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Follow along with Roger Gabriel, Chopra's Chief Meditation Officer, in this new article series on the Vedic Yugas.
As we discussed in Chapter 1, The Beginningless Beginning, the Absolute is nothing in itself but the potential for everything.
The Aitareya Upanishad tells us the story of creation, it starts,
In the beginning the Self alone existed. Nothing whatsoever winked.
From out of itself, the Self created the worlds and the guardians of the worlds. It describes giving the guardians a human form and all its attributes. It provided food and the means to eat. The Self then thought, how can this exist without me? It then entered the body through the gateway at the crown of the head.
This we know as the Sahasrara, the thousand petaled lotus of the crown chakra. The great sage Adi Shankara says that during the waking state the Self dwells in the right eye, in the inner mind during dreaming and in the space of the heart center during deep sleep.
When the Self first entered and breathed the light of awareness into your soul, it awakened the field of infinite possibilities within you. Life was very pure and, having just emerged from the Absolute, almost perfect. This was Sat Yuga, the Age of Truth or often referred to as the Golden Age.
Sat Yuga was also the emergence of the wisdom of the Vedas. The word Veda comes from the Sanskrit root vid, which means to know. Nobody knows when they were composed or by whom. The Vedas are considered to be shruti, or texts divinely revealed to, or heard by the ancient rishis (enlightened masters). Mythologically, the Vedas are said to be the out breath of the Supreme Being.
There are four main Vedas, Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharva, of which the Rig Veda is considered the most important. It is said that the knowledge of all four Vedas is contained within the Rig Veda and all the knowledge of the Rig Veda is contained in its first syllable. If we could chant that first syllable in its purity, the knowledge of the whole of creation would be available to us, as it would be in Sat Yuga.
The Rig Veda contains mantras and prayers, including the Gayatri Mantra. The purpose of the Sama Veda is to teach the musical method of chanting the verses of the Vedas for rituals. The Yajur Veda gives details and instructions for sacred rituals. The Atharva Veda deals with health, prosperity and the daily concerns of people, Ayurveda is part of this Veda. Supporting the main Vedas are three other texts, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The Brahmanas provide further explanations and guidances for the use and performance of the mantras. The Aranyakas, often referred to as the “forest texts,” provide guidance for those withdrawing from regular daily life, to follow a more reclusive path. Upanishad literally means to sit near the feet of the master, so these are the secret teachings reserved for students who are ready for higher learning. They are the end or culmination of the Vedic wisdom, teaching higher consciousness and enlightenment.
During Sat Yuga there were no poor and no rich, there was no need to work, because all that people required was obtained by the power of will. There was no sickness and no growing old as we know it. There was no anger, hostility or jealousy, no judgmental or negative thinking, no sorrow, no fear. People only participated in good, sublime deeds, devoid of trickery and deceit. It was the time when all worldly desires were abandoned as unnecessary and all people were happy. Communication was telepathic so nothing could be hidden. Everyone’s intention was towards the highest form of knowledge and all actions were performed with the goal of attaining celestial bliss. The Upanishads tell us,
The whole Universe is your family and all the members of the Universe are your family members.
In Sat Yuga, it was a loving supportive family, quite different from today’s dysfunctional world family.
During Sat Yuga, people lived Vedic lifestyles, respecting the balance between humankind and nature and embracing the natural forces such as fire, wind, rain, night, dawn, sun, moon, etc. The whole of nature was like a beautiful garden where each tree and plant was a different expression of pure knowledge. The Atharva Veda says,
The earth is my mother, I am the earth’s child
What we refer to as higher states of consciousness, were the normal every day experiences. Everything vibrated at a high frequency. Dense solid bodies and objects didn’t exist as we now known them. Most people lived in their light bodies. Siddhis or yogic powers were available to most people. Life was without limitations.
Teachings and Practices
The Great Vedic Rishis of Sat Yuga taught that our true destiny is enlightenment. While nowadays, much of the focus of meditation is on stress release, in Sat Yuga there was almost no stress or impurities. People meditated for the salvation and enlightenment of the world. Opening their eyes they saw a peaceful, celestial world. Closing their eyes they merged into silence.
Many years ago, I had the honor of meeting a great Ayurvedic practitioner, who knew the uses for more than 6000 herbs and plants. When asked how he could do that, he said that he just walked through the forest and asked the plants what they could be used for or, if he wanted to treat a particular ailment, he would walk through the forest asking who could help, until one of the plants answered his call. While this is extremely rare these days, in Sat Yuga, the Rishis recognized the subtle vibrations in everything and opened their hearts to them, so as to experience the light of their inner meanings. These vibrations were the origins of the thousands of mantras, which are available to us today, to restore balance and harmony to life.
Decline Sat Yuga is said to last for a total of 1,728,000 years, the majority of which is the idyllic age described already. Lifespan averaged 100,000 years. Some souls moved into the highest levels of consciousness and merged back into the Absolute. But, for others, the purity began to decrease over time and lifespan gradually reduced to 10,000 years. Ignorance crept in and we started to forget our true essential Self. As the Yoga Vasishtha says,
Just as the silk worm spins its cocoon and is caught in it, so do humans weave the web of their own concepts and are caught in them.
This can be illustrated by the story of a very pious yogi who lived a simple life in a village.
Every day he would rise well before dawn to chant and perform rituals while everywhere was quiet and pure. The purity of his chanting brought many blessings to the village and everyone loved him. To reward him, the villagers gave him a cow for fresh milk. But the cow needed feeding so he started growing crops for it. There were wolves in the hills so he got a dog to protect his cow. The dog needed looking after. And so the story continues. Very soon the yogi was too tired to rise early and didn’t have enough time for all his rituals. The purity started to be lost and the blessings diminished. He soon forgot his former pure Self.
We all get easily distracted by the activity of the world. The purity of our spiritual practices gets lost. The higher vibrations began to slow. The light becomes denser and the world begins to appear as solid.
Sat Yuga gradually comes to an end.
Take a moment and close your eyes. Silently repeat the Mahavakya a few times.
SARVAM KHALVIDAM BRAHM (All of this is Brahman. All of this, including me, is that absolute reality)
Allow your awareness to expand. Try to imagine the entire manifest and unmanifest universe all at the same time.
All of this is Brahman! All of this is One.
SARVAM KHALVIDAM BRAHM
Explore the history of Vedic meditation through the four Yugas in From OM to Home: A Vedic Journey Through Time, a four-part series with Roger Gabriel, available now on the Chopra App.