Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all things.
Introduction and Excerpt from "In Me"
According to the great guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, everything in creation is connected, irrevocably through its Creator. Although Maya, or delusion, makes it seem that people, trees, rivers, mountains, ocean, and the sky are all separate entities, they are separated only as part of the mayic scheme.
The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's "In Me" is celebrating his kinship and connectivity with all created beings. His ultimate purpose is to demonstrate his union with the Creator of all those creatures in natural phenomena.
The following is an excerpt from the drama portrayed in the poem, "In Me":
Excerpt from "In Me"
Hello, Yonder Tree!
Thou dost breathe in me, in me;
O fast-footed River!
Thy shining, meandering quiver
Thou dost shine through me, in me. . . .
(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 unity of all natural phenomena exists for the self-realized individual, who can then chant that all is "in me."
First Movement: Worshiping Unity
In the opening movement, the speaker greets and points out, "yonder tree!" and declares that the tree breathes in him. He knows himself and the tree to have a common ancestor, and he senses that as he breathes the same air in which the tree takes its being, his relationship with the tree is unity instead of seeming separateness.
The speaker then makes the same claim regarding the river. Even though a tree and a river seem so different in their mayic forms and functions, still they remain connected through their Creator, and thus connected to the speaker.
The river may be "fast-footed" while the tree remains rooted in the soil, thus rendering them seemingly very different in form and function. But the speaker unites them through himself. Both natural forms exist in the speaker, just as they exist in their Creator.
Second Movement: Home is Where the Soul Resides
The speaker then moves on to an even larger, vaster phenomenon, the Himalayan Mountain range. He describes the mountains as coupled with "snowy sovereign white regalia." Keeping with the royalty metaphor, he states that the "throne" of those mountains resides in him.
The home of the mountains, the locus that emanates from the Father Creator exists in the speaker, for he is aware of his larger self that exists everywhere. Because the speaker had united his soul with the Over-Soul Creator, he can feel all things in himself just as the Creator does.
Third Movement: The Oceanic Awareness
As the speaker gathers all phenomena in his purview, his discourse become closer and more aligned with the Blessed Lord Creator Himself. By the third movement, the audience can realize that not only is the speaker speaking for himself, he is actually giving his audience a glimpse of Creation from the eye of its Creator.
Thus, as the speaker addresses the nature of the ocean, he can aver that to him that vast expanse that seems to exist in "boundless stretches" is actually "small." Instead of a huge expanse of water, to him it is but a "tiny drop upon a ball."
In order for such a huge expanse of water to be a mere drop and exist inside some entity, that entity would have to be of tremendous size, unimaginable to the human mind. Such an entity can only be the original Creator, the Divine Really, or God.
Fourth Movement: Growing Vastness of Earthly Creations
The speaker had begun his discourse with the smaller features of nature—the tree, the river—then he moved to a larger earthly feature, the vast Himalayas, then he addressed the largest feature on earth, the ocean.
Now the speaker addresses the phenomenon that holds the place of the vastest area known to earth inhabitants—the sky. In the environment of earth creatures, the sky as it surrounds that "ball" on which they exist remains the entity most vast in nature. Not only does the eye report that vastness, but in the imagination, the sky seems to exist without an end. The eye and all the technological visual enhancement tools cannot detect the end of the sky.
This speaker now metaphorically transforms the nature of the sky to that of the ocean. He predicts that "in some higher age," humankind will ride in a "better boat" and discover that the ends of the sky also reside in each one of them. After he finds the "borderland" of the sky, he knows he will find it in himself.
Fifth Movement: Angels in the Spine and Brain
The speaker concludes with a metaphysical boundary—the "distant heavens." Of course, that distance is merely a delusional reality, because again, even those distant heavens exist in the speaker.
The speaker addresses a "secret One" and seven angels. The secret One is God and the seven angels are the six chakras of the spine—coccyx, sacral, lumbar, dorsal, cervical, medulla oblongata, and the seventh is the spiritual eye in the forehead.
These angels exist in the speaker and every child of God. After devotees have earned the power to find themselves in those angels, they will see all of the angels as well as the "secret One."
It is with that sacred Union that all children of the Sacred Reality will be able to chant with the speaker that all creation exists in them. And they will understand the eternal truth that "[i]n my sphere You all I see, / In me, in me, in me!"
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.
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes