Article: Cycles of time

Contributed by Nalini Balbir

The 'Ascending Phase'

The Sanskrit term for 'ascending phase' is utsarpiṇi. Also called the 'progressive half-cycle', it sees the gradual improvement of conditions over the six epochs. Life gradually gets better in terms of knowledge, lifespan, stature, pleasure, morality and spirituality. In this phase, the conditions begin at 'extremely unhappy' and are enhanced over the course of the eras until they end at 'extremely happy'.

Ascending cycle of time

English description

Sanskrit term

Duration

extremely unhappy

duṣamā-duṣamā

21,000 years

unhappy

duṣamā

21,000 years

more unhappy than happy

duṣamā-suṣamā

1 crore of crore of sāgaropama

more happy than unhappy

suṣamā-duṣamā

2 crore of crore of sāgaropama

happy

suṣamā

3 crore of crore of sāgaropama

extremely happy

suṣamā-suṣamā

4 crore of crore of sāgaropama

Each kalpa or cycle of time has two halves, each of six periods. One half-cycle is the 'ascending phase' – utsarpiṇi – while the other half is avarsarpiṇi or the 'descending phase'.

Liberation

This manuscript painting shows perfect beings that have been liberated from the cycle of birth and some of the ways of reaching liberation. The exalted status of the liberated souls in the crescent-shaped siddha-śilā is stressed by their ornate parasols.

Perfect beings and paths to liberation
Image by British Library © CC0 1.0 (Creative Commons Public Domain)

Liberation from the cycle of rebirth is only possible in the third and fourth epochs of each phase.

Liberation in these periods of each phase

English description

Sanskrit term

more unhappy than happy

duṣamā-suṣamā

more happy than unhappy

suṣamā-duṣamā

The current age is the fifth or unhappy stage – duṣamā – of a regressive cycle. It began soon after the death of Māhavīra, the 24th and final Jina of this era. Therefore human beings born in this stage cannot reach liberation.

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