Paramahansa Yogananda's "Life’s Dream"
Mother Center on Mount Washington
Introduction: Commentary on "Life's Dream"
Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “Life’s Dream,” celebrates Mount Washington as a spiritual oasis in the middle of the large city of Los Angeles.
The epigraph that precedes this poem offers a useful historical perspective on this poem: “Dedicated to the Self-Realization Fellowship Headquarters on Mount Washington in Los Angeles, California, established by Paramahansa Yogananda in October 1925.”
At the end of the poem, the following note offers an additional bit of helpful information: “Readers of Paramahansaji’s Autobiography of a Yogi may recall that long before he came to America, he had had visions of Mt. Washington: at his Guru’s hermitage in Serampore, and later, on a trip with Sri Yukteswar, in Kashmir.”
Songs of the Soul
This collection includes "Life's Dream."
First Stanza: “The summery East”
Alluding to the oppositional differences between “East” and “West,” Paramahansa Yogananda reports that “they” say that the East is warm and the West is cold. He then offers Mount Washington in the city of Angels as a contradiction to that assessment.
Unlike the now-capped Himalayas, Mount Washington stands “snowless” “in perpetual green regalia.”
The great guru offers a wonderful allusion to George Washington, first president and “father of America,” after whom Mount Washington is named: “Named rightly after that pioneer / Of freedom’s great career.”
With one simple stanza of truth, the great guru/poet invalidates the bitter, useless stereotypes that keep religions and peoples apart. The spiritual home he founded in the West becomes the Mother Center of his organization in the middle of a large metropolis where the weather is always warm.
Second Stanza: “Nippon’s camphor trees perfumed wisteria, smiling roses”
On this Western perpetually warm and “green” location, the great guru planted trees and plants from other warm places of the world: “camphor trees” from Japan, along with “palm and date; and well-remembered spicy bay leaf tree of Hind stand close.”
Atop Mount Washington, the visitor enjoys “endless scenic beauties — / Of ocean, canyon, setting sun, moon-studded sky, / And nightly twinkling cities — / To declare Thine ever-changing beauty.” He addresses the Divine Beloved as he celebrates the qualities of this location.
Third Stanza: “Mount Washington! Thy crown shall newly wear”
Directly addressing the mount itself, the great spiritual leader declares that it will become the place from which his teachings will be disseminated. It will become “a school of life” as it houses the monks and nuns who will learn and grow to become self-realized. This school of life, this Mother Center, will be the “priceless starry jewel” in the crown of the mount.
This wondrous school and home will “draw lost travelers from East and West, / To find their Goal, their own One Place of rest.” The devotees who study the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda through Self-Realization Fellowship continue to fulfill the guru’s prophecy as they are drawn to visit their spiritual home on Mount Washington in holy pilgrimage.
Fourth Stanza: “Here all other paths shall merge as one”
In the final stanza, the great guru dramatizes the unity of his teachings which draw together all peoples of all cultures and religions, as he binds together the destinies of both America, which is “earthly freedom’s paradise,” and India, which is “spiritual freedom’s paradise.”
The guru/poet celebrates the unity of church, temple, and mosque, proclaiming, “Here long divorced matter-laws / Shall wed again in peace the Spirit-laws.” He proclaims, “This is the land of solace / Where my life’s dream in truth reappears.”
Self-Realization Fellowship Guided Meditation on God as Light
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes