Tuesday, 21 February 2012

'... Sanskrit chants I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya and more' Ramaswami's chanting available on Sangeetha

Ramaswami linked to this music site on FB last week

'Between 1980 and 1995 I recorded for a recording company “Sangeetha” many Sanskrit chants I learnt from Sri Krishnamacharya and more. During my recent visit to Chennai I talked to H M Krishna 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. Open the site and type Srivatsa Ramaswami in the search window for the complete list. You may click on individual titles for more info on each program. 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'.
This is what you should see.

It's a wonderful site and there is the option of listening to a preview of most of the recordings but where to start.

Ramaswami just passed on some suggestions

'If you like vedic chanting then Suryanamaskara, Taittiriya Upanishad, Mahanarayana Upanishad and vedic chanting contained in adityahridayam and indrakshi cds will be nice to hear. I would also prefer listening to Rudram chamakam from the cd that came originally with "CBVK" book. Then one may want to study the meaning and commentaries, especially the upanishads apart from making an attempt to chant oneself. More religiously oriented people in India like to listen to Vishnu sahasranama, Lalita sahasranama. Others whose ishta devata (favorite deity) may choose the other sahsranamas like Ganesa, Siva, Durga, Gayatri, Anjaneya etc.,and if you have the patience the ten hour long Sundara Kanda from th Ramayana. Since many have their own meter and rhythm some like to chant or listen to these non vedic or laukika chants'.

Ramaswami's first recording concerned the Yoga sutras

I was rereading Ramaswami's Yoga for the Three Stages of Life this afternoon. In the first chapter, where he writes about his yoga studies and in particular his relationship with Krishnamacharya, there are a couple of paragraphs about the period in which he made many of these recordings.

' I was able to record almost all the Vedic chanting I had learned from my guru (Sri Krishnamacharya) including the surynamaskara (together) with Varunapuja, which ran for ninety minutes and was one of the earliest, and the Aditya hrdayam from the Ramayana and the Svadhyaya prakarana.' p17

This one from the Ramayana 
theres a nice webpage below which has the ADITYA HRUDAYAM ('Hymn to the Sun', which Sage Agsthya’s dictates to Lord Rama in the battle field) in full with translation so you can chant along. http://www.mypurohith.com/rituals/aditya_hrudayam1.asp

Here for example is the section on the audio sample.

1. Tato yuddha pari srantam Samare Cintaya Sthitami
    Ravanam Cagrato drustva yuddhaya Samupasthitam ||

          Tato yuddha parisrantam = At that battle ground; Samare cintaya sthitam = with great worry engulfing in the battle; Ravanam cagrato drustva = Gazing at Ravana with Single minded attention; yuddhaya Samupasthitam = Having prepared to fight.

          Seeing Sri Rama Standing absorbed in thought at the battle field, exhausted by the fight and facing Ravana who was duly prepared for the war.

2. Daivataisca Samagamya drastu = mabhyagatoranam |
    Upagamyabra Vidrama magastyo bhagavanrsih ||

          Daiva taisca Samagamya = Came along with the Devas to witness the war; Drastu mabhyagatoranam = Seen Rama depressed; upagamyabra-vidrama = Met him alone; Agasthyo Bhagavan = The Cosmic Rsi Agasthya.

          The all knowing cosmic Sage Agastya who had come with Gods to witness the battle, approaching Sri Rama Singly spoke to him thus.

3. Rama Rama Mahabaho srunu guhyam Sanatanam |
    Yena Sarva Nareehnvatsa Samare Vijayisyasi ||

          Rama Rama Mahabaho = Addressing the elegant armed Rama; Srunu guhyam Sanatanam = Hear the most secret and ancient; Samare Vijaisyasi = Will win in the war.

          ‘O’ Rama, ‘O’ Mighty elegant armed Rama, listen to the eternal secret by which, ‘O’ my child, you shall conquer all your enemier on the battle field.

4. Aditya Hrudayam punyam Sarva satru Vinasanam |
    Jayavaham Japet Nityam Akshyayyam paramam sivam ||

          Aditya hrudayam punyam = The meditation of Sun in the heart highly beneficial; Sarva Satruvinasanam = Destroyer of all enemies, Jayavaham = Ensures Victory at all times; Japetnnityam = To the one who to be meditated always; Akshayam paramam sivam = The indestructible and bestows permanent happiness.

          It is Aditya hrudayam which is holy, destroyer of all enemies, bestower of victory, eternal and supremely blessed, and must be recited always.

This one has better sound quality and reminds me more of listening to Ramaswami chant to us on his TT course while we rested in Savasana ( I have a ten minute recording of of one of those savasana sessions that I listen to in savasana every morning).

'The Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last chapter of Yajur veda, containing the mantras recited daily, like sandhya, pranayama and so on..' p17

'I have also completed the recordings of the Sundara kandam , the fifth chapter of the Valmiki ramayana. This work which contains about three thousand verses (including the coronation of Rama in Yuddha Kandam ).'

'Svadhyaya, or chanting, is an important aspect of kriyayoga and astanga yoga of patanjali. In the course of my training (over 30 years), my guru spent perhaps as much time on chanting and theoretical studies (svadhyaya) as on the physical aspect of yoga' p18.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Krishnamacharya's forgotten book, Yogasanagalu

Yogasanagalu pdf

The Introduction (translation may be on it's way).

Notice that this is the fourth (expanded) edition and that it's written in the Kanada language which suggests Mysore. We also see above that it was published by Mysore university. 

When was Yogasanagalu first published? 

I'd always assumed that this was a later text and that there had been a shift in Krishnamacharya's teaching style from something more in keeping with Pattabhi Jois' Ashtanga to Ramaswami's Vinyasa Krama or Desikachar's Viniyoga. These scans of the Yogasanagalu had been sent to me while I was on Ramaswami's TT course and seemed to be exactly what I was learning from Ramaswami. How to square that with the Ashtanga style I had originally practiced, surely there had been a change of approach from when Krishnamcharya left the large group of kids at the Mysore palace to teach one-to-one in Chennai.

It appears that Yogasanagalu was actually first published in 1941, slap bang in the middle of Krishnamacharya's Mysore period, six years after his Yoga Makaranda and at the same time as he was teaching Indra Devi, Iyengar and Pattabhi Jois.

There was no early/ late Krishnamacharya, and his teaching now appears quite consistent throughout his life, no Kehre (turn), no softening of the practice with age. 

Ashtanga doesn't represent Krishnamacharya's early style of teaching, it seems more a representation of how Krishnamacharya taught in a particular environment and in a particular set of circumstances i.e. the kids of the Mysore palace (and perhaps Pattabhi Jois' development or codification of that period as it seems he was asked to teach some of Krishnamacharya's classes). This would explain the 1938 movie, we see Iyengar doing an Ashtanga style demonstration (very out of keeping with the Iyengar yoga we're familiar with that he was developing in the 40's and 50's) and yet Krishnamacharya practicing in a more 'Vinyasa Krama' style.

*If anyone has a translation of the yogasanagalu or at least a summery I would love to see it, my email can be found in the ABOUT ME section of this blog.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Mantra Pranayama -Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami February 2012

Newsletter from Srivatsa Ramaswami---Mantra Pranayama

After a four month stay in Chennai, India I am planning to come to USA
by middle of February. Thanks to the good efforts of Roxana Letechipia
who attended my last Teacher Training Program at LMU, Los Angeles, I
will be teaching three programs in Mexico City during the last week of
February. There will be two weekend workshops and a week long
certificate program, “Core Vinyasa Krama Yoga”. My next newsletter may
have a few Spanish words.


Considerable amount of literature is now available on Pranayama (from
ancient and contemporary yogis), an important anga of Yoga, even
though a smaller and smaller number of Hatha yogis do a smaller and
smaller number of pranayamas. In fact according to Brahmananda who
wrote an important commentary of Hathayogapradeepika, Hatha yoga is
indeed Pranayama. Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras succinctly gives the
parameters of pranayama along with the benefits. Hathayoga pradeepika
and several other hatha yohga texts talk about a variety of pranayamas
with different ratios in considerable detail and as I said enough
literature is available on pranayama. However since it is also the
anga prior to the antaranga or meditation, parts of yoga pranayama has
been used to prepare oneself for meditation. If in pranayama you can
introduce some noble thoughts for meditation like an uplifting mantra,
bhava thought or an image such pranayamas are called sagarbha
pranayama or pranayama pregnant with lofty ideas. Sri Krishnamacharya
in his “Nathamini's Yoga Rahasya” says that sagarbha pranayama is
several times more beneficial; more than the mechanical pranayama done
generally by hatha yogis.

Sagarbha pranayama done with pranayama mantra from the vedas, which
also includes the potent gayatri as a part of it, has been in vogue
since the vedic times. Sri Krishnamacharya in his yoga work
“Nathamuni's Yoga Rahasya” gives a number of instructions for doing
pranayama towards the end of the first chapter. He commends the use of
Pranava and the pranayama mantra with gayatri while doing pranayama
practice. Usually pranava (OM), the most potent mantra and the mother
of all mantras, as a stand alone mantra is used by renunciates like
consummate yogis and advaitins. And the gayatri impregnated vedic
pranayama mantra is used by householders and others in all pranayama.
In fact Manu in his famous Manusmriti says that the pranayama mantra
which consists of prnava, the seven vyahritis, the gayatri and the
head or siras portion should be recited while holding the breath in
Kumbhaka three times to be called as pranayama. Sri Krishnamacharya
also emphasizes the need to meditate on the meaning of the mantras
like the suggestion of Patanjali in YS.

Most people who do ritualistic pranayama in India use the pranayama
mantra referred to earlier. Manusmiti says as follows

“sa vyahritim sa pranavaam
gayatriim sirasa saha
trifpateth ayataf pranah
pranayamassa uchyate

Here is the translation“Pranayama is that in which the seven vyahritis
(bhuh bhuvaha...) each preceded by pranava (OM) then the gayatri, then
the siris are (silently) recited.”

It should be chanted (silently) while holding the breath (kumbhaka).
When it is done three times it is called panayama. The pranayama
mantra is 64 syllables and takes about 20 seconds to chant, more or
less. The verse quoted above says three times and some interpret it as
chanting the mantra three times while holding the breath, but
generally it is chanted once and three such pranayamas will make one
bundle of pranayama. If you try to do the chant thrice in one go it
would taken a minute and holding the breath for one minute could be a
real challenge to most and so most people stick to the earlier

What about the duration for inhalation and exhalation? Sri
Krishnamacharya says in Yoga Rahasya that it should be vishamavritti
indicating that the time duration for inhalation exhalation and breath
holding would vary. So many go by the 1:4:2 ratio.

One may inhale for 5 seconds then chant the mantra during internal
holding for 20 seconds and then exhale for 10 seconds. The breath
holding after exhalation is considered a hathayoga practice and many
orthodox people who do pranayama as part of the Puja or Japa ritual
dispense with bahya kumbhaka and the bandhas. The quickie pranayama is
three times but it is recommended that on should do 10 times the
samantra pranayama.  (Contrast this with the hathayoga approach of
going up to 80 times mantraless pranayama).

Since children sometimes as young as 5 were initiated into vedic
studies, it becomes obligatory for them to do sandhya and hence mantra
pranayama and silent gayatri chant. But then because they are young
they may not be taught to do calibrated pranayama. Usually in course
of time they would learn to do long inhalation and exhalation say in
nadishodhana. Later they will be taught the whole vishamavritti
pranayama as explained earlier.

So the mantra is chanted silently in pranayama. But most people just
chant the mantra without the pranayama--they may merely touch the nose
but not do the pranayama. So we have one set of people who do
pranayama without mantras as most hatha yogis do and another group
especially in India who chant the mantra faithfully but do not do the
prnayama at all and thus both lose out. It even led the much revered
previous Sankaracharya of Kanchi to remark that if only Indians would
hold the breath (kumbhaka) rather than just touch/hold the nose they
would all become great yogis and spiritual persons.

My Guru also said that when doing any mantra in japa, in pranayama or
meditation, one should think of the meaning or import of the mantra.
That makes it lot more powerful and meaningful. What does this mantra
signify, many times we get initiated into a mantra routine without
knowing what it means. All yogis know that Patanjali insists on
contemplating on the meaning of pranava when doing pranava japa to get
the grace of Iswara.

Om Bhuh, om bhuvah, om suvah, om mahah, om janah, om tapah, om
satyam; then the gayatri and then the siras which runs like this, ”om
apah jyoti rasah amrtam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom” is the pranayama
mantra. This mantra appears in Mahanarayana Upanishad, the last
chapter of Yajur veda. This upanishad also contains several beautiful
mantras used on a daily basis like the offering to the five pranas
(before taking food), meditating within the heart etc. I got the whole
chapter (about 45 minutes of continuous chanting) recorded some 25
years back by “Sangeetha” and I believe it is available in some stores
in Chennai, India. You may learn the pranayama mantra—visit my website
www.vinyasakrama.com/chants and click on the “Learn Pranayama Mantra
chant” tab.

So what is the meaning of this wonderful pranayama mantra? Again there
are different interpretations. The conventional meaning for the seven
vyahritis is seven different worlds starting with the world we live in
to six other higher worlds. But the word loka is interpreted in a more
esoteric sense by a few scholars. They say that the words loka and
look are derived from the same root . And the seven lokas are the
seven perceptions of the ultimate reality which is Brahman the pure
non changing consciousness.

So this approach which gels with the advaita philosophy would be as
follows: According to the Upanishads, Brahman in its pristine state is
alone and there was no time or space (aksha and avakasha) in
contention. The Brahman once thought that it should become many
(bahusyam praja yeyeti). Then in the next stage It deeply contemplated
as to how it should create the universe and make many microcosmic
individual consciousness. This state was known as the stage of tapas
of the Brahman (sa tapo tapyata). Then after deep contemplation and
planning It created the entire Universe (idam sarvam asrujata). After
this creation the Brahman entered and permeated the entire Universe
(tat eva anupravisat) and every being as the individual Self.

The seven vyahrutis are considered as representing the seven states of
the same consciousness four at the microcosmic level and three at the
cosmic level. So when doing pranayama during breath holding
internally, one would say 'om bhuh', contemplate on the consciousness,
represented by pranava or 'om during the waking state. Then as the
second vyahriti 'om bhuvah ' is recited, one would think of the same
consciousness being aware of the individual dream state.

'om suvah” would refer to the same consciousness witnessing the deep
sleep stage. Om mahah, the fourth vyahriti is the consciousness beyond
the three earlier mentioned known amongst the vedantins as the fourth
state of the mind (turiya) or the yogi's kaivalya state. The same
consciousness now is identified with the Brahmana that created the
Universe (Om Janah). Then the next mantra, the sixth “Om tapah” would
represent the Brahman as one deeply contemplating and finally the
pristine state of consciousness “Om satyam” the one and only Brahaman.
With this the abhyasi is able to identify and meditate upon the same
one Brahaman as seen in different states. The theory that there is
only one consciousness that exists both at the cosmic and at the
microcosmic level is the bedrock of the advaita (No two
conciousnesses) viewpoint. So an advaitin while doing pranayama is
able to reinforce the advaitic conviction.

Then the second part of the pranayama mantra is the gayatri mantra. It
again refers to the ultimate reality as the inner light. Just as the
sun with its lustrous orb lights the entire world, the Brahman/Self
lights the entire chitta or the internal world of the meditator, so
that the chitta vrittis are experienced or 'seen' in the mind's eye .

The last portion known as the siras or the head, is an encomium to the
ultimate Brahman. It refers to It as OM., pure consciousness, the
universal light, the essence of the entire Universe, immortal
(unchanging), the source of the universe, and is known to the
individual as the inner Self during the three states of waking, dream
and deep sleep.

This meaning of the pranayama mantra is vividly brought to the mind as
the pranayama mantra is recited silently during antah kumbhaka. Then
it is known as samantraka or sagarbha pranayama. According to Manu
this samantra pranayama is the greatest Tapas/meditation.

It is said that those who are well versed in the chakras are able to
identify the seven vyahritis with the seven chakras in the body using
the respective bijakshara or seed mantras. Some make an effort   to
visualize the cosmic Brahman  in the seven chakras in the microcosm

There are other types of mantras used. For instance saivaites tend to
chant the siva mantras as they hold the breath as mentioned in the
Tamil Saiva classic “Tirumandiram”. The mantra “sivasiva” of four
syllables is chanted 16 times during one breath hold corresponding to
64 syllables as in the pranayama mantra referred to earlier.

Here is a pranayama for renunciates:

While doing puraka or inhalation the thought would be that the entire
universe is ultimately drawn into the Brahman. Then while in
antahkumbhaka the contemplation would be that the outside Universe and
I are no different from the Brahman. Then while exhaling the ego “I'
with the entire Universe is discarded as nothing but an illusion, not
real, not significant. And in bahya kumbhaka one would contemplate
that pure Brahman alone is real, It alone exists.

Those who believe in the reality of world and the trinity (Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva), would use pranayama to reinforce their faith.

Inhaling through the left nostril one should think of the four faced
Brahma the creator aspect of the trinity and of blood red hue (rajas
guna) while chanting Om 16 times. Then closing both the nostrils  and
holding the breath in  kumbhaka one should think of the white colored
(satva guna) Hari, the protector/sustainer chanting pranava 64 times.
Then while exhaling through the right nostril one should meditate on
Siva of dark color (tamo guna) chanting pranava 32 times. Then one
should start inhaling through the right nostril for 16 matras chanting
pranava 16 times and continue the pranayama for a predetermined number
of times with both mantra and bhava.

Different smritis and very old yoga texts refer to a variety of
pranayamas with and without mantras. Almost all the puranas have a
section on yoga which describe different asanas and pranayamas. (I
think with all this evidence one may say with some conviction that
Yoga is more than 100 years old). For more information on pranayama
you may consider referring to my book “Yoga for the Three Stages of
Life” pages 189 to 211.

Sri Krsishnamacharya's Yoga teachings were unique and very rich. In
Vinyasakrama asana practice, breath synchronization with slow
movements is an essential element. One would start the movement with
the beginning of inhalation or exhalation and complete the movement
with the completion of that breathing phase. The time taken in actual
practice may be between 5 to 10 or 12 seconds depending on one's
capacity and control. If it goes below 5 seconds one would stop the
practice and rest to regain the vinyasa krama acceptable breath. My
Guru, Sri T Krishnamacharya would say 'breathe with hissing sound' (a
la cobra, refer to ananta samapatti in YS) or 'with a mild rubbing
sensation in the throat'.

In this way, with long deep inhalation and exhalation, the intercostal
muscles are stretched and toned up and by the time pranayama is
started the accessory muscles of breathing are well exercised so that
one has a well oiled breathing apparatus for a very productive
pranayama practice. And while doing pranayam introduction of mantras
and bhavas helps to bring the mind to a focus which will be of
considerable help when one starts the meditation process. Thus Sri
Krishnamacharya following the tradition of yoga described in old yoga
texts like the yoga sutras, the puranas, smritis and other ancient
texts helped to understand and achieve the best of an outstanding
ancient system called Yoga.

You may access the earlier Newsletter by visiting my website
www,vinyasakrama.com and clicking on the Newsletter tab. Any comments
or suggestions please e mail to

Best wishes

Srivatsa Ramaswami