Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all creation.
Introduction and Excerpt From "The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply"
Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Dying Youth's Divine Reply" appears in his collection of spiritually inspired poetry, Songs of the Soul, and it is the next to last poem in the book. This poem is also the longest piece to appear. Its subject is of great and grave importance because the issue of dying holds such a prominent place in the thoughts of humankind.
Excerpt From "The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply"
In his laughter he had often heard
The echo of God's merriment.
This laughing youth of many charms
Lay dying in a hamlet,
They the bias of illness was unable to wither his smiles.
The doleful doctors can and said, "But da day,
But a day we give you to life."
The dear ones of his family cried aloud:
"Leave us not, poor you of your hearts!
Our souls are bursting with pity for thee, for they plight." . . .
(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.)
Paraphrase of "The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply"
The following is a prose rendering or paraphrase of "The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply." The paraphrase can assist readers in gaining insight into the poem as it helps in comprehending the commentary about the divinely inspired poem:
A charismatic youth lay on his death-bed in his family's home. Illness, however, had no power to diminish the lad's smiles. Physicians had given him perhaps one day to live. Understandably, the youth's family became inconsolable with grief. Despite the horrible news, the lad continued to be the happy youth he had always been. He expounds the reasons for his joy to his family. Fear had been expelled from the boy's soul. The boy had been preparing himself for his soul to be liberated into the Divine Infinite. He had made strong his will and overcome the forces that would render in him doubt and pain. The young man had entered into a kingdom of Peace. The lad was even joyous to be leaving behind this "mortal prison," wherein the physical encasement is wont to be attacked in all manner of uncertain and unwelcome ways. He perceived Death to be a liberating savior, who would guide him from this mud ball of a planet. The lad begged his affectionate family to celebrate with him that he would be merely transcending this planet and moving into freedom. He then again catalogued all the dangers, trials, and tribulation that one living in a physical encasement might encounter.
The youth asserted strongly that he would be liberated and would experience sadness for the loved ones he would leave behind in the "mortal prison." He opined that they are, indeed, the ones for whom tears are required, not the one who would be journeying to the beautiful, delightful astral world, where fire cannot burn, water cannot drown, and gas cannot choke. The youth continues his rejoicing that he will be liberated into the Infinite Divine, where music is sweeter, and thus he will be singing eternally. The boy also celebrates that fact that now it is less than a day's time that he is required to remain confined in this problematic physical encasement. The youth knows that he heading toward bliss that exists in a place that is far superior to this world where death and destruction reign. The youth then gently reproves his affectionate family once more, as he reminds them that he will be capable of preparing a place for them after they finally must travel out from the cursed finite to the Blissful Infinite. The youth mightily attempts to assist his beloved family to comprehend what he knows, that he is only in route to remain eternally with his "Only Belovèd." The youth knows that same Belovèd belongs to his loving family.
The dying youth in Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Dying Youth’s Divine Reply" has the marvelous ability to understand and know that his dying simply means that his soul will then inhabit the beautiful astral world, and therefore, he admonishes his mourners not to mourn.
First Movement: Divine Understanding
In the opening stanza, readers learn that the doctors have said the young man has but one day to live. But the readers are also made aware that the young man has been close to God: "In his laughter he had often heard / The echo of God’s merriment."
The young man's family grieves at such news and begs the young man not to leave them. But the young man, who has seen visions of the astral world, is not disheartened by the news of his coming demise, quite the contrary.
The youth answers,
The smiles of the youth grew brighter,
And he joyously spoke, in a voice that sang:
"Ah, just a day; yea, but a day
Between me and my long-lost Beloved."
The youth's happiness because of entering into a level of being that he deems will draw him closer to God motivates his joyous voice to sing his delight.
Second Movement: Unity with Divine Nature
The poem continues for six more stanzas, longest poem in Songs of the Soul. The youth continues to paint scenes of his expectations after his soul has left its body. He reports that his light has become one with the great light of his Creator. He further contends that that very light continues to shine out onto all the "splendors of eternity"—asserting his omnipresence as well as his immortality.
With such an awareness, the lad no longer has to contend with fears; thus all fears has slipped into oblivion, as that great soul light has "spread of the dark nooks of [his soul]." He continues to describe what he knows will be his experience, in order to assuage the sorrow of his loved ones whom he must leave.
The lad then declares that all of his faculties are awaiting "Delightful Death," which he calls "the divine messenger." After Death has performed its function of lifting the "latch of finitude," his soul and all souls are then able to enter into the "kingdom of Infinity."
Third Movement: Rejoicing the Divine Transformation
The dying youth then catalogues all the ways that living in a human body is anathema to the soul: in that dangerous encasement, it is "lashed with worries," "pounded by accidents, failures," and "thrown into the dungeon of uncertain, unsafe living." He makes it clear the leaving such a precarious situation brings nothing but gladness. The dying—the souls leaving those physical encasements—feel joy at escaping that "broken cage of brittle bones."
The dying know that they will be able to throw that physical body of flesh and trouble into the fires of immortality. They well set free the "Bird of Paradise." That free bird can then sail high through the "skies of Blissful Omnipresence." The boy then startles by reporting his pure glee at awaiting the death angel; the hours seem to have slowed down as he waits for that sweet release.
The lad asks his beloved family to "rejoice in my joy." He then repeats the list of trials and tribulations that the still living family will have to suffer and he will not—no broken bones, no accidents, no more fears of anything. He will not have to worry about "unpaid bills," and worry over caring for possessions will no longer play a part in "gnawing at [his soul]."
The noise of the senses will be quieted, and he will remain "beyond their reach." He will be exploring the reaches of Infinity with his Divine Belovèd. He begs his loved ones not to pray that he will be back in the prison house of incarnation. He will prefer his new "Home of blessed freedom."
Fourth Movement: Divine Liberation
Again, the dying youth is the one who comforts his mourners: He reports that although he will be free and loving that freedom, he will look sadly on their lot, still remaining behind the bars of physical encasement and "mortal life." They will remain "locked up" in the miserable life from which he has blissfully escaped. Thus he bids them not to weep for him:
Don't cry for me,
Ye who are left on this desolate shore,
Still to mourn and deplore;
It is I who pity you.
The doctors had given the boy a day to live and now the lad notes that he has less than one day to remain in his body prison. He contends that there is no sound sweeter than the music he is hearing now that he knows he will be leaving this prison for ultimate freedom. He now calls death a "dazzling chariot" that is coming to carry him to his home in Omnipresence, which he calls the "Kingdom of Deathlessness."
In his "palace of Bliss-Dreams," the boy will be happier than he has every been on the material, physical level of existence. He again admonishes his folks, who are crying "dark tears," that it is he who also weeps for them. They must remain bound to the exploits of the pairs of opposites that control the prison called life.
The dying youth then tells them that he will be lighting the way for them when it is time for them to leave their prison-house of suffering. He states that he will "light candles of wisdom" to assist them on their way. And he will welcome them to the miraculous better world where they will all be together with their Divine Belovèd.
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes