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Paramahansa Yogananda’s "In Stillness Dark"

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

Symbol of the Spiritual Eye

Symbol of the Spiritual Eye

Introduction and Excerpt from "In Stillness Dark"

Paramahansa Yogananda’s "In Stillness Dark" from the spiritual classic, Songs of the Soul, features two stanzas; the first consists of ten lines of scatter rime, AABCDDEFGG, while the second stanza offers thirteen lines of cluster rimes, AAABBBBCCDEED. This style of rime scheme is exactly appropriate for the poem's theme, deep meditation. Beginning yoga meditators find their efforts come in fits and starts until they have mastered the yogic techniques that lead to the necessary stillness required for precise vision. The speaker creates a little drama that features the journey of the devotees as they practice the yogic methods, leading to peace, quiet, and stillness for the ultimate viewing of the vitally important Kutastha Chaitanya, or spiritual eye.

The spiritual eye or Kutastha Chaitanya appears in the three sacred hues of gold, blue, and white. A ring of gold circles a field of blue, at the center of which pulsates a white pentagonal star. The spiritual eye, or eye of God, appears to the deeply mediating devotee. That devotee then is able to have wonderful, divine experiences:

After the devotee is able at will to see his astral eye of light and intuition with either closed or open eyes, and to hold it steady indefinitely, he will eventually attain the power to look through it into Eternity; and through the starry gateway he will sail into Omnipresence.

As the speaker in this poem avers, "Apollo droops in dread / To see that luster overspread / The boundless reach of the inner sky." The spiritual eye puts all lesser light to shame with its brilliance.

(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 "In Stillness Dark"

Hark!
In stillness dark —
When noisy dreams have slept,
The house has gone to rest
And busy life
Doth cease its strife —
The soul in pity soft doth kiss
The truant flesh, to soothe,
And speaks with mind-transcending grace
In soundless voice of 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.)

Commentary

The speaker in Yogananda’s "In Stillness Dark" describes results of calming the body and mind, which then allows the spiritual eye to become visible on the screen of the mind.

First Stanza: Communion With the Soul

The speaker begins by commanding the meditating devotee to listen carefully to his admonitions. He is instructing the devotee to be aware of what he is going to tell about the magic of becoming still at night in preparation for deep communion with the Divine. The enlightened speaker is explaining that as the metaphorical house of the soul, the body, goes to sleep to rest, busy dreams also become quiet. As "house" metaphorically represents the body, and at the same time, it literally represents a soul's residence.

Thus, when "busy life" calms down at night it "cease[s] its strife." After home life has settled down for the night and the body becomes calm, the devotee may quiet the mind in preparation for the profundity of silent communion with the soul. During that quiet time, the soul becomes aware of itself; the peace of the soul automatically causes the "truant flesh" to be "soothe[d]." The soul "speaks with mind-transcending grace," and the "soundless voice" of the soul offers rest and peace to the body.

As the body becomes still, its muscles, heart, and lungs become quiet. Instead of the noisy, busyness with which the physical processes keep the mind stirred, the absence of that motion allows the beauty and sanctity of the soul to shine forth. This process leads to the ability to meditate in order to meet that coveted goal of God-union, or self-realization. The self is the soul, and to realize the soul is humankind's greatest duty.

Second Stanza: Watching With Care

The speaker commands the meditating devotee to peer through the "walls of sleep." While "peep[ing]" through those "transient fissures," the devotee must take care not to "droop" and not to "stare," but to "watch with care." The devotee must remain relaxed, not falling asleep nor straining as s/he watches for the "light of the spiritual eye, seen in deep meditation." The speaker poetically refers to that spiritual eye as "the sacred glare," which is "ablaze and clear." The light, because it seems to appear on the screen of the mind in the forehead, does so "in blissful golden glee" as it "flash[es] past [the meditating devotee]."

The light of the spiritual eye puts "Apollo" to shame with its brilliance: "Ashamed, Apollo droops in dread." The "luster overspread" is not that of the physical cosmos; thus, it is not the sun in the physical sky, but instead exists in the "boundless reach of the inner sky." The speaker dramatizes the act of achieving the magnificent result of deep meditation that leads to communion with the Divine. Through calming the physical body and the mind, the devotee allows the energy from the muscles to move to the spine and brain where true union with Divinity is achieved.

The ultimate goal of self-realization or God-union achieved by meditation remains ineffable. God cannot be described as one describes physical objects such as trees, rivers, tables, or curtains, or other human bodies. One might think of the difference in terms of body and mind. We can see a human body; we cannot see a human mind. But the importance of the mind is without doubt. The mind creates beyond the physicality of all things seen and experienced. Because of the ineffability of the nature of God, soul, and even such familiar terms as love, beauty, and joy, the poet who wishes to explore that nature must do so with metaphoric likenesses. Only a God-realized individual can perform that poetic act with surety and direct purpose.

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes