The Four Yugas

Time and Space

This morning I was doing some study on the different yugas, or ages. I have included a verse from the Bhagavad-gita, one from the Srimad Bhagavatam, as well as a brief description of the four yugas from the Bhakta Handbook.

The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas or ages: Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Tretā-yuga vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dvāpara-yuga there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 864,000 years. And finally in Kali-yuga (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years) there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion and vice, true virtue being practically nonexistent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki avatara, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas, rotating a thousand times, comprise one day of Brahmā, the creator god, and the same number comprise one night. Brahmā lives one hundred of such “years” and then dies. These “hundred years” by earth calculations total to 311 trillion and 40 million earth years. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the causal ocean there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahmā and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux. (from purport to Bhagavad-gita 8.17)

Bhagavad-gītā As It Is 1972 Edition
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Chapter 8, Text 17

sahasra-yuga-paryantam
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
rātriṁ yuga-sahasrāntāṁ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ

sahasra—thousand; yuga—millenniums; prayantam—including; ahaḥ—day; yat—that; brahmaṇaḥ—of Brahmā; viduḥ—know it; rātrim—night; yuga—millenniums; sahasra-antām—similarly, at the end of one thousand; te—that; ahaḥ-rātra—day and night; vidaḥ—understand; janāḥ—people.

TRANSLATION

By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahmā’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.

PURPORT

The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas or ages: Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Tretā-yuga vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dvāpara-yuga there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 864,000 years. And finally in Kali-yuga (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years) there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion and vice, true virtue being practically nonexistent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki avatara, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas, rotating a thousand times, comprise one day of Brahmā, the creator god, and the same number comprise one night. Brahmā lives one hundred of such “years” and then dies. These “hundred years” by earth calculations total to 311 trillion and 40 million earth years. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the causal ocean there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahmā and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux.

In the material universe not even Brahmā is free from the process of birth, old age, disease and death. Brahmā, however, is directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord in the management of this universe-therefore he at once attains liberation. Elevated sannyāsīs are promoted to Brahmā’s particular planet, Brahmaloka, which is the highest planet in the material universe and which survives all the heavenly planets in the upper strata of the planetary system, but in due course Brahmā and all inhabitants of Brahmaloka are subject to death, according to the law of material nature.

Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam
By His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda
Canto One, Chapter 1, Text 21

kalim āgatam ājñāya
kṣetre ‘smin vaiṣṇave vayam
āsīnā dīrgha-satreṇa
kathāyāṁ sakṣaṇā hareḥ

kalim—the age of Kali (iron age of quarrel); āgatam—having arrived; ājñāya—knowing this; kṣetre—in this tract of land; asmin—in this; vaiṣṇave—specially meant for the devotee of the Lord; vayam—we; āsīnāḥ—seated; dīrgha—prolonged; satreṇa—for performance of sacrifices; kathāyām—in the words of; sakṣaṇāḥ—with time at our disposal; hareḥ—of the Personality of Godhead.

TRANSLATION

Knowing well that the age of Kali has already begun, we are assembled here in this holy place to hear at great length the transcendental message of Godhead and in this way perform sacrifice.

PURPORT

This age of Kali is not at all suitable for self-realization as was Satya-yuga, the golden age, or Tretā- or Dvāpara-yugas, the silver and copper ages. For self-realization, the people in Satya-yuga, living a lifetime of a hundred thousand years, were able to perform prolonged meditation. And in Tretā-yuga, when the duration of life was ten thousand years, self-realization was attained by performance of great sacrifice. And in the Dvāpara-yuga, when the duration of life was one thousand years, self-realization was attained by worship of the Lord. But in the Kali-yuga, the maximum duration of life being one hundred years only and that combined with various difficulties, the recommended process of self-realization is that of hearing and chanting of the holy name, fame, and pastimes of the Lord. The sages of Naimiṣāraṇya began this process in a place meant specifically for the devotees of the Lord. They prepared themselves to hear the pastimes of the Lord over a period of one thousand years. By the example of these sages one should learn that regular hearing and recitation of the Bhāgavatam is the only way for self-realization. Other attempts are simply a waste of time, for they do not give any tangible results. Lord Śrī Caitanya Mahāprabhu preached this system of Bhāgavata-dharma, and He recommended that all those who were born in India should take the responsibility of broadcasting the messages of Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, primarily the message of Bhagavad-gītā. And when one is well established in the teachings of Bhagavad-gītā, he can take up the study of Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam for further enlightenment in self-realization.

The Four Yugas
from the Bhakta Handbook

Each yuga is an age with specific characteristics in which incarnations of Krsna appear. The four yugas make up a cycle called divya-yuga, which lasts 4,320,000 years. One thousand of these yugas equal one day of Brahma, which is called a kalpa. Brahma’s lifespan is 100 years of his time. In each yuga there is a specific process of self-realization (yuga dharma).

SATYA YUGA – (sometimes also called krta-yuga): the golden age lasts 1,728,000 years. The process of self-realization in this yuga is meditation on Visnu. During this yuga the majority of the population is situated in the mode of goodness and the average life span at the beginning of the yuga is 100,000 years.

TRETA YUGA – also called the silver age, lasts 1,296,000 years and the process of self realization is the performance of opulent yajnas(sacrifices). The average life span is 10,000 years and the godly qualities decrease one fourth compared to the Satya yuga.
It is during this age that Varna-asrama-dharma is introduced.

DVAPARA YUGA – or the bronze age, lasts 864,000 years and the process of self realization is the worship of the deities within temples. Godly qualities are reduced to 50% by now and the average life expectancy is only 1000 years.

KALI YUGA – the iron age of hypocrisy and quarrel lasts 432,000 years. Lord Krsna appeared in His original, trancendental form right before the beginning of Kali Yuga. The process of self realization is sankirtana, the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord. God consciousness is reduced to 25% of the population and life expectancy is only 100 years. By now already 5000 years of Kali yuga have passed and it is predicted that by the end of the yuga people will hardly be older than 20 years and their only food will be meat.

Text pasted from; Hare Krishna Temple

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