Paramahansa Yogananda's "Vanishing Bubbles" - Owlcation - Education
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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Vanishing Bubbles"

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 "Vanishing Bubbles"

Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Vanishing Bubbles" from Songs of the Soul features five variously rimed stanzas. The irregularity of the rime-scheme correlates perfectly with the theme of coming and going, appearing and disappearing, existing and then vanishing. Also the frequent employment of slant-rime and near-time support that main theme as well.

The poem's theme dramatizes the evanescence of worldly objects under the spell of maya, and the speaker expresses a desire to understand where these things come from and where they go after they seem to disappear. This age-old conundrum of life remains a pervasive feature of every human mind—born into a fascinating yet dangerous world, seeking to understand, survive, and enjoy.

(Please note: The spelling, "rhyme," was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

The following first and second stanzas are excerpted from the marvelous, revealing poem, "Vanishing Bubbles":

Excerpt from "Vanishing Bubbles"

Many unknown bubbles float and flow,
Many ripples dance by me
And melt away in the sea.
I yearn to know, ah, whence they come and whither go—

The rain drops and dies,
My thoughts play wild and vanish quick,
The red clouds melt into the skies;
I stake my purse, I'll slave all life, their motive still to seek.

(Please note: The poem in its entirety along with 100 other spiritually inspired verses appear in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)


As all deep thinking philosophers and sages have determined, the things of this world are like bubbles in the ocean; they mysteriously appear, prance around only for a brief moment, and then are gone as swiftly as they appeared.

The speaker of this spiritual poem is dramatizing that brief sojourn, but he also reveals the solution for the human mind and heart that continue to grieve for the loss of the natural phenomena that have vanished like bubbles.

First Stanza: Coming and Going in the Mayic Drama

Many unknown bubbles float and flow,
Many ripples dance by me
And melt away in the sea.
I yearn to know, ah, whence they come and whither go—

In the first stanza, the speaker states that many things come and go, and he would like to know both where they come from and to where they vanish. The speaker metaphorically compares these worldly objects to "bubbles," indicating that their existence is tenuous, ephemeral, and that they are in reality only temporary appearances on the screen of life. The bubbles remain "unknown," for they seem to appear as if by magic. The observer cannot determine how, where, or why they so magically appear.

The speaker continues to describe the bubbles as things that, "dance with me / And melt away into the sea." The waves of the sea that cause little watery bubbles to bounce around the swimmer serve as a useful metaphor for all the worldly things that are passing through a fragile existence on their way to who knows where. By extension, the observer may also think of every physical object in existence as a magical production because the observer/thinker cannot think his way to the origin of all those bubble-like things.

Even each human life may be compared to a vanishing bubble; from the time of birth to the moment of death, the exact locus of the human soul cannot be understood with the human brain. Thus all of human existence along with the things that humans experience, including the grandest scale items of mountain, stars, universes, may be metaphorically expressed as vanishing bubbles.

Second Stanza: The Evanescence of Natural Phenomena

The rain drops and dies,
My thoughts play wild and vanish quick,
The red clouds melt into the skies;
I stake my purse, I'll slave all life, their motive still to seek.

The speaker then reports that rain drops appear and die away as quickly as they approached, noting again another natural phenomenon that comes quickly and leaves just as quickly. But then the speaker adds that his thoughts also come and go with great speed. As if with the rain, the speaker’s thoughts arrive and then flee. The nature of thought adds to the mystery of all things; while there are physical, seemingly concrete items one perceived as reality, there is also the subtle, abstract realm where thoughts, feelings, ideas, and notions of all kinds appear and disappear and seem to possess an equal portion of reality.

Again, making his observation as concrete as possible, the speaker then reports that, "red clouds" seem to dissolve into the skyey surrounding; the rain vanishes and the cloud vanishes, leaving the speaker to desire ever so strongly to know the why and wherefore of such actions. As the human mind takes in the drama of its physical surroundings, it not only observes the actions but begins to wonder about the nature of those things, where they come from, where they are doing, and for what purpose. And as wishes, desires, and feelings intrude upon the scene, the speaker becomes even more determined to understand the drama which he is observing.

Most human beings, especially those with a contemplative penchant, at some point in their lives feel that they would give all their hard-earned wealth just to understand some of the mysteries that continue to play in their lives. The human heart and mind especially yearn to understand why suffering and pain must play such a large part in the drama of life. And the "vanishing bubble" metaphor yields a deep metaphoric meaning for those hearts and minds that have suffered great loss in life. But just as the mind cannot answer to what it losses, it cannot answer from what it has gained. Winning and losing become part of the same coin tossed by the sea of life with all of the vanishing bubbles.

Just so, the speaker thus vows to "stake [his] purse" and "slave all [of his] life" to find out why these things behave as they do. The difference between this dramatic speaker and the average human observer is the intensity with which the former craves such knowledge. The speaker would give all his wealth, and in addition, he will work—even "slave"—all his life to know the secrets behind all of these mysterious bubbles.

Third Stanza: The Intense Desire to Know

The speaker then notes that even some of his friends have vanished, but he asserts that he knows he still has their love. He, thus, is imparting the knowledge that the unseen is the part of creation that does not vanish. The physical bodies of his friends must undergo the vanishing act, but their love does not, because love is entrenched in the immortality of the soul.

As the speaker broaches the spiritual concepts, including love, he begins to point to the reality of existence where things do not behave as vanishing bubbles. He supports that great claim that love is immortal, and although his friends have, as bubbles do, appeared and then disappeared behind that seemingly impenetrable screen, that love that he harbored for them and they for him cannot disappear and cannot behave bubble-like.

The speaker then avers that his "dearest thoughts" also can never be lost. He then points out that the "night’s surest stars" that were "seen just above" have all "fled." Objects as huge and bright as stars come and go, but his own thoughts and love do not. He has thus reported that it is the concrete things that seem to come and go, while the abstract is capable of remaining.

Fourth Stanza: All Matter of Sense-Appealing Nature

In the fourth stanza, the speaker offers to the eye and ear a list of nature’s creatures, such as lilies, linnets, other blooming flowers with sweet aromas, and bees that are "honey-mad." These lovely features of nature once appeared on the scene under shady trees, but now only empty fields are left on the scene. As the little wavelets and rain and the stars appeared and then vanished, so did these other phenomena.

The speaker chooses those natural features that life offers in order to report beauty. Flowers along with their scent appeal to both eye and nose. It is, of course, the senses that are piqued by those natural features, and the human mind, like the "honey-mad" bee becomes attached to the things of the world. By pointing out the fact that all life's phenomena appear and then disappear, the speaker, at the same time, is pointing out that it is the spiritual aspect of life that remains eternally. While the scent of the flower along with their beauty will grace the vision and sense of smell briefly, love and beautiful thoughts may grace the mind and soul eternally for they are the features that retain the ability to remain.

Fifth Stanza: Evanescent Images of Entertainment

The speaker again refers to the evanescent images of "bubbles, lilies, friends, dramatic thoughts." He then reports that they play "their parts" while they "entertain." The speaker then dramatically proclaims that after they vanish, they exist only "behind the cosmic screen." They do not cease to exist, however; they merely change "their displayed coats."

Instead of the physical world's mayic drama of sight and sound, these once worldly presences become "quiet" for they are "concealed." But the important, uplifting thought that accompanies the spiritual reality of all phenomena is that they do not truly vanish; they "remain." The scientific law of the conservation of energy, as well as the spiritual law of immortality, proclaim their eternal existence.

Again, the speaker has demonstrated that nothing that exists ever, in fact, ceased to exist. The vanishing of things is just the delusion of maya. Thus because of the great desire to retain all those beautiful features of life, the human mind becomes attracted to and attached to only the acts that lead to true understanding beyond the reach of maya.

Law of Conservation of Energy

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."

Awake in the Cosmic Dream

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes