KALIYUGA TO SATYUGA: NIHILISM AND UTOPIA

This is an essay I wrote for a course at Young India Fellowship, Ashoka University. Philosophy has always interested me. The discussions I had in class and after class with peers has helped me define my thoughts which I have put in this essay.

Religion, truthfulness, cleanliness, tolerance, mercy, duration of life, physical strength and memory will all diminish day by day because of the powerful influence of the age of Kali.

Source: Srimad Bhagavatam 12.2.1

We live in Kaliyuga, in an age of disbelief, an age of ignorance, an age of power and lust.  All the major religious and philosophical texts deal with the apocalypse, the destruction of everything. We, in Kaliyuga, are moving towards complete annihilation, annihilation of our morals, our beliefs, our virtues, and even truth.

God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?

— Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Section 125, tr. Walter Kaufmann

Nietzsche prophesized in nineteenth century that, ‘God is dead. And we have killed him.’ He prophesized rightly what the new world was going to face in coming years with the rise of capitalism, and nation-states. The rise of scientific truths has led us to question religion and the importance of it, in general. Religion has been co-opted into political ideologies, with religion in itself becoming a villain for the society. Humans uprooted from their place of belonging, have increasingly become disillusioned and lonely. We have started questioning everything, all the institutions, the society, the government, and even ourselves, our own existence. The world, increasingly today, is dealing with existential nihilism; the need to find a purpose in our lives.  As the world becomes increasingly nihilistic, we have started questioning ethics, morals, and even truth has become relative. Kaliyuga is the yuga of nihilism.

 

“For too long we have been dreaming a dream from which we are now waking up: the dream that if we just improve the socioeconomic situation of people, everything will be okay, people will become happy. The truth is that as the struggle for survival has subsided, the question has emerged: survival for what? Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.”

– Victor Frankl

Humans have never been lonelier, we seek approval, and we desire validation. Technology has fastened our lives, as we are getting increasingly impatient. We need instant gratification. We want love, friendships, and people around us all the time; and yet we are lonely. The sense that life does not have meaning, translates into our friendships, our love, our morals, our ethics, our values. Truth has become subjective; it has lost meaning.

We are questioning our structures, authorities, our governments, our law, and our security structures more than ever. On the other hand, a fear of Orwellian dystopia has gripped the world.  Governments are becoming increasingly powerful, media and technology has invaded our lives and there’s no escape from it. What we think, what we write, what we converse, has become accessible more than ever. We seek utopia, we seek an escape from present which has become increasingly meaningless and painful. Ideally, most of us will like anarchy; a lawless, and a stateless society, where all humans will co-exist in peace and harmony. This utopian state is what we, as a society, need to strive for. Probably, we will never achieve it, but what we can achieve is less law, less state and less intervention. The more law we will have, the more lawlessness we will seek.

cropped-anarchy

 

An increasingly nihilist world will head towards a chaos. Everything will be questioned and everything will be destroyed. This is the apocalypse we are heading towards; the apocalypse that has been mentioned in all civilizations. Nihilism becomes a medium to create chaos, justify murder, justify suicide, and justify everything, because everything becomes beyond good and evil. In Mahabharata, Arjuna, Bheeshma, Yudhisthir and many others were grappling with this existential nihilism. The war was sought to end all wars, destroy ‘adharma’ which had become the societal order. In a war that was won using ‘adharma’, can the ultimate objective to restore ‘dharma’ be justified? Can the end justify the means? Krishna helped Arjuna to overcome nihilism, through Bhagavad-Gita; a text that has helped whosoever has read it to deal with their confusions, to overcome pessimism, and to overcome hopelessness.

 

Destruction of the existing order, seeking nihilistic means, will not achieve the utopian world we want. The quest for truth, satyagraha, should become a medium to achieve anarchy. Unless we believe in truth, we will never achieve that ideal. Destruction of existing order, will lead to chaos, which will be replaced by some other order, what it will be no one knows. By Zen philosophy, we will always have some order in chaos and some chaos in order. The world needs to slowly eliminate the chaos to move towards the order; and chaos cannot be overcome by creating it. The universe started with chaos, but it is increasingly going towards an order. It will probably collapse, some day, to end in chaos, but we do not know.

Hindu texts prophesize, that the world will enter Satyuga (the age of truth) after the end of Kaliyuga. Humans will live in harmony, love and in order. To reach Satyuga is to reach anarchy. By the laws of thermodynamics, we will always be in spontaneity; science will question anarchy. It’s difficult to imagine humans living in complete harmony. But we can always strive for it. Only when we overcome nihilism, will we tread on the path towards utopia. Nihilism is not a medium to reach utopia, it is a challenge the world needs to overcome. In the utopian world, we will not need God, God will remain dead; but we will be happy.