A Milk-White Sail

Image:   Paramahansa Yogananda at Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1929

45.  “A Milk-White Sail”

Consisting of only six lines, this marvelously descriptive verse features a speaker who is finding himself approaching a difficulty, when suddenly he discovers he can move swiftly past the problem.

Introduction and Excerpt from “A Milk-White Sail”

This speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “A Milk-White Sail” engages the metaphor of sailing a small vessel through a turbulent ocean storm.

In only six lines, the speaker creates a little drama featuring the individual soul discovering that it can maneuver its vessel to a safe location on the shore where it can find safety from the turbulence of storms out in the vast ocean.

The speaker claims that despite the danger of such storms, he can quickly overcome them, and he can escape the ravages of such turbulence with his ability to swiftly flee those rough gales.

Excerpt from “A Milk-White Sail”

A milk-white, tiny sail
Skims fast across my sea; I wail,
The threatening storms to see . . . 


After perceiving an oncoming difficulty, the speaker suddenly discovers his ability to move swiftly past the problem.

First Movement:  Storms Threaten the Bark of Life 

The speaker creates his little drama by metaphorically likening his life to sailing aboard a “bark” with a “milk-white, tiny sail.”  As any longtime sailor would have observed from time to time, a storm will kick up threatening the vessel in which he rides.

Life’s trials and tribulations may at times appear to be similar to turbulent storms with dark clouds, heavy rains, and damaging gusts of winds.   When such a turbulent event comes into one’s life, one cannot know the outcome.

Weather storms have swooped by leaving untold amounts of damage, just as life’s events such as illness, accidents, and death of loved ones have from time to time overtaken the individual with pain, sorrow, and sometime loss of hope for the future.

Second Movement:  Acting and Reacting to Danger 

Because the individual aboard this metaphorical “bark” knows that untold damage may be swooping into this life, he cries out in pain, that is, he “wail[s]” upon becoming aware of the approaching onslaught of “threatening storms.”

Each human mind comes equipped with the ability to act and react to any eventuality, but unless that mind is divinely developed, it cannot know the precise damage he might have to endure.  

Thus, even before the individual is able to take any assessment of the devastation, he will begin to suffer even the slightest hint that the pain may be on its way.  Each human being of a certain age and experience can identify with the notion that an individual will react with sorrow to those possible oncoming devastations.  

But this speaker, while living on the Earth plane with its abundance of uncertainty, has gathered his abundant faith and thereby understands something that each human being seeks to know.

Third Movement:  Racing from Every Storm

Thus, the speaker can by strong faith and utter divine assurance claim that his boat of life will race out of every storm and find its safety on the shore of Divine Love and Security.

This speaker can see with soul clarity that his life is sailing in divine waters and his little bark has the facility and the ability to take him to safety from any danger he may encounter.

Fourth Movement:  The Shore of Safety

The speaker capitalizes the location known is “the Shore” because this shore is metaphorically serving as the Ultimate Goal.  Not only is the speaker safe from the ocean’s literal storms, he is safe in the arms of his Divine Belovèd or God.

The Ultimate Reality swoops down its blessed arms to engulf the speaker, who has arrived at the ultimate goal, who has united his soul with the Over-Soul, who has gained self-realization thereby achieving the ability to know all, see all, and be all.

This divine assurance remains the safety of the “Shore” where the little soul escapes the barrage of trials and tribulations that threaten his happiness and very existence.

Once the speaker has arrived at this long-desired Shore, the “roar” of the ‘tempest[ ]” is “angry” no longer.  The calmness of a bright, summer day will keep the blessed soul “safe” from all harm, and afford that soul the bliss he has long sought.

This speaker demonstrates that he has found the safety of that Shore, and he intimates that his fellows may do the same with love, faith, and sincere effort in rowing that boat of life to the safety of shore of all-quenching Bliss.


A published collection of these commentaries is available at 
Commentaries on Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soul.


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