Thursday, January 4, 2007

everlasting or timeless ?

While I have always wanted to 'go to heaven when I die', I was often a bit concerned about one aspect of the common descriptions on the life in heaven'. The main issue was that the descriptions often painted a static picture of everlasting bliss. My fear was that I might get bored after some time, even in a state of bliss.

Recently I came across an insight that would make this problem irrelevant. The problem was with my understanding of 'eternal bliss'. I was confusing between 'everlastingness' and 'timelessness'. The heavenly bliss is timeless and not everlasting. Time exists only in the physical world and hence time does not exist in heaven and hence there is no question of 'getting bored after some time'.

Now I realize that I could have derived this 'insight' from a story about St. Augustine that I had heard a long time ago. The book of Genesis begins with the verse "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth". One person came to St. Augustine and asked him "what was God doing before he created the heavens and the earth?" Of course St. Augustine could have answered some thing like "God was making the hell for people who ask these kind of questions". But St. Augustine did not do that. St. Augustine told him that "time is a property of the physical universe and hence time does not exist before God created the heavens and the earth". Actually, St. Augustine has done deep exploration regarding the nature of time. Considering that he lived in the fourth century AD, it is truly amazing !

Note: There are fundamental differences (at the level of basic underlying assumptions) in various worldviews about the nature of time. For example, in the Judeo-Christian worldview, time is linear, where as in the Hindu philosophy time is cyclical. This has implications for any statement about 'before' or 'after' including what we are discussing in this post. Of course, it can be argued that even if we consider time as cyclical, there is a singularity at the point where one cycle ends and the next one begins. In a singularity, the laws of physics break down & hence a physical property like time also vanishes!

3 comments:

Kunal Gulati said...

Interestingly, Hindu philosophy has a different take on the concept of Heaven. Nothing that can be visualised by ideas/felt/is material lasts forever. It has a beginning and an end. So it is for Heaven. I will go to heaven for a 'time period' that is decided by my good deeds here, only to return back to the earth to work towards my salvation, because it is here that one can attain moksha and not anywhere else.

Prasad Kurian said...

Thanks Kunal.

Sabrina said...

Great work.