The cycle of four yugas, or millenniums—namely, Satya, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali—goes around a thousand times in one day of Lord Brahmā. The Bhagavad-gītā (8.17) confirms this: sahasra-yuga-paryantam ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ. "By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together form the duration of Brahmā's one day." According to the Vedic calculation, one day of Brahmā sees the coming and going of fourteen Manus. Therefore, each Manu lives for seventy-one cycles of the four millenniums. At present we are in the period of Vaivasvata Manu, in the twenty-eighth cycle of the four millenniums, and it is the Kali-yuga. This Kali-yuga is very special, however, because Lord Caitanya appears in this age in His original form and propagates the esoteric science of pure love of Godhead. All this we learn from the scriptures. We have great expectations that this science of pure love of Godhead will be propagated world-wide in the immediate future.
During the Satya-yuga the mode of goodness is in abundance. Or one can say that when the quality of goodness increases in a person to the extent that he becomes situated in his original constitutional identity as a servant of the Lord, thus making his human life a complete success, at that time he enjoys the bliss and tranquillity of the Satya-yuga. The three modes—goodness, passion, and ignorance—are always present in this material nature. According to the predominance of a particular mode, the yugas change from Satya to Tretā to Dvāpara to Kali. The jīvas in Kali-yuga are predominantly in the mode of ignorance, and with with the increase of this mode the threefold material miseries expand unlimitedly. Thus people today are afflicted by a short life-span, ill luck, warped intelligence, lethargy, disease, and many other sufferings.
Still, there is no reason to despise this age, for the most munificent incarnation of Godhead, Lord Caitanya, has appeared in Kali-yuga to shower His kindness upon the afflicted souls. The extent of the Supreme Lord's mercy is decidedly more generous in this age than in any other. In his play entitled Vidagdha-mādhava, Śrīla Rūpa Gosvāmī has described Lord Caitanya in this way:
- anarpita-carīṁ cirāt karuṇayāvatīrṇaḥ kalau
- samarpayitum unnatojjvala-rasāṁ sva-bhakti-śriyam
- hariḥ puraṭa-sundara-dyuti-kadamba-sandīpitaḥ
- sadā hṛdaya-kandare sphuratu vaḥ śacī-nandana
May that Lord who is known as the son of Śrīmatī Śacīdevī be transcendentally situated in the innermost chambers of your heart. Resplendent with the radiance of molten gold, He has descended in the Age of Kali by His causeless mercy to bestow what no incarnation ever offered before: the most sublime and radiant spiritual knowledge of the mellow taste of His service.
The present Kali-yuga is therefore very auspicious, for in this age one can attain the treasure of devotional service to the Lord that He Himself propagated. Our hope rests fully with the Lord's surrendered devotees, who are endowed with perfect knowledge of how to disseminate this transcendental science. Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī, after describing the evil aspects of Kali-yuga, sums up this subject toward the very end of the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam (12.3.51-52):
- kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann
- asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
- kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
- mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
- kṛte yad dhyāyato viṣṇuṁ
- tretāyāṁ yajato makhaiḥ
- dvāpare paricaryāyāṁ
- kalau tad dhari-kīrtanāt
My dear king, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom. Whatever result was obtained in Satya-yuga by meditating on Viṣṇu, in Tretā-yuga by performing sacrifices, and Dvāpara-yuga by serving the Lord's lotus feet can be obtained in the Kali-yuga simply by chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mahā-mantra.
The word hari-kīrtana used in these verses, which means "singing or chanting the glories of Kṛṣṇa," could very well apply to the Bhagavad-gītā, the song sung by God Himself. The promulgation of the Bhagavad-gītā's knowledge on a world-wide scale will establish a foundation upon which the edifice of the science of love of God will be constructed. This edifice will be the repository of the sublime treasure of devotional service as taught by Lord Caitanya in Kali-yuga, and it will serve as a shining monument to the transcendental endeavors of the Lord's pure devotees.
At present only a small portion of the knowledge contained in the Vedas, Vedānta-sūtra, and Upaniṣads is available to the general populace. What is noteworthy, however, is that the essence of all Vedic knowledge is available in the Gītopaniṣad, popularly known as the Bhagavad-gītā. Lord Kṛṣṇa milked the cow of the Upaniṣads, and Arjuna drank the milk thus obtained—the Bhagavad-gītā. If Arjuna found time to hear the Bhagavad-gītā in the middle of a battlefield at Kuruksetra, then what urgent business is stopping us from hearing the Gītā? When knowledge of the Gītā spreads, then everyone will easily be able to attain the platform of yoga. And as the pure devotees of the Lord become successful in their efforts to use their spiritual intelligence in the Lord's service, then the science of love of God taught by Lord Caitanya, the most magnanimous incarnation of Godhead, will be distributed everywhere. Judging from all the symptoms, the time is now ripe. Indians should now take shelter of their saintly preceptors, the pure devotees, and unitedly propagate the glorification of Kṛṣṇa via the medium of the Bhagavad-gītā. In this way the world will become prosperous and perfect. The present age has seen interest in spiritual matters markedly increase. Yoga and meditation societies have mushroomed expressly to transmit the knowledge of the Bhagavad-gītā, but how this will be accomplished is still a question. We are confident that Lord Caitanya's teachings on the process of loving devotional service will easily harmonize all conflicting concepts.
The most effective method for directing humanity toward a positive and favorable consciousness is available in India. Any person, under any circumstances, can reach an elevated state of consciousness by properly hearing the Bhagavad-gītā, and then, by constantly chanting the name of God, he can win God over. The present state of world affairs is full of foreboding, strife, and struggle. These are the effects of Kali-yuga. But our faith in the eternal nature of jīva prompts us to believe that anyone can attain devotional service to Kṛṣṇa simply by hearing and chanting His name and thereby awakening his inherent dormant love for Him. We have full faith in the words of Śrīla Śukadeva Gosvāmī quoted above from the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam—that simply by chanting the name of Kṛṣṇa one can reach His eternal kingdom.
Therefore all signs point toward auspicious changes in the global consciousness. But these changes must be initiated from within every individual's heart; they are impossible to accomplish through political lobbying or social adjustments. The devotional feelings that reach out from within the hearts of men find their culmination in the pure devotees' spiritual perfection. In the Bhagavad-gītā Lord Kṛṣṇa describes this spiritual perfection as bhakti-yoga, or buddhi-yoga, the yoga of devotional service. At a certain stage, all the systems of yoga become obsolete and have to be discarded—except for buddhi-yoga.