That we live in a “New Age” seems an incontestable fact. Just 100 years ago the world had no paved highways, no speeding cars, airplanes, cell phones, washing machines, computers or satellite dishes, to name only a few things that today we take for granted. But the greatest change that has occurred has been our perception of reality, which began with the discovery that matter is actually composed only of vibrations of energy, and that energy is the reality behind everything around us. Today we perceive everything in terms of energy—we have become an energy-conscious as well as an energy-dependent society.
In this collection of fascinating essays on a variety of topics, Swami Kriyananda, a renowned and prolific writer, presents an approach to modern life that may seem radically new. The book’s title essay, Religion in the New Age, shares the ancient teaching, common to many cultures, that time is cyclical, and that we are now in an upward cycle, coming into an age of energy-awareness from a darker age of matter. The author shows society, political and social events, and religion and religious institutions from the viewpoint of different cycles of time.
The essays in this book touch on a wealth of subjects that range from:
- A fresh perspective on the “New Age”
- Insights on September 11
- The importance of truthfulness
- How to understand people
- And much more
This is a book for people searching to understand life more deeply. Swami Kriyananda’s views are thought-provoking and inspire the reader toward greater awareness, self-honesty, and hope.
Preface: How I Met My Guru
Part One — Religion in the New Age
1. Are We Living in a New Age?
2. The Ages of Civilization
3. What Is Happening to Our Planet
4. Glimpses into the Future
5. Religion in the New Age
6. Religious Institutions in the New Age
7. Dwapara Yuga Guidance
8. Ananda—A First Step
Part Two — A Miscellany of Essays
The Final Exam
The Great Delusions
Three Benefits from Using Incense
Why I Left College
God’s Weaning Ways
How to Develop Self-Confidence
Can Love Be Universalized?
Learn to See, Feel, and Think Differently
Laughter as an Expression of Spirit
Part Three — Thoughts of a Disciple
“Is Yogananda My Guru? Is Krishna? Is Jesus Christ?”
Why I Love My Guru, Paramhansa Yogananda
Inspiration vs. Instruction (Going to Saints)
Part Four — Spiritual Leadership in the New Age
1. The Importance of Hierarchy
2. Hierarchy During Dwapara Yuga
3. Creative Leadership
4. Of Space and Time
5. Personal Experience
6. Passing the Baton
About the Author
In these pages I aim to show how a spiritual mission, regardless of its name and tenets, can be made to relate to the needs of all humanity.
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, further, that he had come to unite all religions in an understanding of their sublime and high 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 seeks the same eventual fulfillment: bliss in God. Self-realization—the realization of God as the indwelling, blissful Self of all beings—is then, in the broadest sense, the true goal of all religions, and is also 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 contained 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, of his own free will, to merge back 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 cannot fail to be one, supreme truth: union with God, the fundamental reality of all existence.
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 body.
Finally, he proposed a lifestyle 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 lifestyle by gathering together and forming what he called "world-brotherhood colonies." I was blessed by him to be able to found the first Ananda World-Brotherhood community, in 1968, on what are today some 1,000 acres of land near Nevada City, California. At present there are seven functioning examples of this ideal, all bearing the name, Ananda, 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 expression, a World Teacher, and not the guru only of a particular group of disciples. In fact, he’d been sent to be the wayshower for a new age, and the savior for "many millions," as he put it, who would tune into the divine ray he had brought. For mankind now stands 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 has arrived, scripturally speaking, at a new age. The earth entered this age in the year 1900, after an interim, or bridge (sandhya), of 200 years during which time the new rays gradually increased 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 in narrowly fixed and material terms. Men needed inner as well as outer forms. Outwardly, they thought more easily of solid objects than of seemingly insubstantial gasses and air; and inwardly, they felt more comfortable with carefully formulated dogmas and fixed ideas than they would have been with abstractions like relativity, let us say, or subtle distinctions of conscious and subconscious. Organizationally, they were comfortable with firm structures, preferring everything to be established and in its own place. They believed the universe to be cozily geocentric. God, to them, was a bearded old man seated "somewhere up there" on an eternal throne of judgment. The conception of the earth as flat made it easier, of course, to visualize heaven as literally high up in the sky above them.
Dwapara Yuga has already brought greater fluidity to people’s consciousness. This is an age, above all, of energy-awareness. Many people, aware of something new stirring around them, and a new awareness within them, welcome it exuberantly as though it were bestowing on them unbridled license to indulge to excess in everything they like.
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, experimentation has brought more confusion than enlightenment. The same may be said of people’s understanding of morality, and of correct social behavior.
Thus the term, "New Age," is also viewed with anxiety by "old fogies" who still adhere to old traditions. In fact, what we are witnessing is a struggle between old ways—which once seemed "carved in stone"—and a new, more flexible spirit that is striving to find its own clear self-expression.
This struggle between the old and the new, though still somewhat amorphous, is in evidence everywhere. We see it also in religion: in the struggle between those who cling to 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 grinding.”
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 birth year of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalists especially are convinced that the world is fast approaching the “end times” supposedly predicted in the Bible, and associated with the Second Coming of Christ. Among Moslems also, there are some who believe that something approximating those "end times" is fast approaching.
Naturally, a world view in which mankind, after centuries of relative darkness, is postulated as being 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 their claim not on any suggestion of being, themselves, better human beings, nor on any but the thinnest hope that their discoveries will someday produce such human beings, but on the simple fact that a few scientists (the very few real pioneers) have discovered unexpected facts about the universe.
Writers on philosophy since Einstein have had a heyday with the theory that morality, far from being absolute ("all things are 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 trendsetters, 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" reveals himself as someone lacking taste of his own.
The public, quite naturally, is bewildered. Nor is it surprising that many people 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 anyone’s 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 anyone nor offers any hope of new insights to come. Indeed, the most that the dogma, "art for art’s sake," can ever accomplish is to inspire a certain smugness on the part of those who accept it, and who 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 in human hearts everywhere to make sense of these insights. We cannot simply reject them. Nor can we merely embrace them in the exuberant manner of adolescents, welcoming them for their shock value. We must assess them, and do our best to understand what implications they have 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 in support of his statement, which he himself could not have presented back in 1894, when he wrote his book, for the simple reason that science had not yet made the discoveries that were to justify his claims.
The first part of this essay 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 awareness of energy that is 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 prove beneficial and expansive to this new awareness, in the spirit of Dwapara Yuga, and how Paramhansa Yogananda himself set the tone for this new type of religious organization.
Chapter One: 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 as 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. It 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 man-made that 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 eventually become exhausted, we’ll be 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 also 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 oil’s discovery.
My father, an oil geologist for Esso, was posted by his company 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 only a nuisance. When energy itself became recognized as a global need, oil was recognized as crucial to civilization’s further development. Men like my father were sent to Romania and elsewhere to help develop those resources.
Whenever mankind is ready to take a new step in his advancement, that step will—indeed, must—appear as if "out of the blue." Penicillin, a product of bread mold, was unheard of as a medicine until mankind was ready to discover its practical uses. Every new step in civilization’s advancement may have developed from facts that had been staring everyone in the face for centuries. It wasn’t so much the new discoveries which produced the change as the fact that man was ready to make use of those discoveries. Once mankind 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 in its turn prove to manifest even subtler realities.
Ancient Indian tradition gave the underlying concept the much simpler name: consciousness.
A New Age? Traditionally, the chronology of civilizations has been reckoned from earthly events: from the birth of Jesus Christ; 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 for all mankind as a New Age.
For new scientific insights are threatening to grow 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, to the Protestant Reformation, and almost simultaneously to the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World and the consequently "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, clearly, is far from unique. To the extent that it is special—and the people of certain other, older cultures may have defined us as "those revolutionary Western barbarians, shaking up everything!"—Western science has merely anticipated findings that were bound to be made anyway. 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, most of them Western, 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, scientifically speaking, is to say, 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, indeed, is one to make 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 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 even to consider such questions, dismissing them not necessarily as absurd, but as imponderable.
Interestingly enough, that decision led eventually to serious consequences. For, having avoided all seemingly imponderable questions for centuries, scientists ended up demoting them finally from irrelevance to nonexistence. The modern “scientific solution” to the question about the existence of God was reached—however, and of course—by default, not at all by the vaunted scientific method.
The new approach to reality, based on demonstrated facts, has created an upheaval in people’s thinking, and has produced 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 is said to have assured an American tourist, "With all the archaeological investigations that have been conducted in my country, not a single wire has been discovered. This proves," he concluded triumphantly, "that in ancient India they had the wireless!"
Nevertheless, the new ways of thinking, based on experiment, have come to stay, and need, therefore, to be understood. Nothing in the scientific approach to reality says that man must limit himself to experimenting with material instruments—particularly now, when matter itself has been found 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 deep appeal in the minds of growing numbers of thinking people. There remains in many such people, however, and perhaps more insistently today than ever, a deeply felt need to understand what life is all about. I number myself among them, at least in my past. I had a deep longing for that inner security which religion ought to bestow. Lacking today is a perception of how to fulfill that need by bringing it in line with present-day understanding.
Old-fashioned ways of looking at life and of expressing oneself no longer exert, these days, the same appeal as they did in their own day. We are, for one thing, immersed in the ebb and flow of rapid movement and instant communication. The old ways were more leisurely than ours are today. Yet, beneath their longer, more placid rhythms, old human realities were basically the same as today’s. The present hustle and impatience are merely garments that cover a human nature basically the same everywhere, even if people 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, sliding rapidly into moral chaos? Or is this age simply more challenging in the demand it makes of all men to live more energetically? 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 that mankind is undergoing is not limited, moreover, to any nation or culture: it is worldwide.
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 history. Consider only a few examples:
In literature, everyone writes in greatly shortened sentences. Reviews of Jane Austen novels of the early 1800s often praise her style; yet who today could write that way even if he wanted to? It is more than the fact that we no longer use quill pens, fountain pens, or even typewriters. Computers now enable us to set down on paper our most fleeting thoughts in the full knowledge that it will be easy to correct and polish as we go. We don’t even need, if a page contains a mistake, to type out the whole page laboriously again. A simple change, and our electric printers give us the new page within seconds. Even our thoughts race ahead of us at a speed that might have been unnatural, and perhaps impossible (judging by the way people seem to have spoken), 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 one’s inspiration. Music synthesizers, too, have obviated the need to learn to play many instruments, and have thereby opened the field for composers to remain even more completely in the flow of the inspiration they receive.
The same may be said of countless other fields of endeavor. In business, it is now possible to conclude transoceanic agreements with a single telephone call. Gone is the need to write long letters, then wait months for a reply. On the other hand, if a face-to-face confrontation is required, one can hop on an airplane and arrive at one’s destination in a few hours—or, if physical contact isn’t necessary, convey one’s thoughts by a variety of methods: fax, email, and 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 one in the face from virtually the moment he awakes every morning.
Is there, then, some explanation for these revolutionary changes?
Interestingly, an explanation was published more than a century ago, in 1894, before any shift toward energy-consciousness 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 old ways of doing things had, quite possibly, 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 facing mankind today is to understand even better the implications of this new energy-consciousness.
"[Swami Kriyananda] continues to teach others that petty differences in religious practices and violence in the name of such practices is not a spiritual journey of the heart but one of egoic self-interest. His teachings tell us that just the opposite is true, and that radiant Self-realization fills the heart and actually helps the individual to a more peaceful and spiritually fulfilling life . . . ."
—Fred Alan Wolf, PhD, author of The Yoga of Time Travel
"I avidly read Swamiji’s books and consider him one of today’s true spiritual luminaries. This new work helps light our way in this post-denominational, inclusive new era."
—Lama Surya Das, author of Awakening the Buddha Within, Founder, Dzogchen Center
"Seldom have I read a book like this, a book whose every single word I can agree with; a book in which every word, every page radiates attention, understanding, and wisdom. Truly Kriyananda is a great apostle of divine love which, as he declares, is the true essence of religion."
—Professor Ervin Laszlo, PhD, Nobel Peace Prize candidate, author of Quantum Shift in the Global Brain and Chaos Point: the World at the Crossroads
"This is such a wondrous contribution to all of humanity! Just at the right time, too, as we move into a period of great change and confront all of the personal and global challenges that go with that. This extraordinary work by beloved Swami Kriyananda is a very special gift for the soul, offering us remarkable spiritual insight and deep wisdom."
—Neale Donald Walsch, author of Conversations with God
"In Religion in the New Age, Swami Kriyananda opens our minds and spirits to new possibilities. Basing his work on the teachings of the great master of yoga, Paramhansa Yogananda, and Yogananda’s wise teacher, Swami Sri Yukteswar, Kriyananda brilliantly explores the essential trends of the unfolding age of energy and explains how they will affect us, and future generations. If you want to know how our wiser descendants will worship—and more importantly, how you can attune yourself now to their more-enlightened approach to spirituality—then this book is for you."
—Richard Salva, author of The Reincarnation of Abraham Lincoln
"Swami Kriyananda has intimately and fully explained how we are, and have, entered a ‘New Age.’ Not an age of guessing, pondering, or wondering, but rather an age of energy exchange, energy transference, and most importantly, an age of energy expansion."
—Rev. Paula T. Webb, Founder of the National InterFaith Council, author of An Independent Prosperity
"By bringing the remarkable predictions of the famous sage, Sri Yukteswar, and the practical wisdom of his most potent disciple, Paramhansa Yogananda, to the pages of this book, [Swami Kriyananda] has once again opened the door for the modern reader to discover the truth of his nature through the ancient wisdom of the yogis . . . a wisdom that is now available to all who seek it."
—Yogi Amrit Desai, Founder of the Amrit Yoga Institute, author of Amrit Yoga and the Yoga Sutras
"Swami Kriyananda, a modern sage, has once again written an illuminating yet practical spiritual masterpiece. This fascinating book takes a look at the New Age and how we can best embrace both its challenges and possibilities for spiritual awakening. A timely and much needed outlook."
—Rev. Justin Epstein, Unity Church of Hilton Head Island
"I love Swami Kriyananda’s new book Religion in the New Age. It is a brilliant star, offering the perfect illumination to navigate one’s life by."
—Vaishali, author of You Are What You Love
"Swami Kriyananda’s book of essays brings new light to the text of the Hindu sage, Sri Yukteswar’s The Holy Science. It provides current analysis that supports the thesis of Sri Yukteswar regarding the ancient yuga system of historical interpretation. He also offers insightful and personal anecdotal essays on a wide-spectrum of spiritual and societal subjects, bringing his considerable intelligence and intuition to bear. His personal accounts with Paramhansa Yogananda bring us closer to this yoga master, whose work and teachings are still relevant through the life work of this dedicated disciple and swami. A worthy read that will shed light on issues from organizational management to loving relations, self-esteem to the remembrance of God as the source of all inspiration and insight."
—Mike Ellison, President, Unity Temple of Santa Cruz
"Most people feel we have entered a new time when it comes to religion and spirituality and have read some explanations for what’s going on. This book takes it all a step further and explains the various ages of civilization and what is currently happening on the planet: the age of Dwapara [Yuga]. Not surprisingly, this is an age of “energy-awareness,” . . . Having this more thoroughly explained will be welcomed, I am sure. The author of this book, Nayaswami Kriyananda, is a direct disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, a well-known and beloved teacher who came to the United States in the 1920s. Interwoven in this book are many teachings of Yogananda as well as stories about the founding and teachings of the Ananda community. There’s great guidance about managing groups and companies, . . laughter, love, self-confidence. The essays are inspirational, motivational, and help steer one in the right direction to be engaged with the current age of spirituality in which we are living."
—New Spirit Journal