Paramahansa Yogananda’s "I Am He"
Introduction and Text of Chant/Poem, "I Am He"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “I Am He,” from Songs of the Soul proffers the beautiful description of the human soul, an entity that is ever free, never fettered, always without the illusions, trials and tribulations, and changes that the physical body and mind must endure, according to the yogic teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda, founder of Self-Realization Fellowship.
This poem is based on the chant of Swami Shankara, who reorganized the swami order in India and whom Paramahansa Yogananda in Autobiography of a Yogi describes as “a rare blend of saint, scholar, and man of action.”
I Am He
No birth, no death, no caste have I;
Father, mother, have I none:
I am He, I am He, — blessed Spirit, I am He!
Mind, nor intellect, nor ego, feeling;
Sky, nor earth, nor metals am I:
I am He, I am He, — blessed Spirit, I am He!
Not prana, or its vital currents five,
Nor the quintuple sheaths of wisdom traits and body-stuff,
Nor flesh, or senses that enthrall,
Nor ether, fire, or air withal — am I.
I am He, I am He, soul of wisdom, I am He!
Bondage I do not fear; for freedom I do not care,
For I am free, ever free; I am free, ever free:
I am He, I am He, blessed Spirit, I am He!
The chant: "No Birth, No Death"
First Movement: “No birth, no death”
Yogic teachings inform us that every soul of every human being is ever living, and therefore does not experience the events of birth and death. As the unselfrealized individual does experience these events, s/he does so because of the delusion that s/he is untethered from the Divine Creator.
After each individual is able to realize completely that s/he is the soul and not the mind and body, that individual can say, “I am He.”
At that time, each individual can also realize that along with lacking the experiences of birth and death, s/he also has “no caste,” and no mother or father.
The ever-liberated soul requires nothing from the limiting qualities found on the physical level of being.
Second Movement: “Mind, nor intellect, nor ego, feeling”
Those individuals beginning the study of yogic teachings may easily comprehend the thought that their fundamental being is not the physical encasement; however, it is more difficult to understand that they are also not the mind.
The physical body is defined closely by and linked to sense awareness. The mind, on the other hand, seems to be as invisible as the soul is, that is, not detectable by the senses. The mind, thus, cannot be seen, heard, tasted, touched, or smelled.
However, the mind is as subject to delusion as is the physical encasement. In yogic meditation, the neophyte soon discovers it is even more difficult to control the mind than it is to control the physical body.
After the individual has somewhat seized control of the physical body, the mental body still remains free to scurry off hither and yon in every direction as one attempts to meditate.
Therefore, the beginning meditator must so impress upon his/her consciousness the liberating fact that each human being is not the mind; nor is the individual the intellect, the ego, or the feeling.
The physical encasement that seems to be such a concrete reality, of course, remains an impediment; however, the mind also remains an impediment even though it is a non-concrete reality.
Thinking cannot vanquish the borderline between reality and unreality. Only through transcendence of the physical and mental can the physical body and mental encasement become united with of the Ultimate Creative Reality.
That evolutionary process can be greatly enhanced by the act of chanting the truth that the genuine nature of the soul remains eternally in conscious existence.
Third Movement: “I am He, I am He — blessed Spirit, I am He
This poem includes lines that reveal scientific truths: “No prana, or its vital currents five, / Nor the quintuple sheaths of wisdom traits and body-stuff.” A footnote explains and defines the term, prana:
Prana is the intelligent life energy that pervades and sustains the human body through the specialized function of five currents. The ‘quintuple sheathes’ are the five koshas or subtle coverings that separate the soul in delusion from Spirit.
The chant makes clear the truth that each soul is a spark of its Divine Creator and therefore remains a finer substance than such elements as fire, air, or ether.
The soul, which is freedom itself, need not be concerned with the concept of liberation. The soul is eternally free of all bondage; it need not concern itself with any of the boundaries that hem round the human mind and body.
© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes