Freedom

Image: Paramahansa Yogananda at Lake Chapala, Mexico, 1929

14.  “Freedom”

The speaker in the poem, “Freedom,” declares his spiritual freedom, insisting that his soul is free regardless of the status or condition of his physical body or mind.  

Introduction and Excerpt from “Freedom”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Freedom” consists of three versagraphs, each featuring some form of the refrain, “I am free, ever free.”  The refrain becomes a chant, which through concentrated repetition, transforms into an affirmation.  The speaker in this poem is declaring and thus claiming his spiritual freedom. 

This speaker contends that his soul is free regardless of the status or condition of his physical or mental body.  The great yogi, Paramahansa Yogananda, penned his mystical poems to inspire and uplift his striving devotees who are sincerely seeking the soul freedom that this poem describes.  

Excerpt from “Freedom”

Brave cords, bind me hand and foot;
Yet lo, I am free, ever free.
Disease, ply your tortures;
Still I am free, ever free.
Health, try your lures;
But see, I am tree, ever free.
Death, destroy if you will
My body-prison; caged or uncaged,
I am free, ever free . . . 

Commentary

The speaker in “Freedom” is proclaiming his soul freedom.  He is insisting that his soul remains ever free regardless of the trials and tribulations that may afflict his physical body.  He is also free from the mental trammels and tortures that prey on the mind, including highs and lows involving moods.

First Versagraph:  Transcending the Ordinary Mind-Set

The speaker commands the would-be freedom usurpers to “bind me hand and foot.”  He even calls them “Brave cords.”  The mind-set immediately reveals the soul of one who has transcended the emotions of the physical and mental levels of being.  The mind of the ordinary human individual would not be able to think of his captors as “brave,” but this speaker realizes that his own power is such that anyone or anything that has the temerity to try his strength must be brave indeed.  

The speaker then begins the important refrain, “Yet lo, I am free, ever free.”  Even if his hands and feet are tied securely, he knows that his soul cannot be tied; thus, because his soul is eternally free, he retains his liberty also.

The speaker then addresses “Disease,” commanding it to “ply [its] tortures.”  Despite the ravages of illness, the speaker can again repeat, “Still I am free, ever free.”  After the opposite of “Disease,” that is, “Health” has been one’s fortune, the human may become overconfident; thus, the speaker commands, “Health, try your lures.”  But again the speaker will not be lured to a false satisfaction, because he is “free, ever free.”  Whether he is in the body, or the body is “caged or uncaged,” the speaker affirms his soul liberty, “I am free, ever free.” 

This confident speaker identities with his life force or soul.  He knows he is fundamentally a soul that merely possesses a body and a mind.  The power of both body and mind remains subordinate to the permanent, eternal power of the all-conquering soul.  The speaker remains ensconced in the knowledge of his immortality, knowing that because he is the omnipresent, omniscient soul, death cannot touch him.  And if he has no fear of death, then he has no reason to fear anything life can throw at him.

Second Versagraph:  A Journey’s Overview

The speaker then offers a brief overview of the journey that has led him to this great freedom.  His soul has been “[f]orged in the furnace of incarnations.”  Like metal, his soul has been hammered, heated, and formed into its present shape.  This brave speaker’s soul has withstood and broken the “long chains of earthly desires” that have attempted to fasten that soul to those desires.  He has “escaped from life to life.” 

The speaker then colorfully likens his journey to traveling “[t]hrough the portal of the rainbow,” and by fastening his soul to light, he was able to “enter[ ] heaven’s free skies.”  And now he can affirm and chant repeatedly, “Now I am free, ever free.”  He can move freely under any circumstance because he has broken the restricting bonds that would keep him under siege in the physical and mental encasements.  His soul awareness has taught his body and mind to become freedom itself.

Third Versagraph:  The Award of Freedom

The speaker then declares that nothing can take his freedom if he insists on retaining it, and nothing can free him if he insists on remaining bound.   The speaker is the great agent that awards himself with freedom; thus, “Knowing that naught exists to bind me, / I know I am free, ever free.”  Because nothing can make him believe he is anything less than free, the speaker can describe with clarity his status as a free individual. 

The demands of the body cannot lure him into thinking they are more important than they are.  He knows his body requires certain physical conditions just to exist, but he has no need to stress over a mere material, scientific fact.  He knows that his mind is the observer of every change that occurs before his senses, but he will not allow his senses to control him, because he has no need to identify with those changes. 

He remains dedicated only to soul awareness.  He will cherish stillness, quietness, and envision only the beauty of peaceful endeavors, even as he meets the challenges of living on the physical and mental planes of existence.  His refrain will remain, “I am free, ever free.”  He has become and will remain the thought that he continues to entertain.

🕉

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

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