The tantric texts give elaborate descriptions of the different eras of the manifested world. It is said that the universe is manifested for the duration of one day of Brahma, and that it is reabsorbed in an unmanifested form for the duration of one night of Brahma. Brahma is the personified form of the principle of creation. The day of Brahma is called a kalpa and is said to last for 4,320,000,000 years. This period is further divided into mahayugas (great ages) which periodically repeat them-selves over and over again. Each of these mahayugas is further divided into four yugas (eras):
1. Satya Yuga: the Golden Age or the era of truth
2. Treta Yuga: the Silver Age
3. Dwapara Yuga: the Copper Age
4. Kali Yuga: the Iron Age or the Dark Age
According to tantra as well as many other systems throughout the world, we are currently living in the Dark Age (Kali Yuga). This age is reputed to have started from 3120 years before the Christian era. This period that we are now living in is said to be an era when harmonious living falls to an all time low, a period when people are almost totally out of balance with themselves and the environment.
You must judge for yourself if this is true or not.
It is said that each of the four ages has its own type of scripture to lead each individual to higher awareness if he has the aspiration. The tantric scriptures are regarded as ideal for the present Kali Yuga. In the Kularnava Tantra it states: “In the Satya Yuga the form of scripture is revelation (shruti). In the Treta Yuga, memorized scriptures (smriti) are to be followed. The scriptures of the Dwapara Yuga are the puranas (scriptures in the form of myths), while the agama (tantra) is the most suitable for the Kali Yuga.”
Actually the scripture of the Satya Age does not lie in any book – it is the direct revelationary experience by the individual. Books would not be necessary whether in the Satya Yuga of the universe or the Satya Yuga of an individual’s life – the point in one’s life when one begins to tune in with higher spheres is the Satya Yuga for each of us. Under these conditions there is no need for any scriptures, there is no need to rely on other people’s words, for one will have direct experience of the meaning of all scriptures for oneself. This is the meaning of shruti, the scripture of the age of truth.
In the Treta Yuga, people are said to be less able to comprehend, experience and appreciate the higher realms of knowledge and awareness. For this reason, it is necessary that the experiences of seers be written down as scriptures and remembered. This will act as guidance for any spiritual aspirant and people in general. The scriptures include all the scriptures that have been written down by every religion. In India, these type of scriptures are called smriti (remembered knowledge). They are secondhand knowledge as opposed to direct personal spiritual experience. These texts would include the Koran, the Bible, the Upanishads, the Dhammapada and many other traditional texts.
Thus tantra has fully realized that different periods of time require different methods of spiritual instruction and practice to attain enlightenment. Furthermore, the explanations and presentations of specific texts are suitable only for a particular era, after which the texts must be presented in another form. Of course, the final aim of cosmic realization is the same, but the techniques and concepts must be taught in a way that is acceptable and most easily understood in the prevailing social rules and conditions. Tantra has never said that any of its texts is the final statement on spiritual life. It has always said that the texts are only suitable for a certain time, after which they become redundant. As far as we know, no other spiritual system has ever said this. The tantras realize that the attitudes of man and environmental conditions change with time. Therefore, they realize the obvious: that the instructions and methods in spiritual texts must also change. It is in this way that they will help man not hinder him. The means is different, but the aim is the same.
New tantric texts have arisen throughout the ages and new tantric texts will continue to appear as the present Kali Yuga proceeds. These texts will be recorded as seers have intuitional insights into the changing needs of man.