This is the final inked out illustration for the Hindu concept of the creation of time. Brahma creating the universe in bubble through his daughter Goddess Saraswati.
Here are some process sketches from this weeks production! The brahma one is a bit more “Cosmological” but I kinda like the feeling of the Kairos sketch too.
The Chinese myth of the creator Pan Gu can be traced back to around 600 B.C. The legend says the universe was a formless chaos. This chaos coalesced into a cosmic egg for about 18,000 years. Within it, the perfectly opposed principles of Yin and Yang became balanced. Inside the egg, at first was “a mass called no thing”. Pan Gu was the being that was to develop from the egg. Pan Gu emerged and become the creator. “Pan Gu was the size of a giant. He grew ten feet a day and lived for eighteen thousand years”. With his chisel, Pan Gu shaped the entire earth. Yin became the earth and yang the sky. To this day the concept of yin and yang represents all types of balance within our universe, and stresses the need for balance in all aspects of life.
Pan Gu acted as the ultimate architect, carving out all of earth and adorning the heavens with the moon and stars. Only when Pan Gu died could the process be complete. When his death came, his body and soul all became parts of the earth. From his head were created the Sun and the Moon, from his blood the rivers and seas, from his breath the wind, and from his voice the thunder. Finally, human beings were generated from the fleas which lived on him.
Some versions of the Pan Gu creation myth state that the giant had help from four mythical beasts. First, the turtle: the Chinese were not the only ones to use it in their creation myth; various world myths, creation and otherwise, include the turtle for its strength and immortality. The qilin, though indigenous to Asian mythology, is said to have been dragon-like. While being central to Asian mythology – dragons are also found world-wide – as bearers of wisdom and a symbol of power, also connected to the succession of the early emperors. Finally, the phoenix which has consistently been a symbol of rebirth.
The interesting aspects of this tale are its similarities to other myths. For example, the cosmic egg is a common concept that is indicative of the universe before the Big Bang occurred, scientifically speaking. While this may, at first glance, be a very primitive way of describing such an event, one cannot help but notice how very insightful it is.
The ancient Greeks had two words for time. The first was chronos, which we still use in words like chronological and anachronism. It refers to clock time – time that can be measured – seconds, minutes, hours, years.
Kronos (Roman – Saturnus) the God who devoured his own children (Poseidon representing the sea, Demeter the earth, Hera the air, and Hestia heavenly fire) symbolised the destructive ravages of time, which consumed all. As the King of the Golden Age, and of the Islands of the Blessed, he represented the passing of the ages.
Kronos is depicted as a weary, bent-backed old man with a long grey beard, carrying a scythe and an hourglass. His resemblance to the Grim Reaper is not accidental. Chronos, or Saturn to the Romans, is the being that kills you. It takes away everything you have and then it eats you too. Much like time, which consumes everything.
Where chronos is quantitative, kairos is qualitative. It measures moments, not seconds. Further, it refers to the right moment, the opportune moment. The perfect moment. The world takes a breath, and in the pause before it exhales, fates can be changed. Kairos, even though the Greek meanings are complex and culturally dependent, refers to the right time, opportune time or seasonable time. It cannot be measured. It is the perfect time, the qualitative time, the perfect moment, the “now.”
Kairos is the right moment of opportunity which requires proactivity to achieve success. It is significant and decisive. These moments transcend kronos, stirring emotions and realities to cause decisive action. It is not an understatement to say that kairos moments alter destiny. To miscalculate kronos is inconvenient. To miscalculate kairos is lamentable.
Kairos, is depicted as a young man, lithe and handsome. Statues of him could be found all across the Greek peninsula. Under the statue is carved the following epigram:
And who are you? Time who subdues all things.
Why do you stand on tip-toe? I am ever running.
And why do you have a pair of wings on your feet? I fly with the wind.
And why do you hold a razor in your right hand? As a sign to men that I am sharper than any sharp edge.
And why does your hair hang over your face? For him who meets me to take me by the forelock.
And why, in Heaven’s name, is the back of your head bald? Because none whom I have once raced by on my winged feet will now, though he wishes it sore, take hold of me from behind.
Why did the artist fashion you? For your sake, stranger, and he set me up in the porch as a lesson.
The wings on his feet, suggest his swiftness, borne by the seasons, he goes rolling on through all eternity. His youthful beauty, that beauty is always opportune and Kairos (Opportunity) is the only artificer of beauty, whereas things whose beauty has withered have no part in the nature of Kairos (Opportunity). The lock of hair on his forehead indicates that while he is easy to catch as he approaches, yet, when he has passed by, the moment of action has likewise expired, and that, if opportunity (kairos) is neglected, it cannot be recovered.
The Ancient Greeks, the seedbed of existential thinkers, sought to understand kairos at multiple levels. They applied kairos thinking in arenas of legal, political, and epideitic (the artfully skilled and heightened rhetorical expression of praise). In legal rhetoric, kairos was related to justice beyond the written law, that is, law applied at specific times and circumstances unforeseen by legislators. Political rhetoric concerns the elements of usefulness, suitability, and honor. Kairos was also central to the Sophists, who saw kairos as the ability to understand the subtleties of a rhetorical situation. Kairos is seen as the orator’s ability to adapt to and take advantage of the contingent circumstances.
The New Testament writers reflect the evolution of the word by referring to kairos time as the present moment, the defining moment, and even the God-ordained moments. Kairos is the time-frame for divine interaction and occurrences.
Ancient Indians had the same divided notions of time: chronological and kairotic. And like the Greeks, they mistrusted Chronos. The Sanskrit equivalent of chronos is kala, from which the destructive goddess Kali takes her name.The image of her dancing on corpses with a belt of skulls and severed hands reminds one of the destructive nature of time.
I created this infinite flipping origami square to represent the cyclical nature of time as depicted in Hindu Cosmology. It represents the creation-destruction cycle with which time is represented in the universe. One can’t tell the beginning from the end and this is seen in this three dimensional object.
Cultures without Time
The Piraha Tribe of
the Amazon Rainforest
The Pirahã Tribe: This small native tribe of the Amazon rainforest has an extremely limited language of humming and whistling (Davies). They use no numbers, letters, or art; and—more importantly—no concept of time. Specialists such as linguist Dan Everett have traveled to the isolated Pirahã villages of Brazil in order to attempt to teach the tribe how to read and write (Davies). Their attempts have generally been unsuccessful. To even consider introducing the concept of time to this tribe would be foolish, as their concept of numbers is non existent. They have no specific religious beliefs—no reverence to ancestors or heroes of the past.
There is no past tense…because everything exists for them in the present. When it can no longer be perceived, it ceases, to all intents, to exist… The linguistic limitations of this “carpe diem” culture explain why the Pirahã have no desire to remember where they come from and why they tell no stories. (Davies) So, although it may be difficult for many people in time-dependent cultures to understand the ways of the Pirahã tribe, there is an important lesson in their relaxed lifestyle—encouraging people to live every moment for what it’s worth.
The Hopi Tribe: The Hopi Indian tribe is known for their interesting language: due to its lack of verb tenses and resulting omission of any conception of time. The closest that the Hopi language comes to a sense of time are two words in the entire language: one meaning “sooner” and another meaning “later” (Le Lionnais). The Hopi tribes live, for the most part, in northeast Arizona. They make their homes atop flattened sections of hills called Mesas, in villages called “pueblos” (“Hopi Indians”). The Hopi Indians are also well known for being a very peaceful tribe.
Cultures with Unique Views on Time
Nomadic Tribes of Afghanistan
Nomadic Tribes of Afghanistan and Iran: These peoples of nomadic tribes do not feel tied down by time in any other for than the seasons. In the spring, they migrate from the valleys to the mountains, where they will find richer and more abundant grasslands for their animals (Goudsmit and Claiborne 21). When the warm days of summer have passed, the nomads head back to the valleys from which they came in spring. Often this is a fairly long journey. This cycle continues throughout their entire lives.
Asian Buddhist Culture: Although the system of months that so many people live by today is a lunar concept, the strictly lunar aspect is sometimes given little thought. Buddhists have a stricter lunar calendar, because the moon has always been to them “…an object of wonder and veneration” (Goudsmit and Claiborne 23). Buddhist monks meet for prayer twice in one lunar month, at the beginning and end of the lunar cycle. The Buddhist calendar consists of 12 months. Throughout the year, the days in each month alternate from 29 to 30 (“Buddhist Calendar”)—making each month shorter, on average, than the months that many other modern societies are used to.
How the universe was created – Hindu cosmology
“In the beginning there was neither existence nor non- existence; there was no atmosphere, no sky, and no realm beyond the sky. What power was there? Where was that power? Who was that power? Was it finite or infinite?
There was neither death nor immortality. There was nothing to distinguish night from day. There was no wind or breath. God alone breathed by his own energy. Other than God there was nothing.
In the beginning darkness was swathed in darkness. All was liquid and formless. God was clothed in emptiness.
Then fire arose within God; and in the fire arose love. This was the seed of the soul. Sages have found this seed within their hearts; they have discovered that it is the bond between existence and non-existence.
Who really knows what happened? Who can describe it? How were things produced? Where was creation born? When the universe was created, the one became many. Who knows how this occurred?
Did creation happen at God’s command, or did it happen without his command? He looks down upon creation from the highest heaven. Only he knows the answer -or perhaps he does not know.”
Rig Veda 10:129.1-7
With its cyclical notion of time, Hinduism teaches that the material world is created not once but repeatedly, time and time again. Additionally, this universe is considered to be one of many, all enclosed “like innumerable bubbles floating in space.”
The concept of eternal and cyclical time lies at the heart of the Hindu world view and is closely related to the concept of atman. (Hindu sages claim that the individual’s self-understanding determines his or her perception of the world.) Hindus consider the real self to be ever-existing, not only in the future but also from the past. This notion of two-way eternity, however, is not reserved solely for the realm of spirit (Brahman) but extends to this temporal world. Within Hinduism we find no “year dot,” nor a final cataclysm. The closing of one door implies the opening of another. Destruction of the cosmos only portends its re-creation. The entire material world is thus subject to everlasting cycles of creation, sustenance and destruction.
This universe is said to exist for a lifetime of Brahma, the creator. His one day is 1,000 maha-yugas (great ages). Each maha-yuga consists of four yugas (ages), each progressively shorter and more degraded. They are the golden, silver, copper, and iron ages. According to tradition, we have had just over 5,000 years of Kali-yuga and there remain 427,000 years. At the end, the final incarnation of Vishnu, Kalki, is scheduled to appear, heralding the dawn of yet another golden age.
Accounts of creation differ in many respects. As per Hindu mythology, Brahma was born from a (kamala) lotus springing from Vishnu’s navel and created the world through his daughter Saraswati. According to Manu Smriti, the self- existent Lord manifested to dispel the darkness enveloping universe. He created the waters and deposited a seed that became a golden egg from which he was born as Brahma. He divided the egg into two parts to construct the heaven and earth, and created the ten Prajapatis, mind-born sons, who completed the work of creation. By a third account, the Lord separated himself into two parts, the male and the female after dividing the golden egg. From him sprang Viraja and from him Manu. Ramayana states that Brahma sprang from the ether and that sages Marichi, Atri, Angiras, Narada, Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Sanasujata and others are his manasa putras (mentally conceived sons). From Marichi sprang Kashyapa from whom sprang Vishwavata who created Manu, the procreator of all human beings. Thus, Manu is Brahma’s great grandson.
Brahma is commonly represented as having four heads, four arms, and red skin. Unlike all the other Hindu gods, Brahma carries no weapon in his hands. He holds a water-pot, a spoon, a book of prayers or the Vedas, a rosary and sometimes a lotus. He sits on a lotus in the lotus pose and moves around on a white swan, possessing the magical ability to separate milk from a mixture of water and milk. Brahma is often depicted as having long white beard, with each of his heads reciting the four vedas.
Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects.
I feel like time is reflexive as can be seen in the circular relationship of the past and the present with the future. This brings to mind the butterfly effect wherein minor changes in the past can radically alter our future. Our future and future choices are very driven by past experiences at the same time our past is defined by our present. History is written by the winners.
This reflexivity of time is aptly represented in these few lines:
“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.”
– T.S. Eliot (Burnt Norton)
The image of the naga eating itself or Ouroboros symbolizes self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return. It is similar to the myth of a Phoenix which is eternally self-reflexive in the way that it rises again from it’s ashes – representing processes that begin again as they end.
In Hindu cosmology time is said to be reflexive where in the universe is cyclically created and destroyed within the time span of 8.64 Billion years