Paramahansa Yogananda's "Flight!" - Owlcation - Education
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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Flight!"

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

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.)


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

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.

The Poetry

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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."

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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.

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes

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