Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Evasion"
Introduction and Excerpt from Poem, "Evasion"
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Evasion,” from Songs of the Soul, all but two of the couplets rime. The second and third couplets break the rime pattern and emphasize the separation from the Divine, which breaks the heart of the devotee.
(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 "Evasion"
Whene'er I almost see Thee,
Thou dost vanish suddenly.
When Thou art nearly trapped in me,
I look, and find Thee gone. . . .
(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 six couplets in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Evasion” testify to the difficulty of capturing the Divine.
First Couplet: Continuing to Lament and Strive
In the first couplet, the speaker/devotee addresses the Divine, lamenting that every time he thinks he is about to “see Thee,” the Blessed One just quickly disappears. This sudden loss causes consternation for the devotee.
However, because the devotee continues to lament, he also continues to strive. He does not give up, but instead he redoubles his efforts again and again.
Second Couplet: Trapping the Divine Belovèd
The speaker then metaphorically refers to capturing the Divine, or realizing God through his own soul, as trapping that Blessed Being. And yet again as in the opening of his report, as soon as he thinks he has “trapped” the Great Spirit, “I look, and find Thee gone.”
The little rabbit-God has avoided the trap again. The goal moves farther from the devotee's sight, it seems. The devotee’s heart is breaking from his near misses.
Third Couplet: Evading the Trap
There are even times when the devotee is sure he has attained the Divine Goal, and yet again like the little rabbit-God evading the trap, the Divine does “e’er escape.”
The second non-riming couplet reveals the devotee’s even stronger sorrow for losing the grasp on his goal, because this time he thought he had actually “seized Thee.” Having such a strong thought thwarted causes great pain.
Fourth Couplet: Intense Longing
The speaker in sheer exhaustion and exasperation poses a question to his Divine Belovèd: “How long this hide-and-seek and play?” The striving devotee is getting really perplexed and talks to God as if He were a fellow human being.
Such God-intimacy reveals the devotee’s intense longing as well as the perfect faith that God can be known and perceived even more directly than a human friend ever could be.
The speaker then admits that his efforts in the world make him tired: “I’m weary with the toil of the day.” The worldly striving just to keep body and soul together are enough to make an individual weary.
However, this determined devotee adds the further effort to reach his spiritual goal of finding God. And when God does not seem to be cooperating, the devotee feels even more “weary.”
Fifth Couplet: Playing Hide and Seek with God
The devotee reaches a turning point in the fifth couplet. Even though he has to contend with a situation not to his liking, he determines that he will continue.
The demanding devotee will continue to “brook this game—evasion Thine.” He will put up with God’s playing hide and seek with him and enjoy even the “tiny flash of time” that he perceives occasionally.
Sixth Couplet: Freedom Worth Renewed Effort
And finally, the speaker’s determination is again emphasized because he knows that, “in the end,” the devotee will see “Thy face.”
And when the devotee has reached his spiritual goal, even if, at first, it is in fits and starts, his joy will double and his mind will be free. And that freedom will have been well worth all the effort and the failures that the devotee has had to endure.
Biographical 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, was well-established with the purpose of disseminating his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
For a more thorough overview of the great guru's life, please visit Paramahansa Yogananda’s Biography. And for an in-depth portrayal, you may want to consult his classic work, Autobiography of a Yogi.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes