Queen Victoria’s Black Princess

When readers in the Confederate capitol of Richmond, Virginia during the American Civil War scanned the front page of the Richmond Daily Dispatch of Monday, January 25, 1864, an article that must have been disquieting, if not astounding, met their eyes.

The article was a reprint from an Irish paper, and for the Dispatch’s readership, its headline must have been an attention-grabber:

Queen Victoria godmother for a “Colored” Baby.

The Dublin Freeman of the 20th ult. has the following paragraph about British royalty:

Our readers will probably remember the marriage at St. John’s Church, Chatham, a short time since, of the young African Princess, Miss Bonetta Forbes, the protégé of the Queen, who was brought to this country by Captain Forbes, in her Majesty’s ship Bonetta, from the coast of Africa, and educated by the Rev. J. Schon, chaplain of Melville Hospital, Chatham, at the expense of her Majesty, who always took the most lively interest in her welfare, and occasionally had her at court.–On the occasion of the marriage of the young princess to J. Davis, Esq., a colored West India merchant, who has since settled on the Gold Coast, the Queen took the most lively interest in the event, and made Miss Forbes several handsome wedding presents, all of which were fully described at the time. Intelligence has now been received of a further mark of favor conferred on Mrs. Davis, who has just given birth so a daughter, to whom her Majesty stood godmother by proxy. At the same time the Queen has presented to her godchild a beautiful gold cup, with a salver, knife, fork and spoon, of the same metal, as a baptismal present. The cup and salver bear the following inscription:– “To Victoria Davis, from her godmother, Victoria, Queen of Great Britain and Ireland, 1863.”

To a Southern slave-holding populace fully indoctrinated with the belief that any kind of equality between white and black was an impossibility, the idea of the Queen of England having chosen to be the active, and even affectionate godmother to a black African must have seemed bizarre.

Who was this African princess who received such great favor from the English monarch?

She was Sarah Forbes Bonetta (the order of her names was often reversed), and was herself a victim of the slave trade. Named for the British sea captain and his ship that rescued her from captivity and death, she was a West African of royal blood.

Sarah was born to a clan of the Yoruba in what is now Nigeria, and was orphaned in 1848 at the age of about five when her people were massacred by slave-raiders from neighboring Dahomey. Because she was of high birth, instead of selling her to slave traders, the Dahomeans presented her to their king, Gezo. The king held her as a royal captive, to eventually be offered as a human sacrifice.

But two years after her capture, in June, 1850, an event occurred that reshaped her life completely. A British ship, H.M.S. Bonetta, with her captain, Frederick E. Forbes of the Royal Navy, arrived in Dahomey to negotiate an end to the slave trade. When he learned of the intended fate of the young captive, Captain Forbes arranged with King Gezo to give her to Queen Victoria. As Forbes later put it, “She would be a present from the King of the Blacks to the Queen of the Whites.”

Captain Forbes was extremely impressed with this extraordinary child. He wrote of her in his journal:

I have only to add a few particulars about my extraordinary present ‘the African Child’ – one of the captives of this dreadful slave-hunt was this interesting girl.

It is usual to reserve the best born for the high behest of royalty and the immolation on the tombs of the deceased nobility. For one of these ends she has been detained at court for two years, proving, by her not having been sold to slave dealers, that she was of good family.

She is a perfect genius; she now speaks English well, and has a great talent for music. She has won the affections, but with few exceptions, of all who have known her. She is far in advance of any white child of her age, in aptness of learning, and strength of mind and affection.

Queen Victoria, too, was impressed by the child’s intelligence. She, along with Prince Albert, received Sarah at Windsor Castle, and arranged for her to live and be educated in several upper middle-class English households. Initially, the English climate seemed to cause frequent health problems for Sarah (familiarly known as Sally), and the Queen sent her to be educated at a missionary school in Sierra Leone. But in 1855 Victoria sent a letter to the school requiring them “to send Sally Forbes Bonetta at once to England by Her Majesty’s command.”

There seems to have been a good deal of affection between the English monarch and the African princess. Victoria became Sarah’s godmother, and paid all her expenses. Sarah was a frequent visitor with the Royal Family at Windsor, and became a particular companion of Princess Alice. The two are said to have often ridden together around the castle grounds in a pony cart.

Eventually, it was decided that it was time for Sarah to marry, and, following royal tradition, Buckingham Palace arranged a match for her. The chosen suitor was recent widower James Davies, a 31 year old West African businessman and missionary who was then living in England. Initially, the proposed match was not at all to Sarah’s liking. But life as a royal protégé being what it was, the marriage took place on August 14, 1862.

Once married, Sarah is said to have come to deeply love her husband, and she soon presented him with a daughter (as well as two later children). When Sarah wrote to Victoria for permission to name her daughter after the Queen, not only did Victoria give permission, she offered to be godmother to the child. Victoria Davies, like her mother, became a favorite of the Queen, and was one of the last visitors received by Victoria before the monarch’s death in 1901.

Sarah herself, never strong, developed a cough that wouldn’t go away. She was sent to the island of Madeira in the hope that the pure and dry air would help her to recover. It did not. She died there of tuberculosis in 1880 at about 37 years of age.

This is the background to the story readers of the Richmond Dispatch were confronted with on that Monday morning, early in the new year of 1864. It was commonly understood that this was to be the make-or-break year for the Southern Confederacy. Some still firmly believed that if the South ever seemed to be on the brink of ultimate defeat, Britain would step in on the side of the Confederates to prevent a reunited American nation from becoming the colossus of the world.

But those who read this article, and were perceptive enough to understand its real meaning, would have realized that the hope of British intervention, if it ever really existed, was gone forever.

It was simply not possible that a monarch who had willingly become a loving godmother and life-long sponsor to a black African rescued from the clutches of slave traders, would not do all in her considerable power to prevent her nation from becoming the means by which American slavery was preserved.

Peter Pan: A Prime Example of Dark Children’s Literature

In my growing obsession with classic children’s literature, I figured it would be a grave oversight to neglect picking up this seemingly well-known fairy story. As a child, I loved the Disney adaptation, and I desperately wanted Neverland to be real, although I knew very well, deep down, that places of that sort just did not exist. This past holiday season, I wanted to renew my sense of childlike wonder and put the book down on my Christmas list. My aunt looked at my list and scoffed. I think she thought I was much too old to be reading children’s books. However, on Christmas day, one of the presents I opened from my aunt and uncle was Peter Pan. I began reading the story that night, only to find that this “children’s book” is violent, unsettling, and probably not well suited for youngsters under a certain age.

Most people in the Western world are familiar with the basic gist of Peter Pan’s adventures in Neverland, as they have been introduced to the story through various film and TV adaptations that have been made throughout the century. If you were to ask these people to describe Peter’s personality, I suspect that the list of adjectives that would crop up would include “carefree,” “happy-go-lucky,” and “mischievous.” However, many of these people are ill acquainted with the actual representation of Peter in the text. Those who have read the novel might be more likely to use words like, “sadistic,” “arrogant,” and “selfish.” Peter embodies the very worst characteristics of children and then some, in this shockingly dark story, very much removed from depictions such as Walt Disney’s watered down animated feature film.

Perhaps it’s not so astonishing that Barrie’s classic children’s novel should be so dark when we look at the writer’s devastating history. His life, both before and after he created Peter Pan, was wracked with emotional pain and suffering including an unfaithful wife, a painful divorce, and the deaths of several close friends and relatives.

As a child, Barrie was no stranger to premature death. When Barrie was six years old, one of his older brothers, David, perished in an ice skating accident. Because David was his mother’s favorite child, she was absolutely devastated by the event. As a result, Barrie tried to provide his mother solace by dressing in David’s clothing and affecting his mannerisms, such as whistling, which is both heartbreakingly sweet and frightfully morbid. Barrie could never fully win over his parents the way David did, as he was encouraged to join the ministry rather than become a writer, because that would presumably be the path that David would take, had he lived. Perhaps Barrie had had a part in setting himself up to be David’s less-impressive substitute.

In the event of David’s death, one of the key themes of Peter Pan was planted in Barrie’s mind: the idea of a child who could never grow up. Barrie’s mother, whilst in the process of grieving over her son’s death, attempted to console herself with the idea that, because David was dead and gone, he would forever remain an innocent child. This idea of eternal childhood being linked with death is expounded upon by Lori M. Campbell in her introduction of the Barnes & Noble Signature Classics edition of the book, which can be read on the edition’s Amazon page.

As an adult, Barrie met the Llewelyn Davies family, the arguable catalyst for beginning the story, while spending time in Kensington Gardens. Barrie became well acquainted with the five young boys as well as the boys’ parents; he spent a large amount of time playing games with the children, many of which involved fighting pirates and “Indians.” After the death of the boys’ parents due to cancer, Barrie became the children’s guardian. Unfortunately, the tragedy does not end there. Three of the boys met dreadful ends, some sooner rather than later. One died in combat during the First World War, one drowned while attending university in what may or not have been a suicide pact with a friend and possible homosexual lover, and one took his own life at the age of sixty-three by leaping in front of a train.

While the Llewelyn Davies family brought both joy and sorrow into Barrie’s life, they most importantly provided a large inspiration for the story of Peter Pan and his posse of Lost Boys.

Because we live in a world where unnecessary censorship and pandering to overprotective parents is the norm, I suspect that this book would be met with at least a little bit of resistance, considering the tender ages of the target audience. The main issue is in regards to the book’s namesake. Peter is not only unlikeable, he is repulsive. Most children are arguably little monsters to begin with, as they are unable to understand theory of mind and have a ridiculously underdeveloped prefrontal lobe in comparison to adults, but Peter takes every bad quality common in children and magnifies it.

Peter very much exemplifies the old adage of “out of sight, out of mind”, completely forgetting his former friends, including his devoted sidekick, Tinker Bell, once they can no longer do anything for him. There is no such thing as love or anything other than fair weather friendship with Peter, for, if there was, he surely would not forget those who seemed to care for him deeply.

He has very little empathy for others, as demonstrated right away in the children’s flight to Neverland. This lack of empathy is so pervasive that it ventures into the territory of psychopathy. Michael, the youngest, keeps drifting off to sleep and plummeting towards the ground. Peter, at the last second, sweeps down and catches the little boy each time, only after much pleading from Wendy. The narrator admits that it would only be a matter of time before Peter grew bored of the whole thing and let the boy fall to his death.

Peter and his posse are very much enamored by violence, which is depicted nonchalantly. The Boys take pleasure in battling “Indians” and pirates, often getting killed in the process, as is mentioned directly in the book when it says that the number of Lost Boys fluctuates. And, most disturbing of all, is that Peter actually kills his own minions. Because Peter is such a whimsical fellow, the narrator remarks that he would sometimes switch sides in the middle of a battle, meaning that he would turn on his own companions just for a laugh. What’s more, he would also kill the Lost Boys systematically, not just in the heat of battle. The actual line in the text states that Peter would “thin the Lost Boys out” when they grew too old or became too numerous. Now, this doesn’t actually make it certain that he killed them, but, with all of the callous violence in the novel, it is not an unfair assumption.

A common criticism of the book is the abounding misogyny that permeates the entirety of the story. Now, taking into consideration the time period in which the author lived, I can’t entirely fault him for his portrayal of women and mothers in particular. It was a much different era than the one we live in now, one where there were exceedingly staunch gender roles for both men and women. Regardless, as I read the book from a 21st century viewpoint, the sexism in the book should at least be mentioned if not pursued in more detail.

The problem manifests itself in several different ways. First, there is Peter’s undying hatred of all mothers, with the exception of Wendy, the surrogate mother he selected for himself and the Boys. The author tells us that Peter thinks of himself as having been abandoned by his mother. Peter, after flying away from his home, returns a great deal of time later only to find the windows barred and a new little boy sleeping in his bed. Although Peter’s furious and childlike response to this is understandable, I must play Devil’s advocate and point out that Peter was the one who decided to leave in the first place. Therefore, not very much sympathy should be wasted on him.

The treatment of Wendy is perhaps the biggest issue. She is initially lured to Neverland with the tantalizing promise that she’ll get to do motherly things for the Boys, such as sit at home darning socks and mending pockets. Doesn’t sound like quite that exciting of an adventure then, but Wendy agrees and flies to Neverland to play at being Mother. When she is shot down by the Boys at Tinkerbell’s deceitful instruction, Peter and the Boys decide not to move her unconscious body. Instead, they build a little house around her, because that’s where women belong. In the home. In a domestic setting. After she returns home, she is brought back to Neverland a few more times, in order to do his spring cleaning for him.

An interesting, slightly Oedipal problem that arises is the conflict between what Wendy feels for Peter and what Peter feels for Wendy in return. Initially, the two play at being a married mother and father for the boys. Wendy is much more invested in this playacting than Peter, who eventually reveals that he views Wendy more as a mother figure than as a romantic partner. Not much more is said directly about the topic, but the book (as well as the stage traditions of the play) is rife with details that could be connected with Freudian concepts, if one cares to look for them.

Although the amount of violence and sexism in this children’s book is certainly unsettling and unanticipated, I was most distressed by the heartbreak of the family that Wendy, John, and Michael leave behind. In the book, it is evident that a lot of time has passed since the disappearance of the children and their unexplained reappearance in their respective beds. It doesn’t take place like it does in the Disney version, where time seems to move differently in Neverland and the children return to the nursery mere hours after they left. No, in the book, the family is subjected to prolonged sadness. Both the children’s parents as well as their doting canine nursemaid, Nana, are visibly distraught at the loss of the children. Mr. Darling, although a bit buffoonish, is incredibly affected by his offspring’s disappearance, taking it upon himself to accept all the blame while partaking in admittedly odd rituals as penance. Despite one of the themes of the story being the selfishness of childhood, it’s hard to forgive the children for gallivanting off to Neverland with very little thought about their own family. They didn’t even think to leave a note!

Now, this is a minuscule detail that could easily go unmentioned, but it was something that caught my eye and confused me. The exact line goes, “After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy.” At first I was shocked, but then I reprimanded myself for jumping to conclusions. Perhaps the word “orgy” had a slightly different meaning in the early 1900s than it does today. According to the fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, the word goes back to the Greek word orgia, meaning “rites” or “secret worship.” While many of these rites involved expressions of sexual appetite, it was not a part of every worship process. So, if we are to take that Barrie meant this use of the word, that just means that the fairies congregated to celebrate some sort of religion or group spirituality that involved alcohol (hence the adjective “unsteady”). Still weird, but legit, right? Wrong! Reading on, the dictionary says that the word in its modern usage can be traced all the way back to 18th century English. The word had had a sexual connotation long before Barrie even sat down to pen the novel. I have to assume that he knowingly chose “orgy” in place of another, less controversial word.

Looking back at the classic children’s literature I have read in the past, I really shouldn’t have been that taken aback by the darkness of Peter Pan. Perhaps the antiseptic quality of the Disney adaptation is partially to blame. Whatever the reason, I must admit that I did enjoy reading the book, despite all its shortcomings, as an adult reader. I’m not sure I would have understood it or liked it as a younger reader, but, reading it as someone who is a bit older, I was able to appreciate more fully the bittersweet elements as well as the pervasive darkness and morbidity. Reading the book also helped me better understand the negative connotation of “Peter Pan syndrome.” While it is tempting to view eternal childhood with rose-colored glasses, placing focus on such things like enjoying playtime and having a strong imagination, that also comes at the price of not being able to understand or relate to others. Everyone has to grow up, at least a little.

Score: 7 out of 10

Patter Flash: The Secret Language of Thieves and Pickpockets in London

“Draw dragons from the dummy!”

The preceding sentence probably makes no sense to the majority of English speaking people, which was precisely the point behind Patter Flash, or the language used by thieves and pickpockets in 19th century England. A rough translation of the phrase above would be: “Steal gold coins from the coin purse!”

Thieves in England would “flash the patter” (talk the slang) to allow pickpockets to communicate without notice. Even the Bobbies (policemen) could not understand the patter of the pickpockets, so plans to rob a person of the gold coins held in their purse could be made aloud on the streets.

London streets were dark and crowded in the 1860’s – the perfect stage for stalking and robbing a victim. A particularly harrowing type of robbery was called garroting – the pickpocket would partially strangle a victim in order to steal valuables from their person. In 1862, one such case made the “penny dreadfuls” (the newspapers).

Mr. Hugh Pilkington, a British MP, was walking from the House of Commons to the Reform Club. As he was walking, two thieves pounced on him and stole his watch as they half-strangled him. The crime occurred on July 17, 1862, and the fact that a person in such high standing could be strangled and robbed on the streets caused a panic. People feared garrotters around every corner, though the crime was quite rare in reality. Those who chose to walk the streets after dark often did so armed, for defense if attacked by the imagined armies of garrotters hiding in the shadows. Any garrotter who was apprehended faced a public outcry for execution or deportation to a prison colony. Pickpocketing crimes decreased greatly once gas lamps were introduced to London streets – the well-lit streets made it harder for thieves to hide in dark corners.

The language of thieves is quite old, and many of the words used by London pickpockets were also used by rogues in New York City and in many other cities with organized crime. According to George Matsell, author of The Secret Language of Crime: Vocabulum or the Rogue’s Lexicon (1859), the language originated from wandering bands of Gypsies in Europe. A large part of the “patter” is derived from Romany language, then adapted to the particular location of the gang of thieves. Word origins from all over the world can be found in the thief’s vocabulary – examples would be aqua (Latin) for water and casa (Spanish) for house.

There was no place too sacred for pickpockets to lurk – in 1735, a large group of pickpockets (known as a battalion) burst into a Whitechapel church during a funeral service and shouted, “Fire!” The ensuing chaos of escaping mourners created a windfall for the pickpockets.

Public executions were another favorite among pick-pockets. Executions could gather crowds in excess of 200,000 people, and the event created the perfect distraction: people were so engaged by the public spectacle of execution that the thieves could easily commit the robbery and be safely away before the victim noticed anything was missing. The gallows at Tyburn were a favorite of pickpockets – people often gathered in large crowds to observe people in the pillory or a public hanging.

By the end of the 19th century, criminal activity was rife in London streets and the biggest concentration of thieves and other miscreants was in Spitalfields, London.

A pickpocket was also known as a File in the language of thieves. The file was usually accompanied by two other conspirators: one called the Adam Tyler and the other called the bulker (or staller). The threesome generally worked as follows: the bulker would push up against the unsuspecting person, and the file would reach into the pocket and grab the coins, watch, or other valuables. The goods were immediately handed to the Adam Tyler, who escaped quickly. If a finger was pointed at the file or the bulker, the stolen goods would not be found on their persons. The Adam Tyler had safely made off with the stolen articles.

Another method was known as cross-fanning. This method required only one thief, who crossed his arms and pretended to look at something. While distracting his victim with the hand on the far side, the crossed arm on the near side would reach into a pocket and nab a watch or coins.

Amusers were a third sort of pick-pocket. This method required two thieves: one would carry pepper in his pocket, and throw it in the eyes of the victim. While the victim was incapacitated, the second thief would rob him blind (quite literally).

Dropping was another way to steal money. These thieves usually took advantage of charitable individuals by dropping a pocket-book full of fake money near an unsuspecting person. The thief would rush up and pretend to “find” the coin purse. The thief would get the victim to buy the coin purse – the victim would not realize the pocket book contained counterfeit money until the Dropper was safely away.

In some thieving circles a carrier was needed for the counterfeit money – this person was known as the Boodle-Carrier.

Stealing from stores required two thieves: one thief would ask the store owner about an item that was either at the back of the store or in a far-off corner. While the merchant was occupied by the first thief, the second thief would steal money or goods from the store. When this tactic was used, it was called a dobing lay.

Some thieves would steal dogs from local neighborhoods – when a reward was offered, the dog nipper would show up with the “lost” dog and take the reward money.

Anglers were small-time thieves who would literally fish for stolen items by placing a hook on the end of a pole. These thieves would use the fishing pole to steal from windows, doors, or any other entrance to a store or home.

One sort of thief was called a bludgeoner. Bludgeoners often recruited well-dressed women to pretend to be their wives – the woman playing this role would get a man to follow her to an isolated place by flirting with him. Once the two of them were alone, she would slyly rob the man of any valuable items. As soon as this was done, she would give a signal, and the bludgeoner would come into the room armed with a knife or club, accusing the victim of coming on to his wife. The victim would flee in terror, not realizing he had been robbed until much later. The woman in this circumstance was called the bludget. Mistresses of thieves were called blowens.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “When I Cast All Dreams Away”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “When I Cast All Dreams Away” from Songs of the Soul dramatizes the incompleteness and ultimate failure of all earthly pleasures to give true joy to the soul.

The first eleven lines catalogue the activities and things from which the speaker tried to wring joy. The final seven lines conclude simply that from them no true peace or happiness is to be obtained; however, they also aver that that happiness is possible.

Excerpt from “When I Cast All Dreams Away”

. . . Only nightmares of incompleteness,

Ever receding will-o’-the wisps of promised happiness,

Haunted and hastened my heart.

But when I cast all dreams away,

I found the deep sanctuary of peace,

And my soul sang: “God alone! God alone!”

(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 in this poem is dramatizing his awakening to true Bliss; the great guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, often likens the unreal nature of the material world to “dreams.”

First Movement: Sampling Many Innocent Pleasures

The speaker reports that he has sampled all innocent or “sane pleasure[s]”; he has been enthralled by the exquisite “beauty of sextillion stars.” The speaker has attempted to extinguish all sadness and for a time “basked in the glory blaze.” The speaker is establishing a timeline, one that begins with his attempting to pursue and find happiness in the common features of the natural world, or those things that all humankind experience through sense awareness.

It is mostly through sense awareness that the human mind and heart experience the world at large, especially in the beginning of their young lives. Reliance on mental ability and random or even planned thoughts too often escapes those who are habituated to live on the surface. Skating along the superficial avenues of life, unfortunately, becomes the only activity widely recognized by a blind-leading-the-blind inhabitants of the material world.

Second Movement: The Comfort of Friends and Family

The speaker has enjoyed and felt comforted by all of his friends and family who have loved him and whom he has loved. He has understood that all love is important. The speaker also knows that all love, whether it is offered by the mother, father, or siblings, comes from one source.

This speaker has, therefore, metaphorically stirred these loves together as one would lemon juice, sugar, and water to make a comforting drink. Continuing with the drink preparation metaphor, the speaker asserts that he attempted to “squeeze” scriptural lore to wring out bits of peace for which he so thirsted. He also sought that peace and solace through poetry, as is the wont of most poets who engage in that art.

It is common and understandable that the human mind and heart will seek for its comfort in those things that are most closely associated with their own lives; thus, love and comfort from family and friends are expected. And as the individual ages and takes part in society and its culture, she experiences the joy and contentment offered by certain types of employment, entertainment, and hobbies. The down-side to attachment to people and engagements is that attachment leads to disappointment because no person or engagement can ever be permanent: there is this interloper called death that sees to it that you and your object of attachment will be parted sooner or later. Despite humankind’s penchant for variety, down deep it yearns for permanence that cannot be afforded one on this mud ball of a planet.

Third Movement: The Search for Ultimate Happiness

As the speaker’s life progressed, his hunger and thirst for bliss motivated him still to continue the search for the ultimate happiness; thus, he continued his search by taking beautiful nuggets of philosophical thought. The human mind becomes greedy for a philosophy or a religion that will afford it direction, guidance, inspiration, along with the promise of ultimate enlightenment.

The speaker continues, stating that he lifted innocent pleasures from every wholesome quarter; again, he looks for satisfaction in the simple pleasures life offers. The speaker continued his search in activities such as reading, smiling, working, planning, and still as he ached for that all-quenching something-else that seemed to elude him, he had to keep searching for his goal of perfection.

Fourth Movement: The Emptiness of Physical Satisfaction

The speaker then abruptly halts his report of his search and states directly that nothing worked. He found absolutely nothing to fill that hole in his heart, that emptiness of mind that kept him aware that he is missing something important. The speaker realizes that he is finding bad dreams filled with “incompleteness.” All of those lovely things offered by creation, the beauty of stars, the love of friends and family, the gemstones of philosophy, the poems he was able to fashion “from the winepress of Nature,” all the sweet, innocent joys amount to very little in the long run.

Those items all just to fade out over and over again with promises that turned to dust and blew away with the wind. The promise of happiness was stifled as all these natural phenomena failed him one by one. They all promised happiness but they all failed to keep that promise. All those broken promises rummaged through his heart and mind like ghosts. Then with a heart troubled by the fantasies of happiness, the speaker finds himself at his lowest point. With his blood racing, he comes to the conclusion of his search.

Fifth Movement: Awaking from the Dream

Finally, when the speaker refocuses his mind, he gazes no longer upon the ghosts and “dream/nightmares” of this material world; he places his attention on the Creator of all of the earthly gifts and realizes that it was the Creator, for Whom he had long pined, not the paltry gifts that kept him busy for so long. The speaker finally realizes that his bliss lies with “God alone!” He then discards all those dreams, all of those ghosts of unreality, “[a]nd [his] soul sang: ‘God alone!’”

Interestingly, this attitude does not mean that speaker then refused to look at beautiful natural things like flowers, sunsets, and the like and enjoy the love of family and friends—quite the opposite, only his attitude changed. Earlier he had thought those things would provide the ultimate happiness and peace he craved. But then after the speaker became aware that only the Divine Beloved can provide those states of being from the soul to the heart and mind, could he actually enjoy the natural phenomena and familial love with even greater and lasting joy. He could take even more pleasure from natural things, knowing that his own soul is a spark of the Divine, and the Divine has created all those features of nature, expressions of love explicitly for the enjoyment of His children.

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.

Publications

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.

The Poetry

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessonsthat 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.

Complete Works

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 Soulappeared 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.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “They Are Thine”

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “They Are Thine” is recognizing the fact that all creation belongs to the Creator, who created the entire cosmic universe, as well as all things and all sentient creatures within it. It addresses the Divine Belovèd as in prayer. But like most prayer, it is not supplication for some favor; it merely asserts a truth about the speaker, his soul, Creation, and the Divine Creator, Who governs them all.

Excerpt of “They Are Thine”

I have nothing to offer Thee,

For all things are Thine . . .

(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 is demonstrating the power of humbleness in seeking divine realization.

First Movement: A Humble Offering

The speaker begins with the simple statement that he has nothing to offer the Great Spirit, who has created all things and who exists throughout all eternity. One such as himself, a small part of humanity, would naturally become humble in awareness of the vastness of the One, Who flings the stars, fashions the planets, causes the earth to put forth it fecundity, and then creates the physical body to encase the soul.

Thus, the speaker avers that he cannot give the One, Who has everything, anything, for the simple reason that the Great Creator already possesses everything. The logic of such a simple remark enlivens this prayer with a forceful power that stimulates the mind of each devotee to calm awareness.

Second Movement: Prayer to Deepen Divine Knowledge

The purpose of prayer is often to deepen in the devotee knowledge that he may already have but which seems to be allowed to weaken as life becomes crowded with its many duties, trials, and tribulations. But this speaker asserts his full understanding that he has nothing to offer the Blessèd Lord, and therefore he does not desire to waste time moaning and wishing the situation were different.

The speaker knows that offerings to the Lord, such as ritual or ceremonial flowers, fruit, or even the devotee’s appreciation and tears of longing are merely useful tools for the devotee but cannot add one iota to the storehouse of possessions already contained in the Blessèd Divine’s Creation. The speaker thus avers that nothing belongs to him, and he repeats his claim for emphasis.

Third Movement: Giving Out of Deep Love and Gratitude

The speaker, who is a devotee deeply loving and appreciating his Divine Creator, is compelled to yield unto his Belovèd Father-Creator all that he is: from his ability to speak to his very life, he bestows these possessions unto his Lord. Although he knows the Lord already possesses all of those things, his heart just simply bursts to give all he can to the One, Who has given him those things in the first place.

The speaker thus places all of his own possessions at the feet of the Divine, knowing that it is through such surrender that he becomes one with his Divine Goal. The placement of his gifts at the “feet” of the Divine symbolizes the humbleness through which the speaker functions. It is also through a humble nature that he perceives the immanent power that rests within his body, mind, and soul.

Fourth Movement: All Gifts Belong to the Divine Creator

The speaker in the final line, therefore, makes that important claim that all that he is and has already belong to the Divine Belovèd. All of this speaker’s possessions, all of his abilities from walking to talking to eating to sleeping to thinking to meditating and praying—all belong to the Divine Creator, Who has created all of humankind and bestowed on all of His children all of the gifts they possess and enjoy.

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.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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.”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Some Treasure of My Own”

The great Guru Paramahansa Yogananda’s” Some Treasure of My Own” from Songs of the Soul, his masterful and inspiring book of spiritual poetry, features a speaker who addresses the Divine Beloved with the purpose of assuring himself and the Beloved that he understands what he must do in order to return the love that has been divinely given him.

Excerpt from “Some Treasure of My Own”

Whatever I sought to Give You

I found was Yours.

So took away the flowers from the altar,

And snuffed out the candles in the temple,

For I would offer You some treasure of my own . . .

(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 in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Some Treasure of My Own” elucidates his understanding regarding the importance of loving the Giver more than the gifts.

First Stanza: To Find the Unique Gift

The speaker reveals that he is unable to give the Divine Beloved anything. He avers that the usual offerings of flowers and burning candles are not sufficient, because these things already belong to the Lord.

The speaker intuits that giving the Giver those things which He has given is a futile act. Thus, the speaker removes the flower offerings and the burning candles and determines that he will find something that is uniquely his own to offer to the Beloved,” [f]or I would offer You some treasure of my own.”

Second Stanza: Searching the Heart

The speaker searches his heart and discovers “rare perennial plants,” and these metaphorical plants demonstrate their “craving for [the Divine Beloved].” The speaker realizes that as plants turn to the sunlight, his desire, his “craving,” causes him to turn to the Lord.

Thus, the act of desire for the Lord is the only possible gift that the speaker can bestow upon the Giver of all gifts. With elation, he cries, “You are mine — what joy! / And ‘tis my free choice to love You as mine.”

Third Stanza: Seeming Contradictions Explained

The speaker then explains the nuance of difference that arises from a seeming contradiction: Doesn’t love also come from the Lord? So how is returning His love to him really a personally unique treasure from the devotee?

Once God gives the devotee that gift of love, it no longer belongs to Him. The speaker avers that now that he has that love that has become his own, he” want[s] to love” God. So ultimately, it is the desire and the willingness to love and turn to God that is the gift that the devotee can bestow upon the Lord.

Fourth Stanza: Command vs Willingness

The speaker continues to elucidate the difference between loving God by command and loving God through the willingness of heart. He thus avers that the love from the Divine Beloved is not accompanied by the” command to love [Him] only.”

The speaker knows that he could have continued his life just loving God’s gifts, or he could even worship those gifts only, or he was also free to” become saturated with the desires / Of a material life.”

Along with the love, the Infinite Father has given each devotee free will to choose—to love Him or ignore Him. The Divine Creator does not choose for his children whether they will love him or not. He simply gives the love and the ability to love; then He waits to see if it will be returned.

Fifth Stanza: God Craving

The speaker thus concludes that he will give the Divine Beloved only those “flowers of love / From those undying plants of [his] soul-craving.”

The speaker’s cravings for God have been” [b]looming amidst the garden of incarnations”; for many returning incarnations, the speaker has sought the Divine Creator, and now he finally understands how to reach the Divine Beloved. He, henceforth, will lay the flowers of his devotion “in the temple of Your heart; / For these alone are mine.”

Sixth Stanza: Preferring the Giver to the Gifts

Thus, most importantly, the speaker has determined to love God “[o]f my own accord.” He chooses willingly to love God; he is not forced to love God, for nothing and no one, not even God, can exert such force.

The speaker chooses to “prefer You to Your gifts.” By employing his own ability to exert free will, the speaker can thus give God what is uniquely his. And he knows that God must accept this gift, “the love I freely give, / Sole treasure of my own.”

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.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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.”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Shadows”

According to the great spiritual leader Paramahansa Yogananda, the power of delusion is very strong. A human being is a soul who has a body and a mind, but the power of delusion makes humans think that they are just minds and bodies, and many people tend to think that perhaps the soul is a religious fiction, concocted for the clergy to gain control over the behavior of their minions.

The deluded mind coupled with the solid body convinces humankind that its main reality exists in them. Humanity is deluded by maya, the principle of relativity, inversion, contrast, duality, or oppositional states. Maya is labeled “Satan” in the Old Testament and referred to as the “Devil” in Christianity. Jesus Christ colorfully described the mayic devil: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of it” (King James Version, John 8:44).

Paramahansa Yogananda, great spiritual leader and father of yoga in the West, explains that maya is a Sanskrit word meaning “the measurer,” a magical power in creation which divides and manipulates the Unity of God into limitations and divisions. The great guru says, “Maya is Nature herself—the phenomenal worlds, ever in transitional flux as antithesis to Divine Immutability.” The great yogi/poet further defines the mayic force by explaining that the purpose of maya is to attempt to divert humankind from Spirit to matter, from Reality to unreality. The great guru further explains,

Maya is the veil of transitoriness of Nature, the ceaseless becoming of creation; the veil that each man must lift in order to see behind it the Creator, the changeless Immutable, eternal Reality.

Paramahansa Yogananda has instructed his devotee-students regarding the workings of the mayic concept of delusion. He often employs useful metaphoric comparisons filled with colorful images. The following is an excerpt from the poem, “Shadows,” followed by a commentary about the poem:

Excerpt from “Shadows”

Beds of flowers, or vales of tears;

Dewdrops on buds of roses,

Or miser souls, as dry as desert sands;

The little running joys of childhood,

Or the stampede of wild passions;

The ebbing and rising of laughter,

O the haunting melancholy of sorrow . . .

These, all these, but shadows are . . .

(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.)

Jesus Christ described the devil as a murderer and a liar because there is no truth in him. The character/force, called “Satan” in the Old Testament and the “devil” in Christianity, is labeled Maya in Hinduism and yogic philosophy.

First Movement: Maya Similar to Shadows

A beautiful and revealing example of the yogi’s dramas featuring maya can be found in his poem simply titled, “Shadows,” from Songs of the Soul. The poem’s first fifteen lines offer a catalogue of pairs of opposites: “bed of flowers,” the first image encountered, is a positive one that readers can visualize as colorful beauty and possibly fragrant smells wafting from the flowers, while “vale of tears” denotes a negative tone, of sadness and sorrow.

Then the two images, “Dewdrops on buds of roses, / Or miser souls, as dry as desert sands,” offer again two oppositional pairs, the beauty and life of rosebuds with dew on them contrasts with the aridity of selfishness. Two further images, “little running joys of childhood, / Or the stampede of wild passions,” contrast innocence with violent emotions. Additionally, the “ebbing and rising of laughter, / Or the haunting melancholy of sorrow” contrast happiness and sadness.

Second Movement: Desire is Will-o-the Wisp

There is an important, interesting break in this pattern with the following lines:

The will-o-the wisp of our desire,

Leading only from mire to mire;

The octopus grip of self-complacency

And the time-beaten habits

While human desire sometimes leads humankind astray from “mire to mire,” human beings may also suffer from their self-inflicted inertia that prevents them from changing their error strewn path as their self-complacency and habits hold them in an octopus-like grip. Both of these pairs are negative. One could speculate about why the poet let these negatives remain without countering them with positives as he did in the other catalogued pairs. Do they cause the poem to be imbalanced? Or do they perhaps hint at the extremely strong power of maya that causes us to feel that there is more evil and negative in the world than good and positive?

Third Movement: Shadows Only for Entertainment and Education

The next two pairs, however, return to the positive/negative pattern: a newborn infant’s first cry vs the death rattle and excellent health of the body vs degenerating diseases. Then the final six lines aver that all of these experiences of the senses, mind, and emotion are nothing more than “Shadows.” They are merely the forces of maya—seen by humanity on the cosmic mental screen.

But instead of allowing human hearts and minds to take from all this that the unreality of maya amounts to airy nothingness, the great spiritual leader enlightens all, who encounter his marvelous teachings, to the fact that those shadows contain many shades from dark to light, and those “shadows” are not meant to hurt and discourage the children of the Divine Creator but to serve as a prompt, in order to entertain, educate, and enlighten them.

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.

Publications

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.

The Poetry

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessonsthat 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.

Complete Works

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 Soulappeared 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.

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Om”

Paramahansa Yogananda has explained in detail how the human consciousness can regain its divine stature as a soul-aware child of the Divine Creator. He has explained that the spine is the locus in the human body in which the meditating devotee makes progress by moving the consciousness from the base of the spine (coccyx) to the spiritual eye, located between the eyebrows.

The great guru has analyzed, elucidated, explained, and demonstrated this journey up the spine in many of his writings, including the SRF Lessons. In this poem, he has in a colorful drama, declaimed on that metaphorical, metaphysical journey.

Excerpt of “Om”

Whence, oh, this soundless roar doth come,

When drowseth matter’s dreary drum?

The booming Om* on bliss’ shore breaks;

All heaven, all earth, all body shakes.

(Publisher’s note: *An alternate transliteration of Aum, the threefold energy of creation, preservation, and destruction. Cosmic Intelligent Vibration.)

(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.)

This poem features a marvelously colorful drama declaiming on the soul’s journey up the spine from its earthly situation to its heavenly destination.

First Movement: A Poetic, Rhetorical Question

A poetic, rhetorical question begins this dramatization of the experience of listening to the “Om sound.” The speaker uses this question technique merely to emphasize the etheric nature of that sacred sound, that the sound is not of the earth but of the heavens.

The speaker includes in the question the time during which the Om sound occurs—after the earthly sounds have been quieted. He colorfully describes that event as the “dreary drum” of matter drowsing. It is during this time of cessation of movement on the material level that the spirit becomes ascendent in human awareness.

Again, colorfully, the speaker likens the Om sound to the oceanic waves that break upon the shore, but these shores are shores of “bliss.” Then he proclaims that as the human awareness takes in that blissful sound everything, all creation, takes on an equally blissful patina, dramatically shaking in spiritual delight.

Second Movement: Leaving the Physical for the Astral

As one remains in deep contact with the Om sound, identification with the physical body is removed. The vibrating waves that uphold creation become still and silent as the heart become quiet and the lungs cease to function.

Listening to the Om sound as it quiets the internal organs in the human body instills a vibrant health to the body. Much needed rest is given the heart and lungs, as the soul become dominant because it has become aware that it is united with the Divine Vibration.

Third Movement: Quieting the Physical

Metaphorically likening the body to a house, the speaker describes that house as being soothed, as in the state of falling asleep in a soft, dark, comfortable room. However, the light of the spiritual eye can be observed in the forehead, and dreams that are created from subconscious memories are stilled.

As all this occurs, it is then that the Om sound appears or come treading into the awareness of the meditating yogi. In the stillness and quietness of all physical body functioning, the Om sound can make itself known.

Fourth Movement: Beginning the Journey Up the Spine: Coccyx, Sacral

The fourth movement begins by naming the sounds of Om as heard in the spine, beginning at the coccyx region. The speaker calls this Om, “Baby Om,” and he reveals that as Baby Om, that sacred sound resembles the sound of a “bumblebee.” This chakra is elementally the earth center.

The speaker then moves up the spine to the sacral region, whose Baby Om sound becomes the sound of the flute, “Krishna’s flute.” And the element involved with the sacred chakra is water; thus the speaker colorfully says that is where one meets the “watery God.”

Fifth Movement: Continuing to Ascend: Lumbar and Dorsal

Continuing up the spinal set of chakras, the speaker now lands in the lumbar area, whose sound resembles a “harp,” and whose element is “fire.” Thus the speaker in this spinal region, experiences God singing as fire.

Next, the speaker ascends to the dorsal chakra, whose element is air, and whose sound resembles a bell. The speaker dramatically likens that prana or energy to the “soul resounding” as that “wondrous bell.”

Sixth Movement: Moving On Up: Cervical and Medulla-Spiritual Eye

Continuing the “upward climb,” the speaker now reveals that the human body can be metaphorically likened to an upturned tree. The speaker is climbing the “living tree.” He now experiences the cervical chakra, whose sound is like rumblings of the restless ocean and whose element is ether.

Finally, the speaker ascends to the medullary and spiritual eye centers which combine by polarity to express the “Christ center.” He colorfully expresses experiencing that center as joining the “Christmas Symphony.” At this point, the Baby Om has matured to full adulthood. All of the sounds from the buzz, flute, harp, ocean roar combine to produce the full-fledged Om sound.

Seventh Movement: Celebrating the Omnipresent Sound

The final movement of the poem finds the speaker celebrating the marvelous, sacred nature of the amazing sound of the Om. He calls it a “soundless roar” because we must remember that these sounds are not physical, earthbound, sense detected sounds. They are, in fact, the “music of the spheres.”

These sounds, particularly as they combine to result in the blessed Om, bring about “light” over “dark.” And from the “mist of nature’s tears,” the Om announces that all creation is upheld by this divine sound. Like the Divine Creator Himself, this sacred Om continues to be “resounding everywhere” to the soul who has united its awareness with that sacred sound.

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.

Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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.”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “My Kinsmen”

Divinity lives as soul in all creation, evolving upward from the ocean sand to gemstones and precious metals then to plants, animals, and finally to humankind. This hierarchy of evolution is celebrated in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “My Kinsmen” from Songs of the Soul.

The advanced soul is capable of remembering all of its prior incarnations from stones to humanity, and that memory expresses itself in the love that the advanced yogi feels universally for all.

Excerpt from “My Kinsmen”

In spacious hall of trance

Aglow with million dazzling lights,

Tapestried with snowy cloud,

I spied my kinsmen all — the lowly, proud.

The banquet great with music swelled

The drum of Aum in measure fell.

The guests in many ways arrayed.

Some plain, some gorgeous dress displayed. . . .

(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.)

Recognizing and celebrating his unity with all created beings, the speaker in this poem is dramatizing each progressive stage of his evolution upward from gemstones to homo sapiens.

Stanza 1: A Grand Banquet

The speaker metaphorically paints the scene of a grand banquet attended by all of his relatives and friends from his past lives. The advanced yogi literally experiences this gathering “in spacious hall of trance,” which is a colorful rending of the act of deep meditation. Interestingly, as readers experience this poem, they come to realize that those “kinsmen” include not only human beings, but relatives that the speaker has been acquainted with from the mineral kingdom through the plant kingdom then animal kingdom and on to homo sapiens.

This speaker’s awareness of evolution rivals Charles Darwin’s in both intensity and scope. As a human scientist, Darwin was simply working on the physical level of being and with the level of advancement that Western science of his day had to offer. The speaker in this poem is an omniscient seer. His science is “omni-science” not the limited science of an earth-bound materialist, whose purview focuses only on things that can be perceived by the senses.

Stanza 2: A Great Sound

The speaker avers that the great sound of “Aum” fills the banquet hall, as music would be a traditional part of any celebration. The speaker observes that all of the guests are colorfully dressed, “in many ways arrayed, / Some plain, some gorgeous dress displayed.”

The speaker’s metaphor of a banquet hall allows the devotee to observe along with the speaker the vastness of a cosmos conflated to a manageable scenario. Because the subject broached here remains an ineffable one, which cannot be literally expressed in words, the speaker must engage metaphoric similarities in order to give his readers/listeners a sense of what he is experiencing.

Stanza 3: A Cosmic Reality

The speaker reports that the “various tables large” are, in fact, the “earth and moon and sun and stars.” By placing the banquet hall in space, the speaker suggests the ineffable nature of his experience. Those planets are, therefore, merely metaphorical representations of the experience in high consciousness that the speaker is undergoing.

The vastness of the subject again has taken on a manageable scope for consideration by the limited human mind. Only those with the vision of mysticism can create for listeners/readers the beyond-words descriptions that impart valuable information. This exalted state of awareness is not limited to vast mind’s as exemplified by the this speaker, but every human mind has the capability of seeing and understanding just as this speaker does, after the mind has become soul-realized—knowing that a human being is much more than a mind and a physical body.

Stanza 4: The Evolution of the Soul

In the fourth stanza, the speaker begins to report the physical appearance of some of the “guests” along with his memory from the time when he lived among them. The speaker begins with his experience as sand along the ocean, when he “drank of ocean’s life.” He remembers that incarnation, in which he “brawled / For a sip of sea, with kinsmen sands.”

The evolution of the soul on its way to becoming the human being is said to begin in the mineral kingdom: sand, rocks, gemstones, etc. One can only marvel at the expansive mind that has the ability to remember his existence as a grain of sand or rock or diamond!

Stanza 5: Remembering Past Incarnations

The speaker then recalls his incarnation as “a tiny baby tree,” a frustrating time for him because he wanted so much to be able to “run with winds so free.” The guests who remind him of this incarnation are “those old dame rocks / Who held me on their stony laps.” He is recalling his former mothers.

The fascinating tidbit of information here is that even as rocks, we had mothers, and no doubt, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other relatives. The scope for imaginative thinking and creating stories about such a world is truly breathtaking!

Stanza 6: The Utter Logic of the Cosmos

The speaker then observes the “rose and lily buds aglow” and is reminded that he once “adorned a kingly breast — / Lost life; returned to mother dust.” As a flower, the speaker once decorated the costume of a king, before losing that life, and having that vegetable-body return to the dust of the earth.

Not only does the human physical encasement succumb to the “dust to dust” scenario, but logically all physical encasements from rocks to roses undergo the same transformations. The utter logic of a cosmos so ordered bends the knees of those who pay attention.

Stanza 7: The Promise of the Return of Memory

The speaker is reporting his memory from the time that he “smiled in diamonds, gleaming bright.” The speaker also remembers that his “blood in [the ruby’s red breast] once flowed so clear.” Again the speaker shows that the advanced spiritual seeker is able to remember his past incarnations from every stage of his evolution.

The promise of the return of memory remains one of the most fascinating concepts in the world of spiritual culture. As the human being progresses from infancy to old age, the variation and especially the fading of the memory function weighs heavily on the heart and mind. The promise of such a return that one will not only be able to remember one’s childhood but also will recall when one existed as a gemstone and then a bird can no less than astound the devotee who has taken to the path leading to soul-realization.

Stanza 8: The Souls of Inanimates

The souls of diamonds and rubies, in this yogi’s exalted state of awareness, remember with smiles and tears when they “meet their long-lost friend at last.” A fascinating scene must surely arise at the contemplation of one’s friends during the evolutionary stage of the gemstone. However, the same curious state propounds itself at any stage, especially those earlier than the human.

Then again, once the human stage is reached, how many times one has existed in the homo sapiens form comes in to play, and to find out how many millions of times one has been a human being would surely lay heavy in the heart and perhaps fluster the mind.

Stanza 9: Recognition of Souls from the Past

The speaker encounters souls that he once knew when they are gold and silver; and they are dressed respectively in “yellow gown” and “white robe.” As they smile on him “maternal smiles,” the speaker avers that these souls were also former mothers.

This speaker is enthralled to be meeting his former mothers. That familial relationship has been the most important to this speaker, and therefore throughout eternity, he will encounter relationships that speak the mothering tongue. Each soul will find the same situation true for it. If the father relationship has been the most important relationship for many incarnations, it will be that relationship that one will be most attracted to.

Stanza 10: Former Mothers

The speaker then encounters another former mother that nurtured him when he was “a tiny bird.” With “leafy fingers, arms outspread,” the speaker’s tree home/mother “caressed him” and “fed [him] with ambrosial fruit.”

The speaker has now progressed into the animal kingdom, and again he is encountering another mother figure. As he continues to progress evolutionarily, he will continue to encounter mothers—a sure sign that Divine Mother is guiding and guarding him throughout his move up the evolutionary scale.

Stanza 11: A Catalogue of Creatures

In the eleventh stanza, the speaker offers a catalogue of creatures: lark, cuckoo, pheasant, deer, lamb, lion, shark, and other “monsters of the sea”—all greeted him “in love and peace.”

In his progression through the animal kingdom, the speaker has lived as many animal forms. He catalogues a list of them and emphasizes the necessary qualities of “love and peace,” which aid in the progress up the evolution ladder.

Stanza 12: Existing Throughout Eternity

To capstone his encounter, the speaker avers that he has existed throughout eternity, from the beginning of creation, “when first the atoms and stardust sprang” from the mind of God. As each spiritual tradition came into being, he partook of each: “When Vedas, Bible, Koran sang, / I joined each choir.” And now the chants, hymns, and songs of those faiths, “still echo in [his] soul in accents strong.”

When the speaker moved into the human stage of existence, he became a spiritual being from the beginning. As a human being, he does not emphasize sense pleasure, but only the strong desire to fly past the homo sapiens state and into that of an avatar, one divinely and eternally united with his Creator. He has observed the many religious paths in order that he may speed toward his goal of Unity with his Divine Belovèd Creator.

Brief Publishing History of Songs of the Soul

The first published version of Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soulappeared 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.

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.

Publications

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.

The Poetry

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessonsthat 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.

Complete Works

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.”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “For Thee and Thine”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “For Thee and Thine,” from Songs of the Soul, consists of four stanzas, each with its own rime scheme: ABBA AABCCB AABBCCB AABCCB. Only stanzas two and four have the same rime scheme. The theme of this poem dramatizes the unity between the individual soul and the Over-Soul or Divinity. As the speaker dramatizes his journey to enlightenment or self-realization, he establishes the pleasant nature of wholesome worldly enjoyments.

(Please note: The spelling, “rhyme,” was introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson through an etymological error. For my explanation for using only the original form, please see “Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.”)

The following is an excerpt from the poem:

Excerpt from “For Thee and Thine”

I love to seek what’s mine.

I think. I act,

I work with tact

To gain what’s mine.

I pass by the river

Aflow in joyous quiver,

To soothe this mind of mine. . . .

(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 is dramatizing his spiritual journey, which includes the enjoyment of all wholesome earthly things that appeal to the senses.

First Stanza: Loving the Path

In the first stanza, the speaker declares that he is enamored with his spiritual journey. He loves to be on the path that leads to the Divine.

The speaker claims the Divine for his own: “I love to seek what’s mine.” His “seeking” includes the actions of thinking, acting, and working “with tact” in order to “gain what’s [his].”

Second Stanza: Glorifying His Days

The speaker then continues to reveal his actions that enliven and glorify his days. He goes to the river, which is “Aflow in joyous quiver.” He sees joy in the ordinary movement of a river.

And this ordinary, even mundane, occurrence “soothes” his mind. His spiritual journey deepens his senses, making him aware of the God-joy that the Divine has infused in all of His Creation.

The speaker then declares that he “smell[s] the flowers,” and the scent of those God-given gifts “cheer[s] [his] hours.” And he can thus remark that the joy of the river’s “quiver” and the smell of the flowers belong to him. The Divine has given him the ability to be aware of the heavenly attributes of those earthly entities, and he takes full advantage of them on the spiritual journey.

Third Stanza: Enjoying the Physical While Following the Spiritual

The speaker continues to show how he is able to enjoy the physical plane of being, even as he pursues his spiritual path. He “sip[s] the golden sunshine,” metaphorically likening the sun to a drink that is warm and soothing, and he declares that he drinks that sunshine, “To warm this flesh of mine.”

Continuing the beverage metaphor, he also “drink[s] the fresh and flowing air.” He then connects the breath with his prayer and meditation as he declares, “For me I lift my prayer.”

The speaker lovingly avers that he has no qualms about “rak[ing] / The world” to attain those God-gifts that belong to him as a child of the Divine.

Fourth Stanza: Converting Sorrow to Joy

The fourth stanza proclaims that the early days of sorrow have been converted into days and hours of joy. In the past when he sought only those gifts for himself and his kin alone, he had lived in delusion.

After having traveled the spiritual path, enjoying only God-gifts and then praying and meditating, the speaker has arrived at his goal; he is enlightened now and knows that all along he has been living for “Thee and Thine.”

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.

Publications

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.

The Poetry

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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.”

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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.

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