In The Holy Science Sri Yukteswar describes a recurring cycle of human development called the cycle of the yugas (ages), caused by influences from outside our solar system that affect the consciousness of all humanity. He explains that as the yugas advance, humanity increasingly manifests its higher potentials and expresses divine virtue more and more completely. The world is now in the ascending half of the cycle, in the second age (Dwapara Yuga), which began in 1900 A.D.
According to Sri Yukteswar, it is far easier for us to understand the present and previous ages of Kali Yuga and Dwapara Yuga than it is for us to understand Treta Yuga — if we can understand it at all. Paramhansa Yogananda said that both Kali Yuga and Dwapara Yuga have a common theme of materialism: in Kali Yuga materialism is most pronounced, but in Dwapara Yuga, too, mankind’s values are fairly materialistic. The motivations, awareness, and capabilities of those living in Treta Yuga will take a quantum leap beyond our current, more materialistic understanding.
In Dwapara Yuga, because mankind is able to comprehend that energy underlies all matter, he becomes able to manipulate and control matter. In Treta Yuga, mankind will be able to comprehend that thought underlies all energy, that everything is made up of ideas or thoughts. In Treta Yuga, people will first gain greater awareness of their thoughts, and then, gradually, will develop the ability to control and direct their thoughts at will.
In an attempt to give ascending Treta Yuga more shape and texture, we will explore several possible trends reflecting the natural expression of the awareness and capabilities of Treta Yuga man.
A Truly Civil Society
According to Sri Yukteswar, one specific mental ability most Treta Yuga men and women will share is the ability to be aware of one another’s thoughts. In a society in which everyone has at least some ability to perceive the thoughts of others, we would expect to find a level of awareness of, and sensitivity to others unparalleled in our age. Awareness of and sensitivity to others would naturally lead to a more civil society.
We expect that people in ascending Treta Yuga will be much more aware of what everyone else is “really like.” Today, it is easy to be fooled by people. We’ve all met someone who is charming and, seemingly, kind and thoughtful, only to have later encounters that reveal that the person has a mean streak, is prone to lie, or has other undesirable characteristics. Had his thoughts been more “visible” to us, we would probably have detected all the aspects of his personality immediately.
Similarly, if negative character traits were an unattractively visible part of what a person “looked like” to others — if their thought “pollution” clung to them like a rash — people would probably make every effort to “clean up their act.” In our age, negative character traits such as meanness of spirit, unkindness, self-centeredness, avarice, and greed are difficult to spot right away.
Imagine a world in which everyone could perceive the character traits of those around them. Being untruthful would become more and more difficult. Saying one thing but meaning another, or making promises with no intention of keeping them, would be more clearly revealed to those whose perception is sensitive.
Beauty would no longer be only “skin deep.” People would be thought beautiful because of the beauty of their thoughts, motives, and convictions. Men or women harboring selfish thoughts and negative emotions would be thought unattractive, even if they are physically beautiful, because the average person in Treta Yuga will be more able to see them as they truly are.
Equally signifi¬cant will be the ability to see the impact one’s own thoughts and words have on other people. Today, the results of speaking an unkind word, acting in an insensitive way, or harboring negative thoughts toward another person often go unnoticed by the person responsible for them. In Treta Yuga, people will be able to “see” the subtle impacts of their thoughts, words, and deeds on others, as clearly as today we see the impact of our physical actions.
Truthfulness, sincerity, and sensitivity to the needs of others will have high value in such a society. As a result, a civil society, which many of us long for today, is likely finally and naturally to come into being. People who contribute positively and cooperatively to the betterment of society would be praised and admired. Those who have negative qualities, who exhibit characteristics that today are hidden behind various masks and justifications, would be encouraged to change their ways.
Leaders and Government
It would, therefore, be less and less likely, as Treta Yuga unfolded, to have leaders with hidden motives or signifi¬cant character flaws. Today we are essentially guessing about the true character of our leaders; in Treta Yuga we could know their true character. As a result, it would be more and more likely that only men and women of true worth would end up in positions of leadership. Cooperation for the overall benefi¬t of society would become the accepted goal of government.
Men or women who are drawn to leadership because of the desire for power, wealth, or because of other selfi¬sh interests would, by their own thoughts, be revealed for what they were, and would not be entrusted with the public’s business.
Society would probably fi¬nd it impossible to ignore exploitation, injustice, and inhumane behavior. Today’s self-interested and twisted political logic, which allows people to starve, live in crushing poverty and dismal circumstances, would simply evaporate. The sensitive awareness of others, common to all people in Treta Yuga, would not allow such suffering. Treta Yuga man could no more ignore the suffering of other people than he could ignore pain in his own body.
Democracy, certainly democracy as we know it today, will likely have ended by ascending Treta Yuga. Democracy today is in many ways a reaction to the often grievous failures of the hereditary and dictatorial rulers of Kali Yuga. Democracy for the most part prevents the excesses and wrongs committed by dictators interested only in personal power. As Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted as saying, “Democratic institutions form a system of quarantine for tyrannical desires.”
But democracy does have its faults. As Winston Churchill is quoted, “No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”
By ascending Treta Yuga, most people will probably have left behind their previously justifi¬able fear of despots and dictators, and will realize that the best government, one that effectively improves the lives of its citizens, will be one run by wise and enlightened men and women with both the material and spiritual welfare of others uppermost in their hearts and minds. And as Treta Yuga citizens will be able to directly perceive the qualities of others, they will not fear that the wrong people will be given such power by mistake.
By Treta Yuga, we would expect the world population to have leveled off or continued to decline. The current population decline in prosperous nations, a decline attributable to the value attached to the quality of life, will, if anything, accelerate in Treta Yuga. Treta Yuga people will have the higher awareness and the knowledge to allow them to live nearly perfect lives. We could liken them to the Swiss of today — prosperous, settled, desirous of peace, orderly and civil, surrounded by beauty.
Beauty of form, and harmony in relation to nature, will most likely shape Treta Yuga architecture, since their expanded awareness will make them keenly aware of such subtleties. With Treta Yuga’s much smaller population, one may also expect people to settle into the best “real estate” available — beautiful, healthful, and bountiful. Treta Yuga man may well spend a considerable amount of time outdoors in close touch with nature.
Individuals will be guided to develop along the natural lines of their innate qualities. In the far more aware and enlightened society of Treta Yuga, we would not likely find the exploitative or unjust stratifi¬cation of today’s society. The hereditary class systems we still fi¬nd all over the world typically have nothing to do with merit, ability, or awareness. In Treta Yuga, mankind’s actual awareness of the thoughts and consciousness of other people will make it more likely that people will be allowed to develop according to who they are, not merely because of the family into which they were born.
Treta Yuga man will appreciate the value and benefi¬ts of serving others. Today there are many millions who are drawn to professions that allow them to be of service to others — teachers, nurses, policemen, fi¬remen, soldiers, social workers — because they derive personal satisfaction from being of service to other people. Our Dwapara Yuga society, however, does not in general value such service nearly as much as it values accumulating wealth. People in the service professions are notoriously underpaid; they are often referred to as the “unsung” heroes of our society.
In Treta Yuga this balance may well be reversed. Those choosing a life of service may be more valued than those choosing to accumulate wealth or power merely for self-interested ends. Treta Yuga people will probably be acutely aware of the satisfaction that comes with placing the welfare of others ahead of their own. Today, the benefits of a life lived in service to others tends to be honored primarily by lip service; in Treta Yuga those benefits will be truly understood.
Although our description of Treta Yuga may sound like the Garden of Eden, still Treta Yuga man will not be perfect. Treta Yuga man will be striving for perfection, rather than simply seeking outward pleasure, as most people are today.
Conflict and War
Despite Treta Yuga man’s advanced state, it is likely that there will still be conflict and war. Treta Yuga man will still be motivated by some degree of self-interest—enlightened self-interest surely, but nonetheless each individual will still be seeking personal ful¬fillment.
Additionally, as in every yuga, there will be those whose consciousness is more in tune with lower yugas. Even though the majority of mankind will be in tune with Treta Yuga, there will still be some part of the population that remains centered in the more self-interested consciousness of Dwapara Yuga.
The combination of Treta Yuga man’s remaining self-interest, however enlightened, with the residual Dwapara Yuga awareness of some portion of the population does suggest that conflict will be likely. Not all Treta Yuga citizens will embrace their higher potentials and strive to rise above sel¬fish interests. Some may seek, instead, to see how powerful they can become. They may still seek expansion, growth, and power, but with their egos as the focus, and with their personal ambitions as their goals.
War today is often waged indiscriminately. Civilian populations are frequently the victims of war. Mankind’s enlightened self-interest, which will likely develop even before the end of Dwapara Yuga, may well eliminate much of this behavior — after all, what is gained by either side if much of the world is destroyed in the process of waging a war.
By Treta Yuga, we expect that war would be waged among warriors only. No longer relying on technological weapons, but on mentally directed power, combat would likely be fought warrior to warrior. Warriors of the future may use concentration and attunement to higher levels of thought to directly control forces — forces they might be able to unleash with great accuracy. Strength of mind, rather than might of arms, would become the mark of the accomplished warrior. Battles involving such warriors may well unfold entirely differently from what we know of war today.
War may finally be waged in the idealized manner envisioned in the tales of the Knights of the Round Table and the Age of Chivalry.
The Pursuit of Happiness
The awareness of thought, with its greater subtlety and re¬finement, will bestow on Treta Yuga man greater potential for experiencing happiness than we now enjoy in Dwapara Yuga, but it will still be up to each individual to achieve that happiness.
According to Sri Yukteswar, Treta Yuga man’s natural attunement to thought will bring with it extraordinary awareness and abilities. Those living in Treta Yuga will eventually learn that their greatest happiness lies not simply in self-mastery, as an end in itself, but in using their self-mastery to attune themselves to expansive flows of thought.
Attunement to positive and selfless thoughts expands our awareness beyond the ego, and is accompanied by agreeable feelings of joy and well-being. Attunement to negative and self-centered thoughts contracts our awareness within the ego, and is accompanied by diminished feeling and unhappiness.
The arc of Treta Yuga development, therefore, will be one of increasing attunement to thoughts that lead to greater happiness. Mankind will learn that, fundamentally, joy, security, and love are experienced by intuitive attunement to expansive and uplifting flows of thought.
Further, perceiving that the flows of thought lie outside themselves, the people of Treta Yuga will come to appreciate that their ultimate happiness lies beyond the confi¬nes of their egos and limited minds. This awareness will form the essence of their spiritual experience.
The Religion of Treta Yuga
Currently mankind is moving away from narrow or anthropomorphic conceptions of God. Just as the coming of democracy was an antidote to the grievous failures of the rulers of Kali Yuga, a conception of God as impersonal, universal, and infi¬nite is an antidote to the rigid, sectarian, and anthropomorphic conceptions of God in Kali Yuga.
Certainly by Treta Yuga, if not before, we expect mankind once again to embrace the possibility of a conscious and personal relationship with the Divine, a Divine that is at the same time universal and in¬finite. Treta Yuga man will come to understand that spiritual advancement can be achieved through intuitive attunement to specific, conscious expressions of the infi¬nite divine consciousness.
People living in Treta Yuga, because of their heightened awareness of the thoughts and feelings of others, will naturally gravitate to teachers who demonstrate the spiritual understanding they wish to develop in themselves. Treta Yuga citizens will seek to learn from enlightened sages, living exemplars of the truths they seek to master.
By the end of the 3600-year arc of ascending Treta Yuga, people should be well on their way to the realization that there is no reality separate from the Divine. Not only will they realize that their highest fulfi¬llment lies in service and attunement to the Divine, but they will begin to comprehend that they are divine in their very essence.
This then will be the religion of Treta Yuga.
Excerpted from The Yugas: Keys to Understanding Man’s Hidden Past, Emerging Present, and Future Enlightenment, Crystal Clarity Publishers
Author and lecturer, Joseph Selbie, studied ancient Western cultures at the University of Colorado and ancient Eastern cultures at UC Berkeley. He has had a keen interest in ancient history since grade school. He has taught and lectured on the principles of Eastern philosophy for over thirty years.
He lives with his wife at Ananda Village, a spiritual community in Northern California. Joseph, also known as Puru, is a founding member of Ananda Sangha and has served in many leadership and teaching roles. Joseph is also the founder and CEO of Tristream, a web development, marketing and application design firm.
Co-author, David Steinmetz. David’s background includes forty years of scientific work, including astronomy at the University of Arizona and optics at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Currently, he teaches about the yugas, ancient world cultures, astronomy, and physics at the Ananda College of Living Wisdom. He has been writing and lecturing on the topic of the yugas for more than a decade. David is a teacher at the Ananda College of Living Wisdom and was instrumental in developing a curriculum based on key aspects of the yuga cycle. He lives with his wife at Ananda Village, a spiritual community in Northern California.