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Twelfth Skanda

Chapter 4: Pralaya: The Four Types of Annihilation

(1) S’rî S’uka said: ‘Time beginning with the smallest of the atom and culminating in the two halves [or parârdhas] of the life of Brahmâ, o King has been described [in 3.11] together with the duration of the yugas; now listen to the annihilation of the kalpa. (2) A thousand cycles of four yugas is said to be a kalpa, a day of Brahmâ, in which there are fourteen original progenitors of mankind [Manus]. (3) When they are done there is the dissolution described as the night of Brahmâ that is of the same duration; the three worlds remain dissolved till the end of that time. (4) This is said to be the occasional annihilation [or naimittika pralaya] in which [Nârâyana] the creator of the universe lies down upon His bed Ananta, to absorb the universe including Lord Brahmâ. (5) After the completion of two parârdhas [viz. the two half life times] of the highest situated living being, Lord Brahmâ, are the seven elements [mahat, ahamkâra and the tanmâtras], subject to destruction. (6) This, o King, constitutes the elemental annihilation. Therafter this universal egg, this aggregate [of these seven universal principles] reaching the time of its disruption, will dissolve. (7) For a hundred years the clouds, o King, will not shower rain upon the earth. The people confounded by the time will, with the famine that follows, in the distress of their hunger [even] consume each other and gradually find themselves destroyed. (8) The sun with its terrible rays not giving the slightest [precipitation] in return, will drink up all the juice of the earth, the ocean and the living bodies. (9) Then from the mouth of Lord Sankarshana will issue the fire of destruction that raised by the force of the wind will burn the empty regions of the planets [3.11: 30, 8.5: 35]. (10) The universal egg burning on all sides with the flames of the fire from below and the sun above, will glow like a ball of cow-dung. (11) Next a terrible wind will blow for more than a hundred years and bring annihilation covering the sky gray with dust. (12) Clusters of multicolored clouds, my dearest, then will pour down rain for a hundred years with tremendous claps of thunder. (13) The shell of the universe will, filling up, thereupon be one single [cosmic] body of water. (14) When the water at the time of the flooding drives away the quality of fragrance, the element earth, being deprived of its fragrance, will dissolve [see also 3.26: 49-61, 11.3: 9, 11.24: 22-27].

(15-19) Fire then takes away the taste of water, after which it, deprived of its unique quality, dissolves. Next follows fire that by air is deprived of its form. With the fire merged with the wind the ether takes from the air away its quality [of touch] and then follows the quality of the ether, sound, that is taken away by the original elemental of nature [or false ego in ignorance]. With the ether subsequently merging, the vital power [false ego in passion] takes hold of the senses, my best, and are the gods subject to modification seized [by the false ego of goodness]. Cosmic intelligence seizes that [vaikârika] again along with its qualities [or manifest functions] and that mahat is then absorbed by the gunas of sattva and such. These three modes o King, are then, under the pressure of Time, overtaken by the inexhaustible doer [the original unmanifest form of nature] from whom there is not the transformation and such in divisions of time [shath-ûrmi]; unmanifest without a beginning and an end it is the infallible eternal cause. (20-21) Therein is speech, mind, nor the mode of goodness, passion or ignorance found; the elements of the greater reality – the vital air, the intelligence, the senses and so on – there are not, nor the gods or the arrangement of the different planetary orders. There is no sleeping, waking or deep sleep, nor water, air, ether, fire, earth or sun. That, being like a void or like someone fast asleep, is the substance which defying all logical explanation serves as the root [the pradhâna], so say the authorities. (22) This is the [prâkritika pralaya] dissolution wherein all the material elements of nature and energies of the unseen Original Person are completely dismantled by Time and helplessly merge.

(23) It is [nothing but] spiritual knowledge [the consciousness, the Absolute Truth] that manifests in the form of these elements of intelligence, the senses and the sense objects. Whatever that is perceived as having a beginning and an end is, having no existence apart from its cause, insubstantial [being only a reference to it, compare 11.28: 21]. (24) A lamp, an eye perceiving and the form perceived do not stand apart from the light [that is treated by them]. The same way intelligence, the senses and sense perceptions do no stand apart from the [one] reality that is quite different [see also siddhânta and B.G. 9.15]. (25) Wakefulness, sleep and deep sleep belong to the intelligence and are thus called a deception of the senses. This o King is the duality as it is experienced by the soul. (26) Just as clouds in the sky are there and are not there within the Absolute of the Truth, similarly this whole universe with its different parts being generated and dissolved is there and not there. (27) The ingredient cause, my best, of any composite entity out here, is something real thus is stated [in the Vedânta-sûtra], just as it is with the threads of a fabric that can be perceived apart from the cloth they form [see also 6.3: 12, 11.12: 21]. (28) Whatever one may experience in terms of having a general cause and a specific effect is a form of illusion, because everything that in depending on something else is subject to a beginning and an end is insubstantial [viz. a fixation of matter is an illusion, but the energy constituting that matter is real]. (29) A single atom subject to transformation is, even though it manifests, without the Direct Evidence [in the form of Time] of the Supreme Self not conceivable [or even perceivable], even if it the same way [as the immutable soul] remains without change. (30) There cannot be different types of Absolute Truth; if an ignorant person thinks of it in terms of opposites is that as having two skies, two daylights or two winds. (31) Just as gold to men appears in many forms depending on its use is similarly the Supreme Lord Adhokshaja who is inconceivable to the senses, described in various terms by the commoner as well as by the vedic person. (32) The way a cloud as a product of the sun is made visible by the sun and factually as a partial expansion of the sun is darkness [of casting a shadow] to the eyes, is likewise the I-awareness a quality of God, that visible through Him and as a partial expansion of Him the same time serves as an individual soul [with a clouded vision] who lives in bondage relative to the Supreme Soul. (33) When a cloud that was produced by the sun is riven the eye then sees the sun in its proper form, the same way is, as soon as the superficial false ego which covers the spirit soul is destroyed by spiritual inquiry, the proper remembrance acquired. (34) When one this way by means of this sword of discrimination has cut away the deluding false ego [of fixations] that is the cause of the bondage of the soul and has developed a firm realization of the Infallible Supreme Soul [of the Living Being], is that what one calls the ultimate annihilation [âtyantika pralaya], my dear.

(35) O subduer of the enemies, by some expert knowers of the subtle is asserted that the creation and destruction that all created beings beginning with Brahmâ undergo is something constantly taking place. (36) The various conditions [stages of existence] of the things subject to change are swiftly overtaken by the force of the mighty current of Time; they constitute the proof of their constantly being born and annihilated [called nityah pralaya]. (37) The different stages created by beginningless and endless Time – itself representing Îs’vara [the Controller in the impersonal sphere] – are, as you know, not directly seen, just as the movements of the planets in outer space [or one’s different conditionings] are not immediately seen [see also 3.10; 10-14]. (38) This way the progress of Time [kâla] is described as being of a continuous [nitya], occasional [naimittika], natural [elemental or prâkritika] and final [âtyantika] annihilation.

(39) These narrations about the lîlâ of the creator of the universe, Nârâyana, the reservoir of all existences, have in summary been related to you o best of the Kurus; not even the Unborn One [Brahmâ] can enumerate them completely. (40) For the person who suffers as a consequence of the fire of the various forms of misery and desires to cross over the hard to overcome ocean of material existence, there is no other boat but the rendering of service to the Fortunate One, the Supreme Personality, according to the personal taste for the narrations of His pastimes. (41) This essential compendium of all the classical stories was previously by the infallible Lord Nara-Nârâyana spoken to Nârada who repeated it to Krishna Dvaipâyana [Vyâsa, the writer; see 5.19: 10-15]. (42) He, that powerful Lord Bâdarâyana, was sure to teach this Bhâgavatam, this anthology equal in status to the four Vedas, to me o Mahârâja. (43) Sûta Gosvâmî, sitting here with us, will [on his turn] pass it on to the sages present in the forest of Naimishâranya for a lengthy sacrifice presided by S’aunaka, o best of the Kurus [see 1.1].’