Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all creation.
Luther Burbank and Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction and Excerpt from "Luther Burbank"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s tribute to the famed horticulturist, Luther Burbank, dramatizes the exquisite relationship between the two unique representatives of Eastern and Western culture: the great yogi/spiritual leader from the East, who became the "father of yoga for the West," and the foremost scientist from the West, whose work with plants has become famous world-wide.
The poem "Luther Burbank" from Songs of the Soul features eleven stanzas of varying lengths in scattered rime.
(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 "Luther Burbank"
The great reformer Luther, thou art,
Of living plants and flowers of every mood —
The tender ones, the stubborn-growing ones,
Or cactus rude. . . .
(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.)
For a brief life sketch and overview of his works, please visit, "Paramahansa Yogananda's Spiritual Poetry: 'Father of Yoga in the West'."
The great Eastern yogi meets the great Western scientist, and they discover that they have much in common because of the love and pursuit of truth.
First Movement: Scientist as Reformer
The speaker begins by directly invoking the name of the one to whom he is offering the tribute; he indicates that Luther Burbank’s foremost quality is his saintliness. By referring to Burbank as "Beatific Burbank!" in a soulful exclamation, the speaker establishes the profundity of spirit that will guide the homage
The speaker then reveals the nature of Burbank’s grand work; he has been a "great reformer"—not of people, as the yogi has been, but of "living plants and flowers." The speaker discloses the truth that plants, like people, are conscious beings; they behave according to "moods," and they are variously "tender ones," and "stubborn-growing ones," as exemplified by the thorny "cactus rude."
Second Movement: Celebrating Experimentation
The speaker celebrates the experiment that led to the "spineless cactus," a product the great horticulturist was successful in developing through his deep understanding of the consciousness of the cactus. Yogananda discusses the science behind this experiment in his Autobiography of a Yogi, his important book that he dedicated to Luther Burbank, calling him an "American Saint."
Before Burbank’s science intervened, the walnut tree took much longer to mature and produce nuts. Through the great scientist’s work, he was able to shorten that time by half and soften the shells in the process.
The speaker compares the horticulturist to a "God-grown mental lotus-flower." Burbank’s knowledge has disseminated "its supreme ways" and has mightily served humanity.
Third Movement: The Unity of Science and Love
The speaker avers that the scientist’s understanding and science-through-love allowed him to understand the work of the guru without explanation: "We had one goal, one task, one law: / By knowledge to break / The walls of dogma dark."
The two great minds were able to comprehend each other’s profound spirituality and goal of service. They found that their minds were like divers in a great sea of truth. They both eschewed "dread isms and dogmas." They had no use for "all man-made false enigmas." The speaker playfully refers to the two unique souls as "outcasts": "We ‘outcasts’ know but one bright / Truth-made path of light."
Fourth Movement: Creating With the Creator
The speaker then lavishes praise on the accomplishments of the outstanding scientist who has "broken the dogma of ages." The work of Burbank "show[s] the world of wonder" and that "the Creator’s child [is] a creator" also. And the esteemed American Saint demonstrated his God-given creativity by "creating new fruits, new plants."
Fifth Movement: Botanical Magic
The speaker concludes by extending a compliment to the town where Burbank lived and worked his botanical magic: "O Santa Rosa, thou are blessed / To have blown the perfume of this great flower / That all people of the earth enjoy its shower / Of scent so sweet."
He avers that Burbank has the talent and skill to correct any "imperfect plant" that Nature makes. And then he again addresses Burbank’s hometown in a final tribute to the master plant man: "Santa Rosa, thy Luther-flower the ages shall not fade; / In soil of memories shall it live, e’er fresh, / Through endless decades."
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes
Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on August 13, 2016:
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Hope this helps.
Natalie Frank on August 12, 2016:
This one really was amazing! This is the first time I've seen Letterpile. Where is it on the site?
Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on August 12, 2016:
Thanks, Natalie. I love writing about the poems of Parmahansa Yogananda. Not only are the poems inspiring, but they always offer useful information.
Natalie Frank from Chicago, IL on August 12, 2016:
Great article. I always learn so much with your posts.