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Paramahansa Yogananda's "To the Aurora Borealis"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction and Excerpt from "To the Aurora Borealis"

From Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, the poem, "To the Aurora Borealis" celebrates the great yogi's experience, viewing that celestial phenomenon. The poem features six versagraphs of varying lengths.

Paramahansa Yogananda's speaker in his marvelously descriptive poem, "To the Aurora Borealis," is likening the beauty of the awe-inspiring northern lights to that to the inner vision experienced in divine perfect union of soul and Divinity.

Excerpt from "To the Aurora Borealis"

From the heart of the northern horizon,
A dim, palpitating fountain of flame
Spread flickeringly
Through the dark stray clouds and the Milky way,
And across the space o'erhead.
Softly glowing, liquid fleecy lights
Rose, quivered, and flooded the southern land.
Aurora lit the sky,
And played with shadows within the deeps of the limpid lake —
Fluttered scintillating, transparent lights
O'er the stars and the sky o'erhead;
And shone on the rippleless lake beneath —
Then floated like dream waves of light
In my mental sea. . . .

(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 in "To the Aurora Borealis" compares the awe-inspiring northern lights to the inner vision experienced in divine perfect union of soul and Divinity.

First Versagraph: Phenomenal Light

An epigraph locates the poem’s experience at "Forest Lake, Minneapolis, Minnesota." The speaker then begins immediately to describe the phenomenal light that is coming into his vision. On the northern horizon, he sees "a dim, palpitating fountain of flame," which is flickering as it spreads "through the dark stray clouds and the Milky Way."

The speaker continues to report the nature of the lights: they glow "softly," and they look "liquid" as well as "fleecy." The light seems to "flood[ ] the southern land." Illuminating the sky, the lights of the Aurora "played with shadows within the deeps of the limpid lake."

At this point, the speaker begins to draw a comparison between the physical lights of the Aurora to his own inner vision. As the lights played in the heaven among the stars, they seemed to shine "on the rippleless lake beneath." They "floated like dream waves of light / In my mental sea."

The "mental sea" metaphorically describes the speaker’s consciousness which has flown Godward. An advanced yogi’s samadhi may at times be triggered by an especially moving or beautiful experience.

Second Versagraph: The Light of Samadhi

The speaker reports his inner experience wherein "stilled thoughts, like stars, would glimmer / Through dim mental clouds." As the lights of the Aurora had burst through the physical clouds, the light of samadhi now breaks through the mundane thoughts that were crowding the speaker’s mind.

Addressing the Aurora directly, the speaker likens quite plainly the light of the Aurora to the light on the screen of his inner vision: "O Aurora! / Spreader of light and joy o’er cloudy hearts, / Reminder, thou, of bursting, glowing light within my forehead!"

Third Versagraph: Ever Burning

Again, dramatizing the heavenly display of Aurora, the speaker paints the event for the reader/listener: "Spouting ethereal mystic flames, / Which joyfully bounded and vanished in the eternal Ray. / Ever-burning radium, thou, Aurora!" The speaker heralds the luminescent element "radium" as "ever-burning."

Fourth Versagraph: Inner Vision

Again returning to his inner vision, the speaker says, "My inner fountain of strange colors / Flooded my mental sky." These "strange colors" light the dark corner of the speaker’s brain and the "opaque darkness / Behind which the Light of all lights hides." The presence of God remains hidden within until the individual is capable of attuning his consciousness with that inner light.

The light of the outer reality consisting of "every-changing, rolling, molten light / "Coax[es]" the stars, trees, water, earth, and matter, all / To melt their grossness / And become the Cosmic Light."

Fifth Versagraph: Samadhi, Nirvana, Salvation

In this expansive versagraph, the speaker shows the efficacy of attaining the skill of experiencing the mystical state known as samadhi to the Hindus, Nirvana to the Buddhists, and Salvation to the Christians.

The speaker conveys that the ability to reach samadhi is the one that gives "hope." In the dark atmosphere engulfing life on earth, "My little soul will breathe with the Eternal Breath." Thus the speaker can be assured of not only the hope of life everlasting but that eternal life itself which conquers every human being’s most significant fear—the fear of death.

He avers, "No more shall I clasp but a little clod." No longer bound only by physical body awareness, he becomes like the great northern spectacle that he is beholding, "For I am the life, / And my body is the universe." He can become as small as the atom and still remain as large as the entire cosmos. Thus he can assert, "I am the Life that shattered its confines of littleness / To become the infinite bigness of all things."

Sixth Versagraph: An Experience in Cosmic Awareness

United with the Divine, he can speak as Jesus did, "I am the most subtle — the subtlest of forces is gross enough to hide me — / Yet everything speaks of me." As God does, the speaker can "peep through the twinkling light of the darkness."

And this speaker can "paint and wipe away / The pictures on the canvas of the sky." And finally he can "play hide and seek with the sky, stars, clouds, and waters, / As the mystic light of the aurora." For such an exalted personage, the experience of seeing the Aurora Borealis becomes an experience in cosmic awareness.

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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."

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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."

The Master’s Great Samadhi of 1948

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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