Religious Intolerance and the Yugas
In the theory of the yugas, Swami Sri Yukteswar has recovered from antiquity a description of the vast sweep of human civilization, one that clarifies our understanding of current events and inspires us with hope for the future. His description is more than a map of historical events, however. It provides a persuasive picture of the evolution of human consciousness through the ages.
Repeating cycles of time
Briefly, Sri Yukteswar describes a very long cycle of human evolution—24,000 years—encompassing eight distinct ages or “yugas.” During the four descending ages that constitute half the cycle, human awareness becomes gradually more limited and descends into materialism. At the lowest point, Kali Yuga, matter is seen as the sole reality, fixed and absolute.
During the ascending four ages, humanity’s awareness gradually increases, becoming more refined and spiritual. It reaches its zenith in Satya Yuga, a time when people live in harmony with God and nature, and understand that the universe is merely a projection of divine consciousness.
These cycles continue endlessly through time, alternating between spiritual and material extremes. Nearly all of recorded history deals with the lowest stages of human awareness, when the perceived differences between people in appearance, religion, and nationality led to conflicts and wars.
The challenges of Dwapara
The upward progress of the yugas is toward unity in the broadest sense. What is significant for us today is Sri Yukteswar’s view that we have long since passed through Kali Yuga, the lowest point in the cycles, and have entered the second of the ascending ages, Dwapara Yuga.
In Kali Yuga humanity struggled with the limitations of matter. With the dawn of Dwapara has come the understanding that the many forms of matter have a common underlying energy nature. This unifying idea has been the key to breaking free of many of the limitations imposed by material forms.
Overcoming the limitations of space
In the evolution of human consciousness each age offers distinct challenges and opportunities. The primary task of humanity during Dwapara Yuga is to overcome the limitations imposed by space. Already we are applying our new understanding of the energy nature of matter to solve problems of long distance communication and transportation.
But the concept of space embraces far more than the mere idea of “emptiness” or the vacuum beyond the Earth’s atmosphere. It also implies “separation” or “division,” not only by geographical boundaries, for example, but by any parameter, such as ideology, clan, language, gender, race, religion and so on.
In Dwapara, we are being challenged to see division as an illusion and unity as the true reality. The term holistic, which has come into vogue lately, expresses this way of thinking. A more intuitive approach to life will replace the type of rational, analytic thinking that divides problems into their smallest parts, searching in vain for solutions.
A time of transition
We are now living in a time of transition, when both the old and new ages are influencing human affairs. Not surprisingly, there is a strong resistance to change. People everywhere want desperately to turn back the clock and hold onto the values of Kali Yuga.
The spirit of Dwapara is expansive, while that of Kali is contractive. Actions that are arbitrary and dogmatic, without regard to individual needs or circumstances, reflect the Kali Yuga pattern. As the old and new energies vie for supremacy, we must expect conflict and confusion.
Around the world today, we see an expression of this conflict in the rise of religious fundamentalism, and a growing attitude of religious intolerance. In his book, Religion in the New Age, Swami Kriyananda writes that “there cannot be a new age” for those who believe that their particular religious teachings define the past, present, and future. Any form of change is seen as a threat to their beliefs.
Descending Kali Yuga–the destruction of libraries
The roots of religious intolerance, as we know it today, began with the advent of descending Kali Yuga circa 700 BC, when humanity gradually lost the capacity to understand the subtle relationships between matter, energy and consciousness. Fanaticism and violent conflict arose as people lost sight of the true meaning of the beliefs that distinguished their religion from others.
In many cultures, there was a widespread destruction of temples and libraries, often for the sole purpose of purging “unacceptable” ideas. These attacks coincided with the first years of descending Kali Yuga, a time when the earliest known versions of sacred texts, which had previously been transmitted orally, came into existence.
One of the most notable examples of purging “unacceptable ideas” was the destruction of the great library at Alexandria, Egypt. The Ptolemy Dynasty in Egypt, which began in 332 BC, undertook to collect “all the books of all the peoples in the world” and translate them into Greek.
However, as the world moved more deeply into Kali Yuga, the library came under a series of attacks, first by the Romans in 272 AD, then by the Christians in 391 AD. Finally, in 640 AD the Arabs finished the job, claiming that all knowledge was contained in the Koran, and no other writings were necessary.
This destructive pattern continued throughout the centuries of descending and ascending Kali Yuga. It ended finally in the 16th century AD, near the end of ascending Kali Yuga, after Spain invaded the New World and, in the name of Christianity, tried to destroy the records of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations.
Ascending Dwapara Yuga—the Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation in the dawning years of ascending Dwapara Yuga in the early 16th century reflected a mixture of Kali and Dwapara attitudes—a fresh Dwapara desire to expand beyond the shackles of established religious institutions, carried out with a rigid, black or white Kali Yuga consciousness.
The Reformation was marked by a spirit of individuality that resulted in the creation of hundreds of new sects, each of which held slightly different doctrines according to the views of its founder. Aided by the invention of the printing press, which gave all people a chance to read and interpret the Bible for themselves, the Reformation empowered people to hold beliefs different from those of religious authority.
But it generated 200 years of religious wars and violent intolerance. In Martin Luther’s time, if you deemed the religious convictions of others to be in error, you were justified in killing or torturing them until they recanted. To a limited extent, these attitudes carried over into the New World, even among those who fled Europe to escape religious persecution.
The world today
Religion as a separate compartment of life was unknown during the higher ages. Only in Kali Yuga do we find sectarianism and religious strife. Can we hope that the coming centuries will bring an end to religious intolerance?
Bloody battles along religious lines continue to this day wherever the Kali Yuga absolutism prevails. We see instances throughout the world where political and religious elements, aided by the new technology of warfare, have joined forces to resist the new Dwapara energy.
But there are also those who embrace the Dwapara ideal of a dynamically changing, culturally diverse world in which all true religions are seen as alternate paths to a common goal. Battles remain to be fought, but there is no doubt as to the final outcome.
Looking to the future
The three centuries of transition between Kali and Dwapara Yugas is called the twilight or sandhi period. We have now passed through this period and have entered the full light of Dwapara proper. The remnants of Kali Yuga are being exaggerated into prominence by the Dwapara energy, much like the brilliant flash of a light bulb an instant before it goes dark for good.
Once the transition has passed and the old Kali forms have crumbled, we will see an increasing manifestation of the characteristics of Dwapara Yuga. Among other things, people will begin to understand the underlying unity of all religions, and recognize that we are all children of the same God.
Byasa Steinmetz, a Lightbearer lives in the Ananda Sacramento community, where he is working on his forthcoming book on the yugas.
Love Is the Master Key to the Universe
by Swami Kriyananda
The conflict between the dying rigidity and dogmatism of Kali Yuga and the newborn openness of Dwapara Yuga seems destined to flare into open conflict before long. We may indeed live to see another world war, even global cataclysm, before human consciousness becomes enough softened to receive, without obstructing them, the rays of Dwapara Yuga.
Devastation, however, even if it occurs, will serve only to clear the ground, so to speak, for the next season’s crops. Disaster, during this ascending age or yuga, will not be total. Ultimately it will prove beneficial.
As we contemplate Dwapara Yuga, love alone can help us fully to absorb its energies. The master key to the laws of the universe is love.
Swami Sri Yukteswar wrote of love’s effect on the human body in his book, The Holy Science: “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 to understand others truly is by holding deep compassion for them in one’s heart. Psychoanalysis is of the intellect; by itself, therefore, it can provide only superficial insights into human nature. Deep insights are possible only with love.
That is why, when Paramhansa Yogananda was asked once, “What can take your place after you leave this world?” he replied with a loving smile, “When I am gone, only love can take my place.” Love, he meant, not only for God, but for God in others, in mankind, in all beings.
Excerpted from Religion and the New Age, by Swami Kriyananda.
From Kali to Satya Yuga
by Swami Sri Yukteswar
- The age of gross materialism
- 1,200 years in duration
- No comprehension of anything beyond the material world.
- No peace in any kingdom.
- Lifetime 100 years
- The electrical or atomic age
- 2,400 years in duration.
- Man understands fine matters, i.e electricity, atomic structures.
- Age of space annihilators such as communications and travel.
- No safety in this age. War on a greater scale.
- Lifetime 200 years
- The age of the mind
- 3,600 years duration.
- Man understands divine magnetism, the source of electrical forces.
- Telepathy and other time annihilators.
- Mind power developed, less use of electricity.
- More peace. Less hypocrisy.
- Lifetime 300 years.
- The age of truth
- 4,800 years duration.
- Harmony with the divine plan.
- Man comprehends all mysteries of creation.
- No barrier between material and astral worlds. Many find liberation.
- Lifetime 400 years.
Excerpted from The Holy Science by
Swami Sri Yukteswar
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