Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all creation.
Introduction and Excerpt From "When Will He Come?"
Perhaps today is not going well, and you feel indifferent about your work and your progress. You might begin to think about how you have not been giving enough time and effort to your spiritual progress. You might then begin to feel deeply depressed and begin to judge your motives harshly. And finally you decide that you do not deserve to reach your spiritual goals because of your laxity. You realize that days have gone by, and you have taken care of every detail of your life, but you have neglected your soul. You have veered off your spiritual path and are dallying in the ditch of delusion. Of course, you know what the problem is and you know how to solve it, so you turn back to your spiritual studies.
You pick a spiritual poem to uplift your thinking. What better poem than the one that answers your immediate question, "When Will He Come?" from Songs of the Soul by the great spiritual poet Paramahansa Yogananda! This poem contains the exact message that you need right now: "Even if you are the sinner of sinners, / Still, if you never stop calling Him deeply / In the temple of unceasing love, / Then He will come." The poem uplifts you because it simply reminds you to get out of that ditch and back on the road to your goal. You have thought you could not continue, and you have become convinced that Spirit will never come to you, but the inspired spiritual poet’s metaphors dramatically tweak your thoughts back to your goal.
Excerpt From "When Will He Come?"
When every heart’s desire pales
Before the brilliancy of the ever-leaping flames of God-love,
Then He will come.
When, in expectation of His coming,
You are ever ready
To fearlessly, grieflessly, joyously
Burn the faggots of all desires
In the fireplace of life,
That you may protect Him from your freezing inn indifference,
Then He will come. . . .
(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.)
These seven stanzas work to uplift the devotee's lagging mood and urge it on to greater effort on the path to soul-realization.
First Stanza: Spirit, an All-Consuming Flame
Every human heart and mind finds itself needing and wanting a myriad of things of this world. Those things are both tangible or material and intangible or spiritual. Even those who are not spiritually inclined, the mind still craves nourishment such as is offered through studying and learning. The impulse to read widely comes from a hungry mind that wishes to know more about the world we live in.
Along the way, however, as these hearts and minds continue to gather the things of this world, they may suddenly realize that none of those things has the power to make them truly and lastingly happy or even offer a modicum of permanent comfort and joy. It is at this point most folks are introduced to the value of a spiritual life: that only the Divine Belovèd can offer everything that the physical, material world cannot.
All of the accumulated desires will eventually lead only dullness and suffering. However, in the first stanza of this poem, devotees are reminded that Spirit’s love is great like "ever-leaping flames." Such "brilliancy" they must realize will cause every desire of the human heart to pale in comparison. And all they have to do is keep their attention and concentration on their spiritual routine on the path. A devotee may wonder how s/he could have ever given in to doubt, and yet s/he has read only the opening stanza.
Second Stanza: A Temporary Spacing
The second stanza continues to remind devotee of their own role in finding Spirit, in getting this blessing to come to them: those little pale desires amount to a "freezing inner indifference" that all devotees must burn "fearlessly, grieflessly, joyously" in the "fireplace of life." Of course, devotees already know this is true, but they sometimes do temporarily forget. Thus, the purpose of these uplifting, spiritually forward-thrusting poems can be fulfilled as the devotee continues to live in their message and be guided by their wisdom.
Daily life becomes routine, and as the initial enthusiasm over beginning a spiritual path wanes, the devotee may find herself in this period of spiritual dryness. Devotees are urged to continue by reading and rereading their spiritual works and most importantly to continue with their spiritual routines including meditation and prayer. The speaker of this poem continues to cast the contrast between "desire" and the marvelous achievement to be possessed after quieting desire that continues to eat away at one's soul.
Third Stanza: Constancy Assures His Ultimate Arrival
Stanza three continues to remind devotees: When Spirit is certain of the devotee's utmost attention, when the Divine Belovèd knows that the devotee will ever keep her/his mind focused on soul, when nothing else can claim the steadfast heart of the devotee who gives total devotion to his/her spiritual life, "Then He will come."
It does seem somewhat puzzling that the human heart and mind does not seem to learn that half-heartedly doing anything, whether physically or spiritually oriented, is bound to lead to failure. If one is studying to become a lawyer, half-hearted attention to one's studies will not result in success, and obviously that fact is operative in every endeavor. The same applies to the spiritual path: one must remain on the path with attention focused on the goal in order to succeed.
Fourth Stanza: Ignoring the Hopeless for the Hopeful
But even though the devotees may mentally take in these ideas, seekers may still feel easily oppressed by life, may still become moody and feel powerless, and thus may wonder if they can really change enough so that Spirit will come to them and remain permanently.
The demand is quite simple, yet often not so easy to accomplish. But devotees have been assured by the great guru that they can accomplish their spiritual goal, if they continue to love God, stick to the path, and serve willingly in any capacity for which they have an aptitude.
Fifth Stanza: Concentrating the Mind on the Goal
But the mind is stubborn and will fight against the devotee's best effort, telling him/her that it does not matter how much hope the individual entertains, the devotee will remain weak and therefore undeserving of Spirit. Paramahansa Yogananda insists that
if the devotee switches his thoughts from failure to success and believes strongly that the Lord is on His way to the devotee, then the Divine will, in fact, appear to the striving devotee.
Yes, a great solace is remembering the power of the soul. Greater than the body that changes daily and the mind that flits every which way is the soul that is ever united with Spirit already. All each individual has to do is get out of that ditch and continue on down his/her path and refuse to listen to the opposition, i.e., the Devil or Satan, that would keep the devotee's mind earthbound committed to the rounds of karma and reincarnation.
Sixth Stanza: When Nothing Else Can Claim the Mind and Heart
Then, the great leader instructs that wandering mind: "When He shall be sure nothing else can claim you, / Then He will come." Again and again, the guru continues to remind the wandering mind and soul of his followers to keep focused on the goal, do not let trivia block you from your Divine Beloved.
When the Divine Goal is all that remains in the concentrated mind of the devotee, that devotee can be assured of success. But each individual must remember the Creator expects the devotee to be mindful that nothing else must claim his/her attention. The devotee must put his/her whole heart and mind into the studies and devotions to reap the benefits.
Seventh Stanza: The Sinner Becomes the Seeker
The great guru then assures his devotee that even the greatest of sinners can gain heaven, simply by abandoning his/her indifferent ways and by continuing to rely upon the Divine Reality. The sinner must not think of himself as a sinner but as one who is a seeker of the Divine Creator.
The former sinner must keep calling on the Divine Beloved, taking the beloved name again and again, chanting love for the Only Reality. And after diving into this inspired song of the soul written just for the devotees by this great Spirit-illumined poet, they are prepared to enter again that "temple of unceasing love" where they will be ready to greet Him when He comes.
The sentiment and guidance of the poems in Songs of the Soul are there for the devotee: regardless of how downtrodden each individual may feel, whether tormented by trials and tribulations, tested by karmic factors, no matter how fearful, if the practicing devotee remains steadfastly on the path, and if the devotee keeps hope alive in his/her heart, the Divine Beloved is sure to come into one's life.
The reassurance that calming the dogs of desire can be of helpful assistance as one travels that path to spirit is offered repeatedly in these poems. They help one return again and again to the traits that one needs for soul-realization, which includes the coming of the Divine into one's consciousness.
The great guru is not instructing his devoted followers to ignore their material duties. He states often that one must take care of the body and mind as well as the soul and must perform those duties that involve family. The devotee who shirks familial responsibilities is also likely to shirk his/her spiritual duties. The key is to find balance, to perform one's material duties with full attention and then as soon as those duties are completed to return the mind to the spiritual goal. These poems shine a light on how to live in this world and yet not become so attached to the things of this world that such attachment interferes with spiritual goals.
© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes