Paramahansa Yogananda's "When I Take the Vow of Silence" and "What Is Love?"

Updated on August 24, 2019
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Paramahansa Yogananda's works serve to enhance the activity of yoga meditation, leading each soul back to God-bliss in the Divine Reality.

Paramahansa Yogananda

"The Last Smile"
"The Last Smile" | Source

Introduction and Excerpt from "When I Take the Vow of Silence"

The great guru's "tak[ing] the vow of silence" refers to his leaving his physical body, an act called mahasamadhi for spiritually advanced yogis. He describes the beauty that he will be experiencing, in order to both temper the sadness the devotees will feel at his physical absence and also to remind them of what will be in store for them when they also "take [their] vow of silence."

This great inspiring poem works its magic on devotees who have come many decades after the period of time specific to the composition of this work. It allows those future followers a glimpse of what their beloved guru is experiencing after following a lifetime of yogic meditation and prayer.

Excerpt from "When I Take the Vow of Silence"

When I take the vow of silence
To remain enlocked with my Beloved
In the arms of His everywhereness,
I shall be busy listening to His symphony
Of creation's bliss songs, and beholding hidden wondrous visions.
Yet I shall not be oblivious of you all . . .

(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.)

Reading of "When I Take the Vow of Silence"


The speaker is a highly advanced soul, a great yogic guru, who is helping his immediate devotees adjust to life without his physical presence, as his impending departure from his physical encasement is imminent.

First Movement: No Dying for the Self-Realized

The great yogi lets his devotees know that after he "dies," he will be with the Divine Belovèd, Whom all are seeking. The yogi will be hearing the beautiful sounds of the "symphony / [o]f creation's bliss songs." He will also be viewing magnificent "visions" at his new locus in the cosmos.

Yet at the same time, the great avatar will be able to remain aware of each devotee and that devotee's progress to his/her own self-realization. The liberated guru will have taken on the same omnipresent forces of the Divine Mother and Blessed Heavenly Father.

Second Movement: Omnipresence of the Liberated Body

The speaker then describes his new body as it will have merged in the Great Creator. From that exalted place, he will be able to see his followers as they stroll across the "fresh grass-blades," which now he will cognize as part of his own body. United with the Divine Creative Essence, the great yogi will be able to remain aware of his devotees as he watches them with "mothering tenderness."

That mothering love may be detected in every beautiful flower that blooms through the love that God and Guru afford their aspirants. Loving and following the guidance of the Blessèd Lord and the Divine Guide of the Guru will bring the devotees to the awareness of their spiritual presence, regardless of where each may temporarily reside, on the physical, astral, or causal plane.

Third Movement: Essence in All Beautiful Things

The speaker avers that his essence will remain in all beautiful things that the earth has to offer. The gentle breezes that refresh the devotee's body will be like a "caress" from the great guru, if the devotee is capable of perceiving it.

The great yogi lets his devotees know that in those gentle breezes he will be caressing them specifically to "relieve [their] worries and fears." With the warmth of the sun, the great liberated yogi will be able to "enwrap" each devotee who is experiencing "the chill of delusive loneliness."

Gazing at the ocean, the devotee will be gazing directly at the guru. After his mahasamadhi, that great spiritual leader will remain in unity with the Divine Creator. The "silver rays" of the sky above the ocean will sing with the presence of that great yogi-soul.

Fourth Movement: Remembering God is Remembering the Guru

The speaker then describes how he will communicate with his devotees: he will speak to them only "through [their] reason." He will no longer "scold" them but will correct them "through [their] conscience." He will "persuade only through [their] love" and through the fact they too possess a "heart's longing to seek the Beloved only."

The great yogi continues his catalogue of ways he will continue to communicate with his devotees: he will continue to "tempt" them to "enjoy the Beloved's love alone." The speaker then makes a startling yet wondrously apropos remark, telling them to forget him if they wish, but do not forget "my Beloved." And when they continue to remember, adore, and worship the Divine Beloved, they will not be able to forget the great guru, who led them to the Blessed Creator.


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


Introduction and Excerpt: "What Is Love?"

Love is an all encompassing term, much more than a mere feeling or emotion. Love is the substance of spirituality and the basic foundation on which all other human qualities must rest. The speaker sets forth a thorough definition of "love" and its importance for advancement on the spiritual path.

Excerpt from "What Is Love?"

Love is the scent with the lotus born.
It is the silent choirs of petals
Singing the winter’s harmony of uniform beauty.
Love is the song of the soul, singing to God. . . .

(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 sets forth a thorough definition of "love" and its importance for advancement on the spiritual path.

First Movement: Beauty and Harmony

The speaker asserts that love may be compared to a fresh flower whose sent is pleasant and alluring. Love may also be likened to the many colorful and beautifully shaped "petals" that unfurl after the "harmony" of a winter's song has composed the "choirs" of beauty.

The speaker proclaims, "Love is the song of the soul, singing to God." Giving a brief nod to the title of his collection of poems, the speaker avers that music is from God and for God, when the human singer points his attention toward his Divine Creator.

This beautiful, divine song of God possesses a rhythm that accompanies the "dance of planets." The sun and the moon are made brilliant by the "Silent Will," which decorates the sky with "fleecy clouds." Love is like a thirsty rose that imbibes "the sun rays" and then displays a red blush pregnant "with life" upon its metaphorical cheek.

Love also may be understood as "the mother earth" nourishing her young; with her milk she feeds "the tender, thirsty roots." That earth mother "nurses all life." Love is especially akin to the sun whose "urge" is to sustain life in "all things."

Second Movement: A Protecting Parent

Unseen and unheard, this nurturing love from Divine Mother transforms itself into the "protecting father-form." The Graceful Mother is able to "feed [ ]" all "mouths / With milk of mother's tenderness."

Those young mouths serve as a motivating force that compels all human mothers and fathers to act as emissaries of the Divine Mother and Heavenly Father in nurturing them.

Third Movement: Enjoyment of All

The speaker asserts that the expansive concept of love includes the enjoyment of the entire "family rose of petal-beings." The one who would love will thus be able to move beyond the narrow walls of the human family, on to the wider social network of "national" and "international sympathy," and even beyond those earthly classifications.

Love will take the individual "[o]n to the limitless Cosmic Home," and this home is where all human beings crave to live. When the individual human heart is capable of enclosing all other human beings from his/her own family to the wider family of the cosmos, that individual will be capable of achieving the ultimate goal of truly knowing "what love is," and that individual will henceforth be able to live all the implications of such knowledge.

Fourth Movement: Call to Improvement

The speaker then describes love as "evolution's ameliorative call." Evolution, a concept widely misunderstood, is the process of improvement. Its opposite is "devolution," which the mindful human being seeks to avoid.

Improvement can only mean progressing toward total God-awareness or "self-realization." Love is the human emotion that rightly employed helps guide the erring being to the right path. The "far-strayed sons" will be able to "return to perfection's home" through the agency of love.

The "beauty-robed ones" who follow the guidance of divine love "worship the great Beauty," or the Divine Creator. The speaker states plainly that, "love" is the "call of God"—and that call comes through "silent intelligences" and "starbursts of feelings." The striving individual is guided through unspoken guideposts and even at times by glowing emotion that explodes forth in fantastic abandon.

Fifth Movement: The Pathway to Perfection

The final movement has the speaker making a marvelous statement: that all of creation, including each human being, is moving toward that "Heaven" to which "Love" leads. In this statement, the speaker alludes to a comment once made by Sri Yukteswar, that there are only two classes of people: those who are seeking God and those who are not.

The creatures who are "rushing by the straight path of action right" belong to the first class, while those "wondering laboriously on error's path" belong to second. But the final beauty and ultimate saving grace for both classes is that, "All [will] reach" that "Heaven" eventually. It will just take some longer than others.


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."

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Linda Sue Grimes


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