The Garden of the New Year

Image: Paramahansa Yogananda, 1926

In “The Garden of the New Year,” the speaker celebrates the prospect of looking forward with enthusiastic preparation to live “life ideally!”

Introduction and Excerpt from “The Garden of the New Year”

The ancient tradition of creating New Year’s resolutions has situated itself in much of Western culture, as well as Eastern culture. As a matter of fact, world culture participates in this subtle ritual either directly or indirectly.   This tradition demonstrates that hope is ever present in the human heart.  Humanity is always searching for a better way, a better life that offers prosperity, peace, and solace.  Although every human heart craves those comforts, each culture has fashioned its own way of achieving them.  And by extension, each individual mind and heart follows its own way through life’s vicissitudes.

The second poem is titled “The Garden of the New Year.”  This poem dramatizes the theme of welcoming the New Year, using the metaphor of the garden where the devotee is instructed to pull out “weeds of old worries” and plant “only seeds of joys and achievements.”  The pulling out of weeds from the garden of life is a perfect metaphor for the concept of a New Year’s resolution.  We make those resolutions for improvement and to improve we often find that we must eliminate certain behaviors in order to instill better ones.

The poem features five unrimed versagraphs*, of which the final two are excerpted.

Excerpt from “The Garden of the New Year”

. . . The New Year whispers:
“Awaken your habit-dulled spirit
To zestful new effort.
Rest not till th’ eternal freedom is won
And ever-pursuing karma outwitted!”

With joy-enlivened, unendingly united mind
Let us all dance forward, hand in hand,
To reach the Halcyon Home
Whence we shall wander no more . . .

*The term, “versagraph,” is a conflation of “verse paragraph,” the traditional unit of lines for free verse poetry.  I coined the term for use in my poem commentaries.

Commentary

This poem is celebrating living life “ideally,” through changing behavior that has limited that ability in the past.

First Versagraph: Out with the Old and in with the New

The speaker is addressing his listeners/readers as he asserts that the old year has left us, while the New Year is arriving.  The old year did spread its “sorrow and laughter,” yet the New Year holds promises of brighter encouragement and hope.    The New Year’s “song-voice” offers grace to the senses, while commanding, “Refashion life ideally!” 

This notion is universally played out as many people fashion New Year’s resolutions, hoping to improve their lives in the coming year.  Because most people are always seeking to improve their situations, they determine how to do so and resolve that they will follow a new path that will lead to a better place.

Second Versagraph:  Abandoning the Weed to Plant New Seeds

In the second versagraph, the speaker employs the garden metaphor to liken the old problematic ways to weeds that must be plucked out so that the new ways can be planted and grow. The speaker instructs the metaphoric gardener to pull out the weeds of “old worries” and in their place plant “seeds of joys and achievements.”  Instead of allowing the weeds of doubt and wrong actions to continue growing, the spiritual gardener must plant seeds of “good actions and thoughts, all noble desires.” 

Third Versagraph:  The Garden Metaphor

Continuing the garden metaphor, the speaker advises the spiritual aspirant to “sow in the fresh soil of each new day / Those valiant seeds.”    After having sown those worthy seeds, the spiritual gardener must “water and tend them.” 

The perfect metaphor for one’s life is the garden with its life-giving entities as well as its weeds.  As one tends a garden, one must tend one’s life as well to make them both the best environment for life to thrive.  By careful attention to the worthy, good seeds of attitudes and habits, the devotee’s life will become “fragrant / With rare flowering qualities.”

Fourth Versagraph: New Year as Spiritual Guide

The speaker then personifies the New Year as a spiritual guide who gives sage advice through whispers, admonishing the devotees to employ real effort to wake up their sleeping spirit that has become “habit-dulled.”    This new spiritual guide advises the spiritual aspirant to continue struggling until their “eternal freedom” is gained. 

The spiritual searchers must work, revise their lives, and continue their study until they have “outwitted” karma, the result of cause and effect that has kept them earth-bound and restless for aeons.  The beckoning New Year always promises a new chance to change old ways.  But the seekers must do their part.  They must cling to their spiritual path, and as soon as they veer off, they must return again and again until they have reached their goal.

Fifth Versagraph:  A Benediction of Encouragement

The speaker then offers a benediction of encouragement, giving the uplifting nudge to all those spiritual aspirants who wish to improve their lives, especially their ability to follow their spiritual paths.  The speaker invites all devotees to “dance forward” together “With joy-enlivened, unendingly united mind.”  The speaker reminds his listeners that their goal is to unite their souls with their Divine Beloved Who awaits them in their “Halcyon Home.”  And once they achieve that Union, they will need no long venture out into the uncertainty and dangers as they exist on the physical plane.  The New Year always holds the promise, but the spiritual aspirant must do the heavy lifting to achieve the lofty goal of self-realization.

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

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