I have a doubt regarding the current Yuga (planetary age). I read in The Essence of Bhagavad Gita that we are in Dwapara Yuga (age of energy). But since my childhood I have heard that we are in Kali Yuga (material age), which ends with the coming of Kalki Avatar. I believe in Yogananda's words. But, what about Kali Yuga?
I have not studied the extensive traditions that surround the Kalki Avatar, but I do understand that Krishna and Kalki are both listed in the Puranas as avatars of Vishnu, and that the Kalki avatar is thought to be the last such incarnation of Vishnu in this cycle of ages. The following points may be relevant:
- Confusion arises because of the long-held belief that when the Kali age completes a cycle it is followed immediately by the Satya yuga of a new cycle. Sri Yukteswar corrected this idea and showed that the return to Satya proceeds in the reverse succession of ages order of increasing dharma: i.e. Kali > Dwapara > Treta > Satya. He also corrected an error that crept in when the specific durations of the yugas as given in the Manu Samhita and the Mahabharata were erroneously increased by a factor of 360 times on the basis of a perhaps unrelated statement by Manu that a year of the gods is 360 human years. The Puranas describing the Kalki Avatar may have been compiled or revised after the introduction of these errors.
- The descending Kali Yuga began at the moment that Krishna left his body. (Bhagavata-Purana Skandha 12, ch 2, vs. 36, and Mahabharata Mahaprasthanika parva [book 17], I, 2 & 7 among other sources.)
- Krishna, at the end of his life, stated that he would return at the end of the Kali Yuga that was just then beginning. (I can’t put my finger on the source of this statement just now, but I clearly recall reading it.)
- Yogananda tells us that Babaji is an incarnation of Krishna and that “Babaji has been chosen by God to remain in his body for the duration of this particular world cycle. Ages shall come and go – still the deathless master, beholding the drama of the centuries, shall be present on this stage terrestrial.” (Autobiography of a Yogi 1st ed. Ch. 33)
- Sri Yukteswar tells us that the descending Kali Yuga (which had started soon after the Mahabharata war) came to an end in 499 AD concluding that Daiba Yuga cycle. The new ascending Kali Yuga then began. This ascending Kali yuga was the first of the four ages that constitute the present Daiba Yuga (Holy Science introduction)
- Babaji was the guru of Adi Shankaracharya. (Kriyananda, Conversations with Yogananda: Entry 215) It is tempting to try to use the date of Shankaracharya to get a clue as to when Babaji might have first appeared. Unfortunately there is no agreement as to the time of Shankaracharya’s life. Most scholars assign Shankaracharya to the 8th or 9th century AD, but some place him much earlier. Swami Kriyananda once related in a talk that Bharati Krishna Tirtha, who was at the time the primary representative of Shankaracharya, told him that according to records that list all the representatives of Shankaracharya through the centuries, Shankaracharya lived before Christ.
There you have it. We can’t expect to find definitive answers to such puzzles as these.