The Kali Yuga
Published: Jun 12, 2017
What if what’s going on is bigger than politics, economic inequality, jingoism, racism and sexism?
What if we’re experiencing a series of prompts that, taken together, should open our eyes to what’s actually happening? What if life is an epic play and our task is to figure out who we are in the story? What if reality — real reality — is what we sense when we’re high or drunk and we find ourselves, like the hippies of yore, going, “Oh wow, now I see…?”
If you ever indulge in that sort of speculation — and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t? — you know what Black Sabbath is singing about here: “The world is full of Kings and Queens/ who blind your eyes and steal your dreams.” Most TV, most movies, most news, almost all politics — these are like the misdirection of magicians. Look here, the better to see… nothing.
Could this be… the Kali Yuga?
In the Mahabharata — the longest poem in the planet’s history; the abridged edition is 900 pages — the Kali Yuga is a Dark Age, a low point. In this epoch, virtue leeches away until the supply is empty. Then all is wickedness: greed, illness, passivity, anxiety, fear.
Or, to get specific:
— Rulers will become unreasonable: they will levy taxes unfairly.
— Rulers will no longer see it as their duty to promote spirituality, or to protect their subjects: they will become a danger to the world.
— People will start migrating, seeking countries where food sources are stable.
— Greed will be common. Humans will openly display animosity towards each other.
— People will have thoughts of murder with no justification and will see nothing wrong in that.
— Lust will be viewed as socially acceptable and sexual intercourse will be seen as the central requirement of life.
Cheer up: the Kali Yuga ends. Many scholars believe it began in 3102 BC. Fewer agree when it ends. Some say 2025. Others say it could last until 427,000. Either way, it’s a bumpy transition to the next Yuga. Everything changes. Everything. Think: “cataclysmic earth changes and civilization collapses.”
I almost forgot the fun part: If you have virtue and values and ideals, it’s even worse for you.
Perhaps this is why I find a certain irony in the name of my favorite Krishna Das CD: the ironically titled “Greatest Hits of the Kali Yuga.” (To buy the CD from Amazon and get a free MP3 download, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.)
Or, to listen to the entire CD for free:
What can you do about any of this?
In When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, Pema Chodron says that life is always borderline impossible and advises you to meditate.
Thich Nhat Hanh suggests a few words and conscious breathing will help you be really present.
Zen master Shunryu Suzuki was blunter: “The most important thing is to be able to enjoy your life without being fooled by things.”
In the Hindu tradition, some say the best thing you can do to get clear so you can function effectively and maintain your virtue is to repeat the Divine Names.
Taken together, the message seems to be: find a few ideas and visions that sustain you, do honorable work, hug your kids, love your partners and friends. You know: the ancient truths. Because we’re in for a long haul.
[Thanks to Pamela Barr]