(From the book Religion the New Age by Swami Kriyananda)
In these pages I aim to show how a spiritual mission, regardless of its name and tenets, can be made to relate to the whole world.
Paramhansa Yogananda prophesied that some day the purpose of all religions would be accepted as being one and the same: Self-realization. Included in that understanding would be a sense of the non-sectarian fellowship of all truth seekers. His own mission as he stated it was, above all, to teach “the original teachings of Jesus Christ, and the original yoga teachings of Krishna.” He stated that he had come, further, to unite all religions in an understanding of their higher purpose. His mission to show the underlying oneness of two great religions, particularly, may therefore be seen as symbolic also, being meant to demonstrate the underlying oneness of all religions, for humanity everywhere is seeking the same eventual fulfillment: bliss in God. Self-realization—the realization of God as the indwelling Self of all beings—is then, in the broadest sense, the true goal of all religions and the deepest desire in every human heart.
The great master, in his teachings, also drew to a focus countless truths that have been expressed diversely through the ages. He showed that the highest wisdom has always been the same essential truths, the first of which is that all men are rays of the one Divine Light, and the second, that man’s ultimate destiny is to merge back of his own free will into that Light.
For this reason, in my book Revelations of Christ, Proclaimed by Paramhansa Yogananda, I proposed that this highest truth be called “Sanaatan Dharma, the Eternal Religion,” for in all the universe this has to be the supreme truth: union with God as the final reality of all beings.
Yogananda presented a way of life that was unitive—one that would make spiritually relevant every aspect of human life: business and the art of self-support generally; marriage; education; the fine arts; self-expansion through service to others; and the supreme art of how to live happily in this world.
Finally, he proposed a life-style designed to enable people everywhere to incorporate their varied pursuits into a harmonious, God-centered existence. Through the years that he taught in the West, he urged his audiences to adopt this life-style by gathering together in what he called “world-brotherhood colonies.” I was blessed to be able to found the first Ananda World-Brotherhood community in 1968 on what are today some 1,000 acres near Nevada City, California. At present there are eight functioning examples of this ideal in various parts of the world.
The sheer breadth of the Master’s vision, and its practical relevance to the needs of our age, demonstrate that he was, in the fullest sense of the word, a World Teacher, and not the guru only of a particular group of disciples. In fact, he’d been sent to be the way-shower for a new age, and savior for the “many millions,” as he put it, who would tune into the divine ray he had brought. For mankind has arrived at the dawn of new awakening into a globally heightened spiritual awareness.
Swami Sri Yukteswar, the guru of Paramhansa Yogananda, stated in his book The Holy Science that the whole of mankind is now, scripturally speaking, in a new age. The earth itself entered this age in the year 1900 after an interim, or bridge (sandhya), of 200 years, during which time the new rays gradually grew in strength. The ancient teachings of India gave this age the name, Dwapara Yuga.
The first of four yugas, Kali (the dark) Yuga, was an age when most people perceived everything narrowly, both in material and in fixed terms. Men needed outer as well as inner forms. Outwardly, the more solid those forms the better; and inwardly they felt comfortable with carefully formulated dogmas and fixed ideas. Organizationally, they were comfortable with firm structures; they liked everything to be established and in its own place. They believed the universe to be geocentric, and God, to them, was a bearded old man seated “somewhere up there” on an eternal throne of judgment. The earth being conceived of as flat made it easier, of course, to visualize heaven as literally high up above them.
Dwapara Yuga is bringing greater fluidity to people’s consciousness. This is an age, above all, of energy-awareness. Many people, aware of some new awareness stirring within and around them, welcome it exuberantly as though it gave unbridled license to indulge to excess in everything they liked. In the fine arts (painting, sculpture, and music), traditional forms have been cast aside in favor of the grotesque, the trivial, and the blasphemous. In children’s education, certain experiments have brought more confusion than enlightenment. The same may be said of people’s understanding of morality, and in their social behavior.
Thus the term, “New Age,” is also viewed with anxiety by those who believe in the old traditions. In fact, what we are witnessing is a struggle between the old ways—ways that once seemed “carved in stone”—and a new, more flexible spirit that is struggling for clear self-expression.
This struggle between the old ways and the new, though still rather amorphous, is in evidence everywhere. We see it in religion also, in the struggle between those who adhere to the traditions of the past and those who reject all tradition as antiquated. To the religious traditionalist, the mere hint of a new age “sets his teeth agrinding.”
For Moslems, the cornerstone of whose religion is the saying, “There is no God but Allah and Mohammed is His prophet,” no other way is acceptable.
For Christians, time itself is measured from the year of Christ’s birth. Fundamentalists, especially, are convinced that the world is fast approaching the “end times” that were predicted by the Bible with the Second Coming of Christ. Among Moslems also, there are some who believe that something approximating those “end times” is approaching.
Naturally, a world view in which mankind, after centuries of relative darkness, is postulated as poised and ready to soar up into new realities is fiercely rejected by anyone who believes that the past two thousand years virtually defined the term, “Christian enlightenment.”
Much of the present antagonism on the part of orthodoxy toward the “new age” is due, I think, to the arrogance of some who have embraced it mainly for its novelty. For “new age,” as a concept, appeals especially to the young whose tendency in any case is to reject the old. Many scientists, too, have arrogated to themselves the role of “heralds of a new wisdom,” basing the claim not on any suggestion of being better human beings, themselves, nor on any but the thinnest hope that their discoveries will someday make anyone such a human being, but on the simple fact that a few scientists (the very few real pioneers) have discovered unexpected facts about the universe.
Writers since Einstein have had a hey-day with the theory that morality, far from being absolute (“all things being relative”), may even, with a little manipulation, be discarded altogether.
“Avant garde” artists of all kinds, again, having milked the “new age” concept for every ounce of its shock value, offer nothing to replace the rubble created by their iconoclasm, which still litters the countryside.
And self-styled trend-setters, finally, have no clear notion as to where, why, or how to direct people’s attention. They offer only trivia—or, worse still—blasphemy in place of the worthwhile and the meaningful. Indeed, I personally have reached the conclusion that anyone who follows the dictates of “style” shows himself to be without taste.
The public, quite naturally, finds itself bewildered. Nor is it surprising that many today gaze back for comfort to past traditions which, to them, are at least recognizable. The relativity of time which Einstein claimed, has not, after all, thrown any clocks out of kilter. Scientific discoveries have altered no fundamental human reality. Works of art may titillate or outrage a few people, but the meaninglessness they suggest neither inspires nor offers any hope of new insights. Indeed, the most that the dogma, “art for art’s sake,” will ever accomplish will be to inspire a certain smugness on the part of those who accept it, as they consider themselves favored with insights that are unavailable to the “canaille.”
What is most notable about the times we live in is that, in every field of endeavor, human perceptions are expanding and new windows opening onto the vastness and subtlety of the universe. The need is growing everywhere in human hearts to make sense of these insights. We cannot simply reject them. Nor can we merely embrace them, in the exuberant manner of adolescents, for their shock value. We must assess them and do our best to understand what their implications are for human life.
We must accept first, of course, the simple fact that these new waves of insight are, in fact, unprecedented. We must also transcend any fear we may harbor that eternal values are being threatened. Indeed, Truth cannot be a house divided. Self-proclaimed “wisdom,” moreover, that is rooted in neither Truth nor tradition, is almost always mere superstition.
In this essay I propose to explain at some length what Sri Yukteswar said and meant about the new age, and his reasons for claiming that we have entered it already. I will present facts that support his statement, and the he himself could not have presented back in 1894, when he wrote his book, for science had not yet made the discoveries that would justify his claims.
The first part of this paper will present the general basis for Sri Yukteswar’s predictions, and will explain at some length what is implied by the term, “new age.” The last part will focus more specifically on Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission in this age.
One of the results of the new energy that is now flooding our planet is that people are being challenged to assume more personal responsibility for their lives. In a sense, certainly, religious organizations may continue to obstruct the spread of true, inward religion. I shall also show, however, how religious organizations also can be beneficial and expansive, in the spirit of Dwapara Yuga, and how Paramhansa Yogananda himself set the tone for this new type of organization.
Are We Living in a New Age?
That we live in a new age seems an incontestable fact. Almost everything nowadays, especially since the beginning of the twentieth century, has proclaimed the newness of this age to be a fact.
In 1899 Charles Duell, the director of the U.S. Patent Office, is said to have written to President William McKinley recommending that the office be abolished. “Everything that can be invented,” he stated, “has been invented.” At that time, virtually every invention that we associate with modern civilization was either unknown or in such a rudimentary state of development as to seem, today, either comical or endearingly quaint. The world at that time had no paved highways, no speeding cars, no airplanes, and lacked a veritable host of other items that have become commonplace in our age: radio, television, voice recorders, refrigeration, washing machines, computers—to name only a few things that we today take entirely for granted.
The greatest change that has occurred has been in our perception of reality. This change began with the discovery, barely ten years after Sri Yukteswar published his book, that matter is actually composed only of vibrations of energy, a discovery that has forced the conclusion that energy is the reality behind everything we see around us. This reality underlies not only material things, but also institutions and ideas.
A number of people still claim that when the oil resources of our planet are eventually exhausted, we’ll find ourselves thrown back to medieval times. Those forecasters of gloom overlook something important. It would be impossible for man at this stage of his development to turn back, for the simple reason that the world has become not only energy-dependent, but energy-conscious. We today perceive everything in terms of energy.
It wasn’t the discovery of oil that gave us the modern age. It was an already-manifesting awareness that energy is a reality. Energy-consciousness, in the first place, was what led to the discovery of oil.
My father, an oil geologist, was posted by his company (ESSO) to Romania. He told me that oil was first discovered seeping out of the ground in that country—an oddity that had been occurring for centuries but that had long been considered nothing but a nuisance. When energy itself became recognized as a global need, oil was recognized as crucial to its development. Men like my father were sent to Romania and elsewhere to help develop those resources.
Whenever man is ready to take a new step in his advancement, that step will—indeed, must—appear to him as if “out of the blue.” Penicillin, a product of bread mold, was unheard of as a medicine until man was ready to discover its practical uses. Every new step in civilization’s advance may have developed from facts that had stared everyone in the face for centuries. It wasn’t so much the new discoveries which produced the change as the fact of man’s readiness for those discoveries. Once man was ready, the discoveries became not only possible, but inevitable.
The shock waves generated by the realization that matter is only a vibration of energy have led some physicists to suspect that energy, too, will prove in its turn to manifest even subtler realities. The eminent physicist Sir Arthur Eddington suggested that it be called “mind stuff.” Ancient Indian tradition gave it the much simpler name: consciousness.
A New Age? Traditionally, the chronology of civilizations has been reckoned from earthly events: from the birth of a great spiritual teacher; the death of Buddha; the emigration of Mohammed to Medina; the assorted reigns of kings and emperors. By any objective reckoning, however, the time through which we are now passing is so radically different from any previous one that it seems reasonable to define it frankly as a New Age. For new scientific insights are threatening to swell to the dimensions of an avalanche. In view of this fact, it seems pointless to try to reconcile present times with past history.
The old order began crumbling centuries ago, even before the increasingly powerful onslaughts of modern science. The first sledgehammer-blows, delivered in the West, were soon felt throughout the world. The new spirit of inquiry gave birth to the Italian Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, and almost simultaneously the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, and the consequent “shocking” revelation that the world is round.
The same spirit led to other discoveries, including the fact that high civilizations co-existed with our own, and that still others, at least as high, existed in ages past. Western civilization is, clearly, far from unique. Rather—so the people in other cultures may have thought—those “revolutionary Western barbarians” were shaking up everything. The major blows to tradition came, certainly, through the findings of Kepler, Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. They were followed by a swelling number of scientific pioneers, whose findings fundamentally changed man’s approach to reality. Indeed, for more than a century now, it has been almost a fad for thinking people to challenge the validity even of traditional morality.
Science has given us an entirely new way of looking at matter, at life—at everything! Whereas in the past it may have sufficed in the West, particularly, to reach conclusions by logic, the criterion for acceptance today is experience—which is to say, speaking scientifically, experiment. The German philosopher Georg Hegel stated, “All that is real is logical, and all that is logical is real.” On this premise virtually all of Western civilization rested.
What is one to make, indeed, of the discovery which resolved the long-standing debate as to whether light is a particle or a wave? The answer? It is both!
What, then, of even subtler, more abstract questions such as the existence of God? Back when logic ruled Western thinking, scholastic theologians actually stretched the unprovable to the point of absurdity by arguing logically the question, How many angels could stand together on the head of a pin? Modern science refused to consider such abstractions, dismissing them, not necessarily as absurd, but as imponderable. Interestingly enough, that decision led to serious consequences, eventually. Having avoided those issues for centuries, scientists ended up demoting them finally from irrelevance to non-existence. Their “solution” to the question about the existence of God was reached—however, and of course—by default, not by the vaunted scientific method.
The new approach to reality, based on demonstrated facts, has created an upheaval in people’s thinking, producing in many of them a profound sense of confusion. A story—no doubt apocryphal, but nevertheless suggestive of confusion as to what does and does not constitute proof—illustrates delightfully the ensuing bewilderment. A Hindu in the Indian city of Benares assured a American tourist, “With all the archaeological investigations that have been conducted in my country, not a single wire has been discovered.
“This,” he concluded triumphantly, “proves that in ancient India they had the wireless!”
Nevertheless, the new ways of thinking have come to stay. They need, therefore, to be understood. Nothing in the scientific approach to reality says man must limit himself to experimenting with material instruments—particularly now, when matter itself is known to consist only of vibrations of energy.
Formal religion—not the high spiritual teachings of Krishna, Buddha, and Jesus Christ, but the outward forms that clothe religion everywhere—no longer holds the same appeal for a growing number of people. There remains however, more insistent than ever, a deeply felt need to understand what life is all about, and a longing for that inner security which religion ought to bestow. What is lacking today is simply the perception of how to fulfill that need.
Old-fashioned ways of looking at life and expressing oneself no longer exert the same appeal for us, immersed as we are in the ebb and flow of rapid movement and instant communication. The old ways were more leisurely than nowadays. Yet, beneath their quaintly placid rhythms, old human realities were basically the same as today’s. The present hustle and impatience are merely garments covering a human nature which is basically the same everywhere, even if people today no longer display courtly manners or conscious elegance in their speech. Thus, there remains a need to understand motivations which people often hide, even from themselves.
Is mankind, as many aver, sinking rapidly into chaos? Or is this age simply more challenging in the demand it makes of mankind to live with more energy? If this truly is a new age, fresh ways of thinking must be sought for whatever deeper insights they may provide into reality.
What faces us today is much more than a revolutionary perception of the universe. It is, potentially, a deeper perception of divine truth itself. The change in thinking which mankind is undergoing is not limited, moreover, to any nation or culture: it is world-wide.
To begin with, it seems reasonable to say that, whether we like it or not, the times we live in are indeed different—radically so—from any within known historic times. Consider only these few examples:
In literature, notice the greatly shortened sentences in the writing of our day. Reviews of a Jane Austen novel of the early 1800s praise her style, yet today no one, surely, could write that way even if he wanted to. It is more than the fact that we no longer use quill pens, or even typewriters. Computers have now enabled us to set down on paper our most fleeting thoughts, with full knowledge that we’ll find it easy to correct and polish as we go. We don’t even need, if we find one mistake on a page, to type out the whole page laboriously. A simple change, and our electric printers give us the new page in five seconds or less. Even our thoughts race ahead of us at a speed that might have been unnatural in Austen’s day.
In the composition of music, computers have made it possible to write quickly and legibly, while remaining in the natural flow of sounds that are being produced. Music synthesizers, too, have obviated the need to learn many instruments; they have thereby opened the field for composers to remain in the actual flow of the inspiration as they receive it.
The same may be said of countless other fields of endeavor. In business it is now possible to conclude trans-oceanic agreements with a single telephone call. Gone is the need to write long letters, then wait long months for a reply. On the other hand, if a face-to-face confrontation is required, one can hop on a plane and reach one’s destination in a few hours—or, if physical contact isn’t necessary, several other methods are available: e-mail, or direct communication by video phone. So far-reaching in their impact are these changes that one no longer needs to affirm that this is a new age. The facts stare us in the face virtually from the moment we wake up every morning.
Is there, then, some explanation for these revolutionary changes?
Interestingly, one was published more than a century ago, in 1894, before any shift toward energy-awareness was even suspected, and five years before the director of the U.S. Patent Office is said to have written the President recommending that his Office be abolished. In a sense, indeed, that recommendation was valid, for everything that could be squeezed out of the old ways of doing things had been manifested already. Virtually every invention that has been made since then has been powered by energy. The old ways were formally buried in the year 1900 with the beginning of the new age. The task of mankind today is to understand better and better the implications of this new energy-consciousness.
The Ages of Civilization
As I said earlier, Swami Sri Yukteswar, a man with exceptional credentials as both scholar and sage of deep wisdom, wrote a book toward the end of the nineteenth century titled The Holy Science. In his book Sri Yukteswar stated that, according to the ancient system of chronology that was once followed in India, our earth recently entered a new age called Dwapara Yuga, which was defined by a heightened consciousness of energy as the underlying reality of matter.
His book described that chronology, and showed that it was based not on earthly events, but on astronomical facts. Sri Yukteswar’s book corrected subsequent mistakes that had entered into the ancient system, which he said had crept in during the time the earth passed through the darkest age, called Kali Yuga, which also darkened man’s understanding.
There is obviously some sense in basing a system of chronology on astronomical facts, provided one can really do so. One wonders, however, how a periodic decrease and increase of mental clarity can be attributed to such phenomena, as Sri Yukteswar claimed. At first glance, the idea seems a pipe dream! One convincing factor would be whether, in defiance of all expectations, the testimony of history substantiated that ancient belief. Otherwise how, in the name of sanity itself, could an idea so wild as to challenge the wildest fantasies of science fiction even possibly be justified?
The materialistic sciences insist on several premises:
- a) that God doesn’t exist;
- b) that we have no souls;
- c) that there is no life after death;
- d) that consciousness itself is only a product of brain activity; and
- e) that computers, or some other complex invention, will someday be capable of creating self-conscious, artificial intelligence.
These formidable claims are made, or at least endorsed, by many of the leading, highly intelligent scientists of our day. Their conviction has been growing, moreover, during recent centuries, to the point of becoming a virtually fixed dogma.
Some years ago I read that a prominent professor of psychology made it a practice to tell his students at the start of every year: “I must ask those of my students who believe they possess a soul please to park it outside the classroom before entering.”
Cracks, however, have begun to appear in the solid-seeming façade of traditional science. Physics, long at the forefront of scientific materialism, has recently been branching out to lines of inquiry that include the possibility of consciousness itself being the bedrock of reality, and not merely the mechanical product of a sophisticated network of nerves in the brain.
Indeed, if complex electronic mechanisms alone could produce consciousness, how is one to explain the obviously conscious earthworm? That simplest among all simple visible creatures is, indeed, sufficiently self-conscious to wriggle away from any perceived threat, such as the prick of a pin.
The evidence mounts all around us, indeed, that consciousness itself—and, still more unbelievably, self-consciousness—is the basic reality underlying the universe itself. Such, amazingly, was the claim made in ancient India, where it was stated that the universe is only a dream in the consciousness of the Creator. Modern physicists are coming more and more to suspect that, as Sir Arthur Eddington put it, “The material [here, I paraphrase] of which the universe is made begins to look suspiciously like mind stuff.”
Indeed, common human experience, too, has always inclined toward this suspicion—as, for example, in the oft-heard exclamation, “Am I awake, or am I dreaming?” Does not everyone experience a certain sneaking doubt sometimes that the solid-seeming reality of daily existence is only a figment of his imagination?
The alternatives before us are absolute: Either nothing is conscious, or everything is conscious or in some way manifests consciousness. If nothing is conscious, why then the question? Can it be asked unconsciously? That would be an unconscionable postulate! On the other hand, if everything is conscious, that must mean that even the rocks possess, to however slight a degree, some awareness.
Since it takes consciousness even to address the question, we may safely select the second of our alternatives as the correct one. Much, moreover, from ancient wisdom supports this conclusion. Based on this conclusion, it must moreover be pointed out that religion itself, armed with this insight, will have to be approached in a new light. More of this later, however. Meanwhile, is it not at least conceivable, from our conclusion, that there may be vast, and vastly diverse, currents of energy flowing in the universe? This cosmic possibility takes us far indeed from the narrow view championed by modern science, which still hopes to pry out every mystery of the universe with the heavy crowbar of its materialism.
Ancient India—in common, in fact, with other ancient civilizations—taught that the earth, in its movement through space, is submitted to a succession of stronger and weaker influences, which affect the consciousness of its inhabitants. It should be obvious enough that strong mental energy does make for brighter intelligence and understanding, whereas weak energy accompanies weaker intelligence. In any work that I myself have done, I’ve always noticed that my output was greatly influenced by the amount of energy I could raise to the brain. If I was sleepy or mentally dull, I more or less had to postpone my labors. The present age of increasing energy-consciousness, though seeming also to have greatly increased the speed of everything, seems to be accompanied by something much more: not only the haste, impatience, and superficiality of our times, but also its creative output.
To return to those old traditions: Ancient India—and indeed also, as I stated before, many ancient countries and civilizations—taught that the earth passes in cyclic succession through ascending and descending ages, with an alternately increasing and decreasing intensity of human awareness. Western scholars understandably make short shrift of those traditions. But then, it must be considered also that we are in an ascending age, and have just come out of a time of relative darkness, from which we must draw on whatever glimmer of understanding has survived to us.
Sri Yukteswar gave to the theme I’ve presented, however, surprisingly scientific support. It is, moreover, interesting to consider that India’s was (again, as I’ve stated already) by no means the only civilization of ancient times that had this or very similar traditions. Indeed, a careful study of this subject shows that this tradition was, in one form or another, virtually worldwide.
What India claimed was that the earth passes through four ages, advancing and declining: Satya Yuga (also called Krita Yuga), the spiritual age; Treta Yuga, the mental age; Dwapara Yuga, the age of energy; and Kali Yuga, the dark age. Kali Yuga was believed in that ancient tradition to be a time of general spiritual ignorance, when mankind as a whole is confined in matter-consciousness. Kali Yuga, according to Sri Yukteswar, is the age out of which mankind, in its upward ascent, has only recently emerged.
Other very ancient civilizations gave different names to the same four ages. The Egyptians called them the ages of gods, demi-gods, heroes, and men. The Greeks named them the golden, silver, bronze, and iron ages. This is not the place to enumerate all those old traditions, but it is interesting to note that all of them believed that mankind, in historic times, had descended into the lowest age.
People nowadays, when they hear of those old traditions, dismiss them with a condescending smile as mythological, and comment perhaps cynically on the claim that we are now in the darkest age. One can imagine someone in Brooklyn saying, “So what else is noo?” In India, too, it is believed—of course!—that we still live in the lowest age. What better (concludes the modern skeptic) could those primitive historians have bequeathed us?
Sri Yukteswar, on the other hand, announced (as I said earlier) that the world actually quite recently, in 1900, left the dark age, or Kali Yuga, after passing through a 200-year “bridge,” or “sandhya,” and entered the second, higher age of Dwapara Yuga. The age we are now in is predicted to last a total of 2,400 years. After Dwapara (which is comparable to the bronze age of the Greeks, and to the heroic age of the Egyptians) will come Treta, the silver age or age of “demi-gods,” for a total of 3,600 years. Finally, we’ll come to Satya Yuga, the golden age, named also “the age of the gods.” Satya Yuga, the last ascending age, will have a duration of 4,800 years before the earth commences its downward swing again.
Of immediate interest to us nowadays is the fact that Sri Yukteswar described Dwapara Yuga as an age of energy. In the ancient Egyptian tradition, too, the next higher age is an age of heroes, a description which suggests energy also. And the Greek tradition of a bronze age suggests copper, of which bronze is an alloy. Copper, as we know, is the element used for transmitting electricity.
Interestingly, certain ancient artifacts and bas relief sculptures, discovered in various parts of the world, suggest that ancient man may actually have known and used electricity. There is, for example, the wet cell battery that was discovered in the Baghdad museum by the German engineer and archaeologist, Wilhelm König. That relic supposedly dates back to 248 BC. There are bas reliefs, again, in the ancient Egyptian temple of Dendera, which depict what look very much like electrodes and plasma discharge tubes.
In India, the presently accepted tradition (which has filtered down to us through an age of darkness) is that we are still in Kali Yuga. According to that currently conventional reading of the texts—a reading disproved with cool logic by Sri Yukteswar—mankind is, relatively speaking, not much beyond the beginning of Kali Yuga and is destined to sink ever more deeply into the mire of ignorance and moral degradation which this age produces. The prospect is worse than gloomy. Things will continue, according to that interpretation, to worsen for another 427,000 years, at which point, some believe, the world will be annihilated. (Others believe that Satya Yuga, the spiritual age, will reappear once more in its full glory at the end of Kali Yuga, to re-initiate the downward descent from “edenic” idyll to Satanic darkness.)
In contrast to those dour forecasts, Sri Yukteswar sounded a very different and much more cheerful note. He found a serious flaw that, several centuries earlier, had crept into the reckoning regarding the very ancient Yuga system. The flaw itself, he said, was a product of Kali Yuga ignorance.
The true duration of Kali Yuga, and of each of the other ages, is, Sri Yukteswar proclaimed, much briefer than those impossibly long time spans allotted by present convention. Instead of a 432,000-year total for Kali Yuga, the dark age lasts, as I said, only 1,200 years. In the year 1600 AD, the earth began to emerge from Kali Yuga into a one-hundred year “bridge,” or sandhya, completing its emergence in the year 1700 AD.
As the night stars pale before the slow approach of dawn, so the final century of Kali Yuga saw the weakening of its rays before the approach of Dwapara Yuga, the age of energy. In 1700 AD, the earth experienced the first pink clouds, so to speak, of Dwapara Yuga. Another two hundred years were required for these new rays to increase in strength to the point where Dwapara Yuga flooded the earth.
In 1900 AD, what we might call the full sun of Dwapara Yuga rose above the horizon. The age of energy had dawned.
What makes Sri Yukteswar’s analysis so utterly fascinating is that it corresponds amazingly with the objective facts, including more recent discoveries of science that were unknown at the time he wrote his book.
At the time of his writing, science had yet to learn that matter is a vibration of energy. Even more astonishingly, Sri Yukteswar’s description of the universe—since then scientifically verified in numerous details—was completely unknown to the astronomers of his time.
He stated that the galaxy is energized from its center—what he called its “grand center”—or, citing the ancient texts, the Vishnunabhi or “seat of the creative power, Brahma, the universal magnetism.” Sri Yukteswar described the solar system’s movement within the galaxy at a time when no one had any idea that it moved at all. He described the energizing effect from that “grand center” on the solar system as we approach closer. It follows that the effect, as we move away again from that center, must grow weaker.
His book, The Holy Science, was written and published near the end of the nineteenth century. It was some ninety years later that astronomers finally discovered a gigantic outpouring of energy from our galactic center, as also from the centers of other galaxies. Today, the debate still rages over what this massive source of energy may signify. Science, of course, can only measure, and is therefore at present aware only of solid-seeming realities, and of the grosser kinds of energy. Spiritual energy is beyond the reach of instruments.
At the time Sri Yukteswar wrote, scientists already knew something of the stellar movements. They had no idea, however, that these movements occur independently of our sun. They believed still, in fact, that all the stars revolve about our sun, which the astronomers considered the largest body in space. They had no notion that our own star system is only one of many such systems, which have been defined since then as galaxies. The truth hadn’t yet occurred to them that the Milky Way is simply our own galaxy seen edgewise from our position near the edge of it. They had no idea of the vast distances that exist between the stars. Most astonishing of all to us today was their belief that the sun was at the center of the universe—and of a relatively small universe at that. Even today, astronomers are skeptical of the possibility that there may be life on planets elsewhere in space, though that skepticism itself is on the wane.
It was only in 1918 that the American astronomer Harlow Shapley found that the sun is only the center of our solar system. And it was not until after 1924, when Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the so-called nebula in Andromeda is in fact another galaxy, that the truth began to dawn on astronomers that the Milky Way must be a galaxy also.
When I was a schoolboy in England during the mid-1930s, I joined a few friends in founding an astronomy club. It was wonderful for us to contemplate the recent finding that there were two, and perhaps even three(!) other galaxies besides our own in the universe. Today, barely a half-century later, over 100 billion galaxies are known to exist, and one can’t help suspecting that astronomers have simply stopped counting.
Sri Yukteswar explained that, as the sun moves in an orbit of its own within the galaxy, it approaches closer to, then recedes from, the galactic “grand center.” During its approach, powerful rays of energy, emanating from that “grand center,” energize the solar system and thereby energize human consciousness also, enabling humanity in general to comprehend on an ever more subtle level the workings of the universe. As the sun and its solar system recede from that “grand center,” the general awareness of mankind will grow progressively dimmer and less able to comprehend the universal laws, until matter will finally assume, for mankind, the nature of an absolute reality in itself, solid and immutable.
Energy is what stimulates consciousness. Hence the correlation between mental energy and genius. High mental energy is a universal sign of high intelligence. The opposite is true also: Low mental energy is the infallible accompaniment of stupidity.
During Satya Yuga, humanity as a whole can perceive all creation as composed of “mind stuff,” even as Sir Arthur Eddington suspected. When that golden age comes, the majority of mankind will realize that the universe is simply a projection of the Divine Consciousness.
By contrast, the human race as a whole, during Kali Yuga, is incapable of perceiving matter except as the senses reveal it. People, if they consider the point at all, are forced either to attribute consciousness to material causes or to view it as being wholly separate from and quite unrelated to matter. God, in the dark age, can only be considered, as theologians even now describe Him, to be “wholly other.”
Sri Yukteswar’s amazing insights, partly but not wholly drawn from his study of the ancient texts, revealed universal realities that, at that time, were not known even to advanced scientists. His knowledge is impressive enough in itself to command a respectful hearing. It must be conceded, however, that certain aspects of his explanation have yet to be scientifically verified.
He claimed, for example—again, on the basis of those ancient texts—that the sun, in addition to its known revolution around the galaxy (astronomers calculate one of these revolutions at approximately two hundred million years), moves in a secondary revolution within the galaxy around its own stellar dual. This dual has yet to be discovered. It is interesting to note, however, that astronomers are in fact becoming more and more intrigued by the possibility that such a dual exists.
Several years ago, articles appeared in newspapers in America and abroad quoting the suggestion of a number of astronomers that there may actually be a sister star to our own sun. Such a dual, they stated, would explain certain eccentricities in the movements of the outer planets of our solar system. It is well known of course that many stars do have duals. If a sister to our sun were discovered, it would probably turn out, the astronomers stated, to be what is called a “dark” star.
Sri Yukteswar claimed also that the time span for each orbital revolution of the sun around its dual is 24,000 years. He explained that this revolution coincides with one complete precession of the equinox—from 0 degrees Aries backwards through Pisces, Aquarius, and so on, ultimately returning to 0 degrees Aries again.
Since the precession of the equinox is an unfamiliar phenomenon to most people, let me explain it here briefly.
The sun, the moon, and the solar planets appear to us to be circling the earth. Of course, only the moon really does so, but to the human eye they all appear to move around us—and it is appearances which concern us here. Behind those moving planets, as a sort of backdrop to them, are the constellations, or signs, of the zodiac. Each constellation consists of a configuration of distant stars which, in aggregate, have been long believed to emanate certain psychic influences. Modern astronomy accepts these constellations as mere conveniences; it doesn’t believe in cosmic influences. The constellations are, however, a long-established and traditional way of dividing up the heavens.
While there are many constellations, those which form the zodiac before which the sun, moon, and planets of our solar system appear to move are only twelve in number.
The moment when the sun crosses the equator, moving from the southern to the northern hemisphere, marks the beginning of spring. This “vernal point” occurs on or about March 21st of each year. The degree in a sign, or constellation, over which the sun happens to be passing at that moment alters slightly with each year, as the true vernal point moves backwards a fraction of a degree. Present ephemerides, which show the positions of these bodies, always show the vernal point as 0 degrees Aries. That is to say, the vernal point is supposed to occur at the beginning of the constellation Aries. In fact, however, that position is only a convenient fiction. Every year, for the past fifteen hundred years or so, the vernal point has been moving fractionally backward through Pisces, which is the sign immediately before Aries. In another 300 years, roughly speaking, it will reach 0 degrees Pisces, upon which it will begin its movement back through the sign of Aquarius. This is why people often refer to the present time as the Age of Aquarius, though they have “jumped the gun,” since the sun has yet to reach that point on the vernal equinox.
Astronomers claim that the equinoctial precession requires about 25,800 years to complete its revolution around the zodiac. Their explanation of the precession is based on the Earth’s slight wobble on its axis. Sri Yukteswar connected the precession to the sun’s movement around its dual. No one so far has made a serious attempt to compare these divergent phenomena, partly because the very movement of the sun around a dual still remains to be proved. Perhaps the discrepancy between the astronomers’ 25,800 years and Sri Yukteswar’s 24,000 is due to variations in the speed of precession. Or perhaps these explanations simply describe two parallel, but distinct, phenomena. In any case, 24,000 years was the figure Sri Yukteswar gave, basing his conclusions on that ancient tradition.
It must be admitted that, taken all together, Sri Yukteswar’s explanation reveals a level of information so far in advance of anything even dreamed of by scientists until very recently that it deserves serious consideration. Certainly it would be churlish at this point, and on the basis of many still-unresolved questions, to dismiss as “mythological” everything the ancient texts proclaimed. To do so would resemble a modern accountant sneering at the abacus—not because the abacus is slower or less accurate than our modern adding machine (the abacus has been shown, in the hands of experts, to be quite as fast and every bit as accurate), but simply because the abacus is “old fashioned.”
Sri Yukteswar stated that the solar system, in its orbit around our solar dual, is presently moving toward the “grand center” of our galaxy. Here, again, the extent of his knowledge is nothing less than astounding.
Astronomers, even after their discovery that the Milky Way is, itself, only one galaxy, had until quite recently no idea where the center of this galaxy is located, nor in what direction, relative to that center, our own sun is moving. Only well into the twentieth century was it discovered that the center of the galaxy lies in the constellation Sagittarius, and that the movement of our solar system is in the direction of a constellation about 50 degrees from Sagittarius, named Hercules. Needless to say, on an elliptical orbit we would not be making a beeline for the galactic center. Hercules fits in very well with the concept of an elliptical movement generally directed toward Sagittarius.
Once again, Sri Yukteswar’s explanation has proved uncannily accurate.
He explained that the great ages through which the earth passes coincide with the movement of our solar system toward, and then away from, the “grand center” of our galaxy. This explanation challenged not only the prevailing scientific opinion of his day, but also the prevailing convention in India where, according to one tradition, Kali Yuga, after another 427,000 years, will end with the sudden reappearance of Satya Yuga. (another tradition holds that our world will, at that point, be destroyed.) Sri Yukteswar’s explanation of gradual change from high to low ages, revolving in a never-ending cycle, is more reasonable than the conventional one of unilateral descent. Indeed, the conventional explanation has no logical backing whatsoever. What reason can be given, indeed, for the supposedly abrupt change from Kali Yuga’s stygian darkness to Satya Yuga’s shining enlightenment? As for the claim that, at the end of Kali Yuga, the world will be destroyed, this claim rests shakily on another ancient tradition that a planet is destroyed for only one of two reasons: that its inhabitants become either all good, or all bad. No tradition, however, claims the cycle of Yugas will end so soon.
Nature itself, moreover, supports the concept of cyclic reversion. From what we can observe of Nature’s workings, its movements are always cyclic. Day fades through twilight to darkness; night’s darkness returns to the light of day, but not abruptly. Rather, it returns through a graying dawn. The weather warms slowly from mid-winter with its icy winds and snows, through the pale greening of spring, to the heat and warm hues of summer; it then cools through the season of autumn’s falling leaves to the freezing ice and snows of winter again.
The moon, too, waxes, wanes, then waxes full again in endlessly repeating cycles. And life itself appears on earth, stumbling and helpless at first, then gradually assuming the full power of maturity until, having reached its peak, it fades to old age, and then dies—to be born ever newly again in endless cyclic repetition. Even the sunspots are cyclic, with their eleven-year periods of maximum and minimum activity.
Similar examples might be cited endlessly: the rise and fall of civilizations; the orbiting of planets and comets around the sun; the emotional ups and downs of sentient creatures. Contrary to the limited mind-set of Kali Yuga, no natural development is ever really linear. In some cases, of course, it may appear so—for example, when a surface is so broad it cannot be encompassed from ground level. Mankind during Kali Yuga believed that the earth is flat; it was only toward the end of ascending Kali Yuga that Christopher Columbus proved it, in fact, to be round. Interestingly, it was at approximately the same point during Kali Yuga’s descending arc that knowledge of the earth’s roundness appears to have been lost.
Euclidian geometry, with its straight lines and flat planes, was for centuries considered the last word for measuring reality. By contrast, scientists today claim that the universe is ruled more by spherical geometry than by Euclidian geometry. It is the spherical form, indeed, which dominates in Nature.
Even the most advanced discoveries of modern science may turn out to be old stuff, well known to humanity long ago. Evidence is being unearthed constantly that ancient civilizations, some of them as advanced as our own (and others perhaps more advanced), existed in the past. A growing body of evidence indicates that atomic power may have been known in ages past;[*] that the early Egyptians, Indians, and other ancient peoples had flying machines; that mankind may actually have traveled to other planets; and that ancient peoples were capable of projecting images to great distances, even as we do today with television.
All this material comprises a body of evidence too startlingly different from presently accepted assumptions, and still insufficiently abundant, to demolish the model that archaeologists have, for more than two hundred years, been creating painstakingly of the past. Though this material must still be labeled “fringe data,” its sheer volume is gradually growing to a volume that is becoming embarrassing to orthodox thought. It is drawing into its sphere of influence, moreover, a swelling list of respected researchers.
Sri Yukteswar stated that, after 1,200 years of descending Kali Yuga, the earth, in 500 AD, reached the point farthest from the galactic center. (To be exact, he placed that date at 499 AD. He himself, however, rounded out this figure to 500 AD so as to make it easier for people to match the ancient system with the one widely in use today. The discrepancy of a single year didn’t strike him as significant.)
In 500 AD, then, mankind reached its lowest point of intellectual, moral, and spiritual decline. 500 AD was followed by another 1,200 years of ascending Kali Yuga, which brought humanity to 1700 AD and the beginning of Dwapara Yuga. A one-hundred year transition period, from 1,600 AD, covered our emergence from Kali Yuga proper. Another two-hundred-year transition period, into Dwapara Yuga proper, brought mankind fully, in the year 1900 AD, into the present age of energy. The twentieth century saw finally the true beginning of Dwapara Yuga proper.
Thus, today we stand at the early part of what is, in fact, a new age. This age of Dwapara will endure in all (including the 200-years transition periods into and out of it) for 2,400 years. Fortunately, the higher ages grow progressively longer. While Kali Yuga lasts only 1,200 years (including its transition periods), Dwapara Yuga, the age of energy, lasts 2,400 years; Treta Yuga, the mental age, lasts 3,600 years (with two 300-years transition periods); and Satya Yuga, the spiritual age, lasts 4,800 years (with two 400-years transition periods). These 12,000 years, in all, form the ascending arc of the cycle.
At the highest point of Satya Yuga, the process is reversed. The earth then passes, in descending order, through another 4,800 years of Satya Yuga; 3,600 years of Treta Yuga; 2,400 years of Dwapara Yuga, and 1,200 years of Kali Yuga.
Such, then, is the ancient system. We are at present, according to Sri Yukteswar, in a new age based not on any earthly event or important earth life, but, quite impersonally, on the sun’s movement within the galaxy.
He suggested that the human race recognize this fact of a new age by instituting once again the universal chronology. What, indeed, could be more appropriate? To give the year we presently know as 2000 AD the name, Dwapara 300, would be an affirmation that we really are in a new phase of history, and that the time has come for mankind to try to understand both earthly events and universal realities in subtler relation to human affairs.
The present year, then, is not 2008 AD. Following the chronology proposed by Sri Yukteswar, it is 308 Dwapara.
What Is Happening to Our Planet?
Few people, even those most sternly resistant to the thought of this being a new age, will deny that we live in critical times. One has but to listen to popular music to feel its ever-quickening pulse.
It is revealing to trace the recent development of this music, from the stately minuet of the eighteenth century through the more exuberant rhythms of the waltz (“shockingly sensuous” people considered it when it first appeared), to the nervous excitement of the jazz age, followed by the heavy self-affirmation of the ’forties and the era of the big bands. Then came the era of “rock ’n’ roll,” with sounds expressive of increasing violence, anguish, and outrage. The process has continued, toward increasing violence and cynicism. These 200 years (and more) of development demonstrate what sweeping changes have taken place in public attitudes. Popular music says it perhaps better than any other medium. It declares boldly that we are living during a time of tension, of inner and outer conflict, and of nearly apocalyptic fear. Small wonder that religious fundamentalists look on these as the “end times” which, according to them, were predicted in the Bible, and they see nothing good to be hoped for from this new age.
It takes time for sweeping changes to take place. It takes time for them even to be noticed. Once they are noticed, they commonly evoke a variety of reactions, both positive and negative, which confuse the issues and delay the arrival of clear understanding. Indeed, change never comes quickly or easily.
Let us then step outside the present, and view the changes we are contemplating as historic events. We’ll pretend for now that we are already living in the future—in, let us say, the twenty-third century AD, or, to be thoroughly futuristic, in the sixth century of Dwapara.
Kali Yuga was (as history tells us) a time when human consciousness was hemmed in by the conviction that matter is, so to speak, concrete and absolute. People were committed to that conviction, and could not easily understand things in fluid terms.
In religion, a truth was acceptable only if it could be clothed in firm dogmas. The universe, even to the scientists in those times, appeared like a giant mechanism. The divine realms, if accepted, were visualized as static, not dynamic—like crystal images frozen in eternity, with the Lord seated on His throne in eternal judgment.
In society, too, things and people were assigned to their proper places. People had their own defined positions, and were in turn defined by those positions. A king was a king and not a normal human being acting out a regal role. A peasant was a peasant, and if anyone ever thought of him purely in human terms (which, in general, was not done), he definitely belonged, at least in the minds of his social betters, to a lower order of humanity. Even as recently as a few years ago, a friend of mine in Naples, Italy, remarked about someone who owned a restaurant, expostulating, “But I knew him when he was only a waiter!”
Gradually, in time, the fogs of Kali Yuga lifted. Old forms began to lose their former definitions, as the stars do with the approach of dawn. Dwapara’s influence began filtering down into the world and into human consciousness. Soon, a few precocious spirits began to make startling discoveries. They learned that the earth is not flat, as everyone believed, but round. Copernicus, in the early sixteenth century, proposed that the sun, not the earth, is the center of the universe. Copernicus was later supported in his theory by Galileo, Kepler, and Newton. Copernicus, however, created the first storm of protest in orthodox (and particularly in church) circles, where it seemed the very foundations of religious truth were being threatened.
The seventeenth century saw the end of the night of Kali Yuga. Fixed notions regarding the natural order, based on the syllogisms of logic, lost their grip on humanity and got swept away on tides of a more realistic, scientific outlook. Dogmatic assertions gave way to the desire for personal experience as the only valid guide to truth. The ramparts of many established assumptions were breached, year after year, by the steady cannonades of new discoveries.
The high walls of habit, however, which for so long had enclosed people’s thoughts protectively, thereby excluding broader views of reality, were not so easy to demolish, even after they’d been breached. In the seventeen and eighteen hundreds—the period which Swami Sri Yukteswar described as the sandhya, or transition period, into Dwapara Yuga proper—there lingered a tendency to look upon new theories and discoveries with suspicion, even with hostility. That resistance still awaits its final dissolution under the full rays of Dwapara. Indeed, what could be more natural? Resistance was evident even in scientific circles.
William Thompson Kelvin, the nineteenth century British mathematician and physicist, could never accept Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory of light, for the reason (he said) that he couldn’t make a mechanical model of such a universe.
Kali Yuga only slowly relinquished its hold on people’s consciousness. Fresh, Dwapara Yuga energy was employed to reinforce old and still-lingering Kali Yuga attitudes. People took the increasing energy they felt within them, and directed it outward toward plundering our planet’s riches, rather than toward working with Nature in reciprocal harmony.
Meanwhile, the more sensitive spirits of the nineteenth century—artists, poets, and composers, for example—decried the ascendancy of materialism and dreamed nostalgically of what they visualized as simpler, more natural times. Hans Christian Andersen, mocking the absurdity of this romantic dream, wrote a tale about a man who found himself transported back from the nineteenth century to the Middle Ages. Andersen described the poor fellow’s disillusionment on finding nothing but muddy, dark streets, grinding poverty, and countless material inconveniences. His story made its point very well, for when one is without all material conveniences and labor-saving devices, and has no respite from dawn-to-dusk material bondage, he is plunged more deeply into matter-consciousness.
And yet the poetic spirits dreamed on, not realizing that their very dreams were animated by the new rays of energy that would eventually liberate the human spirit from the very materialism they deplored.
Generally speaking, the new awareness inspired in mankind a new desire for self-expression. Never again would people necessarily be bound to hereditary positions with which they felt no inner resonance. Here too, however, change came only haltingly. Under the lingering rays of Kali Yuga, these new trends in social awareness took the form of mass movements. People thought rather in terms of quantity than of quality. Mass uprisings, revolutions, and new social philosophies with invented slogans like, “Power to the People!” (rather than the more enlightened concept, “Power to the Truth”) were signs, simply, that people were still thinking institutionally, and did not yet dare to think for themselves.
The nineteenth century saw what was widely touted as the triumph of materialism. In fact, what was really happening was that Dwapara energy, filtering into people’s consciousness, was for a time energizing the old ways of thinking, including the old hypnosis that matter is the “bedrock” reality of everything. Dwapara Yuga merely animated those concepts for a time, before shattering them altogether.
The fact that morality, too, was portrayed so rigidly and self-righteously during the Victorian era was due simply to the increased energy, held fast for a time to traditional notions of what constituted right behavior. This increased animation from within was only a herald of the time when those fixed notions would be shattered by the new rays of energy. People gradually felt the inspiration to adopt more fluid and energetic ways of relating to one another—ways, above all, which demonstrated more love, compassion, and all-inclusiveness.
Let us now, having taken a brief backward glimpse at those former trends, return to the present. People, though still decrying the general decline in morality, are becoming increasingly conscious of the need for greater personal responsibility. Jean Paul Sartre, who claimed to find in nihilism the very definition of personal enlightenment, declared gloatingly that life no longer has any purpose or meaning. Yet for all that he sought also within the individual his clues to any possible meaning.
Seen from every angle, the mood of our times may be described as a crisis of faith gradually resolving itself into the higher energy that attends on personal integrity. People have yet to realize that the seeds of a deeper faith have been sown already, and are even now thrusting their green shoots into the air, welcoming energy and making possible a greater understanding.
Conflict inevitably rages between Kali Yuga attitudes, still seen as right and good by conventional people, and the more “Dwapara” attitude which the freer spirits that are being born today embrace as their path to personal liberation. Conventional minds turn back for support to old texts and old authorities. In most cases, however, the support they claim to have found is simply a matter of wishful interpretation. Jesus Christ himself, whose teachings they so often call upon to combat science, encouraged his followers to embrace the truth—and not dogmatically. “Ye shall know the truth,” he declared, “and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32)
The conflict between the old rigidity and dogmatism of Kali Yuga and the newborn openness of Dwapara Yuga seems destined soon to flare into open conflict. We may indeed live to see world wars far more devastating than in the past. We may suffer other disasters: plague, world-wide economic depression, even global cataclysms, before human consciousness becomes softened enough to receive unobstructedly the rays of Dwapara Yuga.
Earth changes, should they occur, will be Nature’s response to the disharmonious thoughts and energies which at present are raging in human hearts. A slight shift in people’s thoughts and energies, however, if turned in the direction of greater harmony, would result in world-wide changes for the better. Devastation on the other hand, should it occur, will (so to speak) serve to clear the ground for the next season’s crops. Disaster, during this ascending age, will not be total. Change is sure to prove ultimately beneficial.
Essentially, the difference between the mass consciousness during Kali and Dwapara Yugas was epitomized by Zeno’s paradox of the arrow. Zeno, an ancient Greek philosopher, argued (how those old Greeks loved a good philosophical battle!) that it is a contradiction in terms to refer to the flight of an arrow, since the arrow, at any given moment during its supposed flight, is, he said, stationary at that point in space. Its movement is only apparent, defined by an endless series of points along the way. In other words the arrow, despite appearances, isn’t really moving at all! Zeno was offering a logical paradox, of course. At the same time, however, fluid movement didn’t play a large part of people’s awareness in his day. Plato himself thought one should be able to understand a truth by merely “talking it out,” and thereby reaching a fixed definition of it.
Zeno, incidentally, offered another logical paradox, this one as if to forestall the age-old conundrum, “Why does a chicken cross the road?” (The answer? to get to the other side, of course!) Zeno squelched the question itself by insisting that a chicken cannot cross the road. Why not? asks the Kali Yugi. Because, whatever distance it still needs to go, it must first go half that distance. No matter how small the distance still remaining, he must still go half of it before he can complete the whole. Ergo, the whole distance can never be covered! The Kali Yugi mentally scratches his head, knits his eyebrows, and in the end declares, “Well, I guess that makes sense. But then, the arrow cannot ever get where it is going, either, so I suppose we’re all safe!” Kali Yuga mentality can’t resolve either paradox for the simple reason that, to its way of thinking, fixed points are the natural frames of reference; any motion between them is insubstantial, and therefore difficult to comprehend.
Dwapara Yuga mentality, on the other hand, says, “How can you be so absurd? The motion of the arrow, as well as of the chicken, is the reality. The points along their journey are mere figments of the imagination, and have no reality of their own; they are illusions!” In Dwapara Yuga, matter itself is understood to be but a wave, or vibration, of energy.
Where Kali Yuga can only understand progress in terms of separate stages of forward movement, Dwapara Yuga sees it as a flow.
Kali Yuga sees every reality as being compartmentalized, each compartment separate from the others, whereas Dwapara Yuga sees reality as an integral whole.
Kali Yuga analyzes and differentiates: Dwapara Yuga seeks, beneath all superficial differences, an underlying unity.
Kali Yuga says, “either ... or”; Dwapara Yuga says, “both ... and.”
To Kali Yuga mentality, which carefully segregates its concepts from one another, contradictions may appear unsolvable. Kali Yuga therefore sees no natural connection between a problem and its solution. Kali Yuga is problem-oriented, not solution-oriented. Whatever problem is presented to it is seen as the immediate, and even overwhelming, reality. Dwapara Yuga, on the other hand, with its unitive view, realizes that everything in creation is balanced by its opposite. Dwapara Yuga, therefore, views things integrally, which makes it more naturally solution-oriented. When it beholds a problem, it automatically seeks its solution as the natural companion to it. Dwapara Yuga is therefore easily able to find solutions to problems that, to Kali Yuga mentality, remain insoluble.
Modern science, burdened with increasing complexity, longs for greater simplicity. Its fixation on details is, in fact, merely a carry-over from Kali Yuga ways of thinking. Even today, the cutting edge of science is taking man beyond forms to the energies out of which all forms are produced.
A struggle is inevitable between fading Kali Yuga consciousness and the dawning impact of Dwapara Yuga. The struggle can only be temporary, however, and must be resolved in time. Let us therefore look ahead to that time—not so far distant—when the issues have become clearer. And let us then visualize what the future holds for us.
For future trends, clearly, are already beginning to emerge all around us, and are becoming clearer to those who, to paraphrase Jesus Christ, “have eyes to see.”
Glimpse into the Future
What may we expect in the years and centuries to come? Matter, during Kali Yuga, was manipulated by lifting, carrying, or beating things into shape and people into submission. What ruled were muscle and physical power. Even with labor-saving devices such as the lever, the sheer difficulty of lifting or transporting things was daunting; even minor results required major efforts. Popular heroes were men of brawn. A person’s importance was seen in terms of the power he exerted over others. His greatness was reckoned in terms of his ability to best people in battle or in other contests.
Greatness, nowadays, is more often attributed to those who help others: whose ideas are inspiring, who invent devices that reduce the need for manual labor. We no longer stand in awe of those, like Hercules, who can accomplish extraordinarily heavy tasks. I remember, in the 1930s, that it took many men fifteen years, working with shovels, to complete the underpass at the railway terminal in Bucharest, Romania. And when, in the late 1940s in Los Angeles, California, I helped with the construction of a building, even at that late date we had to mix the concrete by hand. Young people today have no idea how recently big machinery for jobs like that has come into use. But nowadays, more and more, heavy jobs are accomplished by machine power, not by man power.
Who knows what means will be found in future to move heavy objects? Big machinery is the application of Dwapara-discovered energy to Kali Yuga know-how—to the lever, for instance, which was invented by the ancient Greek Archimedes. As Dwapara Yuga progresses, subtler methods for moving matter will surely be discovered. Authors of books even now challenge the tradition that the Egyptian pyramids were constructed by human muscle alone.
Consider the following possibility: Already matter is known to be only a vibration of energy. In time heavy objects may be moved by sound, or by some other kind of vibrations. Indeed, a number of avant garde thinkers have already pondered mankind’s past accomplishments during times when civilization is believed to have been primitive, but when, according to Sri Yukteswar, it was in an advanced age in the descending yuga cycle. These writers have suggested, for example, that sound vibrations would explain better than slave labor how the largest, most ancient pyramids were built. Fanciful? Perhaps, but again, perhaps so only to Kali Yuga mentality. And again, if fanciful, so also was Jules Verne, the nineteenth century French author of science fiction, most of whose “impossible” predictions have already been fulfilled.
Even now, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are still very early into Dwapara Yuga proper, and have some twenty-one more centuries to go. As energy’s potentials continue to unfold to our understanding, mankind will inevitably see wonders that, even today, would seem incredible: wonders that, not many centuries ago, would have sent their inventors to the stake.
Like the director of the U.S. Patent Office with his rumored proposal that the office be closed (since everything that could possibly be invented had been invented already), a number of scientists today have been saying that we are approaching the end-times of discovery. The universe, they claim, can have few surprises in store for us. Yet physics has already begun to move into hitherto unimagined territory.
What the Patent Office director referred to was mechanical inventions. He can have had no idea of the impact energy would have even on those mechanical gadgets. And what those people in science I’ve alluded to still affirm is, once again, Kali Yuga-type knowledge. It may indeed, from their limited perspective, be true that we are approaching the end-times of discovery, in terms of a purely material universe. The age of energy, however, is already opening up boundless horizons before our gaze, and cannot but continue to do so for centuries to come.
Uncovering matter’s energy-secrets will bestow on humanity hitherto-undreamed-of power and freedom. The knowledge that energy is the (still-little-known) secret of matter will give mankind unprecedented power to transform and transport material objects. Such developments are sure to have an enormous impact on human life and on the world in which we live.
It will also force upon us a measure of self-discipline, lest the consequences of irresponsible behavior bring humanity to disaster. Let us for now, then, concentrate on the positive opportunities before us, rather than on their potential pitfalls. And let us cling to the hope—or, rather, to the reasonable expectation—that the rays of energy already enlightening the planet, which have produced so many wonders already, will also bestow on mankind the wisdom to handle them safely.
Indeed, the very fear that an increase of power might result in the destruction of the planet is merely a sign of Kali Yuga thinking. It was that kind of mentality which inspired the nay-sayers of the past to declare, “If God had wanted man to fly, He’d have given us wings.” And in the nineteenth century there were protests from pulpits in the Christian churches against the invention of the umbrella. Priests, pastors, and ministers of various denominations objected that the umbrella was an offense against the Biblical statement, “For he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)
In an ascending cycle, the human instinct will surely be more strongly motivated to create than to destroy.
What, then, will be the consequences of this new, dawning consciousness, which is bringing to mankind a historically unprecedented sense of freedom? I see three probable trends especially.
Trend Number One
The first trend will be a reaction against complexity, and a corresponding search for simplicity. At present one still encounters, in every field, an increasingly burdensome number of details. This may be seen in the physical sciences including medicine. Complexity is rampant in psychology, in education, in business, and in the sheer “business” of everyday living. It is the inheritance bequeathed to us by Kali Yuga. Complexity is not a necessary accompaniment of advancing knowledge, however; it is merely a reflection of the kind of thinking that is more concerned with the minutiae of knowledge than with the “arrow-flight” of intuitive wisdom.
The new simplicity, then, will not constitute a return to rustic ignorance. Rather, it will accompany an enlightened awareness, and that understanding which comes when knowledge is absorbed into an energetic flow of consciousness.
What I am describing is, as I just hinted, the simple flow of intuition. People in future will realize increasingly that, when the flow of inspiration is right, the details have a way of working themselves out as if on their own. This important truth may be ascribed to an even simpler cause: Energy is endowed with its own intelligence.
In music, it is from such simplicity that haunting melodies are born. Melodies are, in fact, the product of heartfelt aspiration, not of the sophisticated knowledge of musical notation. Folk melodies, indeed, are often far lovelier than those which are painstakingly crafted by professional composers. This fact explains why so many famous composers have felt constrained to borrow some of their best melodies from traditional folk music.
In the arts, simplicity (again) means an intuitive flow, which transcends the intricacies of intellectual craftsmanship and emotional self-expression.
In politics, simplicity means having the wisdom to understand that a carefully worked-out treaty can never take the place of genuine kindness and good will.
In business, simplicity means recognizing that more profit results from creative energy then from a detailed analysis of the sales statistics.
In medicine, simplicity means encouraging the flow of energy in a patient’s body. Only secondarily will doctors of the future concentrate on curing specific body parts.
And in science, simplicity means the knowledge that great discoveries are a product of intuition, and much more so than of encyclopedic knowledge.
In every field of endeavor, simplicity will mean our having to learn less, intellectually, as we tune in more to inspiration. And we’ll find that inspirations flows the more freely, the more open we keep our hearts and minds to it.
Trend Number Two
The second trend will be a renewed emphasis on the individual. Less effort will be devoted to studying man as a social statistic, and much more to bringing harmony into his inner life and his own attunement with higher Truth. People will realize in time that even the greatest human accomplishments can never be greater than the man is, himself, who achieves them. For the man is the source of those accomplishments. Great achievements, in their totality, can only hint at all mankind’s potential for greatness. The supreme work of art, therefore, will of necessity come to be understood as being man, himself. The highest art, therefore, will be understood to be that of the way to Self-realization.
Thus, complementing the continued quest for outer knowledge and outer dominion will be a return to the simple wisdom inscribed at the Delphic oracle, an admonition recorded in pre-history (perhaps—who knows?—during the last descending Dwapara Yuga). That admonition, well-known to us all, was: “Man, know thyself.”
Trend Number Three
The third trend will be an increasing demand for quality over quantity. “Bigger” will cease to be equated with “better.”
The perception of matter as an absolute reality led many kings during Kali Yuga to imagine that the more territory they possessed, the greater they were, themselves. An aspect of that thinking was that it encouraged people to view humanity in the mass, rather than in particular, as individuals. It was that thought which led Karl Marx to exalt the sweating laborer over the visionary and the man of creative ideas. (What, indeed, is the underlying theory of communism but a dying echo of Kali Yuga?)
E.F. Schumacher wrote a trendy book a few years ago titled, Small Is Beautiful. The name itself helped to sell the book. Increasingly, indeed, in human affairs we see a trend toward miniaturization, and a corresponding rejection of the “bulldozer mentality” which sets material power against inertia in a struggle for conquest by brute force. The future trend will be to adapt to external realities, and not to beat them into quivering submission.
Great shifts in human awareness have always begun with a few individuals who (first) could perceive sensitively the need for a change, and who (secondly) had the energy to dive into that current and the ability to swim with it. Changes in overall human awareness follow such innovations only gradually, usually requiring one or more generations for them to be more than narrowly accepted by a few.
The more fundamental a change, and the more far reaching, the longer the time required, usually, for its universal acceptance. Thus, at least some of the habits of Kali Yuga are sure to persist well into Dwapara Yuga, and—given the known obtuseness of humanity—may well persist, at least vestigially, into the next yuga as well. During Kali Yuga there were, after all, a few enlightened souls (Jesus Christ and Buddha spring to mind) whose attainments were of the highest order, though the majority of mankind stumbled in their material blindness. What determines an individual’s level of awareness is not only the energy coming to our planet from its galactic environment, but also his own refinement as a receptive instrument to that energy.
Old habits are affirmed most aggressively when they are confronted by new alternatives. In Dwapara Yuga, this aggressiveness is already being animated by the increased intensity of inflowing energy. Thus, even though quantitative thinking is on the wane, we have seen in every field in recent times an exaggerated emphasis on, and an appeal to, mass consciousness: in politics, in social philosophy, in merchandising, in entertainment, in advertising, and even in such fields as education and religion. Nevertheless, the shift away from quantitative and toward qualitative thinking is inevitable.
This increasing emphasis on quality will be like the back side of the same coin from the new concentration on the inner man, rather than on man as a social quantum. Scientists have said, “The key to the universe lies in the electron.” Modern man will come at last to say, “The key to understanding the universe lies ultimately in man himself, the individual.”
Unity in Diversity
Simplicity is rapidly becoming a “must” in human affairs. The flood of information, to which we find ourselves subjected in every field, has reached a point where people feel increasingly unable to cope with its sheer volume. The discovery of energy as the underlying reality of matter will influence the way we process this flood of factual information. Computers will not—at least, such is my belief—be the last word in this evolutionary process.
A multitude of phenomena will be seen as only individual expressions of a unifying flow. In countless aspects of life, people will come to realize—as indeed they are doing already—that to tune in to the flow lessens one’s need to be over-preoccupied with the details. It will become increasingly clear that, inherent in the energy itself, there is a sort of guiding intelligence rooted in an awareness higher than man’s. Our awareness of that higher intelligence remains blocked as long as we allow our attention to be tumbled about by an excessive number of details. The flow will be released when our will power is engaged in what we may describe as the natural rhythms of inspiration.
The problems and obstructions that arise when we deal with inert matter will be transformed into an awareness of the opportunities for success, once we become conscious that we are dealing with a living reality behind the appearances of inertness.
Religion in the New Age
Religion today no longer commands the respect it once did, and the reasons for this decline are not difficult to find. Everywhere on earth, people have identified religion with attitudes they have now begun to abandon, as they embrace this new age of energy. We are less bound nowadays by form—that is to say, by the conviction that form itself is the definition of substance.
Religion has traditionally been defined by its dogmas and beliefs, and not by such dynamics as the individual’s inner experience of peace, closeness to God, and openness to higher inspiration. These things the great scriptures have always held out in loving promise to mankind. Formal religion has focused men’s attention on outward worship, to the detriment of their inner spirit which those forms were meant only to express.
In the West, religion (taking its bias from Roman rationalism, rather than from the “take no thought for the morrow” dicta of Jesus Christ) has deliberately encased the spirit also in organizational forms. As a result, religion has been, to a great extent, suffocated. Wherever organizational forms have received less attention—as has been the case, for example, with many of the Protestant churches—there has been an unfortunate over-emphasis on religion as a social institution, and an accompanying under-emphasis on it as a guideline to inner, spiritual development.
Of all human institutions, religion has always been the most resistant to change. In conservatism lies its strength, but also its greatest weakness: its strength, because religious teachings express eternal values; its weakness, because those values are, in a sense, betrayed when they are limited to specific outward expressions. It is right not to interpret those values in such a way as to reflect merely passing fads. At the same time, to define them at all means already to interpret and therefore to limit them. No mere expression of an eternal value can truly do it justice.
Human perceptions of truth change, moreover, even though the truth itself remains ever the same. When specific expressions of a truth, rather than the Truth itself, become our guiding principles, they become dogmatism. Deeply rutted habits take over, and Truth itself is forgotten. Justification is ultimately found for shrinking revelation itself to fit an ever-narrower vision.
The weakness of formal religion is that, in the name of perpetuating truth, we bury the truth itself, and confuse even wholesome changes with dilution and heresy.
Religion, in its higher aspect of inner spirituality, is God’s gift to mankind; it is not merely some wise man’s utterance for the good of humanity. During times of great change, including the period through which we are now passing, it is especially important to be guided by higher inspiration. With this purpose have great spiritual teachers come to earth, during times of crucial human need. The birth of those great saviors has not been only opportune: It has also been ordained. Buddha, Krishna, and Shankaracharya in the East; Jesus Christ in the West: these men were no mere accidents of history.
At the present time, the dawn of Dwapara Yuga, there is an overwhelming need for a fresh message to be sent from above. If ever God has spoken through His prophets to mankind, now, surely, is a time for Him to speak again, for man’s need today is as great as it ever was. If God truly is our Father, Mother, and Eternal Friend, and if we, His children, call to Him from our hearts, He must respond. For there are limits to how far this limited wit of ours can take us.
To continue that thought: Common sense can convince us of our need to adapt to new realities; logic can facilitate this adaptive process by helping us to see how new discoveries can actively support spiritual truths and do not undermine them in any way. Our sense of history, also, applied to this transition period from matter- to energy-consciousness, can show us the directions that religion will probably take, once mankind has adapted to the “rays” of this new age. Nevertheless, spiritual faith, rather then intellectually or emotionally based belief, demands some sort of clear sign from above—a sign that we, with our all-too-human understanding, are being guided rightly. Without such a sign, and without such higher guidance, the danger of becoming opinionated is too great. And, it may be added, arrogance is the death of wisdom.
With or without such guidance, we must still continue to use our powers of reasoning to the best of our ability. For God responds to those of us who do their best with the faculties they possess, and not to those who, out of false humility, suspend those faculties altogether. Wise guidance, my Guru once said to me, is not given to those who are stupid. Nor is it given to anyone who contracts his energy self-protectively, instead of reaching out with it, expansively.
With or without higher guidance, then, we should still use reason to understand what we are able to concerning future trends. Only thus will we be able, on our part, to do our best to adapt to those new rays.
The first point which formal religion, too, must recognize is that we are, indeed, living in a new age of energy. Church teachers and administrators must accept that energy-consciousness is not a mere passing fad, but a matter of concrete fact. Short of the kind of cataclysmic warfare that might bomb men back to the caves, energy must be accepted as an enduring aspect of human existence.
Driving the nail in more deeply still, we must accept that energy is the reality, and matter, the illusion; energy is the wave, the underlying vibration, of which matter is but a manifestation. Energy is not, in other words, the product of matter: It is its underlying reality.
What does this new knowledge mean to religion? The answer is forced upon us relentlessly: the result must be a more fluid and more individual perception of higher, as well as of lower, truths. For the power of religion to influence mankind rests not in its outwardness—not, for example, in its ceremonies, nor in its dogmas, nor its crystallized institutions, but in the indwelling, divine Spirit of which all else is but a manifestation. Truth gave us religion, but never could religion alone give us Truth.
The power of religious ceremonies lies in the energy people bring to them, by the depth of their, or of the priest’s, sincerity. Their sincerity cannot be measured by instruments. Inspiration is spiritual—unseen, but distinctly felt by all who immerse themselves deeply in the spirit of whatever they do.
I have seen people in church praying, but letting their eyes roam about restlessly as they watched the people coming in or going out of the sanctuary. I once observed a priest reciting the office for the dead while cleaning his fingernails. And I have attended Vedic fire ceremonies in India where the priests merely went through the ritual motions, repeating the mantras by rote, while they glanced about them for others’ approval.
The setting sun, as it shines on the clouds in the western sky, irradiates them with color. Once it fully disappears beneath the horizon, however, those same clouds look gray and lusterless. It is, similarly, the spirit behind religious practices, and not the practices themselves, which determines their true influence.
Religion in the West, and perhaps throughout the world, has tended to focus more on the number of its adherents than on the quality of their worship. Where inner spiritual development has been encouraged—as has been more often the case in India, where religion also has not been organized—it is easier for religious leaders to adapt to the new age of experience, and to recognize the insuperable handicap of blind belief. Ultimately, religion everywhere will have to move toward an emphasis on universal truths, above outer forms.
The importance of spirit over form, and of experiment (that is to say in spiritual matters, true inner experience) over dogmatic assertions: These are what religion needs to teach now. Unless and until these principles receive their rightful emphasis, religion must become increasingly irrelevant to mankind. However, it isn’t likely that religion will be able to resist such valid expectations for long. For outer religion, too, is a basic need of the heart. Without religion of some sort, the human spirit would shrivel up and die. I am confident that mankind will not allow that to happen.
During a visit I paid to Australia many years ago, someone approached me after a lecture and said, “I’m an atheist. Can you define God in such a way as to make Him meaningful to me?” I paused briefly, waiting for an answer from within. Then I replied, “Why don’t you think of God as the highest potential you can imagine for yourself?” He was taken aback at first. Then he delivered his verdict: “Yeah, well, I can live with that!”
The human spirit would languish and die if it had no high aspiration. Human beings would condemn themselves to apathy and the gradual decay of all their higher faculties. As Voltaire put it, “If God did not exist, man would find it necessary to invent Him.”
Since the human spirit cannot live without religion, people will have to find a way of living with it. The process of adaptation will not mean rejecting anything, but only exploring and reconciling differences between the old, dogmatic assumptions and the progressive discoveries of modern science and the demands of human nature for inner peace.
The basic directions in the future—simplicity, an emphasis on quality, and research into our inner being—cannot but be as important to religion as to other fields.
The deepest truths of religion are basically quite simple. They’ve been obscured by complex outer structures and we have, in consequence, lost sight of their true purpose. Of all human institutions, religion ought to be the most unitive, but is, instead, one of the most divisive. People denounce, persecute, and fight wars over their religious differences—all in the name of God who, so they all claim, is a God of Love.
It is surely time, even independent of the rays entering the earth at this time, to explore man’s inner relationship with his Creator. Jesus Christ said, “Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21) He also said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.” (John 2:19) The Bible tells us that Jesus was referring not to the temple at Jerusalem, but to the temple of his own body. The inference to be drawn is obvious, for worship is conducted inside temples, not outside them. The true goal of pilgrimage is, as the Indian scriptures declare, the “kingdom of God within you”: the divine Self. That which matters in religion, then, is neither places of worship nor rituals, nor even particular systems of belief (which are, after all, only man-made definitions): What matters is our own actual, direct, inner experience of God and Truth.
According to every saint who has experienced this sublime awakening, God is simple: it is man, with his intellectual justifications, who is complex.
The demands of Truth are simply that religion become once again simple, and no longer weighed down with dogmas, or bewildered by hair-splitting theological definitions. Religion must return to that most basic of all truths: love. It must return to the need of sincere aspirants for direct, personal experience of God’s love.
The true spiritual work, then, is not the conversion of others: It is to live with, and to give outward expression to, divine love.
A friend of mine in India once spent the summer at a hill station in the Himalayan foothills. In the bungalow next to his there lived a missionary lady who was the headmistress of a local Christian school. My friend, open-hearted by nature, spoke to her pleasantly every time they met. She mistook his friendliness, unfortunately, for possible openness to conversion. Her response, therefore, was wreathed in smiles. She invited him to visit her school, and when he came, introduced him to her students and explained to him at length the good work she and her church were doing, and the beauty of Jesus Christ’s teachings. To all of these attentions he responded with appreciation.
As it gradually dawned on her, however, that he was not interested in changing his religion, her manner toward him grew cool. The smile faded from her lips, the cordiality, from her voice. The day came at last when she began to treat him coldly, like a complete stranger. For his part, he continued greeting her cordially. She, however, preserved a dignified formality in return. As a potential convert he had been important to her. As a fellow human being, however, she ceased to find him interesting enough even to greet cordially. Clearly, she had never viewed him as a human being with his own spiritual needs. Now—such, at least, was the impression she gave him—she simply regarded him as a disappointing statistic in her church’s membership.
The emphasis, during Dwapara Yuga, will shift from the quantitative to the qualitative approach. It will change from the quest of churches for more converts to an emphasis, first, on people’s need for satisfactory answers—even if the questions they ask are “inconvenient” or “difficult”—and then on needs of the individual, rather than those of the church.
This shift toward simplicity, toward emphasis on the needs of the inner man rather than the demands of any outer church, and, finally, the shift toward qualitative over quantitative solutions, is already creating a demand for religion to meet science with methods of its own for testing and experiencing the truth.
Recent centuries have clearly demonstrated the inadequacy of untested belief. They have justified the scientific method of demonstrating the validity of hypotheses by experiment. People still assume that the scientific method won’t work in religion, since religion deals with truths that can’t be measured, weighed, or quantified. If such were the case, however, science must be said to be rapidly disqualifying itself, for how is one to measure energy? Measurement has been a useful tool in the sciences, but when one deals with subtle subjects like energy, and still more when one deals with consciousness, other standards will have to be sought.
If religion had nothing more to offer than untested beliefs, it would attract only dreamers. Would anyone go to a gambling casino that had a reputation for never paying its customers? or for fobbing them off with promises of payment “eventually” (perhaps when the sky collapses)? Despite religion’s promises of consolation someday (in the hereafter), the churches also fulfill a very present spiritual need. Were such not the case, people would long ago have stopped turning to religion for comfort and enlightenment, even as primitive tribesmen have stopped going to witch doctors once they realized that modern medical doctors could do a better job of healing them.
Religion offers truths that uplift and broaden the human spirit. More even than intellectually imparted truths, religion offers experience. The inspiration one feels while praying deeply can be life-changing. By contrast, the greatest works of art bring inspiration only to the degree that they echo the soul’s inner inspiration. Religion alone offers direct soul-inspiration.
An example of the immediacy of the teachings offered by every great religion is the simple, universal admonition: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Religion helps people to be more sensitive to truths in which all can participate. We all belong to the same one, universal reality. “No man,” wrote the poet John Donne, “is an island.” No one lives utterly alone except as he isolates himself, in his own mind, from other people.
As laboratories are the workshops of science, so human consciousness is the workshop of religion. Religious ceremonies are only projections of man’s aspiration to inner perfection. It is on his own thoughts, primarily, that the sincere seeker works. His inner feelings are what he seeks to purify.
It was Jesus who told us exactly that: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” (Matt. 5:8) He didn’t say, “Blessed are my disciples,” or even, “Blessed are those who accept what I say.” He made it clear that salvation depends not on outer affiliation, nor even on mental acknowledgement of the truth, but on one’s purity of heart before God, whose kingdom, Jesus said, is “within.”
A great deal of what religion teaches can be tested and verified. It may ultimately turn out that all its claims can be verified. To observe a microbe, what is needed is a microscope. To perceive the Truth, what is needed is calmness of mind and heart, which will bring both mind and heart to a point of crystal clarity.
Today, there are two distinct needs in religion: One is to test the scriptures, as Jesus himself, in the Bible, tells us to do. The other is to develop practical methods for conducting those tests.
Obviously, test tubes cannot be used in the “laboratory” of the mind. The need in this case, then, is methods for attaining calmness and concentration. Meditation is comparable, in this sense, to the science laboratory. Meditation is a means of achieving the mental clarity needed for this type of research. The truth cannot be perceived so long as the mind is restless, with its attention directed outward to the senses.
In modern medicine, numerous cures have been adopted from other cultures, where they were found to work. In other fields, too, discoveries that have been made in one culture have helped other cultures. Throughout the world, especially in our modern day, the trend toward cultural cross-pollination has been rapidly increasing.
In religion, unfortunately, claims of exclusivity have caused people to look with skepticism, and even with hostility, upon practices and beliefs that differ even slightly from their own.
In this Dwapara Yuga, at last, man’s search for spiritual understanding is already taking him in a new direction. Religion is no longer as dogmatic as it has been in the past. Its emphasis, now, will surely become increasingly experiential as it concentrates on the individual’s spiritual development. Religion must therefore come to include, among its practices, psycho-physical methods for helping individuals to achieve inner peace and mental clarity. Thus, yoga in all its branches will come into its own.
Inasmuch as yoga deals not only with mental and physical techniques of self-development, but with direct control of the inner energy (pranayama, or energy control), it will come to be recognized as an actual science of religion. It will become—I say this with confidence—the human science par excellence for the new age. Yoga meditation practices will be used to test the claims of religion by helping people to get in touch with their superconscious, and thereby to be guided by soul-intuition.
It seems obvious to me that the religion of the new age will be directed more inwardly, and less outwardly. The purpose of man’s inner research will not be to strengthen his ego, but to trace self-awareness back to its source in Infinite Consciousness. Inasmuch as the ego’s attention is usually directed to the body and to the world around it, man’s self-definition is derived from these superficial identities: “I am a man, or a woman. I am an American, or a Frenchman, or an Italian. I am . . . I am!”
The ego’s grip on man’s consciousness can be weakened only by contact with a higher consciousness. If we hope ever to achieve a clear understanding of who and what we really are, we must go within, and there explore our deeper connection with that which sustains the world around us.
Jesus said, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” His meaning was that our neighbor is, in a deep, spiritual sense, our true, universal Self.
The reality of an island is only superficially the land mass above the water. Its greater mass lies out of sight, extending in all directions under the water. Therein lies its connection to the earth itself, and to all the other islands in the sea.
The religion of the future will be, as I said, Self-realization. It will consist in realizing that the infinite love and joy of God are our own deepest reality, and that God is our true Self. For even as matter is energy, so is energy, in its turn, but a manifestation of thought. Thought—again, in its turn—is only a manifestation of consciousness. And consciousness, in its ultimate refinement, is the Divine Spirit from which all things, all beings, and our own selves were first manifested.
Religious Institutions in the New Age
The fact that matter is a manifestation of energy doesn’t relegate it to non-existence; it only means that the world around us is very different from what it seems to be. Matter has been exalted in people’s minds to the virtual status of an idol, claiming, if not their worship, then at least the entire focus of their attention. This exclusivity puts one in mind of the Biblical commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Exo 20:3) Matter is not a god, of course, but most people view it even today as a fundamental reality. It isn’t the task of Dwapara Yuga to overthrow Kali Yuga realities. New understanding will, however, show them in their proper relation to higher truths.
The same will be the case for the Dwapara Yuga perception of Jesus Christ, whom Christians thought to exalt as the only Son of God. In fact, that designation falls far short of his true reality, which—far from having a limited, human form—is infinite and, indeed, is an aspect of God Himself. What Dwapara will accomplish is show divine reality as the essence of, and therefore infinitely subtler than, anything the human mind can encompass.
Religion, too, will be transformed to a much loftier vision than man has had heretofore. That vision will not be undermined by the discovery that the divine dramas enacted on earth by the great saviors of humanity have been limited in scope, for what they represented was much more than people could even hope to imagine. Nor will religion be weakened by the realization that the Creator of a hundred billion galaxies must certainly be very different from the old man with a flowing white beard that Michelangelo depicted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Indeed, the Lord cannot possibly be anthropomorphic (having a human form) in essence. Religion, far from being outmoded by the discoveries of science, will only find its teachings translated from an archaic language into one that is alive and infinitely exalted.
People’s grasp of morality, too, will undergo radical transformation. Morality is not dead, as so many people imagine. In people’s first exuberant realization that nothing is absolute, they came too quickly to the conclusion that one would be perfectly safe in doing anything he liked. In fact, the rules of morality, though relative, still apply universally to everyone who is at the same stage of spiritual evolution. To give an example: Were a worldly person to pray for a healing for himself, he would be right, for at least it would mean a turning to God. For a saint to utter such a prayer, on the other hand, would be wrong, for it would mean descending from the awareness of God’s omnipresence and reaffirming his ego. At his stage of spiritual evolution, he should be offering up his ego completely to God.
Relativity, and relativism in human affairs are directional. The principles guiding human behavior are not whimsical. Were a lazy fellow one day to declare with energy, “I’m going to go out and get a job, then work hard to become a millionaire!” everyone, including saints, would applaud. Were a nobler person like Gandhi, on the other hand, one day to make the same announcement, his decision would be met with universal dismay, even by worldly people.
With growing emphasis on the inner man, it will become increasingly clear that the principles of morality are deeply rooted in human nature itself. I’ve explained this subject at length in a book of mine, Out of the Labyrinth, and therefore feel no need here to go into it further. The point is, our understanding of morality, too, is growing under the rays of Dwapara Yuga, even if, in the process, the change still entails a certain amount of confusion. Morality is not out of date. It will be seen in time, instead, as the basis for a truly fulfilled, effective, and happy life for both the individual and society as a whole.
The same will prove true for religious organizations. The realization that they are not an absolute good will pass on, after an initial disillusionment, to a more mature assessment of the great good the churches, and religious organizations in general, can accomplish.
The goal of all religious practices is to lift man into the state of absolute freedom in God. At that point he will have graduated from dependence on any religious organization. As a saint in India once put it, “It is a blessing to be born into a religion, but a misfortune to die in one!” Religious organizations can be a force, nevertheless, for great good in the world if they keep their spirit expansive and self-giving, if they don’t place self-interest ahead of their members’ spiritual needs, and if they keep service to others as their highest goal.
The degree of an organization’s expansiveness or contractiveness determines its state of mental and spiritual health, whether good or bad.
Contractiveness in individuals, as much as in organizations, leads to exaggerated self-importance and self-preoccupation. Such attitudes show a lack of any true sense of proportion. This is as true for organizations as for individuals, since individuals run organizations and project onto them whatever attitudes they themselves have. A self-involved leader projects his contractive attitudes down through every level of his organization, to a point where the entire work force thinks less in terms of any good it might accomplish for others than of the good each worker might accomplish for himself. The general concern of such people is only to create safeguards, for themselves as much as for their organizations. In such institutions, the prevalent atmosphere will be one of fear. Creative initiative will be non-existent.
Rationalizations are generally devised by religious organizations to explain away blatant selfishness. Thus, if creativity is discouraged, the explanation is that “the teachings must be preserved in their pure form.” If anyone demonstrates a generous urge to help others, he is urged to curtail his impetuosity. The rationale offered is that “the organization must be financially strong in order all the better to serve mankind.” Finally, fear lest the organization lose its precarious balance will mean that suggestions are not even listened to that don’t support already-established principles and ideas.
What happens in such religious organizations is, of course, inevitable: spiritual vision is lost sight of in swirling mists of bureaucracy, ultimately to be forgotten altogether.
The cure in every case lies in a change of direction: from a contractive to an expansive flow of energy; from protective attitudes to healthier, more sharing ones.
Two principles must be kept uppermost in mind if truly spiritual ends are to be served. The first is, “People are more important than things.” And the second is, “Where there is adherence to truth, there is victory.”
I first saw this second principle expressed in India. It was the motto of the royal family of Cooch Behar. In Bengali it possessed a special rhythm: “Jato dharma, tato jaya.”
The first of these principles, regarding the importance of the individual, has been stated many times and in many ways. It was expressed by Jesus Christ in the words: “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27)
The second principle is more difficult for worldly minds to grasp. People tend to see high principles as a stumbling block to success. As a friend of mine was advised by his father—who no doubt thought to share with his offspring the garnered wisdom of a lifetime—“Son, no one ever grew rich by being too honest.” The interesting sequel to that counsel was that every time that same man succeeded, by trickery, in amassing a fortune, he quickly lost it again.
It is essential, of course, to be practical. There is limited practicality, however, in that very advice. Many people oppose every expansive idea with the explanation, “I’m only being practical.” Such people, if ever they find themselves in a position of leadership in an organization, will condemn it to mediocrity.
Organization in Nature
An excellent way to learn how to run an organization is to study Nature’s way of organizing. Consider the human body, which, like every well-run institution, has its chain of command. The ego works through the will, issuing directives that flow down to the body through nerve centers in the brain and spine. For the body to thrive, its ruling ego, like the chief executive officer of a corporation, must heed the body’s needs and respond to them sensitively.
Again, for the body to thrive, its various parts must feel nourished and respected by the supreme “boss,” the ego. The body will languish and will, indeed, be drained of energy if the “boss,” neglecting his duty, lives wrongly.
The ego must have a healthy, expansive relationship with the body and, through that body, with the world around it. It must serve a higher purpose than merely fulfilling its selfish desires. When it fails in this duty, it introduces harmful vibrations into the body’s whole functioning.
The entire universe manifests the same unifying principles, for the reason that the mechanistic laws governing matter are rooted in spiritual truths. Gravity is a reflection of the highest spiritual principle, divine love. Newton’s law of action and reaction is a reflection of the law of compensation, karma. The very ebb and flow of ocean tides manifests the primordial principle of dwaita (duality), which, according to the ancient teachings, is the very basis of creation.
The Universal Key
The master key to the laws of the universe is love.
Swami Sri Yukteswar wrote in his book, The Holy Science, of the effect of love on the human body: “When love, the heavenly gift of Nature, appears in the heart, it removes all causes of excitation from the system and cools it down to a perfectly normal state; and, invigorating the vital powers, expels all foreign matters—the germs of diseases—by natural ways (perspiration and so forth). It thereby makes man perfectly healthy in body and mind, and enables him to understand properly the guidance of Nature.”
Sri Yukteswar explained further the effects of love on human understanding: “When this love becomes developed in man it makes him able to understand the real position of his own Self as well as of others surrounding him.”
Paramhansa Yogananda, Sri Yukteswar’s chief disciple, taught that the only way truly to understand others is by feeling deep compassion for them in one’s heart. Psychoanalysis is usually intellectual, and therefore, itself, provides only superficial insight into human nature. Deep insights are possible only with love.
That is why, when Paramhansa Yogananda was once asked, “What can take your place after you leave this world?” he replied with the sweetest smile, “When I am gone, only love can take my place.” Love not only for God, that is to say, but for God in others, in mankind, in all beings: this was his true meaning. As we contemplate the rays of Dwapara Yuga, it should be clear that love alone will help us fully to absorb their energies.
Jesus, too, stressed this principle. The Bible mentions certain orthodox people who were watching Jesus critically one day to see if, by healing a man on the Sabbath, he would break the Judaic law. The account goes on to say that Jesus “looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” (Mark 3:5)
Again, in John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
The Principle of Love in Human Institutions
In a healthy organization, every member, whatever his position in the “pecking order,” is considered and also considers himself important to the whole. Even if the organization appears somewhat easygoing with respect to its procedural norms, as long as its basic energy is expansive and its workers are concerned with serving their members, clients, or patients rather than with protecting themselves from their superiors’ wrath, it will function relatively well.
The leaders, too, in a healthy organization are concerned primarily for the well-being of their subordinates, and only secondarily for whatever work they can get out of them. In a healthy society, greater concern is felt at all levels also for the well-being of the social structure as a whole than for the benefits people render to society itself. President Kennedy’s famous call to Americans, “Ask not what your country can do for you: Ask rather what you can do for your country,” needs elaboration. What you can do for your country should be seen in terms of what your country can do not only for you, but for all its citizens—and, beyond them, for all mankind.
A spiritually unhealthy organization, comparable to an unhealthy ego, is contractive in its energy. The workers fear for the security of their jobs; its leaders fear any possible challenge to their authority; and the organization as a whole, finally, is more motivated by fear of failure than by hopes and anticipations of success. Leaders and workers alike are indifferent to one another’s needs, though they will usually disguise their indifference, like icing a cake, with high-sounding, self-justifying phrases.
In a contractive religious organization, one often hears the disclaimer, “Our lofty aims alone are what matter; the needs of individuals are not important.” People, in other words, are considered nothing but cogs in a mighty (but of course glorious) machine. Such disclaimers, so far from affirming high ideals, only provide ample evidence that the disease has reached such an advanced state as to be diagnosed as “galloping contractivitis.” In such an organization, any lingering enthusiasm in the work force is feared by those in charge, who may openly discourage it as subversive.
Even an auto mechanic knows the importance of treating his tools with respect. He will clean and oil them regularly, and place them away carefully, each one where it belongs. If a mechanic doesn’t show such care for his tools, he may safely be described as incompetent.
An organization obviously, then, thrives when its members feel respected, cared for, and appreciated—perhaps even, in a sense, loved. If the organization fails in its duty to take proper care of its own, one may, without fear of misdiagnosis, assume the worst.
Religious organizations in Dwapara Yuga are bound to be guided with greater sensitivity. A good leader will try to make his organization an example of the universal law of action: “Desirable behavior brings the desired results.” Energy-consciousness, as opposed to matter-consciousness, is therefore destined to shift its emphasis from outer forms to the inner, motivating spirit.
The defects of Kali Yuga organizations in general, and of church organizations in particular, are the following:
1) the belief that good form alone ensures the rightness of an action;
2) the belief that more can be accomplished by a leader who imposes his authority over those under him than by one who supports his subordinates and shows them respect, appreciation, and even love;
3) the belief that everyone in a leadership position must know how to handle all situations, and that no one else should even worry about the success of an undertaking;
4) the belief that many rules, rigidly adhered to, are necessary for developing the right spirit; and, finally:
5) the belief that dogmas, rather than kindness, conscience, and charity, are the true essence of religion.
In Dwapara Yuga, if one takes the time to study these alternatives he will see everything from a diametrically opposite perspective. Dwapara helps a person, in fact, to see his priorities as the following:
1) Central truths can be expressed in many different ways;
2) love is the greatest test of the rightness of an action;
3) wisdom can be the possession of no man, and depends, indeed, not nearly so much on personal talent or intelligence as on openness to receiving inspiration “from above”;
4) simplicity of heart nurtures right understanding, and too many rules, rigidly adhered to, produce a calculating and contractive mind, giving rise to deviousness, deceit, and subtly disguised personal ambition;
5) dogmas are the outer raiment of religion, but charity is its driving life force. Dogmas, in other words, are the definition of religion, but charity is its living heart.
If, then, the choice for an appointment to some administrative position in a religious organization happens to lie between someone who is deeply spiritual but lacks experience, and someone else who is worldly minded but competent, the decision will obviously have to go to the experienced, worldly person. This is, however, only the Kali Yuga way of thinking, which views the outer husk but neglects the inner essence.
During Dwapara Yuga, it will become increasingly clear that an organization’s effectiveness is determined more by its prevailing spirit than by such superficial criteria even as efficiency. Though efficiency is always, of course, desirable, it can serve no useful end if its motivating spirit is murky as to its ends. Efficiency can be learned, but the right spirit can only be inborn, or at least inspired by good leadership.
In Dwapara Yuga, the emphasis in spiritual organizations will no longer be on absolute authority, but on ever-increasing understanding and love. Efficiency, though valued, will not be valued over right spiritual attitudes. True insight will be perceived as deriving from divine, not from human, authority. If any particular priest is found to be more saintly than others, his example will cease to be looked upon as a threat to uniformity, but will be hailed as a blessing on the whole church; not an embarrassment, but a model to which all the other priests should aspire.
The lines of authority, likewise, will not be followed so rigidly that high principles become sacrificed to some organizational convenience. If someone in the lower echelons of an organization feels misunderstood by his superior or superiors, those in higher echelons, while giving all possible support to that worker’s immediate superior, will also listen charitably to his complaint. A clear understanding of the need for lines of authority will make it possible also to bypass them when necessary, not only by listening to complaints but by working with all the persons concerned to improve matters. Individual needs will be accepted as being vital to the morale of the entire organization.
In these last considerations, however, we reach a level of understanding where reason alone is insufficient. Intuition can guide people wisely. Reason, on the other hand, is sure sooner or later to stumble. We return, then, to a point I raised earlier, namely, that some form of revelation is needed at this time, if humanity is to be rightly guided toward the highest potentials that are offered by this new age.
Let us consider whether such guidance is, in fact, presently available. If so, how can we take best advantage of it? Surely what is needed, in religion, is not outer conversion, but a sharing with all of broader, deeper understanding. Such changes are possible within each individual. Conversion should, above all, be to one’s own higher Self.
Dwapara Yuga Guidance
Sri Yukteswar, shortly before committing himself to writing his book, The Holy Science, prayed that the advances being made by mankind in this new age, owing to the discoveries of science, might receive the guidance of higher wisdom. In answer to his prayer, God sent him an enlightened soul whom he could prepare for such a mission.
Paramhansa Yogananda was that student. Yogananda, a great master, was given in part the mission of bringing the ancient wisdom in its purest essence into alignment with modern times. His mission was to show how those truths could be made practical in our day.
His mission, then, was not only qualitative—which is to say, to a few close disciples—but also quantitative to a whole civilization. He was sent as a way-shower for all mankind in recognition of the fact that civilization has at last entered territory that needs exploring in new ways: Dwapara Yuga.
One of the patterns of living that Yogananda came to establish was the founding of what he called “world-brotherhood colonies”: communities where high-minded people, living together, could bring these new concepts to a clear and easily understandable definition, and subsequently offer them to mankind as a workable model, rather than as a merely theoretical concept.
I myself enter the picture because my lot has been to establish the first of these “world-brotherhood” colonies. Ananda World-Brotherhood Village is located in the Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California, near the twin towns of Nevada City and Grass Valley. In the present year—308 Dwapara—there are seven branch communities of Ananda: in Seattle (Washington); Portland (Oregon); Palo Alto and Sacramento (California); Hopkinton (Rhode Island); Italy near the town of Assisi; and what will soon be near Pune, India. The total resident membership of these communities approximates 1,000. The original community, situated on some 1,000 acres of land, is home to several hundred members.
True to Dwapara Yuga principles, however, size is not Ananda’s objective. Rather, our aim is to inspire individuals—the more of them, of course, the better—with new clarity and dedication to their own inner, spiritual development. We seek also to inspire these ideals in people everywhere, regardless of their outward religious affiliations. As Paramhansa Yogananda often put it, “I prefer a soul to a crowd, and I love crowds of souls!”
To put an even finer point on it, instead of being goal-oriented we try to keep our focus on people’s inner, spiritual unfoldment. As a saying we have puts it: “The goal of life is not to be goal-oriented, outwardly speaking, but to expand one’s deeper sense of BEING to Infinity.”
I myself came to Yogananda in 1948 after reading his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. I sought him out because of my own deep desire for spiritual insight. I did so also because of a deep anxiety I had for the future of mankind. For I had realized that humanity, without divine guidance, would never be able to handle the twin threats of moral relativism and absence of meaningful purpose in life. After reading Yogananda’s book, I saw his as a message that was not only the answer to my own personal needs, but also one that was capable of guiding all mankind safely past the ideological pitfalls of our times.
Inspired by Yogananda’s vision of spiritually focused communities in this new age, I founded Ananda forty years ago, in 1968, twenty years after I had first met him.
In developing Ananda I have done my best, always, to draw on his example and his way of teaching and guiding others. I have written books to show the relevance of his teachings to numerous aspects of modern life: to marriage and loving relationships; to child raising; to education; to business; to leadership; to the fine arts; to architecture; to philosophy; to communities—indeed, to the whole spectrum of modern life. I have composed songs and instrumental pieces—over 400 works of music in all—to help people tune in to the consciousness behind my Guru’s mission. I have helped to establish schools and businesses with the purpose of giving these concepts a solid foundation.
In one important respect, I confess, it seemed to me that Yogananda had not given us adequate guidelines: for the formation of organizations in the new age. Until the actual writing of this paper, nearly sixty years since I first met him, I still believed that he considered organizations to be, at best, only a necessary evil. Some of this belief influenced what I wrote in others of my papers. In an early draft of this paper, too, I stated:
“[Paramhansa Yogananda] himself, as if to emphasize the importance of consciousness over form, never actually gave much energy to organizing his work. Its overriding reality, for him, was his vigorously expansive spirit.
“Sister Gyanamata [I continued], his chief woman disciple, predicted, ‘You will never be able to organize this work so long as he is alive.’ Yogananda himself said, ‘You all will have to work hard to organize the work after I am gone.’”
In everything I have done since I came to him, I have pondered all that he said and did, even down to his smallest hint. I wanted to draw on my memories of him for their fullest possible meaning. As the founder of Ananda, I have felt my own role to be relatively insignificant, for I saw my job as being, rather, to transmit to others the message I received from that great world teacher.
While writing this paper, therefore, I meditated again on the example he had set as the founder of an organization (Self-Realization Fellowship). And I understood, suddenly, this aspect of his life as I had never done before.
His mission covered a broad range of activities, such that it would have been impossible for him to limit himself to the usual role of administrator. Nevertheless, he gave us the guidance we needed to carry on his work along Dwapara Yuga lines. More than that, by inspiring us to rise to his meaning, rather than (so to speak) beating us on the head with what he wanted us to do, he actually established an ideal for Dwapara Yuga–style management.
His own firm commitment to the spirit, rather than to the form, of his work helped to point us toward a more fluid and loving approach to organizing than the rigid forms to which we, as Westerners, had grown accustomed.
To the extent that we failed the failure was ours, not his; it was due to our being steeped in old patterns of thinking. Few of his disciples were ready to take onto themselves his more fluid kind of leadership.
I remember one disciple telling me, almost in a tone of bewilderment, how the Master had tried for a long time to interest him in developing the organizational side of his mission. Finally the young man, under the impression that he at last understood how to proceed, came to the Master with an elaborate program for how to spread the teachings and bring in more members. The Master was exasperated because his disciple’s thickheadedness blinded him to what he really wanted of him. The disciple had thought that what the Master wanted was for him to hustle. Our Guru ended up brushing away the whole program, and announcing instead, “When we are ready, God will send to us those whom He wants to help.” He forthwith halted all his efforts to work with this disciple in such matters.
It was not the Master’s way to dot every i and cross every t. If he saw that a disciple didn’t have the right spirit, he would simply drop the subject. In this respect, too, he demonstrated a basic principle of Dwapara Yuga leadership: Don’t impose; try, rather, to inspire others from within to develop their own understanding.
Here is a further example of the Master’s way of working: In 1949 he put me in charge of the monks. I’d been with him less than a year and was fearful of the great responsibility he was giving me—to the point, I’m sorry to say, of doing almost nothing even to declare my position.
A year later he asked me again, and actually told me to organize the monks, who, until then, had never been organized.
One might assume from the fact that he gave me this charge that, after that, he must have devoted many hours to instructing me on how to organize the monks. Instead, as I found he usually did in such matters, he relied on my inner attunement with him to perceive his wishes and carry them out. From time to time he made a brief suggestion or a cautionary remark. Occasionally he would correct me, if he saw that in some one particular I had not understood him rightly. Otherwise, he simply oversaw what I did, without interfering. Every now and then he would express satisfaction, but otherwise he left it to me to do as I felt guided by him from within. I might add that, toward the end of his life, he said to me, “You have pleased me very much. I want you to know that.”
Most of his training of the disciples was on an intuitive level. As I organized the monks, it was enough for him that I grasped the spirit of his intentions, and was in tune with his inner guidance. From that level of intuitive understanding, he knew that the details would follow as a natural consequence.
What I have come to realize, then, while writing this paper is that organization was important to him, but depended on our understanding of his overall intentions. To him, the spirit of his teachings was more important than the forms that presented them. That was why he waited until nearly the end of his life to request that the monks be organized. Perhaps it was also why I myself came to him as a disciple only toward the end of his life, ensuring thereby that I’d live long enough to bring his ideas to completion. He set the tone for the right way to organize, but gave priority, always, to the spirit behind the outer forms.
Again, I think the reason I was destined to come to him only toward the end of his life (I came in 1948; he passed away in 1952) was that my own sense of discipleship was centrifugal, not centripetal: in other words, outwardly directed, from a center of attunement with him. He often told me, “You have a great work to do.” Once he pleaded with me urgently, “Of the men disciples, apart from St. Lynn (Rajarsi Janakananda), every one has disappointed me. And you MUSTN’T disappoint me!” I vowed inwardly then to do my best to spread his mission in the right, spiritual way, and not to focus too closely on him as the Guru, as many were doing. Others were more attracted to his personality than to the principles he was teaching. The solution for harmonizing both sides of this equation was, of course, also to go beyond his personality to the spirit which vitalized both him and that mission.
His guidance of me, too, was focused on making me an instrument through which he hoped to help others.
One day I fell into a mood. The next time he saw me, a few days later, the mood had evaporated, but he said, “No more moods, now. Otherwise, how will you be able to help others?”
Always, his guidance focused on the inner spirit of what we were doing. Even when we lectured, he told us, “Concentrate on giving people your vibrations. Don’t give too much attention to the thoughts you want to express.”
There was a time at Mt. Washington (the headquarters of Self-Realization Fellowship) when a skilled worker was badly needed for the print shop. Since this had been a subject of discussion for some weeks, it was with a glow of triumph that I approached the Master one day with the news, “Sir, we have a new man for the print shop!” A young man had come who expressed an interest in this kind of work.
“Why do you say that?” the Master demanded scoldingly. “First, see that they have our spirit. Only then look to see where they will best fit into our work.” (Interestingly, this young man proved, over time, not to have the right spirit. Evidently, the Master had already known this to be the case. I might add that he hadn’t yet met the young man.)
On one occasion I accepted someone for residence in the monastery who even I knew was not ready for our way of life. The man desperately needed spiritual help, however, and was anxious to improve himself. The Master, seeing him one day for the first time, remarked to me afterward, “I am going to have to give you intuition!”
This principle of doing things by intuition, rather than by reason alone, was important for me in the founding of Ananda years later. I had to use common sense also, of course, but it became increasingly clear to me that, without intuition, nothing important would ever be accomplished.
One of the instructions he gave me was, “Don’t make too many rules. It destroys the spirit.” From this single piece of instruction if from no other, I understood that, for him, organization meant a flow rather than a (perhaps) beautiful, but crystallized structure.
In looking to Yogananda’s example for how best to run a Dwapara Yuga institution, we must, as I stated earlier, look to the direction of the energy we are setting in motion, rather than to what people commonly describe as the “nuts and bolts” of the institution. In this respect, Paramhansa Yogananda in many ways fulfilled the requirements for leadership in a Dwapara Yuga organization.
What was the example he set? First and foremost, it was the expansiveness he expressed in his own nature. Most people experience some conflict between their own expansive and contractive tendencies. If they plunge into a cold stream, they may hastily strike out, shivering, for shore. In my Guru I observed no such conflict. To those of us who took his expansive nature as our example, that quality in him was a constant inspiration. We found it also, of course, an unceasing challenge.
One evidence of expansiveness in human nature is that it is solution-oriented, and not, like its opposite, problem-oriented. Problem-consciousness is symptomatic of the Kali Yuga mentality. Solution-consciousness is typical of the Dwapara Yuga nature.
An example of our Guru’s solution-consciousness occurred during World War II. Official restrictions were placed at that time on the construction of any new buildings in Los Angeles. Yogananda wanted to construct a new church in Hollywood, but because of the restrictions was told he would not be given a permit to do so.
Instead of worrying over the problems raised by what he couldn’t do, he focused on what he could do. A solution soon suggested itself to his mind.
No restrictions had been placed on remodeling already-existing structures. The Master therefore sought, and soon found, the shell of an old building of just the dimensions he wanted. He had this structure moved onto the Hollywood property, then proceeded to remodel it.
The neighbors, of course (problem-oriented like most people), on seeing that gutted shell standing on an empty lot in the midst of their elegant homes, complained vociferously. Somehow they couldn’t visualize in that shell its artistic possibilities! Gradually, however, to everyone’s amazement, that dilapidated ruin was transformed into the lovely jewel that, for many years now, has been Self-Realization Fellowship’s Church of All Religions on Sunset Blvd., in Hollywood.
Expansiveness! Solution-orientedness! Judging one’s fitness for position by his spirit more than by his already-demonstrated abilities! Encouraging subordinates to develop their own intuition, attunement, and understanding rather than carefully spelling out every move for them! Giving them a chance to learn from their mistakes! Reviewing an action after the event, rather than fretting in advance over what might go wrong with it! Supportiveness! Love!—These were a few, only, of the ways in which Paramhansa Yogananda pointed the way to enlightened management in the age of Dwapara.
He showed by other ways also his command of the needs of management in this age of energy. Of primary importance, he said, was offering service to others. His mode of dealing with everyone, moreover, was impartial, divinely loving, and equally respectful to all in God.
His concept of spiritual management was top downward, but not in the usual managerial sense. Rather, what this meant for him was giving first priority to Truth and right action. After that followed those concepts which would best express the truth—concepts such as kindness, respect, and a willingness to listen to points of view other than one’s own. Next came the search for those people who might be receptive to these truths. Last in importance came the organization itself, as a vessel for the truth and a vehicle for spreading it.
People were, to him, more important than the organization. If his teachings were more important to him than the people he was teaching, it was in the sense that he refused to compromise the Truth in order to accommodate people’s delusions. Eternal Truth itself, finally, was supremely important to him, above any specific formulation of that Truth.
Ananda—A First Step
I have tried in these pages to understand and explain clearly Paramhansa Yogananda’s example. As I created Ananda, also, I tried always to make it a laboratory for testing and developing his ideas. I haven’t meant to say that these ideas themselves are unprecedented, any more than Truth itself can ever be unprecedented. The same thoughts have been expressed many times and in many ways through the ages. What is new today is that these crucial ideas have been presented when the general consciousness of mankind was more ready to receive them.
There are few written rules at Ananda. We try, instead, to work with people as they are, not as any artificial theory says they ought to be. “People are more important than things.” It is for the people themselves that the rules were made.
I have always followed to the best of my ability Yogananda’s charitable approach to organizing. If a job needs doing, no matter how important it is to the needs of the community, our first concern is for the persons concerned. Only secondarily is our concern for Ananda itself. The reason for this practice is that spiritual institutions owe their very existence to the desire to help others. Rules are meant for those who can stand and be counted, and not for some amorphous humanity “out there” which might, perhaps, benefit from them someday, if only Joe and Mary can be squeezed, meanwhile, for everything they have.
At Ananda, if doubts arise as to whether a person being considered for a position would benefit from it spiritually, we seek someone else for that place, even if that person seems less suitable for the job. For we’d rather see a project fail than have it succeed at any one individual’s expense. Our projects, consequently, have generally succeeded—indeed, they’ve flourished, in a field (communities) where the rate of failure, so far, stands close to 100%.
In 1980 we bought East West Books, a metaphysical bookstore in Menlo Park, California. The person I put in charge of the store remonstrated with me, “But I don’t know anything about selling books!”
“Never mind,” I consoled her. “Be a friend to everyone who comes. You will learn what you need to know about books, in time. In fact, your customers will be glad to tell you about them in return for the spiritual nourishment they feel on coming here. Serve them, and share with them God’s love.”
For some years East West Books was in the top one percent of metaphysical bookstores in the whole country, and the second-largest-selling bookstore of its kind on the West Coast. Today I don’t know the statistics, but I do know that East West is thriving when many bookstores in the country, especially metaphysical bookstores, have gone out of business. One reason for our success has been our principle of giving top priority to the spirit of the people working there—less so than to their demonstrated competence. In fact, competence has followed as a matter of course.
Another example of relying on the spirit first, rather than on material needs, occurred in 1976. In that year a forest fire destroyed some 450 acres at Ananda Village and twenty-one of our homes. This devastation might easily have sounded the death knell for the whole community, for we hadn’t the financial reserves with which to rebuild, and were without fire insurance. Though generously assisted by donations from friends and various organizations, it took us years to pay for the loss. With a lot of hard work, however, and with joyful faith in God, we did, by His grace, rebuild at last, better than ever.
During the early stages of the rebuilding process, we faced a moral dilemma. Before the fire, a couple had decided to move away from the community. We had promised to buy their home when the funds to do so became available. This home, too, was destroyed in the fire, and of course we had nothing now with which to buy back that nonexistent structure. Donations were coming in at a trickle, not a flood. We had the rebuilding of those destroyed homes of our active members to consider. Were we still obligated—such was our dilemma—to buy back that no longer existent home? If so, how soon ought we to do so? Would it command first priority? Or would we be right to delay our repayment?
After consulting the resident members’ feelings in the matter, we decided to pay off that couple’s home first, from the initial donations we received. “Jato dharma, tato jaya: Where there is adherence to right action, there is victory.” Our hearts rejoiced in the realization that our homes, and Ananda itself, belonged to God and Guru, not to us.
This belief, inspired by Yogananda’s example, inspires in us an awareness that the whole world, and not Ananda alone, is our larger community.
Herewith follows another example of the practical implications of that belief:
The cause of the fire was later discovered to have been a faulty spark-arrester on a county vehicle. This meant we could sue the county for damages. Neighbors of ours, who also had lost their homes, sued and collected. When the news first came out that the county was liable, some of our neighbors phoned us and announced exultantly, “You’ll easily be able to get two million dollars for your losses!” (Ananda had been the biggest loser in the fire.) Two million dollars would have enabled us to rebuild all our homes, and also to redevelop our devastated land.
Instead, I wrote to the county supervisors that we considered the county as our own larger community. We would not, I said, be taking out our bad luck on our larger community.
Ten years later, many of our neighbors were still bemoaning the losses they’d sustained in the fire. At Ananda, the very day after the fire we were already pitching in with joyful smiles to clear the land and begin the process of reconstruction. Our joy never left us. In many ways, the fire turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in Ananda’s history.
Our deep conviction, justified again and again over the years, has been that when the spirit is truly expansive and self-giving, God Himself—perhaps through the Intelligent Cosmic Energy—always provides.
My very decision to found Ananda was made during a period of my life when my income was less than $400 a month. Friends and relatives ridiculed my ambition as absurd. The inner flow of energy, however, felt right to me. My part in the process was only to put out the highest energy of which I felt myself capable.
The inspiration for this decision was, again, the example I’d seen in Paramhansa Yogananda. One day, during difficult years financially, a visitor had asked him sneeringly, “What are the assets of this organization?”
“None!” replied the Master vigorously: “Only God!”
To raise the money I needed for starting Ananda, I traveled daily from city to city giving yoga classes. Mindful of my Guru’s reluctance, years earlier, to charge money for his classes, but recalling at the same time that he’d decided to charge for them, once he realized that people appreciate what they are getting only when they give something in return, I charged a token $25 for a six-weeks course. If any potential student complained that he couldn’t afford even that amount, I let him perform some little service in exchange for getting free lessons. He might set up chairs, or perhaps (after I acquired the first Ananda property), work on the land for a weekend. (Strange to relate, it turned out in every case that those who had claimed they couldn’t afford to pay demonstrated, later, that they could easily have paid. Nevertheless, I preferred to let them determine their own priorities. My responsibility, as I saw it, was to preserve my spirit of service to others.) As things turned out, God always sent me as many students as I needed to meet my land and construction costs: never more, but always enough.
I’ve already discussed in sufficient detail, for the purposes of this paper, how we have sought to grow by putting principles first, and by keeping always in mind the first principle, “People are more important than things.”
One aspect of community life that might seem difficult to develop along charitable lines is that of discipline. Yet a certain amount of discipline is necessary in any institution. For anarchy is not freedom. The more such discipline proceeds from within the individual, however, in the form of self-discipline, and isn’t imposed on him from without, the better both for the organization and for the member himself. in his relationship with the organization.
Paramhansa Yogananda set the tone in this respect also. He once said to me, “I only like to discipline with love. I just wilt when I have to speak in other ways.”
He also gave supreme importance to the individual’s free will. “I only discipline those who want it,” he told me, “never those who don’t.”
One might think it necessary sometimes to put organizational priorities ahead of personal needs: to say, for example, “Do it, or else!” This is something I never heard Paramhansa Yogananda do.
On one occasion, before my arrival, a grand opening was planned for the SRF colony in Encinitas, California. Everyone concerned was under great pressure to finish everything in time for the occasion. The public and the media had already been invited. Rev. Bernard himself told me the story:
“I had the all-important responsibility,” he said, “of plastering the towers. I’d worked through the night several times, to meet that fast-approaching deadline.
“One final push was needed. My presence was crucial to the completion of the job. On the last day, I failed to show up. When I did finally appear, the Master demanded of me as if scoldingly, ‘Where were you?’
“‘Sir,’ I replied, ‘I was meditating.’
“‘Oh,’ replied the Master, instantly mollified. ‘Why didn’t you say so?’”
God-communion was the very reason we were there. Never would the Master give precedence to any outer project over that highest priority, no matter how urgent the situation. I should finish this story by relating that the job did—“by the skin of its teeth”—get finished in time.
At Ananda—again following the Master’s example—we have always emphasized cooperation over obedience. If anyone shows himself unwilling to do something that has been asked of him, we simply ask someone else to do it.
If the same member refuses a second or a third time, he simply won’t be asked again unless and until his attitude changes. For if he won’t accept the responsibility of disciplining himself, little can be gained by imposing discipline on him from outside.
When external discipline comes by force or persuasion, it only weakens people and makes them dependent, or, alternately, it confuses them and makes them rebellious. Clarity of mind, and inner strength: Both are needed for creating a strong organization—even if unquestioning obedience seems, in the short term, more convenient.
It is important also to see the organization, and the individual’s place in it, in terms of energy output. For energy moves in a vortex. Once a positive vortex is created, any negativity will either be converted and drawn in toward the center, or repelled and dissipated.
There are times—and these, too, have come to Ananda—when negative energy must be actively combated. In such cases we’ve found it better to affirm positive energy, thereby giving it strength, than to energize a negative vortex by allowing ourselves to grow angry over it or to denounce it.
An unusual feature at Ananda, and one that I hope will someday become widespread, is our practice of managing by direct involvement rather than aloofly, from above.
We call this process “Involvement Management.” It is something that has evolved over a period of years, through trial and error, and is not the result of any a priori theory. There were no community models for us to study at first—none, at any rate, with which I myself was familiar. To me, “involvement management” is an important direction for us, and will perhaps be helpful to other organizations too, as mankind progresses further into Dwapara Yuga.
For many years before I founded Ananda, I studied other models in history, as well as organizations of our own day, and pondered how those functioned which succeeded best. I observed that high position was often presumed to demonstrate a person’s competence for decision-making in every field. Who said a thing was considered more important than what he or she said.
I also assisted at meetings where those who knew the least about a project often did the most talking, as if to show that they, too, took seriously their responsibility as members of a decision-making body.
It is important, of course, for there to be leadership positions. When those who hold a high position, however, consider themselves alone competent to determine the outcome of every issue, inevitably their expertise will not in every case be equal to the task of making wise decisions. High position, moreover, invites personal ambition, envy from others, and feelings of self-importance in the person himself who holds the position.
At Ananda we have, of necessity, a few people in key management positions. Meetings are more frequently held, however, at levels where everyone involved in a project gets to participate.
The important thing is that the energy in every segment of the work be directed in a spirit of unity. Otherwise, nothing will prevent any committee from scattering off in its own direction, destroying in the process the coherence that is so essential to every group project.
Paramhansa Yogananda tried to get people to understand management by involvement, and leadership by attunement with the source of inspiration. Too often, when he placed someone in a responsible position, that person never realized with what a spiritual powerhouse he was living. Often he tried to do things according to his own, inner “lights,” without much concerning himself about attunement with the Master. Those to whom our Guru gave the job of sharing these teachings with others too often viewed the task as an opportunity for presenting different inspirations of their own.
In a work of such spiritual importance, it is necessary to understand that God sent Paramhansa Yogananda with a divine message to mankind. The more perfectly we can transmit that message to others, the more certain it will be to reach all mankind, as God intended.
No work can flourish with a multiplicity of guiding spirits. Hence the truth of Emerson’s saying, “An institution is the lengthened shadow of one man.” The logic of this statement, applied to Paramhansa Yogananda’s mission, is irresistible: His mission will never flourish unless he himself is maintained as the source of all its energy flow.
Yogananda knew that after his death his disciples, each one capable of perceiving him only in some one, or in a few, aspects of his many-sided nature, but not in all of them, might be inclined to take his mission in less vital directions. Therefore he told a disciple, “Only love can take my place”: Not, “Only your memory of me,” nor, “The rules I have written.” Love, as the guiding principle for every true disciple, regardless of how differently each perceives the mission itself, is the true key to its success.
Today, therefore, when two disciples have different interpretations of his teachings or of his personal guidance to them, the key he gave all of us is to place the highest priority on love: to demonstrate our love for and attunement with him by the love we share with one another.
Must we always agree with one another? Ideally so, of course. However, given the fact that people sometimes cannot help seeing things differently, they can still love one another, and simply “agree to differ.”
Must they shelve their differences, then, in the name of harmony? Again, yes, if possible. But if the differences are so fundamental that it would entail an offense against their own understanding of the truth, then they must, as I said, agree to differ. In this case, they can at least still love one another.
Love is a gift. It cannot be imposed by rule, nor demanded by one person or another. It must be given freely, or else not given at all.
Yogananda showed this spirit by his own life. And he showed how the spirit of love can reign supreme in an organization: by the complete absence of self-assertion; by seeing God in all; by not making the organization an extension of anyone’s ego, but seeing all equally as brothers and sisters; by judging no one; and by emphasizing a spirit of service rather than something so often encountered in organizations: a struggle for ever-higher positions of authority.
At Ananda we have succeeded to a gratifying extent in curbing personal ambition. Our method has been simply to emphasize function over position. A person may be relatively new at Ananda, and yet—if he happens to be directly involved in the matter at issue—find himself participating in meetings and helping to make decisions on many issues. By the single device of involvement management, we have eliminated perhaps eighty percent of the infighting and competition that are so common in organizations.
Along with grassroots decision-making, there is always the need for the guidance of authority. These two flows of energy—downward from above, and upward from below at the grassroots level—need constantly to be kept in a state of balance. If decisions were to get made only at a grassroots level, the result would, of course, be institutional confusion.
Because it is common for people to find themselves caught up in details—to the point of losing touch with the deeper purpose behind what they are doing—we at Ananda have created a safeguard against this tendency. In addition to having a general manager responsible for the hows of a decision, we have also a spiritual director, whose responsibility is for the whethers of the decision.
The spiritual director’s job is to make sure that the spirit of Ananda flows from attunement with the Master’s teachings, and from inner guidance, and never from expediency alone. No decision is fully sanctioned unless it is accepted as coming from the special ray of God’s grace that has been sent to us by our line of gurus.
The need for attunement with their mission is kept paramount. Ananda is a part of that mission. The mission as a whole, however, is much broader than what we at Ananda define as our own church and community. The mission is to reach out everywhere with love, and not to limit ourselves to the forms by which we express that love. Our solution is to concentrate rather on love itself, and to ask of that love that it flow to all the world, energizing all whom it touches.
Ananda exists for the purpose of serving the larger community of mankind—first of all through its members, and then to those, everywhere, who seek our help.
In Dwapara Yuga terms, religious organizations will feel themselves more strongly motivated than they’ve been in the past by the spirit of love, rather than by any demand for obedience. The emphasis on power and control—so common in the past—will be replaced by an expansive impulse to serve and embrace all mankind in a spirit of kinship in God, and to bless everyone, everywhere, with His love.
[*] Large tracts of vitrified sand have been found in the Gobi desert and elsewhere, resembling in every way the effect of atomic blasts in the Nevada desert. There are descriptions, moreover, in the ancient Indian epic, the Mahabharata, of a “terrible” weapon very similar in its effects to modern atomic blasts. The Mahabharata also, along with other ancient Indian texts, describes machines that flew (vamanas, they were called), and tells in some detail how those machines were constructed. A considerable body of modern literature on these and similar subjects is available to interested readers. Some of these books are, of course, more, and others less, objective and reliable than others. For many years I myself wanted to research such a book. The quantity of published material already available, however, has become so vast that one would have at this point to make it his life’s work to enter this field in a responsible manner. Scientist David Steinmetz and I did make a video recording of this subject several years ago, which covered some of this information. The recording, titled “The Cycles of Time,” is one hour and forty minutes long, and is available from Crystal Clarity Publishers.
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