The Hindu View of Time :
Most of us are accustomed to living life according to linear beliefs
and patterns of existence. We believe everything has a beginning, middle
and an end. But Hinduism has little to do with the linear nature of
history, the linear concept of time or the linear pattern of life.
The passage of 'linear' time has brought us where we are today - at the
dawn of a new century and a new millennium. But Hinduism views the
concept of time in a much different manner, and there is a cosmic
perspective to it. Hindus believe the process of creation moves in
cycles and that each cycle has four great epochs of time, namely
Satya Yug, Treta Yug, Dwapar Yug and Kali Yug. And because
the process of creation is cyclical and never ending, it "begins to end
and ends to begin".
According to the Hindu theory of creation, time (Sanskrit 'kal')
is a manifestation of God. Creation begins when God makes his energies
active and ends when he withdraws all his energies into a state of
inactivity. God is timeless, for time is relative and ceases to exist in
the Absolute. The past, the present and the future coexist in him
God creates the cycle of time, called Kalchakra, in order to
create divisions and movements of life and sustain the worlds in
periodic timeframes. God also uses time to create the 'illusions' of
life and death. It is time, which is accountable for old age, death
and dying of his creations. When we overcome time, we become
immortal. Death is not the end of the line, but a gateway to the next
cycle, to birth. This is also true of the universe itself and akin to
the cyclic patterns in the rhythms of nature.
The Four Epochs or yugs :
Hindu scriptures, all mortal beings are destined to pass through four
great epochs in every cycle of creation and destruction. This divine
cycle turns full-circle at the end of what is known as kalpa. A
kalpa is a period of 10,000 divine years or 10 million years, and
is divided into four ages or yugs (Sanskrit yuga =
great epochs in Hinduism are: Satya Yug, Treta Yug, Dwapar Yug
and Kali Yug. Satya Yug or the Age of Truth is said to
last for four thousand divine years, Treta Yug for three
thousand, Dwapara Yug for two thousand and Kali Yug will
last for one thousand divine years. It is also believed that three of
these great ages have already passed away, and we are now living in the
fourth one. What these ages exactly mean, and why this division, it's
hard to explain, because they appear too unrealistic to be true for the
Innocence & Experience!
The four ages symbolize the four phases of involution during which man
gradually lost the awareness of his inner selves and subtle bodies.
Hinduism believes that human beings have five kinds of bodies, called
annamayakosa, pranamayakosa, manomayakosa vignanamayakosa and
anandamayakosa, which represent the 'gross body', the 'breath body',
the 'psychic body', the 'intelligence body' and the 'bliss body'
theory explains these epochs of time on the basis of the degree of loss
of righteousness in the world. It says, during Satya Yug only
truth prevailed (Sanskrit Satya = truth), Treta lost ¼
truth, Dwapar lost ½ truth and Kali is left with only ¼
truth. Evil and dishonesty has replaced truth in the last three ages or
Throughout these four yugs, Lord Vishnu is said to incarnate ten
times in ten different avatars. This is known as 'Dashaavatar'
(Sanskrit dasha = ten). During the Age of Truth, human beings
were spiritually most advanced and had great psychic powers. In the
Treta Yug people still remained righteous and adhered to moral ways
of life. Lord Rama of the fabled Ramayana lived in Treta Yug.
In the Dwapara Yug, men had lost all knowledge of the
intelligence and bliss bodies. Lord Krishna was born in this age. The
present Kali Yug is the most degenerated of the Hindu epochs
Living in the Kali Yug
We live in
the Kali Yug — in a world infested with impurities and vices.
People possessing genial virtues are diminishing day by day. Floods and
famine, war and crime, deceit and duplicity characterize this age. But,
say the scriptures, final emancipation is possible only in this age.
of Kali Yug!
Kali Yug has two phases: In the first, humans - having lost the
knowledge of the two higher selves - had knowledge of the 'breath body'
apart from the physical self. During the second phase even this
knowledge has deserted mankind, leaving us only with the awareness of
the gross physical body. This explains why we are now more preoccupied
with our physical self than anything else.
Due to our
preoccupation with our physical bodies and our lower selves, and because
of our emphasis on the pursuit of gross materialism, this age has been
termed the 'Age of Darkness' - an age when we have lost touch with our
inner selves, an age of profound ignorance!
Both the two great epics - The Ramayana & Mahabharata
- have spoken about the Kali Yug. In the Tulasi Ramayana,
we find Kakbhushundi foretelling: "In the Kali Yug, the hot-bed
of sin, men and women are all steeped in unrighteousness and act
contrary to the Vedas…every virtue had been engulfed by the sins
of Kali Yug; all good books had disappeared; impostors had
promulgated a number of creeds, which they had invented out of their own
wit. The people had all fallen prey to delusion and all pious acts had
been swallowed by greed."
Mahabharata (Santi Parva) Yudhishthir says: "…The ordinances of the
Vedas disappear gradually in every successive age…the duties in the Kali
age are entirely of another kind. It seems, therefore, that duties have
been laid down for the respective age according to the powers of human
beings in the respective ages." The sage Vyasa later on clarifies: "In
the Kali Yug, the duties of the respective order disappear and
men become afflicted by inequity."
It is predicted that at the end of the Kali Yug, Lord Shiva
shall destroy the universe and all the physical body would undergo a
great transformation. After such dissolution, Lord Brahma would recreate
the universe and mankind will become the 'Beings of Truth' once again.