Paramahansa Yogananda's "One Friend"
Introduction and Excerpt from "One Friend"
From Paramahansa Yogananda’s uplifting collection of spiritual poems, Songs of the Soul, this poem gives readers/listeners the hope that they might have lost in childhood and early adulthood.
Excerpt from "One Friend"
Many clouds do race to hide Thee —
Of friends and wealth and fame —
And yet through mist of tears I see
Appear Thy Golden Name. . . .
(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 eight-line poem will afford the human heart that tunes in with it more hope than all the poetic effusions, all the political rhetoric of all the ages as it points only to the Eternal Friend, the "One Friend."
First Movement: The Metaphorical Clouds
The speaker begins with a statement about "clouds." But those clouds are not the literal clouds up in the sky; they are the many people and things each human being has to encounter just to stay alive.
We may think of this situation as a youngster, we all had a family that often nurtured us yet perhaps often belittled us. We love our families, but we know that, at times, they are not deserving of our love, but we do our best.
We leave them and find other roads to travel. Likely not knowing precisely where we are going, we just know we have to go, and we do. Those racing clouds will still race on, but we are in a different race away from theirs. We will find our own "friends and wealth and fame"; we are confident enough to strike out on our own. If we were not one of those brave souls, the mayic tints of society would be less hued and then what?
Second Movement: To Know the Lord
So what next? So things may not have gone as well as we have hoped. But we being the clever ones that we are, did not sever ties. Who would never sever ties with their original family? That only happens in novels, short stories, movies, and other forms of fiction, right?
But it does not matter. Our new family and new friends are not really the bunch that can satisfy us. We still have this little yearning in our heart. We want something, we can’t find it, what is it anyway?
Ah, yes, "My Sweet Lord—I really want to know You." But who are You? Where are You? We have asked so it appears as a "Golden Name." Now what will we do? What happens when our most urgent question is answered? It depends on our level of spiritual attainment.
Third Movement: True Friends
We have heard them: father, mother, sister, brother. They will never let us forget that we belong to them: "we have been away too long." "I wish we lived closer." "Why are we disavowing the very family that loves we, protects we, nurtures we?"
But we know the truth. They did not protect us when we needed it most. They did not nurture us in any meaningful way. They were only walking their own path, not recognizing that we were an individual who had to walk perhaps a different path.
Loud as they may be, we know we must seal our ears to them even as we do not ignore them. We must listen to the "One Friend." Only the One Friend can lead we to where we need to go.
Fourth Movement: The Supreme Force
Finally, the speaker of this poem is awake, hearing the sweet voice of the only one who can offer solace for those living on this mud ball hurling through space at an ungodly rate of speed. (Actually, it is quite Godly, because only God, the real, true friend is causing the mud to hurtle.) We will be ok, because we finally realize, "That Thou alone didst help me here."
Only the Divine Belovèd, Divine Friend, our Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ultimate Intelligence, the Great Spirit, the Ultimate Reality, Sat-Chit-Ananda, Allah, God, Yahweh, the One Friend can help we. Help? That Force created we, why would it not help us, if we would only ask.
Is that not the issue? We have to ask. Of course, we know asking the right question to the wrong earthly being can get us much heartache, but the Supreme Force who is our One Friend eternally is not that earthly mobster; the Divine Force loves, cares for protects us through all events.
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.
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© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes