Paramahansa Yogananda's "To the Aurora Borealis"

Updated on January 15, 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.

Paramahansa Yogananda

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Introduction and Excerpt from Poem, "To the Aurora Borealis"

From Paramahansa Yogananda's Songs of the Soul, the poem, "To the Aurora Borealis" celebrates the great yogi's experience, viewing that celestial phenomenon. The poem features six versagraphs of varying lengths.

Paramahansa Yogananda's speaker in his marvelously descriptive poem, "To the Aurora Borealis," is likening the beauty of the awe-inspiring northern lights to that to the inner vision experienced in divine perfect union of soul and Divinity.

Excerpt from "To the Aurora Borealis"

From the heart of the northern horizon,
A dim, palpitating fountain of flame
Spread flickeringly
Through the dark stray clouds and the Milky way,
And across the space o'erhead.
Softly glowing, liquid fleecy lights
Rose, quivered, and flooded the southern land.
Aurora lit the sky,
And played with shadows within the deeps of the limpid lake —
Fluttered scintillating, transparent lights
O'er the stars and the sky o'erhead;
And shone on the rippleless lake beneath —
Then floated like dream waves of light
In my mental sea. . . .

(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.)

Commentary

First Versagraph: Phenomenal Light

An epigraph locates the poem’s experience at "Forest Lake, Minneapolis, Minnesota." The speaker then begins immediately to describe the phenomenal light that is coming into his vision. On the northern horizon, he sees "a dim, palpitating fountain of flame," which is flickering as it spreads "through the dark stray clouds and the Milky Way."

The speaker continues to report the nature of the lights: they glow "softly," and they look "liquid" as well as "fleecy." The light seems to "flood[ ] the southern land." Illuminating the sky, the lights of the Aurora "played with shadows within the deeps of the limpid lake."

At this point, the speaker begins to draw a comparison between the physical lights of the Aurora to his own inner vision. As the lights played in the heaven among the stars, they seemed to shine "on the rippleless lake beneath." They "floated like dream waves of light / In my mental sea."

The "mental sea" metaphorically describes the speaker’s consciousness which has flown Godward. An advanced yogi’s samadhi may at times be triggered by an especially moving or beautiful experience.

Second Versagraph: The Light of Samadhi

The speaker reports his inner experience wherein "stilled thoughts, like stars, would glimmer / Through dim mental clouds." As the lights of the Aurora had burst through the physical clouds, the light of samadhi now breaks through the mundane thoughts that were crowding the speaker’s mind.

Addressing the Aurora directly, the speaker likens quite plainly the light of the Aurora to the light on the screen of his inner vision: "O Aurora! / Spreader of light and joy o’er cloudy hearts, / Reminder, thou, of bursting, glowing light within my forehead!"

Third Versagraph: Ever Burning

Again, dramatizing the heavenly display of Aurora, the speaker paints the event for the reader/listener: "Spouting ethereal mystic flames, / Which joyfully bounded and vanished in the eternal Ray. / Ever-burning radium, thou, Aurora!" The speaker heralds the luminescent element "radium" as "ever-burning."

Fourth Versagraph: Inner Vision

Again returning to his inner vision, the speaker says, "My inner fountain of strange colors / Flooded my mental sky." These "strange colors" light the dark corner of the speaker’s brain and the "opaque darkness / Behind which the Light of all lights hides." The presence of God remains hidden within until the individual is capable of attuning his consciousness with that inner light.

The light of the outer reality consisting of "every-changing, rolling, molten light / "Coax[es]" the stars, trees, water, earth, and matter, all / To melt their grossness / And become the Cosmic Light."

Fifth Versagraph: Samadhi, Nirvana, Salvation

In this expansive versagraph, the speaker shows the efficacy of attaining the skill of experiencing the mystical state known as samadhi to the Hindus, Nirvana to the Buddhists, and Salvation to the Christians.

The speaker conveys that the ability to reach samadhi is the one that gives "hope." In the dark atmosphere engulfing life on earth, "My little soul will breathe with the Eternal Breath." Thus the speaker can be assured of not only the hope of life everlasting but that eternal life itself which conquers every human being’s most significant fear—the fear of death.

He avers, "No more shall I clasp but a little clod." No longer bound only by physical body awareness, he becomes like the great northern spectacle that he is beholding, "For I am the life, / And my body is the universe." He can become as small as the atom and still remain as large as the entire cosmos. Thus he can assert, "I am the Life that shattered its confines of littleness / To become the infinite bigness of all things."

Sixth Versagraph: An Experience in Cosmic Awareness

United with the Divine, he can speak as Jesus did, "I am the most subtle — the subtlest of forces is gross enough to hide me — / Yet everything speaks of me." As God does, the speaker can "peep through the twinkling light of the darkness."

And this speaker can "paint and wipe away / The pictures on the canvas of the sky." And finally he can "play hide and seek with the sky, stars, clouds, and waters, / As the mystic light of the aurora." For such an exalted personage, the experience of seeing the Aurora Borealis becomes an experience in cosmic awareness.

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. And for an in-depth portrayal, you may want to consult his classic work, Autobiography of a Yogi.

The Master’s Great Samadhi of 1948

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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