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Paramahansa Yogananda's "'Tis All Unknown"

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

Paramahansa Yogananda, writing at his hermitage in Encinitas

Introduction and Text of "'Tis All Unknown"

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s "‘Tis All Unknown" from Songs of the Soul is creating a little drama that takes for it theme the metaphorical comparison of the opening of a rosebud and the dawning of the day to the awakening consciousness of the human mind as it becomes aware of the Divine Reality. That awakening features spiritual beauty as the rose holds physical beauty upon its opening from bud to blossom. The day’s dawning causes the darkness of night to vanish, which compares to the soul awakening to the light of Blessèd Divinity from the spiritual darkness of mayic ignorance that exists and engulfs the individual before s/he awakens in spirit through the attainment of self-realization which is union with the Divine Reality.

The employment of beauty taken from the physical environment helps the striving spiritual aspirant to become aware and to be settled into the idea that the Divine Reality can be sensed throughout Creation. The Blessèd Creator-Father has instilled not only his wisdom in the atoms of the universe but also His gentle beauty that has become symbolized by flowers, sunrises, and sunsets. As a rose opens revealing its beauty to the eye and the nose through its fragrance, and as each day opens with the sunlight drenching the landscape revealing the beauty of trees, grass, hill, rivers, and other earthly features, the mind opening to the beauty that is deep-down in all things physical and then becoming aware of its own Divinity holds a special sacred beauty made all the more exceptional for its earlier quality of having been unknown.

'Tis All Unknown

Each rosebud dawning day,
In hourly opening petal-rays,
Doth fair display
Its hidden beauty.
The petal-hours, unfolding smile,
My drooping, lagging heart beguile.
Day spreads its petals all
Of novel hopes and joys withal.
"Today" is here.

A rosebud's there!
In time the rosebud blooms,
While lazy day oft glooms.
Forsake thy sleep,
O lazy day!
Open thou with full-bloom ray
To chase my gathered gloom away!

The rosebud opened,
The day now smiled
In fullness fine.
Still I opine
'Tis all unknown
Just why the rose was blown;
And day was drowned in night,
Then raised again to light
O glorious dawn,
So swiftly marching o'er the lawn!

(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 beauty of the opening of human consciousness is likened metaphorically to the beauty of the petals of a rose opening and the day dawning—two major symbols of beauty.

First Stanza: Opening of Day

Each rosebud dawning day,
In hourly opening petal-rays,
Doth fair display
Its hidden beauty.
The petal-hours, unfolding smile,
My drooping, lagging heart beguile.
Day spreads its petals all
Of novel hopes and joys withal.
"Today" is here.

In the first stanza, the speaker avers that each day opens like a rosebud; the rays of the sun each hour grow stronger as the petals of the rose open to reveal the full-blossomed flower. The beauty of the landscape that had been hidden by night or the absence of sunlight now comes in view, just as the rosebud had hidden the beauty of the opened rose. The "unfolding smile" of the opening rosebud heartens the speaker, whose mood had revealed a "drooping, lagging heart." The petals of sunlight "spread[ ]" and new hope is engendered in the speaker. "Joys" are brought forth in the mysterious beauty of the opening day. And finally, the speaker exclaims, "Today" has arrived.

Moods that beguile the individual hide the beauty of the environment. Thus, the drooping spirit remains the prey of even more difficult moods. But as the individual’s attention is pointed to mysterious phenomena, especially phenomena featuring beauty that brightens the senses, the heart may be uplifted. It is during the periods of upliftment that the soul may become inspired to manifest its presence.

As the presence of beauty uplifts the mind and heart, the individual’s ego opens to possibilities that had heretofore remained unknown. Wallowing in the mud of delusion, the heart and mind allow the ego to overshadow the soul, but through refocusing the attention through beauty, the consciousness can open unto the deep spirit in all creation.

Second Stanza: Rosebud Opening with the Day

A rosebud's there!
In time the rosebud blooms,
While lazy day oft glooms.
Forsake thy sleep,
O lazy day!
Open thou with full-bloom ray
To chase my gathered gloom away!

The second stanza finds the speaker spying a literal rosebud in the light of the sun and remarking that as the day moves on the rosebud will open, even if the day seems "lazy" and "gloom[y]." The speaker admonishes the lethargic day by commanding it to, "Forsake thy sleep / "O lazy day!" He commands that lazy day to be open unto the many possibilities that have been afforded it, merely by the fact that it exists.

The speaker then commands the day to open up as completely as the rosebud would have already done. He commands it to open, "To chase my gathered gloom away!" The speaker is also likening his own consciousness to that of the opening rose and the dawning day. He is figuratively commanding his own consciousness to open fully to the divinely driven abilities it possesses.

Third Stanza: Rosebud and Day Open Fully

The rosebud opened,
The day now smiled
In fullness fine.
Still I opine
'Tis all unknown
Just why the rose was blown;
And day was drowned in night,
Then raised again to light
O glorious dawn,
So swiftly marching o'er the lawn!

In the final stanza, the speaker is reporting that the day has fully opened as the rosebud has. The day now seems to be smiling and the smile is complete and pleasant, but then the speaker offers a wise observation. Even though the rosebud and the day both open and spread their beauty regularly, their purpose remains mysterious to the human observer. The speaker declares that this seemingly ordinary event that one can observe every day remains a mysterious occurrence: who knows why the rose exists? who knows why day follows night?

That day follows night may be a commonly observed phenomenon to the human mind, but until that mind has achieved the ability to open its consciousness all phenomena will remain unknown. The speaker has likened that opening of the mental consciousness to the opening of the rose and the opening of the day that banishes darkness that night had brought.

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© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes