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Paramahansa Yogananda's "At 'Sul Monte'"

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all creation.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction and Excerpt From "At 'Sul Monte'"

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's "At 'Sul Monte'" reports the enjoyment of a visit to a beautifully manicured property. But his special focus remains on the Lord's presence in the beauty of the trees as well as in the talent of the opera singer. He adds the soul-reassuring reminder that keeping God in everything brings even more pleasure to the devotee.

Excerpt From "At 'Sul Monte'"

Paramahansaji dedicated this poem to Amelita Galli-Curci and her husband, Homer Samuels, after a visit to "Sul Monte," their home in the Catskills.

They say that He's remote, unseen,
Austere, beyond our vision keen;
Yet, passing through the tunnels of leaves
And seeing the hilltop green —
A grassy orchid-vase,
Adorned with little doll-sized temple,
Artistic, grand, yet simple;

Hanging, it seemed from the big skyey roof
High amidst the clouds; aloof
From din and uproars loud
Of aimless rushing crowd —
I asked myself:
Who made this? Who made that?
And found my answers
From His servitors,
Oh, everywhere, oh everywhere! . . .

(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.)

Commentary

After visiting the estate of opera singer, Amelia Galli-Curci, and her husband, Homer Samuels, the great guru composed this poem as tribute to the Divine beauty that the couple had cultivated on their Catskills home.

First Movement: First Impressions

The speaker begins by reporting that many folks who speak of the Creator often imply that He is far away and invisible. Sense-bound individuals remain unaware that there exists a plane of being where the senses cannot penetrate, a level of consciousness, on which the one awakened to that consciousness can quite tangibly perceive the Creator in all of His glory.

The imagination may be a powerful tool, but it does not unite the individual soul with its Creator, even though it may attempt to envision such a scene. But the false notion that God is far can also be corrected by the heart-influencing, soul-stirring beauty that often is encountered on this terrestrial sphere.

The speaker then contrasts the notion that God is "unseen" as he begins his description of earthly beauty that hints strongly that such a Creator not only exists but remains permeated throughout every inch of that creation.

After observing the many features of beauty that are offered the eye at the estate known as "Sul Monte," the speaker reports that he queried his own muse about the Creator of all this majesty. He had observed "tunnels of leaves," "the hilltop green," "a grassy orchid-vase" which was decorated with "a little doll-sized temple."

The speaker finds the accoutrements to be "simple" as well as "artistic" and "grand." They hung as if suspended from the sky among crowds of clouds, high above the madding noise of busy life below. He wonders then and asks about the Creator of all this: "Who" made this and that? And his answers were forthcoming "[f]rom His servitors," who averred that the Creator of all this exists, "Oh, everywhere, oh everywhere!"

Second Movement: The Very Trees Bespeak His Presence

A self-realized master is capable of experiencing the Creator in His creation. And this speaker demonstrates that ability as he describes in majestic terms the scene he is viewing. The trees that he beholds seem to be dancing to a delightful rhythm as they send forth their "painted screens of varying light and shade." They have become "charming scenic players," and to this speaker they whisper the very name of their Creator as they "speak of Him." These simple trees yield forth a light that entertains the viewers and then vanishes.

The leaves move in "motley" colored rows as they dance with the breeze or with the stronger winds that come with thunder. Trees that resemble soldiers in turbans yield forth their "serious, majestic, grim" presence; they appear from a great distance and shine forth "from "colossal mountain-castles."

All of the players boldly send forth the declaration that God is near. And they admonish the viewers to wake up and experience the nearness of the Divine Creator. And just as they appear in the sunlight, they will disappear at night fall, which the speaker colorfully calls "nightly curtain-fall."

Third Movement: Hearing a Mystic Note

The speaker, after experiencing the God-reminding beauty upon entering the estate, moves on and finds himself "strolling" along the "flower-fringed lawn." Suddenly, he catches the notes of song that comes wafting into his field of hearing. The voice that he characterizes as a "fairy voice" prompts him to wonder if it is coming from a nightingale.

The speaker then answers his question in the negative, realizing that the voice is, indeed, a human soprano with a gifted ability to sound divinely beautiful with its "coloratura," or high ranging vocal spills of florid decorations such as runs and trills.

The speaker stops to listen carefully and becomes captivated by the beautiful voice. He reports that just as he thought she had reached her highest note, she seemed to fly even higher. At that point, he realizes that such a "mystic note" was being remotely sent to her from her soul in contact with the Divine Singer.

Again, the speaker is able to intuit the Divine Creator in His creation: this time in the talent of an opera singer. Such connection renders the listening experience even more pleasurable for the one whose ability engages itself to intuit the Creator in His creation in all sense experiences.

Fourth Movement: God Speaking in Nature

The speaker continues to listen to the music wafting from Homer and Amelita. He colorfully characterizes the very breeze as "listening" and that it "drank long" that music that was so sweet.

The song was "soul-solacing," which would prompt even the birds to come listen. Those creatures of God would then bathe in the peace of God at the "God-altar pure." The scenic paintings of Nature have been made softer by what "man's beauty-touches" are able to contribute.

Humankind's ability to transform natural features comes directly from humankind's Creator, and thus again the speaker attributes the final result to the Divine Reality, Who remains the sole benefactor of all talent, beauty, and truth that humankind can experience.

Fifth Movement: Remembering the Divine Creator

The speaker then addresses the owners—Homer and Amelita—of the estate, whose beauty has reminded him of his Belovèd Divine. He assures them that God will continue to speak to them eternally, and he concludes with a gentle admonition that they in turn remember that the Divine Belovèd is encouraging them to remember Him, "ever, ever."

The speaker's enjoyment of the visit with friends has become sweeter because of his marvelous ability to bring the Divine Essence into the visit, not only in the beauty of the estate but in the relationship between the great guru and his friends.

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes