What Gurbani’s view on the Four Yugs (eras of times)?

A “Yug” in Hindu philosophy is the name of an ‘epoch’ or ‘era’ within a cycle of four ages. These are (1) Sat Yug, Treta Yug, Dvaapar Yug and finally Kal Yug, which are equated with the Roman Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron Ages respectively by E. Burgess. According to Indian astronomy and Hindu Mythology, the world is created, destroyed and recreated every 4,320,000 years (Maha Yuga). 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 yug 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 a central sun.

In Puranic Hindu tradition, the world goes through a continuous cycle of epochs. Each ascending phase of the cycle from the Kal Yug to Sat Yug is followed by a descending phase of equal length back to the Kal Yuga, then another ascending phase which begins it again. Alternatively, it is sometimes supposed that at the end of the descending Kal Yuga, the world will return to the Sat Yuga and begin a new decline.

The descent from Sat to Kal is associated with a progressive deterioration of Dharma (righteousness) manifested as a decrease in both the length of human life and the quality of human moral standards.

The traditional virtues accorded the highest value in the four epochs are:

1. Sat Yug: dhyana (meditation). In the highest yug, the great majority of people can experience spirituality by direct intuitive realization of truth. The veil between the material and the transcendent realms becomes almost transparent. According to Natya Shastra, there are no Natya performances in Sat Yug because it is a period free from any kind of unhappiness or misery. Sat Yug is also called the Golden Age.

2. Treta Yug: yajna (sacrifice). The Treta Yug is the mental age. Mental power is harnessed and men are in power. There are inventions that dissolve the illusion of time (inventions are characteristic of both Dvaapar and Treta yugs). Clairvoyance and telepathy are common skills.

3. Dvaapar Yug: archana (worship). In the Dvaapar Yug, science flourishes, people experience the spiritual in terms of subtle energies and rational choices, inventions are abundant, particularly those that dissolve the illusion of distance (between people and between things), and power is mostly in the hands of women. The end of this age (in the descending phase) is associated with the death of Krishna, and the events described in the Mahabharat.

4. Kal Yug: daan (alms). In the lowest epoch, Kal Yug, most people are aware only of the physical aspects of existence. The predominant emphasis of living is material survival, and power is mostly in the hands of men.

According to Bhai Kahn Singh (Mahaan Kosh: p. 10009), the Hindu texts say the four yugs equal 4,320,000 years, or a mahayug. 1,000 mahayugs or 4.32 billion years equal one kalpa. The traditional time scale of the yugs is as follows:

1. Satya Yuga or Krita Yuga – 1,728,000 years
2. Treta Yuga – 1,296,000 years
3. Dvapara Yuga – 864,000 years
4. Kali Yuga – 432,000 years

Total – 4,320,000 years

Guru Nanak Dev Ji did not accept the divide of time as stated in the Puraans (Hindu scriptures):

ਸੋਈ ਚੰਦੁ ਚੜਹਿ ਸੇ ਤਾਰੇ ਸੋਈ ਦਿਨੀਅਰੁ ਤਪਤ ਰਹੈ ॥ ਸਾ ਧਰਤੀ ਸੋ ਪਉਣੁ ਝੁਲਾਰੇ ਜੁਗ ਜੀਅ ਖੇਲੇ ਥਾਵ ਕੈਸੇ ॥1॥ ਜੀਵਨ ਤਲਬ ਨਿਵਾਰਿ ॥ ਹੋਵੈ ਪਰਵਾਣਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਧਿਙਾਣਾ ਕਲਿ ਲਖਣ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥1॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਕਿਤੈ ਦੇਸਿ ਨ ਆਇਆ ਸੁਣੀਐ ਤੀਰਥ ਪਾਸਿ ਨ ਬੈਠਾ ॥ ਦਾਤਾ ਦਾਨੁ ਕਰੇ ਤਹ ਨਾਹੀ ਮਹਲ ਉਸਾਰਿ ਨ ਬੈਠਾ ॥2॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਸਤੁ ਕਰੇ ਸੋ ਛੀਜੈ ਤਪ ਘਰਿ ਤਪੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਨਾਉ ਲਏ ਬਦਨਾਵੀ ਕਲਿ ਕੇ ਲਖਣ ਏਈ ॥
“Give up your selfishness, your haume, this is kalyug. This kalyug is within your heart and not in any span of time. In all these yugs there is same moon,stars,sun,earth and same air.No one has ever heard that kalyug lives in some specified country,any sacred place.It is not sitting where people donates,nor it lives in any palace.If someone takes lords name people looks down on him, if someone does meditation but his vices are not in control,these bad deeds vices not in control these are the characterstics of Kalyug.”
(Ang 902)

Guru Ji did not accept that the Yugs are a reason for our actions, rather the actions of a person have an effect on the Yug (time). For example, in which country or place there dwells righteous and good people, Satyug is passing there. On the other hand, the place or country where there are evil actions and low character, the time of Kalyug is passing there.

ਕਲਿ ਕਾਤੀ ਰਾਜੇ ਕਾਸਾਈ, ਧਰਮੁ ਪੰਖ ਕਰਿ ਉਡਰਿਆ ॥
ਕੂੜੁ ਅਮਾਵਸ ਸਚੁ ਚੰਦ੍ਰਮਾ, ਦੀਸੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਹ ਚੜਿਆ ॥
ਹਉ ਭਾਲਿ ਵਿਕੁੰਨੀ ਹੋਈ ॥
ਆਧੇਰੈ ਰਾਹੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ॥
ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਰੋਈ ॥
ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਿਨਿ ਬਿਧਿ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਈ ॥1॥
“The dark-age (kalyug behaviour) is the scalpel, the kings are the butchers and righteousness has taken wings and flown. In this no-moon night of false-hood, the moon of truth is not seen to rise anywhere.In this darkness of haume this world is crying how to get rid of this.”
(Ang 145)

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