‘all these warriors will be dead. As Time, I shall devour them. It is not you who are the cause. You can be the superficial reason. By being the instrument of their destruction, be the gainer of fame, wealth and power.’
tasmāt tvam uttiṣṭha yaśo labhasva
jitvā śatrūn bhuṅkṣva rājyaṁ samṛddham I
mayaivaite nihatāḥ pūrvam eva
nimitta-mātraṁ bhava savya-sācin II 11.33
It is easy to interpret these words of Kṛṣṇa to mean that the future is predestined, since He says all these enemies of Arjuna will be destroyed. From this we can even interpret that His role is to protect the good and destroy the evil.
As Mahākāla, time personified, Kṛṣṇa destroys all, the good and the bad. Time does not differentiate. Time does not keep accounts of whether you did good deeds or bad. Time moves on and destroys the present into past, future into present and past. As time, Kṛṣṇa is neutral. He just is. He knows what will happen in the future and yet He does not influence it. As time, He lets happen what happens. He is the supreme energy that just flows.
When one is in completion with Kṛṣṇa, when one surrenders to Him, to His Will, things happen as they should. There is no interference on our part. We do what we ought to, what we need to, without worrying about what ought to happen and how. We then are in the flow of time; we are in the flow of Kṛṣṇa’s energy
When we resist and try to have things the way we wish them to be, rather than the way they would be, we get in the way. Like the rock that gets pounded by the river and eventually gets reduced to fine dust, we too get reduced to nothing by time. By imitating the reed in the river that bends offering no resistance, we can flow with time.
Struggling to choose is not freedom. It is the bondage of the mind. There is no need to make a choice. Choice happens at the level of the mind, not at the level of the being. When we relax into our being, we are in bliss, choiceless awareness. We can let the choice happen by itself. Choicelessness can be the choice.
When Kṛṣṇa speaks of destroying and wiping out the world, He is talking about the destruction of the illusory physical and material world. He is the destroyer of fantasies, He is the destroyer of identities, He is the destroyer of egos and He is the destroyer of all that is unreal.
As He has said earlier on, what gets destroyed is the shell, the perishable body-mind, not the imperishable ātman. What the Mahākāla, time, destroys, is the psychodrama that is being played out on the battlefield.
It is important to understand what Kṛṣṇa means in these words. As the supreme consciousness, He too is the energy of Śiva, the Rejuvenator. Śiva is not the Destroyer as He is made out to be. He recreates by destroying. There can be no creation if there is no destruction. There can be no life without death. Śiva’s aspect of Kālabhairava is the time that Kṛṣṇa refers to. He is the controller of past, present and future and all that happens in these time zones.
When one surrenders to this supreme consciousness, one loses all fear of time. One completes with time. One flows with time. Whatever one does is the right thing at the right time. When one loses fear of time, one also loses fear of death. All that dies is recreated.
Arjuna expressed his dilemma earlier as one of having to destroy his elders, his teachers and his relatives. He wondered whether he was causing the destruction of his entire lineage by doing this. In truth, Arjuna was fighting against the destruction of his own root thought patterns, his saṁskāras, past memories of parental, teacher related and other conditionings that were difficult to destroy. This great war is really the fight between Arjuna and his root thought patterns, saṁskāras.
Kṛṣṇa once again takes responsibility for this destruction. Earlier there were only words. Now Arjuna had seen the destruction for himself. He had seen the Kaurava warriors being consumed by the destructive destination that Kṛṣṇa had bcome. It was impossible for Arjuna to disbelieve what he had seen—Bhīṣma, Droṇa, Karṇa and others disappearing into the vast form of Kṛṣṇa.
Now Kṛṣṇa consoles Arjuna. ‘You have seen the truth of what happens. They have been destroyed already. Do not lose heart. Do what you have to do. Fight and destroy what remains, which is just the illusion of your fears.'