If you asked most people what time means, it’s likely they’d say duration. The modern world frames our experience. And productivity is the name of the game. How long does it take you to get from A to B? How much work can you accomplish in a day? Where “time is money”, speed reigns. You end up measuring your self-worth by how much you can cram into a moment, and live by the delusion that all time is equal.
But it’s not. Time has quality, not just duration. And all time is definitely not equal. As the science of light, Jyotish studies time. Living according to the wisdom of Jyotish means (among other things) aligning your life with the innate patterns of the cosmos. Your body does this naturally . . . or at least it tries to. So much distress, depression, disease and disharmony arise from the disassociation of modern life from cosmic cycles, from the intrinsic harmony of nature.
The conditioning goes deep. Our calendar year begins January 1st. Why? This day has no innate significance. Our months vary from 30 to 31 days, plus the anomaly of February—not representing any true lunar cycle. Our calendars number years in a line, forward and backwards in the C.E and B.C.E., without reference to cosmic patterns. This disconnect with reality feeds our sense that time is only linear. But cosmic time turns back on itself, forming cycles. Just as a year measures the earth’s journey round the sun, so does a month measure the moon’s journey round the earth, and a yuga measure our sun’s journey round the galactic sun. Everything turns in harmony, ebbing and flowing in an observable rhythm created by light.
The word cosmos refers to orderly structure, implying design not chaos. And its study, called cosmology, implies a divine conception that transcends the structure. Nature is the visible face of the divine. In other words, Shiva and Shakti may appear separate, but actually they are One. Since cosmic cycles of time follow the ebb and flow of light, traditional Indian calendars reflect these patterns of changing light. It is Light that gives time its quality. Light is the true measure of time. Think about it—the metaphor of darkness into light and light into darkness forms the foundation of both creation myths and enlightenment concepts—in traditional cultures everywhere, not just India.
As women, our bodies know moon cycles. In fact, the word “moon” relates to month, menses, manas (Sanskrit for “mind”) and maya (veiled reality). The traditional Indian calendar is solar-lunar, reflecting cycles of both sun and moon. Actually, moon has two cycles: the synodic, which measures from new moon to new moon, taking 29.53 days; and the sidereal, which measures the moon’s journey from one point against the “fixed stars”, around the zodiac and back to that same star, taking 27.21 days. Thus, each true month represents both this waxing and waning of moonlight as well as the moon’s sojourn to each of the lunar constellations, called Nakshatras. Jyotish recognises the significance of all of this.
Cycles of darkness and light represent the fundamental quality of time for earthly evolution. They shape the very essence of our experience—the archetypal manifestation of divinity enlightening our consciousness. We ignore them at our peril. For patterns of light govern not just nature. They qualify our spiritual evolution as well. Recognising this, honouring it as we live from day to day, year to year, could heal so much of the modern disconnect, both individually and collectively.
Each day provides a simple opportunity. Light governs our sleep cycles. So it is only right to sleep more in winter than summer, particularly in places of extreme latitude, because the daily arc from sunrise to sunrise fluctuates according to the yearly arc of seasons from equinoxes to solstices; and longer periods of darkness foster deeper wisdom from dreams. Each month offers a fresh opportunity for psychic growth (think month, manas, maya) . But heed the example of plants. Waning moon is a time for setting down roots, waxing moon for expansion. All of us have our personal cycles also, made clear by the patterns of light modulating according to our unique birth charts and taking precedence over everything general.
Over eons, light cycles impact galaxies as well. Our sun revolves around a galactic centre, and the corresponding degrees of light and darkness create the four yugas: great ages of time governing the degree of illumination reflected in civilisations throughout history. This means (to make things even more confusing) that those fixed stars are not really fixed after all. They—as everything else—are moving, creating a slowly shifting quality to the degree of divine nourishment available as starlight for various days, months, years and yugas.
The light quality inherent in a moment matters for everything you do! Jyotish reveals these subtle nuances. It teaches the ways of wise living, enhancing the experience of earthly existence and illuminating the mystery of what lies beyond.
Light expands our awareness. Heeding its profound lessons reinforces trust. Trust begets patience, patience begets peace, peace begets joy, joy begets love, love begets trust. Indeed . . . “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”