If you haven’t yet sent money or other assistance to the victims of Saturday’s horrific earthquake in Nepal, here’s you chance. (It’s even you chance if you have.) It comes via our friends at Namarupa and the Broome St. Temple:
We have received an urgent request from our friends at
Waves for Water works on the front-line of disaster areas around the globe to provide clean water to communities in need. Broome Street Temple has a close association with Wavers For Water and worked together on relief efforts following Super Storm Sandy.
Some time back many of you responded to our plea for help when floods struck at the western end of the Himalayas. At that time our primary purpose was to create an education fund, Namarupa Bhandava, for children of the effected villages. Through your help we raised $16,2008.00. We have been releasing these funds on an annual timetable per the instructions of Swami Janardanandaji who is managing the fund distribution to the village children.
We have asked and received permission from Swamiji to send $1000.00 to WavesforWater to purchase desperately needed water filters in support of its Nepali relief efforts. They have a great deal of experience in disaster areas at distributing filters which help prevent many health problems that occur for some time after earthquakes have struck.
If you are inclined you can help replenish the Namarupa Bhandava fund by sending any small amount here.
You can also donate directly to Waves For Water here.
Robert Moses and Eddie Stern
As a reminder, the Bhandava effort was set up in the summer of 2013 to help the victims of the floods in northern India. But hardship and hope know no borders.
You all know that this fall Namarupa is running a full month’s Yatra through the north part of India, with a week that includes an Ashtanga program with Sharath.
It’s full, and has been for a while. But all is not lost. This week, Robert Moses — co-founder of Namarupa along with Eddie Stern — announced the next Yatra:
Your yatra guides will be Robert Moses, co-publisher of Namarupa and Radha-kunda das of Sacred Journeys India. Christine Hoar of Ashtanga Yoga Montauk will teach daily Ashtanga Yoga classes.
The magnificently constructed temples of South India, planned according to strict rules of vastu (laws governing spatial awareness), are often dominated by huge towering gateways called gopurams. Daily, vast numbers of Hindu yatris (pilgrims) pass through the gopurams to have darshan of their favorite gods or goddesses, enshrined in the murtis (images) in the temples’ inner sanctums. Darshan is both seeing and being seen by the deity. The intention of the Tamil Temple Yatra will be to go as much as possible as pilgrims to the sacred temples and, where permitted, to have darshan of the gods and goddesses. This will not be tourism. We will travel simply, lodge in very comfortable Indian-style accommodations, eat vegetarian meals and dress and behave appropriately according to local custom. At some places we will have ample time for the usual sightseeing, shopping and exploring that travellers enjoy. The pace will be relaxed, but this being India, one can expect the unexpected.
Ho-oh, Robert! Don’t get me started on the unexpected. But that’s a good part of the fun.
It runs from January 6 to 21, 2016. It might make a nice holiday present to yourself.
For our posts about our south India Yatra with Namarupa a few years ago, click here. (I think that captures them all; you might need to scroll back a page past our more recent Yatra posts.) We loved the south. The people were warm and inviting, the darshan was incredible, the temples stunning. If you want to really experience India, this is the way to go. We often were the only Westerners in crowds of hundreds, even thousands.
Big news from Namarupa. Sharath will be involved with a section of next year’s Yatra — appropriately enough the Ashtanga Yoga Sadhana part.
All the details are at Namarupa’s site. You really need to check it out. This time, Robert Moses — co-founder of Namarupa with Eddie Stern and twice our Yatra leader — has arranged a variety of possible yatras to fit, I suppose, both time and budget.
Here’s a little description, but the real bounty is at the online brochure:
Yatra, Tirtha and Darshan The ancient Puranas of India are huge volumes containing stories of the makings of the universe as well as thrilling tales of innumerable gods and goddesses. The geography of the Puranas coincides with that of the entire Indian sub-continent. Countless places mentioned in these ancient texts are alive today and are important places of yatra (pilgrimage). Within their sanctums, worship of the resident gods and goddesses is performed daily in a tradition that reaches back to antiquity and beyond. These places where the sacred stories unfolded are sometimes called tirthas. A tirtha is a place of crossing over and most literally refers to fords of rivers. It also refers to a spiritual crossing place, where the divine is more easily intuited, recognized or experienced. Daily, vast numbers of yatris (pilgrims) visit the sacred places to have darshan of their favorite gods or goddesses. Darshan is both seeing and being seen by the deity. It is a source of spiritual renewal. Namarupa Yatras are centered around the experience of darshan.
As Robert would expect of me, I have to note that Radha-kunda Das will be among the leaders. He’s my favorite thing in and about India.
According to the brochure, Sharath will be teaching two Led Primary classes each day as well as leading discussions. This part of the Yatra — the full one runs Oct. 1 to 30 — runs from the 12th to 17th. But, as I noted, there are multiple — seven in all — variations you can consider.
For the second time, Eddie Stern and Robert Moses — co-founders of Namarupa — will be holding a weekend workshop over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend. It will focus on yoga and Vedanta.
It’s easiest to quote from the flyer for the weekend:
Yoga and Vedanta are practical philosophies born from the age-old burning desire to understand our essential inner nature and our place in the world. We take our perceptions for granted, and believe them to be real. The ancient Rishis of India questioned this belief in perception and created several philosophical systems based on three basic questions: What are the objects of the world which we see made of? What is the nature of the process of observing the world that occurs through our senses? Who it is that perceives? The answers they gave led to practices that we do even this day.
In this weekend retreat, Robert Moses will give talks on Yoga and Vedanta, Eddie Stern will lead morning and afternoon Ashtanga Yoga classes, and Jocelyne Stern will lead meditation. There will be question and answer periods, group discussions, and breaks for chai.
Pastor NaRon Tillman, who will be hosting us in his church gymnasium, will join us to give talks on Martin Luther King Jr. and the imperative need of our day to undo the shackles of bias that bind us to our prejudices and perceptions and hold us back from freedom and truth.
Both Saturday and Sunday will include morning and evening yoga classes (the later described as “yoga therapy,” the morning ones are Led Primary) and a couple of sessions on Vedanta.
Unlike last year, it won’t be at AYNY, but at the Brooklyn StuyDome at St. Philip’s Christian Church. Cost is $190 for the full weekend, $105 for one day and $55 for half a day. Out-of-towners also get a Monday morning yoga session at AYNY.
Last year’s was great — so you may wanna check your calendars. I suspect there will be more info soon at both AYNY and Namarupa’s websites.
Among the best books on our reading list for next month’s Namarupa Yatra is Diane L. Eck’s Banaras: City of Light. (Another of her works, Darshan, was probably the best of our first Yatra readings.
Probably the most succinct review is: It really has made us want to travel to Banaras / Varanasi — now.
Early on in the book, Eck describes seeing the city through Hindu eyes — what the city means and implies in their faith — and she delves, just for a few paragraphs, on pilgrimage and how they are not out for sight seeing but “sacred sight-seeing.” Darshan, in other words. And she writes the following, which has become one of my guide posts as I prep for our journey:
Those who travel as pilgrims follow the path of the “holy men” (sadhus) or “renouncers” (sannyasins), those perpetual seekers and pilgrims who have given up on the settled life of home to live out the spiritual truth that all people, finally, are travelers and pilgrims on earth. Very few people become sannyasins or sadhus, but in going on a pilgrimage, ordinary householders become, for a short time, renouncers of sorts. Leaving home, they take only those few things they can carry, and their life is the simple life of the road. Their destinations are spiritual ones, and they are often difficult to reach. Going on foot to a distant place becomes for these pilgrims a kind of asceticism in which the journey itself is as purifying as the sacred destinations.
It’s on pages 20-21 of the latest edition of the book.
On our trip this time, Robert Moses has emphasized we need to stick within a 33-pound limit, due to our internal air travel. So we can only a few things. Our lives will follow the simplicity of the road (and train, and bus, and airplane). All our destinations are spiritual ones, even spiritual ones within spiritual ones. We will hike in the Himalayas and walk along the Ganga in Banaras.
Not too long after a big “regular” issue, Namarupa has released a special issue focused on Vaishnavism. Link to the issue is right here. The cost is $14, and it runs 48 pages.
Here’s a little from the description:
Namarupa Special Vaishnava Issue by Guest Editor Steven J. Rosen contains the following articles: FOR WHOM DOES HINDUISM SPEAK Hridayananda Dasa Goswami ABSENCE AND LONGING: A VAISHNAVA PERSPECTIVE Braja Sorenson NARADA BHAKTI SUTRA Dhanurdhara Swami VERSES OF SURRENDER The Charama Shlokas of the Vaishnava Tradition Steven J. Rosen (Satyaraja Dasa) GEORGE HARRISON BEATLE, VAISHNAVA, LOVER OF GOD Joshua M. Greene KRISHNA’S TEN DEFINITIONS OF YOGA IN THE BHAGAVAD GITA Catherine Ghosh FROM RUMI TO CHAITANYA AND BACK AGAIN Braja Sorenson EXISTING TO LOVE: VARIOUS DIMENSIONS OF BRAHMAN, PARAMATMA AND BHAGAVAN Swami B.V. Tripurari WHEN OPPOSITES ATTRACT A FEW THOUGHTS ON BHAKTI AND YOGA Steven J. Rosen
A little reminder of some of our posts on George Harrison to get you in the mood.
I’m what you might call a semi-academic. Years ago, I deliberately walked away from a tenure-track job in my field (British Romanticism), profoundly unhappy and unfulfilled by academic scholarship. I went back to poetry writing. I took some time off, wrote some poems, worked some retail. Which meant, essentially, that I burned the bridge back to my academic career.With some distance in time, I realize it was the disconnect between academic study and academic teaching that made me so disgusted with the whole thing—-the disconnect between study and practice.
It’s possible that, initially, it was the extreme physicality of Ashtanga that drew me to it. It was as far away from study as I thought I could get. It was all body. Or so I thought.
The study, or sadhana, aspect of Ashtanga is sneaky, though. You want to learn the pose. Nobody is really telling you how to do the pose. What’s a former academic to do? Buy a book, of course. Thank you, David Swenson. Still, it’s not technically a book; it’s a “practice manual.” Right?
But that was just the beginning; it was years ago, some teacher trainings with the great reader, Tim Miller, and lots of books later when along came Eddie Stern, and Robert Moses, and their sadhana yatra(which we are going on again in a few months). Along came many more books to prepare, and a much broader understanding of yoga, with deeper context. Somewhere in all of this, we learned of the existence of Namarupa, Robert and Eddie’s journal.
“Name and form.” That’s what the name of their journal means. Subtitled, “categories of Indian thought.”
When Steve and I went on the last pilgrimage, we took along volumes and volumes of Namarupa on our iPad, and tried to catch up with years of amazing articles, photos, and art. The new issue is out (catch it here), and it dedicates a number of its articles to. . .asana!
Why do I say it like this, you ask, as if I’m shocked? If you look at the covers of the slender offerings (pun intended) of American yoga journals, without doubt asana is the focus—the physical practice takes a front seat, with the thought in the back. Even meditative practices are almost always linked to physical benefits. In Namarupa, thought’s in the front seat, and “practice” means something totally different. Asana is for the most part absent. The focus is on Indian thought.
After we got over the bitter taste academia left in our mouths, Steve and I were hungry for this. (I include Steve here because it’s a well-kept secret that he’s also a reformed academic–he has two Masters degrees, and had even finished his Ph.D. coursework in English when he decided to become a journalist.) (I guess it’s now a poorly-kept secret.)
For those of us who roll out the mat every day, though, there’s always the question of how to integrate study into practice in a healthy way.
This issue, for instance, has an article written by Eddie Stern, and illustrated with photos by Sharath. You would think you’d get a sense there, from two of the world’s leading Ashtanga teachers, and pioneers in the field.
It’s a beautiful article. But it, too, is about pilgrimage—you will have to wait to the end to get an insight from Eddie on integration of pilgrimage into practice (and you’ll also have to read it yourself–“Pilgrimage to Srigeri” by Eddie Stern with a photo essay by R. Sharath Jois).
But hold on. There’s more: An extended meditation on a single pose, and, for me, the hardest pose of all: “Shavasana: the Corpse Pose” by Jan Schmidt-Garre. There’s also a story-telling description of the asanas influenced by Hanuman—with advice on how to put yourself in Hanuman’s mental place as you practice them (“Hanuman’s Influence on Yoga Asanas” by Mayanak Dhingra). Many of these Tim Miller teaches as research poses for the practice, and it was right up Steve’s alley. Be Hanuman!
For me, though, the article with the most resonance is the “Teachings of Professor Krishnamacharya” by Claude Marechal. Marechal is a long-time student of TKV Desikachar, Krishnamacharya’s son.
At his workshop with Robert Moses in New York, Eddie Stern pointed out that Sri K. Pattabhi Jois was lured away from Krishnamacharya by an academic job, to teach yoga at the Sanskrit college in Mysore.
What’s the first thing you need, Eddie asked, when you get hired to teach a college class?
It was like he was asking me personally. “A syllabus!” I said. If you’re going to teach a class, you have to have lesson plans. A syllabus is expected of you. You can’t just walk in and improvise a bunch of stuff. The syllabus is your contract with the student. It outlines what you’re promising to teach the student, as well as policies and practices, what’s expected from the student. So Guruji took what he learned from Krishnamacharya, and framed a course.
Marechal’s article is an extended analysis and summary of the elements that Guruji drew upon as a young teacher, formulating what would become Ashtanga yoga–although Marchal doesn’t mention Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga at all. As his title suggests, Marechal considers these things first and foremost the teachings of a professor of yoga. Because the nature of academic research is to advance the field, he also outlines the innovations that belong to Krishnamacharya. The practitioner of Ashtanga can clearly see these in the article; among them is teaching to women, something that allowed Guruji to welcome Nancy Gilgoff into his school, and the many women who followed.
The article also outlines the strong integration of practice and study, at the same time recognizing that there are different emphases in the practice at different times in our lives. It also outlines the correct attitude of the teacher toward the student, and the student toward the teacher. The role of mental attitude in our daily lives is why we practice, and practice is why we study: “Dhyana is asana,” Marechal writes,
The state of concentration arising from the practice of asana and pranayama is presented by Professor Krishnamacharya as a unifying movement between the body, the breath, the senses and the mind (kaya prana indriya citta samgati). This idea of junction, of connection, is an essential aspect of the teaching of the master.
And, arguably, of his student, Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.
Pick it up, and all the many other Namarupa gold mines, here.
Saw this slideshow at the Times of India about the Ganga, titled “10 little known facts about Ganga.” Here’s a link and a bit from one of the cutlines:
It is difficult to ascertain the sheer size of Ganga just with a glance at a piece of paper. Ganges river system is a very complicated, especially in the delta region. Its complex tributaries and bifurcations in Bengal make it very difficult to determine its exact length. However, it is believed to be slightly over 2,500 km in length. The Ganges Delta formed mainly by sediment-laden flows from Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers is the world’s largest delta. It covers an area of about 59,000 km2. Only the Amazon and Congo rivers have a greater average water discharge than the combined outflow of Ganges-Brahmaputra river system.
Reminder: This summer’s Namarupa Yatra Divine includes a few opportunities to bathe in the Ganga.