Thursday, April 20, 2017

The signs of Kaliyuga and the 16 deadly dreams of Jainism

A tweet linked to by knowledge trove Hamsanandi led to a verse from the Bhagavata that mentions some of the symptoms of Kaliyuga, that wretched age at the end of the Hindu cycle of time where everything's amazing and nobody's happy. It mentions standard culprits that we would all surely recognise: packaging taking precedence over substance (remember Kamal Haasan packing some actual excrement in a neat gift box?), extraneous spiritualism, people without wealth/livelihood unable to get justice, sophistry ruling the day. Other end-of-times predictions in the Bhagavata include the rise of violence, atheism, untruthfulness, oppression, people marrying each other simply because they like each other and not because the marriage was horoscopically approved, superficiality  - all things bright and beautiful. This reminded me of a part of the Vaddaradhane - the story of Bhadrabahu Bhattara - that also mentions the signs of the end times. But first, king Samprati Chandragupta needs to have sixteen horrible dreams and run in panic to his teacher Bhadrabahu.

Bhadrabahu, a Jain monk, and his followers pursue a monastic routine of wandering around and setting up camp outside important towns and cities and being waited on by the rulers of those cities. During such perambulation, the entourage of monks stops outside Ujjain and the king, Samprati Chandragupta, goes to their encampment and takes their blessing. One day, Bhadrabahu goes begging alone, instead of with his retinue of monks, and chances upon an empty house in whose verandah was a cradle with a child in it. Not creeped out by a baby lounging about in a deserted dwelling, Bhadrabahu made bold to approach the cradle and the baby said (yes, said) "bOLaha bOLaha Bhattara" -- meaning something like "go away, go away, sage". In horror movie language, this is essentially seeing a baby's lips move, not being able to make out the words, edging closer to hear the infantile whispers better and, when your ears are almost touching the babe's lips, the baby suddenly screaming in an adult female voice "RUUUUUNNNN!!!! RUUUUUNNN, PRIEST, RUUUUUUNNNNN!!!!!" A lesser human than Bhadrabahu would have emptied his bowels promptly in obeisance to fear but not this man. He enquires the age of the baby and it replies "twelve years". He returns to his following and informs them that there would be a drought in this land that would last twelve years, and that they should promptly leave the land and travel to the south, Dakshinapatha. But ill omens hunt in pairs and the king of Ujjain, Samprati Chandragupta, had bad dreams that night. All the sixteen bad ones, according to the Vaddaradhane (there was nightmare rationing in ancient times):
The sun setting, the branches of the kalpavruksha breaking, a vimana that was heading towards the earth deciding to not land and instead going back up into the sky again, a twelve-headed snake, the moon breaking up into pieces, two immense elephants rushing towards each other to fight and then retreating, fireflies, a barren lake, a fast-spreading wildfire, a gorilla on a throne, a dog eating payasa on a golden plate, a gorilla mounted on an elephant, a lotus blooming in a heap of garbage, the sea overflowing its boundaries, white donkeys pulling a golden chariot, kings riding white donkeys.

Not all bad, right? I wouldn't mind seeing fireflies or a dessert-swilling dog in my nightmares. But Samprati Chandragupta panics and hastens to Bhadrabahu's abode and beseeches him to explain what these portents signify, which Bhadrabahu does. Some of these explanations are cool. The vimana almost landing and then noping the heck out signified that the gods and the learned would henceforth not come to Ujjain. The barren lake indicated that the central province (madhya desha) where the tirthankaras of yore had been born would no longer attain its past greatness. A gaaha related to this madhya desha explains its whereabouts. To its east lay Anga. to the south was Kosambi, to the west someplace called ooNa/ONa/maaNa while to the north lay Kunala. The jungle-swag of a gorilla mounted on an elephant was a metaphor for high-born royals falling from their lofty perches and serving those of lower origins. The payasa-eating dog meant that followers of false religions ('bearers of the wrong flags') would be worshipped by the kings. And so, after explaining all sixteen nightmares, Bhadrabahu proceeds to elucidate the characteristics of Emperor Endtimes himself - Kaliyuga maharaja swaroopam:

Daily practice of lying, expertise in the evil, hatred in the good, great respect for the bad.
Brusqueness in the sages, normal work even in emergencies, these are the regal traits of Kaliyuga Maharaja.

In this present day, that is Kaliyuga, good men are rare.
Innumerable gangs of thieves loot the earth. The noble dwindle in number.
The gods too are destroyed. The kings are in an unstable and wavering state, like camels.
Parents do not believe even their sons. It is a tough time indeed.

The earth is devoid of its essence. Herbs have lost their valuable potency. The low have ascended to greatness.
The rulers are solely interested in wealth. The priests, drowned in bad faith, are engaged entirely in misdeeds.
Husbands and wives are not bound at the heart by love. Parents hate their children.
Thus, in the face of such a terrible Kaliyuga, blessed are those who have escaped to live in the forests.

But for all that, as someone on the Internet remarked, when else in human history could you sit on your toilet and watch a video made by a vehicle landing on Mars?