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The Yuga Cycles, Cosmic Time and Modern Vedic Science

Published in HSS Dharma & Yoga Fest Commemorative Program celebrating the 150th birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekanada.

Jeffrey Armstrong was very honored to be asked to be a part of these historical events honoring the great Swami Vivekananda Dignitaries included: Dr. Subramanium Swami, Swami Baba Ramdev, Pujya Chidanand Saraswati, Sadhvi Saraswati, Stephen Knapp and more…

The Yuga Cycles, Cosmic Time and Modern Vedic Science

Jeffrey Armstrong

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            It is one of the wonders of India that her ancient philosophers developed an extremely sophisticated view of both earthly and intergalactic time. Even more intriguing is the fact that they were able to calculate subtle motions of the Earth with an accuracy only achieved again in recent years by modern scientists using very advanced technology. In addition, the Hindu/Vedic calculation of the age of the universe was so close to that of modern astronomy that Carl Sagan commented upon the similarity. Based upon its grand scheme of galactic time, the Vedas state that we are in 2013, 5114 years into the fourth or Iron Age known as the Age of Kali or quarrel. This article will explore the implications of the current age and its various ramifications for our global culture and personal lives.

 

            To set the framework, a brief description of the galactic time calculation according to the Vedas would be useful. The Sanskrit texts describe the universe as made of an unconscious energy called the gu, which in total makes up prakriti or matter, which is described in the Rig Veda as one fourth of existence. At times this matter is in an unmanifest state, inert and highly compressed, a concept now spoken of by modern physicists like Steven Hawking. Then by the action and desire of the eternal Supreme Being, the unconscious matter is stimulated to develop. At that point a great Being, who is depicted as a cosmic person appears. His name is Brahma. His function is to create a universe. Along with his feminine counterpart Saraswati, He creates the entire cosmos which is also, in one sense, a great manifestation of His body. Along with this creation, time begins, since everything that is created can only exist for a certain span of time and must eventually wear down and be destroyed.

 

            In this description the universe and Brahma both are a being with a specific life expectancy. They are built out of parts, like any material thing and according to their design and the laws of Nature; they will last for a certain period of time. It is said in the Vedas that Brahma and the cosmos He creates live for 100 of His intergalactic years. Then, the calculation is given for the length of a day of Brahma. It is given in Earth years. The numbers are as follows:

1,728,000 years = Satya (Krita) Yuga the Golden Age

1,296,000 years = Treta Yuga the Silver Age

 864,000 years = Dvapara Yuga the Bronze Age

 432,000 years = Kali Yuga the Iron Age

4,320,000 years = 1 Manvantara or Yuga Cycle

X 1000 Manvantaras

4,320,000,000 years = one 12 hour day of Brahma

X 2

8,640,000,000 = one full day and night of Brahma

X 360

3,110,400,000,000 years = one year of Brahma

X 100

3,110,400,000,000,000 years = one life of Brahma

 

The Brahma of our universe is supposedly 50 years old and in the middle of the first day of His 51st year. Supposedly, at the end of each of his days (4,320,000,000 years) there is a partial destruction of the universe for the duration of His night (4,320,000,000 years) at which time a partial recreation occurs.

 

A modern thinker, hearing the seemingly anthropomorphic description of Brahma the Creator as a person, might be inclined to ignore these fantastic calculations as mere myth or the exaggerated imaginings of a primitive culture. Indeed, that was exactly the reaction of the European colonialists who encountered the Hindu/Vedic culture 400 years ago. At that time, the Christian/Judaic/Islamic world view believed that the age of the universe was approximately 4,800 years old. When they heard of the trillions of years ascribed to the life of Brahma and of grand cosmic cycles of millions of years that revolved like seasons, they were incredulous and rejected these theories as beyond possibility.

 

Now, since the advent of modern astronomy, advances in archeology, geology and physics and through the newer science of archeo-astronomy, it is obvious that the Vedic cosmology is the closest to scientific truth. But how precisely close is something that even modern scientists have still overlooked. After all, the reasoning goes, why would a primitive agricultural society of five or ten thousand years ago be concerned with the passage of cosmic time reckoned in trillions of years? And without modern equipment, how could any reasonable and accurate measurements be taken that would produce such fantastic numbers?

 

That question remains a fertile area for investigation. But what is now provable beyond doubt is that the Vedic cosmology is based upon very precise and accurate calculations of extremely subtle motions of the Earth. This means that the Hindu theory of the passage of time in “yuga cycles” is actually based upon the larger astronomical cycles of our planet. Before describing the relationship between the Earth’s motion and Galactic time according to the Vedas, it would be useful to further examine the idea of Yuga cycles.

 

Returning to our calculation of the cycles of four yugas, their durations are as follows:

Krita, the Golden Age                        1,728,000 years

Treta, the Silver Age            1,296,000 years

Dwapara, the Bronze Age     864,000 years

Kali, the Iron Age                  432,000 years

                                                 4,320,000 years

 

This cycle of yugas is also called a Manvantara. There are one thousand of such cosmic seasonal cycles in a day of Brahma. Those one thousand cycles are further divided into fourteen periods of 71.6 yuga cycles each. Those 14 periods are called Manus. Each period has a name. We are in the 7th Manu, known as Vaivasvata in the 28th Yuga cycle (out of 71.6 in the Vaivasvata Manu) and we are again, 5114 years into Kali Yuga with 426,886 years to go before we enter the next yuga cycle.

 

One way to think of Yuga cycles is as cosmic seasons: the Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages are respectively compared to spring, summer, fall and winter in the larger cosmic time cycle. In this way of thinking, time is not only linear; it is also curved or cyclic. At every level within matter, cycles and epicycles of time are unfolding. It is wheels within wheels within wheels in a nested form like the matryoshka dolls made in Russia where each doll contains a smaller but identical doll. To quote the Greek poet Aesop:

            “Little fleas have little fleas

            Upon their backs to bite ‘um

            The little fleas have littler fleas,

            And so on ad infinitum.”

Then where does all this lead and can it be substantiated in an empiric scientific way? This is the amazing part of the Vedic time equation. To understand the next piece of the Yuga story, knowledge of the motions of the Earth is necessary.

 

The two Earth movements of our daily experience are: The Earth turns on its axis while it orbits the Sun. In 365.256 days, the Earth completes one journey in its orbit around the Sun. This marks our Earthly solar year. The line of the plane of orbit between the Earth and Sun is called the ecliptic. The second motion is the turning or revolution of the Earth upon its own axis. That axis is not perpendictular to the ecliptic but is inclined at an angle of 23.45 degrees from the path of the Earth around the Sun. In simple terms, if the Earth’s poles were at 90 degrees to the ecliptic, the equator or middle of the Earth would align exactly with the ecliptic. In fact the poles are tilted in relation to the ecliptic at an angle of 23.45 degrees. It is because of this difference that we experience seasonal variations throughout the year in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, whereas, at the equator there is very little variation. This is also why the poles of the Earth experience summer and winter for so many months.

 

From these two motions we experience the daily fluctuation of day and night from the Earth’s turning on its axis and the seasonal fluctuation of light and dark in the course of a year. The four points of the year that measure the changing amounts of light are called the solstices (summer and winter) and the equinoxes (spring and autumn) at the solstices (Dec. 21, June 21) the day and night are at their longest. On the equinoxes (March 21, Sept 21) the day and night are exactly equal. Thus in relation to the Sun we experience two time wheels, 24 hour days and 365 day years.

 

For understanding the next Earth motion and its bigger wheel, envision the sky at sunset on the Vernal Equinox (first day of spring). Imagine you are looking due east as the Sun sets behind you. At that moment a particular group of stars will be visible in the vicinity of the Eastern and Western horizon. Now, as I am sure you know, the stars are arranged in distinctive groupings called the 12 signs of the Zodiac. Those star patterns do not change noticeably over millions of years. They appear as a constant and unchanging backdrop to the other movements of the Earth and the other planets in our solar system.

 

Technically, the degree of tilt or inclination is the fourth variable in the Earth’s motions. Over thousands of years, the tilt or inclination of the Earth to the plane of the ecliptic varies between 22 and 24.5 degrees, although opinions vary on the accuracy of this change. This motion is barely discernible. But it is the third motion of the Earth that is the key to understanding the relationship between the larger cosmic time cycles of the life of Brahma (the universe) and the specific and ever changing time cycles that we experience on Earth in smaller cycles of thousands of years. The third motion of the Earth is a slow wobble of the pole that causes a phenomenon called the “precession of the equinoxes”.

 

Picture the Earth as a top or gyroscope, spinning and traveling through space. Its forward motion is the year cycle. Its spinning movement is the axial rotation that causes the 23.93 hour day cycle. Its tilt varies over time slowly, and the final and larger cosmic motion is the “wobbling” of the North and South poles. Just like a gyroscope, the North Pole of the Earth describes a circle in the space above the Earth as it slowly turns and in so doing, over time it points to another star or area of space. According to modern astronomy, one complete wobble of the Earth’s pole takes 25,920 years.

 

 

File:Equinox path.pngThis means that slowly, throughout that time period, the pole star gradually changes. Currently, the North Pole is pointing in the vicinity of the star Polaris. It is about one degree away from pointing directly at Polaris. In 150 years or so, due North and the star Polaris will exactly coincide. But because the Earth continues to wobble for as long as it exists, 13,000 years later the pole star will point 180 degrees in the opposite direction. People then will experience the star Vega as the pole star. Thirteen thousand years after that, the Pole star will again be Polaris.

File:Precession N.gif

Now since the stars are divided into 12 sections or signs of 30 degrees each, we actually experience the wobble over time as divided into 12 time periods, sometimes called “ages.” The total cycle of the wobble 25,920 years, divided by 12 yields 2,160 years. That is the duration of an “age” due to the precession of the equinoxes. Those ages are called after the names of the 12 star groups in the zodiac. If we return to our sunset evening sky, we can actually observe the slowly changing backdrop of the stars as it changes over the years.

 

Since the seasonal points remain essentially the same from year to year, the vernal equinox or first day of spring occurs each year on March 21st. Picture the sky on the vernal equinox at sunset in the mid-latitudes of the Northern hemisphere. The Sun is just going down and in the West 180 degrees opposite it, a specific star group will be visibly rising. But the question to ask is – which one? If there was no wobble to the pole of the Earth, the answer would be that the same group of stars would rise at sunset on the vernal equinox each year. The stars would be an unchanging backdrop to the turning seasonal motions.

 

But that is not what we actually see. If the 25,920 years of the Earth’s wobble was a movie and you stood facing West at sunset on the vernal equinox, you would see the entire zodiac move across the horizon over the 25,920 years. In other words, the first day of spring, the vernal equinox, (and of course every day) would move in a retrograde or backward motion through the 12 signs or star groups, spending 2,160 years in each sign of the zodiac.

 

At our current moment in history (2013) we are 23 degrees or so into the sign of Pisces on the vernal equinox. The rate of precession then works out to be one degree of the 360 degrees of the zodiac in every 71.985 years. On the first day of spring the Sun is setting in 23 degrees of Pisces. Opposite the Sun in the Western direction, the stars of Virgo are rising. In about 450 years on the same night and place, the Sun will move into the sign of Aquarius. We will enter the Age of Aquarius at that moment and the Sun will rise in Aquarius on March 21st and continue to do so for the next 2,160 years. After that period we will enter the age of Capricorn and so on for the full 25,920 years of one great wobble or cycle of 12 ages. The pole star will also change as the stars appear to rotate around the pole over the complete cycle of the wobble.

 

The unknown and amazing connection is between the four yugas as a portion of cosmic time in the life of both the Earth and the universe, and the wheel within that larger cycle that is the wobble of the Earth for 25,920 years. Since Kali Yuga is 432,000 years in duration, and the number of years for one astrological sign in the exact cycle of the Earth’s wobble is 2,160 years, then in a Yuga cycle of 4,320,000 years there are 2,000 Earth ages or 166 cycles of the 25,920 year wobble. In a day of Brahma there are 166,000 cycles of the earth’s precession of the equinox. In addition, the 14 Manus, containing 71.985 Yuga cycles or one fourteenth of a day of Brahma, each have cycles which are also the same number of Earth years for one degree of a sign in a 2,160 year age. The numbers all interlink at the cosmic and now provably astronomical level. From another direction, the number of seconds in a day on Earth is 864,000. This number is twice the length of the shortest Yuga – Kali at 432,000 years. The number 2,160 can be divided into it 400 times. Thus the Yuga cycle proposed by the Vedas as a measure of cosmic time, is also a multiple of the wobble of the Earth and our base 60 or sexigesimal counting system for measuring moment to moment time as seconds, minutes and hours.

 

Without understanding these mathematical connections, scholars and scientists have scoffed at the incredibly long Yuga cycles that are contained in the Vedas. For example, in the eighth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita Krishna mentions the measurement of the life of Brahma and the universe in just these numbers. But without understanding that they are rooted in both terrestrial time calculation and the cosmic cycle of the precession of the equinoxes, and the passage of time in seconds, minutes and hours, their scientific accuracy has been missed and modern science has taken credit for calculating the age of the universe in immense terms, while in truth the Vedas have done so for many thousands of years. Anyone who grasps the high level of sophistication in such ancient Vedic science must also look with new respect and admiration at the rest of the Vedic library and the Yogic culture that arose from its wisdom. It is this Vedic library based on Hindu Vedic Sanatan Dharma culture that is now spreading throughout the world as Yoga, Ayurveda and Vedanta, because it answers human questions and solves the real problems both of living on Earth and of understanding our true nature as transcendental beings. “Satyam eva jayate.” Speaking the truth will eventually lead to the triumph of what is good for all beings. And if this conversation on time seems at all abstract to the human situation, just remember what Bhagavan says in chapter eleven verse 32 of the Bhagavad-Gita:”Kalo hi smin, I am Time”. The Holy Veda that was brought to the world from Bharat by pioneers like Swami Vivekananda, contains the key truths of material science, Transcendental science and the universal wisdom our fragmented world needs to learn to cooperate and hold a common vision of a sustainable future on a planet that was designed to last for long periods of galactic time as a place for human growth and evolution. Now is the time to speak those truths as he did in his famous discourse at the world convention of religions, boldly, lovingly and with a universal vision of healing our fragmented world with the hope of peace. Om shanti, shanti, shanti.


Jeffrey Armstrong/Kavindra Rishi

Author | Speaker | Founder of VASA Vedic Academy of Sciences & Arts | Philosopher | Poet www.jeffreyarmstrong.com

 

“The motivational speaker, who left his corporate job ten years ago to foster the spread of Hindu and Vedic culture in the West, looks like a typical American till he opens his mouth.” – The India Times

 

JEFFREY ARMSTRONG is a former Silicon Valley Executive and motivational speaker to Fortune 500 companies, who is now known as an expert on Eastern Wisdom’. Trained as a Monk in the traditional way for 5 years, Jeffrey is also the best-selling author of Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar, Ancient Wisdom for a New World, & an award-winning poet, who has studied & taught ancient Eastern philosophy for over 40 years. Grounded in daily spiritual practice, his innovative fusion of Western technology and Eastern wisdom has been highly sought after by CEO’s, celebrities, youth groups and people desiring to integrate systematized universal spiritual values into their healthy lifestyles. Featured in the documentary Planet Yoga, Jeffrey explains how a universal instinctual need for balance has led to the unprecedented popularity of Yoga in the West.

 

As the Media and Communications Director for both the Vedic Friends Association (VFA) and the Hindu Collective Initiative for North America (HCI-NA), he travels around the globe speaking to Hindu youth groups, academic conferences, temples, and Hindu community groups to help restore the voice of Hindu Dharma throughout the world and to inspire the next generation of Hindu youth to be proud of their great Vedic/Sanatana Dharma heritage.

 

Jeffrey Armstrong/ Kavindra Rishi is the founder and director of the Vedic Academy of Sciences & Arts (VASA) which is dedicated to bringing the Hindu/Vedic Sanatana Dharma culture and knowledge to the entire world

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