Paramahansa Yogananda's "On Coming to the New-Old Land—America"
Introduction and Excerpt from "On Coming to the New-Old Land-America"
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “On Coming to the New-Old Land—America,” the spiritual leader/mystic poet gives his readers a glimpse of the thoughts and feelings he experienced in making the arduous journey to the United States.
A Pilgrim to the Land of Pilgrims
Paramahansa Yogananda first arrived in the United States in 1920 to speak in Boston at a meeting of the International Congress of Religious Liberals. His speech was so well received that he quickly gathered a following of Americans interested in the ancient science and art of yoga. By 1925, his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, was thriving with the purpose of disseminating his teachings of yoga and keeping them aptly as he taught them. The great guru has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”
The poem consists of three stanzas with the rime scheme, ABCDC, ABBCDCD, AABBCCDDEE. The first stanza has five lines, the second seven lines, and the third eight lines. The growing number of lines corresponds to the filling of the great guru’s heart and soul with the events his poem's speaker is experiencing.
(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.")
Excerpt from "On Coming to the New-Old Land-America"
Of friends once more to be,
Did greet me — sailing o'er the sea —
Sensing my coming,
The Pilgrim Land to adore. . . .
(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 great guru/poet Paramahansa Yogananda was born January 5, 1893, in Gorakhpur, India. This article focuses on his poem, "On Coming to the New-Old Land-America."
First Stanza: Meeting Old Friends Anew
In the first stanza, the great guru's speaker implies that he will be seeing again people he has known before in prior incarnations; he has “sleeping memories / Of friends once more to be.” This hint points to one of the tenets of the philosophy he will be teaching—reincarnation.
The speaker is already in transit as the poem begins, “sailing o’er the sea.” And, of course, he has sailed on the ship called The City of Sparta, the first passenger ship sailing to American after the end of World War I.
The great guru's speaker senses that he will love America, knowing that he already has friends there. He is coming “to adore” “The Pilgrim Land.” He will be an additional “pilgrim” to the land already filled with pilgrims.
Second Stanza: Anticipation of the New Land
The second stanza dramatizes the great guru/poet’s anticipation of the new land to which he is bound. In his heart’s mind, he can see the “distant sleeping shore.”
This visionary speaker can intuit that it “[l]ay in the twinkling night, / Dim through the vanished light.” The speaker senses a strong breeze from the ocean and begins to have unusual thoughts about his new home. The thoughts are ringing in the brain. However, this speaker is able to tame those thoughts with hope and work them into a tapestry of sweetness and delightful anticipation.
Third Stanza: A Sudden Dip into Gloom
Then suddenly, like black bird of “gloom,” a frightening thought appears in the great guru/speaker's mind and seems to want to overtake his soul and strength, but that bird, as quickly as it came, quickly vanishes when he sees those “phantom friends.”
The speaker knows as he first meets those “friends to be” that they are there “to lend / Their cheer, / And end [his] fear!” Even an advanced yogi can experience the mundane terrors of life if only briefly. In this special poem, the great spiritual leader shows his human side as well as his divine ability to intuit that he is going to meet friends he has known before.
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."
The Beginning of Paramahansa Yogananda's Mission
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes