Abstemious, antipathy, critical, dwindle, extract, horrid, vast, hereditary, excellent, eventful, assassination, lonely, leapfrog, and zany. What does this strange collection of words have in common? These and two thousand other words were first used by William Shakespeare in his forty plays written from 1590–1614.
I should explain that I’m reading a wonderful book now that Swami Kriyananda gave me: Shakespeare, by Bill Bryson. Bryson explains that most of Shakespeare’s plots and characters were not original, but were borrowed from older sources. His genius lay in taking these and endowing them with greatness through his use of language.
More than just introducing new words, Shakespeare was also a phrasemaker. One fell swoop, vanish into thin air, bag and baggage, play fast and loose, go down the primrose path, the milk of human kindness, flesh and blood, foul play, tower of strength, pomp and circumstance, foregone conclusion: All these, and hundreds of others, are his creation.
Shakespeare showed the potential of English as a fluid, creative form of communication that can adapt to the needs of the time. Thus it has become the lingua franca of the world, with new words constantly being added to express our ever-evolving global culture.
In this light, I began to consider that Paramhansa Yogananda, too, introduced a new language. He created a fresh approach to spirituality for Dwapara Yuga, open and unbound by any specific religious context. Here are just a few words and phrases that he coined, adapted, or used in new ways:
Christ consciousness: the underlying vibratory presence in all creation reflecting the calm, unmoving presence of God beyond creation. It is this unitive consciousness with which Jesus Christ and all enlightened souls identify, and to which we should aspire.
Divine Mother: an intimate term for God as a cosmic, beloved mother, because as Yoganandaji said, “The mother is closer than the father.”
The Science of Religion: the title of Yoganandaji’s first book, published in 1920, showing that religion can go beyond mere belief to practical, testable application.
The Age of Energy: a description of our present age of Dwapara Yuga, expressing the understanding that energy is the underlying reality of matter.
Lifetrons: a descriptive term for prana, the all-pervading life force present in all creation.
Energization Exercises: a system of exercises working with lifetrons to recharge our bodies and minds with cosmic energy.
Ever-existing, ever-conscious, ever-new joy: a rephrasing of the traditional Indian description of God as Satchidananda: “existence, consciousness, bliss.” “Ever-new joy” is a description of “bliss” that’s easy to understand.
The Art of Living: a phrase first used by Yogananda in his lecture tour of America in the 1920s. It describes how to live with conscious awareness in order to achieve happiness, balance, and success in life. (Subsequently other spiritual groups have used this term, but it originated with Master.)
World brotherhood colonies: his term for what he called “the social pattern for the future,” based on “plain living and high thinking.” He said that in time these colonies would “spread like wildfire.” Ananda Village and its sister communities are the first living examples of his concept.
These are but a few examples of the “new language” that Yoganandaji created whose impact will help define the search for God now and into the future. He, like Shakespeare, was a great poet. I’ll close with the first lines of his poem, “The Noble New”:
Sing songs that none have sung,
Think thoughts that in brain have never rung,
Walk in paths that none have trod,
Weep tears as none have shed for God . . .
With joy in the gift of a new vision,
You might enjoy this special Christmas message from Nayaswamis Jyotish and Devi.