Paramahansa Yogananda's "Eternity"
Introduction and Excerpt from "Eternity"
The speaker of Paramahansa Yogananda's "Eternity" craves knowledge about the origin of life on earth, and he poses the question to his Belovèd Creator if ever the day will come that he will attain that knowledge.
Excerpt from "Eternity"
Oh, will that day arrive
When I shall ceaselessly ask – yea, drive
Eternal questions into Thine ear,
O Eternity! and have solution
How weak weeds grow and stand unbent,
Unshaken ‘neath the trampling current. . . .
(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.)
The speaker entertains the strong wish to grasp the Cosmic Hand that crafts all things and guides all events. He desires no less than unity with his Divine Creator. He begins by expressing his wondering if that day will come that he can, in fact, know what his Creator knows.
First Movement: Wondering if the Day of Knowing Will Come
Addressing the Divine Reality, the speaker queries as he wonders if he will ever attain the understanding about his environment that he wishes to possess. He admits to God that he has been "ceaselessly" putting into his Creator's ear these "eternal questions."
The speaker wishes to know if he will ever be able to stop that questioning. And there is only solution to his stopping; he would have to receive the answers he seeks. He is determined to have such answers, and from his insistence readers/listens become aware that this speaker will never be satisfied until he gets them.
This speaker is addressing "God" in His aspect as "Eternity." The speaker thus implies that he will remain a striving devotee forever if such striving remains necessary. As God is "eternal," the speaker knows that the Divine is also all powerful, and all knowledgeable. Thus the speaker can be certain of answers at sometime in his eternal existence as a child of Omnipresence.
Second Movement: Things, Events, and What They Mean
The speaker then begins a catalogue of things/events that he wishes to understand more fully. The first two items of the catalogue offer two contrasting events that puzzle the mind: how can "weak weeds" remain vibrant when assaulted by a "trampling current," even though storms may demolish "titanic things."
The speaker has observed such devastation, learned about catastrophes throughout history. He employs the natural phenomena to imply all devastating, even human, ignominious activities, for example, he has seen petty dictators such as Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini rise and destroy the lives of far better man.
The speaker wonders how storms may "uproot" trees while allowing those spindly weed to remain in place. That same storm will cause the ocean to roar and become a dangerous weapon against humankind.
Third Movement: The Nature of All Those Firsts
The speaker then runs through a second catalogue featuring the appearance of "firsts" as they appear on the earth. He wonders how the "first spark" was lit and began to "blink[ ]." He asks about the "first tree," the "first goldfish," the "first bluebird," a creature that is "so free."
The speaker then moves into the human kingdom, wonder how the "first crooning baby" came to "visit" in this amazing house of never-ceasing wonders. He begs to understand the origin of all of these things that have "made their grand entry" into this "wonder-house." And he states that they are here only "to visit"; he implies that their nature is ephemeral as they come merely to "visit" and not remain.
Fourth Movement: Strong Desire to Grasp the Cosmic Hand
The speaker then asserts that he sees that all those varied things come on the earth. But all he can observe is their "growth," that is, their changing nature. The human being cannot see or know the actual formation of anything created—only that everything changes. The human mind knows nothing but change. It cannot comprehend purpose or begin anything itself; it can only observe and record change.
The speaker has watched all this changing from the contrasting weeds to uprooted trees in a storm, to all those "firsts" including the arrival of the baby human being. Everything appears for just a short "visit." Everything appearing whether on land or on sea appears and then after a brief sojourn into life disappears again.
The speaker then concludes his drama of the vanishing bubbles of life to offer his heartfelt cravings to his Divine Creator. He wants to "seize" the Hand that fashions all those creatures on earth and throughout the cosmic. Addressing God as "O Eternity!," the speaker insists that the Blessèd Lord open to him the knowledge of the "secret works on land and sea."
The speaker is asking for no less than unity with the Creator, for only by uniting his soul with that Over-Soul could the speaker ever seize that Hand and know what the Brain guiding that Hand knows. The speaker then wishes to seize the All-Knowing, All-Powerful One, Who can reveal all things including reason and purpose to the speaker's heart, mind, and soul.
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.
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes