This volume, presenting Paramahansa Yogananda’s complete commentaries on the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, brings together the poetic and spiritual insights of three men of great renown, whose lives spanned a period of more than nine hundred years. The eleventh-century verses of Omar Khayyam, and their nineteenth-century translation by Edward FitzGerald, have long delighted readers. Yet the true meaning of the poem has been a subject of much debate. In his illuminating interpretation, Paramahansa Yogananda reveals—behind the enigmatic veil of metaphor—the mystical essence of this literary classic.
Paramahansa Yogananda’s interpretation of the Rubaiyat was one aspect of a lifelong effort to awaken people of both East and West to a deeper awareness of the innate divinity latent in every human being. Like the enlightened sages of all spiritual traditions, Sri Yogananda perceived that underlying the doctrines and practices of the various religions is one Truth, one transcendent Reality. It was this universal outlook and breadth of vision that enabled him to elucidate the profound kinship between the teachings of India’s ancient science of Yoga and the writings of one of the greatest and most misunderstood mystical poets of the Islamic world, Omar Khayyam.
More than just a commentary, this book presents a spiritual teaching for the conduct of life. Paramahansa Yogananda reveals that behind Omar Khayyam’s outward imagery is hidden a profoundly beautiful understanding of the joy and sublime purpose of human existence.
“The Revelation of Omar Khayyam”
From Paramahansa Yogananda’s introduction to “The Wine of the Mystic”:
“Long ago in India I met a hoary Persian poet who told me that the poetry of Persia often has two meanings, one inner and one outer. I remember the great satisfaction I derived from his explanations of the twofold significance of several Persian poems.
“One day as I was deeply concentrated on the pages of Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat, I suddenly beheld the walls of its outer meanings crumble away, and the vast inner fortress of golden spiritual treasures stood open to my gaze.
“Ever since, I have admired the beauty of the previously invisible castle of inner wisdom in the Rubaiyat. I have felt that this dream-castle of truth, which can be seen by any penetrating eye, would be a haven for many shelter-seeking souls invaded by enemy armies of ignorance….
“As I worked on the spiritual interpretation of the Rubaiyat, it took me into an endless labyrinth of truth, until I was rapturously lost in wonderment. The veiling of Khayyam’s metaphysical and practical philosophy in these verses reminds me of ‘The Revelation of St. John the Divine.’ The Rubaiyat may rightly be called ‘The Revelation of Omar Khayyam.’”
Excerpts from Paramahansa Yogananda’s Wine of the Mystic
On meditation and God-communion…
Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse—and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.
“Sitting in the deep silence of meditation, with my mind concentrated on the cerebrospinal tree of life and spiritual consciousness, I rest in the shade of peace. Nourished by the life-giving ‘bread’ of prana [life energy], I quaff the aged wine of divine intoxication brimming the cask of my soul. Unceasingly my heart recites the poetic inspirations of eternal divine love. In this wilderness of deepest innermost silence—whence all tumult of thronging desires has died away—I commune with Thee, my Supreme Beloved, the Singing Blessedness. Thou dost sweetly intone to me the all-desire-satisfying music of wisdom. Ah, wilderness, free from the clamor of material desires and passions! in this aloneness I am not lonely. In the solitude of my inner silence I have found the paradise of unending Joy.”
On inner peace and fulfillment…
The Worldly Hope men set their Hearts upon
Turns Ashes—or it prospers; and anon,
Like Snow upon the Desert’s dusty Face
Lighting a little Hour or two—is gone.
Only the ignorant man expects perfection and lasting fulfillment from this earth; and brokenhearted he enters the portals of the grave. The enlightened man, knowing the delusive nature of the world, does not build his hopes here. Remaining unmoved by earthly desires, the wise seek the lasting Reality; they enter the vastness of Eternal Fulfillment.
Ah, my Beloved, fill the Cup that clears
TO-DAY of past Regrets and future Fears—
To-morrow? —Why, To-morrow I may be
Myself with Yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.
O my Soul! fill my consciousness with the ambrosia of bliss, flowing from the cask of ecstasy. Naught but that divine communion can dispel the haunting memories of past errors and the fear of future wrongs, with their yield of evil consequences.
Through meditation one can experience a stable, silent inner peace that can be a permanently soothing background for all harmonious or trialsome activities demanded by life’s responsibilities….A lump of sand cannot withstand the erosive effect of the ocean’s waves; an individual who lacks imperturbable inner peace cannot remain tranquil during mental conflict. But as a diamond remains unchanged no matter how many waves swirl around it, so also a peace-crystallized individual remains radiantly serene even when trials beset him from all sides. Out of the changeful waters of life, let us salvage through meditation the diamond of unchangeable soul-consciousness, which sparkles with the everlasting joy of Spirit.
On the spiritual quest…
With them the Seed of Wisdom did I sow,
And with my own hand labour’d it to grow:
And this was all the Harvest that I reap’d—
“I came like Water, and like Wind I go.”
The seed of wisdom is given by the guru or master of Self-realization; but the soil, or receptivity, and the cultivation of that seed must be supplied by the devotee….Self-discipline is not self-torture; it is the way to organize and concentrate the unruly forces of the mind on those specific habits of living that can bring us true happiness. By doggedly following the methods of self-discipline we can rid ourselves of restlessness, bad habits, and misery-producing desires, and become truly happy. When we are weak, restless, and mentally unstable, we remain earthbound, like water. But when we become spiritualized by self-discipline and deep meditation, we soar like the wind in the omnipresence of our true soul nature.
On transcending the law of karma…
‘Tis all a Chequer-board of Nights and Days
Where Destiny with Men for Pieces plays:
Hither and thither moves, and mates, and slays,
And one by one back in the Closet lays.
As a checkerboard consists of alternate white and dark squares on which chessmen representing rulers and their underlings are moved about, so does the rotating earth with its alternating days and nights form a grand checkerboard on which are played the lives of human chessmen….Men are moved from one state or condition to another throughout their lives, and are often thwarted in purpose, unable to carry out their plans. Finally, their existences are cut short by the transition called death….
When destiny maneuvers the game of your life through advances, stalemates, and retreats, it should be remembered that these effects are from causes you yourself have created in past lives. You should neither curse fate for your sorrows nor hail luck as the progenitor of your good fortune, but recognize your own hand in the turning of events in your life. If you are unhappy with your self-created destiny, remind yourself that God has given you the power of free choice to change that fate. Protracted efforts at right action produce gradual benefits; but if in addition you unite your will with God’s wisdom through deep meditation, you will know instantly the real meaning of freedom.
Instead of letting time and fate rule our destiny, crushing out the vivacity of one incarnation after another, why not let God immortalize us with His celestial touch? No longer, then, will we need to creep into the lap of afterlife to rest. Being with God, we will be Eternal Life Itself, never again to be enslaved by limitations behind the prison walls of past, present, and future.
On the meaning of the cosmic drama…
Ah, Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits—and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!
Thus does every being at times wish he could play the role of Creator and make this world more to his heart’s desire. This longing for unalloyed happiness springs from the core of the soul in which is secreted the divinely inherent perfection and everlasting bliss of one’s true being.
The world is a divine enigma—evil mixed with good, sorrow with joy, death with life….We should not rack our brains nor become disbelievers in a divine scheme in creation if we cannot understand all the paradoxical dramas of good and evil, of happiness and sorrow, of rich and poor, of health and sickness, of intelligence and stupidity, of peace and wars, of kindness and cruelty in nature. A successful play has suspense, captivates the interest, bewilders or puzzles, and ends with a satisfying dramatic flourish….Similarly, God will in time suddenly lift the veil for every ascending soul, disclosing the final part of the Cosmic Drama, long concealed behind the many acts of tragedies and comedies, to reveal its mighty, noble end.
On the love of God…
Said one—“Folks of a surly Tapster tell,
And daub his Visage with the Smoke of Hell;
They talk of some strict Testing of us—Pish!
He’s a Good Fellow, and ’twill all be well.”
There are people who depict their Creator as one who imperiously tests man with the smoke of ignorance and the fire of punishment, and who judges man’s actions with heartless scrutiny. They thus distort the true concept of God as a loving, compassionate Heavenly Father into a false image of one who is a strict, unsparing, and vengeful tyrant. But devotees who commune with God know it is foolish to think of Him otherwise than as the Compassionate Being who is the infinite receptacle of all love and goodness. As God, the Father of the Universe, is good, all things must end well with His children; they and all creation are moving to a glorious climax and reunion in Him.
Read more in Wine of the Mystic: The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam a Spiritual Interpretation by Paramahansa Yogananda