Question: I take it you don’t agree with Sri Yukteswar’s thoughts on the Yugas?
As you may know, the difference between Yukteshwar Jī’s yuga and the Purānas’ yuga is that Purāṇas multiply by 360 and he doesn’t. For example, he says Kali Yuga is 1,200 years. Purāṇas multiply this by 360 to get 432,000 years.
The reason for multiplying by 360 is that the “years” of a yuga are dīvya years – “years of the gods.” There are 360 solar years in a single year of the gods (each winter solstice is merely another “sunrise” for those who dwell in the stars).
As to the question of whether or not Śrī Yukteśwar was “right” or “wrong” – I think probably the best answer is somewhere in between: he is right in a certain context but wrong in another. In the context of human history, there may a yuga pattern not multiplied by “years of the gods.” In context of cosmic epochs, the yuga pattern probably does have to be multiplied by the “years of the gods.”
There is some evidence in the 12th division of Bhāgavat Purāṇa to support Śrī Yukteśvar’s idea of not multiplying by “gods’ years” when applying the yuga concept to human history, for there the most respected Purāṇa gives some histories and predictions which do seem to add up to a 1,200 year kali-yuga. Besides this bit in the 12th Canto of Bhāgavat, however, every other reference to Yugas which I have seen always multiplies by “gods’ years” to get a 432,000 year kali-yuga.
In light of this, my current view is that there are yugas in human history and there are cosmic yugas – which both follow the same time signatures but with very different tempos.
But another way Yukteśwar differs from Purāṇas and Siddhāntas is where he says that there are ascending and descending cycles of yugas, such that dvapara descends into kali, kali then transforms into ascendence, (thus lasting as long as dvapara in effect), ascends into dvapara, and so on. I have seen no support for this idea whatsoever in any śāstra I have studied. This doesn’t mean he is definitely wrong, but it certainly doesn’t lend any confidence to the idea that he is right. Purāṇas and Siddhāntas, after all, are the origin of the idea of yugas in the first place, so should be considered a significant authority in determining their definition, to say the least.
Actually, an interesting footnote here is that, in a way, the “gods’ year yugas” and “human year yugas” both confirm that we are not in kali-yuga, at least not technically. By the “gods’ year yugas” we are still in the 36,000 year transition from Dvapara to Kali. This can be considered kali-yuga, but there are clear statements in śāstra that the yuga itself doesn’t truly begin until the transition is complete.
Questioner: Based on where we are now vs. 300 years ago, I’m of the mind to side with Sri Yukteswar in relationship to the 24000 year cycle, moving into Dwapara Yuga, not going the other way.
There is another way to explain this. There are 1,000 cycles of yugas in one kalpa (each kalpa is one “day” for the supreme universal creator, Brahmā, who has his own “months,” “years,” and lifespan on that scale). Śrī Krishna himself, as the original rasa-mūrti, manifests within the world only once per kalpa. (billions of years, a huge span of time) This happens at the very end of the dvapara yuga in the middle of Brahmā’s day. Then, at the beginning of the following kali-yuga, Śrī Rādhā-Krishna together manifest as Śrī Krishna Caitanya, to help people get access to what Krishna manifest just previously.
Thus 1 out of a 1,000 yuga cycles is uncommon, and during the kali-yuga of Śrī Krishna Caitanya there is an uncommon flourishing of culture during the introductory transitional period between dvapara and kali.