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What are Yugas?


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Writer: Yukutanad Singh

The term 'Yuga' is used in the Ancient Indian scriptures, Manu Smriti

and Mahabharata, to divide the life cycle of the universe into four

periods. This is based on the extent of Dharma in the world. The four

Yugas constitute one Maha Yuga. The sense of time is not the same on

all planes of existence. Two Maha Yugas equal one day and one night in

the life of Brahma (who oversees the creative activity), and the life

of one Brahma equals one Kalpa of the universe:

1. SatyaYuga ('Satjug' in Punjabi) - is the age of absolute

righteousness where all four pillars of Dharma are strong (SGGS:

445-6.) People live in peace and harmony. They live in harmony with

the Divine without any effort on their part. The rivers and the

streams are clean. Disease is unheard of. People do not worry about

hunger, pain, or suffering. Nonverbal, telepathic communication is as

common as speech. People do not harbor any hidden motives. It is

quite common for humans to be able to communicate telepathically with

other species also. Rig Veda, written in praise of God, was the

predominant scripture in the Satya Yuga. The human life expectancy is

approximately four hundred years in Satya Yuga.

2. TretaYuga comes next. One of the pillars of Dharma is gone and

three quarters of the righteousness remains. People start to get

worried about good versus bad deeds, truth versus falsehood. Passions

and attachment start to take hold of the human heart. Sam Veda was the

prevalent scripture and Rama was incarnated during last Treta Yuga,

which is ¾ as long as Satya Yuga, and so is the life expectancy of


3. DvaparaYuga loses one more pillar of Dharma. Only half as much of

the piety remains. Four Vedas were completed, however, Yajur Veda,

prescribing sacrifices, was predominant. Religious rites and rituals

are invented to keep the masses on track. Yagya and other such

ceremonies are invented to take care of the needy and the hungry.

Krishna was incarnated in the last Dvapara. Krishna's demise marks the

end of Dvapara. Lenghth of Dvapara, as well as, life expectancy of

humans, is ½ as long as in Satya Yuga.

4. Kali Yuga, the present age supposedly started in 3102 B.C. It has

been calculated to be 432,000 years long. However, many scholars

dispute this and say that the correct number is 24000. It seems that

actual length is much shorter. It is possible that only Two Thousand,

or at the most, Three Thousand years remain in the present Kali Yuga.

Kali Yuga is ¼ as long as Satya Yuga. Life expectancy of humans is

approximately 100 years. In Kali Yuga, only one pillar of Dharma

remains. Selfishness and corruption is prevalent. The ability to

naturally communicate with others has disappeared completely. True

righteousness towards God and His creatures is hard to find. Atharva

Veda, prescribing fire ceremonies became predominant at the turn of

this Yuga.

Guru Nanak has dissected some traditions and superstitions

overshadowing the daily life of people, in the Bani of Asa Di Vaar

(SGGS: 462.) A set of divine thoughts in the 'Shalok' about an item is

followed by an affirmation of the sentiments of, true love, Naam,

devotion, service, truthful living, and true nature of our spiritual

journey, in the 'Pauri' portion. There are twenty-four such steps in

Asa Di Vaar, perhaps, to match the 24 hours of the day.

Meticulous understanding of the Yugas, their span, etc., even though it

would make an interesting reading in history of the universe, has

little practical significance on the path of Dharma. In the Kali Yuga,

Naam is the only way to liberation. The proper seed to sow, in the

season of KaliYuga, is Naam, "Do not be misled. It is not season for

any other seed" (SGGS: 1185.) Naam Simran, cultivation of Guru's Shabad

and Kirtan (Devotional singing of Gurbani,) are predominant in Kali

Yuga. Those, who sow some other religious activity that is devoid of

God's Name, they end up losing even what they have (SGGS: 446.)

It seems that Gurbani mentions the Yugas only to reinforce two

messages. First: God's Name, i.e., praying to the Lord with each

breath with Bakti (devotion), proactively living in the presence of

God, sharing of the divine Love with everyone, or, however else we may

want to describe the practice of His Name, has been the most accepted

act of righteousness through all the four Yugas. Living in love and

devotion while letting yourself be known to others as unworthy, has

been the way to liberation, in all ages (SGGS: 470.)

The second message is that, all the qualities inherent in four Yugas

can be experienced in one human lifetime. The body is like a chariot,

with soul being the charioteer (The driver) traveling through life.

Just like the customs change with a change in place and time, when we

live in falsehood with fire in the heart, when our words do not match

our actions, we are living in KaliYuga. When we progress into

meditation on God, honest living, being truthful towards our Father and

our Creator, we are in Dwapara. When we practice control of energy and

start accumulating the force of Shabad (God's Word), we are said to be

in Treta. When, we are perfectly contented, day and night, and we live

immersed in absolute truth and Dharma, we could be considered to be

living in Satya Yuga, or Satjug (SGGS: 470.)

Readers, please supply corrections.


Yuktanand Singh

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