In the book Autobiography of a Yogi and many similar books we read about great yogis being able to travel across great distances, as well as across different realms, by their yogic power. Is there any instance of any yogi past or present being able to travel across time, either to the past or into the future? Did Paramhansa Yoganada ever speak about time travel? Is time travel possible?
Time travel is possible for yogis, but only in a specific sense.: the Hindu scriptures state that time is a mental concept: it is an illusion of our ego-consciousness (“I am this body”), which limits us to this present moment.
Life is like a book: in our normal ego-state we are conscious only of the events of the open page. The pages are being turned for us. Could we ourselves hold the book, we would be able to look ahead and read what is written in later chapters, or look back and read what is written in chapters prior to this lifetime. In fact, when a yogi exits the illusion of time, for him there is no past, present, and future anymore. They all exist simultaneously. Everything happens in the ETERNAL NOW.
Yes, there are great yogis who are able hold that Book of Life in their hands, flipping its pages to the past and future. A famous example is the rishi Bhrigu, who, centuries ago, wrote about lives which would occur long after his lifetime. Even today one can go there and find one’s life described in the “Book of Bhrigu” (Bhrigu Samhita). Swami Kriyananda, in fact, found his own life narrated in it: his past and future were accurately described. He verified the document and it was indeed very old.
Yogananda in the first page of his Autobiography of a Yogi writes about his perceptions even as a child: “Clear recollections came to me of a distant life, a yogi amidst the Himalayan snows. These glimpses of the past, by some dimensionless link, also afforded me a glimpse of the future.”
How does that work? Patanjali, the father of yoga, explains it (Sutra 2.39): “One who becomes established in non-attachment develops the ability to remember his past lives.” Swami Kriyananda describes why: “The reason for this phenomenon is that attachment to this particular body, and to the places, possessions, events, and things of this particular time make this incarnation appear to be your only reality. When attachment to present reality is overcome, your view of reality naturally expands over a broader field.” One’s view is naturally expanded to perceive the past and the future.
So yes, great yogis can remember past lives, they can look back (reading earlier chapters of the Book of Life), or look forward (reading later chapters), but they cannot enter into it, they can’t change the past, nor the future. The Book of Life, from the cosmic viewpoint, is already written.
For fun, you may enjoy Swami Kriyananda’s children book, The Time Tunnel, where he describes a person who travels in time, entering indeed into past and future civilizations. However it’s fiction, written just for fun.
At any rate, the important thing is to meditate, trying to get out of time consciousness. Your soul is not bound to this present moment, only your ego is. One day we will be able to watch the past and future, like reading a book, and we too will skip forward or go backward, going wherever we desire. Manifested life just a book, or a movie: everything, including time, is a total illusion, a magic picture show, created by the one incomparable Cosmic Author, or Film Producer.
I wish this answer were shorter.
In divine friendship,