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 Noble New"
The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “The Noble New” from Songs of the Soul offers eight loving commands to devotees in an octet that consists of eight movements in two quatrains.
The first quatrain features two riming couplets, and second quatrain has the traditional rime scheme of an Elizabethan sonnet, ABAB. The great guru praised the United States of America as a land of opportunity and freedom. He admired the business acumen and technological spirit of America.
While loving his native land of India dearly with its emphasis on spirituality, Paramahansa Yogananda always made it clear that the spiritual East and the industrious West were both necessary for advancement on the path to self-realization or God-union. The great spiritual leader praised individuality and always cautioned against blindly following the majority which leads the seeker down the path of stagnation.
Excerpt from "The Noble New"
Sing songs that none have sung,
Think thoughts that ne’er in brain have rung,
Walk in paths that none have trod,
Weep tears as none have shed for God, . . .
(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.)
The theme of “The Noble New” is individualism; the speaker is urging the devotee not to be dragged down by a herd-mentality when journeying toward self-realization. One sees this problem often on the spiritual path, devotees who remain needy of their fellows, despite possessing the best spiritual guidance of all time.
First Movement: Unique Songs
The speaker first instructs the devotee to sing his own unique songs to the Divine. Most people are content to listen to worldly music and learn to sing only the songs that others sing.
While in the very beginning, this kind of imitation can help develop the singer’s skill, after the devotee becomes mature in his craft and his belief system, he no longer needs the guide of imitation.
Instead of singing to fellow human beings, the devotee sings only to the Divine, and these songs grow out of the unique relationship the individual has with his Divine Beloved.
Second Movement: New Pathways of Thought
So much of humankind’s endeavors are mere repetition of what others have accomplished and so many of the thoughts that each person entertains are simply a version of what others have thought for centuries.
Most citizens of Western Civilization have relegated religion and the spiritual life to one day a week, coupled with a few holidays each year. But the devotee who craves more of the Divine than what fits into that small framework must make every effort to think of Divinity all of the time, or in the beginning as much as possible.
Thinking those thoughts to which the guru/speaker refers means thinking about the Divine Beloved all the time and very intensely at certain times—during meditation, prayer, and chanting.
Third Movement: A Road Truly Less Traveled
Again, the speaker commands the devotee regarding the path; in today’s common parlance, it might be expressed, “to walk the walk.”
The path to the Divine remains sparsely populated; it may be that no one in a devotee’s family will accompany him on the journey. But the guru/speaker lovingly commands the devotee to walk that path anyway.
Fourth Movement: Even Tears Expand the Search
Because so few fellow human beings are seeking the Divine—alas! even the seemingly devout and the ostensibly religious—few will cry for the Divine as the true devotee will.
The speaker’s command lets the devotee know that the Divine appreciates those tears that the devotee weeps.
Fifth Movement: Keeping Others in One's Purview
The speaker instructs the devotee to offer a loving word or smile of peace to those whom others ignore. Sincere charity is never wasted. And sometimes all one can give is that smile or word of kindness because it is never helpful to try to proselytize one's religions leanings.
However, as the devotee moves closer to the goal of self-awareness, she naturally feels a charity for others. That devotee wishes that everyone could feel the peace and blessedness of that exalted state.
Sixth Movement: True Individuality
The devotee must assert his possession of the Divine, despite the fact that so many of his fellows dispute the very existence of the Deity. The atheism and agnosticism of the world may strike the devotee as sad blemishes on the culture. But the sincere devotee must remain steadfast in proclaiming his stance.
While the devotee must not try to push his beliefs on others, he also must not allow himself to be disheartened by the stumbling, halting masses who will always continue to ridicule what they fail to understand.
Seventh Movement: Love With Intensity
The speaker then commands the speaker to love the Lord's created beings as one loves that Creator with the intensity that most people never feel.
As often as one hears that God is love, the notion is never repeated too often. Learning to love the Divine may be difficult in the beginning because one has become accustomed to loving only that which one can perceive with the senses.
But offering love to everyone, to every created being, prepares one heart for accepting and giving to the Creator the love that must be given in order to receive.
Eighth Movement: The Struggle for Divine Freedom
If the devotee will sing, think, walk, weep, give, claim, love, and brave all for the Divine, then she can “brave / The battle of life with strength unchained.”
In so doing, the devotee will be able to soldier on through her worldly existence undaunted and with perfect freedom and realize the Divine Beloved at last.
A song version of Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Noble New"
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes