Yukteswar’s Yugas

I’ve occasionally mentioned the Yugas here. Basically, it’s a Vedic understanding of the cycles of time. Just as we have a cycle of hours, days, years, and centuries, the Vedas also chart ages (as in Age of Aquarius), yugas, cycles of creation, and more.

In the West, we have a rather heavily embedded meme telling us we started out as hunter-gatherers/cavemen and have evolved linearly from there into progressively better life. This worldview informs historic researchers, who almost always ascribe prior cultures as more primitive, sometimes in spite of evidence to the contrary. If we don’t understand it, it’s considered myth and superstition. But would a person of 200 years ago believe or understand a description of today’s typical living-room?

Yogananda’s master Swami Yukteswar was a renowned jyotishi. When he studied the ancient texts, he found that during the dark age Vedic scholars had made a small error in calculating the length of the yugas. They’d added a multiplier to adjust time to Deva (angel) years. This was a small error with a big impact. Common understanding is that Kali Yuga (the dark age) is 432,000 years long with a complete cycle of yugas lasting over 4 million years. By this calculation, we’re still only a few thousand years into the worst life has to offer.

Yukteswar’s correction* brought the Yugas back into a rising and falling cycle that aligns with the cycle of the ages and with what we call The Great Year in the west, the approx. 25,000 year cycle of the precession of the equinoxes**. In this model, Kali is only 1,200 years long. We passed through the trough in 500 AD (the Dark Ages) and are now about 311 years into the second age, Dwapara Yuga, the bronze or energy age***.

I recently finished reading a fascinating book called The Yugas, by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz. They took what Yogananda and Yukteswar had said on the subject and extrapolated out the dates, then compared them to history. It’s a pretty fascinating re-examination of our past and coming future. And it addresses many of the curious historical anomalies we’re all familiar with. I wouldn’t say I’d agree with all of their interpretations and the book is organized a little curiously but the research is diverse and largely well done.

The key detail to understand about the yugas is that it’s a cycle of expression of consciousness. (this cycle was known in most ancient cultures, like the Golden, Silver, Bronze and Iron ages of Greece) During the golden age or Sat Yuga, about 40% of time, most of us live at our full potential and enjoy “heaven on earth”. 30% of time we live close to that. 20% of time we feel individual and get into commerce and cities (like now) and for just 10% we go through a night and become quite dull, seeing only the physical world as real.

He summarizes the memes with 3 terms: (dates are for the current ascending cycle)
Satya – Golden: (7700 – 12,500 AD ascending, then a similar period descending)
Self realization, direct intuitive perception, consciousness

Treta – Silver: (4100 – 7700 AD)
Self-mastery, intuitive attunement, thought awareness

Dwapara – Bronze: (1700 – 4100 AD (current))
(enlightened) Self-interest, awakened intellect (science), energy (flow, intuition)

Kali – Iron: (500 – 1700AD ascending after a similar decent from 700 BC)
Passive acceptance, dull-mindedness, matter awareness
This period was more uncultured than now. But not before that.

They have a chart here illustrating the current rising and prior falling cycle with the shift dates. It should be noted that each yuga has a “Sandhi” or transitional period of about 10% that adds to the time of that yuga. By that calculation, we’re just over a hundred years out of the transition from a material paradigm. In many ways, the transition is still underway as we hold to the old while we rediscover who we are and what we’re capable of. Self-interest has become dominant and they suggest it will become  “enlightened” over time when we find our own happiness is supported by self-awareness and caring for  others. They suggest this shift from passive acceptance to self-interest is what has driven us into commerce, “civilization” and city dwelling.

The book goes into the tone and characteristics of the developing and future ages, then looks into the last 14,000 years of our past. As historians can trace the development of language and writing, they suggest this illustrates our evolution. The book suggests this actually illustrates our devolution in consciousness. They observe that the worlds proto-languages all appeared fully formed around the same time and suggest this was an adaptation to losing the ability to communicate mentally with others. As we lost the connection, our world culture and languages became fractured and increasingly isolated.(think Tower of Babel) We adapted first by developing oral language and traditions, then when consciousness dropped into Dwapara, the written word. The Yuga dates correspond to the known arising of the Vedic oral tradition and the later compiling and writing of the Vedas. Also the evolution from mantras into rituals.

Another example suggests why the Egyptian pyramids begin with the best work and slowly degrade. (book excerpt) The book goes into many such examples.

Yogananda indicated there had been many such yuga cycles, saying civilized man has been around for 50 million years. The book talks about why we see little evidence of that. But not none.

Finally there is an interesting discussion about Yukteswar’s reference to the sun’s “dual”. I’ve usually heard this to mean an unknown binary star around which our sun is orbiting. (The vast majority of stars have now been found to be binary) This 25,000 year orbit is what is said to cause the earths slowly rotating tilt and thus the cycle of the ages and yugas. They note that while this might be what he was referring to, both the Sanskrit term for the orbital point and the word “dual” may actually be a geometric term for the axis of the ecliptic. It’s an obscure thing from projective geometry but if you’ve ever explored Buckminster Fuller, you’ll have seen the models where there are forms within forms. The inner form is the inverse or dual.

I appreciate the work they’ve done to compile all this research to corroborate the idea. It’s certainly a very different take on our history, where we are and where we’re going. Happily, the news is largely good.  😉
Davidya

The book’s web site, with articles (book excerpts), blog, and references.
theyugas.com

Notes:
* Yukteswar reviews his discovery in the Introduction to his 1894 book, The Holy Science. It’s still in print. The correct numbers are also in the Manu Samhita. (ever heard of the Laws of Manu?)
Curiously, I’d actually noticed the error myself when trying to reconcile Vedic time with astronomical and experienced time.

**Dr. David Frawley suggests both cycles could be correct. One is human scale, one Devic. This is similar in idea to the dasha and bhukti cycles in jyotish, one within the other.

***It should be noted that this model shows the Sat yuga/golden age/Age of Enlightenment as rising in about 7700 AD. Krishna’s (and others) out-of-cycle prediction of a Sat Yuga in the current time is a different subject. This book is about the underlying cycle.

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30 Responses to Yukteswar’s Yugas

  1. Share L says:

    It’s fun how this blog is such a good expression of Dwapara. First of all, because it’s written. And secondly because it flows with clarity.

    Hmmm, I was just noticing the term dwapara. I think para means transcendent but am not sure. Wonder what dwa means here. Very interesting.

    I like the living room analogy. And I’m glad the news is largely good (-:

  2. Share L says:

    Also Maharishi Mahesh Yogi once spoke of simultaneity and sequence being equally true. Though he wasn’t exactly speaking of time, I wonder if this concept can be applied to time. It does seem that time is both a sequential unfoldment and a here and now simultaneity.

  3. Davidya says:

    Thanks, Share
    Only 2 pillars of Dharma are supported in Dwapara, so it likely refers to that.

    He may not have directly referred to time but such concepts are related to time. And it can indeed be experienced a number of different ways. Sequentially within it, concurrently simultaneous or both together. For example, where one rests in the eternal while experiences the unfolding. Or where one observes the entirety of space-time and can move along any specific timeline.

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  6. John Wright says:

    St Augustine said that when he thought about time,he didn’t understand,but when he didn’t think about it,he did.Einstein called it a “persistant illusion” i have no doubt we go through cycles of time,but at the same time we are timeless,eternal.do what you must in time,while placing most of yourself in eternity and you’ll be fine.Jesus said “there will be wars and rumors of wars,be not troubled” follow that advice and you’ll have no problems with whatever age we’re in(of course that’s easier said than done) go with God’s Grace.

  7. Davidya says:

    Hi John
    The illusion of time is non-different than the illusion of creation or Maya. The idea of posts like this is to describe the larger cycles of time taking place within creation. The truth of who we are is much deeper than the time-space construct. We are deeper even than eternity, though eternity is a good first step. 😉

    If you’re familiar with the idea of “Maya as illusion”, you might be interested in this post. Illusion is just one mode of perception. Creation is also a ladder home.
    http://davidya.ca/2008/08/15/innate-vs-illusion/

    From a higher perspective, all of creation occurs within our cosmic nature and is not other than That. In other words, the illusion is only in how we might be seeing it, most particularly in separation. Creation is not other than Creator.

    To your comment, I agree: if we put our greater part in that which is beyond all things, we will live a richer fuller life, untroubled by the dramas unfolding around us.

    This specific post was to give readers a more detailed idea of Yugas and to present a non-traditional understanding that takes us out of the rather dark idea that we’re long to be trapped in the dark age. I use a lot of ideas that I periodically stop to explain in some further detail, such as this post.

    Thanks for sharing and God’s grace is with you.

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  13. Davidya says:

    Ran into this page with various bits on the Yuga cycle, including Yukteswars chart
    http://www.barbarapijan.com/bpa/Amsha/yuga_cycles_big_clock.htm

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  15. Davidya says:

    A friend sent me this link to an intro by one of the books authors.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kFHec5CGlkI

  16. Davidya says:

    re: the above video – there is several in a series.

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  24. Davidya says:

    This is large Jyotish site. This page reviews a few more details about Yugas i this perspective.
    http://barbarapijan.com/bpa/Amsha/yuga_cycles_big_clock.htm

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  26. Lilian says:

    Thank you for this David. This has triggered some valuable intuitive understandings of my internal trajectory.

    That all seems programmed into my life: to reintegrate my human life with my spiritual path. To feel my spiritual untuition and knowledge come back to life in productive ways.

    A bit of challenging life experience does wonders to push us forward, eh? To get the crust off and to start flowing with the new energy of this age.

    I’m grateful that I’ve got Rose to push me forward with this and hopefully get all enlightened early (this lifetime or close enough) in this upswing.

    It’s amazing how the saints of the dark ages (St Columba (and the monks here in Scotland), St Augustine etc) carried the torch to carry knowledge through. I imagine there were “arcs” carrying vedic knowledge through this time also, but I don’t know that tradition. Does anyone here know the history of that? These must have been special souls.

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Lilian
      Yes, and notable what we call the Dark ages in the west was at the bottom of the yuga trough.

      The Vedic tradition was originally oral, passed down within families and traditions for thousands of years. The verses where memorized several ways, including backwards, to ensure their survival.

      But with the known coming dark ages, the sage Vyasa organized and wrote down some of the key texts to help with their survival. Some did make it through orally but a lot was lost. Even some of the texts where lost.

      But this has resulted in the survival of the oldest known human texts.

      Part of the issue today is that some of the texts assume knowledge we no longer have or reference texts that have been lost.

      There is something of a revival of the oral tradition in India now and gradually, copies of various old texts are being discovered and converted into a common script. A text on Sanskrit gender was recently discovered, unlabeled and misfiled in a library.

    • Davidya says:

      btw – a note on “challenging life experience”
      it can certainly have that effect – but only if we’re willing to grow. There are a lot of people fighting change and creating a much bigger challenge for themselves, a much rougher process.

  27. Lilian says:

    What I find particularly inspiring is that the golden ages decline as fewer people in the collective consciousness are enlightened, so the collective consciousness itself drops out of enlightenment.

    More souls gaining enlightenment at this time (ie being self-reliant enlightenment experts lol) would give so much strength and stability to the collective consciousness if they incarnate in the ages to come…

    David, I imagine that you have this role of collective consciousness raiser in this life. 🙂

    • Davidya says:

      Well – it’s common for souls to stop coming back into the challenging sphere of human life after enlightenment. It’s one of the perks of the process – stepping off the cycle of death and rebirth.

      However, some of the awake are catalysts for others. We know from history that even in a darker age, a great teacher will create a legacy of enlightened students that will last for hundreds of years. Buddha would be an example there.

      We’re now in a time where the growth of the awake is happening exponentially. Even in my small circle here, new shifts happen all the time.

      So it’s not necessary that everyone awake stick around. Just that they help keep the ball rolling.

      I would say it’s not David that has a role raising anything other than the occasional deck. But raising of consciousness as a whole is happening though this expression. 🙂

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