Paramahansa Yogananda's "Scenes Within"
Introduction and Excerpt from "Scenes Within"
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.
Excerpt from "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. . . .
(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 speaker is observing the Denver, Colorado, area revealing scenes that stir the reader with encouragement to plain living and high thinking.
First Movement: A Greater Beauty
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: Abundant Nobility
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: Metaphoric 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: The Understanding of Pure 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: The Magic Behind Closed Eyes
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: The Real America, the Living India
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 reported 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, the real India lives 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: Traveling Through Minds
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
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