Updated date:

Paramahansa Yogananda's "When I Am Only a Dream"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Writing his Autobiography of a Yogi at Encinitas

Writing his Autobiography of a Yogi at Encinitas

Introduction and Excerpt from "When I Am Only a Dream"

In the early 1950s in the United States of America (U.S.A.), when the great guru (spiritual leader) Paramahansa Yogananda was nearing the end of his earthly incarnation, he prepared his close followers—the monks and nuns of Self-Realization Fellowship—for life without his physical presence. He understood that many of them would feel disheartened and would miss his loving guidance, but he counseled them with comforting words and invaluable instructions for continuing his organization, as well as for directing their own lives.

The poem, "When I Am Only a Dream" from Songs of the Soul, is part of the enduring legacy that the great guru knew he was leaving behind with his organization, as well as a representation of the advice and solace he offered, and continues to offer, to all of his followers.

Excerpt from "When I Am Only a Dream"

I come to tell you all of Him,
And the way to encase Him in your bosom,
And of the discipline that brings His grace.
Those of you who have asked me
To guide you to my Beloved’s presence —
I warn you though my silently talking mind,
Or speak to you through a gentle significant glance,
Or whisper to you through my love,
Or loudly dissuade you when you stray away from Him. . . .

(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.)

Sri Daya Ma Reading "When I am Only a Dream"


Paramahansa Yogananda's "When I Am Only a Dream" offers all devoted disciples the reassurance and comfort that the guru is always guiding and guarding them.

First Movement: Unique Purpose

The guru avers that his only reason for coming to them was to inform them about the nature of the Divine Beloved and how they, like the guru himself, are capable of realizing That Divine Presence. Guruji then reminds them that achieving Divine Realization requires "the discipline that brings His grace." The guru comes to the disciple to deliver discipline. The word "disciple" indicates one who is following a certain "discipline." And Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual discipline offers the way to Divine-Realization, that is, union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul.

Guruji shows that only those who "have asked" for the discipline can receive it, but once they ask, then he is compelled to offer his discipline; therefore, for those who have asked him "to guide [them] to my Beloved’s presence," he will do so, as he has done by warning them when they made mistakes. Other ways in which he has used his disciplinary methods were in offering gentle glances, whispers of love, or even persuading them to abandon ways to would lead them in the opposite direction from their goal. So those who were privileged to have lived and served in the ashram at the time of Guruji’s incarnation were able, at times, to receive his loving guidance directly—no wonder they might feel bereft at his permanent physical parting from them.

Second Movement: The Guidance Continues

However, after the guru’s soul departs from its physical encasement, that is, "when [he] [is] only a memory, or a mental image" in the minds of the disciples, they will not be able to rely on his constant urgings in the same physical way. He admits that after he leaves his earthly shell, this disciples will no longer be able to summon him from his home in "unplumbed space." But the guru has promised to guide the disciple always even when the two are not on the same plane of existence. The guru’s advanced consciousness affords him the ability to continue to direct and to guide the discipline of the disciple, who follows his teachings with loving care. Thus Guruji avers, "I will smile in your mind when you are right, / And when you are wrong I will weep through my eyes."

The great spiritual leader will also appeal to each devotee through the devotee's conscience. He will assists the devotee's reasoning employing their own ability to reason, and he will continue to offer love their the love of the devotee. Such promises are ironclad, and all the disciple has to do is to continue with attention and reverence to study the methods and practice the meditation techniques that the guru has freely given.

Third Movement: Advice from the Belovèd Guru

Guruji then becomes very specific in his directions for activities after he has gone; he tells his followers to read his book of prayer/poems, Whispers from Eternity. Through this book of metaphysical, mystical writings, the guru will talk to the disciple "eternally."

Then he becomes ethereal again, promising to walk beside each devotee while guiding them with "invisible arms." The disciple will find such comfort from these lines, knowing that the guru is, in fact, a guardian angel, who guides and protects each one of them even from the heavenly realm.

Such reassurance is beyond the power of the tongue to describe; it is a commanding exercise in faith that the guru gives the disciple who must remain in this material world. The absolute confidence that spiritual strength is much stronger than physical, or even mental, strength offers peace that comes from no other source.

Fourth Movement: The Magnificent Promise

The great guru finally reasserts the magnificent promise that underscores his very reason for serving; he affirms that after the disciple has succeeded in uniting his/her own soul with the Divine—that is, has at last achieved self-realization—"You will know me again more tangibly than you knew me on this earth plane."

Even from the place that seems unreal as in a dream, the guru will be able to guide the disciple to the remembrance that they both are but dreams. And when the disciples realize their own dream state, they will, just as the guru has done, awaken and find themselves embraced in the arms of the Divine.

© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes


Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on July 24, 2019:

Thank you, Pat! Nice to hear from you again.

The poems of this spiritual leader are marvelous gems that can inspire anyone's journey on the spiritual path. His poems are not ordinary poems that traditionally dramatize human emotion; he wrote them to be inspirational for the devoted followers of his teachings. And as those poems serve his followers, they can also serve anyone who has an open heart and mind. His poems are indeed "soul songs."

Welcoming the angels! And blessings to you.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on July 24, 2019:

So much detailed information that I am marking this to come back to reread. Very in depth coverage of this topic Angels are headed your way this evening ps