Eastern & Western religious philosophy is one of my areas of interest about which I write essays exploring the nature of reality and being.
The famous Sufi poem, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, has long been the victim of a gross misunderstanding that renders the poem's meaning the complete opposite of its true spiritual meaning. Paramahansa Yogananda corrects that misfocused vision with his beautiful, thorough interpretation.
In 1920, the great Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda was invited to speak at the International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston; his speech was an outstanding success, and except for a brief visit to Mexico and a journey back to India, the great yogi spent the rest of his life in the USA lecturing, writing, founding and directing his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, to disseminate his teachings.
In addition to his mission of disseminating his spiritual teachings, the great yogi composed some of the most inspirational poetry ever penned on American soil. His book of poems, Songs of the Soul, which has become a spiritual classic, testifies to his mastery of the art of poetry. All of this writings demonstrate that mastery, even the pedagogical lessons that hold his teachings.
Interpretation of Edward FitzGerald's Translation
A further amazing achievement of this great yoga spiritual leader is his interpretation of Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He shows how this poem has been misinterpreted, and his correction is a valuable addition of knowledge to the literary field.
Emily Dickinson’s famous poem, “I taste a liquor never brewed,” comes to mind when musing on the subject of Omar Khayyam’s rubaiyat; in her poem, Dickinson relates the intoxicating joy she feels at being alive and metaphorically aware of the Divine “wine” that flows through the spiritual veins of the devotee. And the great yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, through his spiritual interpretation of Omar’s great work reveals that the Sufi mystic was intoxicated with the love of God, not the literal intoxicating beverage “wine” as the Sufi masterfully composed his devotional quatrains to the Divine.
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Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and Award of Excellence
Paramahansa Yogananda's spiritual interpretation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, was published in book form in 1994. In 1995, the book won the Benjamin Franklin Award for the best book of the year in the field of religion, and in 1996 Body Mind Spirit recognized the guru’s masterful translation/interpretation with the Award of Excellence for "its outstanding contribution to personal growth and spirituality."
Original Persian and FitzGerald's Poetic Translation
Working from the original Persian and with a Persian scholar, Paramahansa Yogananda completed his translation and spiritual interpretation in the early 1930s. He made his own English translation then compared that work to that of English poet, Edward FitzGerald. Finding Fitzgerald's version richer in poetic qualities than other translations, the yogi decided to utilize FitzGerald's translation for the basis of his interpretation. Interestingly as well as ironically, FitzGerald, while having penned the most poetic version of the Sufi poet's work, remains among those who have so grossly misunderstood that great poem.
Appeared Serially in SRF Magazine 1937-1944 and 1971-1990
Paramahansa Yogananda's interpretation originally appeared serially from 1937 to 1944 in Self-Realization Fellowship's magazine. Then an expanded version was published in the magazine between 1971 and 1990.
With this book, his spiritual interpretation with commentaries appears for the first time in book form. This book contains much useful information in its introductory material. For example, Yogananda quotes Professor Charles F. Horne, who stated: "The first great Sufi writer was Omar Khayyam."
"Wine" as Metaphor for Divine Love
The fame of The Rubaiyat rests primarily on a misunderstanding. Instead of being the wild ravings of an atheistic wine bibber as is often believed of Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat (meaning "quatrains") is the work of a Sufi mystic, and "wine" is a metaphor for divine love. Further useful information about the history of the poet Omar Khayyam, his work, his religion, and how his quatrains have been debated is offered in the introduction. Each section of the seventy-five quatrains offers the original Persian and FitzGerald's translation, a Glossary of terms interpreting the metaphors employed by the poet, Paramahansa Yogananda's Spiritual Interpretation, and Practice Application.
The publication of this great corrective in understanding this much misinterpreted poem remains a milestone in the literary arts. It offers along with its beauty and grace a deep knowledge of spirituality in the art of poetry. That a work could so long stand accompanied by a misguided and error-filled interpretation remains a puzzling phenomenon, but that one, whose grasp of all things spiritual, has now corrected that error will continue to pour blessings on the great poetry as well as on those who see spiritual understanding.
Wine of the Mystic – The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: A Spiritual Interpretation
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes