Paramahansa Yogananda's "Mohawk Trail"
Even a God-realized guru/saint can become bored by too much confinement in a city setting, and the non-realized can learn how to enjoy nature from the guru’s experience.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Mohawk Trail” from Songs of the Soul dramatizes an outing that the exalted guru experienced on a drive down the Mohawk Trail to the Massachusetts town of North Adams, named for the great American patriot, Samuel Adams, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence.
The poem features a joy of living that instructs the ordinary, world-worn reader in learning to observe the environment in ways that offer the ability to see with the heart as well as with the mind.
First Stanza: “Welcomed by a fresh and smiling day”
The speaker reports that the day was filled with sunshine which made him feel “welcomed.” The day was also “fresh” for this mind that is always blissful. The road they are traveling is tree-lined, and the speaker is grateful that the shade of the trees offers relief from the “jealous sun.”
The speaker then refers to the car’s tires “pressing asphalt road.” The light swishing of the tires on the road combine with a “softly humming motor-noise,” completing the immediate environment in which the speaker luxuriates.
The speaker alludes to “Adam” of the Garden of Eden as he plays on the name of the town. The setting is so beautiful that it reminds the speaker of the mythical, paradisiacal garden.
Second Stanza: “Unlike some other joyful rides”
The speaker compares this ride to other “joyful rides” that had remained, nonetheless, unremarkable, and caused the senses to become “dulled” with “sameness.” During this ride, his mind is alert, “full and bright and good.”
In his great anticipation, the speaker experiences “a strange unknown, unthought, new thrill” that seemed to sweep through his body and mind. He has the ability to recognize every small change of his body and his consciousness.
The speaker finds himself racing with the wind, and his happiness motivates him to smile abundantly and offer those smiles to everyone: he “scattered smiles / That played with sunshine, spread for miles.” The speaker’s experience of this new, lush landscape conjoins the perfect sun and shade and the soft sounds—all unite to create nearly blissful earthly experience.
Third Stanza: “My secret-hoarded joy in vault of soul”
The great guru reveals that the joy of his soul is fully active. He “extravagantly” spends some of that joy-currency to “purchase Nature’s e’re new gaudy scenes.” Compared to the joy of the soul, the joys of earth are always somewhat trivial, but they can nevertheless be enjoyed and appreciated even by the most advanced yogi.
The speaker is observing the moving loveliness of the landscape as it is “shown by hasty, racing peddler windshield screen.” He metaphorically compares the car’s windshield to a peddler who is selling his wares—in this case, offering the observer all the beautiful scenes, past which the car travels.
The great yogi/speaker reveals that even one highly advanced in yogic awareness can feel “too long hemmed in city’s narrow walls.” On this particular outing, his “spirit” feels “once more . . . free,” and “all nature sent a joyous call.”
The speaker's body, mind, and soul are invigorated by “waving leaves of trees, the babbling rill, / Impatient wind, the smiling sky, and patient hill.” The contrasting scenes and natural objects have united to provide the yogi with a nearly blissful earthly experience.
Mohawk Trail State Park
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes