Kali yuga is the iron age, a time of darkness and despair among humanity and across the entire Earth, when chaos, confusion, and hypocrisy reigns. Although many Western scholars believe the Puranas of India are mythological, they are actually accurate accounts of former eras in the history of our universe. The book the Big Bang and the Sages documents several important historical events in the timeline of our solar system that were first correctly dated by the Puranas.
In this article we discuss the major events of the Iron Age, Kali Yuga. Although many of them may sound fantastic, remember that life today is far different—even unimaginable—compared to the way humans lived one or two thousand years ago.
What are the Four Yugas?
A yuga is a cosmic age according to the Vedic system of measuring universal time. Unlike the Western concept of linear time, Vedic time is cyclical.
The four yugas are Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. Together they form a time-unit known as the chaturyuga. One chaturyuga lasts for 8.64 million years of our Earth years. Like the four seasons of the year, the four ages of a chaturyuga rotate without end
The Vedas contain both topographical and topological descriptions of our solar system and larger universe. In the Bhagavata Purana, Sage Shukadeva explains that there are many races of extraterrestrial beings who inhabit higher and lower dimensions of existence.
This is a map of our universe, known in Sanskrit as Bhu-mandala. The geographical region which we refer to as Earth is part of the landmass known as Jambudvipa.
From a higher-dimensional perspective, Bhu-mandala comprises seven concentric islands, each island separated by a concentric ocean, and further subdivided by four prominent mountain ranges.
As with any map, these images or descriptions cannot fully capture the entirety of cosmic geography. Just as an ant cannot fathom the 3-dimensional life of a human being and the scope of human activities, most human beings are similarly unable to comprehend extraterrestrial life in higher dimensions and the scale and symmetry of extra-dimensional geography.
The Puranas give just enough cosmological insight so that we can understand our place in the larger universe and focus on the areas of life that truly matter most: spiritual enlightenment.
LEARN MORE: The Puranas provide an advanced understanding of our universe, including descriptions of life on other planets. Check out our guide to Vedic Cosmology.
By the process of yoga, one can gain the ability to travel to these higher and lower dimensional realms. For such a person, the descriptions of the Puranas serve as a map for navigating the universe.
Events in Kali Yuga
Kali Yuga is the first of the four ages that make up a chaturyuga. In English it is often referred to as the Iron Age or the Dark Age.
LEARN MORE: Check out our article on the avatars that appear every Kali Yuga.
The Disappearance of Vedic Culture
Soon after the disappearance of Lord Krishna from the planet, the maddening effects of Kali Yuga began to profoundly influence life on Earth. Vedic culture all but disappeared within a very short period of time. The world was no longer under the peaceful administration of a single emperor. Instead, nations constantly waged war for dominance, and there was never a moment’s peace.
Men and women forgot their religious duties and sunk into lives of debauchery, intoxication, and violence. The situation continues to this day.
The Puranas describe that Kali Yuga is a very difficult age because people are completely unaware of the spiritual dimension of life. However, it is also said to be a very special time in history, as the process of self-realization is drastically simplified. Simply by chanting the names of Krishna anyone can attain complete enlightenment and spiritual perfection. Chanting any name of God in any language will have a transcendental effect, but the Puranas especially recommend the Hare Krishna mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
LEARN MORE: Check out our article on the symptoms of Kali Yuga.
Rise of Buddhism and Mayavada Philosophiy
After the disappearance of Krishna at the end of Dvapara Yuga, and the deterioration of Vedic culture, common men began misusing the Vedas and creating havoc in society. They began to kill animals indiscriminately in the name of religious sacrifice. To curb this rampant violence, Krishna appears in Kali Yuga in the form of the Buddha avatar to preach nonviolence as an essential principle of religion. Centuries after the Buddha incarnation of Lord Krishna, Shiva appears as Shankaracharya to teach Mayavada philosophy (a hidden form of Buddhism). Shiva speaks about this in the Uttara Khanda of the Padma Purana (Chapter 236):
māyāvādam asac chāstraṁ pracchannaṁ bauddham ucyate
mayaiva kalpitaṁ devi kalau brāhmaṇa-rūpiṇā
Māyāvāda philosophy is an impious, materialistic philosophy. It is covered Buddhism. My dear Parvati, in Kali-yuga I assume the form of a brāhmaṇa and teach this imagined philosophy. (6.236.7)
apārthaṁ śruti-vākyānāṁ darśayan loka-garhitam
sva-karma-rūpaṁ tyājya tvam atraiva pratipādyate
sarva-karma-paribhraṣṭair vaidharma tvaṁ tad ucyate
pareśa-jīva-pāraikyaṁ mayā tu pratipādyate
This māyāvāda philosophy deprives the words of the holy texts of their actual meaning, and thus it is condemned in the world. It recommends the renunciation of one’s own duties, since those who have fallen from their duties say that the giving up of duties is religiosity. I have also falsely preached the absolute nondifference of the Supreme Lord and the individual soul. (6.236.8-9)
brahmaṇaś cāparaṁ rūpaṁ nirguṇaṁ vakṣyate mayā
sarva-svaṁ jagato ’py asya mohanārthaṁ kalau yuge
In order to bewilder the atheists, in Kali-yuga I describe the Supreme Personality of Godhead to be without form and without qualities. (6.236.10)
vedānte tu mahā-śāstre māyāvādam avaidikam
mayaiva vakṣyate devi jagatāṁ nāśa-kāranāt
Similarly, in explaining Vedanta, I describe the same māyāvāda philosophy in order to mislead the entire population toward atheism by denying the personal form of the Lord.” (6.236.11)
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu appears in this dark night of Vedic society and destroys the darkness with the light of harinama sankirtana, supported by the pure teachings of the Srimad-Bhagavatam, the topmost of Vedic scriptures.
The Sankirtana Movement Begins
Approximately 4,500 years after the beginning of Kali Yuga, Krishna appeared as the Golden Avatar, Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, in order to teach the simple process of chanting God’s names as a quick path to enlightenment and total spiritual perfection. Chaitanya also taught the path of bhakti yoga, based on the principles elucidated in the Bhagavad-gita and Srimad Bhagavatam.
Within a short time, this movement of sankirtana (group chanting) spread throughout India, and in the past 50 years it has spread all over the world.
The most famous teacher of the Gita and the Bhagavatam of recent times is A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded an organization called the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).
Students in Prabhupada’s lineage practice the same tradition of bhakti yoga which was taught by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, which is the very same path given to Arjuna by Krishna over 5,000 years ago.
LEARN MORE: Read more about Lord Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu online.