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 "I Was Made for Thee"
The speaker of the poem, "I Was Made for Thee," from Songs of the Soul declares the spiritual truth as he addresses the Divine Belovèd: "I was made for Thee alone."
From that awareness, this devotee/speaker then demonstrates what it is like to be aware that his existence was actually called into being for the purpose of understanding that very fact. If then the speaker knows he was made for the Divine, how does that fact affect his behavior? Because he has been created only for the Divine, what will he do? How will he spend his time? These profound questions must necessarily require equally profound answers that can be elucidated only by a God-realized saint or guru.
Excerpt from Poem, "I Was Made for Thee"
I was made for Thee alone. I was made for dropping flowers of devotion gently at Thy feet on the altar of the morning.
My hands were made to serve Thee willingly; to remain folded in adoration, waiting for Thy coming; and when Thou comest, to bathe Thy feet with my tears.
My voice was made to sing Thy glory. . . .
(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.)
Paramahansa Yogananda's poem portrays the attitude of the spiritual aspirant who understands the spiritual goal of realizing the divine nature within each human being.
First Movement: A Sole Cosmic Purpose
In the first stanza, the speaker announces that because he was made for Spirit alone, he will meditate deeply offering his attention and love to Spirit, and he will do this every morning.
The speaker says, "on the altar / of the morning," indicating that he considers morning his temple. In addition to signaling time, "morning" represents a holy place that calls the devotee to begin his day drenched in the devotion and awareness of Divinity.
Second Movement: The Purpose of Each Physical Attribute
The second movement begins a catalogue or list of the speaker's physical attributes and declares the purpose for their creation: "My hands were made to serve Thee willingly; to / remain folded in adoration, waiting for Thy coming; and when Thou comest, to bathe Thy / feet with my tears."
When the speaker begins his daily work, because he realizes that his hands were made for working for the Divine, he will do his work "willingly." That willing attitude guarantees that the work will be done well, not just to get by and get finished so he can move on to other things. The speaker will actually work to accomplish his tasks with the integrity and the honesty that produce the best outcome for himself, his family, his neighbors, and his belovèd Lord.
And after the speaker accomplishes his work duties, he will return to the peace of meditation with hands "folded in adoration." Because the speaker is doing everything possible to remain in contact with the Divine, he stays alert and energized, ready to work again when the time is again right for work.
Third Movement: Singing in Divine Adoration
The speaker then declares, "My voice was made to sing Thy glory." Because the speaker believes that his voice was made to sing the glory of Divinity, then that understanding guarantees that he will speak only truth. And the speaker will sing and chant his love and adoration for his Belovèd Creator.
Fourth Movement: Seeking the Divine Everywhere
Because his feet are made to seek temples, the speaker will go only to wholesome places. The devoted speaker will seek out places where devotees have worshiped and continue to worship the Divine Belovèd.
Fifth Movement: Searching Out Only Beauty
About his eyes, the speaker claims: "My eyes were made a chalice to hold Thy burning / love and the wisdom falling from Thy nature's / hands." Because the speaker has perceived intuitively that his eyes were made for the glory of the Divine, he will observe only the useful things from Nature, "wisdom falling from Thy nature's hands."
Sixth Movement: Listening for the Divine Footsteps
About his ears, the speaker declares: "My ears were made to catch the music of Thy / footsteps echoing through the halls of space, and / to hear Thy divine melodies flowing through all / heart-tracts of devotion."
His ears will listen for the Divine's "footsteps echoing through the halls of space," and he will listen to "divine melodies," and hearing these messages from that Sacred source will keep him balanced and in harmony with his inner and outer being.
Seventh Movement: Living to Praise
About his lips, the speaker asserts: "My lips were made to breathe forth Thy praises and / Thine intoxicating inspirations." The speaker's lips will speak to praise the Great Spirit and tell others about the "intoxicating inspirations" he receives from the Divine.
This speaker will not bother with idle chatter that distracts from divine perception but will ever send forth inspirational words that uplift and point the way for others who are seeking the divine path of Self-Realization.
NOTE: Shift from the Concrete to the Abstract
While the opening seven movements focused on the physical level of each human being, the final three movements focus on the abstract realities of love, heart, and soul.
Eighth Movement: The Purpose of Love
The speaker's love was created to search for love of the Divine "hidden in the forest of my desires."
Desires that spring from the physical and mental, i.e. sense-awareness, are like a forest in which one can get lost, but knowing the true purpose for his love makes this speaker aware that his love is like an "incandescent / searchlight."
Ninth Movement: Communing Through the Heart
The speaker's heart beats not primarily to pump blood to keep him living, as the secular world's limited knowledge contends, but that heart was created to open its door to Divinity in conversation and communion.
This speaker understands that the spiritual plane of being is the only true reality; thus all human physicality and sense-awareness stem from the soul—not the other way around.
Tenth Movement: In Concert with True Nature
The speaker's soul was created to function as a messenger, to let other souls know their true purpose, so they too can live an exalted, dare one say, double life, or more accurately, a complete life.
According to this speaker's world view, if human beings understand their true nature, it stands to reason, that they will act in concert with that true nature.
If the human being's true nature is a spark of the Divine Flame, and the only purpose of living the life of a human is to become aware of that nature, it also stands to reason that each person will behave in concert with that reality: more devoutly, more divinely, even as they eat, sleep, work, breed, and die on the physical plane.
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.
"Behold, the Kingdom of God Is Within You"
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes
Linda Sue Grimes (author) from U.S.A. on September 07, 2017:
You're welcome, Glenis! And thanks for the kind words. Yes, this great guru/poet has penned some outstanding, inspiring poems that melt the heart, uplift the mind, and rouse the soul.
Have a beautiful, blessed day!
Glen Rix from UK on August 27, 2017:
Thanks for introducing me to this beautiful lyrical poem. It's breathtaking.