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 "Too Near"
Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "Too Near," declares the spiritual truth that each individual soul is a spark of the Divine Creator. The individual does not have to acquire that status, but understanding that state of being is necessary. Each individual needs only to expand his/her consciousness in order to realize the already divine nature of the soul.
The speaker offers a dramatic approach to the Divine, beginning with the inspiring nature setting that offers the mind and heart the comforting environment in which to worship to realize," In me Thou art." The corresponding Christian expression is, "I and my Father are one."
Excerpt From "Too Near"
I stood in silence to worship Thee
In Thy temple grand—
With blue etheric dome,
Lighted by the spangling stars,
Shining with the lustrous moon,
Tapestried with golden clouds—
Where reigns no dogma loud. . . .
(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.)
According to yogic teachings, he Blessèd Creator has become many souls that reside in many hearts and minds. Each heart's highest duty is to realize its own divine nature.
First Movement: Worshiping Under the Sky
The speaker is addressing the Divine Belovèd, his Creator, or God. He describes his environment, revealing that he was standing in the Lord's temple, that is, under the open sky with its "blue etheric dome." The sky was lit by myriad, shining stars, the moon shone "lustrous," and "golden clouds" offered a "tapestried" effect.
The speaker labels this setting the Divine Reality's "temple grand." Thus, this natural setting becomes and affords the speaker an amazingly beautiful church, where he stands and worships the Blissful Spirit.
This natural church, "temple grand," is very different from a human-made building; this church offers no loud sermons featuring church dogma that often separates humanity into creeds and sects of various religious traditions.
Second Movement: The Begging Prayer
The speaker's heart's desire is to invite the Belovèd Lord to come to him. But after he had "prayed and cried," he reports that the Lord did not appear to him. The speaker then affirms that he will cease his waiting for the Lord. He will no longer cry and pray that the Lord come to him.
At first, these words seem sullen and surprising: how can the speaker simply give up calling on the Lord to come to him? Should he not cry and pray even more intensely? But the speaker has called his prayer "feeble," and now avers that he will no longer remain in waiting to hear the "[f]ootsteps" of the Divine.
Third Movement: Going Within
In the final couplet, the speaker reveals his reason for no longer offering those feeble prayers and waiting to hear the footsteps of his Divine Belovèd. Those "footsteps" can never be heard outwardly on the physical plane, because they exist only in the soul of the individual.
The Belovèd Creator has situated His essence in each individual soul; thus the speaker can aver that, "In me Thou art." In fact, the Lord is not only near the speaker at all times, he "too near."
The Lord exists eternally inside each of His created children, too near to be thought of as separate, too near to be considered a consciousness that must be attained. Because the Divine Creator exists "too near," His divine presence must only be realized.
No devotee ever needs to pray and cry that the Divine come to him/her, because each devotee already possesses that coveted Reality. All s/he needs to do is set his/her consciousness on the path that leads to the realization of that great, comforting truth, "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30 King James Version).
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.
© 2018 Linda Sue Grimes