One Friend

Image:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Little Boy in India, 1936

39.  “One Friend” 

This eight-line poem gives the human heart and mind a balm for living in the knowledge that each individual is eternally blessed to have an omniscient, omnipresent true Friend, who is also the Creator of all creation.

Introduction and Excerpt from “One Friend”

This short poem gives back to the individual the hope that one might have lost in childhood and early adulthood.  The poem refers to God, the Creator, by one of His many aspects, that of Friend.

Excerpt from “One Friend”

Many clouds do race to hide Thee —
Of friends and wealth and fame —
And yet through mist of tears I see
Appear Thy Golden Name . . . 

Commentary

This inspiring poem affords the human heart great hope, as it points to the Eternal Friend, the “One Friend.”

First Movement:  The Metaphorical Clouds

The speaker begins with a statement about “clouds.” But those clouds are not the literal clouds up in the sky; they are the many people and things each human being has to encounter and contend with just to stay alive. 

We may think of this situation in terms of looking back, knowing that as a youngster, we all had a family that often nurtured us yet perhaps often failed us.   

We love our families, but we feel that, at times, they may not be deserving of our love, but we do our best.  Most of us leave our birth family on its own road and find other roads to travel.  Likely not knowing precisely where we are going, we just know we have to go, and so we do.   

Those racing clouds will still race on, but we are in a different race away from theirs.  We will find our own “friends and wealth and fame”; we are confident enough to strike out on our own.  If we were not one of those brave souls, the mayic tints of society would be less hued and then what?

The world of maya would continue on without any one of the earth’s citizens.  The old taint of the mayic delusion remains for anyone born because we are born for a reason: to seek the knowledge that we are souls, not merely physical bodies, not merely minds. 

The illusion is strong, but pain and suffering become so real that we must seek a way to eliminate all that sorrow.  Our lives continue down unknown paths until we can discern a specific path that leads out of the forest of trial and tribulations.  For some folks, merely learning that we are souls gives a measure of comfort for the journey.

Second Movement:  To Know the Lord

On our journey, things may not have gone as well as we have hoped.  But we, being the clever ones that we are, did not sever ties.  Who would ever sever ties with their original family?  That only happens in novels, short stories, movies, and other forms of fiction, right?  

But it does not matter.  Our new family and new friends are not really the bunch that can satisfy us either.  We still have this little yearning in our heart.  We want something, we can’t find it, what is it anyway?

Ah, yes, as the late George Harrison averred, “My Sweet Lord—I really want to know You.”  But who are You?  Where are You?  We have asked the question, so the answer appears as a “Golden Name.”   Now what will we do?  What happens when our most urgent question is answered?  It depends on our level of spiritual attainment and mystic attunement.

Third Movement:  True Friends

We have heard them:  father, mother, sister, brother.  They will never let us forget that we belong to them:  “you have been away too long.” “I wish we lived closer.”  “Why are you disavowing the very family that loves you, protects you, nurtures you?”  But we know the truth.  They did not protect us when we needed it most.  They did not nurture us in the ultimate, meaningful way.  

They were only walking their own path, not recognizing that we were all individuals, who had to walk very different paths.  Loud as they may be, we know we must seal our ears to them even as we do not ignore them.  We must listen to the “One Friend.”  Only the One Friend can lead us to where we need to go.

The loving but frustrating relationship we have with the people around us does offer one important boon to our development: it spurs us on to greater understanding.  So often we find ourselves enveloped in confusion from which we think we cannot extricate ourselves, and quite often that bondage involves family, friends, and acquaintances.

Most of us do not live cloistered lives, even in the best of times.  But eventually we find that we are, indeed, alone in the most important aspects of our lives.  We have to make decisions for our lives that no one else can make for us, and no matter how impactful others might have been in our lives, ultimately there is only one friend to which we can turn for necessary, efficacious solace.

Fourth Movement:  The Supreme Force

Finally, the speaker of this poem is awake, hearing the sweet voice of the only one who can offer that solace for those living on this mud ball hurtling through space at an ungodly rate of speed. Actually, it is quite Godly because only God, the real, true friend is causing the mud to hurtle!  

We will finally heal because we finally realize, “That Thou alone didst help me here.”  We can then awake from our fitful sleep to rest in the knowledge of being loved and cared for by our “One Friend.”

A Slightly Difference Voice

I have written this piece in a slightly different voice from the one I employ in most other poem commentaries.  Instead of the rather staid academic persona I usually allow to speak my commentaries, in this offering, I am calling upon an impressionistic, personalized voice that is reacting more than merely commenting.  

The main purpose for writing this commentary remains similar to that of other poem commentaries: to offer discourse that both supplies explicatory meaning and allows the reader a view of the poem from poetry expertise. 

But because this particular poem has heralded personal dips into memory, the impressionistic voice has naturally arisen to assist in communicating the message of this poem.

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

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