Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all things.
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.)
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.
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.
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes