Paramahansa Yogananda's "Two Black Eyes”
Gyana Prabha Ghosh, Mother of Paramahansa Yogananda
Introduction and Excerpt from "Two Black Eyes"
In Paramahansa Yogananda's spiritual classic, Autobiography of a Yogi, the great guru avers: "I loved Mother as my dearest friend on earth. Her solacing black eyes had been my refuge in the trifling tragedies of childhood." But at the early age of eleven years, the little boy, known then as Mukunda Lal Ghosh, lost those two black solacing eyes when his mother unexpectedly died.
The young Mukunda deeply loved his father, his three brothers, and four sisters, but the loss of his mother was a crushing blow; he asserts, "Years passed before any reconciliation entered my heart. Storming the very gates of heaven, my cries at last summoned the Divine Mother."
That haunting image of "two black eyes" becomes a symbol for loving protection, and it works itself into the memory of the reader, and the importance of that image for the yogi/poet is displayed repeatedly throughout his written works, especially throughout his creative writing, but also from time to time, he invokes that image in his philosophical writings.
Excerpt from "Two Black Eyes"
When my brother or my teacher
Stormed at me,
In the haven of my mothers' two black eyes
I found my retreat. . . .
(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.)
Paramahansa Yogananda, age 6
The phrase "two black eyes" operates first as an image and then as a symbol of eternal, spiritual love in Paramahansa Yogananda's poems about his beloved mother.
First Movement: A Storm-Tossed World
Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "Two Black Eyes," from Songs of the Soul begins with a storm-tossed world that, nevertheless, offered a safe harbor of security and comfort for the speaker’s young soul: "When my brother or my teacher / Stormed at me, / In the haven of my mother’s two black eyes / I found my retreat."
The speaker is looking back at his childhood. He recalls that after experiencing difficulties with his brother or teacher, he could always find solace in the eyes of his precious mother. And it was especially her "two black eyes" that made the lasting impression on the young boy.
The boy's mother's loving strength and kindness healed the lad of the worldly wounds inflicted by others. This mother became the lad's "haven" and "retreat" from the sharp edges that the world inflicts upon its inhabitants.
Second Movement: A Devastating Event
For any young boy who depended so strongly upon his mother's guidance and protection, the sudden death of that mother would be a devastating event.
The speaker proclaims, "I cried." But then he began immediately storming the gates of heaven, searching for the solace that was now so cruelly ripped out of his life.
The young lad literally looked to the heavens "in the stars," for those two black eyes that had nurtured him in his time of distress. Through his tears, he seemed to see "black eyes everywhere" twinkling in those stars.
But alas! they were not those black eyes that he had lost to cruel death. The lad had to keep searching. His little broken heart would not allow him to cease his search for those two shelters.
Third Movement: Mothering Black Eyes
The speaker reports that although many other sets of black eyes attempted to "mother" him, he could not be satisfied with them. Those generous eyes of others were not the eyes of his mother who had stolen his heart.
The speaker's love for his mother prompted him to reject the affection of others; he intuitively understood the difference between his love for his mother's "two black eyes" and the affection offered by relatives and friends who would try to stand in her stead.
Fourth Movement: Storming the Gates of Heaven
Because the speaker could find no solace in the eyes of any other human being, he continues his search for the "two black eyes" that could offer him what the needed. Thus after have he had searched, and stormed the gates of heaven, the speaker finally finds his "Divine Mother." In finding his Divine Mother, he knows he has also found his shelter of original mother-love that guided him and guarded him in his turbulent childhood.
The speaker's Divine Mother offered not only that long lost love of those "lost two black eyes" but also the Divine Love that every soul is seeking: "It is I who have watched over thee, life after life, in the tenderness of many mothers! See in My gaze the two black eyes, the lost beautiful eyes, thou seekest!" In the shelter of unity with the Creator Divine (Divine Mother), the speaker finds his permanent haven, his everlasting retreat from the trammels of the chaotic world.
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