Yugas; Lee Interview
To help illustrate the Vedic yuga system of cosmological time undergoing endless cycles of generation, growth, decay, destruction, and rebirth, Thompson discusses a variety of cultural references with radio show host, Laura Lee, ranging from the Hollywood motion picture trilogy, The Matrix, to the Old Norse account of the “Twilight of the Gods.”
TRANSCRIPT: Yugas; Lee Interview: Laura Lee Show –March 7, 2001 / (303)
LL: And hello there. I'm Laura Lee. Thanks for tuning in to "Conversation for Exploration." Have you been wondering as I have been about the Ages of humankind? This Golden Age that most ancient cultures look back to in fond remembrance. This Kali-yuga that we're supposed to be in to today. Well, that could explain why everything's such a mess.
Well, we're chatting with Richard Thompson, co-author of Forbidden Archeology. He's a long time Vedic scholar, and he's here to tell us a bit about the Vedic understanding of the various Ages of humankind. And he joins us from Florida. Hello Richard. It's good to have you back.
Richard L. Thompson: Well, it's nice to be back.
LL: How long have you been involved in Vedic studies and what brought you with such interest to devote your life to that?
RLT: Well, I got involved with that about nearly 30 years ago now.
LL: Wow. What drew you initially? What drew you initially and what keeps you there?
RLT: Well, I was originally attracted by the spiritual teachings coming from India. And that naturally lead to some interest in various historical questions, how everything got started.
LL: It does, doesn't it. It seems every culture wants to pose an answer or two to that question. Doesn't it?
RLT: Yeah. But...
LL: And the Vedic answer is so interesting because it has been around for so long.
RLT: Well, the Vedic system of chronology is interesting. Basically it's the only system of chronology that you will find, to my knowledge, which has time scales basically equivalent to what you find in modern cosmology.
LL: They talk about millions and millions of years don't they?
RLT: Yes they do. The longest basic unit of Vedic time is 4,320,000,000 years.
LL: Now that's interesting because that's the age scientists roughly describe to Earth.
RLT: Right. And that's called the day of Brahma.
LL: That's just one day in the day of Brahma.
RLT: Yeah that's one day. He lives for 100 years of such days.
LL: And of course Brahma's a major god, but how did the Vedic scholars think of Brahma? Was that a being of some sort or was that a metaphor? Was he... is he a spiritual entity? How did they understand him? And I'm sure there's variations on that theme.
RLT: Well, the traditional view is that Brahma is an actual being. Basically Brahma corresponds to what you could call the demiurge in Plato's philosophy. Plato had the idea of the ideal forms that are eternally existent. And then the demiurge manifests these forms in imperfect temporary copies thus creating a material world.
RLT: So the agency that takes the eternal forms and manifests them in a temporary form, that would correspond to Brahma.
LL: Okay. So it's kind of a Matrix worldview isn't it.
RLT: Well yes. Accept the famous Matrix of course is an evil computer.
LL: Uh huh.
RLT: Actually the whole theme of that movie, The Matrix, is kind of interesting because it's the inverse of the traditional theme that you find in many religious traditions in... from out of India in particular.
LL: How so?
RLT: Because in The Matrix people are walking around as human beings and thinking: Well I'm this human being living here in New York City or whatever. But actually they are a body plugged up with tubes inside some kind of cocoon.
LL: And in order to keep them alive, the computer has to make them believe that they're living a real life.
RLT: But actually they're just coated with jelly and with tubes sticking in to them and so forth, which is pretty horrendous. The Vedic concept is that the conscious living being in its natural form is in a much more idyllic state of existence. Basically, if you go back to Plato, you can see the ideal forms are eternal. Actually they're timeless. But when they are mapped into the temporal world then they are subject to change.
So the basic idea is, in the Vedic conception, is that the conscious self is also eternal and timeless by nature. But when the conscious self is projected into temporary conditions of the material world, then that creates anxiety because everything is shifting and you can't depend on anything to really last.
LL: And the only constant is change. And it has a life cycle: beginning, middle, and end. So...
LL: And that nicely explains what we experience here and yet that eternal sense of ourselves.
RLT: Right. So there, instead of the Matrix being something horrific, the evil computer and cocoon people and so forth, actually one is in a... more idyllic spiritual essence.
LL: So the Matrix sense of the Vedic understanding of the world is that we are temporarily projecting ourselves down here in the material world thinking it's real for the time being, but really our true self is anchored in that eternal sense of us. We're having just a little experience here.
LL: So I like that. That makes sense to me. So then with that understanding, with that basis for the reality and the temporal sojourn that we experience here on Earth, it's no wonder that the Vedic scholars started to map out these timescales. And one would understand the cosmological, astronomical time scale of the... rather like the geographical, geological rather, timescales on earth, you know, immense time frames, as opposed to our temporal human lifetimes. So there are shells within shells, right? Sub-cycles within cycles. Can you explain...
RLT: Well they...
LL: ...how they lay it out? Go ahead. It's kind of like the metric system isn't it?
RLT: Pardon me?
LL: It's kind of like the metric system isn't it?
RLT: Well, the Vedic chronology first of all is based on the idea of cycles as you mentioned. Today we're more or less accustomed to the idea of linear time. Things go from a beginning to an end, and they go through some sort of progressive development. But the Vedic view is that things go in cycles, and there are cycles of various lengths. This was also a view in many cultures in ancient times. For example, the ancient Greeks also thought this way. So the idea of linear time is actually a fairly recent development in Western civilization. But it... as far as I'm aware, it really came in with the Christian conception. Although I can mention a couple of other things about this which indicate it could be a lot older than that also.
LL: What would those... on the linear end... What would those... What would those indications be?
RLT: Well, let's see. For example, later I was going to mention to you the connection between the Babylonian chronology and Vedic chronology. And just to mention one point in the Babylonian chronology – this was reported by a Babylonian priest named Berossus around the time of Alexander the Great – and he said that a very long period, it's about 2 million years, had elapsed since the creation up to the time of Alexander the Great. And that 12,000 years will then elapse until the final annihilation.
LL: Such a pessimistic point of view. Go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. So that was his conception. But of course you can see that's similar to the idea that one comes up to the final destruction of the world, the end of the world, the eschaton, and so forth. So you find that idea in Christianity. I don't know how it traces back into the ancient Near East but apparently Berossus had an idea of a similar nature.
LL: Like the world began, the world grows up, and the world will be destroyed. End of story. Whereas in the Vedic system, that's just one loop of a never ending cycle.
RLT: Yes, in the Vedic system there's also the idea of periodic destruction ...
RLT: ...but that follows...
LL: ...kind of cleaning of the slate.
RLT: ...a renewal. Actually you find a similar conception in the Norse mythology. But... what is called the Eddas which were actually preserved in Iceland.
LL: The Eddas! So similar to the Veda.
RLT: Yeah I know. It's a similar word. The Eddas and the Vedas.
LL: Is this part of that Indo-European connection that they can trace back linguistically? There was obviously some contact here long ago.
RLT: Well there's pretty clearly contact between the... this old Norse or Scandinavian system and the... what you find in India. For example, the basic cosmology is the same, namely the idea of the disk shaped Earth and a central mountain; and on top of the mountain, the city of the gods which they called Asgard in the Scandinavian system, and so forth.
LL: And that central pole and their tree and all of that, much as you described with us last time we talked about you and your new book on the cosmology. Yeah.
RLT: Right. Yes. Actually there's a long list features that are the same in the cosmology. And in the Norse cosmology, of course, a famous feature of that is what's called the ‘twilight of the gods,’ which Wagner made use of in his production. But the twilight of the gods is the final breakdown of divine order where everything goes down in to chaos and destruction at the end of an Age. But the interesting point to note is that after that takes place, then a new Age begins and there's a renewal of the creation. So...
LL: So that's why the Kali-yuga, at the very end when it's all dissipated into entropy and chaos, is suddenly then emerge the new order. It's not like it has to go back through the various building up of order. It's just new order and we start the cycle again.
RLT: Yes, the general Vedic view is that you have a cycle of yugas. The word yuga basically refers to a period of time. It's like an epoch or era or something like that. And there's quite a story behind these yugas.
LL: Oh let's hear it.
RLT: But let me just go in to that story briefly. One interesting point has to do with the origin of this system. And the structure of the yuga system as it's described in India sort of suggests that the origin may be there. So what you start with as the building block is a period of 1000 years. And we add at the beginning and the end of that 1000 years, a 100 year period which is called the sandhya which is like the twilight period. If you view the 1000 years as a day, then the two twilight periods would correspond to dawn and dusk. So that gives you 1200 years. And that is one Kali-yuga. Now two of those makes a Dvapara-yuga. And dvapara: dva in dvapara simply means "two." And then three of them is a Treta-yuga. Treta: You can see the word "three" in that.
RLT: And then finally, four of them is Satya-yuga. And it's also called Krita-yuga. So...
LL: I see. So the Dvapara, Treta, and Satya just refer to the numeric value. And that refers to the length of that Age.
RLT: Yeah. Each Age... So the Ages are given lengths according to the system of 4, 2, ... 1, 2, 3, 4.
RLT: Or 4, 3, 2, 1. It's like a set of bowling pins in a sense.
RLT: So... and 1, 2, 3, 4, add up to 10. So that means the total length of this is 12,000 years. So that's the basic unit. And the interesting thing is that, in many texts, this is simply expressed in years. But in a number of places it is stated that these are divine years. And you'll find that it's stated that a divine year is 360 ordinary earthly years. So that means, you take these lengths of the yugas that I just mentioned...
RLT: ...and you multiply each one of them by 360. So for example, Kali-yuga, that's 1200 years. And that times 360 gives you 432,000 years. And likewise for the others. And then if you take the total length of the four yugas which make up one cycle:that's 12,000 years times 360 so that gives you 4,320,000 years. So that's where that number comes from.
LL: Okay so one Kali-yuga, which is the 1 unit, is 432,000 years. And then a Dvapara-yuga would be two of those units?
LL: And then the Treta-yuga would be three times 432,000.
LL: And then Satya-yuga: Fortunately the nicest Golden Age lasts the longest. I guess there is some justice. There is a God.
LL: That would be four times 432,000 years.
LL: Okay. Interesting. And then all that together makes what? What do the Vedic scholars refer to that unit?
RLT: Well that's called a... The basic term for it is Divya-yuga.
RLT: Which means one divine yuga.
LL: And what is the final total?
RLT: Well that's 4,320,000 years. And that repeats in a cycle. So... now there are further divisions made up of repetitions of that cycle, but 1000 of those cycles gives you that day of Brahma that I mentioned.
LL: Well, that's an immense amount of time just to imagine it, isn't it?
RLT: Yeah. You get very large numbers.
LL: Yeah, very quickly ...
RLT: So the history of this is kind of interesting. Scholars have argued that the whole thing was built over time following the steps that I sort of just outlined. In other words, if you take what I just said: They will say that developed gradually over time. So the story that is often given is that first the years were considered to be ordinary earth years. And so Kali-yuga would be 1200 years long.
LL: Oh I see, when they look back at the ancient writings and they're trying to figure out, where are we in this cycle and you know, how long do we have to look forward to for the end of this cycle and beginning of the next, right?
LL: Is why they're concerned about this. Okay.
RLT: Well what the scholars are saying is: Well, if you look back in the ancient writings, it looks to them as though, at first the years were earthly years. So that the whole 12,000 year cycle would be just that – 12,000 years.
RLT: And later, they say, that got multiplied by 360. And so all the different time units were expanded by multiplying by 360.
LL: Just a quick note on the 360. Of course that's the number of degrees that we assign to a circle. And this is all to do with the 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour and such. And we're all orientated on 360 for various reasons and how nicely it matches the days of our year, pretty close. It's interesting to note, there's another cue how widespread and how ancient that 360 degrees to a circle is, isn't it? That way back in India it would be used as a measure, unit of measure.
RLT: Well the.... there's a very interesting story about that. The 360... It seems... If you look, for example, at the traditional texts in India, you'll find that they all say that the year is 360 days long. Now of course, an immediate question about that is: Well it's 365 and 1/4 so if you're 5 days off, then in 10 years you'll be 50 days off which is pretty bad. So anyone could see that that's not correct, the argument goes.
LL: Unless they put a little holiday session at the end to make up for those five days.
RLT: Well, they did that as a matter of fact. But you can still ask: Well, why say 360? It turns out that there's a reason for that. And it has to do with, for one thing, Jupiter and Saturn.
LL: Oh. Okay.
RLT: For example, the length of the period of Jupiter – that is the time for Jupiter to go through all of the signs of the Zodiac and come back to it's starting point – that's about 12 years. And it's not too exact. It's just roughly 12.
RLT: But if you use the year of 360 days, then it becomes very exact.
LL: Because 12 divides by 360. So does 2, so does 3, so does 4, so does 5, so does 6...
RLT: Well, not exactly. The year of Jupiter divided by 360 is almost exactly 12.
LL: Oh okay.
RLT: But if you divide the year of Jupiter by 365, it's not so close to 12.
LL: Yeah and you end up with fractions. Okay.
RLT: Yeah. So the year of Jupiter comes very close to 12 x 360 days. And you get off if you go 12 x 365. So that's how it works with Jupiter. Then if you go to Saturn, you see the same thing.
The year of Saturn... by... I don't mean... yeah, well the time for it to go completely around the signs of the Zodiac is about 30 years. But once again, if you use years of 360 days, it's almost exactly 30 years.
LL: Isn't that convenient? Now see I would be thinking that if I were a Vedic scholar back then, and I were assigning a 360 degree day value on a universal scale when it just happens to work so nicely for earth perspective and the way that our planets rotate around our Solar System and such. I would be thinking: Gosh, what a nice coincidence! It works out so well for us. What about people clear across the galaxy who would have a Solar System that might be in different years or degrees and maybe their major planets would revolve around... around their Solar System or their Sun or whatever in, you know, 4 years or something. Then I would be thinking as a Vedic scholar: Gee I wonder how universal this is? Do you think that ever... Do you see what I'm getting at? Do you think that ever...
LL: ...bothered them?
RLT: Well I think these time units do refer to the Solar System pretty much.
LL: But I'm guessing it's local to us. What about if you're thinking that this is the way that Brahma, who is ordaining the entire Universe here, then it should also hold true for Alpha Centauri and Vegas over here and the rest of them, of the Solar Systems that are flung about the various galaxies.
RLT: Yes, well that would be interesting.
LL: I wonder if it ever bothered them.
RLT: Pardon me.
LL: I'm just wondering if it ever bothered some of those scholars, thinking how universal the system they came up with is?
RLT: Well, it's a good question. And we don't really know. As far as applying measurements of time to celestial bodies, pretty much the Vedic system takes you out to Saturn. But it doesn't go much beyond that. And of course, even today, the discovery of planets outside the Solar System is a very new thing.
LL: Right. So the Vedic scholars that... then your point is, wouldn't have known about planets rotating around other stars and other Solar Systems being out there. I guess my question was more like, you know, if they're thinking this holds true for the entire Universe? How conveniently that it works so nicely here on earth, and could it hold true...? I see your point. They didn't have the data to consider that. You're right.
RLT: Basically they were looking at the Universe in terms of what we understand as the Solar System.
LL: Right. And part of their thoughts too were ‘as above so below,’ so as it is on earth holds true for as it is all throughout the cosmos. That was part of their philosophy right? That you get a kind of...
LL: .. tiny subset of... it's the same everywhere. Basically.
RLT: I should mention that they did have the idea, though, of multiple systems. But the way they expressed it was by saying that this Universe... And their word for "Universe" as you mentioned the other time was "Brahma egg" or...
RLT: ...a Brahmanda. So they viewed the Universe as a kind of egg. Actually it's an egg that never hatches out. All the life just develops inside that egg. But they have the concept that there are innumerable Brahmandas situated in what they call the Causal Ocean. So they compare the Brahmanda to a bubble of foam in the ocean. If you imagine all the millions and billions of bubbles of foam, so similarly there would be countless billions of Brahmandas floating within this causal ocean.
LL: And that's a wonderful metaphor because astronomy as it's mapping out the distribution of stars out there in the galaxy at large find that it's rather constructed, it's rather arranged like giant bubbles of soap out there in terms of the arrangements of stars. They're very surprised because it's anti their... It's going against their thoughts on how the Big Bang would distribute material out there.
LL: Interesting. Such... I really enjoy hearing about the ancient mindset because it's so poetic and visual, isn't it? And...
LL: ...so nicely symmetrical. Tell us more. You were telling us that the 360 also sits so nicely in terms of the math and such. It's an easy number to use, divisible by so many other different smaller numbers. And that it fits the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter which were two planets that they tracked on a regular basis. So...
LL: Again alluding to their sophisticated astronomical knowledge with that. But go ahead.
RLT: Another rather neat example, it seems to me, has to do with the sun and the moon.
RLT: Because there's a statement that says... This is in the Bhagavatam actually. It says that the distance – and they're talking about celestial longitude actually – the distance covered by the sun in 360 days is the same as the distance covered by the moon in 27 days.
LL: Oh, say that again.
RLT: Imagine the sun moving against the background of stars. So in 360 days that goes through a certain arc...,
RLT: .. nearly a complete circle. Well, it says in that same time... I mean... yeah, so it covers that same... that arc in 360 days. Well, the same arc is covered by the moon in 27 days.
RLT: Well it is kind of interesting because just as 360 is not accurate for the year, you have to add 5 1/4 days on to that.
LL: Right. So add a little more to the 27 days.
RLT: Yeah. The amount that you add more to the 27 days to get the accurate orbit for the moon is proportional. So what it amounts to is that the moon does go as far as the... in 27days as the sun goes in 360. And then if you let the sun complete its circle and go another 5 1/4 days, then that adds another fraction of a day on to the 27 for the moon. And it turns out to be the right fraction.
LL: No wonder they were delighted with all this symmetry and looked at all this as the handiwork of God. You know, who could design this in this way? It's just wonderful.
RLT: Yeah. It's an interesting series of apparent coincidences.
RLT: But you see all over the world that people, at one point, had a year of 360 days. And of course they knew that you had to add additional days. Some of them said that those five additional days were inauspicious, and so forth.
LL: And it gave them a good excuse to have a... like a five day celebration or festival or whatever.
We're talking with Richard Thompson, long time Vedic scholar, author of a number of books. We're gonna give you those titles. Both of them are in... videos and CDs of his work are available at the Radio Bookstore at (800)243-1438. We'll be right back. I'm Laura Lee.
LL: Laura Lee here on the Laura Lee show. We continue "Conversation for Exploration" with Richard Thompson. I want to mention his book titles. Forbidden Archeology: Boy when that book broke on the scene, did that leave an eye opener to some indications of science and this knowledge filter as he and co-author, Michael Cremo put it. That is a fascinating book. Also Hidden History of the Human Race, and Richard's latest book, Mysteries of the Sacred Universe.
If you want to get more familiar with Vedic understanding, Richard Thompson is a very good source. He's been looking into this for some 30 years, and really looks at it from the scientific point of view, and tries to corroborate much of what the ancient... what this ancient wisdom tradition was saying, making it more accessible.
Richard puts his work in to videos, into CDs, as well as in book form. And all that material is available at the Radio Bookstore at (800)243-1438. Right now he's telling us about the ancient Vedic understanding of time and these time cycles. And I'm so glad you're explaining this Richard.
LL: Because I've been interested in this since so long and never quite heard about it. You hear the sketchiest surface information, but to go in to the depth of it, it's just fascinating. Go ahead.
RLT: Well let's see. Where were we?
LL: You were talking about why the 360 degrees, and how universal that assignment is for the year, if that makes sense, also why the 360's important in something other than just our hours, minutes, all that...,
RLT: Yes. I was going to...
LL: ...the degrees of a circle, that it really fits in with our whole Solar System units and how the planets correlate one to another, even this moon to the sun. Go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. So the 360 day year is justified on the basis of these different astronomical correlations. There's a lot of things in the terms of the motion of Jupiter, Saturn, the sun, and the moon, and so on, simplify very nicely if you use 360 days for the year. And you find that the ancient Chinese did this, the Mayans in Mexico did it, the ancient Egyptians did it, and so on and so forth.
LL: And they didn't have computers back then remember. So when they were doing all this division and multiplication and such by longhand, it's helpful to have numbers that work easy.
RLT: And so the 360 that you find in the yuga cycles may well be related to this. The basic connection is that it's stated that the day of the gods is equal to 1 year of humans. This is a statement that you'll find even in the early Vedas. So if the year of the humans is 360 days, then that means one day of the gods is 360 earth days. And by implication then, one year of the gods is 360 earth years.
RLT: So then the different years in the yuga cycles are interpreted as divine years of 360 days. So that's where you get the big figures. So that the 1200 year Kali-yuga: If you take those as divine years, then that makes it 360 x 1200 which is 432,000 earthly years.
LL: So that's the length of the Kali-yuga before you get to the next phase which would be the Satya-yuga.
LL: Question: Where are we in this cycle? And do all Vedic scholars today agree that we're at the same point in the cycle?
RLT: Well according to the traditional calculation we are now in the Kali-yuga.
LL: No surprise there.
RLT: Yeah. It does seem to fit. But the Kali-yuga, according to the traditional view, began about 5000 years ago. And in the previous interview that we had, I told briefly the story of that date. The exact date for the beginning of Kali-yuga is February 18th, 3102 BC. And the... there's a very interesting story behind that but I don't think I should go through that one again.
LL: So that means we have 12,000 minus 5000, so not even halfway through.
RLT: Oh, well, 432,000 minus 5000.
LL: Oh I'm sorry. So where does that put us? You're right, yeah.
RLT: We're barely beginning. Actually we are in what is called the sandhya of the Kali-yuga. I mentioned the sandhyas in the beginning, namely you take the basic 1000 and you add 100 at the beginning and the end.
RLT: And that's known as the twilight period.
RLT: So if you take the Kali-yuga: Actually 360,000 years is the central period. And the sandhya at either end is 36,000 years. Because if you add up 2 x 36,000 plus 360,000 you get the 432,000. That's the way it works.
RLT: But we're in the sandhya. And it is said in various texts that the sandhya of a yuga is a time in which remarkable things happen spiritually.
LL: Oh, so there's a blessing to all this. There's a...
LL: ...silver lining to this cloud.
RLT: So there's a sort of positive side to the Kali-yuga.
LL: It's going to be very challenging but you have great opportunity here...
LL: .. is the message. Okay.
RLT: In once sense, that's it. It becomes so challenging that if you manage to make some spiritual progress then that..
LL: That really counts.
LL: Yeah okay, alright. Let's go back to the Kali-yuga in a moment. But to contrast the Kali-yuga to the other. We only really hear about the Satya-yuga being a Golden Age. But I would like to understand, before we quiz you more about the Kali-yuga, what are the characteristics that the Vedic scholars ascribe to each of these various Ages? How did they suggest that humankind would carry on their affairs? And what are the certain abilities? I only know that in the Golden Age we were in contact with beings from other dimensions, other planets. And that in the Kali-yuga, it's characterized by violence and technology. A lot...
LL: ...more to fill in there.
RLT: Well yeah. Basically the Golden Age is a very idyllic period. It's described that basically people didn't bother trying to engage in material competition. They lived very simply. They ate fruits and roots and so forth. You could say they were like hunter gatherer people.
RLT: But they had advanced consciousness. So the idea is that many of these people spent a good deal of their time engaged in meditation and so forth.
LL: I've often...
RLT: But then...
LL: ...heard the rumor that they really didn't need material things because with sufficiently advanced consciousness, you could move matter around you to supply. Your body could generate all the heat it needed. You didn't need clothes and fire. You know, these abilities and advanced consciousness made up for any lack of technology, that technology was not needed.
LL: You had inner technology highly developed. Could you comment on that?
RLT: Well yes. In fact, even beyond that, if you have basically good health and the climate is nice; and the earth is abundantly providing various foodstuffs and so forth; and you have a small population and you're not eagerly expanding it, putting a strain on all the different natural systems; then it's very easy to live without having to engage in hard work.
LL: The hard work comes when you're having to compensate for an iffy environment.
RLT: Yeah. Now interestingly enough, there's an analogy between the Garden of Eden story in the Bible and the story of life in the different yugas in the Vedic system.
RLT: Because basically it will be described, for example, in a book called the Markandeya Purana; it is described that life is very idyllic in the Satya-yuga, so that would sort of correspond to the period before the fall in the Garden of Eden.
RLT: But then people became greedy; and they began to conceive of the idea of property; and then they began to fight over property. And as this happened, the reaction was that the bounty of the earth decreased, either because they destroyed it due to their greed or because it was a kind of reaction from the higher control system you might say. So the idea is that they began to suffer privation. And at a certain point, agriculture was introduced. That is, as the natural bounty decreased, it's specifically stated that Brahma introduced to them food crops...
LL: Right. The earth wasn't going to provide for you on a regularly basis then you had to store ahead, and grow ahead, and pick ahead. Yeah.
LL: And then once you settle down and grow crops, then you want to maintain the land around it, and ownerships get set up and then you can supply a larger population so then you end up with cities and it goes from there.
RLT: Right. And that's exactly there in the story. It is said that the people settled down. They began farming the land, working hard; like the Bible said, after the fall, working by the sweat of their brow and so forth. And they began to build towns. And they created fortifications because they began to fight with one another.
LL: And you didn't want the people down the road who didn't supply their own crops or their crops got ruined for some reason to come and raid your crops. So that's why you need fortifications.
RLT: So gradually then, cities were built up, armies were organized, and then gradually as you go from Satya-yuga to Treta-yuga and then Dvapara and then Kali, it gradually gets worse. More technology, more competition, warfare, and so forth, until finally in the Kali-yuga this becomes very severe.
LL: So we're just beginning the Kali-yuga and things are as bad as they are. And humanity often rises to the occasion. It is a very challenging, interesting time in which we live. Then what do you project for the future as we go deeper into the Kali-yuga? And are there reprieves every so often?
RLT: Well the idea of... The traditional concept of the Kali-yuga is that, first of all, there will be some bright periods within the sandhya. But then the Kali-yuga becomes progressively worse. And it's described that finally people get reduced to a sort of dwarf-like status. And they're simply fighting each other. And then at the very end of the yuga, it is said that Kalki avatara appears and wipes everything out. And then the Satya-yuga begins again. This is the traditional picture.
LL: The Satya-yuga can begin again in it's ideal state, you know, like you're going from 0 to 60 because you're going back then. You dissolved the mess that we're in and that whole cycle. So you can go back again to this ideal form and kinda start at the top and then work your way down again. General idea?
LL: Go back to the blueprint. And so the closer you are to the blueprint, that then gets a little bit more blurred around the edges with each passing moment, is the idea.
RLT: The basic... yeah. The basic concept is you have the descending cycle of the Ages and then a sort of period of wiping the slate clean. And then it starts over again.
LL: In a sense, you know, that's... It would make sense to have to wipe the slate clean. And that as long as you get to begin again and it's eternal in that sense... You look around you at nature, and nature grows, blooms, dies, only to come back the next spring. So that's very much a principle of nature. So I guess this doesn't seem all so dire or cruel when you look at it that way, right?
RLT: Yeah. There's another interesting feature of the traditional system if you look at it from the standpoint of reincarnation, namely the idea that the spirit entity is residing within the body. But then after the body dies, that same spirit entity goes on to some other destination. It may take another body or go in to another dimension of existence and so forth.
LL: ...likes to travel, likes to get around, likes to see different things. Yeah.
RLT: So the point is made in some of the Puranas that in different periods of the yugas, souls with different basic tendencies are allowed to take birth.
LL: Oh I see. You get to match your setting.
RLT: So in the idyllic world of the Satya-yuga, you have basically very advanced souls taking birth. But then in the Kali-yuga, those who are of a more undeveloped nature take birth. This is the explanation that's given. So in one sense, the Kali-yuga can be seen as an opportunity for the lesser souls to take birth on the earth.
LL: Oh that's interesting. So it's not that the highly advanced souls degenerate and kind of lose their way or have amnesia or get slapped back to square one. It's that they're taking a break and now the other team gets to come in and play on the field.
RLT: Right. That's the idea.
LL: So what does that say about us on the earth today? We got a little growing to do, huh?
RLT: Yeah. Now I should mention... You asked a little bit earlier whether everyone agrees with this basic picture. So I should mention some of the dissenting opinions.
LL: Oh, let's hear them.
RLT: Yeah. And of course I mentioned a little bit earlier on that the yugas are initially described in terms of years. And then these are presented as divine years which means you multiply the original 12,000 by 360.
RLT: Some scholars argue that there was a time before this was done. They say this was done historically at a certain point. And before that, they simply had an idea of a yuga cycle of 12,000 years.
LL: That's the way I generally heard it expressed... was 12,000 years. But go ahead.
RLT: Yeah. Well that's, you might say, the accepted scholarly viewpoint. In fact some scholars argue that, in fact, the 12,000 year yuga cycle began with a dice game. They'll say that: Well, back a few thousand years ago, there was this dice game in which there were 4 values for the throw of the die; 1, 2, 3, and 4. And if you got a 1, that was the worst. And that was called Kali. If you got 4, well that was of course the highest score. And that was called Satya or Krita
RLT: So there evidently was a game like that played with dice.
LL: I see. Those are the scholars that don't want to make a correlation between this system of Vedas and reality. They're just trying to say: Well it grew out of some dice game so it really has no merit at all. There's...
RLT: Oh yeah...
LL: ...no correlation to reality.
RLT: Their position definitely is that: Yeah this is just something which came about culturally. And no, it doesn't have a connection with reality, they would say.
RLT: Now the interesting point to make though is... They would say: Okay you start with a dice game, then you get the 12,000 year yuga cycle. And then later on people multiply by 360 and get the 4,320,000 year yuga cycle. But the curious thing is, there's evidence for the 4,320,000 year yuga cycle in places like Babylon. Now if it all started with a dice game in India, then... and then later 12,000 was multiplied by 360 to get the big number, then how is it that you go back to Babylon and you find traditions using the big numbers?
LL: That's why I find it so fascinating to go back and look at all of the data, how widespread it was and how sophisticated and insightful it was and how so much of it hung on observations around them of nature and the real world. So...
RLT: Yeah. If you look at that Babylonian case, just to mention the figure, this Berossus said the period from the creation to the annihilation, as I mentioned, is 2,160,000 years. Well that's exactly half of 4,320,000.
LL: So obviously he was using some of the same sources for his data.
RLT: Yeah. It's clearly not a coincidence.
RLT: And oddly enough he had the 12,000 in there too, because then he said: From Alexander up until the final annihilation is 12,000 years. So he had both the 12,000 and half of the 4,320,000.
LL: So you can see how various historians at different periods in different places through the years were taking remnants of what came before them and trying to make sense of it for their time.
RLT: Yeah. Another example from Berossus is he said the period of the kings before the flood was 432,000 years.
LL: There's that figure again.
RLT: There it is again. So some will say: Well okay. That means the Indians got their figures from the Babylonians.
LL: Probably the other way round.
RLT: Probably. And the point is it couldn't be that both they created it on the basis of a dice game and they got it from the Babylonians.
RLT: At least... unless you want to say it was the Babylonians who were the ones with the dice game. But that's not the case because it was an Indian dice game.
LL: So those dissenters, those followers are just grabbing at straws?
RLT: They have a problem with the thesis. And to me it seems more easy to suppose that a dice game is based on the yugas.
LL: That would make sense because so many of the games of the ancients were culturally significant like the ball games of the Mayans, were just enacting their cosmology, a piece of it, right?
RLT: Yeah. So... however, at the same time, there is some indication that it may be that the 12,000 year cycle is there along with the 4,320,000 year cycle. At least some people from India in recent times have argued for the reality of the 12,000 year cycle.
LL: What if it's cycles within cycles? That you have ups and downs within a cycle, kind of like cogs in a wheel of a clock. Does anyone visualize it that way?
RLT: Well of course, in once sense it is like that. And of course the basic idea of cycles, of course in one obvious sense, comes from nature. Because you have the cycle of day and night...
RLT: ...and the cycle of the year, the seasons, and so forth. There is an interesting correlation in nature and in archeological history with both the 4,320,000 cycle and the shorter 12,000 year cycle.
LL: And what would that be Richard?
RLT: Well if we look first at the short one: If you look at the 12,000 year cycle, everything at least for one cycle, coming up to about the present, things fit pretty nicely.
LL: In terms of their descriptions in actual history?
RLT: Yeah. For example, about 12,000 years ago the climate was quite warm, agriculture hadn't quite gotten started yet, so...
LL: And we have the goddess cultures which were non-violent.
RLT: Basically people had a pretty easy life.
RLT: They were like the hunter gather people. But they didn't have competition from more advanced societies.
RLT: So you could say: Well okay, that sounds kind of like Satya-yuga. You don't know what their spiritual development was like, but materially it was like Satya-yuga. Then you have the climate getting worse, you have the beginning of agriculture, and that becomes sort of like Treta-yuga. And the time is about right. Then finally you begin to get the rise of cities, civilization,and by then you've gotten into, let's say Dvapara-yuga. And then gradually things get worse and you wind up in Kali-yuga. At least roughly it fits the picture pretty nicely.
LL: Yeah it really does, doesn't it? Where would Atlantis fit in to this, in which you have a highly advanced society but they had all their human foibles, got greedy, messed up, and so... Where do you put this? And what... how do you view Atlantis?
RLT: Ah... Atlantis. Well, it's hard to say. The... of course, Plato was the one who told the story of Atlantis initially. And more recently you have Edgar Cayce and the kinds of revelations that he gave. As far as physical evidence of Atlantis, people always had trouble finding that. But there are many traditions of sunken continents all over the world. So... and furthermore, there is some basis for thinking that such things could have happened.
LL: Quick question: Continents don't sink, the geologists tell us. Ocean shores, you know... parts of it can sink, but continents don't just sink to the bottom of the ocean. So what would the evidence be?
RLT: Well no. It's true, continents don't. But one thing that happens is that sea level rises. And...
LL: Right so...
RLT: ...at the end of the Ice Age... well during the Ice Age, for example, there was no English channel. It was all dry land.
LL: And the Mediterranean, yeah, has gone then from sea to a series of lakes and swamps.
RLT: So there is the possibility of land being taken over by the ocean, and traditions relate to that. In India there are traditions like that interestingly enough.
LL: Oh, of places that were inundated by water?
RLT: Yeah. In the south of India, you have the people of Tamil Nadu, Tamil people. Their tradition is that originally they lived in lands further to the south of what is now India. And their lands were inundated by the ocean and they had to move north at least twice to their present locations.
LL: In which case they must be very, very old and have a very long memory. I have another question. If Atlantis really existed, it seems surprising to me that you wouldn't find other textual sources that would mention it. I don't think Plato, and getting it from the Egyptians, would be the only source. That's one question I've always had. If... you would think Atlantis would have spanned... the culture would have spanned the world. And that all of those contiguous cultures like India, like China, would have known about them, written about them... so many of the places where their texts have remained extant. Do you hear of any other sources of Atlantis in these various...?
RLT: Well in the Indian literature that I'm aware of, I don't really see anything that seems to refer to Atlantis.
LL: Yeah. I didn't think so.
RLT: I'm not aware of anything. As I say, I am aware of these traditions about a similar thing happening in India itself. And some people have argued that this may be related to the origin of the Mu or Lemuria legends.
LL: Oh. And we have someone coming up in a couple of weeks... It's surprising the amount of material on the Lemuria legends as well. Interesting. Richard we're out of time. But I wanted to say thank you for explaining the various Ages and how they are constructed according to these ancient texts of the Vedas. And thank you for all the good work that you do. Any last thoughts on the Vedas? And I wanted to ask you: How do we best survive the Kali-yuga? Here we have an opportunity for a lot of spiritual growth. How do you take advantage of that?
LL: We're here! Might as well get the work done.
RLT: Pardon me?
LL: I said: We're here. Might as well get the work done, that we can do. Max the opportunity.
RLT: Yeah well... it's looking as though we're sort of... the progression of events that is unfolding right now is really putting us in a position in which we'll have to develop spiritually or we may be overwhelmed by the consequences of our materialistic activities. Because obviously our material endeavors are becoming more and more influential. I mean, the obvious example of that is the atomic bomb.
RLT: Once we learned to split the atom, the time arrived in which our misbehavior could create really disastrous effects, much worse than it could when we just had swords and spears and so forth.
LL: Maybe that's where a lot of the spiritual growth comes in. It's a matter of your very survival.
RLT: Yeah right.
LL: Things are so bad that you must turn to the spiritual realm just to make life bearable. And also to at least survive as a society. Very interesting.
RLT: Yeah. I think we're coming to that.
LL: Yep. Well thanks so much Richard Thompson for all your 30 years of looking into this very wonderful, insightful body of knowledge, the Vedas and the Vedic culture. Again Richard's books, CD’s, and videos are available at the Radio Bookstore at (800)243-1438. I'm Laura Lee.