3. “My Soul Is Marching On”
This amazing poem, “My Soul Is Marching On,” offers a refrain which devotees can chant and feel uplifted in times of lagging interest and seeming spiritual dryness.
Introduction and Excerpt from “My Soul Is Marching On”
The poem, “My Soul Is Marching On,” offers five stanzas, each with the refrain, “But still my soul is marching on!” The poem demonstrates the soul’s power in contrast with the weaker powers of entities from nature. For example, as strong as the light of the sun may be, it vanishes at night, and will eventually be extinguished altogether in the long, long run of aeons of time.
Unlike those seemingly forceful, yet ultimately, much weaker physical, natural creatures, the soul of each individual human being remains a strong, vital, eternal, immortal force that will keep marching on throughout all time—throughout all of Eternity.
Devotees who have chosen the path toward self-realization may sometimes feel discouraged as they tread the path, feeling that they do not seem to be making any progress. But Paramahansa Yogananda’s poetic power comes to rescue them, giving in his poem a marvelous repeated line that the devotee can keep in mind and repeat when those pesky times of discouragement float across the mind.
Included here are the epigram and first two stanza of the poem, “My Soul Is Marching On.”
Excerpt from “My Soul Is Marching On”
Never be discouraged by this motion picture of life. Salvation is for all. Just remember that no matter what happens to you, still your soul is marching on. No matter where you go, your wandering footsteps will lead you back to God. There is no other way to go.
The shining stars are sunk in darkness deep,
The weary sun is dead at night,
The moon’s soft smile doth fade anon;
But still my soul is marching on!
The grinding wheel of time hath crushed
Full many a life of moon and star,
And many a brightly smiling morn;
But still my soul is marching on! . . .
Before beginning his encouraging drama of renewal, Paramahansa Yogananda offers an epigram that prefaces the poem by stating forthrightly its intended purpose. In case the reader may fail to grasp the drama of the poetic performance, the epigram will leave no one in doubt.
The Epigram: A Balm to the Marching Soul
The great guru avers that there is no other reality but the soul’s forward march. Despite all circumstance to the contrary, the soul will, in fact, continue its march. The devotee simply has to come to realize that fact that all “wandering footsteps” return to their home in the Divine. The guru then states unequivocally, “There is no other way to go.”
This amazing, inspiring statement culminates in the refrain that allows the devotee to take into mind a chant for upliftment anytime, anywhere it is needed.
First Stanza: The Soul Marches on in Darkness
The speaker begins by asserting that the bright bodies of the stars, sun, and moon are often hidden. The stars seem to sink into the black backdrop of the sky, or even remain hidden by day, as if never to be seen again, yet other times, they are completely invisible.
The largest dominant star of all—the sun—also seems to completely vanish from the sight of world-weary inhabitants of planet Earth. The sun seems to be “weary” as it has crossed the diurnal sky and then sinks out of sight.
The moon whose glow remains less bright compared to the sun, nevertheless, also fades out of sight. All of these bright orbs of such tremendous magnitude glow and fade, for they are mere physical beings.
The speaker then adds his marvelous, encouraging claim that becomes his refrain—”But still my soul is marching on!” The speaker will continue repeating this vital assertion as he dramatizes his poem to encourage and uplift devotees whose spirits may from time-to-time lag. This refrain will then ring in their souls and urge them to keep marching because their souls are already continuing that march.
Second Stanza: Nothing Physical Can Halt the Spiritual
The speaker then reports that time has already smashed moons and stars and obliterated them from existence. Many cycles of creation and recreation have come and gone from the annals of eternity. That eventuality remains the nature of physical creation: it emerges from the depths of the body of the Divine Creator and then later is taken back into that Divine Body, disappearing as if they had never been.
But regardless of what happens on the physical level, the soul remains an existing Entity throughout Eternity. The soul of each individual continues its journey. It makes no difference on which planet it may appear; it may continue from planet to planet, if necessary, as it marches back to its Creator. The soul will continue to “stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds” because that is the nature of the indestructible soul, the life energy that informs each human being.
That soul will continue its march to the Divine, despite all cosmic activity. Nothing can prevent the soul’s forward march, nothing can stop the marching soul, and nothing can hinder that march. The refrain shall again and again ring in the mind of the devotee who has begun this march to self-realization.
Third Stanza: The Evanescence of Nature
The speaker then reports on other natural phenomena. Marvelous, beautiful flowers have offered their colorful blooms to the eyes of humankind, but then they invariably fade and shrivel up to nothingness. The evanescence of beauty remains a conundrum for the mind of humankind.
Like the beauty yielding flowers, the gigantic trees offer their “bounty” for only a while, and then they too sink into nothingness. The naturally appearing entities that feed the human mind as well as the human body all mysteriously come under ” time’s scythe,” appearing and disappearing again and again.
But the soul again remains in contrast to these wonderful natural entities. The soul continues its eternal march, unlike the outer physical realities of flowers and trees. The human soul will continue its march, as will the invisible souls of those seemingly vanishing nature’s living beings. The refrain must take hold in the mind of the devotee, who in times of lagging interest and self-doubt will chant its truth and become re-invigorated.
Fourth Stanza: As Physical Life Fades, The Soul Continues Unabated
All of the great emissaries sent by the Divine Creator continue to speed by. Vast swaths of time also speed by as creation seems to remain on a collision course with ultimate disaster. The human being must remain in a perpetually vigilant state of mind just to remain alive in this dangerous and pestilent-filled world. Even human against human remains a continued concern as “man’s inhumanity to man” prevails in very age in every nation of planet Earth.
But the speaker is not only referring to the small planet at a short period of time; he is speaking cosmically of the entire history of all Creation. He is averring that being born a human being at any time in history brings that individual soul into the same arena of struggle. As each human being lets fling his arrows in battle, the individual finds that all of his “arrows” have been used up. He finds his life ebbing away.
But again, while the physical body remains the battle ground of trials and tribulations, the soul is unaffected. It will continue on its path back to its Divine Haven, where it will no longer need those arrows. The devotee will continue to chant this truth again and again to spark his march to greater heights.
Fifth Stanza: The Refrain Must Remain
The speaker has observed that his fight with nature has been a fierce one. Failures have blocked his way. He has experienced the ravages of death’s destruction. He has had to face obstructions blocking “his path.” All of nature has conspired to “block [his] path.” Nature has always been a challenging force, but the human being who has determined to overcome the ravages of nature will find that his “fight” is stronger than that of nature, despite the fact that nature remains a “jealous” power.
The soul continues to march to its home in God, where it will never again have to face the fading of beautiful light, the vanishing of colorful flowers, the failures that obstruct and slow one’s pace. The soul will continue to march, to study, to practice, to meditate, and to pray until it at last experiences success, until it as last finds itself totally awake in the arms of the Blessed Divine Over-Soul, from which it has come. The devotee will continue to hear that amazingly uplifting line and continue to know that his/her “soul is marching on!”
I have published a book with the entire collection of these commentaries, which is available at Commentaries on Paramahansa Yogananda’s Songs of the Soul.