Time was one of the preoccupations the Upanisadic thinkers. What attracted them most was the capacity of time to awaken in man the time-transcending quality. Witness for instance this remarkable declaration of the Maitrayani Upanisad :
'Time cooks, ripens, all things, indeed, in the great Self. He who knows in what time is cooked, he is the knower of the Veda.'
And then speaking of the great Self the Upanisad adds : · That supreme Self unlimited, unborn, not to be reasoned about, unthinkable, Or cannot be thought of, He whose Self is space, at the dissolution of all He alone remains awake. Thus from that space He awakens this world which consist of thought only. By Him alone is all this meditated on and in Him it is dissolved.'
'Time cooks or ripens all things in the great Self. He who knows that in which time is ripened, knows in reality' says the Upanisad.
By a sort of dialectic the Upanisad wants to awaken in us that time-transcending quality which lives independent of things and hence independent of time. For, mark the words, It things are cooked'. 'Self is not cooked or affected by time, rather the Self cooks or conquers time.' To the extent to which we identify with the Self, and not with the body and the things on which it depends, we go beyond time. Our lower self is caught in time, the higher Self is always above its influence.
Instead of saying that time ripens all things and that time is ripened in the Self, the Upanisad would have presented the same idea in another way. It would have said that man is engaged in a race with time which is true besides that is to say, time is trying to eat him up (and the eating up is death) and man is trying to 'eat' time, by trying to be immortal. The ordinary folk try to be immortal by leaving something of theirs on earth, fame, name or children. The godly men and the mystics not only try, but succeed to become immortal even,"while living, for they live unconscious of and indifferent to, the exigencies of desire, passion, and necessity which constitute time. Life is a race with time, that is what life is."
By saying everything is cooked by time but Self cooks time, we are asked to reverse the natural process that is time's making. Instead of being driven by time, we must drive it. In fact time is not the driving force in life, it is desire, passion, aspiration, necessity, necessity to become what we are not. These are the forces that drive us, which make us old and finally disintegrate. We are being used by these forces and rarely are we conscious that we are being used. If we can capture from them their force, take the wind off their sails, then we can 'drive' them instead of they driving us and thus reverse the whole process. How to capture the forces of desire, aspiration and of necessity?