Sunday, 3 April 2011

So what's with all the chanting?

M. thinks I'm turning into Crush ( from Finding Nemo) what with all the chanting and feeling the love. This is the same M who on having to choose between studying in the UK or the US chose England because of Monty Python. I suspect she likes her Englishmen cynical, ironic and mired in existential angst. The Dude from Venice is not what she bargained for.


So what is it with all the chanting?

First off, let me state categorically that I'm not drawn to 'Curtain's' and can't bare the hurdy gurdy ( I know, I know, harmonium but it's as irritating as a hurdy gurdy), thank heavens I'm a woodwind repairer and not..... actually, come to think of it perhaps it is woodwind. Anyway, I blame the French for bringing it to India in the first place.

I don't like Indian music, traditional or popular so certainly don't like modern treatments of chant, I like my chanting plain and simple.

I NEVER expecting to get into chanting at all, was always turned off the idea, I probably put off visiting a shala for a year because I thought you HAD to do the opening chant.

I came around to it by accident.

After coming across Ramaswami's Complete book of Vinyasa Yoga a couple of years ago and exploring it a little I arranged to spend a few days learning the sequences from Steve of Harmony yoga, who'd taken Ramaswami's TT course in LA. He has a yurt as you may remember from an earlier post, ( I think I may have told this story already). So, we're in the Yurt and have gone through a couple of the sequences and are about done for the day. Steve has me lay down in Savasana and then begins to chant. This is a little awkward, thinks I, but actually quite pleasant. At the end of the week I asked Steve for some of the chants that had accompanied the earlier edition of Ramaswami's book.

One of the tracks was "Learning the pranayama mantra' and as I was working on pranayama with an iphone app already I decided to try and learn it. I started to listen to it while cycling in to work in the morning and before long I'd catch myself half humming, half singing, the ruddy thing throughout the day. Once I had it memorised and was using it in my pranayama practice there was no stopping me. I'd chant it cycling in to work, in supermarket queues, walking around on my lunch break.... I'd chant it to myself if something irritated me or if I was stressed with some vintage sax repair at work, it was relaxing... calming.

Coming around to chanting was probably the deciding factor that convinced me to go ahead and register for Ramamswami's TT course, the chanting element had put me off before. However, it's one thing chanting to yourself on your bike or in your head and quite another finding yourself in a mantra class in LA. I have a recording of part of the chanting the sutras class, M. was teasing me about it as every now and again you can hear me out of time and tune with everyone else in the class, clearly feeling exposed. But it's OK your in a group and there are always strong or enthusiastic chanters you can hide behind....mostly.

I don't think I've ever been that comfortable with OM, how do people keep OMing for so long? Some competitive nature's coming out there at times I think, bad yogi's. I do OM in the bath though and try and hit that note that makes the whole bathroom vibrate, you too, right? Please tell me I'm not alone in this.

What really turned me on to chanting was Ramaswami's chants while we were in Savasana at the end of asana class. He would have us lay there in that cavernous dance studio for five, ten sometimes twenty minutes chanting away and I loved it. Recently I came across a recording I made on the itouch and use it every morning. Remember when I was so proud of my minute and a half savasana? Not anymore, ten minutes every morning listening to my teacher chant away. Most morning I think I drift off for a couple of minutes and waking up for the last bit, refreshed and set for the day.

Now I chant whenever I get the chance, mantras, slokas, The yoga sutra's and just recently I started working on the Gita. And when Shiva gets restless and starts tearing this world of ours to pieces, the chanting, it helps a little.

Is it the sound of the Sanskrit? Possibly, although my all time favourite chant is in Tamil (Ganesha prayer). It may well be the rhythm, it's often what I'm drawn to first but perhaps it's partly to do with it's otherness, though not a Catholic I have a soft spot for Church Latin too. Either way, as I said, I like my chanting, clear, simple and straight forward......

or at least I did.



I spent the last couple of hours trying to trace the Ravi and George version of the chant from Ramaswami's newsletter, now I can't get the CD out of my head and Ravi is now, finally, on my ipod.

Where will it end.

9 comments:

  1. I know what you mean - I'm getting really into chanting, too. I've recently started chanting a verse from the Bhagavad Gita before eating - Brahmarpanam Brahma Havir etc, if you've come across it - and when I get to the third line, Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam, it makes me feel so happy I just have to grin. No idea why! Whatever's going on there, those chants are powerful.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I had the same feelings about chanting, still not a big chanta but would like to do more, it is certainly a valuable heart opening practice, as is singing in a choir. Ravi and George....is this Ravi Shankar? Could you tell me the title of this CD am really interested in using that in class and at home, it's a wonderful chant and I too was very touched by the newsletter. I sympathise with Misa, it must be hard being away at a time like this. Most of the Japanese I know are wanting to come back, whereas a lot of the foreigners are fleeing, which is fine, but a little sad.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Lizw, I KNOW, lots of grinning, what is that about, a feeling of general well being, wonder why it works. perhaps it's just the really good chants that people love that have survived.

    エスタI've added a link to the CD and it's cover. Yes Ravi Shankar. Amazon don;t let you have a listen to the tracks but Itunes does, the track is called Vedic chant (two). the album is growing on me but his version of the maha mantra is probably the worst thing on there, still, better than nothing.

    ReplyDelete
  4. What a great post, I am so glad you came out of sabbatical! Great find, so does this CD contain the song from the previous post then? or am I misunderstanding?

    I find it very interesting your journey into chanting. I suppose I was also uncomfortable with it in the beginning but it has a way to grow on you...

    ReplyDelete
  5. ys Claudia the Ravi Shankar CD pictured does have the song/mantra from the previous post (and ramaswami's newsletter) on the CD it's called Vedic chant(two). You can probably hear a little of it on itunes but it's the worst track on the album, need to find another version.
    that said I'm loving the album, been playing it all morning at work, love the flute must get one.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Now that you've posted the CD cover, I realise that I got that CD years ago (2005?) when I was in Bangalore doing yoga with Vishwanath (nephew of KPJ). I loved it but haven't listened to it for years - must search it out and get it onto my iPhone!

    Thanks for the great post ... I've read your blogs from back when you first started ... amazing journey you've been on! As we all are, of course ... :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you Suzie, just been googling Vishwanath, we never hear about him, well you did obviously. What we he like, i found his website
    http://www.yogamasterji.com/about.html

    This CD is really growing on me, was listening to it all day MUST get my hands on one of those flutes, love that sound.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Vishwanath was great for me at the time. Thinking back, I actually went for a month in late 2002, and then went there for 12 days or so on the way back from a UK trip in 2005. I went there originally because some people from the shala I go to had been there (which is how I heard about it). And it was a much cheaper option than going to Mysore. Additionally, for someone going on their own it was good because at that time (don't think it happens any more), there was a nearby yoga 'flat' organised by Vishwanath that all the students stayed in. There were about 8-10 western students studying there then. We'd get our evening meal brought over to us from Vishwanath's 'cook' so we didn't have to fend for ourselves too much!

    As far as I remember, Viswanath was a contemporary of Manju. I did really like it and felt I got a lot out of it (though I did baulk at having to call him 'Masterji'!!)

    Don't think I'd go back there now though. I do really want to go to Mysore one day - no matter how much of a 'scene' it may be nowadays. I believe it can/should be possible to get a lot from being a student of Sharath there ... :)

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the info on Vishwanath, I was wondering if he was a contemporary of Manju, interesting that neither of them stayed. i should do a post on him as i hadn't heard of him before, who else is around teaching wonder from the extended Jois family.

    ' I believe it can/should be possible to get a lot from being a student of Sharath there ... :)'

    I guess so but I wonder what exactly.

    ReplyDelete

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A Reminder

from Kalama sutra, translation from the Pali by Bhikkhu Bodhi This blog included.

"So, as I said, Kalamas: 'Don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, "This contemplative is our teacher." When you know for yourselves that, "These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering" — then you should abandon them.' Thus was it said. And in reference to this was it said.

"Now, Kalamas, don't go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, 'This contemplative is our teacher.' When you know for yourselves that, 'These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness' — then you should enter & remain in them. Buddha - Kalama Sutta
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