Paramahansa Yogananda's "Listen to My Soul Song"
Introduction and Excerpt from "Listen to My Soul Song
Paramahansa Yogananda composed a short chant based on the penultimate stanza of this poem and titled it, "Come, Listen to my Soul Song." He also features in his Cosmic Chants a chant titled "At Thy Feet," which also employs the line "Listen to my soul song."
The poem,"Listen to my Soul Song," demonstrates that the theme of this piece works beautifully as three poetic forms—song, chant, and prayer.
Excerpt from "Listen to My Soul Song"
Come! Listen to my soul‐song!
The darkness burst,
And Thy descending shafts of light
Pierced the clouds of gloom
To listen to my soul song. . . .
(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.)
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Listen to My Soul Song," the great yogi offers a perfect blend of three poetry forms: song, chant, and prayer.
First Stanza: Invocation to the Divine Singer
Uniquely, the first stanza is a single line that evokes the presence of the Divine, inviting, nay commanding, that the Great One attend to the singing soul of the devotee, who is pouring out his body, mind, and soul to his Creator.
Second Stanza: Celebrating the Presence
The devotee now begins to elucidate the presence of his Belovèd Creator, reporting and celebrating that presence that he has invoked.
Metaphorically, the chanting devotee likens the approach of the Divine to "shafts of light" that "pierced the heart of gloom." And thus, the devotee is mindful of the Divine’s attendance.
The refrain that maintains the quality of the chant is repeated in the final line of each stanza: the Lord appears to the devotee, "To listen to my soul song."
Third Stanza: Chanting Through Intuition
The devotee reveals that even though the Blessèd Lord remains "hidden" "behind the screen of my eye," the chanting celebrant intuits that the Divine is right there, "To listen to my soul song."
Fourth Stanza: Emotional Commands
The devotee in a dramatic outburst of emotion commands his Divine Belovèd to rend all means of separation, "the veils," the blue sky, "all lights," to come to him.
The chanting worshiper demands with his chant that his Creator "come to me as Thou art," in order "To listen to my soul song."
Fifth Stanza: Demanding Divine Presence
The devotee continues his emotional outburst of commands, demanding the Divine break through all barriers, even the devotee’s senses, mind, heart, feelings, silence, and soul.
The chanter wants nothing to present itself as separation from his Beloved, whom he commands again and again, "To listen to my soul song."
Sixth Stanza: The Lord's Omnipresence
In the sixth stanza, the devotee sweetly reminds the Lord of the many little notices he takes of the Divine presence in the physical world: he feels Him in the breeze, he senses the love of the Divine in the warmth of the sun, he sees the Lord’s face in "colorful scenery."
And this devotees sees God dancing "in the waves." He knows that God is dancing over his own thoughts as the Blessèd One eternally continues, "To listen to my soul song."
Seventh Stanza: The Command to Listen
The emotional effusion overtakes the devotee again and repeats his earlier demands—again portraying the fusion of poetry, chant, and prayer—to "burst the heart, burst the sky, burst the soul! / Come listen to my soul song!"
And again, the devotee dramatizes God’s presence "Hovering over the clouds, / Lingering over the lea." He realizes that the Divine has come to him, "To listen to my soul song."
Eighth Stanza: The Paradox of the Visible and Invisible
Paradoxically, the hidden God is both visible and invisible, "[b]eneath the gloaming / Of dim devotion of eyes unseeing."
Yet, despite the physical senses’ reportage or lack thereof, the Lord is ever with the devotee, "To listen to my soul song."
Life Sketch 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.
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.
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."
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.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes