Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"

Updated on January 19, 2018
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Grand Canyon of the Colorado

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Introduction and Excerpt from 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 Creator.

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.

Excerpt from "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado"

Who reigns in this canyon,
Deep and grand with measureless space —
The sun or moon! . . .

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.* . . .

*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.

(Please note: The poem in its entirety may be found in Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, published by Self-Realization Fellowship, Los Angeles, CA, 1983 and 2014 printings.)

Grand Canyon: Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu Temples

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Commentary

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda's "The Grand Canyon of the Colorado" reminds devotees that the Divine Creator is eternally present in the beautiful, natural formations that attract visitors from all over the world.

First Stanza: Is Sun or Moon King of the 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: Temples of Rocks

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: The Blessed Creator Permeates His Creations

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.)

Video: Grand Canyon Vishnu Temple Rama Shrine Krishna Shrine

Paramahansa Yogananda

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Biographical 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, was well established with the purpose of disseminating his teachings of yoga. He has come to be known as the “Father of Yoga in the West.”

For a more thorough overview of the great guru's life, please visit Paramahansa Yogananda’s Biography. His in-depth work, Autobiography of a Yogi, has become a spiritual classic worldwide.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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