Undying Beauty

Image:  Paramahansa Yogananda, 1926
24.  “Undying Beauty”

The speaker is dramatizing the life and death of a rose, revealing that the rose’s soul of beauty outlives its physical vehicle. According to the great guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, it is a scientific as well as spiritual truth that the soul of every living entity exists eternally.

Introduction and Excerpt from “Undying Beauty”

Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Undying Beauty” features twenty-six lines with a variable and graceful rime scheme.  The poem’s theme portrays the beauty of the rose and reveals the nature of the soul of the rose as eternal, just as the soul of the human being is everliving. 

The theme plays out in four dramatic movements, each unfolding as a rosebud unfolds in its evolution of diurnal reality.  Every flower will play its special rôle in the drama of life, offering beauty and fragrance to uplift the spiritually minded.  Little wonder that flowers remain a vital addition to any spiritual celebration or sacred ceremony!

As the speaker dramatizes the life and death of a rose, he ultimately arrives at the encouraging and uplifting thought that the rose’s soul of beauty outlives its physical encasement.  The same scientific, spiritual truth applies to the physical vehicle of all created beings.  

Each living entity, whether belonging to the human race, the animal kingdom, or the plant kingdom, is in actuality a soul that possesses a body or physical encasement.  Death means that the soul leaves the encasement, and depending upon the entity’s karma, will reincarnate on Earth or exist some other level of being.

Excerpt from “Undying Beauty”

They did their best
And they are blest —
The sap, the shoots,
The little leaves and roots;
The benign breath,
The touch of light —
All worked in amity . . . 

Commentary

Celebrating the life cycle of the rose, the speaker is dramatizing the flower’s soul power that despite the death of its body, the soul continues to exist eternally.

First Movement:  The Body of the Rose

The speaker begins by celebrating the function of the physical parts of the rose that have kept its physical body alive and growing; he avers that the sap, shoots, leaves, petals, and roots of the flower all functioned perfectly to maintain the flower as it performed its duty of providing beauty to a material world.

Interestingly, the poet has changed the term “blessed” to “blest,” thereby doubling the riming power from a mere sound rime to include a sight rime.  The double rime strengthens the emphasis of the idea of the Divine Creator and Sustainer of all, working through these vital parts of the plant.

The speaker then offers a tribute to the wind and sunshine; these natural phenomena worked together to assist in the development of the entity that was the rose with its spiritual quality of beauty.  He then commands his audience to look closely at the rose’s “splendor / Its undying grandeur.”  

Of course, the rose’s body will die, but the speaker is inviting his listeners to look for the Divine Reality in the rose’s beauty, not just the physical reality of the rose plant.  Through that “splendor” and “grandeur” the observer will detect the “Infinite Face” of the Divine Belovèd Reality.

Second Movement:  The Divine Face in the Rose

The speaker then points out that that “Face” of the Divine Reality Creator is offering Itself through the little rose’s physical encasement.   He admonishes and consoles the devotee that the “falling petals,” which indicate the dying of the body of the rose, does not spell death for the soul of the rose, merely for the physical encasement.  And the speaker also consoles with the idea that once the soul of the rose leaves its bodily garment (cf. “The Tattered Garment”). “its duty ends.”  

The release from the physical body of the rose resembles the human being’s release from its physical encasement.  Death need not be viewed with such deep, tremendous sorrow when one knows that it merely provides the closing of one stage of life so that another stage of life may began.   The duties of the physical world end and the duties of the astral world begin—even for the rose.

Third Movement:  Triumph of the Soul

The soul of the rose then travels to its “Immortal” home with its Blessèd Creator.  The dried sap and falling leaves merely indicate the beginning of a new era for the rose’s soul.   As the rose’s physical body sheds its petals, it looks sorrowful and weak, just as an aged human being near death and failing in health may appear, but what happens to the physical encasement while it looks direful to the physical eyes is a mighty triumph for the soul.

Death is instead of a thief of life a deliverer sent by the Divine Creator to usher in a new era for the soul, leaving a worn-out physical encasement.  The rose has completed its duty and therefore must move on.  Without the knowledge that its soul essence does not die, the human observer mourns the loss of the rose’s beautiful physical encasement, but understanding that the soul of the rose is still intact changes the nature of the loss to one of simple observation of natural evolution.

Fourth Movement:  Soul Beauty

The rose and all living beings have the same experience in common:  the soul of each entity merely leaves the body and moves on to its next evolutionary experience.   Though the living organism naturally wars against death, the soul conquers death because it does not die—no calamity can kill the soul.

Even though the physical body of the rose passes into chemical decay, its beauty will remain everlastingly in the atmosphere on the spiritual level of existence. The physical body never actually achieves that quality of beauty; only the soul can permeate the physical with beauty, as the soul remains and functions without becoming visible to the physical eyes.  

Flesh, bone, skin, petals, stems, leaves, chemistry, molecules, and atoms—all abide on the physical plane of being, where affected by mayic duality, they all change.  The soul made of pure spirit does not change.  Against physical change, permanence is a spiritually vital soul quality.  Beauty, love, truth are all soul qualities, which death cannot touch because of their very soul nature.

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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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