Greetings from India! Here, at the ashram on the banks of the holy Cauvery river, we’ve been training in mantras, tapping sincerely into the spirit of the Upanishads. However, it is not just the mantras in themselves that are feeding our souls, but everything else we are doing, particularly our visits to the temples.
In the Mastery of Mantra, I am sharing updates on the Taitirreya Upanishad broken up into parts featuring learning the speech word-by-word, the chanting (also broken down), then put together in easy-to-chant phrases, and finally, the translation for each piece. This text is often used in the traditional Veda Patashalas to teach cadence.
The first section is Shiksha Valli, literally “the teaching of pronunciation.” I am training our pilgrims in the various parts of this section here in India through a live process that is in keeping with tradition thousands of years old. Our method is that of the Krishna Yajur Veda’s Taitirreya Shaka, which is common in South India and particularly in Tamilnadu, our native state. Most of the priests in the Shiva temples here are schooled in this tradition, so the pronunciation is consistent with what we teach in our Yogic Mystery School. You can study the online tutorials in the Mastery of Mantra while we practice the text here in India.
The first part of our trip, our signature pilgrimage, is complete, and a couple of our pilgrims returned to the US and Canada. Although we were sad to say goodbye to them, we are excited to begin our extension, which involves celebrating our devotion and deepening our sadhana. In the first part of our pilgrimage, we added some new temples and new experiences. Our experiences are potent, particularly the intimacy of our temple rituals, given the access we enjoy to the lingam in the sanctum. And we’ve enjoyed some extraordinary rituals. For example, in one of the orthodox temples, we encountered Guruvar Pradosham. The libations on the enormous lingam were mesmerizing, especially given our proximity to all that was happening.
Video: Hindu temples are extraordinary spaces.
Imagine learning mantra the traditional way in that environment.
In the extension, too, we added some new temples. We recently went to one that was a profoundly absorbing experience for us all. After the ritual, we meditated in what was a samadhi-like state as a group for about twenty minutes. The regular devotees to the temple, Hindus from nearby and far away, were transfixed at the deep state our group had collectively entered into as a community. There was a sense of communion conveyed by our stillness and silence that drew quite a bit of respectful attention.
What moved me deeply was the opportunity to teach Veda mantras in the temple hall the way I learned to chant. It is traditional to learn to chant the Vedas in the temple, and we did this after we had experienced the powerful ritual and silent absorption and several circumambulations around the sanctum chanting our mantras aloud.
It is demanding to be engaged with teaching, logistics, and caring for our pilgrims, but it gives us great joy. We love taking care of our pilgrims, including the sense of responsibility for every aspect of their well-being. India gives us unique energy and a new perspective that feeds our souls in ways that we could not receive in any other way.
Perhaps, you might join us in 2024 to immerse yourself in the authenticity of studying Vedic chanting the traditional way in India.