This song is an antidote for:

  • Egoic pride
  • Smallness of heart
  • False humility
  • Lack of confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Unworthiness

Listen to the song (download mp3):

Bonus Track (download mp3):

Watch the session with Satyaki:

From A Tale of Songs, by Swami Kriyananda:

1. Once there lived a tiny nightingale
In the ancient land of Israel.
Not a note he ever sang until
That night when Christ was born.

Chorus: That night! That night!
No song he did sing,
So wise men tell,
Till that night when Christ was born.

2. On that night he came upon a field;
There a band of shepherds to sleep did yield,
For none knew what wonders the dark concealed,
That night when Christ was born.

3. Suddenly an angel host appeared,
With their songs the solemn darkness cleared,
And the shepherds awoke, God’s host revered,
That night when Christ was born.

4. Then the nightingale did fly up high
Till he joined the angels in the sky;
In his joy he opened his beak to cry,
That night when Christ was born.

5. As he tried to chirp that holy name
Suddenly his voice in music came,
And with angel choirs he did proclaim
That night when Christ was born.

6. Ever since that night, the nightingale
Every heart with music does regale,
And his favorite song, it is the tale
Of that night when Christ was born.

7. Then let us, if we would sweetly sing,
Join the angels praising Christ the king,
That they to our hearts once more may bring
That night when Christ was born.

Chorus for last verse only:
That night! That night!
No song we can sing,
So wise men tell,
Till that night when Christ is born.

The song as an antidote (Satyaki’s comments):

In Chapter 21 of A Place Called Ananda, Swami Kriyananda tells of how That Night When Christ Was Born and The Christmas Mystery both popped into his mind, full-blown, as he was driving over the Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco in December, 1964. He was returning home after first meeting his guitar instructor, Larry Hanks, the same one who would later challenge him to write a more serious song, the result of which was The Non-Blues.

That Night, as we often call it for simplicity, tells a sweet story of a “tiny nightingale” who never sings until the first Christmas, with the ending of the song saying that if we, too, would sing sweetly, then we should use our voices to sing of God. Or put another way, you never find your true voice until you simply say “I love you, God.”

Enough said, right?

Well, as we find with just about every one of Kriyananda’s songs, there’s much more going on! For starters, why the nightingale? As a bird, the nightingale is famed for its beautiful song, which it sings both day and night (or through both darkness and light, but that’s for us to explore in Song of the Nightingale). The nightingale has often been used in literature and especially poetry, even back to Homer’s Odyssey. Shakespeare likened his love poetry to the nightingale’s song; Beethoven and Liszt used the nightingale’s song in some of their compositions; Omar Khayyam refers several times to nightingales in The Rubaiyat, as does Paramhansa Yogananda in a number of his poems. Suffice it to say, that a nightingale is a symbol of one who has a beautiful song to sing. In his interpretations of The Rubaiyat, Yogananda even identified the nightingale as a symbol of eternal Truth.

In That Night, then, a nightingale who has never sung a note implies anyone who has a beautiful song to sing but has not yet found their true “voice” through a connection to wisdom, to God. In that way, the song is saying that there’s nothing worth saying until one has awakened to God’s presence within; no “notes” are worthy of the name if they’re born merely of lower consciousness rather than born of the higher Truth of Christ Consciousness.

The word “tiny” here is also important. Tiny implies humbleness, which is to say that you don’t need to be famous or important or anything like that for your voice to matter if it’s connected to Truth: if it speaks of seeking God or inspiring others to seek God. You don’t have to be an angel: when you’re connected to God, whatever words you speak or notes you sing resonate with all the power of Creation. “Tiny” here can also imply that perhaps the nightingale did sing, but none of that singing was of any consequence—which is to say, it had no purpose or lasting impact on Creation—without the connection to the divine.

This interpretation is further supported by the chorus: “No song he did sing so wise men tell.” Honestly, what do wise men have to do with this story? The song could easily have said, “So legend tells”—but we’ve got wise men here, suggesting that there’s a deeper implication as befits any parable or story that a master sees fit to share. Yogananda, for example, never told stories simply to be amusing or to be the center of attention: every story had a purpose in helping people to awaken spiritually. By this connection to wise men, then, That Night must also be one such story.

In general, the song has an openness and cleanliness of the whole upper torso and head, like those parts are coming transparent, cleared of any shyness or shame. The song releases the heart from smallness, releasing the love and joy that’s otherwise trapped in the heart beneath layers of uncertainty. This allows energy to flow upwards from the heart to the spiritual eye, which is where we find our voices in that connection to God.

Here’s how each of the verses help that upward flow:

  1. The opening verse with the “tiny nightingale” begins in the heart chakra.
  2. The “field” and sleeping shepherds can be a metaphor for the silence and darkness of meditation, a place of stillness in which we quiet our hearts and open to Christ’s presence.
  3. The appearance of the angels implies a great opening of inspiration, making that connection to the divine. This is when God awakens something in you—an awareness of your own divinity in the indwelling Christ. The shepherds, the guides of the wandering sheep of our scattered desires and tendencies, awaken to direct energy toward God. This magnetically lifts energy upwards from the heart chakra to the throat chakra, clearing away the “solemn darkness” of seriousness, sorrows, and disappointments.
  4. In response to this magnetism, the nightingale—our voice, you might say—”flies up high,” with the energy continuing upwards from the throat to the medulla, “till he joined the angels in the sky,” making a first connection to the spiritual eye. “In his joy” reflects making a connection to the inspiration of the angels in such a way that you can no longer deny your inherent divinity; you can no longer hide the Truth of your own being. You’re waking up to those truths, and you voice is ready to open.
  5. Now the nightingale (from the medulla) makes the self-effort to “chirp that holy name,” which suggests making an effort to attune yourself to that higher consciousness. And what happens? Something beautiful! “Suddenly his voice in music came/And with angel choirs he did proclaim.” The simplest chirp, when done in attunement with Truth, becomes angelic music, suggesting to us that we’d do well to always express the highest truth in our speech and song.
  6. Now that the nightingale has found his true voice (at the spiritual eye), his song and speech becomes an inspiration: “every heart his music does regale.” And what does he speak of? “His favorite song it is the tale of that night when Christ was born.” Every note, every word, is infused with devotion, with that connection to God and the inspiration to seek Him, serving to lift the hearts of all who are open.

We’ve been brought up to the spiritual eye by this wonderful story of the nightingale, at which point the last verse really makes it clear that each one of us is the bird, the unawakened nightingale who must learn to sing by attuning oneself to God, to find one’s voice not in opinions and lower thoughts, but through offering all the heart’s desires and ambitions into that highest inspiration:

The let us if we would sweetly sing,
Join the angels praising Christ the King,
That they too, our hearts, once more may bring
That night when Christ was born.

That little bit, “once more,” suggests that Christ has already been born within us, and we’re seeking that second birth, the “second coming,” which Yogananda explained is not an outward, objective event but the awakening of the Christ Consciousness within each individual. (Kriyananda also uses this phrase in The Christ Child is Sleeping: For Jesus came on earth/To offer second birth/To all who would the blessing receive.)

And finally, the last repeat of the chorus says, “no song we can sing”—again, nothing we say has any purpose of impact without a connection to God and Truth, without the foundation of seeking God. Without that connection, you might as well be silent!

The opposite consciousness of all this is one that shouts, “Listen to me! My opinions matter! I have a right to speak and be heard!” Thus, That Night serves as an antidote to egoic pride that says, “Who needs Truth if I can command an audience!” One look at most of the content on the Internet gives you plenty of examples of this! It also works for smallness of heart, like that expressed by the Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where his utter lack of joy, due to smallness of heart, wants to deny anyone else from feeling that joy—he tries to steal That Night When Christ Was Born!

Interestingly, That Night also serves as an antidote for what you might say is the opposite side of the same coin, which is lack of confidence and low self-esteem. Pride shuts you off from the Christ within because you believe you don’t need God at all. Lack of confidence and low self-esteem also shuts you off from God because you don’t believe you are worthy of the Christ within!

As Kriyananda writes in Day 29 of Secrets of Emotional Healing, to which he assigns this song:

The secret of overcoming low self-esteem is to realize that you are an integral part of everything that is–sustained forever by that Power which brought the very universe into existence. Open your heart to life! Cease seeing yourself as a lonely plant, waterless on an empty desert![1]

Once you see that you are integral part of all that is, a powerful thought that is also brought out in The Festival of Light, how can there be either pride or false humility?

Embrace God. Embrace the Truth that dwells within you. Attune to that Truth, to the indwelling Christ, and find that you, too, can sing with the angels.

Additional Notes:

An even more esoteric meaning is that the nightingale represents the Higher Self within us, but that Self doesn’t have a voice so long as we’re bound to materialism, bound to ego, bound to unworthiness. When the Higher Self finally does awaken, awaken to sing, then it regales the hearts of all the chakras in the spine. The “we” in the last verse with “our hearts” are the hearts of the individual chakras that must themselves turn upwards toward God, that is, to praise and love God.

Footnotes:

[1] The “empty desert” reminds one of the line in The Christ Child’s Asleep: “We dreamed of imposing on desert sands/Flower gardens of beauty, verdant vales of delight/Imagination misted out sight.” The desert sands here suggest life without God, life without any divine awareness, in which beauty and true delight (and not simple sensual enjoyments) really can’t flourish. [Return]