Complete Cycle of Small Yugas: 24,000 years. This is the amount of time needed for the earth to spend 2,000 years in each sign of the zodiac.
The Great Cycle
In addition to the earth’s axis moving in an arc as it travels through the signs of the zodiac, there is another cycle. This is a cycle which involves the revolution of the entire solar system around the Central Sun of the Galaxy. The orbit is elliptical rather than circular. To make the elliptical movement of the solar system around a great central point more understandable, the analogy of “seasons” is used. This is a useful analogy because changes in overall states of consciousness are represented as “seasons” through which the solar system passes on its journey.
When consciousness is in a high state, it is summer. At this time, 90% of the inhabitants of the earth are enlightened. This is called Satya Yuga, or the Age of Truth. When Fall or Spring are in full swing, the numbers of enlightened beings drops to less than 10%. When Winter comes, far less than 1% of the people on earth are enlightened. However, there are trade offs.
First, it is easier to make progress in the “‘winter of consciousness.” The analogy is often used that if one tries to row one’s boat in air, very little progress will be achieved. But when the oars are placed in water, much more rapid progress can be made. This is because compared to air, the resistance of water is much higher enabling the work of the oars to bear fruit. It is the resistance itself which provides a route to rapid progress. Similarly, in spiritual winter our efforts to achieve spiritual growth produce much faster results than they would in any other age of consciousness because of the great general resistance to things spiritual.
There is no disagreement among all the sages, pundits, gurus and swamis that Kali Yuga, the present spiritual winter, affords an opportunity for more rapid spiritual progress than any other age. Further, the medium for rapid growth is almost universally prescribed by these same classes of spiritual teachers as divine sound through the medium of mantra. Here are the various seasons and ages of the universe as measured in human years.
Winter (Kali Yuga):* 432,000 years
The year 2001 is 5,093 years from the beginning of Kali Yuga of the long cycle. For the short cycle, winter is ending with the entrance of the planetary axis into Aquarius, which begins the season of Spring for the shorter, 24,000 year cycle.
Spring: (Treta Yuga) 1,296,000 years
Summer (Satya or Krita Yuga) 1,728,000 years
Autumn (Dwapara Yuga) 864,000 years
Total Time for One Cycle or Manvantara: 4,320,000,000 years
This is called “A Day of Brahma” and is followed by a night of equal length.
One complete day and night of Brahma: 8,640,000,000 years
360 of these days is called “One Year of Brahma”: 3,110,400,000,000 years
100 of these years constitute the life of Brahma called a Maha Kalpa: 311,040,000,000,000 years
At the end of a “Maha. Kalpa” or cycle of creation, Shiva manifests his destructive influence and the universe is dissolved. [Actually the entire universe becomes spiritualized, see the chapter on Shiva for discussion of this point.] The ancient texts call this the cosmic dissolution. All the levels of the manifest universe disappear. After a great cosmic rest cycle, another creative cycle begins as a new Brahma emerges out of the navel of Narayana and the universe is created anew.
Another item of importance is that one who has achieved the highest level of conscious realization is said to realize and become one with Brahman. At this point, all individuality as we know it disappears. The individual Jiva, Soul or Atman retums to its source from which it will not return of its own volition. However, for reasons known only to itself, certain souls may return for reasons understood only by Narayana.