Tuesday, 1 March 2016

गुरुकृपा (gurukṛpā) - March 2016 Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami

 February was quiet. My auditor wanted to study the sutras. You do not say no to your accountant, lawyer or doctor. It was very rewarding going  throuht all the sutras. He himself has abundant knowledge about Indian traditional texts and philosophies. It was a nice experience. I went for a short visit to the shrine of Sri Sai Baba at Shiridi in India, fulfilling a long time longing. Good feel, a very good feel indeed.



 My next program will be in April at my friend Ryan Leier’s studio  at Saskatoon in Canada. The studio is One Yoga. It will be 100 hr Vinyasakrama TT program consisting of about 60 hrs of Asanas and vinyaasas, 20 hrs of Pranayama and yoga for Internal Organs and a 20 hour slot for the Yoga Sutras. I understand there are still a few spots available, Here is the link

 I am reproducing a message I received from Steve Brandon in UK. He first attended a five day program in Chicago almost ten years back. Then he followed it up by coming to New Delhi, India  to attend a weeklong program organized by Loyola Marymount University. Then he was one of the earliest participants to complete my five week  200 hr Vinyasakrama yoga program at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, He then arranged for me to come to UK, to teach in London and Wells. I did several programs like core vinyasakrama program a few times and also a number textual studies as complete hatayogapradipika, Yoga Sutras, Samkhya Karika, the Bhagavadgita… He is a very experienced but very modest yoga teacher and has been instrumental in making vinyasakrama known to some extent  in Europe. I am much beholden to him for all the great opportunities he gave  me. Thank you Steve. Here is Steve’s message

Dear Ramaswami
I hope that you are well
I taught a weekend on Vinyasa Krama in London on 20th/21st February and I had full attendance with very keen students. Some of them had attended the Core Vinyasa last year.
This was very encouraging and they have asked me to give more workshops. I plan to get a regular group going in London.
Saba and two of my teacher training graduates, Roxana and Kathi who were at core vinyasa last year are starting to teach some classes in London. And will meet to give support to each other. Some of the seeds are growing into plants. I am giving a class every Sunday called ‘Sadhana Sunday’ to teach VKY in a systematic way. I have attached a picture of one of the classes at Wells Museum.
Thank you for all the efforts to share your knowledge with us.
Please give our best wishes to Uma
Kind Regards
Steve




गुरुकृपा (gurukṛpā)

When Sri Desikachar started  Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram I joined the Mandiram as a founder trustee along with a classmate of Desikachar Mr Kuppuswamy as another trustee with Desikachar remaining the Managing Trustee. One of the first activities was to  start a training program running for about 2 years I guess. I was part of the team with Desikachar to select the participants and also taught a few first  classes. Then there was a suggestion that someone from the Mandiram could write a series of articles on Yoga and a 100 year old journal Indian Review was willing to publish that. Desikachar with the concurrence of his father asked me write a few articles for the monthly. I used to write the article with  some asana photographs of me and give it Desikachar. He would then read it to Sri  Krishnamacharya. With his consent we used to have it published. He gave a few suggestions for the first few articles. After a few months I left the Mandiram but continued to write to the journal for more than two years. I was happy that I could start writing with the consent and encouragement from my Guru. Actually these articles formed the basis of my book “Yoga for the Three Stages of life.”. My friend Paul Harvey from UK had taken the trouble to scan them all and made it available in his famous website. Paul was a long time and a principal student of Desikachar having spent a long time in Madras to study in depth with Desikachar. 

Here is the link. There are about 28 articles. 


I was learning asanas vinyasas and pranayama with my Guru for a number of years. Then one day he decided to stop teaching and asked some of his long standing students to study with his sons. I went to study with Desikachar and my father would study with his brother. Desikachar was a wonderful teacher and I learnt a lot  from share your teachings with us. him. One day  Desikachar told me that he was going to start study of the Sutras with his father and asked me if I would like to join. I said yes and we studied together the sutras, the first reading. Sri Krishnamacharya at that time opined that I should not have two yoga teachers and asked me to come back to him to study both asanas and other subjects. 

It was before the Mandiram was started and Desikachar was teaching full time and I had not even thought of teaching . He used to arrange lectures by experts from different disciplines like ayurveda, A&P and several subjects for the benefit of his students mostly from overseas. One day at the end of the YS class he casually mentioned if I would like to give a talk on Avidya to his students at his studio in his house. One question in my mind was if I should start teaching with ’avidya’ I said a nervous yes and promptly told about it to my Guru the next morning at the start of my individual asana class . He immediately talked about Avidya-- about what I should say. He started by saying that there was considerable “avidya”  or misunderstanding about the term “Avidya”. But after a minute of animated advice he suddenly stopped and said “ No I do not want to tell you anything, You say whatever you consider right and appropriate”. He sensed some hesitation in me and told me in a calm assuring tone “Don’t worry, you explain the way you have understood avidya. If some one disagrees with your exposition, I will come and argue and convince him what you said was right.”  I silently thanked him for his solid support and interest in me… and for his unique way of encouraging.

I think it was late 60s or early 70s. My guru was living with his family in Mandavelli, Madras. It was before he and his family moved into their own house in R K Puram later on. After a morning class I came out. I had with me my camera which I had taken with me as I was planning to go to a function and take pictures. As I came out I requested my guru if he would pose for a picture. His wife was just coming out from the kitchen. I requested her also if I could take a picture of both of them. Both agreed immediately and posed for this picture. I am sorry the print got spoilt somewhat. It is one of the rare pictures where you would see him with a suggestion of a smile. His wife, an extremely gracious lady, had a smile.



I graduated from college in 1960. I got a job in a termal power plant about 150 miles from Madras. I was reluctant to go. Sri Krishnamacharya was then coming to our house to teach my brother and others in the family. At the end of the class I told my Guru that I was going away to work in the thermal plant in Neiveli. Without a moment’s hesitation he turnd to my father and asked him why he could not find a job for me in Madras itself. I had not asked my father nor my father had offered to help me find a job in Madras. Then my father talked to a friend who was owning a motorcycle factory in the outskirts of the city and got me a job as a  trainee. They were manufacturing Enfield motorcycles. Without my guru’sgrace and intervention I would have lost the opportunity to study under him for long.

One day I did not attend the class in my house because of some  stomach ache. My Guru, as he was coming out of the class attended by others in my family, stopped and asked me how I was feeling and I mentioned to him that I was having stomach ache and that I could not attend the class. He asked me to lie down . He dug his firm fingers gently but deeply around the stomach muscles (rectus abdominus?) and gently pulled up the muscles a couple of times. Like magic the pain was gone, as perhaps because his procedure released the stomach cramps.

However it posed another problem.. I had to be at the factory at 7 AM which meant I had to  be at the bus stand by 6 AM. I could not go to classes in the evening as I would be home only by 7 PM and Sri Krishnamacharya was not teaching at that time after sunset. So I put the problem before my teacher and he gave a solution. He asked me and my father to be at his house at 5AM, and study for one hour so that I could get to the bus stand in time which was close by. I used to get up sufficiently early in the morning have my shower and be at his house with my father a 5AM. By that time he would have completed all his practice puja and everything and be ready to receive his first students for the day. He was so accommodative. This went on for one full year when I quit the job and attended his classes at more convenient hours. 


Paul Harvey was in Madras at that time for an extended stay (more than one year?) studying with Desikachar. Before leaving for UK, (I think with the tacit approval of Desikachar) he asked me if I would like to write briefly a booklet on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. I had just then completed writing in Indian Review a series of about 28 articles mostly on asanas. I wrote the booklet titled it as Basic tenets of Patanjala Yoga and sent it to Paul. After some time he  printed/published  it under “Cambridge Yoga Society” and sent a few copies. At that time I had taken a short break of a few weeks of my studies with my Guru as I had some compelling other works. The book arrived during that break. One summer afternoon as I was at home, my Guru Sri Krishnamacharya came to my house with Desikachar. He sat down on a straw mat and told me that he was very happy that I published a book and that he would like to me to write more books and that I would have his blessings. He looked genuinely pleased and I was overwhelmed with gratitude at this unexpected blessing. He left very soon but this episode would come to my mind very often. I do not know if he read the book or anyone read it to him. How many teachers would be pleased and show their happiness at the little steps taken by the students?



Krishnamacharya was teaching Hatayogapradiika. He was teaching the kumbhaka chapter  wherein mention of 80 times  (asiti) pranayama is mentioned. He explained that. Later I casually mentioned to Desikachar that doing 80 times pranayama was not possible and it was an exaggerated statement of Svatmarama. I used to do about 10 or 20 pranayamas in the class. Next class, my Guru said that we would spend the entire hour for doing 80 times pranayama. He sat with me and did 80 rounds of pranayama.  He sat with me and encouraged me to do the full limit of pranayama. Nowadays I teach pranayama and encourage interested participants to experience an extended practice of pranayama occasionally. An 85 year old man sitting in a yogic posture and doing 80 times of pranayama for one full hour would stimulate anyone to try to do the same. He was absolutely dedicated to teaching yoga.



Once the renowned Mahesh Yogi came to Madras and  gave a hugely popular talk on TM at Rajaji Hall in Madras. There was a very large crowd. My father took me for the program. Next morning when I met Desikachar I mentioned to him about what Mahesh Yogi talked. He quietly listened to me. Next morning when I went for my individual class with Krishnamacharya, he started the class as usual with a prayer. Then he looked at me and said to this effect. He indicated that he (Krishnamacharya) knows what I need and he would be willing to give/teach it to me. For my part(Ramaswami) I should not shop around and get confused in the process. It is an unnecessary effort on the part of the teacher to remove these confusions. I was touched by the concern he had for the student. He minced no words and I am grateful for his straight talk and a very valuable advice.

I was about ten when  my grandfather, by chanting the gayaatri mantra into my right ear, initiated me to the study of Vedas during my upanayanam. Sometime later I joined my father to study chanting of some portions of the Vedas ( yajur veda ) from a young teacher . He would come everyday at 5 AM (except the anadhyayana days like new moon day). He taught us to chant Arunam, rudram camakam the taittiriya Upanishad, the suktas. It went on for a few years. Later on when I was 15,  I started studying with Sri Krishnamacharya    mainly asanas. After several years one day Desikachar mentioned that he was going to learn Vedic chanting from his father and wanted to know  if I would like to join him in the chanting classes. I said yes but I was not sure how a Yoga teacher would teach Vedic chanting because all the yoga teachers I had known were physical instructors and Vedic chanting is usually taught by Sanskrit pandits who have learnt chanting. Sri Krishnamacharya with a booming voice and correct accent of the Sanskrit syllables and as per prescribed intonation taught several chapters of the Krishna Yajur veda. It went on for several years. After Arunam, taittiriya upanishad and the suktas, he taught almost the entire taittiriya aranyakam, the pravargya, pravargya brahmana, citti sruk, svadhyaya prakarana mahanarayana Upanishad, then the three chapters of taiitiriya kataka which forms the basis of the famous katopanishad,. Meanwhile I had learnt to chant the yoga sutras as part of the detailed study of YS with Sri Krishnamacharya.

I used to sit at home in our puja room and chant several of the chants I had learnt from my Guru. One day when I was chanting, a famous musician and her husband had come to my house to meet my father and as they were waiting they heard my chanting. Later they told my father that my chanting was very pleasant to hear (sraavya). I was encouraged by this and then bought my first tape recorder and recorded the YS. Once Desikachar had several students from the west and they wanted to meet my Guru. Sri Desikachar arranged a program wherein He and Krishnamacharya would do some Vedic chanting. Sri Krishnamacharya I guess suggested that I too should join and all the three of us could chant some Vedic passages together, I felt very honored and thought it was great way of my Guru to encourage me. All these made me  record the chant of the sutras in my new tape recorder. I thought since Yoga was getting popular I would chant this. I played it to a few of my father’s friends and they all seemed to like the voice and delivery. Then I approached a class mate of mine whose father was a famous film director and producer. I asked him if he would help me to have my chanting recorded by a recording company. He introduced me to HMV. The person in charge listened to the chant for an extended time and said it was good, very good, but the marketing people said that since I was an unknown entity it would be difficult to sell. Music is saleable but chanting, they were not sure. So the producer advised me to try to get some publicity like doing a few programs over All India Radio, the only radio network in India at that time.

The editor of the journal that  published my series of articles had known the director of All India Radio or Akashvani in Madras. I met him and he directed me to the program director of the Sanskrit program. The studio was broadcasting a 15 minute Sanskrit program every Tuesday night between 9;15 PM and 9:30 PM considered prime time immediately after the national news. TV in B&W was just then introduced and had not taken roots and owning an expensive TV set was a luxury. So people normally tuned to the radio for news entertainment concerts, talks etc. 

The program executive asked me to prepare a program and give the manuscript to him so that he would go through that and decide. I recorded the talk in my tape recorder which also contained the chanting of the first chapter of Yoga Sutras. I also gave a hard copy. He took his own sweet time and finally agreed to give just one program. The program was recorded in the studio and as I was coming out he asked me if I would like to do another program. I gleefully agreed and told my Guru about it. He blessed me and suggested a few topics for the next talk. Then I went on doing several programs for a few years and for every talk I would prepare and show it to my guru. The talks I gave included Story of Patanjali, Hatayoga pradipika, Vivaha mantras (wedding vows), Upanishad Kavyas and a number of others. For the Upanishad Kavyas my guru dictated a beautiful passage in Sanskrit which I included in the talk. He was completely supportive of these endeavors. His chanting was authentic. He gave importance to the six parameters of chanting, viz., varna (letter pronunciation), svara ( note), matra (time duration of each syllable) balam (right effort), sama (flow), Santana ( conjunction of words). Thanks to his teachings and blessings I was able to record about 20 titles of sanskrits chants between 1980 and 1995. These are made available as downloads (quite inexpensive) by the recording company ”Sangeetha Music” and about 35 hrs of chanting I reckon. These can be found in the following page of the catalogue of the company
http://www.sangeethamusic.com/shop/page/35/

The titles include Sundara Kandam of Ramayana (10hrs), Mukapanchasati (3hrs), Aswamedha (3 hrs), Devi Mahatmyam (3hrs), Anjaneya Sahasranama, Hariharaputra sahasranama, Raghavendra sahasranama, Vedasara Siva Sahasranama, Lalitha Sahasranama, Sandhyavandanam, Adityahrudayam and vedic chanting (Swadhyaya prakarana), Indrakshi sivakavacham with Vedic chanting (citti sruk), Taittiriya Upanishad, Mahanarayanopanishad, Bala Ramayana, Vishnu Sahasranama, Sri Ganesa Sahasranama, Sri Subrahmanya Sahasranama, Suryanamaskara and Yoga of Patanjali and Adi Sankara.

In addition another recording company released two more cds Durga Sahasranama and Gayatri Sahasranama.

I have written about some of these in my book. Well since many have not read my book some repetition may be pardoned. 

One afternoon when I went to see him for a class, he mentioned that J Krishnamurti who had come to Madras for his annual talks came to see him. He said that Krishnamurty was a complete Nasthika (atheist). Still he wanted my Guru to pour all the traditional yogic knowledge and experience to his principal student. My Guru said, “I am willing, I am willing to teach all my students, give without any reservation. But they should be able and willing to take (absorb) what I teach. There was a genuine interest in his voice about his personal commitment to teach the traditional wisdom and his own experience to the next generation so that they could transmit the knowledge to the next generation as per their ability and understanding. There was intense desire to teach and part with the vast traditional knowledge and experience he had acquired through hard and painstaking study and work. His krupa was always there for his students.


Srivatsa Ramaswami - Vinyasa krama

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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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