Yogananda frequently advised his disciples to memorize his poem, Samadhi, which poetically describes his own experience of cosmic consciousness. He told his disciples:
Visualize yourself in that infinite state. Identify yourself with it in order to awaken within you that lost memory of what you are in reality: children of Infinity. For that alone is what you really are.
Over the years, Swami Kriyananda has also urged us to memorize the poem and to recite it daily.
I was meditating during my first seclusion in 1979 when the thought came to me very strongly that I should memorize the poem. My initial reaction was, “I could never do that!” For weeks afterward, I tried to put the thought out of my mind. Memorize the poem? The task seemed too difficult to attempt.
First of all, there was the length of the poem and the unfamiliar spiritual imagery. I had never seriously tried to memorize anything, and a poem that long and complex was daunting, to say the least.
In retrospect, I think my initial reluctance may also have been a response to the awesome challenge of samadhi itself. A vast gulf separated my state of consciousness from that ultimate state. Was it realistic to think that I could ever bridge that gap? It’s one thing to think of samadhi as something desirable in a vague, far-off future, but when actually confronted with the challenge of aspiring to that level of consciousness, it’s easy to fall into a sense of unworthiness.
I suspect this may be true for many people. I once attended a Sunday service at an Ananda colony where the minister asked for a show of hands of people who had memorized Samadhi. Interestingly, not one hand went up.
Despite all my ”legitimate” reasons for not doing it, the thought persisted: “Memorize that poem!” One day I thought, “Well, if I really wanted to memorize it, how would I go about it?” I decided to try to memorize a few lines at a time, beginning with the opening lines:
Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy. . . .
I wrote these lines out over and over again, until I was certain I knew them. During my morning and evening sadhana, I would repeat them silently after practicing the meditation techniques.
When the time felt right, I memorized a few more lines. And after that, a few more. In time my enthusiasm grew, and it wasn’t long before I had memorized the entire poem. Since then, reciting the poem has become a regular part of my daily sadhana.
Swami Kriyananda has often reminded us that Yogananda, in writing Samadhi, accomplished something never before done. Kriyananda explains:
Paramhansa Yogananda did something no one before him, to my knowledge, has ever done, in describing with extraordinary lucidity the state of cosmic consciousness. . . . People don’t realize what a fantastic feat that was — going into that state and then being able to bring it down to a level where he could verbalize it, and make it seem thrilling and immediate to our consciousness.
Yogananda said that “even to contemplate the cosmic vastness is expansive to the mind.” Indeed, the more we contemplate this level of reality, so very different from the material world we live in, the more dynamically real and attractive it becomes.
By reciting the poem, one gradually begins to accept on ever-deeper levels that this higher reality not only exists but is our true home, and a yearning for that state begins to arise. What initially seemed a remote possibility becomes an attainable goal, to be pursued with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.
Samadhi offers a wealth of possibilities not only for expanding your consciousness but also for deepening your meditations. Here are a few things that I’ve found helpful:
Getting the feel of the poem. Try listening to Swami Kriyananda’s reading of Samadhi on the CD, “Metaphysical Meditations.” Kriyananda’s voice, combined with the classical music, beautifully captures the consciousness of the poem.
Combating restlessness. Reciting the poem before you meditate gives you another tool for combating restlessness. When we find ourselves too caught up in day-to-day concerns, the poem’s cosmic depiction of reality offers a deeply comforting perspective.
Avoiding “automatic pilot.” One of the pitfalls of reciting anything repeatedly is that you begin to parrot the words absentmindedly. To keep your practice fresh, it’s very helpful to focus on a phrase you find particularly inspiring and to repeat it over and over, like a mantra. Some possibilities are:
Short and long meditations. If you have only a short time to meditate, try reciting only the second half of the poem, beginning with, “Thou art I, I am Thou.” This takes about five minutes. In longer meditations, reciting the poem several times can be very helpful in attuning more deeply to Yogananda’s consciousness.
Attuning to nature. Reciting the poem mentally during a walk immediately after meditation is a wonderful way both to keep your energy uplifted and to attune more sensitively to the divine presence in nature.
Samadhi is one of Yogananda’s greatest gifts to his disciples. Recited regularly, it becomes another way to deepen our attunement to Yogananda. Only with the Guru’s blessings can we achieve the ultimate goal of union with the Divine. For as the poem itself reminds us: “By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation comes this celestial samadhi.”
by Paramhansa Yogananda
Vanished the veils of light and shade,
Lifted every vapor of sorrow,
Sailed away all dawns of fleeting joy,
Gone the dim sensory mirage.
Love, hate, health, disease, life, death,
Perished these false shadows on the screen of duality.
Waves of laughter, scyllas of sarcasm, melancholic whirlpools,
Melting in the vast sea of bliss.
The storm of maya stilled
By magic wand of intuition deep.
The universe, forgotten dream, subconsciously lurks,
Ready to invade my newly wakened memory divine.
I live without the cosmic shadow,
But it is not, bereft of me;
As the sea exists without the waves,
But they breathe not without the sea.
Dreams, wakings, states of deep turiya, sleep;
Present, past, future, no more for me,
But ever-present, all-flowing I, I, everywhere.
Planets, stars, stardust, earth,
Volcanic bursts of doomsday cataclysms,
Creation’s molding furnace,
Glaciers of silent x-rays, burning electron floods,
Thoughts of all men, past, present, to come,
Every blade of grass, myself, mankind,
Each particle of universal dust,
Anger, greed, good, bad, salvation, lust,
I swallowed, transmuted all
Into a vast ocean of blood of my own one Being!
Smoldering joy, oft-puffed by meditation,
Blinding my tearful eyes,
Burst into immortal flames of bliss,
Consumed my tears, my frame, my all.
Thou art I, I am Thou,
Knowing, Knower, Known, as One!
Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever new peace!
Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, samadhi bliss!
Not a mental chloroform
Or unconscious state without wilful return,
Samadhi but extends my conscious realm
Beyond limits of the mortal frame
To farthest boundary of eternity
Where I, the Cosmic Sea,
Watch the little ego floating in me.
The sparrow, each grain of sand, fall not without my sight.
All space like an iceberg floats within my mental sea.
Colossal Container, I, of all things made.
By deeper, longer, thirsty, guru-given meditation
Comes this celestial samadhi.
Mobile murmurs of atoms are heard,
The dark earth, mountains, vales, lo! molten liquid!
Flowing seas change into vapors of nebulae!
Aum blows upon vapors, opening wondrously their veils,
Oceans stand revealed, shining electrons,
Till, at last sound of the cosmic drum,**
Vanish the grosser lights into eternal rays
Of all-pervading bliss.
From joy I came, for joy I live, in sacred joy I melt.
Ocean of mind, I drink all Creation’s waves.
Four veils of solid, liquid, vapor, light,
Myself, in everything, enters the Great Myself.
Gone forever, fitful, flickering shadows of mortal memory.
Spotless is my mental sky, below, ahead, and high above.
Eternity and I, one united ray.
A tiny bubble of laughter, I
Am become the Sea of Mirth Itself.
* Samadhi means oneness of human consciousness with cosmic consciousness. The human consciousness is subjected to relativity and dual experience. In meditation, there are the meditator, the act of meditation, and God (as the object of meditation). Samadhi is the final result of deep, continuous, right meditation, in which the above-mentioned three factors of meditation become one. Just as the wave melts in the sea, so the human soul becomes the Spirit.
Author: Nakin Lenti, a minister and long-time Ananda member, serves in the Sangha Office at Ananda Village.