Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all things.
Introduction and Excerpt from "The Harvest"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, "The Harvest," appears in his classic collection of spiritual poems, Songs of the Soul. The speaker remarks about how the Great Creator of all nature remains hidden while still displaying His seasonal beauty. The speaker then compares the outward physical beauty of nature to the inner beauty of the mystical sky within the human soul. The meditating devotee placing his/her mind upon the mystical sky of the soul then finds a depth of appreciation and understanding that what exists on the physical level is mirrored on the spiritual level, allowing a measure of comfort that the Eternal Reality is near and dear at all times.
The speaker in "The Harvest" is observing the autumn sky and is reminded of the Divine Creator (or God). Beautifully and methodically, the speaker likens metaphorically that Creator to a farmer who plows his fields and also to a painter who creates beauty on canvas with his paint brushes. Heralding the season of gratitude and rebirth, the speaker achieves a spiritual attitude through observation of ordinary earthly things, instructing his listeners in the art of seeking beauty in the interior of the heart, mind, and soul.
Excerpt from "The Harvest"
Drawn by joy sublime,
I watch each harvest time,
When furrowed sky glows red with ripe sunbeams;
But never have I found Thy ploughing teams. . . .
(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.)
Metaphorically, the speaker is comparing the beauty of the autumn sky to the inner beauty of the spiritual sky within each soul, where each devotee directs his attention during deep yogic mediation.
First Movement: The Great Farmer
In the opening three lines—“Drawn by joy sublime, / I watch each harvest time, / When furrowed sky glows red with ripe sunbeams”—the speaker seems to be referring to the physical surroundings of the autumnal harvest, including the configuration and colors of the sky. However the speaker then says, "But never have I found Thy ploughing teams," and suddenly the reader then realizes that the speaker is, in fact, addressing the Great Farmer or God, Whose mystical teams have secretly plowed the heavens.
Of course, the speaker is referring to the cloud formations that display themselves against the backdrop of the sky. The speaker then asserts that despite the outward beauty of the autumn sky, the One responsible for providing it remains out of sight. The "furrowed sky" is metaphorically a plowed field, and instead of ripe corn or wheat, it "glows red with ripe sunbeams."
Second Movement: The Great Painter
Then the speaker offers other contrasting natural objects: "The oriole’s glowing painted breast is shown, / And yet Thy brush, O Painter, ne’er is known!" The colorful feathers of the birds are easily detected by the physical eye, but the Painter, the One Whose brush dabbed on that color "ne’er is known!" The speaker has thus far likened God to a farmer and then to a painter. As a farmer, He has plowed the sky, and as painter the Blessèd Creator has colored the birds with an array of alluring hues.
By metaphorically referring to God as farmer, painter, creator, and many other human positions, the speaker brings the mystical, ephemeral, thus ineffable Being into the realm of human understanding. While a human farmer can plant a field in corn, only the Ineffable Creator can provide the seed and the process of growth, including the soil, the sunshine, and the rain, which will contribute to the ultimate harvest of ripe produce.
Third Movement: Master of Time
The speaker returns his attention to the heavens observing that the North Star keeps perfect time, referring to the North Star as keeping a perfect schedule as do the "sun and seasons," but still the Master of it all seems not to be present. Even though this “Master” keeps a tight reign on the sun and the seasons, He still fails to show Himself to His children. The Blessed Divine Belovèd's outward features detected by the senses give us joy and make us ponder their beauty, but the One who provides that beauty remains hidden, shy as a little child.
The challenge of living a spiritual life remains because of the seeming invisibility of God. Although it is the Divine One who provides all the materials His children need to live, He seems to remain hidden behind a veil of mystery. We would like for the Omnipotent One to appear to us more directly than through the examples of His natural objects and natural processes, but it seems that He maintains other plans.
Fourth Movement: The Harvest and Gratitude
Late autumn, the season most closely associated with the harvest, finds human beings enjoying the fruits of their labor as they observe the beginning of the holiday season that culminates in Christmas and the glorious birth of Lord Jesus Christ. It seems that the pumpkin has become a big, bright symbol for the beginning of the autumn season, as neighbors decorate their front porches with haystacks and those large sturdy fruits that later will be turned into pies.
The Great Farmer/Painter has performed His skillful craftsmanship throughout the year, and as the temperature cools, hearts and souls become aware of their gifts and are motivated to offer gratitude. In addition to the physical beauty that the harvest season offers, it also brings a palpable spiritual beauty ushered in by gratitude and awareness of the constant spiritual journey.
Thus, despite the mystery of a supposedly invisible Creator, the faithful find that the fruits of their labor and the magic that spiritual beauty brings actually usher in a period of humility and gratitude. It is that gratitude that permeates the special season of the “harvest.” While the laborers have worked and now enjoy their harvest, they are reminded of the One, Who has provided all the materials with which they have worked. It is not only the physical harvest of pumpkins, vegetables, and hay that makes the harvest special, but it is also the faith that the Invisible Provider is guiding and guarding each devotee, infallibly and eternally—even though invisibly—through ties of love.
© 2020 Linda Sue Grimes