Braja Raja – “The Dust of Braja”

courtesy of the Shyamdas Foundation

When I was a child growing up Africa,  we called all friends of our parents ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ (in french ‘tantine’ or ‘‘tonton’) which was an honorific and considered respectful. And among the aunties and uncles, there were those you wanted to be related to: Too cool not to be yours. And they actually didn’t care for honorifics. Heartbreaks, delights, anything: you could call them and they would always be there for you. You would never feel uncomfortable around them.

Shyamdas – affectionately and respectfully called Shyamdasji – belongs to that category, as a spiritual teacher. He had dedicated his life to the music, literature, and people of Braj. He spoke Sanskrit, Hindi, Gujarati, and Brajbhasha. He was a scholar who insightfully translated and commented many of the songs and writings of saints from the Pushti Marg tradition (Shri Vallabhacharya, Govinda Svami, Raskhan, Surdas and others). His immense knowledge was only surpassed by his joy  – ananda.

Shyamdasji lived in the bhav, mad in love with God and in service. He left his body in January of 2013.

Regular students of my classes are familiar with his voice … and his laughter!

Today, I’d like to share Braj Raja with you.

All these sacred and ancient teachings are preserved and distributed through the wonderful work of the Shyamdas Foundation.

As Shyamdasji would say: “It’s all Hari’s grace

Radhe, Radhe!



A blessed “black moon” and Blesssed Navaratri everyone

On this very auspicious day, the very knowledgeable Manorama shared this blog

Today the Durgā festival known as Navarātrí starts. This Fall, the festival dates are from Oct 10 to Oct 11.
This is a special time as it reflects the shift from a more outward movement of energy to a more inward movement. So take this time in your practice to start to pull in and feel more on an inner level.

Navaratri is a festival devoted to the goddess in all her aspects, especial Durgā Mātā. The goddess represents protection, benevolence and support and much more. When we sing her praises through chanting mantras, or when we meditate on her, we draw that protection, light and goodness into our lives.

If you feel drawn to participate this year here is a simple Durgā Pūjā you can do each day during the festival.

A Luminous Soul
Simple Goddess Pūjā
By Manorama

1. Purchase fresh flowers (red or white)

2. Purchase a fresh piece of fruit that you’ll make as an offering.

3. Clean your altar or sacred space.

4. If you have a Durgā murti (statue)
you can bathe her in buttermilk and fresh water. (Vegan option: Use coconut milk and fresh water).

5. Place fresh flowers in a vase and place near the murti.

6. Place your offering of fresh fruit near the murti.

7. Say this mantra 9 x’s:


I offer my respect to the goddess Durga, who is the force of protection, beneficence and luminous light.

8. Place a fresh tea light in a holder. Light the candle and place it in your right hand. Wave the candle clockwise 3 x’s around the image or murti of Durgā. (If you don’t have either a picture or statue of Durgā you can then wave the light in the same manner symbolically).

9. Sit quietly for 9 minutes and feel
the light within you.

*Note: in Pūjās everything that you offer or work with during the ceremony should not touch the floor, so be mindful of that.

Also do not use your cell phone at this time or become interrupted (unless there is a emergency to attend to). It is a quiet focused time where you are paying respect to the energy of the goddess and feeling her support and light.

Happy Blessed Navaratri Everyone!
May it be a time of healing and deepening into connectivity with the goddess and with your soul.

Love & Light,

The beautiful artwork is made by Nitya Pat Collom.

Copyright 2016 Manorama, Sanskrit Studies



Narayani Namo’Stu Te
With my head resting at your feet Ma,
I offer you, my sincerest love and respect.

Saturated in the lap of the devi, the divine mother. Held close to her bosom, her heartbeat, your heartbeat, syncing together… into the veil you pursue and find the blessed rhythm. Lift your courage and glimpse the lost art of yielding, of receptivity, of deep listening awakening to its time, through you, in you. The time of the mother is here.

The Divine Mother Goddess

Listen in silence to the cave of your heart, you’ll hear the sweet jingle of feminine ankle bells that conjure images of swaying feminine form with curving lines. Enter her abode, it’s nature in all of her glory. Here you will find you have entered the sacred hall of the mother goddess.

When called, through chant, that goddess enters the temple. She comes for adoration, for recognition, for receiving the offering. The mother will tell you that this recognition we extend, is not for her, and she is right. Through it we receive the blessing, the force of protection of glorious union with pure energy that resides within us all.

Origins of Manifestation

The devi was realized as light that sparked, cracked and sprang forth from the wish of each god. Through their sacred wish, she rose and lit the sky manifesting for us, in us, through us. Through lore we learn that the gods unified their light together in one form, and that became known as the devi. She is the collection of luminous rays manifested from each god. Brahma, Visnu, Shiva and the other gods wanted to appease their suffering devotees of demons so they brought their light together for supreme protection. The gods gave some light from their form, light of their thigh, light of their eyes, light of their arms, light of their weapons, light of their knowledge, light of their feet and the great goddess manifested as the collection of the gods’ brilliance. The gods’ sent her forth to resolve ignorance in us, and so that we could once again feel oneness.

Root of ‘Devi’

In Sanskrit, the root Div means to shine, or light. Devi derives from this root and symbolizes compassion, protection, yielding, gentleness, fierce slayer. As form, she is woman. As embodiment, she is all emotion, raw, and receptive, messy, fierce, protectress, curving, weaver of the maya and all that is measurable. To move about with ease in this world, we must make offerings to her.

Growing Up

Growing up with Guru ji, I was ever immersed in teachings surrounding the cosmic mother. Was it tantric? Not so much. It was more that Guru ji was a devotee of Durga Ma and wanted to share his discoveries. The story goes that during some very difficult time in his life, he turned to Durga Ma for mercy and support and through his singular puja and respect, she granted him blessings and helped him through that turbulent time.

Since then he was deeply devoted to her. In Guru ji’s private apartment rests a small altar that invokes the mother goddess. She is surrounded by rock formations of power along with the vibration of endless sacred chants which were invoked just for her.

Who is the Devi?

She is Durga, Sharada, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali, Parvati, Lalita, Ambika, She is Vidya, Bhavani, Nirmala, Dark and misty like the moon she is Gauri, White creativity, knowledge itself, she is Saraswati.

As alignment and beauty she is Shri, Lakshmi. As protectress and loving mother whose battle cry is the sweet breath and rhythm of mantra she is Durga. Wild, she rides with skulls clanking as a necklace around her neck and hands spread out swords at the ready, she is Kali. Pure without any lack of clarity, she is Nirmala. As knowledge of all, she is Vidya. As Parvati, she reflects devotion and singular focus to her lord.

Compassionate Lalita granting soothing glances to all who are lucky enough to come under her vision. As the mother of the world and consort to Bhava, she is Bhavani. Becoming embodied in the world as Sita. She is the determiner of the great Lila, the play of the entire universe that all must pass through. The winding ganga river that nourishes civilization is her gift to the world. She is kundalini rising in us reaching its union within. She is you. She reflects the purpose of your life, embodied. She is the bridge between the manifest and unmanifest. She is the tenderest part of your being.

There’s nothing like feeling the auspicious protection of Mother…

Wearing a delicate reminder of Cosmic Love is the perfect gift this Mother’s Day. Choose the Ma pendant from Surya Jewels with hand-written Sanskrit, embossed in silver.

*All references to Guru ji, refer to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati in this article.
**Devi means Mother, Goddess, Light.
***Murti means form, statue.
****Maya: illusion, manifestation, enchantment, force of love.

© 2016 Luminous Soul/Sanskrit Studies & Manorama

original article

It’s Not What You Say – It’s How You Say It

Jivamukti Focus of the Month

August 2015 — David Life

Namah Shivaya gurave nada-bindu-kalatmane niranjana-padam yati nityam yatra parayanah
Salutations to the nadam, which is the inner guide and the inner life, the dispenser of happiness to all! It is the inner guru appearing as nada, bindu and kala. One who is devoted to the inner guru, the nada, the inner music, obtains the highest bliss


My computer talks to me and I talk to her. Her name is Siri and she uses mostly written language to communicate with me. She has a limited vocabulary – she doesn’t seem to know any Sanskrit or yoga terms! There is something else missing from her responses. When she responds to me, there always seems to be a need to ask, “But, what do you mean?” Siri’s words are always flat and unaffected. That will change someday. The level of communication now, is more like hitting a switch than creating understanding, but someday the computer might really begin to talk. The inflection or intonation of a word can reveal its true meaning. The large vocabulary of sounds that we make and how we make them carries a deeper level of meaning than words alone, revealing the meaning of a spoken phrase and the underlying intention. Sounds, like the click of the tongue, a hiss of breath, or vocalism communicate more than words alone and include a myriad of emotional, intentional, rhetorical, or emphatic subtleties.

Phoneticists, investigating the way mothers in various cultures communicate with sounds to their pre-verbal infants, found similar sounds used and recognized throughout the world. For all of us, our earliest experience of communication was through pure sound, stripped of any written language component or cultural junk, and filled with meaning. That pre-verbal vocabulary is alive and well – deeply imbedded in our speech.

All spoken language predates the written form of language. The written version of any language is a distillation of a much larger landscape of clicks, breaths, tonalities, utterances, expressions and gestures. In the distillation to a written form our huge vocabulary is reduced to a mere fraction of it’s total. The primal language of sounds lives on in our spoken traditions, and we can benefit enormously from studying the underlying subtle content of our own words. Nada Yoga is the yoga of sound and vibration.

The first step in Nada Yoga is to become receptive. That means to conduct and resonate with the vibrations around us. Alan Watts would say that the first step is “to shut up, and listen. That’s yoga!”

The world is made of sound, Nada Brahma, or the infinite vibrations of the one primal sound. The Sanskrit language organizes essential sound vibrations into a feel-able universe of direct experience of the subtle nature of existence. Sanskrit expresses the sound nature of a feeling or thing directly. The purpose for imbedding the sound essence of feelings and things into the language is so that we could experience it directly and often, and know the dimension of ourselves that is the same essence.

Like the subtle sound messages in our various spoken languages, Sanskrit also contains an unwritten vocabulary of tones, breaths, cadences, and emphasis that create real communication. My teacher would shake his head at my futile attempts to speak Sanskrit and say, “Your mouth is just not shaped correctly to be able to pronounce Sanskrit.” The missing element may be my lack of emphasis and subtlety of sound, rather like Siri’s English, my Sanskrit is flat and unaffected. (9 times fail – 10 times try!)

Fortunately we can’t go wrong with the names of God. We are well practiced in the pronunciation of the various Sanskrit names of God, and we are expert at filling words with emotions of a universal language. We say “names” of God, but the Sanskrit sound is God, (not just the name of God.) When we conduct the sound – that is God, there is only one way to do it – by shaping the instrument, your body, in a specific way. Placing the tongue just so, and the lips at the correct attitude, giving the sound an upward direction, this is the asana of mantra. Repetition is important – as we resonate with the sound and hold that resonation, the form of God is experienced persistently. The form is the sound, and through the sound we experience the oneness of sound and form. We no longer have to rely on a description of God, we can experience directly.

The devotee calls out for God with subtle emotion and it is the emotional content of the sound that propels it to the Lord. We are all expert at emotions and we know how to call out to God with the full range of emotional possibilities. When your bodily awareness drops away and the pure sound remains, there is no longer a sound and a maker of sound – there is just sound. Sound is God!

David Life

Originally posted

Did you know Sanskrit was the first Pop Music?

“It’s Sanskrit Pop Music! Did you know Sanskrit was the first Pop Music?!” Bob Thurman, author, teacher and father of my beloved friend Dechen, once said to me, referring to the songs I’d just played for him.  “Sanskrit is meant to be sung!”

If you think Sanskrit is not your ancestral language, think again. Sanskrit is the parent language to all Pan-Indo European languages and so basically, first there was no language, and then there was Sanskrit. It was a gift to the world from the Divine and the early Sanskrit writers knew that. Each symbol is designed to represent an aspect of the Divine light that stands in all of us, not just symbolically but also vibrationally.  Sanskrit is an “invocational” language, which means the word is the form. By saying the word we “invoke” it to exist. The vibration of the sound isn’t just referencing the Divine. It IS the Divine.  So if we sing the words for the Divine, in Sanskrit, we create the Divine around us. First there was the Word and the Word was God.

After teaching thousands of yoga classes at Jivamukti  Yoga School in New York City and beginning each class with a Sanskrit chant, I have learned one thing to be universally true.  People like to sing. When we sing, we’re usually not angry (well, Johnny Rotten was probably angry). When we sing we can’t be worrying. The whirling fluctuations of our mind, the chitta vritti in Sanskrit, have to stop. Singing makes us feel good.  If you haven’t experienced it yourself, you may be surprised to know that hundreds of people in New York City, fresh from a busy day’s work doing all kinds of things, come and sing with a group of strangers.  I have heard many students come to me and say how much they love it, that while at first they were wary and worried they ‘d sing badly, they now look forward to it in every class. I say everyone is designed to sing. We all sang in Kindergarten, and when we did we became a pure channel for receiving and transmitting the light of the world. Try to remember what a group of sincere five year -olds singing sounds like. And then know that’s what God hears when he listens to you.

If Sanskrit, like Dr. Thurman says, “was the first Pop Music”, then Krishna was the first Rock Star.  Krishna played the flute so beautifully it mesmerized the Gopis (sounds like “groupie” to me!), the young girls who milked the cows. They would drop their milk pails in the dirt and go to Krishna, bathed in divine bliss. It is said that Krishna plays a special song for each and every one of us to call us home to the Lord.

I’m not Indian. I like Rock and Roll. I don’t get as excited to hear the harmonium as I do 4/4 time. The special song that Krishna plays for me sounds like Keith Richard’s guitar. Most especially, the opening riff to ‘Beast of Burden”. It never fails to wash me with bliss. We all have music that calls us, elevates us above the mundane and makes our hearts burst with love.  I’m usually called by Keith’s kind of groove.

You would think that makes it a bit awkward to spend time with him in real life, but it doesn’t. He once said to me, years ago when I was more likely to be playing at CBGB than yoga class, “You know Kelly, there’s only one song, and that was the first song and it was written by Adam and Evil. I don’t write songs, I just receive and transmit.”

If its all the same song and Adam and Eve were the first people with language, they probably spoke Sanskrit. So sing your ancestral language, maybe in the way I have received and transmitted the melodies to you, maybe a bit more traditionally. But whatever you do, don’t forget to sing, any way and any language you want. Sound creates form, and when you stop worrying and sing you add positive forms and peace to the world. It has been scientifically proven that the delicate sound of a butterfly flapping its wings affects the stratosphere on the other side of the world.  Imagine what happens when you sing loud and strong with a heart full of love.  Just like in Kindergarten.

Kelly Britton

Now please listen and sing along

The meaning of a Name

I grew up and still live outside of Rwanda, my country of origin.
I guess that’s why, often people ask me the meaning of my family name Munyeshuli
Simply put, my name means “student” , the one who (umunye) goes to school (shuli). For many years, the questions around my name made very nervous.

In Africa (in Rwanda neighboring countries were my family lived as refugees), those questions often came from people who knew what it meant and would make it a “joke”: “so what will you do when you finish school, will you change your name?” Very often I felt this playing with my name was a way to put me down. If you ever had reasons to be anxious at the customs, you see what I mean …

When I arrived in Europe, a customs officer asked me to spell my name (first long serie of questions). An other day, someone asked me what it meant. I said “student”. And that same person continued: “oh it’s like in german schule means school”. Good to know! After almost 18years living in Geneva, I am more at ease with my name. The strangeness of it is often an opportunity to engage conversation.

Most recently, my beloved yoga teacher and mentor, Lady Ruth asked me the meaning of my name. And I replied “student like in German, you know schule means school”. And she said “Oh it is like in Sanskrit, Shala“. She added “it’s beautiful, I love the sound of it! I hope you will teach me more words in your language”. I wish you had seen my face! I always loved studying, and in that very precise situation, I was traveling to study with incredible teachers. And that beautiful teacher loved both the sound and the meaning of my name. I consider my teacher Lady Ruth, as the most perfect student in the world. She has the greatest reverence for her holy teachers, and always talks about them with great love and humility. Always and often.

शाला Shala School Shuli

I am passionate about Yoga and Sanskrit, as the sacred language of Yoga.

It is not the first time that I find similarities between kinyarwanda words and sanskrit ones but this one, has a very special meaning. It made me feel my name auspicious at the beginning of the teacher training. A joyful imprint is taking over years of anxiety associated with my name.

In Kinyarwanda, when an elder calls you by your name, you reply karame! (as a way to say  yes, I am coming!). Literally karame means “long live” (the one who calls my name out)”. I remember as a child, feeling very proud to be called by my grand-mother, I was honored to be of some help to her. As the first child, I was the one my mom called more often, sometimes I complained she should call my sister (and not me every time), but inside I felt special. Every time I have the opportunity to help an elder or a busy woman, I see my mother, my grand-mother, it makes me happy.

Lady Ruth was my first jivamukti teacher in human form and a few years later, she became my mentor. I feel blessed and honored to be her student. Her voice whispering breath count in my ears, her gentle touch, her stories, her profound wisdom and knowledge of the sutras, her poetry in words and motion… Being with Lady Ruth always make me happy.

Long, blessed life to you Lady Ruth of my heart.