The Little Eternity

Image:  Paramahansa Yogananda and Little Boy in India, 1936

46.  “The Little Eternity”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s poem, “The Little Eternity,” reveals the problematic human condition while supplying the solution that assuages the terror of that condition.  

Introduction and Excerpt from “The Little Eternity”

Playing out in three ever increasingly longer stanzas, “The Little Eternity” offers a marvelous comparison of the finite and small human body to the cosmos in which that body is forced to move and thrive.

Seeking the Creator through His creation can become a confusion-filled, never-ending battle for the human mind and heart—until that mind can realize its unity with its Creator and know that “behind the wings of Thy blessings, / My soul can be safe in Thy keeping.”

Excerpt from “The Little Eternity”

As a dream melts deep
Into the silent well of sleep,
So may this earthly dreaming
Dissolve in the depth of Thy being . . .

Commentary

The speaker in “The Little Eternity,” addresses the problem that is of the puzzling nature of the human condition, as he also offers the solution to that problem.

First Stanza:  A Metaphoric Melting

In the first stanza of “The Little Eternity,” the speaker is addressing the Divine, as he likens the process of a sleeper’s consciousness progressing into the stillness of deep sleep to the act of unifying one’s soul with the Over-Soul, or God.

The speaker then prays that that experience come to all devotees. The goal sought by the spiritual aspirant is exactly to “dissolve in the depth of [God’s] being.” The speaker then describes precisely the human condition of having to reincarnate into a human body time after time before transcending that necessity.

The speaker deems that repetition “useless, hazardous traveling”:  a monotonous journey of dreams, nightmares, birth after birth, and “repeated deaths.”  The soul desires to know its true self; thus, it becomes very boring for it to suffer through dreams and nightmares as it undergoes the trauma of repeated cycles of birth and death and rebirth.

The speaker therefore declaims that those bothersome bouts of repeated reincarnations can be circumvented as soon as the seeker unifies with that Over-Soul, that bastion of perfect protection, that safe haven that blessed realization bestows.

Second Stanza:  The Demolition of Delusion

In twelve glorious lines, the speaker demolishes the notion that “the universe” of material reality exists as anything other than “a tiny slimy egg of thought.” What seems “so big” to the tiny human brain as taken in through the eyes is only a fantasy that is “beaten with the egg-beater of fancy, / Frothed up into the fluffy cosmic dream.”

The human mind is deluded by the ostensible reality of the material level of being, “With sextillion worlds glimmering, / With Milky Way bubbles shimmering.” On the contrary, however, this huge mass is nothing more than “a single little thought.”

What seems to be a “giant cosmic lot” simply “throbs and lives” in the mind of the beholder, even though this “vast cosmic dream” that is “squeezed into tiniest nothingness” can also “be eternally expanded, tier upon tier, / Into an ever-growing, endless sphere.” Even if the expanding universe doubles, triples, or quadruples its size, it is still the same delusion of the human mind.

Third Stanza:  Illusive Reality

The human body is part of the universe, being composed of the same elements of which the universe is composed; thus, the universe and the “little, finite frame” of the individual human being “both recede or reside / In my thought’s ebb and tide.”

Whether the speaker thinks about the whole universe or his own small body, his thought depends upon the illusion of their reality. 

The important fact that the speaker is conveying to the devotee is that the soul of the devotee is a spark of the Divine, “the colossal cosmic God” because God “lives in my little self’s sod.” The body itself may be perishable sod, but the human soul lives “in His palace of eternity.”  And “He lives in me.”  Also, “He dreams in me.” 

Finally, the Divine awakes in the devotee, who had been asleep to His presence.  The Divine seems to be dead in the devotee who “sleep[s] in delusion.” But ultimately, through meditation, soulful study, useful service, and a cheerful attitude, the devotee realizes, “[God] is reborn in my wisdom-womb’s seclusion.”  The soul is the “little eternity,” which abides in the devotee’s “measureless amity.”

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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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