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 "Thy Cruel Silence"
In Paramahansa Yogananda's "Thy Cruel Silence," the speaker is assuring the Divine Beloved Lord of his sincere, intense devotion. The speaker will never cease his prayers to the Beloved until they are most gloriously answered. He will continue to pursue his goal of divine union until he has reached it. The great guru and spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda maintains that devotees should talk with the Ultimate Reality "in the language of their heart." The great guru asserts that the Divine Cause is close, personal, and very familiar to the individual soul, and the individual does not have to fear offending that Creator.
The children of the Divine Creator can speak to that Divine Entity as they are, not as they hope to be, which, of course, is an impossibility. Thus, the great guru’s speaker in "Thy Cruel Silence" may appear to blaspheme to those who think one must always flatter the Ultimate Divine and praise That Being even if one does not feel that praise. The great spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda insists that only open truth with the Divine will lead one to the Eternal Presence. The Divine Belovèd does not need or want our flattery and phony praise; the Divine Belovèd seeks only the highest good for each child, and that good begins with truth.
The speaker in "Thy Cruel Silence" from Songs of the Soul affirms his desire to make his Divine Belovèd speak to him, and he thus speaks truth to power when he tells the Divine Friend that the Latter's continued silence is cruel and causes the devotee great pain. Such honesty opens the heart of the Blessèd Creator.
Excerpt from "Thy Cruel Silence"
I prayed to Thee
But Thou wert mute.
At Thy door I knocked;
Thou answered not.
I gave my tears
To soft'n Thy heart;
In cruel silence
Didst Thou watch. . . .
(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 speaker insists that even if his prayer is met with continued silence, he will continue to pray and weep for the Divine Presence unceasingly throughout eternity. He is showing his deep love and devotion to his Eternal Creator.
First Movement: Continued Silence
The speaker informs his Divine Creator that he has prayed and yet the Divine remained "mute." Instead of enjoying a response, the speaker continues to receive only "cruel silence" from his Divine Belovèd. In addition to praying and offering the Divine his heartfelt words, the speaker also metaphorically "knocked" "[a]t Thy door." Yet the Divine continued to avoid him.
The great ones tell their followers that God is close, closer than any human relative, and his children need not wish for Him; all they have to do is realize that Eternal Lord's presence with the soul. Each soul is a spark of the Divine Fire, a wavelet of the Divine Ocean, a drop of the Eternal Sky—any metaphor that works is the metaphor each individual must embrace on his/her spiritual journey.
Second Movement: Weeping for Union
After much prayer and knocking at the door of the heart of his Divine Friend, the speaker allows himself to weep openly with flowing tears that he thinks will "soft’n Thy heart." The speaker hopes some pity from the Belovèd might assure a response. But again Divinity "in cruel silence" simply watches while his sad child mourns.
The great guru has made it clear that to experience unity with the Divine requires patience and much effort. Becoming calm and steady, after countless incarnations of restless searching, striving, and living for sense pleasures have instilled in the individual a jittery nature, can be a painstaking engagement. But the encouraging words that each soul is already united with the Soul can erase many of those jiggery incarnations, and that fact helps the meditating devotee relax and begin the healing process.
Third Movement: Affirming Dedication
Finally, the speaker affirms that it does not matter how long the Divine Belovèd remains silent, the speaker will continue to pray and weep throughout eternity if necessary. The speaker avers that he now knows the way to "earn / Attention Thine." The speaker has become aware that whether the Divine Reality speaks or remains silent, the two are already united. The speaker’s own "cruel silence" will meld with that of the Divine’s continued silence, as the speaker continues to pray "unceasingly."
Knowing the way to "earn" that Divine attention also helps the devotee relax which facilitates the meditation process. That knowing gives the devotee the confidence that the seemingly permanent silence of the Divine Beloved will at some point be lifted, and the devotee will then know with finality that s/he has reached the goal of self-realization or God-union.
Fourth Movement: An Eternity of Prayer and Meditation
If after an eternity of prayer and weeping for his Divine Creator, that Divine Friend does finally speak and "wish me peace," the speaker will continue the unifying acts of prayer and weeping for his Divine Belovèd that keep them together. Even if "cruel silence" remains and the devotee’s soul is caught perennially inside that depth, he knows that giving the silence to the Ultimate Reality will allow him to realize eternally the unity his soul already experiences with the Divine Over-Soul. Such logic seems paradoxical, yet it is infallible, according the teachings of every major religion.
A devotee may wonder what comes next, after God-union has been attained. Or more likely, the devotee may fret that God-union may never be attained or that it may take many more incarnations. Again, the scriptural instruction of all great religions offers the healing for such painful pondering: embracing tight to the bosom that knowledge of one's already united status as a child fo the Great Spirit. And after on has achieved that divine state, one need no fret what to do, for the soul will be guided directly and infallibly by that Divine Over-Soul.
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.
Dr. Lewis: Spiritual Experiences with Paramahansa Yogananda
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes