Traditional View of History
The traditional Hindu view of history, has been formed after the pattern of cosmic processes. In nature, everything seems to follow a certain cyclic rhythm of emergence, disappearance, and re-emergence. The sun rises in the morning, sets at evening, but only to rise again the following dawn. Plants spring up from the womb of the earth, grow, and then decay, thus returning to where they came from, until they sprout once again from the soil. The seasons too follow a pattern of birth, death, and rebirth. The Indian mind has always thought of man as part of the cosmos and, therefore, subject to the law of cyclic return. History is ”a perpetual creation, perpetual preservation, perpetual destruction,” as we read in the Vishnu Purana (I, 7). The world emanates from, Brahm˜a into which it is reabsorbed, at the end of every kalpa and where it remains in a state of pure potency until it emanates again, thus initiating a new cycle. The world periods ( kalpas), and the subsequent periods of repose, form, consecutively, the days and the nights of Brahm˜a. (Gita, VIII, 17-20). This process of creation and dissolution, is without beginning and end. History is eternal, as is Brahm˜a, which is its source. Besides being cyclic and eternal, history contains also a principle of inevitable deterioration. The world periods are divided into Mah˜a-yugas and each Mah˜a-yuga is further divided into four yugas: Krit˜a-yuga, Tret˜a-yuga, Dv˜apara-yuga, and Kali-yuga, each deteriorating successively. The Krit˜a-yuga is the period of perfection both physical and moral. At the other end we have Kali-yuga, the age of universal misery, evil, and untruth. The present human race has been living in the Kali-yuga for the last 5063 years and will have to live through another 420,000 years, before it can see the end of this age of ever increasing decadence. The cyclic, eternal, and deteriorating nature of history has serious implications for man’s attitude towards life.