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Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Where I Am"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda

Introduction and Excerpt from "Where I Am"

In Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “Where I Am,” from his classic spiritual poetry collection, Songs of the Soul, the Speaker of the poem is the Blessed, Divine Creator or God. And in this poem, God tells His listener exactly where He is. God is in the soul of each individual because each human being is a unique expression, or spark, or the Divine Creator. One need not acquire union with the Divine Beloved, but one does have to learn to realize that fact.

Excerpt from "Where I Am"

Not the lordly domes on high
With tall heads daring clouds and sky,
Nor shining alabaster floors,
Nor the rich organ’s awesome roar,
Nor rainbow windows' beauty quaint —
Colossal chronicle told in paint —
Nor pure-dressed children of the choir,
Nor well-planned sermon,
Nor loud-tongued prayer
Can call Me There. . . .

(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.)

Commentary

As in the other poems in Songs of the Soul, in “Where I Am,” the great yogi/poet, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, is dramatizing the spiritual journey. Those poems uplift the mind and direct it toward the Divine Reality or God.

First Movement: Not Drawn by Ornate Beauty

The poem opens with the Divine Beloved describing the ornate beauties of a cathedral that will not necessarily draw His presence. Despite the ornate beauty and grandeur of this cathedral, the Speaker says He will not come there drawn by this material beauty alone.

Then after listing a catalogue of other items that make clear He is describing a majestic church, the Speaker says He will not be summoned by polished sermons and high-toned pleas.

Second Movement: Beautiful but Physical Buildings too Small

The Divine Beloved reports that He will not enter a "richly carven door" through with only vanity and pride have entered. He will, however, come unseen and unrealized. The fancy features that offers only outward allure remain too small for "My large, large body."

The Beloved Lord cannot be tempted by physical beauty alone. All the marble and polished altars in the world cannot bring the Divine Presence if the soul is not tuned to His essence.

Third Movement: Only Attracted by the Soul

The celestial Speaker shows a clear preference for the simplicity of nature: “On grassy altar small— / There I have My nook.” Even ruined temples and a “little place unseen” are preferable if “A humble magnet call” of the devotee’s soul attracts Him.

The final versagraph reveals the place where God always wants to “rest and lean”: in the heart of the true seeker who is “A sacred heart / Tear-washed and true.” Such a heart draws “Me with its rue.”

The Speaker tells us that He takes no bribes—strength, wealth, beautiful, expensive cathedrals, and well-rehearsed ceremonies cannot lure God, unless they are accompanied by the deep desire for truth.

Examining One's Life

The great ancient Greek philosopher/teacher Socrates said that the unexamined life is not worth living. The nineteenth century American poet/essayist/thinker Henry David Thoreau went to Walden Pond so he could live deliberately.

Both men of deep thought are telling us that this life has meaning and purpose. They believed that living a proper life means more than going through the motions of a daily grind without stopping to muse about the meaning that grind has for each of us.

The result of this idea—of examining our lives with deliberation—leads one to a path of spirituality. Spirituality motivates the human being to seek not only physical needs but also the needs of the mind and of the soul. Our spirituality compels us to commit to a life that allows us to flourish as we seek to understand all the mysteries that life places before us.

The question regarding the location of "God" finds the human mind's lack of imagination a culprit in its failure to offer a satisfying answer. The great guru Paramahansa Yogananda's direct yet simple answer to that question offers all of humankind a balm.

Guiding the Imagination Challenged of the World

Unlike the great worldly thinkers of the planet, however, the great guru is able to dramatize God's location for the stumbling eyeless of the world. His vision far exceeds that of such philosophers as Thoreau or Socrates because as an avatar he possesses true wisdom, being united with God in soul.

In Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem “Where I Am,” God tells us where He is: in the “sacred heart / Tear-washed and true,” and “the distant broken heart / Doth draw Me, e’en to heathen lands: / And My help in silence I impart.”

A spiritual classic

A spiritual classic

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© 2019 Linda Sue Grimes