Cyclic vs Linear Time

“Up until now,” explains author Devamrita Swami, “the prevailing notion of human civilization has been a slow linear progression — up from primitive Neolithic beginnings to the technological wonders of today. History — as moderns like to read it — begins with the Greeks. The greatest drama of the 21st century may be the decline and fall of this fundamental belief.” He suggests:

The Vedic histories, called the Puranas, regard European history as insignificant. India has its own vision of world history, a unique and highly articulated view that seriously questions whether modern man is the crowning glory of creation.  In contrast to the Western concept of linear time, the sacred texts of India view time from the perspective of cycles called Yugas.

Our current era of history, called Kali-yuga in the Vedas, is seen as one of four ages that cycle eternally. This cyclic worldview is a game changer. It throws the old notions of sustainability into a tailspin. One aspect is that it begs the question of sustainabilities value in a world that’s destined to deteriorate on a fixed time table. Why bother trying?

From the Vedic point of view, there is ample motivation to strive for self-reliance, the least of which is the concept that this world of temporality – this megaverse of impermanence – is simply a stop-off point, a staging area for our return to the realm of eternality (known as vaikuntha in Sanskrit). And we can maximize our chances of a quick and easy journey back by harmonizing our lives with the natural laws of this world, which the great teachers in the Vedic tradition tell us involve our living simply and devoting our reserve mental and physical energy toward the pursuit of higher states of consciousness.

The Vedic yuga cycle.
The Vedic yuga cycle.