"THIRTY-SIX YUGAS"

ਛਤੀਹ ਜੁਗ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ਸਾ ਆਪੇ ਗਣਤ ਕੀਨੀ ॥:
Shateeh jug gubaar saa aape ganat keenee (sggs 949).
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According to the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), man's all calculations are in Maya (duality and relativist consciousness) and Haume (ego); hence illusioned or deluded. The duration of the material universe is said to be limited. There is the mention of the "thirty-six Yugas" in the Gurbani.

  • ਛਤੀਹ ਜੁਗ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ਸਾ ਆਪੇ ਗਣਤ ਕੀਨੀ ॥: Shateeh jug gubaar saa aape ganat keenee: For thirty-six ages, there was utter darkness. Then, the Lord revealed Himself (sggs 949).

Many have tried to treatize Yugas.

For example, the Mahaan Kosh by Bhai Kahan Singh Nabha indicates "thirty-six Yugas" = 9 periods of 4-Yuga= 9x4 = 36 Yugas. It also indicates that following Pralaya (Pralaya means "to dissolve," "to melt away," "to liquefy," etc.), there remains utter darkness for "thirty-six Yugas". This term "thirty-six Yugas" ("ਛਤੀਹ ਜੁਗ") , tempts the calculating minds to calculate the time taken by the "thirty-six Yugas". But in order to do that, one needs to know the precise age of each Yuga. This is where the problem starts. To make the point, consider the following.

Pandits traced the theory of the manifestation and division of time by the four Yugas to the Vedic literature. The four Yugas are Sat (or Satya), Tretaa, Duaapar (or Dvaapara) and Kali Yuga. According to the one model of Pandits, time-span of these four Yugas is said to be respectively 1,728,000; 1,296,000; 864,000; and 432,000 years. The descending numbers represent a corresponding physical and moral deterioration of mankind in each age. If we add the age of these four Yugas, the total comes to 4,320,000 years, which is considered one Yuga-cycle (also called Divya-Yuga, Mahaa Yuga, or the Great Year). Thus, According to the ancient Vedic Cosmology a Yuga-cycle consists of the passing of the four shorter Yugas, totalling 4,320,000 years. One thousand such Yuga-cycles make the duration of one day of Brahma, called a Kalpa. At the end of each Kalpa there is Pralaya. A verse from the Rig-Veda says, "Four are his horns, three are his feet, two are his heads and seven are his hands" (IV.58.3). This verse is symbolically interpreted by the Vedic cosmologists as numerals 4,3,2 and 7 zeros or 4,320,000,000 years.

According to an another model of ome other Pandits, the descending phase of Satya Yuga lasts 4800 years, Tretaa-Yuga 3600 years, Dvaapara Yuga 2400 years, and Kali-Yuga 1200 years. The ascending phase of each Yuga also lasts at least equal to the descending phase as well. Yet, according to an another estimate, Kali-Yuga = 8640 years (one third of the precession or 4 astrological ages), Dvaapara Yuga (two Kali Yuga) = 17,280 years (two thirds of the precession or 8 astrological ages), Tretaa Yuga (three Kali-Yuga) = 25,920 years (one precession of the equinoxes), and Satya Yuga (four Kali Yuga) = 34,560 years (one and a third of the precession of the equinoxes). There are more estimates based on different models out there by the Indian as well as westerner cosmologists!

Consider this further division of the time by the ancient scholars and astrologer (Pandits). Time in the ancient Indian mythology is measured with Brahma's time cycle. It is believed that he too has a limited time-span after which he will be recreated into a new version. But using his life span as the largest measure, the smallest moment has been described. One Kashtha (also spelt Kastha) comprises twelve parts of the smallest unit of time, Nimeshsa (also spelt Nimisa). Fifteen Nimeshas make one Kashtha. Thirty Kasthas make one Kala. Thirty Kalas one Muhurta and there are thirty Muhurtas in one Divaratra (one day). Fifteen Muhurtas constitute the day and fifteen Muhurtas make up the night. In other words, nine hundred Kalas make one day and night. Fifteen days make one Paksha and twenty-four Pakshas make one year. One day (not including night) of Brahma is 4,320,000,000 of human years in length. The same Brahma's day is called one Kalpa. In the end of the Kalpa comes Pralaya. The duration of this Pralaya, (there are many kinds of Pralayas; this one is called "Naimittik Pralaya") is also of the same duration as of Kalpa - means 1,000 human 4-Yuga periods - and this is called Brahma's night. Thus 2,000 human 4-Yuga periods is Brahma's one day and one night.There are 14 Manu in one Kalpa. Manu's cycle is also called Manvantara. Brahma's life is divided in one thousand Yuga-cycles (Mahaa-Yuga, or the Great Year). Each Maaha-Yuga has 71 divisions, each made of 14 Manvantara (1000) years. Each Mahaa-Yuga lasts for 4,320,000 years. After Brahma's "death", another 100 of his years pass until he is reborn and the whole creation begins anew. This process is repeated again and again, forever. Following is a summary of all this:

360 days of mortals make a year ............................................. 1
Satya Yuga contains ................................................. 1,728,000
Tretaa Yuga contains ................................................ 1,296,000
Dvaapara Yuga contains .............................................. 864,000
Kali Yugacontains ...................................................... 432,000
The total of the said four Yugas constitute a
Maaha-Yuga .............................................................4,320,000
Seventy-one of such Mahaa-Yugas form the
period of the reign of one Manu ..............................306,720,000
The reign of 14 Manus embraces the duration
of 994 Mahaa-Yugas, which is equal to ................4,294,080,000
Sandhis ( i.e., intervals between the reign of each Manu, which amount to
six Mahaa-Yugas), equal to ...........................................................................................................................................25,920,000
The total of these reigns and interregnums of 14 Manus, is 1,000 Mahaa-Yugas,
which constitute a Kalpa, i.e., one day of Brahma ......................................................................................................4,320,000,000
As Brahma's Night is of equal duration, one Day and Night of Brahma would contain 2000, 4-Yuga periods.... ...........8,640,000,000
360 of such days and nights make one year of Brahma ........................................................................................ .3,110,400,000,000
100 such years constitute the whole period of "One Age of Brahma.", Mahaa-Kalpa or Mahamanvantara.......311,040,000,000,000

Wow! Now let us pause and think:

  • If man cannot agree on the age of the four Yugas — Satya Yuga, Tretaa Yuga, Dvaapara Yuga and Kali Yuga — then how can anybody estimate the duration of the "thirty-six Yugas"?
  • Which Brahma's life span these calculations are referring to? Because, according to the Gurbani as well as the Vedic literature, there are innumerable Brahmas!.
  • Furhermore, we do not know with certainty if the term "thirty-six Yugas" refers to the 9 sets of the 4-Yuga periods (Satya Yuga, Tretaa Yuga, Dvaapara Yuga and Kali Yuga) or the thirty-six sets of the Yuga-cycle periods (Mahaa-Yuga, Divya-Yuga or the Great Year). As mentioned earlier, both are different. Also, in the above calculations, the term "thirty-six Yugas" is nowhere to be seen!
  • Nonetheless, last but not least, how all of this can help any one in his spiritual progress — becoming the Gurmukh (enlightened being)?

According to the Gurbani, all calculations of the calculating mind are rooted in Maya (duality and relativist consciousness) and the primitive false ego-sense (Haume). In other words, such calculations serve only fanning one's Haume (ego) and his love for Maya. Other than that they really do not serve any meaningful purpose.

  • ਹਉ ਹਉ ਕਰਤ ਬਧੇ ਬਿਕਾਰ ॥: Haou haou karat badhe bikaar: Acting in egotism, one's Bikaaars (mind's negative tendencies) only increase (sggs 1192).
  • ਗਣਤੈ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਰਮੀਤਾ ॥: Ganatai prabhoo na paayeeai doojai bharmeetaa: God cannot be obtained by counting; (by doing so the man only) wanders in duality or Maya (sggs 510).
  • ਹਉਮੈ ਸਭਾ ਗਣਤ ਹੈ ਗਣਤੈ ਨਉ ਸੁਖੁ ਨਾਹਿ ॥: Haumai sabhaa ganat hai ganatai naou sukhu naahi: All accounting is in egotism, in these, there is no Peace (sggs 36).

The Gurbani time and again reminds us that the Infinite Lord can neither be scaled, nor His infinitude be any way altered — He cannot be confined within the limits of the finite experience of our limited body-mind-intellect apparatus. In other words, man's calculating mind can never hope to catch the Infinite. Let alone the Infinite Lord, the Gurbani declares that no one can even describe the limits of a God-conscious being!

  • ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਕਉਨੁ ਬਖਾਨੈ ॥: Braham giaanee kee miti kounu bakhaanai (sggs 273).
  • ਕੇਤਾ ਆਖਣੁ ਆਖੀਐ ਤਾ ਕੇ ਅੰਤ ਨ ਜਾਣਾ ॥: Ketaa aakhanu aakheeai taa ke ant n jaanaa: No matter how much one may describe the Lord, His limits still cannot be known (sggs 421).
  • ਜੇ ਕੋ ਆਖੈ ਬੋਲੁਵਿਗਾੜੁ ॥ ਤਾ ਲਿਖੀਐ ਸਿਰਿ ਗਾਵਾਰਾ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥੨੬॥ Je ko aakhai boluvigaarru. Taa likheeai siri gaavaaraa gaavaaru ||26||: If anyone presumes to describe God, he will be known as the greatest fool of fools (ਮਹਾਂ ਮੂਰਖ)! ||26 (sggs 6).
  • ਹਰਿ ਕੀ ਗਤਿ ਨਹਿ ਕੋਊ ਜਾਨੈ ॥ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਤੀ ਤਪੀ ਪਚਿ ਹਾਰੇ ਅਰੁ ਬਹੁ ਲੋਗ ਸਿਆਨੇ ॥: Hari kee gati nahi kouoo jaanai. Jogee jatee tapee pach haare aru bahu log siaanae: No one knows the state (Play or Leelaa) of the Lord. The Yogis, the celibates, the penitents, and all sorts of clever people have failed (sggs 537).

Thus, the Gurbani repeatedly tells us that the Unlimited Lord can neither be projected nor his limits be calculated. Because, in reality, we ourselves are a projection of the Lord's Nature (Joti-Svaroopa)! Can a shadow look for the object that is responsible for its existence? Therefore, the Gurbani repeatedly asks us to overcome the calculating mind (Haume and duality) and to just accept the Divine Hukam (Will or Bhaanaa) — "Only He Himself knows His state", and leave it that way. It's not that the Gurbani wants to strangle the growth of our thinking faculty, but the fact remains that such mental circus of the ego- and Mayaic-mind has no real contribution to one's spiritual growth or one's being the Gurmukh.

  • ਤੂੰ ਗਣਤੈ ਕਿਨੈ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਸਚੇ ਅਲਖ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥: Toon ganati kinai na paaio sache alakh apaaraa: No one has attained You by clever calculations, O True, Unseen and Infinite Being (sggs 140).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਸਗਲੀ ਗਣਤ ਮਿਟਾਵੈ ॥: Gurmukhi sagalee ganat mitavai: The Gurmukh erases all calculations (sggs 942).
  • ਆਪਣੀ ਮਿਤਿ ਆਪਿ ਜਾਣਦਾ ਆਪੇ ਹੀ ਗਉਹਰੁ ॥: Aapanee miti aapi jaanadaa aape hee gouharu: Only He Himself knows His state; He Himself is the unfathomable ocean (sggs 555).
  • ਨੀਲੁ ਅਨੀਲੁ ਅਗੰਮੁ ਸਰਜੀਤੁ ਸਬਾਇਆ ॥: Neelu aneelu agamamu sarajeetu sabaaiaa: The Creator of all is Infinite, Endless and Inaccessible (sggs 1282).
  • ਹੁਕਮੇ ਜੁਗ ਛਤੀਹ ਗੁਦਾਰੇ ॥: Hukame jug shateeh gudaare: By His Hukam, the thirty-six ages passed (sggs 1036).

The Gurbani says that the Lord "is incalculable". Perhaps one can appreciate now as to why the Gurbani seems to suggest refraining from such futile exercise. For such exercise does not offer any real inner Peace, spiritual vibration or spiritual benefit. Neither it can eradicate one's Haume (ego) nor the veil of Maya. To the contrary, it only adds fuel to the fire! The Gurbani further claims that no one has ever realized the Infinite God by clever calculations. To realize Him, one has to become the Gurmukh. Who through the Shabad, transcends, Maya (duality and relativist consciousness), primitive ego (Haume) and all calculations.

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਗਣਤ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦਿ ਨਿਵਾਰੇ ॥: Egotistic or mental calculations are relieved through the Shabad (sggs 1065).

Hence, as indicated by the Gurbani, to speculate God's limits or to treatise Him is not only impossible, but also pointless and unnecessary. But, in spite of the fact that the Gurbani repeatedly tells us God is Infinite, Unfathomable, Eternal, Sublime and Immortal and that His limits cannot be described or measured by anybody, many are still enticed by the love of Maya and Haume to speculate duration or age for the"thirty-six Yugas"!

  • ਜੁਗ ਛਤੀਹ ਕੀਓ ਗੁਬਾਰਾ ॥ ਤੂ ਆਪੇ ਜਾਣਹਿ ਸਿਰਜਣਹਾਰਾ ॥ ਹੋਰ ਕਿਆ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਕਿ ਆਖਿ ਵਖਾਣੈ ਤੂ ਆਪੇ ਕੀਮਤਿ ਪਾਇਦਾ ॥: Jug shateeh keeou gubaaraa. Too aape jaanahi sirajanahaaraa. Hor kiaa ko kahai ki aakh vakhaanai too aape keemat paaidaa: For thirty-six ages, utter darkness prevailed. Only You Yourself know this, O Creator Lord. What can anyone else say? What can anyone explain? Only You Yourself can estimate Your worth (sggs 1061).
  • ਤੂ ਕਰਤਾ ਆਪਿ ਅਗਣਤੁ ਹੈ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਗਣਤੈ ॥: Too karataa aap aganatu hai sabhu jag vichi ganatai: You Yourself, O Creator, is incalculable, while the entire world is within the realm of calculation (sggs 314).
  • ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਜੋਤਕੀ ਵਾਦ ਕਰਹਿ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਮਤਿ ਬੁਧਿ ਭਵੀ ਨ ਬੁਝਈ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲੋਭ ਵਿਕਾਰੁ ॥: Parri parri pandit jotakee vaad karahi beecharu ...: After all their reading, the Pandits, the religious scholars, and the astrologers argue and debate. Their intellect and understanding are perverted; they just don't understand (sggs 27).
  • ਬਿਦਿਆ ਕੋਟਿ ਸਭੈ ਗੁਨ ਕਹੈ ॥ ਤਊ ਪਾਰਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਕਾ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਲਹੈ ॥: Bidiaa koti sabhai gun kahai. Taou paarabraham kaa antu na lahai: Millions of sciences all sing His Praises. Even so, the limits of the Supreme Lord cannot be found (sggs 1163).
  • ਓਪਤਿ ਪਰਲਉ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਤੇ ਹੋਵੈ ਇਹ ਬੀਚਾਰੀ ਹਰਿ ਜਨੀ ॥: Oupati paralou prabh te hovai ih beechaaree hari janee: This what the Lord's humble servants Reflect or contemplate (Vichaar): the Creation and destruction come only from God (sggs 1186).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org