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Paramahansa Yogananda's "God's Boatman"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda at Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1929

Paramahansa Yogananda at Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1929

Introduction and Excerpt From "God's Boatman"

Paramahansa Yogananda’s "God’s Boatman" offers devotees on the spiritual path the comforting knowledge that the guru will always remain their spiritual leader, throughout eternity, and the guru will not abandon them to delusion and despair. The poem reveals the empathy that a God-realized saint has for the suffering human beings in this world.

The relationship between a God-realized saint (a guru) is eternal. The guru will guide and guard his devotee throughout their existence, so long as the devotee remains without that desired state of consciousness known as samadhi or "self-realization," or union with the Divine Causal Reality. This poem dramatizes the guru's promise to continue and maintain his protection of his devotees throughout eternity.

Excerpt From "God's Boatman"

I want to ply my boat, many times,
Across the gulf-after-death,
And return to earth’s shores
From my home in heaven.

I want to load my boat
With those waiting, thirsty ones
Who are left behind,
And carry them by the opal pool
Of iridescent joy
Where my Father distributes
His all-desire-quenching liquid peace. . . . .

(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.)


"God's Boatman" offers reassurance that the devotee who faithfully follows his/her spiritual path will be guarded and guided by the guru or spiritual leader of that paths.

First Movement: Willing to Return Many Times

The speaker of Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "God's Boatman," from Songs of the Soul, is a God-united saint, i.e., a self-realized soul. In this poem the speaker declares that he desires to and will, in fact, return to earth as many times as is necessary to retrieve those souls who have not yet regained that coveted state of Superconsciousness that the guru has achieved.

The God-realized guru metaphorically likens the space continuum between God-realization and earth-consciousness to an ocean across which he will metaphorically travel by boat "from [his] home in heaven" to the "earth’s shores," where his stranded fellows remain in delusion.

Second Movement: A Boat Load of Souls

The speaker avers that he will "load [his] boat / With those waiting, thirsty ones / Who are left behind." He will literally teach his yogic techniques to those who are open to them, to those who are suffering from the despair and misery that living in a physical body with mentally agitated awareness causes.

The guru/speaker will figuratively transport his devotees across the great watery divide to the "opal pool / Of iridescent joy / Where [his] Father distributes / His all-desire-quenching liquid peace." He will teach them to concentrate their efforts and make their minds one-pointed and clear through meditation until they are able to shed the trials and tribulations of this world and enter the haven of bliss, where the Ultimate Reality will truly embrace and bless them.

Third Movement: Willing to Suffer Many Inconveniences

The speaker insists that he "will come again and again!" The unselfishness of the God-united saint is beyond comprehension by those unrealized minds and hearts, whose very existence seems to dictate the necessity of remaining self-centered and self-focused as they identify with their flesh, race, country, sex, and their families and possessions.

Furthermore, this beloved guru admits that he will suffer myriad inconveniences for his fellows; even if his feet have to bleed as he searches for them, he will come for them. He will come for them, "If need be, a trillion times — / So long as [he knows] / One stray brother is left behind." Who, without self-realization, can even fathom the acts of taking on the physical body with its bothers "a trillion times" just for sake of others?

Fourth Movement: To Give God-Realization to Others

Turning to the beloved Divine Creator, the speaker assures the Blessed Lord God that he desires God-realization, and he wants that realization not only for himself but also to be able to "give [that realization] to all." The speaker/guru supplicates to the Lord to be liberated from body delusion so that he may show others that they too can do as he has done, that they too can achieve the blessed state of superconscious awareness.

The speaker reiterates his plea to the Lord; he desires this ultimate liberation from the slavery of the physical encasement not only for himself but also in order to help deliver others from misery to the same God-bliss the speaker enjoys. He seeks that exalted state because it will give him the power to assist his fellow sufferers. This desire remains his ultimate unselfishness: that just as Jesus did, this unselfish speaker desires above all else to demonstrate the efficacy of the spiritual, yogic path, which leads to eternal happiness because it leads to the Ultimate Reality.

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

Dr M.W. Lewis: God's Boatman ~ An Audio Satsang

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes

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