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Reflections on Impermanence: Navigating the Cycle of Time

Years back, there was the opportunity to meet and talk to a Swamiji. In the course of our conversation, he drove home the point that nothing is permanent in the universe. What we see today may not exist tomorrow. This is the nature or law of Creation. Whatever has been created is destined to come to an end one day. The earth, the sun, the moon, the stars—all will vanish one day with the course of time. Swamiji might be speaking from a religious or spiritual point of view. But science also says the same thing. Swamiji further quotes and relates:

“Martya mandale deha bahi, Debata hele hen marai” (Even if the gods are born on earth, they will have to die).

Citing this example, he elaborates: “Sriram, Srikrishna, Buddha, Jeena, have all taken birth on this earth and have returned on completion of their works. According to Hindu philosophy, ‘Kala’ or time, not being linear, is shown to have a circular or cyclic movement. The order is Satya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga, and the Kali Yuga, which is prevalent at present. The Kali Yuga is the last era, and after its dissolution, the Satya Yuga will again start, thereby continuing the cycle.”

I asked, “Swamiji, which Yuga or era is the greatest?” Swamiji continued, “After a study of the different Yugas, it is known that there has been a gradual decay of human society, disorder has been found in society, and the average lifespan of man has decreased. Man could live for hundreds of years in the Satya, Treta, and Dwapara eras. But Kali Yuga is the greatest in the sense that man is like a free bird in this Yuga while in the others he is in chains of religion, rules, and regulations. It is only in the Kali Yuga that man can move in the dual direction of religion and irreligion. This much freedom is not enjoyed by him in the other Yugas.”

“Still, then what ails him,” I asked Swamiji. Swamiji continued further, “Changes in the course of time and man’s mentality have created the problem for him. Not only Hinduism but the other religions around the globe give hints for this gradual decay of man and human values. Man has worn the ‘Andha Putuli’ of Gandhari despite knowing very well that life and this world are transitory. Materialism and the illusions of the world have bound him in such chains that he is not able to understand the true meaning of life. It is because of this reason that there is talk of ‘Maya Sansar’ or the illusory world. He is spending his time always talking in terms of my life, my family, and my property.”

At times I happen to meet one of my friends. He starts off the moment he sees me. “I have already acquired two plots. There are two houses too. One is an apartment. The other is my own construction.” This is the story of the people with property. There is yet another group. They will start talking about how busy they are the moment they meet somebody, be it home, outside, or office. How they are too busy and do not have even the time for lunch and dinner. Though man has been beating his own trumpet like this, which seems to have no value. He will not carry anything off with him at the time of death. Neither shall people remember him for his false busy schedule. If somebody does any good work and remains really busy in life, people will automatically give him the merit certificate. He will be remembered like Buddha, Jeena, and Mahatma Gandhi through the ages.

“Then what is a probable solution to the problem,” I asked Swamiji. Swamiji continued, “There is a solution to each and every problem. Nothing is unknown to us. Everything is happening within our eyesight. We all know time is subject to change, and everybody is helpless in its course. The whole universe, along with the human body made of ‘Panchabhuta,’ is not permanent. Man has no control over time and the Law of Creation. Neither shall he ever have any such control in the future.” Swamiji clarifies, “Man can do only one thing. How far he will be able to check the ferocity of Kali Yuga cannot be said for certain. But the process can be controlled for sure. By means of his freedom, he can move from materialism in the direction of spiritualism, staying away from irreligion, can move along the righteous path.” Swamiji puts stress on the preservation of values, right conduct, and a spiritual bent of mind.

Science speaks about a similar decay in the present conditions of man. He is destroying jungles, thereby creating an imbalance in the environment, adding to the growth of the population, and causing large-scale environmental pollution. The consequences are fatal and will prove to be more so in times to come. There is global warming, and the temperature is rising gradually. The icebergs at the poles are melting, thereby increasing the water level of the seas. Environmental pollution is causing pores in the ozone layer, which in turn is allowing the ultraviolet rays of the sun to enter the atmosphere of the earth. All this taken together will lead to a deluge-like situation as mentioned in religious scriptures around the globe, thereby causing the end of mankind on earth.

Both our scriptures and science give signals for an imminent and inevitable end. Though the Law of Creation is not in our hands yet our right conduct and behavior in relation to nature and the outside world can control the process of dissolution and destruction to a considerable extent instead of accelerating it.

(The views expressed are the writer’s own)

Mr. Prafulla Kumar Majhi,

Retired Asst. Director, A. I. R, is an eminent Scholar and freelance writer in English & Odia. His areas of interests are sociocultural, economic, literary, historical and analytical studies and writings.

Email: [email protected]

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