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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, maybe

Interesting and interesting enough are two categories

Yukteswar (1855-1936) - his memory lingers on. Do you want to forget him because he is quoted to say "Forget the past", and he is of the past now? Perhaps he meant just: "Don't think of it a lot." Do you think the essential meaning is "Forget only your own past", - not a past Yukteswar, the past of mankind and the entire universe? Then you would be forgetful and not learn lessons well and get into big trouble.

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) too fast, there are ways that may not work for you at all. However, if in deepening meditation you would like to "forget all" - but not how to meditate a lot - there is Buddhist Zen. There is an old "All forgotten" picture and a poem to go along with such a teaching. [Zen art, No. 8]

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

The stars are out-and-back-a-lot

The light from the faintest stars that can be seen with the naked eye, has been travelling for a long time to reach us. The farthest star group (galaxy) that we can see under excellent conditions is about four thousand light years away and thus four thousand years past. It means there is much catching-up to do, as very much of what we see today in the heavens above, comes from very long ago, even before there was any planet Earth. We make use of them to navigate by stars: it might come in handy if the GPS breaks down.

It boils down to: The stars you see, belong to a past universe, which is past by different degrees depending on how far the light has travelled from each stars that is visible.

To do as the astrologer Yukteswar says and forget the past, don't look at the stars in the firmament. Why? It is because the stars you see, are of the past already: the light from them travelled a long, long way to reach Earth. Further, the farter away an object is, the more time its light has taken to travel to Earth, and the older it is. What is more, the universes has expanded much during the time the light from far-away objects took to travel so far. The human does not see the farther universe as it is now, but as it was a really long time ago. Allow for changes -

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. Should you forget the stars of the past as they appear in front of you and a long way in the future too - could that part of Yukteswar's idea? What do you think?

Is there more to add? Yes, some points do pop up:

Are stars of the past, there and then and on the screen and only seemingly here and now, all right human guides?

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 also Wikipedia, s.v. "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 lot.

But "first things first," as his disciple Yogananda said. If you qualify for the quotations that is, if you are one of his direct disciples that it is said to by Yukteswar (d. 1936) while he was alive - you could have got a good grasp of these matters and must be over eighty years old already. And you should also be able to ask, "Yukteswar, who?" and get away with it, as a little crowning achievement, for he is of the past too. What people or nurses may think of your progress in forgetting the past, does it really matter? Many tend to become forgetful as they grow old.

But there is much more. One night I dreamed that Yukteswar counselled me straight away. He instructed me in a yogic feat. Some 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, 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?" Well, I did not for one moment imagine I was a direct disciple when I later got rid of plenty that reminded me of him and Yogananda. As you see, some guys go a long way.

Now, taking a guru's advice seriously enough to stick to it a long way is not necessarily cheap, either. It is hard to tell if I had been alive today if I had not thrown away all that SRF material and plots.

Moreover, 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? Who was Yukteswar! It starts to come back to me now . . .

How genuinely helpful are Yukteswar's "cosmos-binding" statements for disciples of Yogananda and lots of others? That is hard to say. Good improvements would depend on quality of the effort, the mastery of what goes into it, so much else - and what follows in the future. So rather than depend a lot on great-looking or falsely inspiring quotations, for example, go for sturdy accomplishments little by little or day by day and learn to check well if things get your way, actually.

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, there is no average man. All are different, even twins from the same egg are different. Their fingerprints is one token of it. The average man is just something statistical.

Learn from the past and improve the present and future if you can.

Fraudulent teachings abound

If a guru does one spectacular thing, or a boastful, extremely exaggerating disciple brags about it, his followers in turn end up boasting and bragging of it and him, and in a short time he is termed almighty and all-knowing far and wide. It happens in some circles. It is likely to be rooted in a libidinous faulty development, and may lead astray. So 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.]. It sounds good, but is it true? Frankly, the idea that Sri Yukteswar's words are binding on the cosmos need to be sorted. (a) In all cases binding? (Bah). (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. It is wise to keep in mind the differences between possibly all-mightly, much-mighty, little-mighty and a faintly above a mouse, for example. There are two tricky questions to ask here: "If a god is said to be almighty, can he create a stone that is so big and heavy that he cannot lift it?" And "Can he pluck a hair from the top of a bald man's head?"

Oh yes, the term "almighty" comes with its problems, too. There are many good reasons for probing. For example, consider a statement and how exaggerated, blunderbuss, inaccurate, unreasonable and unnuanced it seems to be.

Almighty is also as exaggerations have it, it seems

Tricked and cramped, or not - that is the tricky question

See to it that you are not tricked and duped by words

Fragments or quotations had better be sorted and questioned rationally and helpfully before ever applied. In some cases thought experients Gedanken experiments, thought experients, may help. Albert Einstein is known for Gedanken experiments. You could slowly come to emulate him.

Another way of probing is always to check the sources and not trust blindly, so as to avoid becoming a dullard of blind belief. The "forget the past" stuff was found fit for those who wrote and edited Yogananda's autobiography . The quotation was also included in a book of sayings after Yogananda's death in 1952 - not in its first SRF edition [Ms] from 1952, but in later editions of it.

"It is best not to trust blindly in seeming quotations that Yogananda's Self-Realization Fellowship publishes, for they have been editing Yogananda a lot. 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 it, but not anybody. The words were said to new students of Yukteswar, persons who doubted they were worthy of 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 at a price. If you are not a new disciple of the embodied Yukteswar, and over eighty today, those forget-words were not aimed at you. [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)

So try not to quote beyond sound measure.

Those who were worthy of Yukteswar-consolation got it. Others got hard words.

It takes what it takes

Another problem: "Will many things or everything improve if I do just the publicly available core kriya, ujjayi?" It would depend. It is probably similar with Yukteswar's kriya. But how much of it is valid for those who learn Yogananda's changed, abridged kriya, is another matter, for several reasons. It is wise to reckon with that solid life improvements may take time. So good time had better be put to use for constructive, fruitful and magnificent strides that are brought into sound patterns and procedures of integrity on and up where you want to be. And yogic Enlightenment is not the end of it all either, or does not have to be. Yet, despite all such talk, Buddha teaches that people who build good karma may get to hell after death anyhow.

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.

And why? Because he 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 heavens, 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 probably helped you somewhat." One had better work steadily for good living and good results of living (good karma), teaches Buddha. That The eightfold path is a systematic way of showing how to.

Buddha's teachings are teachings!

Rubbing it in

The question if everything means absolutely everything one more time. One may come to wonder if the guru of Yogananda said 'everything' and meant 'everything'. Is it "everything in the whole, wide world"? See how bad the planet is today, and think twice. Followers of Yogananda had better not trust his Yukteswar quotations so much, for his words may not apply to other than direct followers of Yukteswar, and not of Yogananda. Furthermore, Yukteswar also speaks against blind trust.

Many teachers will tell you to believe; then they put out your eyes of reason and instruct you to follow only their logic. But I want you to keep your eyes of reason open; in addition, I will open in you . . . wisdom. [Yukteswar, in Man's Eternal Quest, Ak 114].

There are yoga teachings that bring benefits to proficient folks. However, bombastic and defective utterances that many put faith in, may become marring to most of those who put trust in them, contrary to Yukteswar's advice on staying rational and clear-headed. How to: [Buddha explains it]. Yukteswar's disciple Yogananda seemed to guess contrary to it: "I can bet that ninety-nine percent of the people do not know in what lies their own good. [Dr 87]". And, "Very few people know in what lies their own good. By this one criterion you can judge anyone. Ninety-nine percent of all people fail under this test. [Ak 321]"

Yogananda formed a fellowship of believers a fellowship he later came to regret he had started.

Keep your reason against blind trust in Yogananda too.

Time to sum up

Quotations and fragments we like, may fall short. It could pay to try to see why we like them so badly. Self-understanding is a boon. Deep understanding is another boon.

Sayings we like, may be faulty, misleading, for show-offs and fools and so on. Really helpful sayings may have been tested. There are some ways to do it. 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 first. For it may cost dearly to adhere to bad lessons and in time reap no good fruit. A blend of proficient testing and a handling, long tradition may work well in the long run. Much boils down to proficiency.


Swami Sri Yukteswar writings and comments, Literature  

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.

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