16. “Fountain of Smiles”
Admonishing against dull, ego-inflated grins, the speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Fountain of Smiles” offers a lesson on the efficacy of colorful, friendly smiles. Smiles are more than grinning teeth and laughing eyes, for they offer inspiration to those who receive them.
Introduction and Excerpt from “Fountain of Smiles”
After receiving an invitation to speak at the International Congress of Religious Liberals in Boston, Massachusetts, the great spiritual leader, Paramahansa Yogananda, who had just recently become a member of the ancient swami order in India, arrived in the United States September 19, 1920. His lecture was so well received that he remained in America, traveling and speaking about the marvelous teachings of Kriya Yoga. He experienced the wonderful period of individual freedom and a healthy economy under the Calvin Coolidge presidency during the 1920s. But then during the 1930s, a devastating economic depression raged.
Because of the failed economic policies of the Hoover administration and the following years under Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s damaging policies, the country sank into a depression that engulfed the American people. Smiles were hard to come by during the administrations of FDR. Economists have now realized that the disastrous policies of the FDR administration prolonged the Great Depression by at least seven years.
The great guru founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, a transplanted Indian-American, knew how to smile despite the dire hard times, and he went about the land showering those smiles along with his yoga techniques for attaining a wealth far beyond the paltry baubles of earth. Thus, in contrast to the sour frowns of economic poverty that so many Americans faced, the great guru coined the phrase, “Smile Millionaire.”
Even if one cannot be a financial millionaire, one can always become and remain a “smile millionaire.” Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Fountain of Smiles” offers a complete lesson on becoming and remaining a “smile millionaire.” Such a lesson remains indispensable anytime anywhere.
The speaker in “Fountain of Smiles” elucidates the joy and inspiration that the simple gesture of a smile can bring; however, he begins his lesson on smiles by warning against flashing certain kinds of smiles, such as those motivated by sarcasm and disdain. He continues by admonishing against “bandit smiles” that steal from the heart its deep truth. He colorfully labels other negative smiles that are to be avoided: “serpent smiles,” “volcanic smiles,” “pitying smiles”—all of which taint the mind and heart with negative vibrations. He also warns against raucous “contorting” laughter that disfigures the countenance while revealing “an emptiness” of the soul.
Thus, the speaker eliminates the negative types of deceitful smiles that inflect more pain and sorrow on the populace. Instead, he then admonishes his audience to spread only joy and happiness through one’s smiles. He creates a number of varied metaphors to describe the types of smiles that can be employed. For example, as a “fountain of joy,” a smile can spray forth in all directions, serving to quench the thirst for happiness and cheerfulness, especially in those who are suffering in sorrow and melancholy. He demonstrates that true, sincere, friendly smiles can help uplift the minds and hearts of all those receive them.
Excerpt from “Fountain of Smiles”
Bestow not sarcastic smiles
Born from the dark womb of hate.
Welcome not bandit smiles
Which rob thy trueness.
Wear not serpent smiles
Which hide their venom
Behind a sting of laughter.
Banish volcanic smiles
Of subterranean wrath.
Bedim not that mirror of soul — thy face —
With shades of pitying smiles.
Let no witless, noisy, muscle‐contorting laughs,
Like rowdies, echo an emptiness of thy soul.
A fountain of joy
Must gush from the soil of thy mind
To spread in all directions
Fine sprays of smiles,
Like vital veins
Running through laugh‐thirsty hearts.
Let the lake of thy smiles break its embankment
And spread to territories of Infinitude.
Let thy smiles
Rush through lonely stars
To brighten their twinkles . . .
Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Fountain of Smiles” offers a valuable lesson in the art of smiling, beginning with a list of unfavorable smiles and then demonstrating through colorful metaphors that types of smiles that inspire and brighten even the darkest moods.
First Stanza: Unproductive Smiles
The first stanza of “Fountain of Smiles” by Paramahansa Yogananda addresses the kinds of smiles that are not useful and pleasant. The importance of this lesson in smiles is emphasized by the use of the gentle but emphatic command. The great yogi is not only enumerating the negative smile scenarios, but he is also commanding his listeners not to engage in those gloom-ridden smiles.
For example, in the first line, “Bestow not sarcastic smiles,” he is commanding his listener not to smile at someone with scorn and derision in one’s heart, because such smiles come from hatred, a dark place in the mind. Smiles that are motivated by hate damage the bearer as much as they do the recipient.
Second Stanza: Turn Sarcasm into Joy
Instead of from sarcasm, smiles should gush forth from a “fountain of joy.” Hating people is hardly conducive to joy. The mind must become a fountain that sprays forth these joy-filled smiles. The “fine sprays of smiles” can then “spread in all directions.”
Shifting the metaphor to a lake, the speaker commands the smiler to allow the big body of smiles to break forth and overflow its banks and flood all the land in all directions with magnanimous smiles.
Sincere smiles have the ability to float up to the stars and render the light of the stars to shine even brighter. Not only does the speaker “imagine” such a smile, but he also commands his listeners to smile such sincere, honest from-the-heart smiles. He is commanding his audience to smile so that their smile influences even the stars. The power of the smile thus resides in the attitude of the smiler.
Third Stanza: Inundated with Laughter
The proper smile can transform itself into “laughter” that can spread and water the arid places in “dry minds.” Those “dry minds” spread gloom and disfunction throughout the landscape. They fail to see the stars while watching intently what is happening in the gutters. Instead of sharing the beauty of the world, they engage in folly, demagoguery, and obfuscation and remain dedicated only to their own selfishness.
The speaker then commands his listeners to spread smiles like “the dawn.” Dawn engulfs everyone; it spreads the sunlight on everyone. It causes the darkness to vanish. The speaker commands his audience to spread smiles to everyone to eliminate the mental gloom with which so many are afflicted. People like to see others smile at them; thus, the speaker is encouraging his audience to smile at others and to make sure that those smiles are joyous soulful smiles.
The speaker insists that everyone is capable of finding their Source of Joy, if they look within. He then commands his listeners to spread their smiles in every place that is dark, and those smiles will brighten even a cloud-covered day. He goes on to make the inspiring claim that one can make one’s smile so life-filled that they may, “resurrect life / In the walking dead”—those dry minds that he mentioned earlier.
The speaker reports that one can even smile “for the dead,” for in death they have gained a “grim peace” that nevertheless bears witness to “victory” over pain. And for the living, smiles can demolish entrenched pain and sorrow. They can serve to “water” thirsty “desert-souls” as well as make glad “oasis-hearts.” He furthermore claims that smiles swish through any mind one encounters anywhere, and thus they can break through all barriers to happiness.
Fourth Stanza: God Laughing Through the Soul
The fourth stanza features the powerful metaphor of the “Prince of Smiles”:
When God laughs through the soul,
And the soul beams through the heart,
And the heart smiles through the eyes,
Then the Prince of Smiles
Is enthroned beneath the canopy
Of thy celestial brow.
Protect thy Prince of Smiles in the castle of sincerity.
Let no rebel hypocrisy lurk to destroy it.
Spread the gospel of “Smile!”
Purify all homes with thy healthy smiles.
Smiles spread from the Divine Reality and move through the soul, from the soul to the heart, from the heart to the eyes, if each human being will but allow it. The great guru’s speaker is imploring all listeners to spread these healing smiles everywhere. It is so important, so necessary to help lift humankind from its egotistical stupor.
Fifth Stanza: Becoming and Remaining a “Smile Millionaire”
Finally, the speaker commands his listeners to “Let loose the wildfire of thy smiles.” This wildfire will “blaze the thickets of melancholia.” Shifting to a perfume metaphor, he commands the listener to open up his bottle of fragrant smiles “to waft in all directions.”
It does no good to focus one’s smiles only on those one already loves. Others must be included in one’s good will; there are so many other folks who need such smiles. Then shifting to the wine-spirit metaphor, he commands his listeners to, “[i]ntoxicate all with the wine of thy smiles.”
The speaker then commands his listeners to accept the sincere smiles of others and “from the Mine of all true mirth,” which is the Divine Belovèd. In all directions “north, south, east, west, where’er thou goest,” everyone needs to cooperate in spreading sincere smiles.
The speaker concludes by calling his listener, “Thou smile millionaire,” and telling him to spread his “golden smiles” everywhere he goes. He must freely give those beautiful smiles to everyone he meets. A “smile millionaire” can afford to lavish his happiness on others because the smile millionaire is the true millionaire, invested in spreading happiness and joy with the simple gesture of a smile.
- Editors. “SRF Centennial: 100 Years of Self-Realization Fellowship – 1920-2020.” Self-Realization Fellowship Official Web Site. Accessed February 7, 2021.
- Thomas Sowell. “FDR’s Policies Prolonged Great Depression.” Rapid City Journal. November 3, 2010. EXCERPT: Far from pulling the country out of the Great Depression by following Keynesian policies, FDR created policies that prolonged the depression until it was more than twice as long as any other depression in American history.
- Editors. “FDR’s New Deal Prolonged the Great Depression.” Washington Examiner. October 29, 2008. EXCERPT: A groundbreaking study by UCLA economists Harold Cole and Lee Ohanian demonstrates that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s excessively pro-labor, anti-competitive New Deal actually prolonged for seven long years the severe economic pain immortalized in John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath.