Paramahansa Yogananda's "Luther Burbank" and "The Harvest"

Updated on May 15, 2019
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to enhance the activity of yoga meditation, leading each soul back to God-bliss in the Divine Reality.

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 and the foremost scientist from the West.

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"

Beatific 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.)


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."

Paramahansa Yogananda


Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Harvest"

In Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, "The Harvest," from Songs of the Soul, the speaker metaphorically compares the beauty of the autumn sky with the inner beauty of the spiritual sky.

Introduction and Excerpt from "The Harvest"

Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, "The Harvest," appears in his classic spiritual collection of poem, Songs of the Soul. The speaker remarks how the Great Creator of all nature remains hidden while still displaying His seasonal beauty which compares to the inner beauty of the sky within the human soul.

The speaker in "The Harvest" observes the autumn sky and is reminded of his Divine Creator. He likens metaphorically that Creator to a Farmer who plows his fields and also to a painter who creates beauty on canvas with his paint brushes.

Heralding the season of gratitude and rebirth, the speaker achieves a spiritual attitude through observation of ordinary earthly things, instructing his listeners in the art of seeking beauty in the interior of the heart, mind, and soul.

Excerpt from "The Harvest"

Drawn by joy sublime,
I watch each harvest time,
When furrowed sky glows red with ripe sunbeams;
But never have I found Thy ploughing teams. . . .

(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 metaphorically comparing the beauty of the autumn sky with the inner beauty of the spiritual sky.

First Movement: The Great Farmer

In the opening three lines, ("Drawn by joy sublime, / I watch each harvest time, / When furrowed sky glows red with ripe sunbeams"), the speaker seems to be referring to the physical surroundings of the harvest, including the configuration and colors of the sky.

However the speaker then says, "But never have I found Thy ploughing teams," and suddenly the reader then realizes that the speaker is, in fact, addressing the Great Farmer, whose mystical teams have secretly plowed the heavens. Of course, the speaker is referring to the cloud formations that display themselves against the backdrop of the sky.

The speaker then asserts that despite the outward beauty of the autumn sky, the One who is responsible for providing it remains out of sight. The "furrowed sky" is metaphorically a plowed field, and instead of ripe corn or wheat, it "glows red with ripe sunbeams."

Second Movement: The Great Painter

Then the speaker offers other contrasting natural objects: "The oriole’s glowing painted breast is shown, / And yet Thy brush, O Painter, ne’er is known!" The colorful feathers of the birds are easily detected by the eye, but the Painter, the one whose brush dabbed on that color "ne’er is known!"

The speaker has thus far likened God to a farmer and then to a painter. As a farmer, He has plowed the sky, and as painter has colored the birds with an array of alluring hues.

Third Movement: Master of Time

Then the speaker returns his attention to the heavens—"The North Star timely leaps, / Nocturnal watch unfailing keeps"as the speaker claims that the North Star keeps a perfect schedule as do the "sun and seasons," but the Master seems not present at all: "Thy house the sun and seasons supervise, / Yet Thou, O Master, seemest not to rise!"

The Blessed Divine Beloved's outward features detected by the senses give us joy and make us ponder their beauty, but the One who provides that beauty remains hidden, shy as a little child.

Fourth Movement: The Harvest and Gratitude

Late autumn, the season most closely associated with the harvest, finds human beings enjoying the fruits of labor as they observe the beginning of the holiday season that culminates in Christmas and the glorious birth of Lord Jesus Christ.

It seems that the pumpkin has become a big, bright symbol for the beginning of the autumn season, as neighbors decorate their front porches with haystacks and those large sturdy fruits that later will be turned into pies.

The Great Farmer/Painter has performed His skillful craftsmanship throughout the year, and as the temperature cools, hearts and souls become aware of their gifts and are motivated to offer gratitude.

In addition to the physical beauty that the harvest season offers, it also brings a palpable spiritual beauty ushered in by gratitude and awareness of the constant spiritual journey.

Paramahansa Yogananda


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.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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."

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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."

Questions & Answers

    © 2016 Linda Sue Grimes


    Submit a Comment
    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      3 years ago from U.S.A.

      Here's a discussion of HubPages' additional sites called "verticals."

      Hope this helps.

    • profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      3 years ago

      This one really was amazing! This is the first time I've seen Letterpile. Where is it on the site?

    • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Sue Grimes 

      3 years ago from U.S.A.

      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 profile image

      Natalie Frank 

      3 years ago from Chicago, IL

      Great article. I always learn so much with your posts.


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