Excerpt from On Hinduism by Irina Gajjar
In Hindu thought, God alone creates, sustains, and destroys time. God also has the power to expand and contract time. As time cannot be realized apart from God, God is time. Brahma’s sleep and wake cycles make time happen.
When Brahma sleeps, the universe ceases to be.
When He awakens, He recreates it.
Brahma’s day lasts a thousand ages and Brahma’s night lasts a thousand more.
Only the wise know this truth about Time. (Gita 8:17)
Hindu astronomical and astrological studies measure time differently for different worlds and differently again for God. Fine-tuned calculations show that ancient sages perceived our planet as part of a much bigger universe or universes or multiverses brought in and out of being by God.
Several parallel worlds exist with their own space-time on multiple planes. As humans we have just begun to skirt their edges but using our minds as vehicles and our calculations as fuel, we have been traveling throughout the universe for millennia.
Human time is limited. It is short. According to the ancient Hindu calendar, a human year consists of 360 days divided into twelve solar months or thirteen lunar months. The lunar months are divided into fortnights of about 14 days each that are composed of one waxing and one waning lunar cycle.
Two months make a season and three seasons a semester, or half a year. Two semesters add up to a year. An extra month added every third year reconciles the lunar calendar to the solar calendar.
Ancestral time is the time experienced by our ancestors who have moved on to other worlds and other dimensions. Their time lasts much longer than human time. A human fortnight consisting of approximately fourteen days equals one ancestral day. An ancestral year is 5,040 human days.
The lifespan of ancestors is one hundred of their years or 504,000 human days which equate to nearly one thousand four hundred human years. Time experienced in the worlds of gods and demons—superhuman powers endowed with divine and demonic characteristics—is even longer.
A human year, calculated as three hundred and sixty human days in the Hindu calendar, equals one day and night cycle for gods and demons. Thus, the one hundred year lifespan of deities and demons adds up to about thirty-six thousand human years.
Far greater than any other time is Brahma’s time which Hinduism reckons in kalpas or eons that in turn are composed of ages. Hindus have divided Brahma’s kalpas into four ages or yugas during which cosmic order has consistently deteriorated and human behavior worsened. The yugas become progressively shorter in duration.
The earliest yuga lasted over one million, seven hundred thousand years and the current yuga, known as the Kali Yuga which dawned about 3000 bce is expected to last for only 432,000 years. According to Hindu cosmology, Brahma undertook creation of the cosmos two kalpas ago. This works out to 8.64 billion years, several billion years less than the estimated age of the universe according to modern science.
The most recent scientific calculation estimates that the universe came into being after the big bang about 13.7 billion years ago give or take one hundred and twenty million years. Hinduism envisions Brahma’s existence in terms of billions and even trillions of years. It visualizes the scope of creation as infinite.
Modern science has not really spoken on how much longer the universe or world or our planet will last. Nor has it spoken on what its scope may be. It is reasonable to consider these two questions interlinked. The duration of the universe must depend on what it encompasses.
The Hindu vision is of a universe that expands and contracts in time and space, one that moves in and out of reality and in and out of consciousness, a universe that dissolves and regenerates itself, that is created by God and that is God. But God is more than the universe. God’s greatness is enormous but it can also be miniscule and even if the universe ceases to be, God does not. Thus, God and creation are as infinitesimal as they are infinite.
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