Paramahansa Yogananda's poems serve to deepen yoga meditation, offering devotees new ways of grasping the spiritual nature of all things.
Introduction and Excerpt From "Flower Offering"
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Flower Offering" from Songs of the Soul, the humble speaker is offering his worshipful thoughts that he calls flowers to his Divine Creator.
This speaker is a devoted worshipper who is demonstrating his understanding that he is eternally united with he Belovèd Creator, despite his level of attainment at any stage of his worship. This speaker reveals the expansive nature of the Divine Creator by metaphorically comparing the Divine Reality to the expanding lotus flower as it opens.
Excerpt From "Flower Offering"
A goblet of my folly-blood
Is humbly set beneath Thy petaled feet,
O, Lotus Sweet!
I've stood with brimming cup of tears,
Seeking Thine angry thirst to quench. . . .
(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 of "Flower Offering," from Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soul, demonstrates the power of making a humble offering at the feet of the Divine Creator.
First Movement: Worshipful Devotion
The speaker is a devotee (chela) offering worshipful devotion to his Divine Creator. The humble speaker offers himself humbly at the feet of the Divine, referring to himself as "a goblet of my folly-blood." To the devout chela, worshiping at the feet of the Divine is a privilege and a comfort. While stationed "beneath [Those] petaled feet," the devotee calls his Lord "Lotus Sweet."
The lotus flower symbolizes grandeur rising from humility. The Great Creator as a lotus creates in his offspring the same qualities. The devotee assumes the humble qualities, however, without acknowledging that such qualities herald a grand stature. The child and Child-Creator are one. Thus in the reality of this metaphor the worshiper and the Worshiped are both divine flowers.
Second Movement: The Metaphor of Cup and Flower
The speaker reveals that he has come to the Divine with his eyes filled with "tears," continuing the metaphor of cup and flower. The "cup of tears" from the goblet body of the devotee is a sincere offering to the Divine. The speaker tells his Divine Beloved that with his tears he has sought to slake the "angry thirst" of the Divine.
God is a jealous God, who hungers and thirsts for his children to love Him. The Creator Divine does not command them to love; He only nudges them, tempts them, lures them with thus and sundry methods. Even when bad things happen in the child’s life, the Divine is behind it, prodding and praying that the child will turn to his or her only real hope, his or her Divine Source.
Third Movement: Worshipful Offerings
The speaker then catalogues the offerings that he has brought to the Divine to accompany his worship: He has brought many colored flowers with many fragrances. The chela/devotee has brought deep devotion from his "heart of hearts." He has brought his constant longing and ever evolving worship to lay at the feet of the Divine.
All of these offerings are consecrated by the speaker/devotee’s ever burning desire to please, to make peace with, and unite with his Divine Beloved Creator. The goal of the devotee's "heart of hearts" has ever been that unity.
Fourth Movement: A Silent Song in the Heart
The speaker then avers that within him, deep within that "heart of hearts," he carries a "silent song." That song gathers all the other offerings into itself to form the bouquet of beauty, devotion, and love that the speaker cultivates for the Divine.
The song is silent to all but the Divine. The Divine Creator of all vibration can hear that song that broadcasts from the true devotee’s heart. The speaker brings that song to the Divine to humbly worship at the Lotus Feet.
Fifth Movement: Continuing to Send Out His Silent Song
At first, it may seem that the Divine Beloved does not respond to the devotee’s worship. His sincere heart song seems to go unnoticed. But the true devotee does not give up. The sincere worshiper goes on broadcasting that "silent song," knowing that the Divine Ear hears it, knowing through faith, that the Divine will answer back with a special song in due time.
The speaker does not know when the Divine will answer—just that in His own good time, He will. Thus, the speaker vows to go on crying and praying to his Beloved. Even if the speaker has to leave off sleep, as a true devotee, he will continue to bring his flowers of love and "lay [them] there," at the feet of the Divine Beloved.
Alternate Closing Movement: Simply Wishing to Worship
Paramahansa Yogananda offered an alternate closing movement to this poem. It essentially restates the sentiment of the final movement in, perhaps, clearer terms. The speaker avers that he is not asking the Divine for anything; he simply wishes to worship.
The humble speaker will simply and quietly offer his silent song filled with the beauty of devotion and the fragrance of flowers to the Divine. The speaker will continue on with his worship, expecting nothing in return, for he knows that the Divine has already endowed him with everything he will ever need.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.
Beholding the One in All
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes