Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!

Image:  Paramahansa Yogananda – Writing at Encinitas
13.  “Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!”

The speaker in this poem is creating a little drama, exploring the nature of spiritual hunger.

Introduction and Excerpt from “Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!”

The great spiritual leader and founder of Self-Realization Fellowship, Paramahansa Yogananda, brought to the West his marvelous techniques of yoga and became known as “The Father of Yoga in the West.”  These techniques parallel the spiritual teachings of Jesus Christ, leading devotees to their home in the Divine Creator.  In addition to the Lessons featuring the yogic techniques, the great guru published further spiritual works to inspire, uplift, and urge the devotees on as they move along the spiritual path toward realization of their souls which leads to God-awareness.

“Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!” dramatizes the theme of humanity’s intense craving for that mysterious “something more,” especially after reaching some worldly goal, such as attaining the perfect job, meeting the perfect mate, achieving a certain level competence in any field of endeavor.  The speaker of this dramatic poem metaphorically likens that strange craving to “hunger” and “thirst.”

Only the physical body is motivated by needs for food and liquid to replenish its cells, but the soul also moves the human being to find nourishment for its maintenance and advancement. The speaker in Paramahansa Yogananda’s “Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!” creates a little drama, exploring the nature of spiritual hunger.

The refrain becomes, “Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!”; it then caps each stanza of this amazing call to awareness. The repetition of this marvelous thought will play chant-like in the devotee’s consciousness as s/he moves through the day’s responsibilities and duties.

Excerpt from “Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!”

When tables large — of earth and moon and meteors,
Of brooks and rills, of shining ether ore —
Are laid with wondrous One Nectar,
Stolen from nature’s nooks by lares,
Do thou thy sullen sleep forsake:
Wake, wake my sleeping Hunger, wake! . . .

Commentary

“Wake, Wake, My Sleeping Hunger, Wake!” creates a little drama exploring the nature of spiritual hunger, offering the chant-like refrain that assists the devotee in keeping his/her mind on the goal.

First Stanza:  A Hunger That Bewilders

The speaker is addressing his own bewildering hunger, commanding it to rouse itself. There exists for every soul a veritable banquet of things to feast upon with the eye and ear.  The “tables” are huge and resemble a sumptuous meal spread out for honored guests.  But instead of mere food, these tables contain the universe of “earth and moon and meteors,” and “brooks and rills,” along with “shining ether ore.”  These things all signify a “wondrous One Nectar,” indicating that not only the eye and ear may be greeted but also the sense of taste is included.  

This fabulous ambrosial liquid offered for imbibing has figuratively been “stolen from nature’s nooks” by the gods of domesticity.  The speaker implies that his attention has been suffering “sullen sleep,” instead of observing all of these magnificent God-given gifts that should inspire and motivate him.  Thus, he commands his lagging mood, to “Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!” This command becomes the important chant or refrain completing each stanza.

Second Stanza:  Begging for Spiritual Crumbs

The speaker then reveals that his soul has traveled the cosmos “through diverse paths of aeons,” and he has been a beggar, crying for crumbs.  Now he finds himself exhausted by this journey, as he is within reach of his goal. He castigates his inertia, mocking his tear- besmeared cheeks, informing his lazy attitude to acknowledge that the sweetness of his goal is as near as a lovely beverage upon taking a drink comes close to the lips.

The speaker is able to quench his long-suffering thirst, but only if he will “partake!”  Thus, the speaker repeats his refrain, “Wake, wake, my sleeping Hunger, wake!” His thirst and his hunger conflate into a craving that has bedeviled him for many incarnations.  Now the speaker is whipping his effort to summon the discipline required to realize that he must wake up and experience the all-satisfying “manna” of his own soul.

Third Stanza: Soul Hunger

The speaker then reports that although he had consumed “all fare,” still he was unable to satisfy that “unquenched Hunger.” Even satiated with food, he remained “starved” and continued to search for the nourishment that would finally gratify his craving. Now, he realizes that he must awake to his soul.

Each human being strives for many goals to complete his/her life, and as each goal is reached a certain level of happiness is attained by that accomplishment.  But after some point in life—determined by one’s individual karma—accomplishing worldly goals begins to satisfy less and less, until one realizes that despite all of the reached goals, despite all the financial comfort, despite maintaining a beautiful relationship with one’s soulmate—there is still something missing.  That “something” is soul-awareness or God—without a deep relationship with one’s Creator, the shiny things of this world lose their luster.  This speaker is metaphorically likening that desire to “hunger” and “thirst”—two states that all beings with physical bodies understand only too well.

Fourth Stanza: Awake and Realize

Again, during all that time and many experiences that the speaker sought relief, he could not find it anywhere, but “[t]he Nectar sought for seeks thee now.”  The speaker’s search has finally led him to the place where he is being sought after by the only Power with the ability to satisfy his hunger and thirst, and all he has to do is wake up and realize it.

Fifth Stanza: Reawakening to One’s Own Success

The speaker then reminds his craving that it has worked so hard to quell its trammels; it has shed tears desiring to understand life’s mysteries, and it has prayed for nothing less than truth.  And the hard work has succeeded, but now the seeker must surrender the search and simply enjoy the wakefulness he has achieved.  His spiritual thirst has been quenched; the “eternal ache” is now at an end. 

The devotee who spiritually labors for many years to unite his soul with the Divine may need a final nudge in recognizing his own success; therefore, the speaker commands his metaphorical hunger to recognize the food before it, the figurative food and drink that quenches all hunger and thirst.

🕉

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

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