Yuga means 'Age,' and all over the world we find traditions of the Four Ages of Man. H. P. Blavatsky says that "tradition is oral history," and we believe that it is. The Greeks called these Ages the Golden, the Silver, the Bronze, and the Iron Ages. The ancient Aryans called them (and we use the same words today) Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga and Kali-yuga, or, translated, the Age of Truth, the Age of the Three Fires, the Age of the Number Two, and the Age of Strife. The four together make a Maha-yuga or Great Age.
SATYA-YUGA: The 'Age of Truth' or the Golden Age. It is the age of purity and justice, when truth and right conduct were natural to all. Swords, spears, and weapons of war had not been invented. Hatred, selfishness, fear, and sorrow were unknown. Fruits and grain sprang from the earth without labor. There was no winter, only a beautiful, endless spring. No man tried to do the duty of another, but attended strictly to his own; hence there was justice, peace, happiness. There was one religion over the whole earth, the religion of Brotherhood. This is also called Krita-yuga or the 'Age of Perfect Things,' for krita means finished, perfected, well made, something that cannot be improved.
TRETA-YUGA: the 'Age of the Three Fires.' Treta means three, or a group of three. It is the 'Age of Triads.' Three parts of good remained, but one part now was evil. Instead of the fires of aspiration burning in the heart, men now began to build fires of wood upon the altars, and make sacrifices there. They thought the gods would overlook injustice if only men made ceremonies and lighted altar fires. Winter came with its chill; men built houses. Quarreling and hatred came in.
DVAPARA-YUGA: the 'Age of the Number Two.' The word Dvapara is the name for that side of a die or of dice that has two spots. Two is the ancient symbol of matter (as Three is of spirit). In this Age only two parts of goodness were left. Two parts were now wickedness. Nature became unkind (as men thought), too hot, too cold, many storms. Hunger and unhappiness came in. There were many diseases. It was indeed the 'Age of the Number Two,' material and unkind.
KALI-YUGA: the 'Age of Strife and Discord,' for this is what kali means. Legend says that Kali (strife) was the son of Krodha (anger) and Hinsa (injury), and the father of Bhaya (fear) and Mrityu (death). It is called the Black Age, and also the Iron Age. War and hatred spread over the whole Earth. One by one the bright gods went away, though from time to time they sent their Messengers to tell people about the Golden Age of the past, and inspire them to work for another Golden Age in the future. Kali-yuga is the age in which we are now living. It began at the death of Krishna. It ended its first 5000 years on February 18, 1898. What is our great work, then? It is to bring the Golden Age back, the Age of Truth, the 'Age of Perfect Things.'
1. Reprinted from The Lotus-Circle Messenger, April, 1935. (return to text)
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