15. “After This”
The speaker of Paramahansa Yogananda’s “After This” reveals that an advanced yogi’s relationship with his devotees is eternal and unchanging—the great avatar continues to guide and guard the practicing spiritual aspirants until those devotees reach their goal of God-realization.
Introduction and Excerpt from “After This”
The highly spiritually advanced speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “After This” reveals the fascinating characteristics of an advanced soul that has become aware of its unity with Spirit. Such a soul has the marvelous ability to teach others the methods through which they will be able to achieve such a feat. The speaker intimates that such is the only desire that a highly advanced, God-united individual possesses. The self-realized master wishes only to be of service to those who remain unaware of the qualities of self-realization.
The great guru’s speaker makes its clear that no matter what form his being may take as directed by the Divine Belovèd, the guru will remain glad do so because he remains in control of his own actions; he retains free will and the ability to assert it in any way necessary. Such an exalted soul is never the victim of any other person or force. The freedom of such a soul is exact and final.
The great guru wants to instruct all of humanity to realize that they possess that same eternal soul freedom. The speaker in the great guru’s “After This” reveals that as an advanced yogi, he will always guide and guard his devotees, even after his own soul has left its physical encasement. He speaks for the benefit of all of his devotees, who aspire to achieve his spiritual stature.
Excerpt from “After This”
After the prison-petals of earth-life fade,
And the soul-scent slips
Into the mighty cosmic wind of Spirit,
No more would I love a flower-cage life —
Unless to mingle the dewdrop tears of other prisoned souls with mine,
And show them the way that I my freedom won . . .
Assuring his devotees that he will always guide and guard them because the relationship between guru and chela (devotee) is eternal, the speaker in this poem is offering this dramatic rendering for the benefit of all of his devotees, who are seeking their own soul liberation.
First Movement: Only to Help Others
In the poem, “After This,” the great guru’s speaker is reminding his devotees that even after the guru’s soul departs from its physical encasement, that great soul will still possess the one and only wish retained by a self-realized being: to assist others by passing on the knowledge and techniques that have led him to his goal of self-realization or union with God.
Such a soul that has become aware of its own self and its union with the Creator has no further desire or need to reincarnate. He will be glad do so, however, in order to demonstrate his empathy with those who are still imprisoned by the lack of self-knowledge and in order to assist them in reaching their own soul freedom.
Second Movement: Liberation is Power
The great spiritual leader’s speaker then dramatizes the many activities that occur on the earth level of being, stating that he would be content to regress to the evolutionary stage of “roses and daffodils” because he knows it is his own “free will” that allows him to undergo such experience. Students of the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda have learned that their souls reincarnate in an evolutionary upward progression from the mineral to the saint. As a human being, the soul has the opportunity to understand its condition and aid in its own upward evolution. The great yogi, then, poetically avers that he would not mind having his soul live in the plant kingdom, if he had the ability to choose that existence.
The soul who has gained self-realization, or union with the Divine Creator, has that awe-inspiring ability. The great guru then remarks that if he were forced to remain bound to physical bodies “forever,” he would not fancy that. Not only would he not like to remain shackled to the physical reality of sunlight, he would not want to be forced to exist, “[e]ven in a golden heavenly cage.” The emphasis is on the ability to exercise completely his own free will. As a self-realized soul, this yogi is experiencing the ultimate freedom, which he would not trade for the best of earthly circumstances.
Third Movement: A Soul Retaining Bliss
Because the speaker possesses the ability to exert his own free will, he can willingly undergo any physical transformation without losing that ability. This great advanced one can truthfully assert that he has the ability to incarnate in any flower at any time.
The special speaker is also capable of “wear[ing] the blackness of the night”: he can withstand any negative situation that comes to him. He is willing to live as the most “famous man” or as the least known man. All circumstances are all the same to him. This great soul can retain its own bliss, no matter what God instructs him to be or do.
Fourth Movement: Unaffected by Duality
As a free soul nurtured eternally by bliss, this great yogi will be content to remain “the tiniest cosmic spark,” “the clouds,” “the babble of the brook,” or “the voice of the nightingale.” It simply matters not where his soul may be sent; he will retain his consciousness of ever-new bliss. The speaker in this poem is assuring his devotees of the magnificent power that soul freedom bestows on the self-realized mind and heart. That one can easily be content to undergo any of the oppositional states that exist on earth is mind-boggling to the unrealized.
No unrealized being would ever be content to fling their bodies “[a]gainst the rocks of world strife,” but that is exactly what the self-realized being is more than willing to do, if he himself has the choice to do so. Taking on dangerous or unpleasant experiences can be tolerated only for a just and higher purpose, and it is only the realized soul that retains an appetite for such adversity.
Fifth Movement: Loving with the Love of God
As the great yogi’s speaker continues his drama, he metaphorically transforms his being into many entities. Thus, the great advanced soul offers a catalogue of individual activities through which he will become united with all of humanity: a “log of laughter” will allow him to maneuver to “shores of bliss.” He will “sing through the voices of all,” and he will “preach through all temples and prayers.”
This great one will love all of humanity because he retains God’s love in his own heart and soul. All hearts have the potential to become like the heart of the great yogi. All souls will be his soul, and all smiles, his own smile. His capacity to engender his own stature in others will demonstrate the unity of God and God’s creation. The speaker in this poem is guaranteeing guidance and protection for each of his devotees throughout eternity.