Updated date:

Paramahansa Yogananda's "Flight!"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Writing at Encinitas

Writing at Encinitas

Introduction and Excerpt From "Flight!"

The experience described in this poem remains necessarily ineffable, for quite literally, no words can ever describe the experience of samadhi, which is the Sanskrit term for God-union, soul-realization. The term is akin to the Buddhist concept of nirvana and the Christian concept of salvation.

Thus it stands to reason that each experience for each individual would be different, unique, and therefore indescribable. But great spiritual souls, who have experienced God-union have always found it in their hearts to describe to the best of their abilities that blessed, exalted state of being.

Those great souls offer their testimony that others might realize that they too possess this ability. In this testimonial creation of discourse, there is no ego attempting to write the best description or capture the largest following. Those great spiritual leaders have always known that each fallen individual will find and follow the leader whose explanations and descriptions most appeal and call to them.

Excerpt From "Flight!"

I closed my eyes and saw the skies
Of dim opalescent infinity spread round me.
The grey sky-chariot of the dawn of awakening,
Displaying searchlight eyes,
Came and took me away . . . .

(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

This poem dramatizes an experience in samadhi (God-union) or self-realization.

First Movement: Closed Eyes Looking on Eternity

The speaker begins his description by stating that he "closed his eyes." This action would likely be expected by any reader familiar with the concept of samadhi. But the following claim that after the speaker closes his eyes he sees "the skies" may startle. Then the speaker qualities those "skies" by describing them as "of dim opalescent infinity" that was "spread round[him]."

At this point only two lines into the experience in samadhi, the reader is taken out of ordinary consciousness and reminded that one of the great features of God-union includes the nature of "infinity." How does one then interpret the nature of those skies that appear to be spreading around the speaker casting a bluish hue and spreading out in all directions without end? The reader can only close his own eyes and try to imagine that view. Not impossible to do, but still one must remember that each experience in samadhi is unique.

The speaker then concludes the first movement of this experience by claiming to be taken up into a "grey sky-chariot" which is like the "dawn of awakening." This chariot that "came and took [him] away" features the manifestation of "searchlight eyes." Such seemingly bizarre features must be held in abeyance as the reader understands that his/her own experience of samadhi will surely display in a number of out of the ordinary occurrences.

Second Movement: Zooming Through Space

The speaker now reports that after finding himself carried away by this heavenly chariot, he is "zoom[ing] through space." The notion of zooming through space is not a difficult one to envision. In the science-fiction literary genre, such zooming has become common place. However, the speeding through space is usually confined to some super-powered rocket or airplane.

The speaker here is describing the activity only of his own soul. His consciousness, in order words, is doing this zooming, and that is, of course, and will remain the ineffable. It will remain somewhat foreign to each mind until that mind can experience it for him/herself. A bit like the taste of an orange, one cannot describe it so that others will know exactly how an orange tastes; they must actually eat the orange themselves to know that exact taste of the orange.

The speaker asserts that his consciousness then plows through the "ether of mystery." The Divine Reality is nothing, if not mysterious to all of us who are merely seeking God-union. All individuals know about certain qualities of that Divine Reality, but to experience them directly then erases the "mystery" that always remains.

Continuing his zooming through space, the speaker says that he "passed through age-hidden spiral nebulae." As he does this he seems to be moving without a designated plan, as his soul is capable of flying off in all directions: "Left, right, north, south, above and below." He then asserts that his continued motion through this uncharted territory seemed to present nowhere to "land."

Third Movement: Heavenly Distractions

The speaker reports the odd move of "tailspins of distractions." This claim throws a definite oddity into the description. What could possibly present a "distraction" to the soul hurtling through the space of infinity? Or would everything comparatively seem a distraction? Again, the individual must assign such a claim to the wait-and-see category, and move on.

Despite the "distractions," the speaker then "sp[ins] through limitlessness," a quality that one would likely readily assume for the state of samadhi. One of the earth dwellers' constant spiritual complaints is that of the limited state of the soul caged in a physical body, penned with a restless mind—the two bodies that constantly serve to limit the soul. In the state of samadhi awareness, one would definitely expect to feel "limitless."

The speaker then reports that he is "whirl[ing] through an eternal furnace of lights." Again, while one cannot imagine the feeling of such "whirling," one would expect to be presented with a multitude of "lights." The scientific knowledge that everything on the material plane is, in fact, composed of light is enough to spark the imagination to the presence of light as one experiences soul-realization.

Fourth Movement: Melting into Light

The speaker now finds himself melding with the supernal light that he is experiencing. He finds that his "plane" or the chariot in which he was scooped up is melting into "that transmuting flame."

The speaker is shedding the last vestiges of physicality, especially as he discovers his "body" has "melted" "bit by bit" in a fire that does not burn by merely purifies.

Fifth Movement: The Light of Bliss

Finally, the speaker realizes that "bit by by" his very thoughts are melting. No longer is he held by any limiting force, and he even becomes free from limiting thoughts.

Most importantly, the speaker now finds that his feelings have become "pure liquid light." The notion that one's feelings can become "liquid light" serves as a magnificent image on which to focus one's attention.

As each aspiring soul works to attain this blessed state of being, known as samadhi, concentrating on descriptions of that state by those great souls who have undergone them serves to speed the soul along it path to the day when it too can offer an ineffable description of that state of Bliss.

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes