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Paramahansa Yogananda's "Vanishing Bubbles"
Introduction and Excerpt from "Vanishing Bubbles"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Vanishing Bubbles" from Songs of the Soul features five variously rimed stanzas. I have offered the first two stanzas below.
(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.")
The poem's theme dramatizes the evanescence of worldly objects under the spell of maya, and the speaker expresses a desire to understand where these things come from and where they go after they seem to disappear.
Excerpt from "Vanishing Bubbles"
Many unknown bubbles float and flow,
Many ripples dance by me
And melt away in the sea.
I yearn to know, ah, whence they come and whither go—
The rain drops and dies,
My thoughts play wild and vanish quick,
The red clouds melt into the skies;
I stake my purse, I'll slave all life, their motive still to seek. . . .
(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 dramatizing the brief sojourn of worldly things that are like bubbles in the sea, mysteriously appearing, prancing about for a brief time, and then vanishing.
First Stanza: Coming and Going in the Mayic Drama
In the first stanza, the speaker states that many things come and go, and he would like to know both where they come from and where they go. The speaker metaphorically compares these worldly objects to "bubbles," indicating that their existence is tenuous, ephemeral, and that they are in reality only temporary appearances on the screen of life.
The speaker continues to describe the bubbles as things that "dance with me / And melt away into the sea." The waves of the sea that cause little watery bubbles to bounce around the swimmer serve as a useful metaphor for all the worldly things that are passing through a fragile existence on their way to who knows where.
Second Stanza: The Evanescence of Natural Phenomena
The speaker then reports, "The rain drops and dies," noting again another natural phenomenon that comes quickly and leaves just as quickly. But then the speaker adds that his thoughts also come and go with great speed. As if with the rain, the speaker’s thoughts arrive and then flee.
The speaker then reports that "red clouds" seem to dissolve into the skyey surrounding; the rain vanishes and the cloud vanishes, leaving the speaker to desire ever so strongly to know the why and therefor of such actions. The speaker thus vows to "stake [his] purse" and "slave all [of his] life" to find out why these things behave as they do.
Third Stanza: The Intense Desire to Know
The speaker then notes that even some of his friends have vanished, but he asserts that he knows he still has their love. He, thus, is imparting the knowledge that the unseen is the part of creation that does not vanish. The physical bodies of his friends must undergo the vanishing act, but their love does not, because love is entrenched in the immortality of the soul.
The speaker then avers that his "dearest thoughts" also can never be lost. He then points out that the "night’s surest stars" that were "seen just above" have all "fled." Objects as huge and bright as stars come and go, but his own thoughts and love do not.
Fourth Stanza: All Matter of Sense-Appealing Nature
In the fourth stanza, the speaker offers to the eye and ear a list of nature’s creatures, such as lilies, linnets, other blooming flowers with sweet aromas, and bees that are "honey-mad."
These lovely bits of nature once appeared on the scene under shaky trees, but now only empty fields are left on the scene. As the little wavelets and rain and the stars appeared and then vanished, so did these other phenomena.
Fifth Stanza: Evanescent Images of Entertainment
The speaker again refers to the evanescent images of "bubbles, lilies, friends, dramatic thoughts." He then reports that they play "their parts" "and entertain." The speaker then dramatically proclaims that after they vanish, they exist only "behind the cosmic screen." They do not cease to exist, however; they merely change "their displayed coats."
Instead of the physical world's mayic drama of sight and sound, these once worldly presences become "quiet" for they are "concealed." But the important, uplifting thought that accompanies the spiritual reality of all phenomena is that they do not truly vanish; they "remain." The scientific law of the conservation of energy, as well as the spiritual law of immortality, proclaim their eternal existence.
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.
Publications of Paramahansa Yogananda
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.
The Poetry of Paramahansa Yogananda
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."
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes