Recently I changed my Facebook profile pic. On the new image, over my left shoulder is almost complete and utter darkness except for a few reflections off of shiny things hidden in said darkness. Over my right is a map of India. I’d like to say I did this intentionally, but I did not.
But this very nicely demonstrates my feelings toward the education I have received since I became aware of Paramahansa Yogananda. Sort of a before and after shot. I would love to visit India one day. I am not Indian. I am an American of a thick stew of European descent. But India has become a part of my story. If nothing else, it represents the resting place my soul aspires to.
With that in mind, on the 120th birth date (or appearance date, if you’d rather) of Paramahansa Yogananda, and though I usually eschew reproducing the work of others at any length on this blog, I give you “My India” by the great Guru-ji. By all accounts these are the last words Yogananda spoke:
Not where the musk of happiness blows,
Not where darkness and fears never tread;
Not in the homes of perpetual smiles,
Nor in the heaven of a land of prosperity
Would I be born
If I must put on mortal garb once more.
Dread famine may prowl and tear my flesh,
Yet would I love to be again
In my Hindustan.
A million thieves of disease
May try to steal the body’s fleeting health;
And clouds of fate
May shower scalding drops of searing sorrow –
Yet would I there, in India,
Love to reappear!
Is this love of mine blind sentiment
That sees not the pathways of reason?
Ah, no! I love India,
For there I learned first to love God
and all things beautiful.
Some teach to seize the fickle dewdrop, life,
Sliding down the lotus leaf of time;
Stubborn hopes are built
Around the gilded, brittle body-bubble.
But India taught me to love
The soul of deathless beauty in the dewdrop
and the bubble –
Not their fragile frames.
Her sages taught me to find my Self,
Buried beneath the ash heaps
Of incarnations of ignorance.
Though many a land of power, plenty, and science
My soul, garbed sometimes as an Oriental,
Sometimes as an Occidental,
Travelled far and wide,
At last, in India, to find Itself.
Though mortal fires raze all her homes
and golden paddy fields,
Yet to sleep on her ashes and dream immortality,
O India, I will be there!
The guns of science and matter
Have boomed on her shores
Yet she is unconquered.
Her soul is free evermore!
Her soldier saints are away,
To rout with realization’s ray
The bandits of hate, prejudice, and patriotic selfishness;
And to burn the walls of separation dark
Between children of the One, One Father.
The Western brothers by matter’s might
have conquered my land;
Blow, blow aloud, her conch shells all!
India now invades with love,
To conquer their souls.
Better than Heaven or Arcadia
I love Thee, O my India!
And thy love I shall give
To every brother nation that lives.
God made the earth;
Man made confining countries
And their fancy-frozen boundaries.
But with newfound boundless love
I behold the borderland of my India
Expanding into the world.
Hail, mother of religions, lotus, scenic beauty,
Thy wide doors are open,
Welcoming God’s true sons through all ages.
Where Ganges, woods, Himalayan caves, and men dream God –
I am hallowed; my body touched that sod.