Overview of Paramahansa Yogananda's Book, Whispers From Eternity
Whispers from Eternity - Book Cover
Because spirituality exists on a different plane of being from the physical and mental planes, figurative language is required to attempt description of all things spiritual.
The mind possesses the ability to perceive ordinary duality of the material level of being, but it also is capable of interpreting implications made by poetic devices. The great yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, is the foremost poet of spirituality. In his collection of spiritual poems titled Whispers from Eternity, he offers some of his most beloved poems/prayers that plumb the spiritual world.
The plane of extraordinary consciousness is evoked by the title of this volume. The speaker of the poems is listening to whispers from the Creator. He demonstrates the process of listening to the ever-existing soul. When in quietness and stillness, eternity sends whispers to our souls, minds, and hearts, each human being is uplifted into a higher consciousness where one may commune with the Divine.
Whispers from Eternity begins with the following dedication:
Christians, Moslems, Buddhists, Hebrews,
Hindus, and all other religionists,
In whom the Cosmic heart is ever throbbing equally.
In the Foreword, Amelita Galli-Curci, the famous soprano writes, "The prayers in Whispers from Eternity serve to bring God closer to us, by describing the liberating feelings that arise from actual communion with Him."
Paramahansa Yogananda's purpose for traveling to the United States of America was to share his enlightened state of consciousness through his techniques which lead to God-union, a state of being which each individual desires to experience. The great guru's poetry serves as another vehicle for describing that blessed state of being that he desired for everyone.
The Introduction to Whispers from Eternity finds the great yogi explaining the nature of the volume: "I offer my simple songs at the shrine of humanity, that all share my soul joy."
"Salutation to God as the Great Preceptor" is the first offering and serves as an invocation:
Full of bliss, bestowing joy transcendent, Essence of wisdom, untouched by duality, clear as the taintless sky, the Utterer of Thou art That, the One, eternal, pure immovable, the omnipresent Witness, free from nature’s three qualities, beyond the reach of thought—my Divine Preceptor, I bow to Thee!
The above simple song also exists as a devotional chant, known as "Hymn to Brahma":
Hymn to Brahma
Full of bliss, giving joy transcendent,
Of higher knowledge the abode;
Dual no more, clear as the heavens,
Known to all as "Thou art That."
He is pure, permanent, unmoving,
The everlasting seer of all;
Far, far beyond qualities and thought,
Guru-Lord, I bow to Thee.
The great guru then offers another whisper in "The melody of human brotherhood":
Heavenly Spirit, we are traveling by many right roads to Thine abode of light. Guide us onto the highway of Self-knowledge, to which all paths of true religious beliefs eventually lead.
Chanting of "Hymn to Brahma"
The Metaphoric Pathway
The great guru reminds his followers often that the purpose of all religions is to lead the human soul back to its Source, its Creator, or God. He, therefore, often employs the metaphor of a highway or path, on which the devotee travels to reach that exalted goal of unity. Despite the world's blind notion that a religion may be superior to others, the yogi will have us know that all religions are merely guides on the pathway to God-union.
The title of each whisper offers a unique glimpse into its content; for example, "May my gratitude be changeless," "I am Thy divine dewdrop," and "I am Thy tiny hummingbird." Each well crafted whisper demonstrates that God is the superpower and each human soul is a spark of that powerful essence. Thus each soul resembles a constantly flowing river meandering to the sea.
The volume also offers a series of prayers especially for children. The following whisper contains a sentiment that when instilled in little ones could be quite useful in shaping their behavior:
Divine Mother, teach me to love others and to serve them. I want my friends to keep their promises to me, so help me always to be true to my own word.
May I make my parents happy, my teachers happy, and my playmates happy. I will find my happiness in their joy.
Four Sections of Prayer Whispers
Each of the four sections of poem/prayer/whispers offers a distinct aspect of purpose:
1. Prayers and Soul Thoughts,
2. Invocations to the Manifestations of God in the Temples of Great Lives,
3. Children’s Prayers,
4. Experiences in Superconsciousness.
The fourth section offers the eponymous title, "Whispers from Eternity." The following is an excerpt from that title:
The Eternal Voice softly said to me: "Through thy slumber of ages I whispered, ‘Wake thyself!’ Thou hast forsaken thy sleep, so now I say, ‘Wake thy brothers!’ Work though with Me, that all men hear My word."
Balm for the Soul
During the 1920s and 1930s throughout the United States, Paramahansa Yogananda attracted millions of souls with his lectures on how to achieve soul-awareness. His message uplifted the hearts and minds of the world weary multitudes.
Because the great guru spoke and wrote from an exalted state of consciousness, his works continue to attract followers. His poetry not only entertains, but it also uplifts the soul and assists his technical writings in guiding devotees to their goal of Divine Consciousness.
Reading of Yogananda's poem, "Whispers from Eternity"
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