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 "My India"
Paramahansa Yogananda traveled to the United States in 1920 to attend the International Congress of Religious Liberals held in Boston.
The great spiritual leader's clarity in imparting the ancient yoga techniques gained him an immediate following, and the great guru remained in America—with occasional ventures outside his adoptive homeland. By 1925, he had founded the organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, which preserves for purity and disseminates his teachings.
The following is the final versagraph from the great guru's marvelous tribute to his native India:
(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.)
Reading of Paramahansa Yogananda's "My India"
The poem, "My India," is Paramahansa Yogananda's moving tribute to his native country.
First Stanza: Seeks no Future Comfortable Birth
Opening his tribute, the great guru says that if he must put on mortal garb once more, that is, if he must be born on this earth again, he does not seek to limit the Divine with any wish to be born comfortably.
This speaker does not pray that the land in which he is reborn is a happy place, "where the musk of happiness blows." He does not ask to be shielded from "darkness and fears." He will not wish to return only to "a land of prosperity."
As a God- realized soul, Paramahansa Yogananda prefers to return to any place where souls need him most, and they would need him most in places that are downtrodden, whether materially, mentally, or spiritually.
Second Stanza: Despite Pestilences
Even if the conditions in India were such that "dread famine may prowl and tear [his] flesh," he "would love to be again / In [his] Hindustan." The guru refers to his native land by its religious name.
The speaker goes on to dramatize other possible pestilences that could be waiting to ravage the human body: "a million thieves of disease"; "clouds of fate / May shower scalding drop of searing sorrow," but despite all these calamities, he would still "love to reappear" in India.
Third Stanza: Love for Native Land
The great guru now asks if his feelings thus far expressed reflect "blind sentiment," but then he avers, "Ah, no! I love India, / For there I learned first to love God and all things beautiful." He explains that some teachers impart information only about the physical (material) level of existence, which is merely a "fickle dewdrop"—our lives are like drops of dew "sliding down the lotus leaf of time."
And "stubborn hopes are built / Around the gilded, brittle body bubble." But in India, he learned about "the deathless beauty in the dewdrop and the bubble." The great souls of India taught the speaker to find the Self, buried beneath "the ash heaps / Of incarnations of ignorance."
Through intuition, he knows he has appeared on earth in many incarnations, "garbed sometimes as an Oriental, / Sometimes as an Occidental." His soul has traveled far and wide and finally discovered itself in India.
Fourth Stanza: To Dream Immortality
Despite the many catastrophes that might be visited upon India, the great guru would gladly "sleep on her ashes and dream immortality." He reports that India has suffered greatly from the "guns of science and matter," but never has her soul been conquered.
The great "soldier saints" have bravely and effectively battled and won against "the bandits of hate, prejudice, and patriotic selfishness." The guru says, "The Western brothers" through technological advances "have conquered my land."
But instead of turning, material weapons upon those Western brothers, "India now invades with love / To conquer their souls." The great guru is alluding, in part, to Mahatma Gandhi's peaceful revolution against Britain, which resulted in India's gaining its independence from that Western nation in 1948.
Fifth Stanza: Inclusive Love for Brother Nations
The speaker asserts that he loves India better then Heaven or Arcadia. And he pledges to give that love to every brother nation that lives. He avers that the Divine created the earth, but humankind created "confining countries / And their fancy-frozen boundaries."
The great spiritual leader, however, now finds that because of his boundless love, he sees "the borderland of [his] India / Expanding into the world." Finally, he addresses his native nation calling her "mother of religions" as well as mother of "lotus, scenic beauty, and sages!"
The speaker proclaims that India now holds open her doors to all true truth-seeking souls. His final lines have become well known, oft quoted as a perfect summary of his tribute: "Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God / I am hallowed; my body touched that sod."
Through Paramahansa Yogananda and his teachings, India expands its most important qualities of spirituality and love of God-union to all nations.
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.
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.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes
Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on December 18, 2018:
Thank you, Devan! I agree. His life is chiseled for the ages. I am blessed that he guides me on my spiritual path. Blessings to you!
Devan from Cheyenne, Wyoming on December 18, 2018:
I love this article.
The information is awesome; Paramahansa Yogananda is a beautiful person. Much love and blessings.