Strotranjali 2008 At Sri Lakshmi Temple: Two Observations
Mrs. Mira Mehta:(This article is sponsored by S4, Inc. )
Space and Time make our Life, the physical and the psychic. Our thoughts and actions make the living entities that we are. Time is given to us until eternity, but we must never forget that it flies soon before we realize. Space given to us is the entire universe. Presently we are protected in the arms of our Divine Mother at Sri Lakshmi Temple and Her Divine Grace has inspired the Sanskrit scholars like our guru Sri Bijoy Misra. With the kind cooperation of the temple authorities, a humble school to learn Sanskrit was started in 2000 and today it has reached the great heights.
Aren’t we BLESSED to get this splendid opportunity to learn the divine language of the gods, ‘Deva bhasha,’ with the complete study of its grammar, the methods of Panini, composition, literature and the Vedas, as well as the conversation in Sanskrit ‘Sambhasahana Samskrtam’. With the help and understanding of the dedicated and selfless gurus like Misraji, Sri Charles Lindley, Sri Giri Bharathan, Sri Kodandapani, Sri Satya Kanakagiri and Sri Chandramouli Subbaraman, the classes have been a blessing to the students. Sunday mornings have been most beautiful in the students’ lives with studies, scholarship and friendly conversations. I humbly add that I started late at the age of 63 a few years ago, and feel so happy that I took up the study of Sanskrit language. My Guru’s and God’s grace enabled me to receive this.
On Sunday, June 29 2008, the annual Sanskrit recitation program ‘Stotranjali’ was held. Twenty-two participants, inclusive of teachers and students, recited their favorite stotras, stutis, chants and shanti pathas. To me, not only was it learning by listening, but a feast to the Soul. The duration of the event was approximately two hours, and none realized how time flew. It was a coordinated cooperative orchestration ending with the shanti patha. All throughout the program the atmosphere was gripping: the person chanting was engrossed in concentration and devotion, the listeners were completely attentive. How absorbing to the soul is sound, the effects of which showed clearly in the total silence observed around. There were participants who were there reciting for the first time and did very well; but who could tell so if not told! Occasionally a recitation was followed by wonderful words of advice from Sri Misraji on the correct pronunciation of the words, right effort in breath and voice. Nothing could have been better than these guidelines! Samskrtam coaching on all aspects has been the tradition!
Class recitations, such as these, truly help because reading alone is like knowing the alphabets and words, the sandhis and the sentence formation. Chanting is another unique form wherein all this is involved and in addition to this is the singing that occurs with the correct matras, following the right meter, a refining finish given to the sounds coming from the various sources the nose, the mouth, the teeth, the tongue, the throat and the cerebrum. Then there is the sound coming from the nabhi, the root of Kundalini, the Muladhara. I highlight this because hearing is done by the organ ears and listening is done by the attentive Soul. Listening took me to the meditative fields, the sounds coming from the recitations seeping into mine. Every one of the participants did their very best. I can’t resist mentioning that to me it was a wonderful experience of joy, “Ananda”.
With the background of schooling in Auxilium Convent, where only French was offered as a second language, and graduating from St. Xavier’s College in Bombay, India, I had received no formal exposure to Samskrtam. Nevertheless, my home and my parents taught me slokas, compulsory prayers to be recited in the morning while getting up, before and after food and at bedtime. The Bhagvadgita was in our routine on Sundays, ten slokas were done till continuation on the following Sunday. The learning of Hindi, besides what was offered in school was taken up through the Wardha Center and I successfully completed competence upto the Kovida level. Learning of the Devanagari script and exposure to Hindi literature truly helped me later.
Though late in life measured in years and after getting done with major responsibilities, nothing better could have I done than reaching to the wonderful dedicated and sincere teachers I met. The biggest ever benefit one can derive from learning Samskrtam is that it is the medium for enabling one to explore the depths of the epics and the scriptures and to facilitate one’s spiritual development. In these few years of learning I have now gotten the taste of this nectar, to keep my learning process going through the rest of my life. As I desired I can now understand the Bhagvadgita, its words now make a lot more sense and the essence gets much clearer.
I would like to poetically describe my gurus as Bhagirthas of Bharat bringing this holy “Jnana Ganga” to our door step. Knowing about all sources is not enough, without the right training and the effort of speech accompanied with right breathing, nothing much in quality will result. Hence to my observation the Novice training is the most important, and if seriously taken the results will definitely show by bringing out the excellence in Samskrtam and recitation. Chanting is a scientific approach to sound. Rhythm and right pronunciation are most important. At Sri Lakshmi Temple, wonderful training is offered and wonderful Stotranjali is held bringing out the hidden talents of the learners of this divine language.
J. M. Prakash:
On Sunday, 29 June 2008, all levels of the Samskrtam classes at Sri Lakshmi Temple came together to offer their recitations at an end of the year closing ceremony called “Stotranjali.”
Participation was voluntary, like the teaching of the classes, and done purely for the love of the Sanskrit language. It was not meant as a purely scholarly exercise, but as an offering in celebration of the spirit that brings meaning to Sanskrit texts, chants and mantras we try to explore.
Early memories of Sanskrit language recall sounds that were, at the time, unintelligible—but contained an ethereal beauty and rhythm. Because I was born in the United States, my parents spared no efforts to travel far and wide to find lectures and venues espousing Indian and Hindu culture and practices. These efforts worked. I committed to my heart a love and longing for all things Indian and relished a pride in the practice of Hinduism. But Sanskrit was still foreign to me.
I took up the learning of Samskrtam initially five years ago under the tutelage of Sri Chandramouli. Due to work I stopped because I was unable to make the proper commitment to the classes and homework. I took it up again two years ago, now under the guidance of Sri Kodandapani. I am very pleased to say that both teachers are very knowledgeable and extremely patient.
I cannot say that I am a stellar student because I am not. Samskrtam study is very difficult for me simply because each step, at this time, seems like a mountain. To make the proper sound originating from the correct point in the body seems like I am scaling the Himalayas themselves. Add to that proper reading and pronunciation, and I am climbing Mt. Everest!
But I do not give up. After studying the translation of Vivekachudamini of Adi Shakaracharya, I will not. The translation was beautiful. At this moment, I can only imagine the beauty of the original text. This is what prompts me to try to present at the Stotranjali ceremony each year.
Every year, I can see each student has picked a stotra that is personal to them. They have picked a stotra that embodies that ethereal beauty and rhythm they are searching for. Each year, they try to capture that spirit that prompted the original writers to commit it to memory and script. Each year I come to witness that and try as well. One day I will succeed. Hari Om Tat Sat!
Sanskrit classes in Sri Lakshmi Temple will resume in the Fall on Sunday, September 28, 2008. Please visit http://www.nehti.org for further details.
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