When will the world end? How long will it last? What happens after that??? These questions are always on the minds of thoughtful human beings. As a result we always prematurely ascribe dramatic importance to events like planetary alignments in the ’80s, the “rapture” in the ’90s, the “y2k” at the turn of the millenium, and now “2012.”
While reading the Sanskrit Vedic classic, Bhagavad Gita, I was led to a section of verses in it’s 8th chapter that are extremely pertinent to addressing such questions and concerns. I would like to share this with you now. Please do read attentively and leisurely.
The 8th Chapter of Gita describes yogis – spiritualists. It says that the greatest spiritualists are those whose realizations lead them to develop a devotional attitude towards reality and the source of reality: Godhead.
It than says that the attainment achieved by such devotional spiritualists is far greater than what non-devotional spiritualists attain, for it is the supreme destination that is beyond the perishing effects of time.
“How do these devoted spirituals attain such a high destination?”
As “the train” of their spiritual development progresses on the rails past various stations, they do not exit at any station which is a destination within the material world.
Because they know that all these stations are dark and dangerous, shady, sketchy towns – where the threefold miseries lurk in every corner.
“Really? Even the abodes of the demigods and the abode of Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe? Even these stations are shady locations???”
In answer, Krishna speaks the 17th verse of the Gita’s 8th chapter: Yes, even the final station in the material world, the location of Lord Brahma, is a place of threefold misery! Even Lord Brahma dies!
“Really? I thought he lived forever and is unborn.”
He lives as long as the universe lives, but that is not forever.
“How long is it?”
Since I am an astrologer by trade for the past few years, my job is to count time (that is the primary purpose of astrology), So let me give you a detailed explanation of Krsna’s answer regarding how long Brahma lives. Also it will shed light on what yugas are – and this has some relevance to the current hype and hysteria around “2012.”
Lasting 1,000 aeons (yuga)
is 1 day for Brahma.
The night too, lasts 1,000 aeons.
Know these as the days and nights of people in Brahma’s dimension.
If we really want to figure out how long it lasts in terms we can relate to we need a definition of “aeon” or Yuga. The definition is easily found in Vishnu purana. Some persons content that there is an alternate definition given in Manu-Samhita. Personally I have read with my own eyes the definition of the Yugas in Vishnu Purana. I have NOT seen it in Manu-Samhita. I have not carefully studied Manu-Samhita, so I remain open. However the definition of Vishnu Purana matches the definition of the yuga given in Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavat Purana). Since the Bhagavata Purana is the final word of the author of the Vedas, I would always give deference to any definition supported therein.
In any case, here are the Vedic/Puranic definitions of time, which you can find in the 11th chapter of the 3rd Canto of the Bhagavata Puranam (Srimad Bhagavatam), and which are repeated nearly verbatum in many other Purana like the Vishnu Purana.
Small Divisions of Time
- One truṭi – 8/13,500 second
- One vedha – 8/135 second
- One lava – 8/45 second
- One nimeṣa – 8/15 second
- One kṣaṇa – 8/5 second
- One kāṣṭhā – 8 seconds
- One laghu – 2 minutes
- One daṇḍa – 30 minutes
- One prahara – 3 hours
- One day – 12 hours
- One night – 12 hours
- One pakṣa – 15 days (this is a “fortnight” – the amount of time it take the Moon to go from new to full, and visa versa).
Medium Spans of Time
Two paksha = 1 month
It is mentioned at this point that at some dimensions of the universe, called the Pitaa loka, the moon going from new to full equals one of their days, and the moon going from full to new equals one of their nights.
2 months = 1 season (the natural calendar has six seasons, if anyone is interested I have explained it elsewhere).
6 months = 1 ayana (when the Sun is north of the equator it is the upper-ayana – uttarayana. When the Sun is south of the equator it is the lower-ayana – dakshinayana.)
Now it is said that there is a dimension ABOVE the previously mentioned Pitaa-loka dimension, at which the vast majority of the demigods (“angels” who are custodians of the forces of nature) reside. For them – the 6 months that the Sun is north of the equator creates their Daylight and the 6 months it is south of the equator creates the Nightime for the demigods.
2 ayanas = 1 year
So, the complete “day” of the demigods is experienced by humans as one year.
Now, since it is previously defined that 1 year = 12 months, and 1 month = 2×15 days. We know that one year has 360 days. (don’t trip out on it not having 364… see this link if you want more info)
Anyway, since a year has 360 “days” – if one day in the demigod dimension lasts for 1 year in the human dimension, it is simple algebra to know that one “year” in the demigod dimension lasts 360 years in the human dimension.
Very Long Spans of Time
4 Aeons (yuga) = approx. 12,000 demigod years.
“Approx 12,000 years” is significant to astrologers because it obviously has something to do with the shift of pole stars. It is the amount of time it takes the Earth’s axis to gradually drift from the Star Vega to the Star Polaris. This is part of the hubub surrounding 2012, because February of 2012 is calculated to be the extreme point on the 12,000 year cycle. I think people are forgetting, however, that the Vedas define 12,000 demigod years as significant. This would be equivalent to 360 fluctuations of the pole, not one. Infact, each “pole shift” marks merely one “day” relative to the “year” of a complete epoch of four aeons.
For sure, 12,000 divine-years = one complete cycle of 4 yugas or “aeons.”
Here is how to calculate the duration of each aeon. Take the full value not as 12,000 but as 10,000. You will see why in a second. Now, apportion those years to the yugas as follows:
- 1st Yuga (Kali) = 1,000
- 2nd Yuga (Dvapar) = 2,000
- 3rd Yuga (Treta) = 3,000
- 4th Yuga (Satya) = 4,000
Then, add transitional periods to the beginning and end of each yuga. The duration of each transitional period is 10%. This will account for the 2,000 years we dropped to round 12,000 to 10,000.
- 1st Yuga (Kali) is 1,000 long, with 100 years transitioning into it, and 100 years transitioning out of it. The total for the 1st Aeon, then is 1,200 years.
- 2nd Yuga (Dvapara) is 2,000 years long, with 200 transitioning in and 200 transitioning out – for a total of 2,400 years.
- 3rd Yuga (Treta) is 3,000 years long + 300 coming in and 300 coming out, so it is 3,600 years in total.
- 4th Yuga (Satya) is 4,000 years long + 400 in and 400 out, totalling 4,800 years.
- 1,200 years for Kali Yuga (1st)
- 2,400 years for Dvapara Yuga (2nd)
- 3,600 years for Treta Yuga (3rd)
- 4,800 years for Satya Yuga (4th)
Do not forget that these “years” are relative to the demigod dimension, which is 360 times more elongated than the human dimension. Therefore to make human years out of these, multiply each by 360.
- 1st Aeon (Kali) lasts 432,000 human years
- 2nd Aeon (Dvapara) lasts 864,000
- 3rd Aeon (Treta) lasts 1,296,000 of our years
- 4th Aeon (Satya) lasts 1,728,000 years.
The total of a complete cycle of aeons is thus 4,320,000 human years.
Now, if you think that is a long time… realize that the daytime in the dimension of Lord Brahma (the universal creator) lasts for 1,000 of these complete aeon cycles: 4 billion 320 million human years! And the nighttime there is the same length. So, a comeplete “day” in Lord Brahma’s dimension is 8 billion 640 million of our years!
Bhagavata Purana says that Brahma sleeps during the night, so there is partial destruction of the more chaotic dimensions of the universe in cycles of 4 billion 320 million years.
During the daylight on Brahma-loka (the creator”s dimension), order is restablished in the more perishable dimensions. There are 14 time periods within Brahma’s waking daytime, each one called a “Manu.” During each a specific “Manu” (progenitor of human beings) is responsible for human affairs. At the end of each there is minor chaos and destruction. This means about every 300 million or so human years there is a very major change on earth (though minor in the scope of the complete universe).
After fascinating descriptions of creation and annihilation in various universal dimensions, the Bhagavatam then explains that every living being has a basic potential to live for 100 years, relative to the time-speed of their own dimension. So, Lord Brahma lives for 100 of his own years. In human-years this is:
- Brahma’s day = 8 billion, 640 million human-years
- Brahma’s year = 3 trillion, 110 billion, 400 million human-years
- Brahma’s life = 311 trillion, 40 billion years
The Bhagavata Purana then informs us that currently Brahma is over “50” in his time-scale. So More than 150 trillion years have already passed since the beginning of this universe, considering not just the human-dimension of it, but all the dimensions. And, there are roughly the same number of years left before it is vanquished by time.
The Bhagavatam then names the import initial epochs in the history of Brahma’s life.
The supreme personality of Godhead, Vishnu, is transcendental to time. To give some approximation of what this really means, the Bhagavatam then states that 311 trillion years is much less than a second of time as far as Vishnu is concerned to experience it.
This is actually the main point being delivered by Krsna in the 17th verse of the Bhagavad-Gita’s 8th chapter. Those yogis who have devotion to Godhead Vishnu, do not stop at any way point in the material world during their spiritual evolution. They surpass the earthly realm, the ghostly dimensions, the celestial dimensions too. They approach the trans-heavenly dimension of the universal creator, Brahma and even there they are not distracted. They do not exit the train of their progress. For they know that even 311 trillion years is nothing compared to one eyelash blinking on the lovely lotus eyes of Sri Krsna, the origin of all Vishnus.
They maintain their attention upon Sri Krsna and surpass the dimensions of the universal creator, to enter the blissful, bright, and eternal realms beyond the purview of time.
– Vic DiCara
So, when will the world end?
Well, the entire universe, with all of its dimensions (14-16 of them) persists for 311 trillion years, of which there are about half remaining.
Then there is the human dimension of the universe.
Every 4,320,000,000 years there is a destruction in this dimension to the extent that the actual physical structure of atoms and molecules comes apart and dissolves into chaos and white noise.
Within that span of time, there are 14 shorter periods. Thus a little more than every 300,000,000 years there is a destruction of the human race entirely – such that the genetic developments of the previous 300 million years are wiped out, and the species restarts from a new progenitor (“Manu”)
Within that span of 300 million years there are certainly ups and downs, but they do not destroy the fabric of our dimension, nor do they wipe out the human race. Significant shifts in human culture and the experience of life in this dimension happen every time there is a transition from one age or aeon to the next. This occurs at the intervals defined above. Once every 4,320,000 years there is an extremely radical change the to the nature of human society and culture. This occurs with the end of each kali yuga. We are currently in a kali yuga, there are 428,000 years, roughly, left before the end of the current kali yuga.
Certainly there are changes of less cosmic significance that occur more frequently. For example, but these are not huge “ends of the worlds” – rather they are milestones of ongoing evolution.