Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 3)
- Hindu Timelines (a)
The word Hindu is derived from Indus River – referring to the people who lived in the geographical area starting from the banks of Indus River in the west. More than a religion its broadly the way of life for people who lived in the area known as Hindustan or India. The geographical boundaries of the country kept changing on the western and eastern front – while there were permanent natural boundaries in North (Himalayan mountain range) and south (Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea).
Hinduism is a term for a wide variety of related religious traditions native to India. Historically, it encompasses the development of religion in India since the Iron Age traditions, which in turn dates back to prehistoric religions such as that of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization followed by the Iron Age Vedic Hinduism.
The foundation of Hindu religion is the belief in the trinity of Gods – Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the caretaker) and Mahesh/Shiva (the destroyer) and this belief predates the timelines as indicated by all the physical evidence that exist today. It dates back to the Pre-Historic period, much before the birth of Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed any other religious philosophy in the world.
According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created and destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is one full day (and night) for Brahma – the creator. The lifetime of a Brahma himself may be 311 trillion and 40 billion years. The cycles are said to repeat like the seasons, waxing and waning within a greater time-cycle of the creation and destruction of the universe. Like Summer, Spring, Winter and Autumn, each yuga involves stages or gradual changes which the earth and the consciousness of mankind goes through as a whole. A complete yuga cycle from a high Golden Age of enlightenment to a Dark Age and back again is said to be caused by the solar system’s motion around another star. These 4 yugas follow a timeline ratio of (4:3:2:1). One year of Gods is equivalent to 360 human years.
a) Satya-yuga or the golden age of Truth when all humans & Gods were almost equals. The humans were so pious and truthful that whenever they wanted they could summon the Gods. There was no need to carry out special worships to please the gods. The duration of Satya-yuga is 4,800 (God years) x 360 = 1,728,000 human years. Average human lifespan was 100,000 years.
- As per Hinduism Satya Yuga is the first and the most significant period of Human life on this planet earth. Knowledge, meditation, and penance hold special importance in this era. All the pillars of religion are present in totality. The average life expectancy of a human being in Satya Yuga is believed to be over 4000 years. The average height of people was more than what it is today. During Satya Yuga, all people engage only in good, sublime deeds. Social life is devoid of wickedness and deceit. Evil does not exist in the Satya Yuga “because it was the time when all people were happy and totally content. This era was devoid of agricultural activities or rather any other type of activity. Just by mere contemplation one would beget desired results. The only goal that was relevant was – the renunciation of vested interests. Human beings in this era would never fall ill. No one would try to point out faults or demerits in anyone’s personality. The personality was not plagued by demerits like ego, sorrow, violent thought (aggression), jealousy, hatred, backbiting, fear, anger and lethargy.
- It is also described as the utopian era when there were no poor and no rich; there was no need to labour, because all that human being required was obtained by the power of will; the chief virtue was the abandonment of all worldly desires. This age or Yuga was without any kind of disease; there was no premature deaths or physical discomforts ; there was no hatred or vanity, or evil thought; no sorrow, no fear. All mankind could attain to supreme blessedness.
- This era began on Sunday, Vaishakh Shukla Tritiya day which is even today celebrated as as Akshaya Tritiya in many parts of India and extends up to 17,28,000 years. God incarnated in four forms i.e. Fish (Matsya), Turtle (Kurma), Boar (Varaha) and half-man-half-Lion (Narsimha) in this era.
- Knowledge, meditation and penance would hold special importance in this era. Every human being would attain the pre-determined attainments and would experience bliss.
- All the four pillars of religion i.e. Truth, Penance, Yagya (religious sacrifice) and Charity were present in complete totality.
- Sanatan Dharma (eternal religion) is totally established and practiced during this era. There are no differences in between the gods, demons, Gandharvas, Yaksha, etc. The Vedas – Rig, Sama and Yajurveda were not separate and demarcated.
- At that time, the colour of the Supreme cosmic soul that was situated in the heart of one and all and the saviour of all the sages was white.
- There are no qualitative distinctions among the human beings – on the basis of color of their skins or the family of their birth – all human beings are embellished with all the good qualities. People would practice austerities and penance to attain God. All would be inclined towards the supreme knowledge and all actions performed would be in the intention of attaining celestial bliss. In this way all these divine people would be bestowed with sublime faith and piousness. Because all the human beings were devoid of selfishness, they would effortlessly attain sublimity or union with God, which is a salient feature of Satya yuga.
b) Treta-Yuga : Then came the second period Treta followed by the third one called Dwapar. Treta literally means 3rd and Dwapar means 2nd, but these periods came in reverse order, and like everything else about Hinduism, there is an interesting story of why this happened the way it happened. In Treta period humans started making mistakes and losing ground to Demons. Gods had to come in human form (Lord Rama) – set the highest standard of behavior for humans being, defended the Humans by destroying Demons (Ravana). Ramayana – the story of Rama depicts this age of Hinduism and India as a country. The duration of the Treta-yuga is 3,600 (God years) x 360 = 1,296,000 human years. Average human lifespan was 10,000 years.
- The most famous events in this yuga were Lord Vishnu’s fifth, sixth and seventh incarnations as Vamana, Parashurama and Rama respectively. The Dharma bull, which symbolises morality, stood on three legs during this period. It had all four in the Satya Yuga and two in the later Dvapara Yuga. Currently, in the immoral age of Kali, it stands on one leg. The Treta Yuga lasts 12,96,000 year.
- Vamana Avatar : Vishnu incarnated as the dwarf son of Aditi to stop King Mahabali of the Asura race, the grandson of Prahlada, from completing a sacrifice which would allow him to overshadow Indra in power and splendor. The jealous and worried Devas persuaded Vishnu to send Bali, a bhakta of his, to Patala, the underworld. Vishnu did so by taking advantage of the King’s kindness and refusal to go back on his word, but allowed him a luxurious dwelling and sovereignty in one of the lower worlds. He also gave him the boon of being able to visit his subjects once every year which is celebrated in onam festival.
- Parashurama Avatar : Vishnu incarnated as the Brahmana Parashurama in this era because there were too many warlike kshatriyas plaguing the Earth, and he therefore had to wipe out most of the world’s warriors who were getting too powerful and forgetting their true Dharma. However, some of the Kshatriyas survived or more were created, and their population grew again. Eventually, the avatara of Vishnu in Parashurama ended, though it is said that he continued to live on as a mighty warrior-hermit. He confronted Rama angrily years later, before acknowledging the latter’s supremacy and retiring. He lived on in the Dvapara Yuga, having a great duel with Bhishma for Amba’s sake, however he failed to defeat him and stopped fighting after he was forbidden by Pitrs and his ancestors and learning that Bhishma had surpassed him in art of warfare. He mentored Drona, the teacher of both Kauravas and Pandavas. Parshurama also taught Karna how to use the Brahmastra but when he found out that he was not a Brahmin but a kshatriya, he cursed him that his knowledge of the Brahmastra will fail him when.most crucial since he had vowed not to teach or be a Guru of Kshatriyas. He is said to be still alive today, doing penance on mountains.
- Rama : The hallmark of this era was the rise of evil in the form of the demon king of Lanka, Ravana. He conquered the three worlds namely, Earth, Heavens and the Netherworlds (Patala) and terrorized everyone. Even the Devas were subordinate to him. His son Meghanada had earned the name of Indrajit by defeating Indra, the King of heaven, in battle; and even the Sun had to obey the Rakshasa king. In this scenario, Lord Vishnu incarnated himself as the son of King Dasaratha of the Sun Dynasty or Ikshvaku dynasty and was named Rama. Due to a stepmother’s jealousy, Lord Rama was sent away to the forest in exile for 14 years, during which time he confronted and killed Ravana for having kidnapped his wife, and thus restored peace on earth. He is said to have afterwards ruled the Kingdom of Kosala from Ayodhya for an eleven-thousand year golden age known as the Rama-rajya or Rama’s Kingdom, before eventually returning to his Mahavishnu form with his three half-brothers- Lakshmana, Bharata and Shatrughna- who were ‘minor’ incarnations of Vishnu.
c) Dwapar-Yuga: In Dwapar period, human lost more grounds to evil and now humans were fighting not against the demons but against fellow humans beings. It was getting hard to distinguish the Evil from the Good, the Gods came in the form of humans, even Gods now started making mistakes and not keeping up the highest standards of morality and ethics. This yuga comes after Treta Yuga and before Kali Yuga. According to the Puranas this yuga ended at the moment when Krishna returned to his eternal abode of Vaikuntha. According to the Bhagavata Purana, the Dvapara Yuga lasts 864,000 years. There are only two pillars left of religion in the Dvapara Yuga: Compassion and Truthfulness. Lord Vishnu assumes the colour yellow and the Vedas are categorized into four parts that is Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva. During these times the Brahmins are knowledgeable of two, sometimes three Vedas, but rarely have studied all the four Vedas thoroughly. Accordingly, because of this categorization, different actions and activities come into existence. A major war at the end of Dwapar age paved the way for the fourth and last stage of Kaliyug, after which the world as we know it today, is supposed to end and a new one would be created by Brahma. This war and this period of Hinduism/ India is depicted in the Mahabharata. Bhagavad Gita is a part of Mahabharata –through a dialogue between Lord Krishna and warrior Arjuna at battlefront, in a very concise manner, Lord Krishna tries to explain the ultimate secret of life, to Arjuna who is confused about the purpose of life. The duration of the Dvapara-yuga is 2,400 (God years) x 360 = 864,000 human years. Average human lifespan was 1000 years.
d) Kali-Yuga : And the last, the Kali-yuga, is 1,200 (God Years) x 360 = 432,000 years in total. Average human lifespan will be 100 years. Towards the end of the Yuga this will come down to 20 years. We currently living in this last leg of the journey. Kali Yuga is associated with the apocalyptic demon Kali, not to be confused with the goddess Kali. The Kali of Kali Yuga means strife, discord, quarrel or contention, natural and man made disasters. After the arrival of Kali-yuga (the age of Ignorance/ Untruth/ Falsehood) all the people were not engaged in a pious lifestyle, so the Vedas were specifically created for this age to work like instruction manual for the Brahmins to carry out the worship of Gods in the most pious manner which will please the Gods. Brahmins were now doing the worship not only for themselves but also for other sections of society e.g. the King or Ruling warrior class, the Business communities, and the Working Class.
- As per Hinduism human civilization degenerates spiritually during the Kali Yuga, which is referred to as the Dark Age because in it people are as far away as possible from God. Hinduism often symbolically represents morality (dharma) as a bull. In Satya Yuga, the first stage of development, the bull has four legs, but in each age morality is reduced by one quarter. By the age of Kali, morality is reduced to only a quarter of that of the golden age, so that the bull of Dharma has only one leg.
- The Mahabharata War and the decimation of Yadavas thus happened at the Yuga-Sandhi, the point of transition from one yuga to another. The scriptures mention Sage Narada to have momentarily intercepted the demon Kali on his way to the Earth when Duryodhana was about to be born, to make him an embodiment of ‘arishadvargas’ and adharma in preparation of the era of decay in values and the consequent havoc.
- A discourse by Markandeya in the Mahabharata identifies some of the attributes of Kali Yuga.
- Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
- People will start migrating, seeking countries where wheat and barley form the staple food source.
- At the end of Kali-yuga, when there exist no topics on the subject of God, even at the residences of so-called saints and respectable gentlemen of the three higher varnas (temperament) and when nothing is known of the techniques of sacrifice, even by word, at that time the Lord will appear as the supreme chastiser.
- With regard to human relationships, Markandeya’s discourse says:
- Avarice and wrath will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other. Ignorance of dharma will occur.
- Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life. Sin will increase exponentially, whilst virtue will fade and cease to flourish.
- People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that. People will take vows and break them soon after. People will become addicted to intoxicating drinks and drugs.
- Gurus will no longer be respected and their students will attempt to injure them. Their teachings will be insulted, and followers of Kama will wrest control of the mind from all human beings.
- Brahmans will not be learned or honored, Kshatriyas will not be brave, Vaishyas will not be just in their dealings.
- After the end of a complete cycle, when the Kali-yuga will end, when the Sun, Moon, Jupiter together enter Pushya Nakshatra that is the Cancer Zodiac then the Satya yuga shall begin. During this time the stars/constellations shall become auspicious and radiant. As a result it shall accrue in the well being of all creatures and the health will ameliorate. It is during this auspicious time that Vishnu’s Incarnation Kalki shall take birth in a Brahmin family. This incarnation shall be mighty, intelligent and valiant. He shall engage in good of all benefactors. At the spun of the moment, no sooner he thinks he shall be armed with all the weapons, armours and an army, he shall be coronated king who shall know no enemy. He shall be benevolent and a radiant Brahmin and shall be the one who shall emancipate the ones in misery. He shall be the one and only one to destroy the Kaliyuga and initiate the holy and divine Satya yuga. Bhagwan Kalki in the Satya yuga shall destroy all the dacoits and robbers. He shall perform the Ashwamedha Yagya and shall donate this entire world to the Brahmins. His success and deeds will be divine and sublime. He shall establish the auspicious ideals and principles propounded by Lord Brahma after which he shall go to the forest to practice penance.
- After this all the generations to come shall follow the ideals established by Bhagwan Kalki and shall engage in religious activities. Accordingly on the advent of the Satya yuga all people shall engage assiduously in good, sublime deeds.
- One shall once again witness the emergence of beautiful gardens, Dharmashalas (Resting Inns) and majestic temples. One shall see the execution of many a huge yagyas. Brahmins, sages, ascetics according to their nature shall be absorbed in penance. Ashrams shall be devoid of the wicked and the deceits. This era shall usher better agriculture and one shall be able to grow all foodgrains in all seasons. People shall generously donate and will follow all the rules and regulations mentioned. The kings shall protect their subjects and earth very sincerely.
Brahma is credited with the creation of Vedas for the specific purpose of defining the method of worship, though the modern version of Vedas in the form of 4 separate books is written by Vedavyasa – who also wrote Mahabharata. It does not have the philosophical explanation of Hindu Religion or the explanation of all the deities/ Gods/Goddess – that gets covered in a number of other scriptures known as Puranas (Srimad Bhagwatam, also written by Vedavyasa, is the most important Purana and considered as 5th Veda). Unlike many other religions in the world, there is no single book of rules or do’s and don’t in Hinduism. It is more like an integrated course in philosophy wherein you learn from a variety of sources and make your own rules and regulation about how you want to live your life.
Being such an ancient religious philosophy, it is amazing that the thoughts are so rock solid yet flexible enough to survive the tests of thousands of centuries. In every century there were people who discovered newer meaning to these thoughts and they remain relevant. Human being made so many changes in their life-style, yet the basic principles outlined in the Hindu religious philosophy allowed them to move with time keeping the value system intact. It teaches us to live in harmony with the nature and all the elements of it. It teaches us to remain updated with the latest knowledge and information and use it to our advantage. It teaches us to live a content life, not ordering people to blindly follow a strict path, it allows them to explore, make mistakes and learn from them. See what happens you choose a wrong path and make amends when you realize your mistakes. If you do not do that, then also there is nothing to worry about, because you will always get a second chance, and another one and another one. So it gives you an optimistic attitude towards living your life to the fullest.
It is extremely broad minded, most of the other religious movements and philosophical thought processes would find a lot in common with the Hindu philosophy of life. As a Hindu I am extremely comfortable in appreciating the tenets of any other religion of the world, without any fear.
- Hinduism Third Or The Largest Religion ? (ramanan50.wordpress.com)
- An Attempt to Tie Up Some Loose Ends Regarding Sanatana-Dharma and Hinduism (rollingwithvishnu.wordpress.com)
- Being Hindu : Some Interesting Questions about Hinduism… (Part 2) (bhuwanchand.wordpress.com)
- Introduction to Hindu Dharma (1sadieparish.wordpress.com)
- An Introduction to Hinduism. (sarahburty16.wordpress.com)
- The Hindu Encyclopedia (monksandnones.wordpress.com)