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Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Blood of the Rose"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda - "The Last Smile"

Paramahansa Yogananda - "The Last Smile"

Introduction and Text of "Blood of the Rose"

In the secular world, a poem’s main function is to represent artistically the experience of human emotion; the poems in Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soul function beyond that level of ordinary, secular poems. For the spiritual aspirant, these poems do offer representations of such human experiences, but they also serve to portray the life and attitude of the spiritual aspirant at the most elevated levels of achievement. The advanced avatar—one who has achieved the goal of self-realization or enlightenment—is able to offer insights into worldly phenomena that assist the striving spiritual aspirant on his/her own path to enlightenment.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Blood of the Rose" is dramatizing the speaker’s remorse after picking a rose. In his little drama, the speaker expresses sorrow because he knows his act has caused the rose to die sooner than it might have normally done. This speaker’s elucidation of his sorrowful expression demonstrates great empathy and the ability to detect the pain of other living beings. The soul of the speaker has identified with the life force of the rose and is capable of experiencing what the picked rose is experiencing. That ability comes with advancement in yoga practice to those who have become God-realized.

Can a Rose Feel Pain?

If readers are at first baffled by the claim that after being plucked from its stem, the rose "quivered" and the speaker could detect pain in the rose’s behavior, they need merely hear what scientists have discovered about the ability of plants to experience pain. According to Sieeka Kahn, reporting in the Science Times,

For years, scientists are baffled by the question of whether plants can feel pain or not. A team of scientists from Tel Aviv University may have the answer to that question, as they discovered that some plants can emit a high-frequency distress sound when in environmental stress.

Unrealized human consciousness on planet Earth at its current level of evolutionary progress will continue to remain unaware of those plant reactions. Human sensitivity has limits for each sense; for example, a dog whistle can be heard by a dog but not by a human, who hears a narrower range of decibels than a dog. The human sense of smell is also more limited than a dog’s. And one need only observe the number of human individuals wearing corrective lenses to detect the limit of human eyesight.

Such information should be used only to encourage the devotee on the spiritual path, not to cause depression and panic that plants can feel pain. The next scientific question might be, "is human and plant pain really the same?" Perhaps plant pain is merely reaction and not the same sensation that humans experience. Nevertheless, ultimately the lesson for the greater part of humanity is that plants as well as animals are living beings that are sentiently conscious on certain levels, and all sentient beings deserve respect. That awareness of consciousness is what drives the yogi in this poem to the final awareness that he elucidates.

Blood of the Rose

I tore the rose,
I bled its slender stem;
Its petals quivered
And I shivered;
Yet I dared to rob it of its smell!
My heart did break, and tell,
"Thy hands are soiled" — and mute I stood,
Thus self-condemned and stained with rose's blood.

But I know now,
I love the rose
More than its wealth, and vow
Ne'er its love to desecrate or lose.

(Please note: This poem appears in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)

Commentary

The speaker in "Blood of the Rose" has experienced great sorrow and remorse after plucking a rose from its stem. He is dramatizing his feeling of self-condemnation and vows to love the rose for its soul power more than its physical beauty.

First Stanza: After Picking a Rose

I tore the rose,
I bled its slender stem;
Its petals quivered
And I shivered;
Yet I dared to rob it of its smell!
My heart did break, and tell,
"Thy hands are soiled" — and mute I stood,
Thus self-condemned and stained with rose's blood.

In the first stanza, the speaker reports that he picked a rose from its stem, which seems to be an ordinary act. Most people have picked flowers simply because they are beautiful and they wish to take that beauty with them and keep it, even knowing that a picked flower’s beauty remains quite brief. This speaker, however, is one whose consciousness is very keen, very highly developed. He, therefore, can perceive the feelings of the rose; he is able to sense that the rose’s "petals quivered." The rose sent out the signal that having its "slender stem" torn caused it pain.

The speaker, realizing what he had done by causing the rose to suffer, immediately feels regret for having caused that pain; yet despite the fact that he now deems his act regrettable, additionally, he then "dared to rob it of its smell!" Bringing the rose to his nostrils, the speaker deeply inhaled its delightful fragrance. However, he then experienced a further pang of remorse for having enjoyed the olfactory sense pleasure at the expense of the now fading and dying rose.

Then the speaker describes himself as a condemned man, though "self-condemned" and "stained with rose’s blood." He claims that his "hands are soiled," and thus he stood in silence contemplating the situation, determining what he has learned from this ordinary, and seemingly innocent act. The speaker’s sense of regret does not simply pass unidentified and unnoticed. He uses his brief encounter to demonstrate the depth of soul awareness that human beings are capable of if they have trained their mind and heart to connect through the soul instead of through the mere physical and mental senses.

Second Stanza: An Upliftment of Consciousness

But I know now,
I love the rose
More than its wealth, and vow
Ne'er its love to desecrate or lose.

The speaker then reports that his love for the rose is more important than the physical reality of the rose as a flower. Even though he had picked the rose for its beauty and enjoyed it for its fragrance, he had thought his act was merely for sense gratification.

After thinking deeply about the rose and its "wealth," the speaker comes to realize that an act when done for merely physical gratification is, indeed, a wanton act. But after understanding that the speaker loves the rose for its spirit not merely for its physical beauty, he determines that henceforth he will never again "desecrate" or "lose" that love, whether he picks the rose or merely admires it on the stem. The speaker realizes his connection with the soul of the rose, and the soul connection is always superior to any physical connection.

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© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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