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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Mystery"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda - "The Last Smile"

Paramahansa Yogananda - "The Last Smile"

Introduction and Text of "Mystery"

Paramahansa Yogananda’s speaker yearns to find answers to his questions regarding his existence on this material, earthly plane. This speaker represents all minds that are hungry for answers to the deep questions over which philosophers have struggled for eons: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? Where do I go after death? No drama can ever answer those questions in six stanzas, but such a drama can offer a clue as to where such an inquiring mind might start its research.

Mystery

Burst, inky cloud, do burst;
Fling open thy fathomless gloom!
In thy dark chamber must
A million mysteries loom.

Heartless, staring sky!
Make quick reply
To aching query of my straining eye;
Show what thou hidest, and why.

The ceaseless surging thoughts
Go mocking, dancing by,
I long to know their lot.

Someone did throw me free
To battle all alone in this rough sea.
Rudderless I drift; stranded on shoals,
My boat I could not shift.

I’ll burst the clouds, I'll clean the shoals;
I'll rip the sky in twain,
I'll break my heart,
With question crush my brain.
I'll ask and pray,
Will beg or steal,
To find the friends long stolen away —
To know their woe or weal.

This wondrous day.
Stage set for play
By Unseen Hand;
The players drop
From no-man's land,
Then vanish away.
With changing scenes of birth and death.
The drama's on
The actors play anon.
Yet know not why they play
This glorious day.

Commentary

Metaphorically comparing the mysterious cosmos to "inky cloud," "staring sky," and "rough sea," this mentally curious speaker continues to question that great mystery in order to pursue his goal of complete and final understanding.

First Stanza: Commanding the Cloud

Burst, inky cloud, do burst;
Fling open thy fathomless gloom!
In thy dark chamber must
A million mysteries loom.

The speaker commands a dark cloud to "burst" and dissipate the gloom that its dark mystery has wrought. This metaphorical cloud represents the great mystery that is the universe into which each human being is born. The speaker further commands the "inky cloud" to open its gloom wide to make it understandable. This speaker represents all of the striving thinkers who are seeking to unlock the secrets of the universe that baffle all human minds. This speaker will further demonstrate his passionate desire to find answers to questions about the human condition that most people ignore while seeking sense gratification.

By identifying his surroundings as a great mystery, the speaker sets the stage for the many probing questions that might assist the thinking individual in searching for ultimate answers. While most of humanity’s individuals are engaged in a battle for the simple act of continuing to live, they find themselves bound to a body of senses that often deceive them about their own surroundings. Those deceptive senses remain the culprits who tell those minds that all things simply equal a mystery, and too many continue to live only by the delusional information provided by those unreliable senses.

Fortunately for humanity, many thinkers like the one in this poem have glimpsed perceptions that tell them that there is more to life than meets the eye and other senses. And those glimpses result in the questions that lead the curious mind to pose further vital questions leading to a serious search for ultimate answers.

Second Stanza: Commanding the Sky

Heartless, staring sky!
Make quick reply
To aching query of my straining eye;
Show what thou hidest, and why

The speaker is addressing the sky—calling it "heartless" and "staring." He commands the sky to answer his "aching query." This searching speaker is "straining" his eye to see what the sky is hiding. Furthermore, this speaker seeks to understand why the sky is hiding its secrets. This speaker is not content to simply look at the blue vault and wonder what might lie beyond its vastness; he demands answers to his questions, and he wants them now. The sky, as did the cloud in the opening stanza, functions as a metaphor for all physical phenomena—the society of humankind, planets, stars, the world, the universe, the cosmos—all of creation with its many "mysteries."

Any one feature of the created universe may serve to represent the entirety. But the "sky" or even a cloud appropriately represent the whole entity, working as a universal feature. As the human eye peers upward, it can detect no end to the sky. One thus suspects that whatever is beyond the sky will remain a mystery to the limited human senses. Listening to the music of the spheres, the human ear finds itself in the same conundrum as the eye, wondering what music might be playing beyond those spheres. As the mystery continues, so must the inquiry.

Third Stanza: Prancing Thoughts

The ceaseless surging thoughts
Go mocking, dancing by,
I long to know their lot.

The speaker declares that the many thoughts that enter his brain seem to mock him as they go "dancing by." Those prancing thoughts seem to know things that he can only wonder about, and he aches "to know their lot." The speaker finds that his own thoughts seem to pulsate even as he becomes aware that there are so many things he does not know. His lack of knowledge seems to mock his efforts. He knows he does not know so many things, but whatever is hiding that knowledge seems suspiciously capable of keeping those answers locked behind that great mastery. But the speaker will continue to knock at the door of the mystery until it opens.

Fourth Stanza: A Sea of Troubles

Someone did throw me free
To battle all alone in this rough sea.
Rudderless I drift; stranded on shoals,
My boat I could not shift.


The speaker describes how alone and without direction he feels, having been thrown here where he must constantly battle what seems to be a sea of troubles. The speaker's metaphor shifts to an ocean on which he drifts "rudderless" and "stranded on shoals." He feels as if he were in a boat over which he has no control. Again, the speaker offers a useful metaphor of the "sea" on which he must contend as he moves through his life. Readers can easily identify with the notion of their life moving seemingly in an uncontrollable vehicle. Thus, continued questioning and seeking become the only active responses to such a lot.

Fifth Stanza: Motivation to Understand

I’ll burst the clouds, I'll clean the shoals;
I'll rip the sky in twain,
I'll break my heart,
With question crush my brain.
I'll ask and pray,
Will beg or steal,
To find the friends long stolen away —
To know their woe or weal.

The speaker then proclaims his intentions, arising from his strong desire to understand his lot, to do everything necessary to alleviate his burden of unknowing. That "inky cloud" that mystified him has motivated him to "burst the clouds." That "heartless, staring sky" he will "rip" "in twain." And that rough sea, he will "clear the shoals." Further, in his determination to understand, he will "break [his] heart" and "with questions crush [his] brain."

This determined speaker will "ask and pray" and "beg or steal" to find those "friends long stolen away. This ardent speaker craves the knowledge of what happens to loved ones who have died. By identifying the question of what happens after death, the speaker has chosen the most baffling and most heart-rending of conundrums that the mystifying universe places before humankind’s mental processes.

Sixth Stanza: Like an Actor on a Stage

This wondrous day.
Stage set for play
By Unseen Hand;
The players drop
From no-man's land,
Then vanish away.
With changing scenes of birth and death.
The drama's on
The actors play anon.
Yet know not why they play
This glorious day.

The speaker concludes by likening the life of the human being to an actor on a stage. The day may be "wondrous" and even "glorious," but so many of the actors who have not sensed the "Unseen Hand" remain "actors . . . anon" and "know not why they play." This speaker has determined that he will not remain such an actor but will "ask and pray" until he receives an answer.

A Spiritual Classic

A Spiritual Classic

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes