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Paramahansa Yogananda's Book, Wine of the Mystic

Updated on October 15, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

Eastern religious philosophy is one of my areas of interest about which I write essays exploring the nature of reality and being.

Wine of the Mystic - Book Cover



The famous sufi poem, The Rubaiyt of Omar Khayyam, has long been the victim of a gross misunderstanding that renders the poem's meaning the complete opposite of its true spiritual meaning. Paramahansa Yogananda corrects that misfocused vision with his beautiful, thorough interpretation.

In 1920, the great Indian yogi Paramahansa Yogananda was invited to speak at the International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston; his speech was an outstanding success, and except for a brief visit to Mexico and a journey back to India, the great yogi spent the rest of his life in the USA lecturing, writing, and founding and directing his organization, Self-Realization Fellowship, to spread his teachings.

In addition to his mission of disseminating his spiritual teachings, this Indian-American composed some of the greatest poetry ever penned on American soil. His book of poems, Songs of the Soul, testifies to his mastery of the art of poetry. All of this writings demonstrate that mastery, even the pedagogical lessons that hold his teachings.

Interpretation of FitzGerald's Translation

A further amazing achievement of this great Indian-American is his interpretation of Edward FitzGerald's translation of The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Paramahansa Yogananda shows how this poem has been misinterpreted, and his correction is a valuable addition of knowledge to the literary field.

Emily Dickinson’s famous poem “I taste a liquor never brewed” comes to mind when thinking about the subject of Omar Khayyam’s rubaiyat; in her poem, Dickinson relates the intoxicating joy she feels at being alive and aware of the Divine wine that flows through the spiritual veins of the devotee.

And the great yogi Paramahansa Yogananda, through his spiritual interpretation of Omar’s great work, shows how the Sufi mystic was intoxicated with the love of God, not literal wine, as he fashioned his devotional songs to the Divine.

Winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award and Award of Excellence

Paramahansa Yogananda's spiritual interpretation of Omar Khayyam's quatrains, Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, was published in book form in 1994.

In 1995, the book won the Benjamin Franklin Award for the best book of the year in the field of religion, and in 1996 Body Mind Spirit recognized it with the Award of Excellence for "its outstanding contribution to personal growth and spirituality."

Original Persian and FitzGerald's Poetic Translation

Working from the original Persian and with a Persian scholar, Yogananda completed his translation and spiritual interpretation in the early 1930s. He made his own English translation then compared it to Edward FitzGerald's.

Finding Fitzgerald's version richer in poetic qualities than other translations, the yogi decided to utilize FitzGerald's translation for the basis of his interpretation. Interestingly, FitzGerald, while having penned the most poetic version of the Sufi poet's work, remains among those who have so grossly misunderstood that great poem.

Appeared Serially in SRF Magazine 1937-1944 and 1971-1990

Paramahansa Yogananda's interpretation originally appeared serially from 1937 to 1944 in Self-Realization Fellowship's magazine. Then an expanded version was published in the magazine between 1971 and 1990.

With this book, his spiritual interpretation with commentaries appears for the first time in book form. This book contains much useful information in its introductory material. For example, Yogananda quotes Professor Charles F. Horne, who stated: "The first great Sufi writer was Omar Khayyam."

"Wine" as Metaphor for Divine Love

The fame of The Rubaiyat rests primarily on misunderstanding. Instead of being the wild ravings of an atheistic wine bibber as is often believed of Omar Khayyam, The Rubaiyat (meaning "quatrains") is the work of a Sufi mystic, and "wine" is a metaphor for divine love.

Further useful information about the history of the poet Omar Khayyam, his work, his religion, and how his quatrains have been debated is offered in the introduction.

Each section of the seventy-five quatrains offers the original Persian and FitzGerald's translation, a Glossary of terms interpreting the metaphors employed by the poet, Yogananda's Spiritual Interpretation, and Practice Application.

Introduction to Yogananda's Wine of the Mystic

Paramahansa Yogananda

"The Last Smile"
"The Last Smile" | Source

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.

Other Publications

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.

Corrective Translations

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."

The Lessons

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.

Complete Works

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."


Submit a Comment

  • Maya Shedd Temple profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Sue Grimes 

    2 years ago from U.S.A.

    Wonderful, Suzette! I think the different perspective influenced by the interpretation of Paramahansa Yogananda will add much life to the work. It will make much more sense to you and at the same time be much more inspiring. Knowing that the words are self-affirming instead of self-aggrandizing gives warmth and comfort to readers.

    Thank you for the comment, Suzette. I really appreciate knowing that my commentary has inspired you to give a new look at an old work. Have a blessed day!

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    2 years ago from Taos, NM

    What an interesting article. It has been ages since I read The Rubaiyat. I think all the way back to college. This hub has inspired me to read it again and from your perspective written here.


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