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 Royal Way"
The poem, "The Royal Way," from Paramahansa Yogananda's spiritual classic, Songs of the Soul, finds the great yogi and spiritual leader speaking from the viewpoint of an unselfrealized seeker. The speaker is lamenting that he has often become confused because in this world of delusion it is difficult to know what is true and what is just some outward appearing good that will cause one to "blunder" down one's path.
This speaker is exemplifying the thinking of confused humanity that is often amazed, confounded, and even dazzled by world contradictions resulting from pairs of opposites operating on the material level of being.
The sad fact also prevails that many confused human minds are not even aware of their reliance on false information; having been led astray for many decades, most folks continue to rely on the same sense awareness that has promised happiness but then brought great sadness and even tragedy in its wake. A wise person once opined that doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the very definition of insanity; thus it is apparent that much insanity prevails day after day .
Excerpt from the Third Stanza of "The Royal Way"
. . . A subway path of ruby red,
Which far beneath lies hid,
For keen ones' eager eyes to spy;
It leads straight on their feet
Where all paths do meet.*
*Excerpt from Note appended to poem: "The 'royal way' refers to the subtle cerebrospinal axis of man with it seven centers of spiritual force. On this path 'all paths do meet,' for the consciousness of all seekers ultimately follows this way of ascension to attain divine illumination. . . . "
(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 Royal Way" dramatizes a glimpse into the science of yoga. The path to divine illumination moves through the spine where the spiritual force moves through seven centers of awareness.
First Stanza: Travelers on a Spiritual Pathway
In the first stanza, the speaker asserts those who sojourn on this earth are like "travelers" on an "ever-trodden path" where some continue in "joyous haste" and others go forth in a "slothful sorrow’s state." Just as these other travelers are walking their various paths, the speaker is also traveling down one of the earthly paths, as he walks wondering about the nature of life, sometimes experiencing "truth" and sometimes "blunder[ing]" into untruth.
Representing unselfrealized humanity, the speaker joins the others; he sees the working of the pairs of opposites that cause the mayic delusion. The important difference between most of blundering humanity and the speaker is that this speaker knows the confusion, recognizes it for what it is, and is able to describe the puzzle.
Second Stanza: Delusional Pairs of Opposites
The pairs of opposites are exemplified again in the second stanza: left vs right, front vs behind. The speaker then declaims that the worldly way is filled with "diverse ways," and the many choices that confront mankind cause confusion and ultimately delusion.
The individual feels that just maneuvering through life is like trying to navigate "baffling mazes." Life is a "conundrum," and the "bewildered" human mind is accosted at every turn by things and events that offer only troubles and more confusion.
There seems to be no end to the many ways that the human mind and heart can become overwhelmed with information and decisions. Many decisions offer directions that must be followed often sometime in the future, and one seems to be walking in a fog without a compass or guide.
Third Stanza: Intuition of Something Better
Despite all the confusion, pain, and suffering of humanity, intuition tells each individual that surely there must something better than this, some way of thinking and behaving that will assuage the tribulations that one meets at every turn. This speaker has heard about one such way; it is called "a royal way."
At this point in the last six lines, the speaker offers a brief introductory glimpse at that sure path that leads to peace. Every human mind seeks comfort and wishes to behave properly. Although far too many adjust their own misdirected thinking to allow them to think they are behaving properly, the kind of misdirection can lead only in the wrong direction. Right behavior and right thinking remain open to all, and each mind and heart that discovers his/her true path discovers a way to feel oriented in the correct direction, the one that leads to truth, beauty, and happiness.
The speaker has labeled this true path "ruby red." A note attached to the poem clarifies the metaphor of the ruby red path: "The ‘royal way’ refers to the subtle cerebrospinal axis of the man with its seven centers of spiritual force. On this path "all paths do meet," for the consciousness of all seekers ultimately follows this way of ascension to attain divine illuminations."
Glimpses into the Science of Yoga
The poems of Paramahansa Yogananda function on many levels; they do more than ordinary poems that seek primarily to entertain by elucidating the drama of the emotional experiences of humanity. These poem do offer emotion, but they also include thought and ways to engage one's deepest intuition, which remains the most important tool in the science of yoga.
The great guru’s poems offer introductory glimpses into the science of yoga, on which his teachings are based. While he seeks to delight his readers with his poetic dramas, he always has a higher purpose as well: to assure humanity that it is loved and cared for by a loving and nurturing Divinity, and most of all that humanity has the ability to realize personally that Divine Belovèd through right yoga meditation.
The marvelous techniques that this poet/seer has given to humanity further elucidates his poetry, as well as offering the important method for improving the physical, mental, and spiritual power of each individual human being. The yoga techniques keep the mind and heart glowing with energy, while the poetry deepens the soul's awareness of itself.
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.
Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda
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 of Paramahansa Yogananda
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."
Practice Kriya Yoga Every Day
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes