Battlefield of Kurukshetra (c) Jiva Institure

Did We Live in All Previous Yugas?

Question: I have a question about the nitya-baddha jīva and reincarnation. If we (jīvas) have reincarnated since time immemorial, then we have existed in all mahāyugas. In other yugas, especially Satyayuga, people are pious, knowledgeable, and God conscious. If we have experienced birth in Satyayuga, then why do we have so much of avidyā and remain ignorant of bhakti

Answer: First of all, not everyone is a human being in Satyayuga. In fact, the human population in Satyayuga is very small. People were not interested in procreation but in meditation. The first sons of Brahmā, the four Kumaras, refused to procreate. Generally, we hear and read in śāstra that children in the previous yugas were very obedient to their parents. The Upaniṣads also instruct that one should be respectful to one’s parents—mātṛdevo bhava, pitṛdevo bhava. Yet the very first sons of Brahmā politely disobeyed their father’s request to marry and procreate. They preferred meditation over procreation. Even those who got married would engage in long austerities before producing children. We have stories of sages like Atri and Kardama in support of this. Secondly, all these people would now be in higher planets because of their pious deeds or would have attained mokṣa. The characteristics of people in Satyayuga are briefly described in SB 12.3.19. It says that mostly they were renounced, śramanāḥ janāḥ, and were self-satisfied, ātmārāma. Such people would have attained mokṣa.

So, we must have existed in some other form and not as human beings. Maybe we were not even on earth. We may have been in Naraka, although it is hard to accept.

Question: The mahāyuga cycles repeat themselves eternally and therefore, we must have lived through events like the Mahābhārata and Rāmāyaṇa multiple times. Why don’t we seem to have saṁskāras from those events? Why do we remain so ignorant of it?

Answer: Take into consideration what I said above. Even in Gītā 2.37, Kṛṣṇa says that those killed in a dharma-yuddha go to heaven. According to SB 2.9.39, all those who saw Kṛṣṇa in the battle and then died attained mokṣa. So, it is quite possible that we have not been part of these histories. Even if we were human beings, we may have not participated in those events.

We may have been neutral or indifferent observers. Even at present, we see many people who hear about bhakti but show no interest in it. There are others who mock bhakti. 

We even may have saṁskāras which are latent and may become manifest at a suitable time in a future life. We do not remember everything of this life although we have the saṁskāras latent in our citta. Then what is the possibility of remembering something from another yuga?

Question: Who falls into Kaliyuga? Does the unfortunate soul pass through all three yugas and fall into Kaliyuga?

Answer: What do you mean by ‘fall’? Falls from where? Fortunate or unfortunate depends on what you do with your life. Not everyone is unfortunate in Kaliyuga. Those who take to bhakti are most fortunate, more fortunate than the pious people of Satyayuga.  Sage Karabhājana says that learned people in other yugas want to take birth as human beings in Kaliyuga because in Kaliyuga, there are many devotees of Nārāyaṇa (SB 11.5.38). Therefore, those who know the essence of śāstra praise Kaliyuga, and consider it the best of all yugas for anyone who wants to be a devotee. One can attain perfection merely by saṅkīrtana. That is why king Parīkṣit did not kill Kali personified.  


Different Accounts in the Different Purāṇas

Question: In Mahābhārata (Āstīka Parva, chapters 49-50), we find a description of Parīkṣit Mahārāja which differs from that found in Bhāgavata Purāṇa. For instance, it is stated that, “hearing those terrible words, [Mahārāja Parīkṣit] took every precaution against the powerful snake Takṣaka.” His disappearance from this world is thus described in a different way. In Śānti Parva, chapter 272, it is said that Śukadeva Gosvāmī “entered all elements, became the Ātmān of all and omnipresent, having faces at all places,” before Parīkṣit Mahārāja’s story is described. How can we harmonize these differences?

There is some evidence that the differences are due to the different kalpas in which these incidents took place. What is the pramāṇa for this? Matsya Purāṇa says, “that Purāṇa which tells the story of famous men who flourished in Sārasvata-kalpa and also narrates the destruction of Vrtrāsura is known as the Bhāgavata.” Therefore we understand that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is describing these events that took place in Sārasvata-kalpa. If I am not mistaken, our present kalpa is called Śveta-varāha-kalpa. Therefore, while referring to Bhāgavata Purāṇa, do we refer to a different epoch than that time which we are currently inhabiting?

Answer: Yes, different Purāṇas tell stories of different kalpas. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī explains this in Tattva Sandarbha. The very verse that you refer to about Bhāgavata Purāṇa describing the stories of the Sārasvata-kalpa is the proof of that. 

Another pramāṇa for stories belonging to different kalpas is anyathā-anupapatti. This pramāṇa is based on the principle that when a truth cannot be explained by any other means, then you have to imagine a solution. So, we accept that the Purāṇas are śāstra written by Vyāsadeva; therefore, they cannot be wrong. And if the stories are described differently, they must belong to different kalpas. If we don’t accept that, then we have to accept one story as wrong and the other as right, which goes against the basic principle of śāstra being free from defect. Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī also explains that different Purāṇas are written for different types of people, such as those in sattva, rajas, and tamas. So, the same incidents are explained differently according to the caliber of the audience. The word kalpa also means śāstra or instruction. Thus, belonging to a kalpa such as Sārasvata-kalpa means śāstra belonging to Sarasvatī, or knowledge. Thus, it means that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa gives the ultimate knowledge or instruction. This explanation is in line with the fact that different śāstras are written for different types of audiences. Thus, they belong to different kalpas.

5 thoughts on “Did We Live in All Previous Yugas?”

  1. Question:

    Is there any possibility for a nitya-baddha jīva who took birth in Kali yuga and after leaving the body for the next live, takes birth in another universe in Satya,Treta,or Dvapara Yuga?

    1. Birth is based upon one’s karma, which is involved with other living beings of this universe.
      Therefore, I see no reason that would cause a jiva of this universe to be born in another universe.

  2. Are the yugas only pertinent to planet earth/Bharat as opposed to the whole Bhumandala landscape? Additionally, is Kali Yuga really 432000 years long or is such a huge number an astronomical indicator of previous kalpas? I am asking the latter question because of archaeological studies and ancient works from other countries such as Egypt and Sumerian texts indicating shorter timelines with cataclysms in between. The most recent one “famously” known as Noah’s flood which is known in almost every continent without the biblical context; occurring around 10000 years ago. Examples of such assertions are elucidated by scholars such as Bibhu Dev Misra in his article here .

    1. “Are the yugas only pertinent to planet earth/Bharat as opposed to the whole Bhumandala landscape?”

      The yuga periods are applicable universally but the influence of the yugas is mainly felt here on earth. See SB 3.11.18-23

      “Additionally, is Kali Yuga really 432000 years long or is such a huge number an astronomical indicator of previous kalpas?”

      Yes, that is the fixed time span but on earth it is not fixed. For this please read 12.3.27-30.
      That means, if the rulers are dharmic, then even in the universal Kali period there can be Satya on earth.
      So there is a universal yuga cycle and there is an earthly yuga cycle as described in 12.3.27-30, which does not have the same span as the universal cycle.

  3. I think until the decision of giving up kāma is made resolutely, jīva continues in the realm designed primarily for kāma — material nature. Being in a sāttvic environment, say in Satyayuga, does not guarantee advent of such resolution. If not the rājasic or tāmasic sukhas, the sāttvic pleasures are sufficiently seductive to prevent viveka-khyāti to arise. And when disinterest even for the sāttvic joy arises — as they are perceived as suffering by the vivekī — jagat dissolves.

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