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Paramahansa Yogananda’s "The Screen of Life"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction and Excerpt From "The Screen of Life"

From Songs of the Soul, Paramahansa Yogananda’s "The Screen of Life" features five free verse paragraphs (versagraphs.) The drama emphasizes the vital importance of understanding the delusive nature of the natural world and realizing the reality of the life behind the "screen." This colorful poem dramatizes the dance of maya that stirs life with all its many activities and myriad natural objects that so mysteriously continue to appear and then vanish.

Excerpt From "The Screen of Life"

When dawn breaks the spell of darkness
And roses bloom;
When little pleasures all dance round you,
And fickle festivity sings
Of babes newborn (in future sure to die);
When fortune laughs
And praise weaves garlands
And glory makes the crown;
When on all sides men shout your praises
And thousands follow —
You see His hands showering blessings. . . .

(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.)

Commentary

This spiritual drama features the mayic dance of life with all its many activities and myriad natural objects that continually come and go.

First Versagraph: Beauty in the Light of Day

The speaker catalogues items and events that occur after "dawn breaks the spell of darkness." In the light of day, the individual observes beauty when "roses bloom." People experience "little pleasures" that "dance . . . around [them]." The speaker remarks that "fickle festivity sings / Of babes newborn."

The celebratory atmosphere is "fickle" because that newborn is "sure to die," even if the death may occur far "in future." But individuals will go on experiencing praise from others and "fortune" will "laugh." This teeming life full of gifts comes to the devotees from the Divine, Who quietly operates the cosmic projector that throws all the images upon the screen of life, and those who look will "see His hands showering blessings."

Second Versagraph: The Essence of Joy Remains

Even in seasons when life seems to lie dormant, when the rose is without its beautiful blossoms and lush green leaves, even in the midst of snow, the essence of "budding joy" exists "in every twig." While joy exists in the activity of experiencing the dawn, it also exists "in waiting" for that "streak of dawn in the dark." Each pair of opposites contains within it equal joy before the Lord.

Third Versagraph: The Necessity of Opposition

The speaker then examines the nature and the need for the pairs of opposite in the physical world of maya. Without "persecution," one would not be able to realize the joy of praise. Without having to go through a period of expectancy, the achievement of a goal would be less joyous. It is the "uncertain darkness" that causes "each little flame of joy" to "burn[ ] brighter." While it is human nature to disdain one state and exalt another, the ability to transcend human nature requires a new way of understanding the purpose of unwelcome things and acts.

Fourth Versagraph: Demonstrations of Delusion

Above all, it is important to understand and realize that the images projected upon this screen of earth life demonstrate delusion not "true Life": "Behind the unreal motion pictures of things seen / Unfolds the real drama." Using the metaphor of the motion picture, the speaker reveals that the sense-experienced existence consists of mere "shadows" "lined with light." But instead of sinking into melancholy with the news that sense experience is delusion, the speaker helps his listeners understand that "Sorrows bulge with joy. / Failures are potent with determination for success, / Cruelties urge the instinct to be kind." The bad is not meant to cause harm but to encourage and motivate for the good.

Fifth Versagraph: Awakening in Solitude

The speaker reveals that when the human mind is occupied with the things of this world, especially those that are deemed pleasant and desirable, these things "hide [the Divine Beloved's] presence." But when those things "all are gone," and the devotee’s mind observes "solitude," and there is no one left "shaking hands with you," then "[the Divine] comes to take your hand."

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

Learn to Meditate: Part 3 - Beginning a Meditation

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes

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