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

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Chanting with Sri Krishnamacharya- March 2012 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami

On Feb 24th I participated in the inauguration of the yoga studio of
my friend Roxana  Letechipia here in Mexico City, called tvameva yoga.
It was nice function and scores of her friends were there. Roxana
completed my 200 hr Teacher training program at LMU last July. On the
wall of the studio was inscribed this old famous Sanskrit sloka
tvameva mata cha pita tvameva
tvameva bandhuscha  sakha tvameva
tvameva vidya dravinam tvameva
tvameva sarvam mamadevadeva
You are the Mother, and the Father, You are the Relative and the
Friend. You are Wisdom so are You Wealth. You are indeed all, my
Supreme Lord. Nice prayer from the Mahabharata.

I am here in Mexico City and am enjoying my stay and teaching. I
taught a well attended two day workshop at Gabriela Tavera's Inspira
Yoga and am now doing a 25 hour certification course in  Core
Vinyasakrama Yoga at Jorge Espionaz's Centro Kiai Yoga with a good
turnout and lively participation. Next weekend I will be teaching at
Mukta Yoga in Mexico City before returning to New Jersey. Thank you
Roxana for all your kind efforts, interest and support.

After a four month sojourn in Chennai, India I returned to USA middle
of February. During my stay I managed to lay my hands on an old video
cassette of a series of TV programs on Yoga I had done in Chennai in
early 1980s. The programs were done over a period of about ten weeks.
They consisted of asanas and short interviews in Tamil my mother
tongue. My 10 year old son, Badri had then managed to record all the
programs. The quality of the video cassette had deteriorated over time
and disuse. I took the video to Konica Laboratories in Chennai and
they managed to make a DVD with occasional jumpy and bumpy pictures. I
was tickled seeing the programs after so many years and how I was
teaching at that time. I was still studying with my Guru at that time
and teaching simultaneously in Kalakshetra. I was not fully exposed to
all the vinyasas that Sri Krishnamacharya would eventually teach. And
considering the limitations of TV programs, the time constraints, and
others parameters I thought the programs had come out well with the
cooperation of excellent students from Kalakshetra. Since the program
was in Tamil I thought I should have the commentary to the asana
portion in English. My friends Srimathy and Ravi in Chennai arranged
for the audio recording at Prasad Studios, the best film studio in the
country and I thought the audio recording came out well. They said
that they would 'stitch' the audio and video and I am expecting to
receive the product soon. I think I may have to add English captions
to the interviews so that it can be useful. The program runs for about
an hour or so.

I have also been wanting to start working on  “A Complete DVD on
Vinyasa krama Yoga”. Thanks again to the help of my friends Srimathy
and Ravi, I managed to shoot two sequences, the core vinyasas of
Tadasana and Vajrasana in their new Yogashala. One of their students
Sundar did the Tadasana sequence. The Vajrasana sequence was done by
my friend Ranjit Babu, my former Kalakshetra student  who was a model
for several asanas in my Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga. I thought the
asanas were good but the audio suffered badly due to the environmental
noise as some construction work was going on in the vicinity. I think
it can be salvaged if I can redo the audio track. Now I am more
confident of shooting the rest of the sequences without much fuss.

During the eighties one day when I came to the class my Guru was not
in his room. While waiting for him in his room I saw a couple of old
small photo albums on his table. As I was leafing through them my Guru
came into the room and said “Take it home if you want”, indicating
that I should be ready to start the class. I took it home and saw it
contained a few of my Guru's asana pictures. I found the album in my
Chennai home and brought it to USA.
******
CHANTING WITH SRI KRISHNAMACHARYA

Between 1980 and 1995 I recorded for a recording company, “Sangeetha”,
many chants I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya and more. During my
recent visit to Chennai I talked to H M SriKrishna, a partner of the
firm, and he said that they were about to make available online about
18 of my titles—hope it works out. A list of my programs is available,
in the following site.
www.sangeethamusic.com

Open the site and type Srivatsa Ramaswami in the search window for the
complete list. You may click on individual titles for more information
on each program and some have a LISTEN button to listen to a clip. The
total chant time of all the program may be about 30 hrs. I hope they
will be able to organize the on line downloading soon.

(I just got a message saying that 18 of my programs are now available
on line and are down-loadable.  I have not tested the sites and I hope
they work. Two of the main works Sundara Kanda (10hrs) and Aswamedha
(3hrs) appear missing though)

One of the highlights of the time I spent studying with Sri
Krishnamacharya was learning vedic chanting. I had, when I was about
ten, started having private training in Vedic chanting at home (for
about 3 to 4 years I guess) and so was familiar with Vedic Chanting.
So when the opportunity arose to learn more chants I took it with
considerable enthusiasm. Sri Krishnamacharya's chanting was very
similar to the way others chanted in South India but had a superior
quality. His chanting encompassed all the parameters of vedic
chanting. The first one is varna or the letters. In Sanskrit the
consonants and vowels have a definite character and they can not be
changed and there are no silent letters in Sanskrit words. In fact
each character has a distinct place of origin in the body and many
experts have defined them. The next parameter is maatra or the time
duration for each letter, the short and long syllables and a few
having more than 2 matras like the pranava. Bala is strength of the
chanting. Sama is modulation, usually the chanting should be in the
middle tone not high pitched nor low. Santana is the observance of all
rules of conjunction.

I studied chanting with  Sri Krishnamacharya for several years. I
think I must have spent over 1500 hrs learning and then chanting with
him. It was a great experience listening to his chants and also
chanting with him long passages like Suryanamaskara or Mahanarayana
Upanishad or Pravargya sometimes running for an hour or more at a
stretch. The otherwise drab chanting appeared to have life and
buoyancy coming from him. While Sri Krishnamacharya is known for his
contribution to Hatayoga especially asanas, his willingness to teach
vedic chanting or svadhyaya as he would call it to those interested,
even breaking the conventional restrictions of vedic chanting, is not
that well known.

On the strength of my learning chanting from Sri Krishnamacharya I was
able to record almost all the vedic chants I had learnt from him.
Suryanamaskara (Arunam) or Sun Salutation was one of his favorites and
one of the most popular chants in South India. It runs for an hour and
in every Teacher Training program I chant this text consisting of 32
sections and the participants  do one Suryanamaskara at the end of the
chanting of each section. It  takes about two hours for the entire
exercise. I have included Varuna Puja along with this in my cd,
chanting of Suryanamaskara. This chant is said to bestow good health
to all those who chant or listen. Sun is the deity for health. One may
consider listening to the chant on Sundays and doing suryanamaskara at
the end of each of the 32 stanzas. It may not be too strenuous as one
rests for two minutes listening to the chants and does one Namaskara
for let us say 1 ½ to 2 mts. This is the first chapter in Taittiriya
Aranyaka.

The second chapter is called swadhyaya chapter and is also known as
Kushmanda Homa. It is contained in my program called “Aditya Hridaya
and Vedic chanting”.  Aditya hridaya is a very famous chant, a loukika
chant which can be chanted by everyone without any restrictions. The
orthodox view is that vedic chanting should be done only by those who
are initiated  by a vedic rite called upanayana but, there are other
chants like in the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the puranas and other later
day works. Aditya hridaym takes hardly  8 mts to chant and it is
recommended that one should do it everyday before undertaking the
day's work. Lord Rama in Ramayana is said to have chanted before the
final assault on Ravana. Kushmanda Homa or the swadhyaya chapter
offers an  encomium to the famous Gayatri mantra and its efficacy. It
is said to remove the blemishes of the mind.
I have also chanted the third chapter of Taittiriya Aranyaka along
with a laukika work called Indrakshi and Siva Kavacha. The vedic
portion is very nice to hear. Indrakshi and sivakavacha are prayers to
Siva and Sakthi and is very popular in the state of Kerala.

I also recorded the last four chapters of the Yajur veda, (1) the
Taittiriya Upanishad (3 chapters) and also (2) Mahanarayana upanishad
(the last chapter). Taitiriya upanishad is one of the masterpieces on
Vedanta and several acharyas have written detailed commentaries on
them. It is a good work to help understand the thought process
involved in the enquiry into the ultimate reality. Both these
upanishads are currently in vogue and many chant them. These two
chants are very absorbing if we know the general import and follow the
trend while we chant or hear them
I also recorded another vedic masterpiece called Aswamedha. This is
said to be the highest religious rite of the vedas and only emperors
could do the actual ritual. But everyone can chant or listen to this
three hour chant. It is normally chanted in the afternoon of the
Ekadasi or the 11th day after New moon or Full moon days. The 11th day
is said to be the day of fasting and cleansing the body and mind. So
those who fast on these days chant this. Then on the following morning
they have early lunch and prior to that they chant or listen to the
three chapters of Taittiriya Upanishad. There are three chapters in
Aswameda volume  along with achidra and all of them take about three
hours. Fasting on ekadasi and doing chanting for 3 hours in the
afternoon could have a deep cleansing effect on the mind-body system
There were a few other beautiful chants that I learnt from
Krishnmacharya that I did not record. One was the three chapters of
Taittiriya Kataka running for about two hours and another the
Pravargya portion which has two chapters and take about two hours. I
wanted to record them and also the Bhagavat Gita but could not get the
opportunity.

I had spent hundreds of hours chanting these vedic chants with my Guru
Sri Krishnamacharya. For several years Sri Desikachar and myself would
chant with him in chorus.  This was a  very satisfying time of my
life. Thereafter I used to chant with my Guru. The last class I had
with my Guru was  one afternoon when we chanted Suryanamaskara
together.
Even though I learnt vedic chanting from my Guru and was able to
record them there were a number of other chants, the laukika chants,
which any one can chant and which are very popular in India. My
recording company asked me to do a series of such chants. According to
Sankara there are 6 forms of orthodox worship in India. They are
Ganapati, Subramanya, Siva, Sakti, Vishnu and Surya. There are
innumerable works in Sanskrit and also in regional languages. I was
able to record a number of such works. On Siva, I had Vedasara
Sivasahasranama or 1000 names of Lord consistent with vedic tradition.
Then Indakshi Siva kavacha in which Sivakavacha is said to be a mantra
to protect oneself from external dangers. I had also chanted the
famous vedic chant on Siva Rudrama and chamakam which contains the
famous mrityunjaya mantra and it was part of the cd (now discontinued)
that we  added to  the  Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga..However the
Spanish edition of my book contains the cd

Ganesa Sahasranama is the work from Ganesa Purana. I think it is a
very charming work in praise of Lord Ganesa. I also did the
Sahasranama in the form of namavali for Subramania, the six headed son
of Siva, a very popular deity in the South. I have also recorded the
Saharanamavali of Anjaneya, Hariharaputra (ayyappa) and Sage
Raghavendra.

There are two works which are very popular among devotees. One is
Vishnu Sahasranama or the thousand names of Vishnu from the
Mahabharata, the same text that contains the Bhagavat Gita. This is
chanted by many every day. It takes about half an hour to chant this
but it is sad that many people because of pressure of time try to do
it in 15 or 20 minutes, in a great hurry, virtually mutilating the
beautiful names of the Lord.

The other Sahasranama which is also quite popular is Lalita
Sahasranama, from a Purana. It is very beautiful to chant and hear. A
few years back when I was in Los Angeles teaching at LMU, I received a
mail from someone in India inquiring where he could find a cassette of
my chanting of Lalita Sahasranama. I think I had recorded it in 1981
or 1982. He said inter alia that his father used to listen to this
cassette and chant along with it as part of his daily worship of
Mother Sakti. He said that his father had since died and the family
wanted to continue the practice of chanting the work and wanted to get
a cassette because the one his father had used had become defective
with overuse.

I also recorded a number of other works on sakthi. One is called Devi
Mahatmya which runs for about three hours and has about 700 verses. It
is chanted during the Navaratri or Dasara celebrations. My grandmother
used to chant a Tamil versions of this during every Navaratri. Another
work on Mother is the work called Mooka Pancha Sati (The five hundred
slokas from Mooka). It is an outpouring of Bhakti by a mute dumb
devotee who became a poet due to the grace of Kamakshi the presiding
deity in the famous temple in Kancheepuram about 40 miles from
Chennai. It is written in some difficult meters and has 100 slokas for
each of the five chapters. It takes about 3 hrs to chant the entire
work. One can see the slokas inscribed in the walls of this famous
Kamakshi temple. I had also recited two other works on Sakthi for
another company and I find these are available still in some musical
stores in Chennai. One is Gayatri Sahasranama  and the other is Durga
Sahasranama, which again is a popular chant during Navaratri. Lalita
Sahasranam mentioned earlier is often chanted on Friday evenings and
also on Full moon days. When I was young my mother used to arrange for
the Saharanama archana of Lalita in our house every Friday for a
number of years.

Other works I had recorded included Ramodantam or the story of Rama
from birth to end. I named it Balaramayana or Ramayana for children
because in the olden days this text used to be taught to school
children to learn Sanskrit and also familiarize them with Ramayana.
Another work, that perhaps sold the maximum number of cassettes, was
“Sandhyavandana” or the prayer ritual done at dawn, dusk, and midday
by thousands of people in India. I wrote an article with many pictures
about this subject in Namarupa magazine a few years back.

The last program I did for Sangeetha was the recitation of Sundara
Kanda of the epic Valmiki Ramayana. Many households arrange for the
recitation of the same in one go or over a week. Those who are
afflicted by the adverse effects of Saturn or Sani try to get solace
from Sundara Kanda. It is said to revive a person from the jaws of
death or desperate situation as Sita was. It is a ten hour program.

Yoga is a subject which whatever be the entry point reveals its
richness slowly (yogena yoga jnatavyah)
Sri Krishnamacharya was a Guru who always had something more to give
something different something higher uplifting always. I loved
chanting with him. Chanting is helpful, it cleanses the mind.
Listening to those vedic and old chants is very uplifting.

The earlier newsletters with the articles can be accessed by visiting
my website www.vinyasakrama.com and opening the Newsletter tab. Any
comments or suggestions please write to info@vinyasakrama.com

The Spanish Editions of my books “Yoga for the Three Stages of
Life” ( Yoga para las tres etapas de la vida/ Yoga for the Three
Stages of Life (Spanish Edition)
and “Complete Book of Vinyasa Yoga with an audio cd”( OBRA COMPLETA
SOBRE EL VINYASA YOGA, LA (Libro+CD - Color) (Spanish Edition)
are available from Amazon, as given below

http://www.amazon.com/Yoga-etapas-Three-Stages-Spanish/dp/9707751932/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330527098&sr=1-12
http://www.amazon.com/OBRA-COMPLETA-SOBRE-VINYASA-Libro/dp/8480199709/ref=sr_1_10?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1330527098&sr=1-10

Sincerely
Srivatsa Ramaswami

What is the purpose of Life?
The purpose of life is to realize that
There is no purpose to Life.
That's weird, but what after this 'realization'?
One would work to avoid another birth
Supposing I don't believe in rebirth?
Supposing rebirth does not depend on your belief?
That is even more crazy Guruji..
Have to find another teacher-
Comforting, not  unsettling.

3 comments:

  1. Would love to get the newsletters for my kindle, I believe you made them available - maybe I'm wrong. I couldn't find them on amazon though. How do I go about getting them transferred over?

    Great video posts, really enjoying your blog.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Also, any recommendations for books on mantras and chanting?

    ReplyDelete
  3. HI dtw. The 3 vol collections of Ramaswami's newsletters are in pdf form, downloadable from my blog (half way down on the right). iIthought you could read pdf files on kindle but don't know how you get them on there.

    I've only really used the handful for mantras and chants that Ramaswami gave us he has a chanting audio page on his Vinyasa krama site.
    hope that helps

    ReplyDelete

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