Paramahansa Yogananda's "A Mirror New"
Introduction and Excerpt from "A Mirror New"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s "A Mirror New," from Songs of the Soul, offers a delightful little drama that metaphorically compares Kriya Yoga to a mirror, which can serve as a useful tool in the devotee’s spiritual arsenal.
Excerpt from "A Mirror New"
I bring to you
A mirror new –
A glass of introspection clear,
That illusion shows, and sooty fear
That spots thy mind. . . .
(Please note: The poem in its entirety may be found in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)
The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s "A Mirror New" reveals the importance of introspection. Learning about ourselves, especially our motivation, can help us become aware of the appropriate methods needed to follow in order to improve our lives.
First Stanza: A New Method
The speaker/guru of the poem announces that he has brought to his devotees, and those who may in future become his devotees, a new method for reaching the goal of self-realization or union of the soul with the Divine. This new mirror is a looking-"glass of introspection clear." When one looks into this mirror, one will see how "illusion" has caused the separation from the Divine, and that illusion is coupled with "sooty fear."
This metaphorical mirror, similar to literal mirrors, reflects exactly; it has no ability to alter the devotee’s thoughts, for its purpose is to help the devotee correct his/her mental facility. It is helpful to understand the nature of one’s distorted thoughts, in order to reorder them. A major reason for one's lack spiritual awareness is that illusion "spots thy mind." The mind of the beginning yogi is clouded with the debris of long living in the world of oppositional states: life-death, good-bad, weak-strong, up-down, and all the many pairs of opposites that comprise and drive the physical and even mental levels of being.
Second Stanza: Reflecting the Inner Being
In addition to reflecting the sooty spots in the mind, however, this "new" mirror is capable of reflecting the "Inner You." While a physical looking-glass reflects the physical body, this "new" mirror is able to strip away the "veil," that is, the "flesh," allowing the individual to see for perhaps the first time the inner issues that have been guiding and misguiding the individual to behave in ways that are contradictory to useful, wholesome living.
This view "never doth appear," because it is hidden deep within the flesh of the physical encasement. Of the three bodies possessed by each human being, only the physical outer body can be reflected in an ordinary, or old, mirror. But this new mirror "would loyal show" the "Inner You" or soul. That many individuals are not even aware that the soul exists demonstrates that soul awareness in humanity is rare.
The mental body is also not seen by a literal mirror, and as the devotee journeys on the path to the soul, the mental body can perform as a helpful partner, or it can impede progress as a treacherous devil, if it fails to remove those sooty, fear inducing spots. Like unawareness of the soul, the average individual is not even aware of the tangible existence of the mental body belonging to each human beings in physical encasement.
Third Stanza: Washing Away Daily Trials and Tribulations
In the final stanza, the speaker/guru entreats the devotees to employ this new mirror of meditation techniques he has given. This new mirror becomes then "thy mirror-friend" not the treacherous foe that stifles and keeps the devotee’s attention earthbound. All of the activities that interfere on the spiritual path must be limited and placed second in one's spiritual routine. The meditation aspirant becomes more and more aware of his/her true self.
The devotee is encouraged to wrap him/herself in the Divine each night before "the sorcerer Sleep doth call." The speaker/guru offers the devotee motivation to "make use to see thyself withal." By refreshing the body and mind through employment of this "mirror new," the devotee can "clear away / Dust of that day." The spiritual adventurer learns day by day to trust his/her inner strength and determination to succeed on the path to self-realization.
Each day brings new demands in the world so full of other people, things, activities that invade the devotee’s mind and heart. Each night, with the "mirror new," offers the devotee the opportunity to wash away the daily cares and tribulations, offers the solitude to renew his/her strength and determination to reach the Ultimate Goal.
Life Sketch of Paramahansa Yogananda
The great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born on January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. His name at birth was Mukunda Lal Ghosh. Always a spiritually advanced child, at age 17, he met his guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, under whose guidance he flourished and became the spiritual giant and sacred engine that leads souls back to their eternal abode in the arms of the Divine Creator.
Paramahansa Yogananda came to the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), was well established with the purpose of disseminating and maintaining the purity of his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Paramahansa Yogananda’s biography on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site:
In the hundred years since the birth of Paramahansa Yogananda, this beloved world teacher has come to be recognized as one of the greatest emissaries to the West of India’s ancient wisdom. His life and teachings continue to be a source of light and inspiration to people of all races, cultures and creeds.
Paramahansa Yogananda's in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide. Many devotees have been drawn to the teachings of this yogi through that autobiography, and many of their stories about how they came to find that work include some of the most inspiring "miracles" of modern American culture.
Such world-renowned figures as Dennis Weaver, Steve Jobs, George Harrison, and Elvis Presley were influenced by the Autobiography of a Yogi and the teachings of the great guru. Weaver even became a lay minister and spoke often at many of the SRF temples in California.
In addition to the autobiography, the great guru has published many collections of his talks, in both written and oral forms. His audio collector's series of ten of his informal talks includes the following titles:
1. Beholding the One in All
2. Awake in the Cosmic Dream
3. Be a Smile Millionaire
4. The Great Light of God
5. To Make Heaven on Earth
6. One Life Versus Reincarnation
7. Removing All Sorrow and Suffering
8. In the Glory of the Spirit
9. Follow the Path of Christ, Krishna, and the Masters
10. Self-Realization: The Inner and the Outer Path
These inspirational talks reveal much information about the great guru that appeals to his devoted followers. Just listening to a God-realized voice offers an uplifting spiritual experience.
For my commentaries on the poems of the great guru, I rely on his marvelous collection titled, Songs of the Soul, the version published in 1983 with its most current printing 2014. Two additional collections of his poems are extant, Whispers From Eternity and Metaphysical Meditations.
Because the "poems" of this great guru function on levels that ordinary poems do not, they are often used in devotional services held by groups of devotees of the SRF teachings throughout the world in the Readings Services as well as their Special Commemorative Services.
Paramahansa Yogananda's poems are more akin to prayers than to the poetry of ordinary poets, whose subject matter often dramatizes only human emotion in its relationship with creation and other human beings, instead of with the Creator; the great guru's poems always invoke the Creator's presence whether directly or indirectly.
The great guru's organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man's Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.
The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.
In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet's God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.
In the guru's in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.
Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the "Second Coming." Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus' words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as "The Kingdom of God is within you" and "I and my Father are one."
Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.
The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.
The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.
After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.
Kriya Yoga Initiations
The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.
All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees' interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.
In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.
An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, "The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda."
Brief Publishing History of Songs of the Soul
The first published version of Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul appeared in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, the great spiritual leader revised many of the poems. The final revisions of the poems authorized by the great guru appear in the 1983 printing of the text, which along with the revisions restored many lines that had been omitted from the original version.
I use the 1983 printing for my commentaries. The current printing year is 2014. No further revisions or additions have been made since the 1983 printing. The 1923 versions of the many of the poems may be read at Full Text of Songs of the Soul.
“The Teachings Will Be the Guru”
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes