Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Samadhi"
Introduction and Excerpt from "Samadhi"
Paramahansa Yogananda has left more than one version of his poem, "Samadhi." The two versions most familiar to devotees may be found in the Autobiography of a Yogi and Songs of the Soul.
The version in Songs of the Soul features 76 lines, while the version in the autobiography contains 53 lines. The great guru recommended that devotees memorize the poem; therefore, it is likely that he shortened it and simplified some of the imagery in order to facilitate the memorization process. For example, the first movement of the longer version features the following lines:
Departed, these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, whirlpools of melancholy,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
Bestilled is the storm of maya
By the magic wand of intuition deep.
The guru simplified the version provided in Autobiography of a Yogi to the following lines:
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
This astute simplification includes the elimination of an allusion to the mythological character, "Scylla," which likely would have to be researched by the devotee in order to understand the allusion's significance. "Bestilled is the storm of maya" becomes "The storm of maya stilled." He also leaves out unneeded articles like "the." And he has continued this simplification process throughout the shorter version, making it clearer and thus easier for the devotee to memorize.
For this commentary, I have relied on the version found in the Autobiography of a Yogi. Because the ultimate description and meaning of the poem remain untouched by the great guru's skillful simplification process, the commentary will hold true for either version that a reader might encounter.
Excerpt from "Samadhi"
Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death:
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere. . . .
(Please note: The poem's shorter version (53 lines) may be found in Paramahansa Yogananda's Autobiography of a Yogi, and the longer version (76 lines) is featured in Songs of the Soul (1983 and 2014 printings). Both books are published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA.
Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "Samadhi," describes the state of consciousness, to which the great guru's teachings lead those who follow those teachings.
First Movement: The Veil of Maya
The great guru often compares metaphorically fallen humankind's delusion to wearing a veil. The pairs of opposites that keep the world enmeshed in that delusion are responsible for hanging that a veil over the eyes of every unselfrealized being. Upon attaining the cherished goal of "samadhi," or union with the Creator, that veil is "lifted."
With the lifting of that veil, sorrows vanish and all the delusive images gathered by the senses are understood for what they are. Compared to lucid comprehension of true reality those sensory impressions all equal a "dim . . . mirage."
After the "storm of maya" is quieted, all of the pairs of opposites, including "Love, hate, health, disease, life, death," fall away like "false shadows." The attainment of this state of being is brought on by the profound intuition of the soul, which seems like some "magic" quality when compared to physical, material level phenomena.
Second Movement: All Time and All Things
Not only are the supposedly concrete features of ordinary life stilled, but the notion of time and its divisions into "present, past, future" no longer exist for the enlightened. Only the eternal now, the "ever-present" exists. The ego-bound "I" then can feel itself in every speck of creation, "everywhere / Planets, stars, stardust, earth." From where creation burst forth to all earthly things like "every blade of grass, myself, mankind," the new soul inducted into samadhi experiences the same omnipresence and omnipotence that belong to the Divine Belovèd.
That blessed state reveals to the enlightened one all thoughts of all people who have ever existed. It is as if the newly inducted devotee has "swalllowed" and then transformed everything in his/her path into a "vast ocean of blood of [his/her] own one Being."
Third Movement: Joy
The great guru always reminds his devotees of the role played by the emotion of joy in the journey to and especially including the attainment of this magnificent goal of samadhi. In this poem he calls that joy, "smoldering joy." That joy that had been only slightly perceived in meditation now becomes almost overwhelming as it "blind[s]" the devotees "tearful eyes," and as it "bursts into immortal flames of bliss." This joy that has become bliss then gobbles up those "tears," as well as the devotee's "frame." Everything about the devotee melts into this sacred bliss.
The guru then announces the great truth: "Thou art I, I am Thou." He then elucidates the great truth that in this state the "Knower," the "Known," and the process of "Knowing" all become "One." In this tranquil state, thrill upon thrill is experienced as one realizes his/her "eternally living, ever new peace." The imagination can never be capable of expecting such bliss as acquired in the act of attaining this "magic" state of "samadhi bliss."
With further elucidation, the great guru describes this state of being as not an unconscious place brought on by stultification of the mind as during hypnosis. Instead this state enhances and extends the realm of the mind. The mind through its own agent moves outside of its "mortal frame." It is capable of extending itself to the "farthest boundary of eternity." The individual is like an ocean of cosmic consciousness that can observe itself, the "little ego," as it seems to be "floating in Me."
Fourth Movement: The Ocean of Mirth
This fascinating description then imparts the information that the devotee can hear the sound of atoms that seem to whisper as earthly features such a mountains and seas transform into "vapors of nebulae." The blessed sound of "om" behaves like a breeze that blows open the veils that have hidden the reality of their essence to the fallen eyesight of humankind. The very electrons that make up the ocean waters are detected by the samadhi entranced soul. Finally, the "cosmic drum" brings about the melting of the "grosser lights" as they disappear into "eternal rays / Of all-pervading bliss."
As devotees experiences all of these sights and sounds with their astral senses, they come to realize at last that their beings are, in fact, nothing other than joy. They realize that they originate from joy and that they melt into that sacred joy again. The mind like a great ocean absorbs all of "creation's waves." The four veils of "solid, liquid, vapor, and light" are all lifted from the eyes of those experiencing this blessed state.
The speaker then reveals that the little ego, called "I," now enters the "Great Myself." All of those shadows that blighted the life of the earthly dweller under delusion are gone. They were merely the shadows of "mortal memory." The screen of consciousness or "mental sky" of the devotee is now "spotless" on all sides. The devotee is fully aware that s/he is united with the eternal; s/he and Eternity are hence forth "one united ray."
The final two lines of the poem also feature a metaphor often employed by the great guru to compare God and creation: God is the ocean and creation is the wave. The wave remains a part of the ocean, even as it retains an individual form. It is the goal of the human being to become united with its Creator as the wave unites with the ocean; thus in samadhi, the devotee is a "tiny bubble of laughter," who has "become the Sea of Mirth Itself."
Autobiography of a Yogi
Life Sketch 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."
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© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes