Beach 4: A Dose of Mythology
Wave 1: Cosmic Day of Brahma the Creator - The Hindu Concept of Time
Those people who know the day of Brahma, which is of duration
Of a thousand (mahA-)yugas and the night
Which is also of a thousand (mahA-)yugas
They know day and night --bhagavad-Gita, VIII - 17
In Hindu cosmology and metaphysics it is not accepted that the universe was created from out of nothing at a particular point of time. For if something is created or born, it has to be dissolved, has to die. Strictly the conservation principle applies here. The universe was created according to Hinduism only by transformation of something which was latent before that. Creation is just a manifestation of what was unmanifest before. sRSTi and samhAra, creation and dissolution, are only two events in a long cyclic succession of events. There is no beginning or end. This alternation between manifestation and non-manifestation is what appears as the passage of time. Manifestation is when the universe of names and forms appears and non-manifestation is when it disappears. The only Ultimate Reality is brahman. Even Brahma, the Creator (mark the distinction between this word in the masculine gender and the word brahman, in the neuter gender) is only a manifestation of brahman at one point of time. He is the womb from which the entire universe becomes manifest and He is the One into which the entire universe dissolves. Each period of this manifestation of this Universe is a day of Brahma. From one day of Brahma to another day, that is, from one period of manifestation to another such, many things survive in their latent forms. Among these are the vedas - it is in this sense that the vedas are eternal - and the complex of prints of individual minds with their store of impressions called vAsanAs. These survive the nights of Brahma, the period of non-manifestation. The lengths of these cosmic days and nights in this long cycle of events have been elaborately described in the scriptures. The units mentioned therein are fantastically large and a modern mind may be tempted to dismiss them as a concoction. But the consistency with which different scriptures written by different people at different times in the past reveal these magnitudes of the yugas, is remarkable.
As detailed in the bhAgavata purANa - as well as in various other purANas, though with slight variations - the eternal flow of Time goes through cyclical periods of manifestation of the universe and equivalent periods of non-manifestation. Each such period of manifestation (or non-manifestation) is called a kalpa of Brahma the Creator and is equivalent to 4.32 billion human years. This is subdivided into 14 manvantaras. Each manvantara has a manu ruling over the Earth and an indra ruling over the heavens. We are now in the seventh manvantara of this kalpa. The previous six manus are listed on the ensuing page. The present manvantara is called Vaivasvata manvantara because Vaivasvata Manu is the Lord of the Earth now. Each manvantara is divided into 71 mahA-yugas of 4,320,000 years each. We are in the 28th mahA-yuga of this manvantara.
August 9, 99 ©Copyright V. Krishnamurthy Home Contents Next