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 Homecoming"
From Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, the Whitmanesque form of this poem will be immediately apparent to readers. It spills across the page in robust, long sentences that burst the bounds of the ordinary poetic line. And such a form befits magnificently the subject of this poem: the uniting of the individual soul with the Over-Soul, or Divine Reality.
The speaker's metaphoric locus could only be the Milky Way, far beyond the little Earth but still part of humankind's astronomical awareness. His brilliant descriptions bring much needed light to the imagination as it attempts to envision such a place in the galaxy.
Excerpt from "Thy Homecoming"
Thy mansion of the heavens is lit by perennial auroral displays of mystic lights.
Stellar systems arch across the trackless highways of eternity that lead to Thy secret home.
Comet-peacocks spread their plumes of rays and dance in wild delight in Thy garden of many moons.
The planetary dance glides in stately rhythm, awaiting Thy homecoming.
I sit on a little patch of the Mill Way and behold the glory of Thy kingdom spread round me — endlessly, everywhere . . .
(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.)
This poem dramatizes a vision that the great guru/poet experienced, as he explains in the epigram that opens the poem.
First Movement: The Epigram
The purpose of epigrams is to set the stage for what is to come. While most literary works necessarily begin in medias res, there are occasions when the subject needs a bit of introduction. And the momentous occasion of this subject definitely falls into that category that requires a setting of stage.
The speaker explains that this poem will focus on a vision that he experienced while undergoing "an ecstatic state of God-realization." He envisioned himself "sitting on a little patch of the Milky Way, beholding the vast universe . . . ." God then becomes "manifest" to the speaker's consciousness, and during the celebration of this "Homecoming," the speaker becomes aware that all inanimate things were also celebrating "in the mansion of light."
Second Movement: A Mystical Vision
The speaker begins to describe what he has seen in his God-united vision. He employs the metaphor of the "mansion" as the sacred and embellished residence of the Divine Awareness. The "heavens" compose this mansion wherein their multi-colored lights that possess a mystic nature.
Instead of mere roads or lanes as the Earth dweller experiences, the star pathways are "trackless highways of eternity." These systems of stars conduct the speaker's destination to the Divine Belovèd's "secret home."
The speaker then colorfully metaphorizes the many rays of light that dances, and seem to look like "comet-peacocks." They spread their multi-colored feathers as they move about rhythmically in the "garden of many moons."
Third Movement: Anticipating an Arrival
These planetary entities of the stellar system continue to dance because they are anticipating the arrival of the Divine for His "homecoming," The rhythm mimics the act of rhythm achieved in Earthly dramas enacted by governmental bodies. Yet instead of the choppy effect waded through by state musical bands, these dances seem to simply glide along in smooth, adorning fashion.
The speaker now announces that he is situated "on a little patch of the Milky Way." And it is from this position that he can testify that the sight he sees is a glory magnificent. The Lord's "kingdom" opens out around the speaker, and it extends "endlessly, everywhere."
The speaker then likens the heavenly action to "fireworks." Stars shoot and seem to be hurled through the sky. The "devoted forces" that throw these masses of light are dazzling and provide the speaker with feelings that he is enjoying a massive festivity in the heavenly realm. The sky show delights and amazes the viewer of these wondrous light festivals. The star show remains magical as they are continually moving through the aid of "unseen bands."
Then the speaker utters an amazing description: "Meteorites skip, glow, swoon, and fall to earth — mad with Thy joy." Remembering that he had claimed that all inanimate things seemed to be celebrating the Lord's homecoming, the reader will find this fascinating image one of incredible importance, especially the claim that those meteorites are experiencing a madness filled with the joy of the Divine.
Fourth Movement: A Joy-Filled Prospect
The speaker then affirms that all people and all things including the very atoms themselves become joy-filled at the prospect of the arrival of the "uncrowned King of the Universes." While this "king" remains "uncrowned," his kingdom spreads out throughout infinity, throughout eternity because the speaker has averred that not only does one "universe" exit, but also there exist many "Universes" over which this King reigns.
The speaker's ability to continue reporting Earth events demonstrates the omnipresence he has contacted in his mystical vision. He thus can report that the very Earth "trees drop flowers" to honor the Divine. Also the sky becomes a massive incense burner as it sends to the Divine its "fire-mist incense."
The forces of heaven metaphorically transform into "candlesticks" that wield the stars to light up "Thy temple." The abundance of light will spark in the reader's memory the scientific fact that all creation is made of light, and that the only difference between substances is the rate of vibration of those bodies of light.
The speaker now broaches the subject of the seeming absence of the Divine Reality from His creation. He simply hid Himself ever so quietly and secretly inside the matter that He created. And His "subjects"—a nod the continued royalty metaphor—have long failed to detect him only because of their "ignorance." They have simply ignored Divinity, as they have become enmeshed in matter-bound creation.
Because of this ignorance, this failure to seek the Light, the Lord's mansion has become dark. Without knowledge of the presence of the Divine, God's children remain in darkness. Those children have allowed the mansion of the Divine Reality to remain without Him. They have ignored the spiritual for the physical, and thus darkness is the result.
Fifth Movement: Turning Out Darkness
However, the speaker now reports that that darkness is in the process of being turned out of the Lord's mansion. Radiant light is beginning to pour into the home that has hitherto contained rooms that had become "gloom-drenched." The report that the Lord is on His way to appear at His homecoming sparks the dissolution of the darkness and gloom that matter-only minds have allowed to dominate.
The lights of heaven are beginning to spark, as the gates of darkness begin to open. Huge, fiery "bonfires" filled with "nebulous mists" all are reporting the fabulous news of the arrival of the Divine. His home is being readied by the scouring off of aeons of matter-smeared mud from the chambers of the hearts and minds of his subjects who are, in fact, His children.
The welcome mat is being fastidiously arranged for this royal homecoming. The speaker reports that even the sun and moon stand like steady "sentinels" as they anticipate the arrival of the Divine.
Sixth Movement: Light That Remains Forever
Without the uncrowned King, life has been drab, dark, and dreary. The kingdom has remained "a lonesome wilderness of matter," as the darkness has seared off the inclusive heart-soothing brilliance that the metaphoric sunlight of Perfect Reality yields forth.
The speaker thus finds himself in a jovial mood: he runs wild as he dances on the physical plane. But he also is capable of finding himself "skimming over the Milky Way." His joy uplifts his soul and affords it the delicious ability to move throughout the Cosmic Expanse. And the speaker moves with this all-pervading joy, he urges all of creation—"everything, every atom, every speck of consciousness"—to open their minds and hearts to the Divine Light that is now arriving and pouring its beams over and into Creation.
Once that dull darkness has been overcome, and the bright light of the Divine has been allow to permeate the hearts and minds of His heretofore ignorant children, that darkness will be banished forever. The speaker avers that this arrival—this extraordinary "homecoming"—comes with the majestic power of "driving darkness forevermore from Thy cosmic kingdom."
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.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s 125th Birthday
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes