The duration of the material universe is limited. It is manifested in cycles of kalpas. A kalpa is a day of Brahmā, and one day of Brahmā consists of a thousand cycles of four yugas, or ages: Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali. The cycle of Satya is characterized by virtue, wisdom and religion, there being practically no ignorance and vice, and the yuga lasts 1,728,000 years. In the Tretā-yuga, vice is introduced, and this yuga lasts 1,296,000 years. In the Dvāpara-yuga, there is an even greater decline in virtue and religion, vice increasing, and this yuga lasts 864,000 years. And finally in Kali-yuga, (the yuga we have now been experiencing over the past 5,000 years) there is an abundance of strife, ignorance, irreligion and vice, true virtue being practically non-existent, and this yuga lasts 432,000 years. In Kali-yuga, vice increases to such a point that at the termination of the yuga, the Supreme Lord Himself appears as the Kalki avatāra, vanquishes the demons, saves His devotees, and commences another Satya-yuga. Then the process is set rolling again. These four yugas, rotating a thousand times, comprise one day of Brahmā, and the same number comprise one night. Brahmā lives one hundred of such “years” and then dies. These “hundred years” by earth calculations total to 311 trillion and 40 billion earth years. By these calculations the life of Brahmā seems fantastic and interminable, but from the viewpoint of eternity, it is as brief as a lightning flash. In the Causal Ocean, there are innumerable Brahmās rising and disappearing like bubbles in the Atlantic. Brahmā and his creation are all part of the material universe, and therefore they are in constant flux.
In the material universe, not even Brahmā is free from the process of birth, old age, disease and death. Brahmā, however, is directly engaged in the service of the Supreme Lord in the management of this universe—therefore he, at once, attains liberation. Elevated sannyāsīs are promoted to Brahmā‘s particular planet, Brahmaloka, which is the highest planet in the material universe and which survives all the heavenly planets in the upper strata of the planetary system, but in due course, Brahmā and all the inhabitants of Brahmaloka are subject to death, according to the law of material nature.
This is stated in Bhagavad-gītā [8.17,18,19]:
ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ
avyaktād vyaktayaḥ sarvāḥ
bhūta-grāmaḥ sa evāyaṁ
bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate
rātry-āgame ‘vaśaḥ pārtha
“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of Brahmā‘s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.
At the beginning of Brahmā‘s day, all living entities become manifest from the unmanifest state, and thereafter, when the night falls, they are merged into the unmanifest again.
Again and again, when Brahmā‘s day arrives, all living entities come into being, and with the arrival of Brahmā‘s night they are helplessly annihilated.”
In the Mahābhārata [Śānti-parva 348.51-52], we can trace out the history of the Gītā as follows:
tretā-yugādau ca tato
vivasvān manave dadau
manuś ca loka-bhṛty-arthaṁ
ikṣvākuṇā ca kathito
vyāpya lokān avasthitaḥ
“In the beginning of the millennium known as Tretā-yuga, this science of the relationship with the Supreme was delivered by Vivasvān to Manu. Manu, being the father of mankind, gave it to his son Mahārāja Ikṣvāku, the king of this earth planet and forefather of the Raghu dynasty, in which Lord Rāmacandra appeared.” Therefore, Bhagavad-gītā existed in human society from the time of Mahārāja Ikṣvāku.
At the present moment, we have just passed through five thousand years of the Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years. Before this there was Dvāpara-yuga (800,000 years), and before that there was Tretā-yuga (1,200,000 years). Thus, some 2,005,000 years ago, Manu spoke the Bhagavad-gītā to his disciple and son Mahārāja Ikṣvāku, the king of this planet earth. The age of the current Manu is calculated to last some 305,300,000 years, of which 120,400,000 have passed. Accepting that before the birth of Manu, the Gītā was spoken by the Lord to His disciple the sun-god Vivasvān, a rough estimate is that the Gītā was spoken at least 120,400,000 years ago; and in human society, it has been extant for two million years. It was respoken by the Lord again to Arjuna about five thousand years ago. That is the rough estimate of the history of the Gītā, according to the Gītā itself and according to the version of the speaker, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa. It was spoken to the sun-god Vivasvān because he is also a kṣatriya and is the father of all kṣatriyas who are descendants of the sun-god, or the sūrya-vaṁśa kṣatriyas. Because Bhagavad-gītā is as good as the Vedas, being spoken by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, this knowledge is apauruṣeya, superhuman. Since the Vedic instructions are accepted as they are, without human interpretation, the Gītā must therefore be accepted without mundane interpretation.
It has been stated in Bhagavad-gītā [4.1]:
imaṁ vivasvate yogaṁ
proktavān aham avyayam
vivasvān manave prāha
manur ikṣvākave ‘bravīt
“The Personality of Godhead, Lord Śrī Kṛṣṇa, said: I instructed this imperishable science of yoga to the sun-god, Vivasvān, and Vivasvān instructed it to Manu, the father of mankind, and Manu in turn instructed it to Ikṣvāku.”
Courtesy: Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement
– Sameer Mandge
Photo by Swaminathan / CC BY 2.0