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 the Roots of Eternity"
In Paramahansa Yogananda's "At the Roots of Eternity," the speaker metaphorically likens the Blessed Divine Reality to a tree, whose roots are hidden sources of a blissful nectar, which affords those who capture it free-flowing Bliss.
The speaker also is dramatizing the contrast between daytime observation of the Divine Creator's creation and nighttime's state of meditation and union with the Divine Reality.
The created forms such as clouds, seas, and planets, the Divine has given to His children to serve as examples of the power, beauty, and majesty of that creation. But uniting with that Divine Reality Itself brings the consciousness to Bliss, not merely the mindful enthrallment offered by creation. The Creator remains always more alluring then His Creation.
Excerpt From "At the Roots of Eternity"
With sailing clouds and plunging breeze,
With singing leaves and youthful storms, capricious seas,
With bounding plants-balls — all these — . . .
(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.)
Creation—in the forms of clouds, seas, and planets—offers God's children all the examples of the power, beauty, and majesty of that creation; then, uniting the mind and soul with that Divine Reality Itself brings the consciousness to Bliss.
First Movement: Daytime Distractions of Beauty
The speaker begins by listing a wide-ranging group of natural occurrences that distract him by their beauty. He admits to becoming "absorbed" by these creations. In his absorption, he gives much thought to these creations. As most people love to do, he watches the clouds as they go sailing about the sky.
He takes note of the "plunging breeze." We all from time to time become enamored of the gentle wind that cools on a hot day, or as those gentle breezes delicately move flowers to dance to their rhythms.
The speaker observes that leaves seems to sing in the breeze as they gently undulate to the force of the gentle wind or as they sail from the trees in autumn and land with a soft plop on the grass. The speaker also has become absorbed in observing "youthful storms," and it is likely that he is referring to the stormy passion of youthful humanity as well as the storms of weather.
The speaker also finds himself engulfed by thoughts of the "capricious seas," and he would especially be affected by the ocean as he travels by ship over the wide waters of the earth. He is also confronted with the presence of planets, including the sun, the stars he can observe at night, the moon, and especially the mud ball of earth on which he finds himself hurtling through space.
All of these entities take up space in the mind of the speaker, and he is addressing his Divine Beloved, confessing that the Divine's creation, represented in this list of natural occurrences, do, in fact, absorb his attention, as he deeply considers their existence. In his mind, as he "wildly play[s]" with all of these creations, he briefly forgets his Divine Beloved.
The speaker has listed the many distractions created by his Beloved Creator, as he muses on the state of his consciousness. Thus as he addresses his Divine Creator, he freely admits taking his mind off of his Beloved Goal as he "wildly plays" with those entities. But then he adds, "but not alway."
Second Movement: Nighttime One-Pointed Concentration
In the second movement of his confession, the speaker sites the time of day when he closes his mind to all of those amazing, miraculous creations. "At close of day" he finds himself in one-pointed concentration on his Divine Beloved.
After having been absorbed in the beauty and majesty of the Creator's varied creations during the day, at nighttime he becomes even more absorbed in the reality of the spiritual bliss of union with his Beloved Divine Creator.
The speaker now dramatizes the Divine Reality through the metaphor of a tree; thus, the speaker then employs his "eager hands" to gather his Bliss from this tree of free-flowing, all thirst-quenching "nectar-loot." Addressing his Heavenly Creator as "O Eternity," he reports that he is tapping into the "hidden roots," whence flows this soul-satisfying liquid Bliss.
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