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Sigmar Polke. Remington's Museums-Traum ist des Besuchers Schaum. 1979. Detail
Not to swallow every bait thrown at you to catch you - that could be wise.

Interesting and far out, interesting and interesting enough?

Don't forget to distrust. - Greek proverb

Yukteswar (1855-1936) - his memory lingers on. He said "Forget the past", and his earth-life is in the past by now. However, one can draw nourishment from one's past so as to thrive better for it. Learn some lessons, for example, and make good use of them. Such things count.

Do you think the essential meaning of the Yukteswar quote is "Forget only your own past"? Then you would be forgetful and not learn lessons well and may end up in big trouble.

If you mean, "I forget my sins, but they will come and meet me anyway," then you could be on to something, like "Learn the lessons well and bulwark against what comes too."

If you come to the conclusion that you had better forget the whole wide world because here-and-now appears to become there-and-then (the past) so fast, there are ways that may or may not work for you. It may depend on how you do it. There is an old "All forgotten" picture and a poem to go along with such a teaching. [Zen art, No. 8]

"A man must get a thing before he can forget it," is an Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr quote. There is also a helpful Japanese proverb: "Old horses don't forget the way."

When people get old, they may become forgetful in day-to-day affairs, while early memories are fine.

Stars of the past

Morn with her rosy locks dispels the shades of night, and the sun puts to flight the stars, lighting up the world. - Latin proverb

The stars you see are of the past in various degrees. One may navigate by stars: it might come in handy if the GPS breaks down at any time.

When you are awake, there appears to be no great need to refrain from looking up at the stars at night because their light in this "running" present is of the past; the longer away the light sources are, the more past they are too - even several thousand million years past.

Are stars of the past, although light from them is here and now, fit guides? It depends much on what accuracy is called for.

Traditional teachings

The farthest and the nearest

If the outskirts of the observable universe (the cosmic light horizon) is the farthest of the far, might it also be the nearest of the near, just as well? It is a far-out-near-you great teaching that is taught in several ancient Upanishads too. (See WP, "Observable universe")

Various other Upanishads say along a similar vein:

Smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest, the Soul is formless and all-pervading. The goal of the wise is to know this Soul. (Katha Upanishad).

The heart has room for the soul. The soul is also larger than the earth, larger than the sky, larger than the entire universe" (Chandogya Upanishad 3: 14.1-4)

That non-dual Atman, though never stirring, is swifter than the mind . . . Because of Atman, Vayu, the World Soul apportions the activities of all . . . It is far and likewise near. It is inside all this and It is outside all this. (Isa Upanishad, v. 4, 5 passim [Uve 204-05])

That Brahman shines forth, vast, self-luminous . . . subtler than the subtle. He is far beyond what is far and yet here very near at hand. Verily, He is seen here, dwelling in the cave of the heart of conscious beings. [Mundaka Upanishad, 3.1:7 (Uve 301)]

These are not stray teachings. There is a tradition.

"It's a small world" is heard at times, and "It's a big, big world" at other times.


Gedanken Experiments

"I have forgotten" or "I have no recollections" at times sounds like bigwigs in a public hearing or court case

"Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. . . . Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now," said Yukteswar. We look into it a bit.

Yukteswar seems to promise a lot, but does he really?

If you forget Yukteswar's advice on forgetting the past, you should also see to it that you get onto the right track - for Yukteswar's piece of advice is of the past, and hence a thing to forget, or what? It suggests you had better be free from this piece of advice and its possibly cramping or benign influence on you: Cramping if you do not grasp who it was meant for and who it was not aimed at at all, and liberating if you find a good, fit way to make lots of progress in while in this body - but without overdoing things. To his direct disciples, Yukteswar seems to promise so much, much more than making progress: "Everything in the future will improve" is a big goading.

If you qualify - that is, if you are one of his direct disciples that it was said to directly by Yukteswar (d. 1936) while he was alive - you must be over eighty years old by now, maybe a lot more. Then you might ask feebly, "Yukteswar, who?" and get away with it. What people or nurses may think of your progress in forgetting the past, does it really matter?

There are many who can say: "I was instructed by someone in a dream last night, but I have forgotten it - almost everything. Just some fringes remain. What to do?" People think they are initiated by a guru that appears in their dreams and instructs them, but are there not other explanations? Ask Freud - or Jung.

Be that as it may, some people go a long way.

There are limits to successful folly too. Ancient Greeks sought metron, [reasonable] balance, or "[sound] measure in all things", as a norm to carry out, it may be added.

Ancient Greek measure also implies sound balance.

Forgetfulness comes at a cost

"Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. . . . Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now," said who?

Yukteswar's (who?) disciple Yogananda (who 2?) of the past considered the saying "Forget the past. The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now," [Spa 46] the most inspiring saying of Yukteswar for the average man.

After all, all are different, even twins from the same egg are different. Their fingerprints is one token of it.

Fraudulent teachings abound

One may try to discern between somewhat mighty and almighty as a starter.

Yoganananda backed up Yukteswar, saying that Yukteswar was of "unerring spiritual insight" [Hos v], was Divine Wisdom Incarnated [Pa 499-501], a master in every way [Ak 99], one whose words obliged the cosmos [Pa, ch. 17 etc.].

The idea that Sri Yukteswar's words are binding on the cosmos need to be sorted. (a) In all cases binding? (b) In some other cases, and not too big ones? (study the documentation). (c) And so on? (find out for yourself if you can).

Note the difference between being really almighty and "just" hurling selected mountains into the sea, one per half-hour. Keep in mind the differences between possibly all-mightly, much-mighty, little-mighty and a faintly above a mouse, for example.

There is a tricky question to mutter here: "Can anyone pluck a hair from the top of a bald man's head?"

The term "almighty" comes with its problems. Consider how little nuanced it seems to be.

Some are tricked and duped by words

Albert Einstein is known for Gedanken experiments, that is, thought experiments.

Another way of probing is always to check the sources.

Also, take the context of a quotation into account: where and why it was said, and who it was meant for. Yogananda's autobiography shows he tried to comfort people by the Yukteswar saying, but not anybody. The words were said to new students of Yukteswar, persons who doubted they were worthy of original kriya yoga. (Chapter 12).

A new student occasionally expressed doubts regarding his own worthiness to engage in yoga practice.

"Forget the past," Sri Yukteswar would console him. "The vanished lives of all men are dark with many shames. Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine. Everything in future will improve if you are making a spiritual effort now . . . Those who are too good for this world are adorning some other." [Link] [Ay 103, 105]

Interestingly, the core kriya yoga is ujjayi, which is a publicly well-known method in hatha-yoga. You can learn it from books or on the Internet. It is free. It is different with Yogananda's kriya: it comes with a great bond.

If you are not a new disciple of the embodied Yukteswar and over eighty today, those forget-words may not have been aimed at you. Taking expressions out of their context is a bold move in its way, one of possibly grave repercussions. [SRF-editing] - [Examples of SRF-edited literature] To a quoter he said something like:

I am waiting to hear you . . . Quotations there have been, in superabundance. But what can you supply from the uniqueness of your particular life? . . . Are you content to be a hollow victrola, mechanically repeating the words of other men? (Chapter 12, passim)

Some Yukteswar-visitors got hard words.

It takes what it takes

Buddha teaches that people who build good karma may get to hell after death anyhow. But that is not all Buddha teaches: he also says that bad guys may go to heaven for a while, in the rounds of earth-life and deaths in between - as a result of past merits.

Buddha sees a human life in a longer-than-one-life perspective: the effects of things done and accomplished in this life may take time to set in and improve one's lot or standing. Results may be delayed for up to several lifetimes. But it also happens that people who do good, don't miss their stay in a heaven in the hereafter, he says.

Buddha's great karma teachings are here: [Buddha on karma]

Rubbing it in a bit: "If you did a lot to improve in this life, and still did not avoid a visit to hell in the afterlife, you did not counterbalance contrary karma that waited - not enough, although it could have helped you somewhat." One had better work steadily for good living and good results of living (good karma), teaches Buddha. The Eightfold path is a systematic, quite general way to adapt to for going ahead.

Buddha's teachings are teachings!

Rubbing it in

One question is if everything means absolutely everything - whether Yukteswar said 'everything' and meant 'everything'. Is it "everything in the whole, wide world"? Yogananda formed a fellowship of believers - a fellowship he later came to regret he had started. It suggests he and many followers were lacking spiritual efforts, or what? Yogananda ended up disappointed at a desert fringe too, quoted to have said with great earnestness: "Apart from [James J.] Lynn, every man has disappointed me . . .!" (Yogananda for the World, Chap 1.) Now, if something went wrong, whose spiritual efforts were lacking? Or maybe everything improved from very bad to just bad, for example?

Keep your reason intact. Don't fall for sayings, but reflect on lives and ways too.

Time to sum up

In research, one is to keep an eye to how valid and reliable propositions are, adding "interesting" and "potentially fruitful" and "potentially harmful" to that again, as the case may be.

  1. Valid - generally for all? for many? only for a few? Under what conditions is this and that valid? Has it been tested? Are results forthcoming?
  2. Reliable or reliable enough? How much is enough? What are the reasons to trust a thing against testing it well enough and long enough?

Rather than seeking to live out fragmented quotations ardently and for a long time, listen to experienced guys. It may cost dearly to adhere to bad lessons and in time reap no good fruit. A blend of proficient testing and a handling tradition may work well. Much boils down to proficiency.


Yukteswar book, the holy science, Literature  

Kriyananda, Swami. 2012. Yogananda for the World. Rev. ed. Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity.

Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1986.

Ay: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 1st ed. New York: Philosophical Library, 1946. Online.

Dr: Yogananda, Paramahansa. The Divine Romance. New ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1993.

Hos: Yukteswar, sw: The Holy Science. 7th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), Los Angeles, 1972.

Ms: Yogananda, Paramhansa. The Master Said. Los Angeles, CA: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1952.

Pa: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. 11th ed. Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF). Los Angeles, 1971.

Say: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Sayings of Yogananda. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1958.

Uve: Nikhilananda, swami. The Upanishads, Vol 1 . New York: Ramakrishna, 1977.

Symbols, brackets, signs and text icons explained: (1) Text markers(2) Digesting.

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