20. “For Thee and Thine”
In Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “For Thee and Thine,” the speaker dramatizes his spiritual journey, which includes the enjoyment of all wholesome earthly things.
Introduction and Excerpt from “For Thee and Thine”
Paramahansa Yogananda’s “For Thee and Thine” consists of four stanzas, each with its own rime scheme: ABBA AABCCB AABBCCB AABCCB. Stanzas two and four have the same rime scheme. The rime scheme emphasizes the variety of things that earthly creation offers.
The theme of this poem dramatizes the unity between the individual soul and the Cosmic Creator, the Divine Reality. As the speaker dramatizes his journey to enlightenment or self-realization, he establishes the pleasant nature of wholesome worldly enjoyments.
Excerpt from “For Thee and Thine”
I love to seek what’s mine.
I think. I act,
I work with tact
To gain what’s mine.
I pass by the river
Aflow in joyous quiver,
To soothe this mind of mine.
I smell the flowers
To cheer the hours —
I love to have what’s mine . . .
Paramahansa Yogananda has described creation as “God’s lila,” or “divine play or drama.” The creation operates through pairs of opposites such as night/day, activity/rest, strength/weakness, up/down, high/low, hot/cold, health/illness, happy/sad, and many, many others. The interplay of those opposites keeps the wheels of creation turning. While the duality of the pairs of opposites offers many alluring traps that confound and hinder soul progress, that same creation also features many healthy offerings. The speaker is demonstrating the spiritual way of acknowledging and enjoying the wholesome aspects of creation.
First Stanza: Loving the Path
In the first stanza, the speaker declares that he is enamored with his spiritual journey. He loves to be on the path that leads to the Divine. The speaker claims the Divine for his own. Although he is still seeking, he knows that the Blessèd Reality is already his. He goes about his duty of gaining what is his by using calm, measured behaviors in his actions of thinking, acting, and working.
With four simple sentences the speaker has demonstrated the simplicity of his path. He moves and acts in uncomplicated ways to reach his sacred goal. He is not passive, and yet he is also not flamboyant or boastful that he is privileged to have joined a sacred path that leads to the Ultimate Reality. His example assists devotees in their own striving to remain humble and direct as they also journey on the spiritual path.
Second Stanza: Glorifying His Days
The speaker then continues to reveal his actions that enliven and glorify his days. He goes to the river, which to his calm and directed mind appears to flow with joy. He is able to sense the joy that is exuded in the ordinary movement of a river. This ordinary, even mundane, occurrence “soothes” his mind. His spiritual journey deepens his senses, making him aware of the God-joy that the Divine has infused in all of His Creation or lila.
The speaker then declares that he enjoys the fragrance of flowers, and the scent of those God-given gifts enlivens in him cheerfulness as he passes his time. He can thus remark that the joy of the river’s “quiver” and the smell of the flowers belong to him. The Divine has given him the ability to be aware of the heavenly attributes of those earthly entities, and he takes full advantage of them on his spiritual journey.
Third Stanza: Enjoying the Physical While Following the Spiritual
The speaker continues to show that he is able to enjoy the physical plane of being, even as he pursues his spiritual path. He metaphorically likens the sun to a drink that is warm and soothing, and he declares that as he drinks that sunshine, that golden beverage warms his physical encasement, giving him a sense of comfort and ease of being.
Continuing the beverage metaphor, the speaker then imbibes the air that is flowing fresh about him. Connecting his breath with his prayer and meditation, he declares that he raises a prayer to the Divine Belovèd as he continues to comb the physical world for everything that belongs to him and to those he loves. As a child of God, he knows he possesses all that the Deity-Father possesses, and he is free to enjoy all that Father-God has given.
Fourth Stanza: Converting Sorrow to Joy
The fourth stanza proclaims that the early days of sorrow of having been born into a world of duality through the forces of karma have been converted into days and hours of joy. In the past as he sought only those gifts for himself and his kin alone, he had lived in delusion.
After having traveled the spiritual path, enjoying only the wholesome, healthy gifts from the Heavenly Father, and then praying and meditating, the speaker has arrived at his goal: through his enlightenment, he knows that all along he has been living for “Thee and Thine.” The “me and mine” mentality has been converted into the cosmic awareness that keeping the mind on the Divine allows one to see creation through the lens of beauty that the Ultimate Reality has infused into all creation.