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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Scenes Within"

Updated on October 15, 2017
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Paramahansa Yogananda

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "Scenes Within"

On a personal, note: I lived in the Denver area from 1979 to 1983. I can attest to the fact that the mountainous area is beautiful, fascinating, and speaks to one’s soul on a high level.

Paramahansa Yogananda, however, had observed that area several decades before I did, and because he is a great Avatar of God, he can reveal nooks and crannies that spark the brain to high thinking, high feeling, high living.

Scenes Within

Paramahansaji wrote these verses while riding in a car through the countryside near Denver, Colorado.

Many a wondrous scenic face
Denver's horizon grand doth grace.
Yet when I think of the rarer beauties
That lie in human souls,
Rapture calls.

Eagerly I look;
Delving deep in valleys of human minds –
In all their sacred nooks.
Colossal mounts of nobility
I find, adorned with every goodly quality.

Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers
Of budding thoughts, their perfume wafting,
Attract me to their bowers.
The blue expanse of amity
Ripples with thrills of endless beauty.
From compassion's mountain-bosom,
Perpetual soul freshness, constant kind looks,
Flow down like brooks.
Founts of matchless love
Bubble forth in the heart
Of this soul-garden, and start
Endless sparkling fancies.

Yet in the land of souls
Blow various breezes;
One warms me, and another freezes.
Pure souls, vital souls,
Breathe living air in me –
To them my doors are open wide and free.

I open my eyes on passing mountain scenes,
Then close my lids
And race in mental aerial plane
To view again the unseen world of souls:
Cities loom, with passions all;
Liquid mazes of desires,
Deceiving mires;
Ego's dark, titanic chasms,
Where faith has never shone.

What lands pass I?
Whose kingdom see?
There, in the land of minds,
And there alone, I find
The real America, the living India;
The beauties and the barren tracts
Of nations all, of souls all.
Yet diverse though this kingdom be,
There lives here but One Reality.

Three thousand miles of land I traveled not,
But through three thousand miles of minds was brought.
I find writ
And well knit
In outer scenes –
Fields, gardens, cities, shops –
The thought vibrations of those myriad minds.
How oft men pass, unheeding, all the beauties
Of familiar paths, and sheltering trees;
In blindness they roam
In the garden of hearts.
In them I long to start
A vision new:
Of Beauty, eternal and true.

Commentary

First Movement: "Many a wondrous scenic face"

The speaker of "Scenes Within," from Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, locates himself in the Denver, Colorado, area. He finds the place "grand" with many "scenic face[s]." But then remarks that "human souls" call in him a greater beauty.

The speaker has thus signaled that a comparison will follow: while the poem is titled, "Scenes Within," the reader has been availed to the knowledge that the speaker will also reveal some scenes without.

Second Movement: "Eagerly I look"

The speaker has perused the minds of many souls and found nobility in abundance. He has delved "deep in the valleys of human minds." He finds the good and emphasizes it.

This speaker, one must remember, is an avatar of God, not an ordinary poet, who would likely never transcend the ill that had been perpetrated against him/her. But this speaker has no overweening ego to protect; thus, he can deliver the truth of any situation.

Third Movement: "Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers"

Look for the comparison to be metaphoric rather than laced with simile. For example, "Marigolds, roses, pure white flowers" stampede into our sight, but they are "budding thoughts" whose "perfume" is wafting to "attract [the speaker] to their bower."

The speaker takes each beauty and molds it into the qualities of the soul that he has detected in the human beings whom he has come to serve, to lead, to bless, and to elevate.

While the "expanse of blue amity" signals compassion, it also reveals "thrills of endless beauty." Beauty of soul and beauty of landscape surely coalesce, or what is beauty for?

The speaker has encountered many examples of "soul freshness, constant kind looks" and thus he knows that, "founts of matchless love" exist in the hearts and souls of humanity.

Fourth Movement: "Yet in the land of souls"

However, the speaker also is aware that not all humans accept him: "one warms me, and another freezes." It is because in the "land of souls / Blow various breezes."

But the "pure souls," the ones who are capable of understanding, the ones who have evolutionarily advanced enough to comprehend the sacred message this speaker has come to deliver, to them he knows they "breathe living air" in him, and to them his "doors are open wide and free."

Fifth Movement: "I open my eyes on passing mountain scenes"

The speaker then reports that he observes the physical landscape around him with open eyes. But then something magical transpires when he closes his eyes. With closed eyes, he can view the "world of souls."

Think of it: there is the landscape where you live and there are the people who inhabit it. Suppose that with open eyes you view the landscape and with closed eyes you view the souls of the people who live there: It is easy to say that in the physical landscape you saw this mountain, that river, this city, that ocean, this garbage dump, that railroad track, and on and on.

But when you close your eyes, do you imagine that all those souls equal one to one the quality of their landscape? The speaker notes that "cities loom, with passions all" with "liquid mazes of desires." Many people living in any area have conflicting desires and passions.

Sri Yukestwar has averred: "Human conduct is ever unreliable until man is anchored in the Divine." It is those desires that lead to that conduct, leading to those "deceiving mires." Why? Because of lack of faith: "Ego’s dark, titanic chasms, / Where faith has never shone."

It is quite likely that many of today’s citizens worldwide have not been introduced to the efficacy of faith. To them, faith is tantamount to fairy tales. Their god is "science"— but a science that has not been vetted, not been realized in the "scientific method," and certainly not substantiated.

Such folks are willing accept the doctrine of an Usama bin Laden because they think the Christian, whom they also misunderstand, is as guilty of mayhem as is the Islamic extremist, who believes that killing is the way to achieving his Ecstasy. A little lesson in history would solve this issue, but who cares about studying history nowadays?

What is left? Ego and what has ego ever done for anyone? "Ego’s dark, titanic chasms, / Where faith has never shone." The ego has never known faith: all it knows is what is in it for me: what I think, what I believe, what I do. If it does not garner me a kudos of money, compliment, score, or other physical gratification, it is worthless or worse, nonexistent.

Sixth Movement: "What lands I pass!"

This speaker can aver, "There in the land of minds / And there alone, / I find / The real America, the living India." This speaker perceives reality and perfectly reports it. Although we love to visit the Himalayas, the Rockies, the ocean on the coasts of America, it is the minds and souls of the Americans that matter.

The real America and the real India live in the souls, the hearts, and minds of the natives of their countries. So as various and "diverse" as we all think we are, "There lies here but One Reality."

Seventh Movement: "Three thousand miles of land I traveled not"

This speaker then reveals that his travels through the minds of the people have revealed to him the ultimate truth: "the thought vibrations of those myriad minds" have "well knit / In outer scenes" the "fields, gardens, cities, shops."

The cosmic vibration manifests itself in the scenery of the location of each area.

All are equal in their value, their beauty, their yearning to experience eternal bliss on the Ultimate Level of Existence. The speaker avers: "A vision new: / Of Beauty, eternal and true."

Note: The Denver Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship offers a marvelous Web site documentary of Paramahansa Yogananda's visits to the Denver area.

Inspiration for Spiritualizing Family Life

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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