Variety

Image: Paramahansa Yogananda, Self-Realization Fellowship International Headquarters, 1951.

35.  “Variety”

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Variety” muses on the vast number of people and things in creation and the fact that there are never two individual persons or things that are exactly the same.

Introduction and Excerpt from “Variety”

Emily Dickinson once quipped that the things of this world hold so very strongly.  That truth is epitomized by the many things that do exist on this material level of being.  The “variety” of creation has never been exhausted by the mind of humankind.  And the continued interest in those things remains because of the mayic delusion that those things hold happiness for the human heart.

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Variety” pays homage to all those created things, while at the same time removing the delusive element from each one.  Each human heart and mind is cautioned to enjoy the wholesome things while refusing to become attached to them.  Attachment belongs to the spirit level of being where true “variety” remains an eternal quality, not bound by earthly events or substances and not detected by the five delusive senses.

Excerpt from “Variety”

I sought for twins
But could not find;
I search my mind.
No twins I’ve seen. 

They seem alike —
Man and man, beast and brute —
Yet no faces two are like;
Ne’er the same song sang the lute . . .  

Commentary

The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Variety” is contemplating and musing on the qualities of the vast number of people and things in creation.  He reveals and emphasizes the amazing phenomenon that there are never two individuals—whether human, animal, plant, or inanimate object—that are exactly the same.  Variety and diversity rule the created sphere.

First Movement:  Looking for Twins

The speaker asserts that he has looked for two things in nature that are the same, but he has not been able to find any two things that are exactly alike.  He cogitates on the matter, searching his own mind, but comes to the conclusion, “No twins I’ve seen.”  Although “they seem alike,” whether it be two men or two animals, no two faces are exactly the same. 

Metaphorically asserting that the lute has never played the same song, the speaker is likening each human being and each individual created being to the vibration of a song.  He then addresses the Divine Presence, acknowledging that Eternity’s diversity is limitless, and he pays homage to that Great Spirit Creator that has made all things.

Second Movement:  Honoring Uniqueness and Variety

The speaker says that he holds each “new form and name” in honor and bows to them all. “Variety complete” exists throughout creation, fashioned into myriad patterns.  The speaker then muses on what it would be like to experience existence as each of the many creations that the Blessèd Creator has caused to come into existence.  He surmises it would be similar to “donning robes of newer kinds,” if he could grasp the mind of each being.

The speaker then catalogues what he would do if he could assume the identities of others:  He would smile or go about in sadness, or simply be charming.  He also might “march with martial songs.”  Or he would eliminate sorrow, if he could take on the “powerful prophet mind.” 

The speaker thus honors all created forms by contemplating their existence through divining what it would be like to be each of those forms.  In a sense, he puts his mind into those chosen forms in order to experience their consciousness.

Third Movement:  Keeping the Best of Each

The speaker would plumb the depth of each heart and attempt to understand the noble thoughts of noble minds, keeping the best part of each to round out his own personality.  From “brain-born nixes” to “marauding pixies,” he would find friendship in every “elfin thought.”  

The inspired speaker asserts that his “spirit clings / To the new in things.” He knows he could never “taste the same nectar,” even as he quaffed from the same “immortals’ jar.” His awareness of the uniqueness of each creation leads him to a deeper understanding of both nature and nature’s God.

The speaker wishes to honor all creation by acknowledging not only the variety but also the diversity of things.  All things have common bonds, common roots having been created by the same Creative Force; yet that Force has never repeated Itself in Its creations.  The speaker’s heart and mind become emboldened to realize his own uniqueness, as he genuinely honors the uniqueness in all of his fellow beings.

Fourth Movement:  A Humble Prayer

Offering a humble prayer to the blessèd eternal Spirit, this deeply inspired speaker again acknowledges the “endless variety” that the Divine Omniscient Belovèd has created and continues to create and maintain.  And yet although the devoted speaker appreciates that variety, he asks that his soul not be changed even as he changes his fleshly garments.  

He asks to remain “the humble same” regardless of what his name is in his many incarnations.  The worshipful speaker then asks to be able to “watch myself / In changeless mirror of my Self,” the individual soul seeing itself in the Over-Soul.  He then states an eternal verity that though our “dress will change,” we will never change.

The great guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, often likened the relationship between the soul and the physical encasement to the relationship between the physical body and the soul.  Just as the body changes clothing, the soul changes bodies between incarnations.  The concepts of karma and reincarnation offer explanations for the soul’s journey from one physical encasement to another.  

Humankind, which is made up of many individuals, retains the commonality that each human being is unique in both physical body and soul.  The soul remains the force that drives each individual human being’s existence whether on the physical, earthly plane or the spiritual level of being.

The mundane notions of variety, diversity, likeness, difference, sameness, similarity, or some other same-vs-different qualities are operative only on the physical, earthly level of being.  Soul qualities transcend those mundane ideas because soul qualities exist in permanence, stillness, and thoughts that never conflict with other thoughts or beings. 

Physical qualities offer much space for conflict over differences, but the soul that knows itself knows through intuition that it is unique and that its fellows are unique, leaving no room or reason for conflict.  That knowledge leads to the ability to appreciate the beauty and efficacy of having “variety” on the physical level of being.

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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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