Paramahansa Yogananda's Spiritual Poetry
Staying Motivated on the Spiritual Path
How does one stay motivated in pursuit of a spiritual life? The great guru Paramahansa Yogananda offered many uplifting and encouraging ways through his voluminous and varied writings.
He was an influential spiritual leader and also an accomplished poet—as his Songs of the Soul and other volumes of meditative and mystical poems attest.
The great guru enthralled countless seekers with his lectures during the 1920s and 1930s, and his writings continue to do the same today.
Not only can one be educated and entertained by this great yogi-poet’s compositions, but one can also stir one's soul to God-awareness because he wrote from that exalted state of consciousness—penetrating the hearts, minds, and souls with his intelligent, perceptive, and deeply spiritual literary works.
Reading poetry can become a spiritual act which may aid in meditation. Poetry requires a special reading and meditation requires a special kind of attention.
Finding Spiritual Encouragement
After we find our spiritual path and start walking it, we feel exuberant, lighthearted, relieved to finally be on our way home. But after a mile or two we may become tired or discouraged.
We look around us, and it seems that the landscape has not changed; we are still the same unimproved, uninspired person we always were. And we wonder why we are not doing as well as we had expected and why we have not moved closer to our spiritual goal.
The great guru knew that such let-downs would from time to time overcome the students of his teachings, so in addition to his Lessons containing the meditation and yoga techniques, he offered many other forms of writing such as poems in which he declared in dramatic ways that no matter how bogged down one may feel, there is no reason to become discouraged.
The great guru-poet insisted that the soul is on its way to God, no matter many times the thought occurs to one that life is just slowing down.
The great guru prefaces his poem from Songs of the Soul titled “My Soul Is Marching On” with the following words of solace:
Never be discouraged by this motion picture of life. Salvation is for all. Just remember that no matter what happens to you, still your soul is marching on. No matter where you go, your wandering footsteps will lead you back to God. There is no other way to go.
The poem creates a drama featuring life's dual nature. Stars are bright, yet are set in a contrast of darkness. As bright as the light of the sun is, yet the bright sunshine is not apparent during the nighttime.
Even the moon wanes as well as waxes. All of these natural phenomena keep their bright nature even when surrounded with darkness. Thus they exemplify the dual nature of light and dark.
The metaphor of time as a “grinding wheel” dramatizes the act of life fading from planets and even the lives of people. Flowers bloom and die; trees grow stately then are toppled; heroic figures are triumphant but for a short while. Time flies by, and each person’s life energies fade.
Yet as all of these dualities are in motion because we exist in physical and mental bodies, we falsely identify with the dying. The purpose of the spiritual path is to correct our vision, to help us understand that only on the physical level are these life-fading events occurring.
The soul is not affected by any of these changes: not the stars, the moon, the flowers, the trees, the demise of heroic men, nor the passing of aeons of time—nothing diminishes the soul.
It is always so uplifting to remember that the soul is ever new joy, ever new bliss, ever one with the Divine Beloved. After a dip in that memory, we look around and start walking our path again knowing we are, in fact, headed home. And once again we feel exuberant, lighthearted, and relieved to be traveling our spiritual path.
Spirituality Poetry as an Aid to Soul Awareness
In this and his hundreds of other poems, Paramahansa Yogananda has bestowed on us a legacy of literary works that complement his liberating techniques of yoga. His collection of poems titles Songs of the Soul demonstrates a God-realized soul communing with nature and people and finding nothing but God everywhere.
His Whispers from Eternity “serves to bring God closer to us, by describing the liberating feelings that arise from actual communion with Him,” says Amelita Galli-Curci, writing in the Foreword of that volume.
Again with Metaphysical Meditations we are uplifted toward soul-awareness by the beautiful poetry that not only inspires but also serves as a vehicle to aid in carrying the mind to celestial realms.
In the Foreword to Metaphysical Meditations, the great yogi-poet tells us the purpose of meditation is the attainment of the awareness of God and the soul’s eternal oneness with God. Because meditation uses a high form of concentration, the chanting or repeating of certain affirmations in the form of songs and poems is very beneficial.
The guru instructs us to choose a meditation that meets a present need and then sit quietly, focusing our attention at the point between the eyebrows; then we audibly or mentally repeat the words of the meditation slowly and with great concentration until we feel the concept becoming a part of our own consciousness.
This kind of “reading” is not so different from the kind of reading we employ in experiencing any poetry. Poetry always requires more of us than prose; we must use extra concentration when reading a poem.
This type of reading is quite foreign to most readers once they enter high school, and that is exactly the time that students begin complaining that they cannot understand poetry.
Although fast reading becomes the norm for readers of prose, slow, deliberate, concentrated reading is necessary for understanding poetry, which focuses more experience than merely on mental understanding.
Glimpses of Divine Bliss
The final poem in Songs of the Soul, “When I Take My Vow of Silence,” is a meditation devoted to the followers of the renowned Guru:
When I take the vow of silence
To remain enlocked with my Beloved
In the arms of His everywhereness,
I shall be busy listening to His symphony
Of creations’ bliss songs, and beholding hidden wondrous visions.
He is speaking, of course, of the experiences he will enjoy after passing beyond the physical realm into the spiritual realm at the time of mahasamadhi (a God-realized soul’s conscious departure in physical death).
But by meditatively reading his poems, these songs of his soul, we can glimpse those “wondrous visions” right now—and hear, even if vaguely because of our untrained ears, that “symphony of bliss.”
Paramahansa Yogananda: The Great Light of God
Biographical 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, was well established with the purpose of disseminating his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
For a more thorough overview of the great guru's life, please visit Paramahansa Yogananda’s Biography. His in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes