In School, we studied this poem. It struck me then, and it strikes me now, and has ended up being among my all-time favourites…
I met a traveller from an antique landOzymandias, by Percy Shelley
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert… near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
This is the fate of anyone trying to leave behind a material legacy. Time spares none, and no material result is more permanent than a sand-castle at the beach. Not any amount of money, not any building, not any organization.
Time is an impersonal expansion of God, and is thus insurmountable by anyone except the pure lover of God. Such a pure hearted soul, even if externally in the material realm, lives in the eternal ever-present, with no past, no future, simply the eternal ever-present. Such a person experiences no hankering, sorrow, no anxiety, and no despair whatsoever.
However, in the material realm, for those in material consciousness, time is insurmountable. All talk of transcending time is just childish babbling. Time, in the material realm can never be transcended.
What is it that makes time so powerful?
लोकान्समाहर्तुमिह प्रवृत्तः ।
ऋतेऽपि त्वां न भविष्यन्ति सर्वे
येऽवस्थिताः प्रत्यनीकेषु योधाः ॥ ११.३२ ॥
kālo ’smi loka-kṣaya-kṛt pravṛddho
lokān samāhartum iha pravṛttaḥ
ṛte ’pi tvāṁ na bhaviṣyanti sarve
ye ’vasthitāḥ praty-anīkeṣu yodhāḥ
The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people. With the exception of you [the Pāṇḍavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.https://vedabase.io/en/library/bg/11/32/
Time is understood as an impersonal expansion of God.
No matter how powerful someone may be in the material realm, they cannot stand the test of time. In the material world, as I heard a wonderful devotee named Govind Dasa say recently, “even incarnations of God are forgotten with time, what to speak of us”. Time is the greatest of all subduers.
प्रह्लादश्चास्मि दैत्यानां कालः कलयतामहम् ।
मृगाणां च मृगेन्द्रोऽहं वैनतेयश्च पक्षिणाम् ॥ १०.३० ॥
prahlādaś cāsmi daityānāṁ
kālaḥ kalayatām aham
mṛgāṇāṁ ca mṛgendro ’haṁ
vainateyaś ca pakṣiṇām
Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlāda, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuḍa.
And this is why we cannot understand time. We can only understand that which is inferior to us. In order to solve a problem, one has to be higher than that problem, whether it be with physical force, or mental ability.
Some intricate mathematical or philosophical concepts are beyond the grasp of untrained or incapable minds. Taxes are beyond the control of most humans. Death is beyond the control all living entities. And time, time is beyond all of us.
Is there anything at all that stands the test of time?
इदं ज्ञानमुपाश्रित्य मम साधर्म्यमागताः ।
सर्गेऽपि नोपजायन्ते प्रलये न व्यथन्ति च ॥ १४.२ ॥
By becoming fixed in this knowledge, one can attain to the transcendental nature like My own. Thus established, one is not born at the time of creation or disturbed at the time of dissolution.
And how can one do that?
After acquiring perfect transcendental knowledge, one acquires qualitative equality with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, becoming free from the repetition of birth and death.A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, BG 14.2 purport
Let’s aim for this perfect spiritual knowledge, and let us live it!