© Dana Lynne Andersen

The Cycle of the Yugas 

An understanding of the cycle of the yugas gives us unparalleled insight into the past, present, and future development of mankind. Sri Yukteswar, a modern exponent of the yugas, and on whose insights this book is based, explains that mankind goes through clearly discernable ages, or yugas. Each yuga changes the consciousness of mankind. As mankind’s consciousness changes, so do civilization and human development.

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An understanding of the cycle of the yugas reveals that, like two sides of the same coin, the development of mankind is inextricably bound together with the development of every man’s consciousness. The yugas are a unique contribution to the world’s knowledge because they unite the study of the inner and outer man. Historians have long sought a key with which to unlock the secrets of the past. But the key has eluded them because they have looked only to the outer man. Only when we make the correlation of inner consciousness to outward behavior, does the seeming chaos of history fall into a discernable pattern.

It is not, however, the pattern most modern historians and archeologists expect to find.

The yugas describe a cycle of human development that not only predicts highly advanced ages in the future, but indicates that they have occurred in the past as well. The yuga cycle includes ages less advanced than our own, ages full of ignorance and darkness, and ages so much more advanced than our own present age that we cannot fully comprehend them. And, as is implicit in the meaning of the word “cycle,” we learn that once mankind’s peak is reached, there is inevitable decline; and once mankind’s darkest point is reached, there is inevitable advancement.

The yugas are a tradition in India that goes back thousands of years. Sri Yukteswar does not base his understanding of the yugas on tradition alone, however. Sri Yukteswar’s insights spring from self-realization. His understanding of the yugas is born of deep intuition. Yet his explanation is clear and succinct, and, as he intended, approachable by the Western scientific mind.

Sri Yukteswar outlines the yugas in the introduction to his book, The Holy Science. Writing in 1894, Sri Yukteswar predicted several developments that have since come to pass – the rapid development of knowledge in the twentieth century, and the discovery that energy underlies all matter. Sri Yukteswar’s explanation predates Einstein’s E=mc2 by over ten years. These were not predictions in the usual sense of the intuitive perception of singular events; rather Sri Yukteswar’s predictions arose from an understanding of the consequence of the change in mankind’s consciousness from one yuga to the next. The most recent transition from one yuga to the next was fully completed in the year 1900 AD, just five years before Einstein’s conceptions fundamentally changed our worldview.

 Sri Yukteswar’s prediction, however, was not about Einstein as an individual. Had it not been Einstein who perceived and formulated the relationship between energy and matter, it would have been someone else. What Sri Yukteswar predicted was the inevitability that this knowledge would come to light, due to the fundamental change in the consciousness of mankind taking place at that time.

 Sri Yukteswar is known to the world primarily through the writings of Paramhansa Yogananda, his foremost disciple and author of Autobiography of a Yogi. Sri Yukteswar and Yogananda shared a mission to present the teachings of India in such a way that Western minds could appreciate and understand them within the context of Western thinking and modern science. Yogananda lived in the United States from 1920 until his death in 1952. He was a tireless and inspiring exponent of the teachings of yoga, and was able to present the ancient teachings of India in a fresh, clear, and thoroughly modern way.

 This book continues their tradition by presenting the concept of the yugas in the context of Western thinking, science, and scholarship. We believe you will find that the simple concept of the cycle of the yugas – Sri Yukteswar needed only twelve brief pages to describe it – has profound implications for both the inner and outer man. For, as you will learn as you journey through this book, the inner and outer man are inextricably linked.

Yuga Cycle Diagram

Copyright: David Steinmetz