Updated date:

Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Writing at the Encinitas Hermitage

Writing at the Encinitas Hermitage

Grand Canyon of the Colorado

Introduction, Excerpt from "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"

Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, contains Vishnu Temple, Shiva Temple, Ram Temple, Krishna Temple, Brahma Temple, Deva Temple and Manu Temple. These natural temples are absolutely majestic. For a Hindu, a visit to Grand Canyon is both a pilgrimage and a vacation. —from Jai Shree Krishna

Nature and Spirit

In 1882, the majesty of these natural formations in the Grand Canyon reminded Clarence Dutton, an American Geological surveyor, of Indian temples; thus he named them after the Hindu Deities. Paramahansa Yogananda later would dramatize the spiritual connection between natural and human-constructed temples to emphasize the unity of the Divine Creator.

In Paramahansa Yogananda’s powerful Songs of the Soul, the great guru has included poems inspired by accomplished people such as Luther Burbank, various astronomical phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis, and magnificent landscape features such as Pikes Peak, Mohawk Trail, and the Grand Canyon. As always, the guru shows his listeners how to perceive God in this natural wonder.

Excerpt from "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"

Who reigns in this canyon,
Deep and grand with measureless space —
The sun or moon! . . .

These shrines, though different, yet in unison
Do welcome all to see the One;
E'en as the temples of Shiva and Rama
In silence worship the one Brahma.* . . .

*Three towering peaks (about 8,000 ft.) so named in 1882 by Clarence Dutton of the U.S Geological Survey because of their resemblance to Hindu temples.

(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.)

Grand Canyon: Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu Temples


The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado" reminds devotees that the Divine Creator is eternally present in the beautiful, natural formations that attract visitors from all over the world.

First Stanza: Is Sun or Moon King of the Canyon?

The speaker begins his dramatic reportage about the amazing canyon by asking whether it is the sun or moon who “reigns in the canyon.” He then playfully suggests that the two orbs “jealously vie / To drive away with swiftness / The demon of darkness.”

The speaker adds that not only do the sun and then the moon try to drive out the darkness, but they also seek to illuminate the many colors that are painted on the canyon walls. The “glory” of the canyon reminds the speaker immediately of places of worship; thus he refers to them a “crowded temple-peaks,” that are both young and old.

Second Stanza: Temples of Rocks

The speaker refers to the rock formations as “shrines,” claiming that they are “different, yet in unison,” they call everyone to worship just as the Indian temples call devotees to come to pray, meditate, and bow before “the One.”

Third Stanza: The Blessed Creator Permeates His Creations

Again, the speaker asks, “Who reigns here?” And, of course, the answer is God, the One—who always reigns everywhere. The speaker avers that because of the differing sensibilities and values of “wide aesthetic needs,” worshipful signs appear on the earth through “different shapes and names / To inspire.”

Nevertheless, when the soul is aroused by the strong “Spirit of Vastness,” the devotee understands intuitively that God is that vast spirit, and worship comes as naturally as the rock formations that glorify the Grand Canyon.

The Lord's Handiwork

The spiritual reminders offered in the names of the Deities allow the visitors to the canyon to experience the call of wonder and depth of soul that they sense in silent worship. As the devotees remember that all of this splendor was created by the same Creator, that every river and mountain, every forest and plain is His handiwork, they experience the awakened fervor of heart and soul. The great guru continually redirects the devotees’ attention, so that they may learn to see God everywhere.

(Please note: The Denver Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship offers a marvelous Web site documentary of Paramahansa Yogananda's visits to the Denver area.)

Grand Canyon Vishnu Temple Rama Shrine Krishna Shrine

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

Life 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 (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.


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

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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."

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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."

Brief Publishing History of Songs of the Soul

The first published version of Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul appeared in 1923. During the 1920s and 1930s, the great spiritual leader revised many of the poems. The final revisions of the poems authorized by the great guru appear in the 1983 printing of the text, which along with the revisions restored many lines that had been omitted from the original version.

I use the 1983 printing for my commentaries. The current printing year is 2014. No further revisions or additions have been made since the 1983 printing. The 1923 versions of the many of the poems may be read at Full Text of Songs of the Soul.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Related Articles