The Millennial Cycles

In the West, time is viewed as linear. This linear view perceives the journey from past to present to future as an unfolding of progress and more evolved possibilities. In Vedic India, however, time is viewed as cyclical. Within this cyclical paradigm, civilizations and people slowly evolve, then slowly devolve, only to slowly evolve again.

The ancient Vedic tradition of Ayurveda’s origin sees life, the universe, and everything as a procession of cycles within cycles within cycles. There are rhythms and patterns which characterize the 24-hour day, the seasonal rotations, the year, and the stages of life – in addition to another, more significant cycle, which spans vast periods of time, taking tens of thousands of years to complete from start to finish before it repeats.

This cycle is called a Maha Yuga, spanning 12,000 years. Just like every other cycle (such as a day, a year, or the course of a life), there are sections within a Maha Yuga which have distinct and unique qualities. A Maha Yuga is divided into four sub-Yuga sections called Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga, and Kali Yuga.

Traditionally, scholars and pundits referred to collections of ancient Vedic/Hindu texts – like the Upanishads and the Puranas – to understand the Yugas, their characteristics, their duration, and the order of their progression. In 1894,  however, a venerated Holy Man named Swami Sri Yukteswar Giri wrote a seminal theological book called The Holy Science. The book’s main focus was to compare parallel passages between the Bible and the Upanishads in order to show the unity in their teachings.

The Upanishads are ancient Vedic texts which present an intricate vision of an interconnected universe with a single, unifying energy behind all apparent diversity in the cosmos. This unifying energy is called Brahman. The Upanishads teach that Brahman resides at the core of the human individual and can – and should – be discovered and experienced. Attaining the experience of Brahman while embodied as a human is a necessary milestone in a fully lived life. Once this connection has been achieved, an individual can be released from the cycle of death, rebirth, and manifestation and return to pure consciousness.

The Upanishads contain extensive information regarding life and consciousness. The cycle of the Yugas is one of the many diverse topics these texts teach. It came to pass that a duration of 4.32 million years was attributed to the Maha Yuga cycle – and this became generally accepted.

However, in The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar proposed an alternative timeline for the Maha Yuga cycle. He discovered that, over time, errors had crept into records and translations of the mathematical formulae used to calculate the Indian calendar. These errors distorted accurate measurement of time and space and of the great Yuga cycles. Sri Yukteswar made corrections and adjusted the duration of the Yugas accordingly. We refer specifically to his adjusted system.

He proposed a Maha Yuga cycle spanning 12,000 years, segmented into four sub-Yuga cycles. Each sub-Yuga cycle features two transitional periods called “sandhis.” Each sandhi is 10% of the length of its sub-Yuga and occurs at both its beginning and end.

For instance, the Kali Yuga – which lasts 1000 years – has a 100-year sandhi at its beginning and end. A Kali Yuga combined with its sandhis, therefore, lasts 1,200 years.

Dwapara Yuga – which lasts 2000 years –  has one sandhi at the beginning and one at the end, each spanning 200 years. Dwapara Yuga, therefore, encompasses 2,400 years.

Treta Yuga – which lasts 3000 years – has one sandhi at the beginning and one at the end – each sandhi lasting 300 years. Treta Yuga, therefore, spans 3,600 years.

Satya Yuga – which lasts 4000 years – has one sandhi at the beginning and one at the end, each lasting 400 years.  Satya Yuga, therefore, is 4,800 years in total.

These four sub-Yugas combine to make up the Maha Yuga – the 12,000 year long cycle that marks our solar system’s journey through space and time as it completes a half-orbit around our galactic center.

An important distinction between each Maha Yuga is determined by whether our solar system is moving towards the galactic center (ascending) or moving away (descending) from it. If we find ourselves in an ascending Yuga, we are moving closer to the galactic center’s purifying energy and know that we can look forward to evolution and the progressive realization of our potential. If we find ourselves in a descending Yuga, we know that we are in a period in which we and our world will be increasingly obscured from truth and consciousness, inhibiting our ability to embody our full potential as human beings.

One cycle of 12,000 years moving from Kali Yuga to Satya Yuga – or, alternatively from Satya Yuga to Kali Yuga –  marks the passage of our solar system from either the most distant point from the galactic center to the closest – or from the closest point to the galactic center to the most distant. A full rotation around the galactic center spans approximately 24,000 years.

The highest and most evolved age of all is called Satya Yuga. It is followed by Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga, and the least evolved of all – Kali Yuga. Their names come from the four sides of a dice used to play an ancient Indian game. The number 4 represents the complete and full realization of truth and belongs to the Yuga named Satya, which translates literally to “Truth.” The number 3 represents diminished truth, i.e. 3/4 of its potential  – and belongs to Treta, which translates literally to “three.” The number 2 belongs to Dwapara, which means “half-fold” – or half of the whole – and represents further diminishment of truth. The number 1 belongs to Kali, which is darkness, and represents obscurement from the light of consciousness.

The qualities of the Yugas follow:

Kali Yuga — The Age of Materialism (The Iron Age)
During Kali Yuga, humans are spiritually and intellectually unevolved and primitive. They are generally only able to comprehend gross material things. Will power is low and one’s station and fate are generally passively accepted. Written accounts of ancient knowledge and spiritual traditions aren’t available.

In lieu of higher spiritual consciousness and harmonious awareness, religious movements form. They are rigid, dogmatic, and intolerant. Those few who know and understand enlightened teachings must hide to avoid persecution. In every Yuga there are souls whose consciousness reflects a higher age. The world’s most recent Kali Yuga is no exception. Many individuals discovered truths which ignited movements that transformed the world and characterized the transition out of Kali Yuga into the more evolved Dwapara Yuga:

  • The Renaissance (1500s – 1600s)
  • The Enlightenment (1650 – 1780)
  • The Scientific Revolution (1640 – 1800)
  • The Age of Revolution (1750 – 1917)
  • The Romantic Era (1790 – 1850)
  • The Industrial Revolution (1750s – 1900)
  • The Age of Imperialism (1700 – 1950s)

Knowledge that was thought lost was found. Discoveries, upheavals, revolutions, exploration, and advancements unveiled truth and expanded consciousness.

Dwapara Yuga — The Age of Energy (The Bronze Age)
Dwapara Yuga, the age we are living in now (more specifically, we are in an ascending Dwapara Yuga cycle), is referred to as the age of energy. In this age, we begin to understand more sophisticated ways of harnessing energy. Technology blossoms. Various new religions and philosophies appear and scientific discoveries are made. It is understood that matter and energy are interchangeable.

In this age, we discover how to transcend space and distance. It has already begun with the telephone, internet, and high-speed transportation. In the future, we will likely discover the secret of instantaneous travel – allowing us to wander among the stars. There is still a lot of progress to be made before such discoveries are unveiled. The gifts of each Yuga develop over thousands of years.

In the Dwapara Yuga, more evolved ways of perceiving the universe begin to develop. Notably, in this age, people are highly self-interested. The motivation to achieve is usually selfish.

Treta Yuga — The Age of Thought (The Silver Age)
During Treta Yuga, we begin to discover intuition. We recognize that everything is interconnected, and we can access this interconnectedness. Strong mental powers such as telekinesis, mental telepathy, and the ability to manifest our desires develop – along with the discernment to desire that which is harmonious for everyone. War is uncommon and most people are peace-loving and compassionate. This age is not necessarily more technologically advanced than Dwapara Yuga –  just more spiritually advanced. Being more spiritually advanced and able to manifest at will – technology becomes less important. Living simply and naturally becomes the focus.

The major difference between the Kali and Dwapara Yugas and the highly evolved Treta and Satya Yugas is self-interest. People in the Kali and Dwapara Yugas are often greedy and live to help themselves and their immediate self-interests. In Treta and Satya Yugas, however, interconnectivity is understood and humans work for the good of everyone as much as for themselves.

Satya Yuga — The Age of Spirit (The Golden Age)
In his book The Holy Science, Sri Yukteswar says this about Satya Yuga: “The human intellect can comprehend all, even God the Spirit beyond this visible world.” In this age, humans are so spiritually advanced that God-consciousness is part of everyday experience. God is evident in everyone and everything. Intuition is fully developed and life is blissful, harmonious, and naturally simple. The nature of the universe is understood. Humans can communicate telepathically with anyone in the world.

There are myths about this “Golden Age” in many different cultures. These myths share the following commonalities:

  • People are considered “demi-gods” and can both fly and create things at will
  • People look youthful their entire lives and do not fall ill or get diseases
  • People communicate with animals and live in harmony with nature and each other
  • Weather is perfect and food is plentiful
  • There is one common language

The approximate timeline of the Maha Yuga’s progression around our galactic center, with its sub-Yugas and Sandhis, is as follows:

Kali Yuga Proper

(Kali Yuga Sandhi)

 499 AD – 1699 AD

1600 AD – 1700 AD

(Dwapara Yuga Sandhi)

 Dwapara Yuga Proper

(Dwapara Yuga Sandhi)

1700 AD – 1900 AD

1900 AD – 3900 AD ←

3900 AD – 4100 AD

(Treta Yuga Sandhi)

 Treta Yuga Proper

(Treta Yuga Sandhi)

4100 AD – 4400 AD

4400 AD – 7400 AD

7,400 AD – 7,700 AD

(Satya Yuga Sandhi)

 Satya Yuga Proper

(Satya Yuga Sandhi)

7700 AD – 8100 AD

8100 AD – 12,100 AD

12,100 AD – 12,500 AD

Knowing of the existence of the Yugas and their qualities can help us to reconcile ourselves to the trends of our time while gaining a stronger sense of orientation, purpose, and the vastness and scope of life, time, and space.

Although the existence of the Yuga cycles are not currently accepted in Western science, there is ample evidence for them. If you’d like to explore them more thoroughly, the book titled The Yugas by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz is an excellent source for more information.


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