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.
The great guru’s organization, SRF, also continues to publish collections of his works. Many of his talks have appeared in the series of essays that include Man’s Eternal Quest, The Divine Romance, and Journey to Self-realization.
The guru has also bestowed on the literary world three important translations of extant perennial works that have been grossly misunderstood in some cases for centuries. His new translations along with his explanatory commentaries are correcting that misunderstanding.
In Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam — A Spiritual Interpretation, he shows how that poet’s God-realized effusions put on display a man in love with his Creator and not the wine sopped Epicurean that has been misapplied to the work.
In the guru’s in-depth translation and commentaries on the ancient Bhagavad Gita, titled God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita — A New Translation and Commentary, the great spiritual leader offers not only the poetic translation of the work but also the relevance for humankind of the psychological and spiritual instruction offered in the ancient poem.
Most importantly for Western culture, Paramahansa Yogananda has offered a full explanation of the phenomenon known as the “Second Coming.” Titled The Second Coming of Christ: The Resurrection of the Christ Within You — A revelatory commentary on the original teachings of Jesus, the work explains the true meaning of many of Jesus’ words long misunderstood and mischaracterized, such as “The Kingdom of God is within you” and “I and my Father are one.”
Of all the publications offered by SRF and the great guru, it is the Lessons that remain most vital. One could dispense with all of the other books, audio tapes, poetry, and other commentaries if one possesses those lessons.
The Lessons begin by offering physical exercises that prepare the physical encasement to sit quietly and still while performing the more advanced exercises that lead to Kriya Yoga practice.
The Lessons contains six steps that can be completed in three years, but each student is free to progress at his/her own pace. The Lessons include instruction in the following techniques: 1. Energization Exercises. 2. Hong-Sau Technique of Concentration, and 3. Aum Technique of Meditation.
After completing the first two steps, the devotee may apply for the Kriya Yoga technique.
Kriya Yoga Initiations
The Kriya Yoga technique features four initiations for a total of twenty lessons. The First Initiation, featuring lessons K1-9, includes the technique of Kriya proper, on which all of the other initiations are based. The Second Initiation contains four lessons, K10-14, and the Third and Fourth include the remaining lessons K15-20.
All of the Lessons, including the Kriya Yoga Initiations, include many explanations based of science, as well as on the life experience of Paramahansa Yogananda. These marvelous works are presented in such way to hold the student-devotees’ interest with little stories, poems, affirmations, and prayers that enhance the purpose of each lesson.
In addition to all of the works mentioned above, Paramahansa Yogananda has published many others, including his Cosmic Chants, which offers musical notations as well as the lyric for each chant.
An annotated list of the works of the great guru is offered on the Self-Realization Fellowship Web site under the title, “The Complete Works of Paramahansa Yogananda.”