Question: Is there anything in yoga philosophy that is similar to the Christian or Muslim apocalypse or end of the world teaching?
Answer: No. We should all care about people’s material as well as spiritual well-being—so it is natural that we should try to prevent catastrophes or be prepared to minimize the people’s suffering if and when such negative events do occur. People should be encouraged to be as prepared as possible for any natural or man-made disaster, to have flash lights, bottled water, stockpiled food and things like that. This is just common sense. As far as the economy is concerned, we should all do our best to minimize the impact of a financial downturn on people and society and work to turn things around.
Unfortunately, most of these “doomsdayers” are not really that focused on helping prevent or alleviate people’s suffering. Their concern primarily seems to be to scare people into joining their religion or their belief system or their organization, using fear as a tool to that end. In a sense they are out yelling in the street: “The world is going to end tomorrow! Join us now or you are going to go to hell when doomsday arrives! This is your last chance at salvation!”
All this talk about “doomsday is coming” or “the world is going to end soon and we are all going to be judged”—is all nonsense. The fact is, each and every one of us, according to our own karma, will have our own personal doomsday. Each and every one of us is going to have our own personal “end of the world.” Declarations by preachers that the world is going to end in 30 days or two years are meaningless to individuals who left their bodies this morning or have only a couple of days or hours left due to illness or whatever.
So instead of our being concerned about solving the so-called problem of some “societal doomsday,” each of us should recognize that we are all going to face a “doomsday” or “end of the world” in our own lifetime—in the form of death.
It’s almost like these people who are running around crying out, “Doomsday is coming! Doomsday is coming!” are living in some kind of fantasy world, thinking, "Gee, if it weren't for all these negative things going on in society, none of us would die." It’s just as ridiculous as if these people were running around crying out, “We are all going to die! We are all going to die!” It’s true; we are all eventually going to leave our bodies. So it’s true that “the world is going to end” eventually for each and every one of us.
Knowing that our stay in this world is temporary, we should make the most of it. We shouldn’t be wasting our time running around yelling that the world is going to end. We should do what we can do to help others achieve physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Part of that service to society, to others, obviously includes things like trying to prevent health catastrophes like the spread of bird flu, swine flu, or antibiotic-resistant germs, or trying to prevent people from being hurt or killed by floods or earthquakes or other natural disasters. And it includes living a life in which we are cultivating our spiritual understanding, spiritual love, and helping others do the same if they choose to take our guidance.
Question: Is there anything in yoga philosophy about the end of the world?
Answer: No. In fact, it’s important to know the difference between the Vedic or yoga view in regard to time in comparison to the view of time held by many Christians, Jews, Muslims, and some other philosophers. Unlike in the Christian or Muslim philosophy, which sees time and the existence of this world as linear (i.e., with a beginning and then a specific end), the Vedic view of time is circular. In other words, in the Vedic view, the world exists for so long, it can practically be called infinite. It is divided into four yugas, or time periods. The first is called Satya-yuga, the second Treta-yuga, the third Dvapara-yuga, and finally Kali-yuga. When Kali-yuga ends, then there’s a new Satya-yuga. In this way, it goes on in a circular way for vast, vast periods of time. So there’s no end date for the planet Earth in the Vedic or yoga system. That’s why most of these doomsday cults are based on Judeo-Christian or Muslim scripture or philosophy.
Question: So in the Vedic or yoga view there is no “doomsday” scenario in connection with the planet Earth?