Just as the exact nature of the Golden Age that is supposed to come in the middle of the Kali yuga has been mentioned a couple of times in the blog and comments, someone posted a link to a five year old article on the subject that really muddles things up.
Before you go and check that link I must warn you that it’s an editorial on a website that dedicates itself to blaspheming sincere followers of Srila Prabhupada. It’s not as bad as prabhupadanugas, they just insist on reading only “original” versions of Prabhupada’s books, but in the process they discredit GBC, BBT, and ISKCON, and claim the sole right to represent Srila Prabhupada’s teachings and legacy.
Sampradaya Sun, they call themselves, without a shred of modesty.
So, be very very careful reading anything there, their attitude towards devotees is poisonous and might lead you to being trapped in the offensive stage forever. Actually, it’s a warning to myself, too.
Besides that, the article presents some very valuable research on the subject of “Golden Age” and so far it checks out.
In short – Srila Prabhupada never wrote or talked about it, just mentioned it in passing without giving any details or sources. Apparently he talked about it to his disciples in the early days of the movement but it wasn’t recorded and the source was misattributed to Padma Purana and Srimad Bhagavatam.
According to the article devotees, in Gaudiya Math don’t know much about it either and some even have different interpretations of what it is and when it started.
The only shastric source is Brahma Vaivarta Purana and there are two slightly different translations of the relevant passage, one is discussed in the article and the other one can be found here.
Variation is significant as there are several interpretations of the time line and they differ by thousands of years. One is often attributed to Srila Prabhupada and it starts Golden Age with the advent of Lord Chaitanya, the other points to the first ten thousand years of Kali Yuga. There’s another interpretation that starts this Golden Age with appearance of Srila Prabhupada himself.
There’s also a question about reliability of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana itself. Apparently the only surviving versions of it were printed by Brits two hundred of years ago and there are suspicions that they tweaked it to make Christianity a bit more appealing to Hindus. It was in the days when Rammohan Roy published completely bogus “scripture” of his own imagination to serve his political ideology – suggesting that publishing standards were not very high at that time.
Apparently, our earlier acharyas have never mentioned this prediction and never did Lord Chaitanya talk about disappearance of the Ganges, too.
All of this makes any talk about real nature of the Golden Age highly hypothetical. Usually, when talking about “golden age”, Srila Prabhupada mean Satya yuga and “golden” meant “pure”, meaning purity of the population, not the wealth or comforts. It is quite possible that if we were suddenly transferred to Satya yuga we would have found that civilization unappealing, much less golden. People might enjoy lives on the heavenly planets but Satya yuga was the time for ascetism and meditation, not for indulgence or extravagance that come with the idea of “gold” in our days.
It is also possible that “golden” here mainly means golden opportunity for spiritual advancement, as in “from those who He really favors, Krishna takes away everything” opportunities, ie devotees will be leading impoverished lives with their service as their only reward in life.
If that’s the price we need to pay to obtain this service, we should pay it without hesitation, but I also think that many of us wouldn’t qualify and we need some creature comforts, too.
It is quite possible that we are looking forward to this golden age with a view of some sense gratification, I know I am. When you think of it like that, it’s probably a good thing Krishna is not in a hurry to manifest this golden age in full, if He ever meant it like that.
As far as the time line goes – it has no practical relevance to our lives. Five thousand this way, five thousand that way – we are not going to live long enough to see any major changes in this world, we have our work cut out for us already whether this age comes or not or has been with us for thousands of years already. Our lifespans are simply too short to notice any major transitions.
Our business is quite simple and independent of that golden age – chant, read books, preach, and hope to remember Krishna at the time of death, and not waste time discussing hypothetical situations we can’t support with shastra or parampara.