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 Native Land"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s "My Native Land" from Songs of the Soul features six rimed stanzas, each of the first three with the rime scheme ABAB. The fourth stanza’s rime scheme is ABAA, and the final two stanzas’ rime scheme is AABB.
As the speaker of "My Native Land" expresses the nature of a true patriot, he also offers a loving tribute to India, the birth country of the great guru/poet, Paramahansa Yogananda.
(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 "My Native Land"
The friendly sky,
Inviting shade of banyan tree,
The holy Ganges flowing by —
How can I forget thee! . . .
(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.)
While demonstrating the nature of a true patriot, the speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s "My Native Land" offers a loving tribute to India, the country of his birth.
First Stanza: Beloved Natural Attractions
The speaker addresses his native land, portraying its natural features: a strong sun that makes it ever so sweet that the "banyan tree" offers comforting shade, and the river deemed sacred to devotees, the "holy Ganges flowing by." His attitude demonstrates the advantageousness of positivity because other less evolved souls might see these natural features very differently.
The speaker avers that he could never forget his native land, as he stresses three of its noted and beloved features. As he addresses directly the land of his birth, the speaker is expressing his expanded feelings of sacredness and his gratitude for the blessings his home country has bestowed upon him.
Second Stanza: Positive Attitude
In the second stanza, the speaker proclaims his affection for the "waving corn," which makes the "fields so bright." To the speaker, those fields are a physical symbol of the land that gave him birth. Those fields are superior to those grown by "deathless gods" in mythological accounts.
The speaker shows his positive attitude that renders him capable of maintaining a mindset that allows his heart to keep within it a stillness coupled with a sacred purpose. He will be able to influence all those who come within his sphere with his aura of blessedness.
Third Stanza: A Strong Legacy of Love
In the third stanza, the speaker dramatizes the reason for his deep love for his country: it was in his own native land that he learned that he was a unique soul, a spark of the Divine. He learned to love God in the land where he was born. This love of the Divine places a permanent glow about his native nation for which he is eternally grateful.
With such a strong legacy of love and devotion to his Divine Creator, the speaker may go forth to all corners of the globe, and he will still find within his own soul the courage to remain full of hope as he spreads love, tenderness, and affection to all who come within his scope.
Fourth Stanza: Affection for Natural Features
The speaker then pronounces his affection for the "breeze," "the moon," the "hills and seas" as they appear from his native India. Love of one’s nation shines through in the natural features that exist there, and this glow attaches itself to those things of nature, making them even more alluring to the heart of the native. And even though the patriot may wander, his memory will still harken back to and be inspired by that glow.
The words of this speaker in tribute to his birth country that also raised him up to be a man of God are strong and clear; they possess the power to change hearts and minds. The misguided minds who have chosen to denigrate their own native lands will remain in darkness and despair until they too can realize gratitude for what they have been offered. The example being set by this speaker can move those dark minds toward the light where happiness, calmness, and joy reside.
Fifth Stanza: Most Vital is the Love for God
In these two rimed couplets, the speaker now dramatizes the love that is most important to him: the love of God. He demonstrates his gratitude that India taught him to love "the sky, the stars, and God" above all. Therefore as he offers homage, he offers it first to "India," and he does so by laying his devotion at India’s feet, an ancient Indian tradition, followed by devotee to master.
The speaker has been fortunate enough to have realized his need for and eternal dependence on his Divine Creator. Because he knows without any doubt the value of that bond, he will remain eternally grateful that he learned that valuable lesson, and having learned it early in his own birth country will remain a sacred blessing that will bind him to that land in a sacred trust.
Sixth Stanza: Keeping the Native Land First, While Loving Other Lands
In the final stanza, the speaker shows that he has learned through his great love and respect for his native country that he can love and respect all nations: he can "love all lands alike." He bows to India for the great lessons in love, patriotism, and altruism that she has taught him.
For this speaker, India will always remain in his heart, occupying the first seat of love. His first allegiance will always be to his native land, and far from separating him from other nations, that love, which keeps India first in his heart, is what allows him to respect and love other countries. He expects other individuals to love and respect their own native lands as he does his, and thus he can love and respect others and their own special forms of patriotism.
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.
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes