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Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Breathe in Me"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Paramahansa Yogananda writing his Autobiography of a Yogi, at Self-Realization Fellowship’s Hermitage in Encinitas, California.

Paramahansa Yogananda writing his Autobiography of a Yogi, at Self-Realization Fellowship’s Hermitage in Encinitas, California.

Introduction and Excerpt from "Breathe in Me"

From Paramahansa Yogananda’s collection of poems of faith, Songs of the Soul, "Breathe in Me" consists of two unrimed verse paragraphs (versagraphs), the first featuring twelve lines, and the second nine. Also in the second versagraph, a six-line refrain emphasizes an important contingency regarding the speaker’s supplication to the Divine.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Excerpt from "Breathe in Me"

Breathe in me the way to love You,
That I may learn to faultlessly love You.
Pour me the wisdom-wine
By which I become intoxicated with You.
Whisper in my ears of silence
The way to be with You always. . . .

(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

In Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Breathe in Me," the speaker is addressing the Divine Reality, as he seeks the ability to increase his love for his Creator.

First Versagraph: Re-establishing His Unity With the Divine

In the first versagraph, the speaker asks the Divine Belovèd to make him realize the Divine as his own breath. The Blessèd Creator, Who fashioned his children out of the same essence as Himself, does actually "breathe," circulate blood, work, and play in the bodies of His children. As the speaker beseeches his Creator, he is asking for the ability to remember his already close relationship with the Lord.

The speaker wants to re-establish his awareness of that close relationship so that he may "faultlessly love [the Divine Creator]." He wishes to "learn" to love his Maker without any taint of forgetfulness or selfishness that existence in the flesh has engendered in him.

The speaker then employs the metaphor of intoxication: "Pour me the wisdom-wine / By which I become intoxicated with You." Being "drunk" with thoughts of the Divine brings a euphoric state that is without the negative side effects of imbibing liquid intoxicants.

Metaphorically imbibing the spiritual liquor brings the perfect bliss that all humans seek. Next, the speaker asks the Beloved Divine to "[w]hisper in my ears of silence," imploring that those whispers be guidance for his "wandering senses."

The devoted speaker is asking that his scattered thoughts and feelings be brought back to the Divine, to "[The Maker’s] sanctuary within." The speaker then implores the Creator to "call the marauding mind and counsel it"; he asks again to be guided back "to [his Maker’s] home."

The speaker knows he has been in that home before because he asks to learn "how to retrace" his steps back to the heavenly abode. Finally, the speaker requests, "With Your silent eyes, just look at me" because he understands that once he catches a glimpse of the Belovèd, he will intuitively know "where to find [Him]."

Second Versagraph: Locating the Divine in His Many Forms

The second versagraph transitions into a chant-song: "You may hide behind the ocean, / You may hide behind delusion, / You may hide behind life." The speaker is showing in his repetition that the nature of Maya delusion is to hide evidence of the Blessèd One from the speaker’s sense awareness.

It appears that the Divine Belovèd continues to hide everywhere, inside all created forms, progressing from the lowest level of consciousness of gemstones to the highest level of consciousness in the minds and bodies of human beings.

The speaker is seeking to locate the Divine in the many forms that hide His reality, as he continues his retrain: "You may hide behind dualities, / You may hide behind theological conundrums, / You may hide behind unanswered prayers."

Divinity even hides behind ideas such as the pairs of dual opposites, the enigmas of religious study, and for mankind the most frustrating of all is that the Creator hides behind seemingly "unanswered prayers."

The speaker then reveals the key to his own prayer’s being answered and that is that the Lord "cannot hide behind [the devotee’s] love." The speaker will find the Blessèd One "in the mirroring light of [his] love" for the Divine; in that love "[the Creator] is revealed."

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes