Could the end of the world finally be upon us? New Age authors and conspiracy theorists would certainly have us believe so, determined not to be thwarted yet again. This time the apocalypse comes to us courtesy of a supposed ancient Mayan prophecy that the world will end on December 21st, 2012. And boy is it popular. A quick search on Amazon.com pulls up over a dozen books on the subject, all written within the last three years. Even Hollywood has jumped on the bandwagon: Roland Emmerich, who already had a blast thrashing the planet in Independence Day and the Day after Tomorrow, will destroy the world a third time in his upcoming movie “2012.”
So is it all just a cynical cash-in, or is there some truth to the theory? Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. in Crystal River, Florida, doesn’t think so. She explains that the Mayan’s “Long Count calendar” does end in 2012, but that it then simply resets back to year 1.
“For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle,” says Ms. Noble. “To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday is a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in.”
Of course, not all those who believe change will come in 2012 believe it will be bad. Some cite the year as a time for a “cosmic shift” or “change in consciousness.” Ms. Noble doesn’t give any credit to that one either, but interestingly, the ancient Vedic scriptures do.
In the Brahma-Vaivarta Purana, Lord Krishna tells Ganga Devi that a Golden Age will come in the Kali Yuga - our current age in a cycle of four described in Vedic scriptures, and one of spiritual darkness, violence and hypocrisy.
“On the earth 5,000 years of Kali will be sinful and sinners will deposit their sins in you by bathing,” the Lord tells the river Ganga. “Thereafter by the sight and touch of those who worship Me by My mantra, all those sins will be burnt. There will be chanting of the name of Hari and reading of the [Bhagavata] Purana. O Ganges, the whole planet will become a pilgrimage sight by the presence of Vaisnavas, even though it had been sinful.”
Krishna goes on to say, “For 10,000 years of Kali such devotees of Mine will fill the whole planet. After the departure of My devotees there will be only one varna [outcaste]. Devoid of My devotees, the earth will be shackled by Kali.”
Of course, we know that since the arrival of ISKCON’s founder Srila Prabhupada, devotees of Krishna have indeed filled the planet. But here’s the really amazing part – the Golden Age that Lord Krishna predicted and that Prabhupada mentioned on several occasions matches up almost perfectly with the Mayans’ calendar refresh.
Here’s how it works: according to records, the Mayan calendar began with the Fifth Great Cycle in 3114 BC. The ancient Vedic scripture Srimad-Bhagavatam (12.2.31) records Kali-yuga as having begun when the constellation of the seven sages passed through the lunar mansion of Magha, which Hindu astrologers have calculated to have happened on February 20, 3102 BC. That means there is only a difference of 12 years between the beginning of Kali Yuga and the beginning of the Mayan’s Fifth Great Cycle.
The Mayan’s Fifth Cycle ends, as we know, on 21 December 2012. And this date happens to be about 5270 lunar years, or 5113 solar years, after the beginning of Kali Yuga – just about the time that Krishna predicted the Golden Age would begin.
So does this mean that the New Age theorists are actually correct, and that despite the opinions of modern scholars, the Mayans really did predict a shift of consciousness? Maybe. If so, it’s an exciting prospect.
But what about the end of the world? Poet Allen Ginsberg, quite the New Age follower himself, asked Srila Prabhupada this very question during a conversation in 1969. It’s obvious from Prabhupada’s answer (Ginsberg’s response is humorous – he was obviously disappointed that the apocalypse wasn’t coming soon) that there are more important things in life:
Allen Ginsberg: So Kalki comes at the end of the Kali-yuga?
Prabhupada: Yes. Then Satya-yuga will begin.
Allen Ginsberg: Which is?
Prabhupada: Satya-yuga, the pious. Satya-yuga. People will be pious, truthful, long-living.
Allen Ginsberg: Are those people that remain or whatever new creation comes out of the destruction?
Prabhupada: Some of them will remain, some of them. It will not completely extinguish. Some of them will remain, pious. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam [Bhagavad-gita. 4.8]. All miscreants will be killed, and out of them, there must be some pious... They remain.
Allen Ginsberg: Do you think of this in terms of a historical event that will occur in the lifetime of your disciples?
Prabhupada: No. This will happen after at least 400,000 years, at least.
Allen Ginsberg: 400,000 years?
Prabhupada: Yes. So at that time my disciples will be with Krishna. (laughter)
So don’t worry – doomsday is a long time coming. In the meantime, we should do our best to focus on God, Krishna, and to have respect, love, and compassion for our fellow souls in this world. Then perhaps we will be a part of the Golden Age that Lord Krishna predicted, and that Prabhupada, his International Society for Krishna Consciousness, and other lovers of God have already begun.