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THE NEXT ANNIHILATION OF THE WORLD
It is explained (Bhag. 11.10.30) that in all of the planetary systems throughout the universe there exists the fear of time, or death, even among the great demigods. Even the greatest demigod, Lord Brahma, lives 311,040,000,000,000 earthly years, and is afraid of the Supreme in the form of death. Even though Lord Brahma lives for so long, this is considered only 100 years on his level of existence. Each of those years is divided into 365 days. Each day is stated (Bhag. 12.4.2-4) to consist of one thousand cycles of the four yugas, which is known as a kalpa, or 4,320,000,000 solar years. And one-half of each day consists of his night, which is of the same duration. The three universal planetary systems are subject to annihilation during his night. This is called the Naimittika, or occasional, annihilation. The Vayu Purana (38.133-139) describes that at the end of the kalpa there is a complete withdrawal of all living entities by Brahma. When Brahma feels the need to sleep, he begins to dissolve all beings and everything into him. Then a drought sets in and lasts for 100 years which makes all beings on the surface of the earth lose strength and merge into the earth, and the sun evaporates all moisture from the earth.
The Vayu Purana (38.143-161) and the Kurma Purana (2.45.18-34) relate that the sun, using the moisture as food, becomes more intense and forms seven suns. Those intense rays dry up the earth planet, reaching the nether and upper regions of the universe and scorching all the worlds. The whole sky is filled with fiercely blazing samvartaka fires [the fires of destruction]. All living beings become dissolved, and all mountains, oceans, and continents will be reduced to ashes. The fire consumes the planets of the Gandharvas, Pishacas, Yakshas, the serpents, and Rakshasas. The fire burns up the four worlds, Bhurloka, Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, and Maharloka. The entire universe shines like a hot iron ball.
The Bhagavatam (3.11.28-32) goes on to explain that during the night of Brahma the universe and the innumerable living entities merge into the darkness of night. Everything is silent, merged into dissolution. The three planetary systems disappear. The sun and moon lose their glare. This devastation is caused by the flre that emanates from the mouth of Sankarshana, another name for Ananta
sesha, who lies on the Garbhodaka Ocean in the lower part of the universe. This fire is said to go on for 36,000 solar years. Great sages like Bhrigu and others leave the Maharloka planet and travel to the higher planetary system of Janaloka due to the fire that rages through the three planetary systems below. Then all of the seas overflow and the winds blow violently. Thus, the three major planetary
systems of the universe are flooded with water and torrential rains for another 36,000 solar years. The higher planetary systems of Maharloka, Tapoloka, Satyaloka, and Brahmaloka are not dissolved in the devastating waters. During the deluge, the Supreme Being lies down on His bed of Ananta Sesha on the universal waters of devastation and enters a mystic sleep, known as yoga-nidra, which is a state of spiritual meditation.
This process of destruction is explained in more detail in the Vishnu Purana (Book Six, Chapters Three & Four). It states that at the end of 1,000 cycles of the four yugas the earth is almost exhausted. A great scarcity of food ensues, which lasts 100 years. Because of the lack of food, all beings become weak and slow, and finally perish entirely. Lord Vishnu then assumes the character of Rudra (a form of Lord Shiva), the destroyer, and descends to reunite all of His creatures within Himself. He enters into the seven rays of the sun, causing all moisture in the oceans, rivers, soil, and living bodies to evaporate. The whole earth is dried up. Thus fed with abundant moisture, the seven rays dilate into seven suns, whose radiance glows everywhere and sets the three planetary systems and the lower system of Patala on fire. The three planetary systems become rugged and deformed throughout their mountains, rivers, and seas as they are consumed by these suns. The earth alone remains, destitute of moisture, resembling the back of a turtle.
Then Lord Hari, in the form of Rudra, who is the fire of time, destroyer of all things, becomes the scorching breath of Ananta Sesha, Sankarshana, and reduces the lower planetary system of Patala to ashes. The great roaring fire makes its way up through the universe to earth and destroys it. A vast whirlpool of flame then spreads to the higher region of the demigods and puts them all to ruin. The three planetary systems appear like a frying pan surrounded by flames that consume all things. The inhabitants of the upper planetary systems then move higher to Maharloka, and when that becomes too hot, those who desire final liberation depart for the higher regions of Janaloka.
The Vayu Purana (38.188-195 & 39.51-55) further relates that it is those saintly mortals who are distinguished by piety and diligent worship of Lord Vishnu who are in Maharloka with elevated ancestors, Manus (lawgivers), the seven universal Rishis, and other celestial spirits. They leave Maharloka when the flames of destruction reach it and go to Janaloka. They leave in their subtle forms and determine to become reembodied when the world is renewed at the beginning of the next kalpa, or day of Brahma. This process of destruction and regeneration goes on until, at the end of Brahma's life, everything is destroyed and wrapped up into the body of Maha-Vishnu. But those who have attained Brahmaloka by understanding themselves as spiritual beings in relation to the Supreme are finally given freedom from any further cycles of birth and death.
The Vishnu Purana goes on to explain that Rudra, after consuming the universe, breaths forth heavy clouds that spread over the sky and roar with thunder and lightning. Some are black and others are white, yellow, deep blue, bright red, etc. They fill all space and shower torrents of rain that quench the dreadful fire that engulfs the three levels of planetary systems. It rains continuously, pouring down drops as large as dice upon earth and heaven. The universe, now filled with darkness, and all life having perished, is full of clouds that pour rain for more than another 100 years of the demigods.
The Vayu Purana (38.171-181) describes that over the course of one hundred years, the fires become quelled and the universe becomes filled with water. Mountains crumble and the earth sinks into the water. All beings and elements get dissolved into the water.
The Brahmanda Purana (22.214.171.124-173) continues to describe that from the fire that is destroyed by the showers, the clouds, arising from those fires, fill the entire universe with torrents of water currents. All land and spaces are swallowed up by the water. When everything becomes dissolved in that fearsome expanse of water, then it is understood that the kalpa has come to an end.
The Vishnu Purana goes on to explain that when the waters reach the region of the seven Rishis, and the whole universe is filled, the mighty clouds stop raining. The universal breath of Lord Vishnu then becomes a strong wind that blows throughout the universe for more than 100 years until all of the clouds are dispersed. Then the wind is reabsorbed into Lord Vishnu and then He, from whom all things are made, reposes on Ananta Sesha and enters a mystic slumber.
Now in the Kurma Purana (2.45.54-56), Lord Kurma (Vishnu) says He adopts Maya and enters the yogic slumber as the whole universe submerges into the water. During the period of His sleep the great sages that stay in Janaloka see Him with their mystic vision. The^gm Purana (368.12-15) further relates that when the water rises up to the region of the seven sages (the Great Bear constellation), from the breath of Lord Vishnu issues a hundred storms that disperse the clouds. Then after drinking the wind, Lord Hari lies down on the great ocean and rests in yogic sleep, yoganidra, for another kalpa period, contemplating His own form as Vasudeva. Then the universe lies in an unmanifest state in the Prakriti.
The Brahma Purana (125.2-10) also relates that the winds that blow for 100 years from Vishnu's exhalation destroy all of the clouds. Then Lord Hari (Vishnu) drinks up all the wind and lies on the bed of Sheshanaga in that vast expanse of water. He is praised and eulogized by the Siddhas that are residing on the Janaloka planetary system, and is meditated on by those seeking liberation who live on Brahmaloka. He then enters the yoganidra (yogic mystic slumber) and meditates on His own form. When this Soul of souls is awake, the universe is active. When He lies on the bed to sleep, the visible universe ceases to function and vanishes. When Vishnu, assuming the form of Brahma, awakes at the close of the night, the work of creation begins again.
The Brahmanda Purana (126.96.36.199-203) continues to explain that Lord Brahma, while lying down, stays in the waters in the darkness of night. When the night ends, Brahma wakes up with a desire to create. He then concentrates on the activity of creation. When the night becomes dawn, all living beings are again born of Brahma, including the sages, Manus, and Siddhas. The Vayu Purana (38.195-207) further elaborates that when the night ends and Brahma awakes, he has the desire to create. The rebirth of all living beings, after the dissolution, is called samsara. All living beings are born again from Brahma at the beginning of every kalpa in the same succession as before. All living beings start as new, having been absolved of all sins, karma, and all reactions during the dissolution.
In this way, the Vishnu Purana concludes, for the same length of time as Brahma's day is his night, during which the world is submerged in the vast ocean. When the universal spirit awakes, the world revives. Awakening at the end of his night, the unborn Lord Vishnu, in the form of Brahma [when no other living being is qualified to be Brahma], creates the universe anew. This is also stated in Srimad-Bhagavatam (3.11.23): "After the end of Brahma's night, the creation of the three worlds begins again in the daytime of Brahma, and they continue to exist through the life durations of 14 consecutive Manus, or fathers of mankind [equaling another 1000 cycles of the four yugas]." Thus, as stated in the Linga Purana (40.86-92), as a thousand cycles of the four yugas make one day of Brahma, or one kalpa, his night consists of the same. What happens in the basic pattern of fouryugas is repeated in the next four yugas, and the pattern of one kalpa is the same as the next. The difference or variations in the basic pattern of events in kalpas is limited to 25. Thus, the world goes through the continuous cycle of creation and annihilation for the duration of time known as the life of Brahma.