A natural poet and musician, Paramahansa Yogananda was probably the first to provide English words and Western musical notation for many of India’s traditional hymns and bhajans (devotional songs). He also composed many of his own chants. “In India,” wrote Paramahansaji, “poetry and music have always gone hand in hand. In the West the composer writes the music, and the poet adds the words, but the Indian melody and song are one….The profound aim of Indian music is to blend the singer with the Cosmic Song, the creature with his Creator.” In his book Cosmic Chants, from which the musical renditions in this recording are taken, Sri Yogananda wrote: “Sound or vibration is the most powerful force in the universe. Music is a divine art, to be used not only for pleasure but as a path to God-realization. Vibrations resulting from devotional singing lead to attunement with the Cosmic Vibration or the Word. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’” (John 1:1). When a chant is sung to the Lord with sincerity and deep concentration, the words become saturated with intuitive conviction and realization. They are then, Paramahansaji tells us, “like highly explosive vibration bombs that have the power to remove the rocks of difficulties and to create the change desired.” “Chanting with ever-increasing devotion,” he often said, “brings God-communion and ecstatic joy, and through these healing of body, mind, and soul.”
Those who join in thought and feeling with Paramahansa Yogananda will find that listening to these chants and prayers imbues the heart with deep spiritual peace and an awareness of the Divine Presence.
With the exception of “Song of India,” the selections in this volume were recorded during impromptu gatherings at the Self-Realization Fellowship’s international headquarters in Los Angeles, under conditions far removed from those of a professional recording studio. However, sound quality and clarity have been enhanced through the use of modern technology and equipment.
The chants, as originally recorded on 78 r.p.m. records, each lasted for approximately three minutes. Subsequently, many listeners expressed a wish for longer periods of chanting to help them deepen their devotional concentration before meditation. Therefore, for these recordings some of the chants have been lengthened (by repetition) to several minutes. (It is not uncommon in Indian chanting to repeat a song, or perhaps just a line of it, over and over for periods of ten minutes to an hour, continuously increasing the devotional intensity.)
Paramahansa Yogananda plays the harmonium (a small, hand-operated reed organ) as he sings. Other accompaniment consists of the mridanga (a long drum of clay or wood) and kartal (a pair of small flat hand cymbals).
Note: For convenience in programming a CD player for extended repetition of a musical selection, we have listed several of the chants as two tracks. The first track is Paramahansa Yogananda’s spoken introduction to the selection, and the second track is the music.
Paramahansa Yogananda (1893–1952) is widely regarded as one of the preeminent spiritual figures of our time. Born in northern India, he came to the United States in 1920, where for more than thirty years he taught India’s ancient philosophy and science of yoga meditation and the art of balanced spiritual living. The first great master of Yoga to live and teach in the West for an extended period of time, he traveled and lectured extensively throughout North America and abroad, speaking to capacity audiences in major cities and revealing the underlying unity of the world’s great religions. He has inspired millions through his acclaimed life story, Autobiography of a Yogi, his groundbreaking commentaries on the scriptures of East and West, and his numerous other books. Paramahansa Yogananda’s spiritual and humanitarian work continues to be carried on today by Self-Realization Fellowship, the international society he founded in 1920 to disseminate his teachings worldwide.