Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!"
Introduction and Excerpt from Poem, "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!"
The great spiritual leader and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship Paramahansa Yogananda brought to the West his marvelous techniques of yoga. These techniques accompany the spiritual philosophy of Jesus Christ, leading devotees to their home in the Divine Creator.
In addition to the yogic techniques, the great guru published three books of poems that inspire, uplift, and urge the devotees on as they move down the path toward realization of their souls, as they proceed to God-awareness.
Yogananda’s "Wake, Wake, My sleeping Hunger, Wake!" from Songs of the Soul dramatizes the theme of humanity’s intense craving for that mysterious "something more." The speaker of Paramahansa Yogananda’s "Wake, Wake, My sleeping Hunger, Wake!" metaphorically likens that strange craving to "hunger" and "thirst."
Just the physical body is motivated by needs for food and liquid to replenish its cells, the soul also moves the human being to find nourishment for its maintenance and advancement. The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!," creates a little drama exploring the nature of spiritual hunger.
The refrain, "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!," caps each stanza of this amazing call to awareness. The repetition of this marvelous thought will play chant-like in the devotee's consciousness as s/he moves through the day's mundane duties.
Excerpt from "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!"
When tables large — of earth and moon and meteor,
Of brooks and rills, of shining ether ore —
Are laid with wondrous One Nectar,
Stolen from nature's nooks by lares,
Do thou thy sullen sleep forsake:
Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake! . . .
(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.)
The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's poem, "Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!," creates a little drama exploring the nature of spiritual hunger.
First Stanza: A Hunger That Bewilders
The speaker addresses his own, bewildering hunger, commanding it to rouse itself. There exists for every soul a veritable banquet of things to feast upon with the eye and ear. The "tables" are huge and resemble a sumptuous meal spread out for honored guests.
But instead of mere food, these tables contain the universe of "earth and moon and meteors," and "brooks and rills" along with "shining ether ore."
These things all signify a "wondrous One Nectar," indicating that not only the eye and ear may be greeted but also the sense of taste is included.
This fabulous ambrosial liquid offered for imbibing has figuratively been "stolen from nature’s nooks" by the gods of domesticity.
The speaker implies that his attention has been suffering "sullen sleep," instead of observing all of these magnificent God-given gifts that should inspire and motivate him.
Thus he commands his lagging mood, "Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!" This command becomes the important refrain completing each stanza.
Second Stanza: Begging for Spiritual Crumbs
The speaker then reveals that his soul has traveled the cosmos "through diverse paths of aeons," and he has been a beggar, crying for crumbs.
Now he finds himself exhausted by this journey, while he is within reach of his goal. He castigates his inertia, mocking his tear-besmeared cheeks, informing his lazy attitude that "Nectar touches thy lips."
The speaker is able to quench his long-suffering thirst, but only if he will "partake!"
Thus, the speaker repeats his refrain, "Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!" His thirst and his hunger conflate into a craving that has bedeviled him for many incarnations.
Now the speaker is whipping his effort into the discipline required to realize that he must wake up and experience the all-satisfying "manna" of his own soul.
Third Stanza: Soul Hunger
The speaker then reports that although he had consumed "all fare," still he was unable to satisfy that "unquenched Hunger." Even satiated with food, he remained "starved" and continued to search for the nourishment that would finally gratify his craving. Now, he realizes that he must awake to his soul.
Fourth Stanza: Awake and Realize
Again, during all that time and many experiences when the speaker sought relief, he could not find it anywhere, but "[t]he Nectar sought for seeks thee now."
The speaker's search has finally led him to the place where he is being sought after by the only Power with the ability to satisfy his hunger and thirst, and all he has to do is wake up and realize it.
Fifth Stanza: Reawakening to One's Own Success
The speaker then reminds his craving that it has worked so hard to quell its trammels; it has "wept to drink / Life’s mysteries," and it has desired nothing but truth.
But the hard work has succeeded and now, "Thy work is done; thy Nectar’s here — / Quench, quench th’ eternal ache! / Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!"
The devotee who spiritually labors for many years to unite his soul with the Divine may need a final nudge in recognizing his own success.
Life Sketch and Publications 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."
Opening to God's Love in Meditation
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes