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Paramahansa Yogananda's "God's Boatman"

Updated on February 3, 2018
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The poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda serves to enhance the activity of meditation, ultimately leading the individual soul to Divine Reality.

"God's Boatman" by Paramahansa Yogananda

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Introduction and Excerpt from Poem, "God's Boatman"

The eternal relationship between the Guru and his devotees is dramatized in Yogananda's reassuring poem, "God's Boatman."

Paramahansa Yogananda’s "God’s Boatman" offers his devotees the comforting knowledge that he will always remain their spiritual leader, or guru, throughout eternity, and he will not abandon them to delusion and despair. The poem reveals the empathy that a God-realized saint has for the suffering human beings in this world.

The relationship between a God-realized saint (Guru) is eternal. The Guru will guide and guard his devotee throughout their existence, so long as the devotee remains without the precious state of consciousness, "Self-Realization," or union with the Divine Causal Reality. This poem dramatizes the guru's promise to continue his protection of his devotees throughout eternity.

Excerpt from "God's Boatman"

I want to ply my boat, many times,
Across the gulf-after-death,
And return to earth's shores
From my home in heaven. . . .

(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.)

Commentary

The eternal relationship between the Guru and his devotees is dramatized in Yogananda's reassuring poem, "God's Boatman."

First Movement: Willing to Return Many Times

The speaker, who is a God-united saint, declares that he actually desires to return to earth as many times as is necessary to fetch those who have not gained the Superconsciousness that he has achieved.

He metaphorically likens the space continuum between God-realization and earth-consciousness to an ocean across which he will travel by boat "from my home in heaven" to the "earth’s shores," where his stranded fellows remain in delusion.

Second Movement: A Boat Load of Souls

The speaker avers that he will "load [his] boat / With those waiting, thirsty ones / Who are left behind." In fact, he will literally teach his yogic techniques to those who are open to them, to those who are suffering from the despair and misery that living in a physical body with mentally agitated awareness causes.

The guru/speaker will figuratively transport his devotees across the great watery divide to the "opal pool / Of iridescent joy / Where [his] Father distributes / His all-desire-quenching liquid peace." He will teach them to concentrate their efforts and make their minds one-pointed and clear through meditation until they are able to shed the tribulations of this world and enter the haven of bliss, where God will truly bless them.

Third Movement: Willing to Suffer Many Inconveniences

The speaker insists that he "will come again and again!" The unselfishness of the God-united saint is beyond comprehension by those unrealized minds and hearts, whose very existence seems to dictate the necessity of remaining self-centered and self-focused as they identify with their flesh, race, country, gender, and their relatives and possessions.

Furthermore, this beloved Guru avers that he will suffer myriad inconveniences for his fellows; even if his feet have to bleed as he searches for them, he will come for them. He will come for them, "If need be, a trillion times — / So long as I know / One stray brother is left behind." Who, without self-realization, can even fathom taking on the physical body with its bothers "a trillion times" just for sake of others?

Fourth Movement: Desires Only God-Realization

Turning to the beloved Divine, the speaker assures the Blessed Lord God that he desires God-realization, and he wants Him not only for himself but to be able to "give [Him] to all." He supplicates to the Lord to be liberated from body delusion so that he may show others that they too can do as he has done, that they too can achieve the blessed state of superconscious awareness.

The speaker reiterates his plea to the Lord; he desires this ultimate liberation "[f]rom the bondage to the body, / That [he] may show others / How they can free themselves." He wants God’s "everlasting bliss / Only that [he] may share it with others." In his ultimate unselfishness, the Great Guru demonstrates, as Jesus did, that he desires above else to "show all [his] brothers / The way to happiness / Forever and forever, in [the Ultimate Reality]."

Dr M.W. Lewis: God's Boatman ~ An Audio Satsang

Life Sketch and Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda

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

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© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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    • Maya Shedd Temple profile image
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      Linda Sue Grimes 16 months ago from U.S.A.

      Thank you for commenting, Jewels. Have a blessed day!

    • Jewels profile image

      Jewels 18 months ago from Australia

      It's wonderful to read of the Hindu model. Sri Aurobindo, Yogananda, The Mother. I love this piece about the Boatman, I can relate in regard to my own teacher very much.

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