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 the Land of Dreams"
As the speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s "In the Land of Dreams" defines and describes the nature of "dreams," he compares ordinary earth-life existence to those nightly dreams, and after he awakes in Divine Reality, he knows he is joy itself and can then leave all ordinary dreams forever.
Excerpt from "In the Land of Dreams"
Each night, as my spirit roams
In spheres of slumber vast,
I become a hermit, renouncing
My title, body‐form, possessions, creeds
Breaking the self‐erected prison walls
Of flesh and earthly limitations. . . .
(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 speaker is describing the nature of dreams that converge into a samadhi-like state where the physical level of being no longer hampers the soul’s bliss.
First Stanza: The Colorful Dream Experience
The speaker colorfully describes this special dreamer’s experience while sleeping and dreaming: he forgets the body along with its daytime possessions such as titles or creeds. The dreamer may glide among the heavens unfettered by earthbound chains and enclosures. The dreamer is "no longer caged in a brittle, dingy clod." The dreamer is not aware that he must breathe to remain alive; he is unencumbered by the trivialities of daily earthly living such as "social standing," and he is not bound by any earthly duties.
The dreamer becomes capable of bursting the limitations of having been created in physical form from the dust of the earth. The "dingy clod" is only the physical encasement and cannot hamper the eternal soul that inhabits that clod. The human being is not a body that possesses a soul; it is a soul that possesses a body. That distinction becomes vital for the soul-traveler on this earth plane, for knowing, at least intellectually, about the human being's composition remains a basic starting point for beginning the journey.
Second Stanza: Special Dreams
The speaker continues to catalogue the numerous qualities that may be expressed while in the waking consciousness: while dreaming this special dream, the dreamer is not aware of his nationality, religion, or whether he is "Occidental" or "Oriental." His race is irrelevant while experiencing this dream state. Instead of being bound by all the earthly constraints, in "dreamland," space converts to "limitless acres." The soul reclaims its "freedom." The spirit’s only "religion" is "freedom." The soul, as spirit, ventures about like a "gypsy." It gathers "joy from everywhere." In this dreamland, no one has conferred upon the dreamer a despotic title to rule him. Only the "Myself" rules "myself." The slave may become a god in dreamland, where "the sleeping mortal" becomes "the awakened deathless Lord!"
When attempting to speculate about a perfect existence, the human mind may begin by asking what it truly desires: how would it like to live? what experiences would it prefer to undergo? how would it prefer to feel? what does it prefer to think about? All of these questions lead to the ultimate fact that each human being desires eternal, conscious bliss. This thought leads to the ultimate awareness that the desire for eternal, conscious bliss cannot be achieved on the earthly level. But saints, sages, and seers of all religions have promised that the most basic human desires are attainable; thus, the thinking human mind is delivered to the awareness that its basic desire can be achieved only on the spiritual level. The phenomenon of dreaming serves as a useful aid to attaining the basic understanding that leads to the path to Ultimate Reality.
Third Stanza: The God in Myself
In "dreamland," the immortal soul knows itself as an "an unseen, unheard god." He drinks and breathes "gladness." He glides with "wingèd glory." Throughout the space of dreamland, the dreamer is "free from haunting fears." No accident will crush his skull. There is nothing in this beautiful land to hurt him in any way. He cannot be drowned. No poison gas can suffocate him. He cannot be destroyed by fire. Even his haunting memories cannot touch him, because he is no longer occupying "a fragile body-dream."
In this dreamland samadhi, his consciousness is spread throughout "infinite space." This dreamer is "all things." The speaker then asks, "How, then, could aught / Dare injure me?" While he is united with the "big Myself," he cannot be negatively touched in anyway. The reality of the Over-Soul has encapsulated the under-soul, rendering pain, suffering, and even death impossible. The speaker/seer continues to offer iterations that the permanent state of bliss has offered to the soul that has perfected itself by uniting itself with the Great Over-Soul. The very basic human desire for eternal, conscious bliss becomes within striking distance of the soul on the spiritual path.
Fourth Stanza: The Joy Long Sought
The nature of the dream makes it a private endeavor. It is "unknown to others, but known to Myself." During all that the dreamer does, such as waking, walking, dreaming, eating, drinking, he is always enveloped in pure "Joy." The dreamer himself remains pure "Joy." The speaker had long sought joy, only to finally discover that he himself had always been the "Joy I sought." Everyone is seeking that joy. While in the waking, ordinary consciousness, each human being seems "so little." The body and mind while under the delusion of maya seems "so finite." Yet when one wakes to the "dreamland" of Ultimate Reality, one becomes the boundless, infinite Essence.
The speaker concludes his final destination on his dream journey, "When I dreamt in my sleepy wakefulness." He has discovered that he is "boundless big am I, awake / In my sleepless wakefulness!" This special dream has become the land beyond ordinary dreams where the soul finds itself ensconced in the joy of bliss consciousness. The soul experiences a tranquil existence, unlike the earthly chaos it endured while suffering in the cage of a flesh and blood earthly body. The mind delivers its tranquil letters of peace, love, and bliss to the immortal soul, which lives eternally in the dreamland with the Divine Love of the Belovèd Creator.
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.
"Behold, the Kingdom of God Is Within You"
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes