Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"
Introduction and Text of Poem, "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"
Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, contains Vishnu Temple, Shiva Temple, Ram Temple, Krishna Temple, Brahma Temple, Deva Temple and Manu Temple. These natural temples are absolutely majestic. For a Hindu, a visit to Grand Canyon is both a pilgrimage and a vacation. —from Jai Shree Krishna
Nature and Spirit
In 1882, the majesty of these natural formations in the Grand Canyon reminded Clarence Dutton, an American Geological surveyor, of Indian temples; thus he named them after the Hindu Deities. Paramahansa Yogananda later would dramatize the spiritual connection between natural and human-constructed temples to emphasize the unity of the Divine.
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s powerful Songs of the Soul, the great guru has included poems inspired by accomplished people such as Luther Burbank, various astronomical phenomena such as the Aurora Borealis, and magnificent landscape features such as Pikes Peak, Mohawk Trail, and the Grand Canyon. As always, the guru shows his listeners how to perceive God in this natural wonder.
The Grand Canyon of the Colorado
Who reigns in this canyon,
Deep and grand with measureless space —
The sun or moon!
They jealously vie
To drive away with swiftness
The demon of darkness,
And try to wake the sleeping motley splendor
That decorates in glory
The crowded temple-peaks, both young and hoary.
These shrines, though different, yet in unison
Do welcome all to see the One;
E'en as the temples of Shiva and Rama
In silence worship the one Brahma.*
Who reigns here?
The One — with different shapes and names
All eyes, all minds, all sects, all creeds,
As suits their wide aesthetic needs;
And cause them to bow in awe and reverence
To the Spirit of Vastness
That here reigns.
*Three towering peaks (about 8,000 ft.) so named in 1882 by Clarence Dutton of the U.S Geological Survey because of their resemblance to Hindu temples.
First Stanza: “Who reigns in this canyon”
The speaker begins his dramatic reportage about the amazing canyon by asking whether it is the sun or moon who “reigns in the canyon.” He then playfully suggests that the two orbs “jealously vie / To drive away with swiftness / The demon of darkness.”
The speaker adds that not only do the sun and then the moon try to drive out the darkness, but they also seek to illuminate the many colors that are painted on the canyon walls. The “glory” of the canyon reminds the speaker immediately of places of worship; thus he refers to them a “crowded temple-peaks,” that are both young and old.
Second Stanza: “These shrines, though different, yet in unison”
The speaker refers to the rock formations as “shrines,” claiming that they are “different, yet in unison,” they call everyone to worship just as the Indian temples call devotees to come to pray, meditate, and bow before “the One.”
Third Stanza: “Who reigns here?”
Again, the speaker asks, “Who reigns here?” And, of course, the answer is God, the One—who always reigns everywhere. The speaker avers that because of the differing sensibilities and values of “wide aesthetic needs,” worshipful signs appear on the earth through “different shapes and names / To inspire.”
Nevertheless, when the soul is aroused by the strong “Spirit of Vastness,” the devotee understands intuitively that God is that vast spirit, and worship comes as naturally as the rock formations that glorify the Grand Canyon.
The Lord's Handiwork
The spiritual reminders offered in the names of the Deities allow the visitors to the canyon to experience the call of wonder and depth of soul that they sense in silent worship. As the devotees remember that all of this splendor was created by the same Creator, that every river and mountain, every forest and plain is His handiwork, they experience the awakened fervor of heart and soul. The great guru continually redirects the devotees’ attention, so that they may learn to see God everywhere.
(Please note: The Denver Meditation Group of Self-Realization Fellowship offers a marvelous Web site documentary of Paramahansa Yogananda's visits to the Denver area.)
© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes