Amrit Vela – The Time of Elixir
The Hindu Shastras have described the early morning hours as auspicious and as God’s own time. The last three hours of night are known as the time of Elixir, for this pure and serene time was utilized for meditation by the ancient true Yogies and Saints. Even in the Adi Granth Sahib the value of this part of the morning has been highly extolled. Guru Nanak, in particular, has eulogized the uniqueness and efficacy of the time of Elixir for meditation and devotion to Naam.
It is the practice of Saints to keep awake at night. Men of the world spend this time in sensual and worldly pleasures. Men of God spend their nights in remembering Him. Both are awake, but the blessed are those who utilize it in Hari-Kirtan, that is, in the remembrance of the Lord.
Adi Granth, Maru 5, 1018-11
Night is the time when the Beloved Lord appears. Those who are asleep at this time are depriving themselves of a great boon. Day is for work, but night is for love and devotion to the Lord. Therefore, the whole night should be spent in communion with the Lord. The whole world sleeps, but the devotees spend the night in meditation at the Feet of the Lord.
All times are good for meditation, and one should utilize whatever time suits him. But the morning time just before daybreak, end evening time immediately after sunset are particularly beneficial, because these times unite night and day - dusk and dawn -, and spiritual currents are particularly strong and powerful at such a time. During the day, we are engaged in the affairs of the world. Therefore only night remains for devotion to the Lord.
A man who works during the day naturally feels tired in the evening. For him sleep is essential and it comes automatically to remove the fatigue of the day. Thus, only the latter part of the night remains during which a person can do meditation in complete alertness. The time of Elixir begins from three in the morning. The body and mind are refreshed and calm, and fit for meditation. Therefore, the latter part of the night is considered more beneficial for this purpose.
The fruit of meditation done in the first part of the night is just like the budding of the trees, but meditation during the latter part of the night is like the tree bearing the ripe fruit. At this time, one gets the Grace of God.
When the night is young, it yieldeth flower. When old, the fruit; Yea, they who keep awake in God, Alone are blest.
During sleep the soul-consciousness comes down to the throat or the navel centre, and when a person is awake, the consciousness is at the eye centre. Therefore, if one makes an effort to withdraw his consciousness from the body, which is a practice for separation spirit from matter, the soul will easily leave the body in the early morning, because at that time the soul has just entered the pores of the body and can be easily withdrawn from them. Besides, in the early morning hour there are usually no worries of the world to occupy our minds, and such a time is therefore better for concentration, which is not possible at other times because of worldly duties, etc. At the time of Elixir the mind is quite fresh and the day’s turmoil has not spread their tentacles over it. With the rising of the sun and the falling of its rays, our thoughts begin to scatter. In the early morning hours a person is very near God. Concentration attained and meditation done at this time leave their impression, on the day’s work. And whatever such a person does, he does with a concentrated mind.
No spiritual practice should be undertaken immediately after a heavy meal or on a full stomach, because then the body energies are engaged in the digestive process. It is better to meditate on an empty stomach. In the early morning hours the stomach is empty, as the food taken the evening before is normally digested completely by that time.
Guru Ram Das says:
During the time of Elixir one should attach oneself to devotion of the Lord, because at this time such efforts blossom and bear fruit without fail, which never diminish and lead to honour both here and beyond. Sowing the Lord’s Name when the morning is young, the devotee reaps an inexhaustible harvest. Both now and hereafter, the devotees are blest with the glory of the Lord’s riches.
The world sleeps while men of God are awake in His remembrance and are dyed in the hues of His Love.
Lord Krishna says:
While ordinary people waste the time of Elixir in deep sleep, regarding it as night, the devotees of the Lord keep awake. But during the day when ordinary people are awake, the devotees of the Lord consider it to be night.
John S. Hayland in his book The Life of Christ has given the undernoted description:
There is an hour of the Indian night, a little before the first glimmer of the dawn, when the stars are unbelievably clear and closer, shining with radiance beyond our belief in this foggy land. The trees stand silent around one with a friendly presence. As yet there is no sound from awakening birds, but the whole world seems to be intent, alive, listening, eager. At such a moment the veil between the things that are seen and the things that are unseen becomes so thin as to interpose scarcely any barrier at all between the eternal beauty and truth and the soul which would comprehend them.
Maulana Rumi says:
Oh seeker! Cease your sleep at night and walk into the street of those who keep a vigil. You will behold them happy and blissful in the Lord’s refulgence within, like lovers deep in contemplation of their beloveds, and in the same manner as a moth is enraptured by the light of a lamp.
Another Saint, Kutubdin, says:
Oh my son, forsaking your sleep at midnight, lie awaiting your Beloved’s glance.
He further says:
Oh my heart, if you wish to bathe in the light of your Beloved’s face, awake at early dawn, leave the comforts of your bed, sit in meditation in a corner, and you will behold him.
Shamas-i-Tabriz similarly says:
Oh thou beautiful moon-like seeker, if you do not sleep at night you will gain the treasure of immortality. Your night you will become resplendent with that hidden Sun. Your eyes will open and you will behold His splendour.
He then adds:
You have spent thousands of nights in endeavouring to fulfil your desires and cravings, but if you do not sleep for the sake of your Beloved, then what harm can befall You? Do you not know that whatever the spiritual kings possess, was obtained by them at night?
You should remain awake for the sake of that Giver of all gifts, and you should have no fear that sleeplessness will result in mental fatigue, because during that time flows the Foundation of Life, the Nectar of which will make you refreshed and heightens your consciousness. Therefore, do not sleep. Every morning the Voice of the Lord calls you. By listening to it, all your worries and troubles will vanish, and the stains of previous evil impressions on your mind will also be washed away. Do not sleep throughout the night, because at that time thousands of lives receive the sustaining life-force. Like the full moon, the Supreme Lord descends from the highest heavens to bless His disciples with the gifts of Grace and Mercy.
Farid also says:
God distributes musk at night. Those who remain asleep do not receive their share. And indeed what right have they to get it when they have a greater love for their sleep?
Again, Shamas-i-Tabriz says:
Only at night the soul meets its Lord and has all its desires fulfilled. The hearts of those who realize the value of night become as brilliant as the noonday sun.
Laying emphasis on keeping a vigil at night, Shamas-i-Tabriz further says:
There is seclusion at night. Our Beloved is within us, and what a gracious time it is! The Sound Currents of Naam are reverberating on all sides and are easily audible in the silence of the night. If you have an intense longing to meet your Lord, you should know that the darkness of the night is like the long black tresses of the Beloved, spread everywhere. And if you continue to sleep at night, then you should be shamed.
The solitude of night is like a river which has innumerable pure gems in it. If you are keen to acquire them, you dive deep into the ocean of the night. Do not be asleep. Behold the stars at night! How they keep awake and travel unimaginable distances! And learn the lesson that by keeping awake at night you also have to reach a Goal.
Hafiz also has similarly stressed that the key to the Treasure of God lies in meditation during the early morning hours and pining for the Lord the whole night. In other words, you should tread this Path so that you may meet your Beloved. The lovers of God keep awake in meditation at night, particularly in the early morning hours. They repeat His Name, and are rid of all their sufferings and cares, anxieties and dissensions.