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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Oceanic Presence"

Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all creation.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction and Excerpt From "Oceanic Presence"

The speaker first creates a drama of sailing away from the Divine Presence on the "river of desire." But his speaker is merely dramatizing a situation in which only a very advance yogic devotee can muse. No matter what the speaker does in his little drama, he encounters the Divine Beloved.

The speaker is suggesting that humankind is constantly concocting ways to avoid seeking the presence of the Divine Reality. Seeking God requires strict concentration in the posture of complete stillness. It is a difficult position for the fidgety, undisciplined human mind and body to accomplish.

Thus the speaker has created a little drama that may uplift even the most restless heart and mind: no matter where the little boat of the restless mind tries to take one, the soul is always at rest on the bosom of the Oceanic Presence of the Blessed Creator.

Excerpt From "Oceanic Presence"

As I sailed away from You on the river of desire,
Suddenly I found myself launched on Your oceanic presence.
Though I ran away from You through the fog of incarnations,
I arrived at the threshold of Your all-pervading temple . . . .

(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 creating a drama of adventure, using the ocean as a metaphor for the Divine Belovèd.

First Movement: The River of Desire

The speaker begins his dramatic journey by describing in sailing terms that he "sailed away" from the Divine Beloved on the "river of desire." But instead of remaining on the tiny river, he finds himself suddenly confronted with the boundless presence of the Lord, and it is vast like the ocean. The immeasurable, vastness of the Omnipresent Creator now "launche[s]" the speaker on His ocean. The next couplet offers an expression that interprets the first couple: during his many incarnations down through the centuries, he has been attempting to escape his Divine Beloved. Those foggy periods of time, however, only led him to find out the Lord's house of worship extends everywhere, for His is an "all-pervading temple."

Second Movement: Relationship with the Divine Reality

The speaker now offers another set of images to communicate his relationship with the Divine Reality. The speaker has found that his thoughts have been flying off in all directions. But the "net of [the Lord's] omnipresence" kept him in bounds. Still his many thoughts carried the speaker like "wings of swiftest electrons" into "the bowels of eternity." But as the speaker continued to dive, all he found was the Blessed One. The omnipresence of the Creator kept the speaker in tow despite all of his attempting to flee on wings of desires.

Third Movement: Continuing His Journey

The speaker continues his little, dramatic journey, as he "zoom[s]" upward "into eternity's heart." But try as he might to flee that Oceanic Presence, as he roamed farther and farther, he still found that the Divine Reality "stood always ahead of me." The speaker has discovered that he is unable to flee from Omnipresence, yet he made further attempts, as he "plunged" eastward and westward "in eternity's chasms."

The speaker then finds that he has fallen in the lap of the Divine. He then employs the "dynamite of [his] will," exploding "the airship" of his very soul, including all of his "thoughts" and his "love." The speaker's thoughts, feelings, his very soul, and his love all seemed to explode into "countless dust specks of fading life." These specks "float[ed] everywhere." They move into "all things." The speaker then finds that he is sleeping in the bosom of the Lord.

Fourth Movement: Confession of Confusion

The speaker now confesses his confusion. He simply thought he was hiding from his Creator, the Divine Reality, but he had only been keeping his eyes closed to the Reality of the Ever-Living Over-Soul. He now admits that in the eyes of the ever-watchful Lord, the speaker exists eternally: "ever-present am I." The speaker breaks into prayer asking the Divine Beloved to keep the speaker's eye open so that he may "behold" the Divine everywhere. He knows that the Divine remains looking at him "from all sides, everywhere."

The speaker finally realizes that he cannot hide from the omnipresent, omniscient One. Even when the speaker thinks he is trying to hide from his Creator, he knows that he can never accomplish that act because "Wherever I am, there are You." The speaker will always remain a tiny soul surrounded by the Ocean of Omnipresence; thus he will throughout eternity be blessed with this "Oceanic Presence."

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes