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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Scenes Within"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda - writing at his hermitage in Encinitas CA

Paramahansa Yogananda - writing at his hermitage in Encinitas CA

Introduction and Text of "Scenes Within"

John Denver, noted singer-songwriter hailing from Roswell, New Mexico, became so enamored of the Colorado Rocky Mountains that he made his home in Aspen, Colorado, for most of his adult life; in 1973, his top-10 hit, "Rocky Mountain High" took its place as a Colorado state song, alongside A.J. Fynn’s "Where the Columbines Grow," which was adopted in1915.

My family and I lived in the Denver area from November 1979 to April 1983, while my husband served in the U.S. Army at Fitzsimons Army Medical Center. I can attest to the fact that the mountainous area is beautiful, fascinating, and speaks to one’s soul on a high level.

Paramahansa Yogananda, however, had observed that area several decades before John Denver and I did, and because Paramahansa Yoganandaji is a great Avatar of God, he can reveal nooks and crannies that spark the brain to high thinking, high feeling, high living, as he metaphorically compares the beauty and majesty of the mountain area to the inner landscapes of "human souls."

Scenes Within

"Paramahansaji wrote these verses while riding in a car through the countryside near Denver, Colorado." —note attached to poem

Many a wondrous scenic face
Denver's horizon grand doth grace.
Yet when I think of the rarer beauties
That lie in human souls,
Rapture calls.

Eagerly I look;
Delving deep in valleys of human minds –
In all their sacred nooks.
Colossal mounts of nobility
I find, adorned with every goodly quality.

Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers
Of budding thoughts, their perfume wafting,
Attract me to their bowers.
The blue expanse of amity
Ripples with thrills of endless beauty.
From compassion's mountain-bosom,
Perpetual soul freshness, constant kind looks,
Flow down like brooks.
Founts of matchless love
Bubble forth in the heart
Of this soul-garden, and start
Endless sparkling fancies.

Yet in the land of souls
Blow various breezes;
One warms me, and another freezes.
Pure souls, vital souls,
Breathe living air in me –
To them my doors are open wide and free.

I open my eyes on passing mountain scenes,
Then close my lids
And race in mental aerial plane
To view again the unseen world of souls:
Cities loom, with passions all;
Liquid mazes of desires,
Deceiving mires;
Ego's dark, titanic chasms,
Where faith has never shone.

What lands pass I?
Whose kingdom see?
There, in the land of minds,
And there alone, I find
The real America, the living India;
The beauties and the barren tracts
Of nations all, of souls all.
Yet diverse though this kingdom be,
There lives here but One Reality.

Three thousand miles of land I traveled not,
But through three thousand miles of minds was brought.
I find writ
And well knit
In outer scenes –
Fields, gardens, cities, shops –
The thought vibrations of those myriad minds.
How oft men pass, unheeding, all the beauties
Of familiar paths, and sheltering trees;
In blindness they roam
In the garden of hearts.
In them I long to start
A vision new:
Of Beauty, eternal and true.

(Please note: This poem appears in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)

Commentary

The speaker describes the beauty of the souls he has encountered on his travels across the United States of America. He metaphorically likens that inner soul beauty to the majestic grandeur of the physical landscape.

First Stanza: A Greater Beauty

Many a wondrous scenic face
Denver's horizon grand doth grace.
Yet when I think of the rarer beauties
That lie in human souls,
Rapture calls.

The speaker locates himself in the Denver, Colorado, area. He finds the place "grand" with many "scenic face[s]." But then remarks that "human souls" call his attention to a greater beauty.

The speaker has thus signaled that a comparison will follow: while the poem is titled, "Scenes Within," the reader has been availed to the knowledge that the speaker will also reveal some scenes without.

Second Stanza: Abundant Nobility

Eagerly I look;
Delving deep in valleys of human minds –
In all their sacred nooks.
Colossal mounts of nobility
I find, adorned with every goodly quality.

The speaker has perused the minds of many individuals and found nobility in abundance. He has delved "deep in the valleys of human minds." He finds the good and emphasizes it. As the speaker describes the inner scenes, he employs descriptions that pertain to the actual, physical landscape through which he has traveled.

The deep valleys of the physical landscape, thus, have a parallel in the minds of the people he encounters. The "nooks" that exist in mountainous crags also find similar metaphorical structures in the minds of humanity.

Third Stanza: Metaphoric Flowers

Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers
Of budding thoughts, their perfume wafting,
Attract me to their bowers.
The blue expanse of amity
Ripples with thrills of endless beauty.
From compassion's mountain-bosom,
Perpetual soul freshness, constant kind looks,
Flow down like brooks.
Founts of matchless love
Bubble forth in the heart
Of this soul-garden, and start
Endless sparkling fancies.

Instead of employing the simile, a weaker form of comparison, the speaker continues to metaphorically describes what he sees. For example, "Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers" loom raucously before the readers’ sight, but they are "budding thoughts" whose "perfume" is wafting to spark the attention of the observer. Thoughts are not merely "like" flowers, they become the flowers themselves and therefore make a stronger impression on the readers’ vision.

The speaker takes each beauty and molds it into the qualities of the soul that he has detected in the human beings whom he has come to serve, to lead, to bless, and to elevate. While the "expanse of blue amity" signals compassion, it also reveals "thrills of endless beauty."

Beauty of soul and beauty of landscape coalesce, as the physical reality represents its spiritual counterpart. Furthermore, this compassionate, caring speaker has encountered many examples of "soul freshness" in "constant kind looks," and thus he knows that, "founts of matchless love" exist in the hearts and souls of humanity.

Fourth Stanza: The Understanding of Pure Souls

Yet in the land of souls
Blow various breezes;
One warms me, and another freezes.
Pure souls, vital souls,
Breathe living air in me –
To them my doors are open wide and free.

This perceptive speaker, however, also remains aware that not all of the people he meets accept him: "one warms me, and another freezes." That sad fact remains in existence simply because of the vast variety of levels of understanding among the populace. Recognizing an Avatar is not possible for those of painfully limited experience and mental capacity. That Jesus Christ’s status as an avatar was not recognized by the authorities of the Roman Empire resulted in his crucifixion. It remains a common theme for all times that in the "land of souls / Blow various breezes."

But the "pure souls," the ones who are capable of understanding, the ones who have evolutionarily advanced enough to comprehend the sacred message that this speaker has come to deliver, to them he knows they "breathe living air" in him, and to them his "doors are open wide and free."

Recognizing that there are various levels of understanding among the populace is not a negative criticism or judgment against those minds; instead, that recognition merely offers a description of reality. Because all souls are eternal, every one will eventually return to its state of perfection; thus, all souls in reality remain essentially equal and are certainly all loved equally by the Creator.

Fifth Stanza: The Magic Behind Closed Eyes

I open my eyes on passing mountain scenes,
Then close my lids
And race in mental aerial plane
To view again the unseen world of souls:
Cities loom, with passions all;
Liquid mazes of desires,
Deceiving mires;
Ego's dark, titanic chasms,
Where faith has never shone.

The speaker then reports that he observes the physical landscape around him with open eyes. But then something magical transpires when he closes his eyes. With closed eyes, he can view the "world of souls."

In a thought experiment one can imagine there is the landscape where one lives, and there are the people who inhabit it. Suppose that with open eyes one views the landscape and with closed eyes the individual views the souls of the people who live there: It is easy to say that in the physical landscape one saw this mountain, that river, this city, that ocean, this garbage dump, that railroad track, and on and on.

But after one closes his/her eyes, does one imagine that all those souls equal one to one the quality of their landscape? The speaker notes that "cities loom, with passions all" with "liquid mazes of desires." Many people living in any area have conflicting desires and passions.

Sri Yukteswar has averred: "Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine." Those desires lead to that conduct, leading to those "deceiving mires." Why? Because of lack of faith: "Ego’s dark, titanic chasms, / Where faith has never shone."

Likely many of today’s citizens worldwide have not been introduced to the efficacy of faith. To them, faith is tantamount to fairy tales. Their god is "science"— but a science that has not been vetted, not been realized in the "scientific method," and certainly not substantiated.

Such folks are willing to accept the doctrine of an Usama bin Laden because they think the Christian, whom they also misunderstand, is as guilty of mayhem as is the Islamic extremist, who believes that killing is the way to achieving his Ecstasy. A little lesson in history would clarify this issue.

Thus, ego remains ascendent replacing soul qualities. The speaker then avers that ego hide "dark, titanic chasms" where faith can never exist. Instead of moving with faith, the ego is motivated by selfishness and greed. If any endeavor does not result in money, compliments, scores, or other physical gratification, it remains worthless or even nonexistent.

Sixth Stanza: The Real America, the Living India

What lands pass I?
Whose kingdom see?
There, in the land of minds,
And there alone, I find
The real America, the living India;
The beauties and the barren tracts
Of nations all, of souls all.
Yet diverse though this kingdom be,
There lives here but One Reality.

This speaker can aver that in the minds of humanity he finds the "real America" along with the "living India." He perceives reality and perfectly reports it. Although individuals love to visit the Himalayas, the Rockies, the ocean on the coasts of America, it is the minds and souls of the Americans that matter. The real America and the real India live in the souls, the hearts, and minds of the natives of their countries. So as various and "diverse" as humanity thinks itself to be, "There lies here but One Reality."

Seventh Stanza: Traveling Through Minds

Three thousand miles of land I traveled not,
But through three thousand miles of minds was brought.
I find writ
And well knit
In outer scenes –
Fields, gardens, cities, shops –
The thought vibrations of those myriad minds.
How oft men pass, unheeding, all the beauties
Of familiar paths, and sheltering trees;
In blindness they roam
In the garden of hearts.
In them I long to start
A vision new:
Of Beauty, eternal and true.

This speaker then reveals that his travels through the minds of the people have revealed to him the ultimate truth that the Cosmic Vibration manifests itself in the scenery of the location of each area—whether one focuses on the physical landscape or the inner landscape of the human mind.

All are equal in their value, their beauty, their yearning to experience eternal bliss on the Ultimate Level of Existence. The speaker expresses his desire to plant new visions of the beautiful, the eternal, and the true in the minds, hearts, and souls of all who are desirous of accepting his suggestions.

(Note: The Denver Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship offers a marvelous Web site documentary of Paramahansa Yogananda's visits to the Denver area.)

Sources

Inspiration for Spiritualizing Family Life

Autobiography of a Yogi

Autobiography of a Yogi

Songs of the Soul - Book Cover

Songs of the Soul - Book Cover

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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