Yoga Philosophy, Chanting and Sanskrit
A Real Indian Festival of Learning and Fun, with Professors Jayashree, Narasimha and Nagaraja Rao
August 21 - September 4, 2010. Review by Elonne Stockton
The two weeks with Nagaraja Rao, Narasimha and Jayashree was extra sweet for me because I especially love chanting and philosophy. Unfortunately Nagaraja Rao had to leave early, but we were grateful for the week we had with him.
My experience of the chanting retreat was marked by the time that I spent with Jayashree outside of class. In the true spirit of karma yoga and teaching, she selflessly made time to work with me.
Within a couple of days she had turned her room into an Indian home, and she made me feel like a special guest every time I came to see her. She even fed me delicious Indian rice dishes, yogurt and chutneys. I am looking forward to spending more time with Jayashree in the future.
I would like to share excerpts from my conversations with her and Narasimha. I was struck by their open-mindedness, in terms of the different approaches to Yoga, as well as the work they have done to teach and to preserve the Sanskrit language.
Elonne: One thing Richard and Paul do beautifully is tie everything together. In their minds there is no contradiction. Everybody is basically saying the same thing, in different ways.
Narasimha: That is the sign of evolution. After years of Yoga it should come.
Elonne: You would hope so. But it often never does.
Jayashree: If you are stuck to one place or system then you will not be knowing the others. Then you will not be knowing the other approaches, and the same thing can be approached from many different angles. One person looks at it in this way and the other another way, and if you close your mind to only one then it becomes a straightjacket.
N: Appropriateness is most important. So you have come for some benefit by the practice of Yoga. And according to your constitution I should tailor make the practice so that you can come to the path. So if I put my straightjacket on you it may work or it may harm. If it doesn’t work after some time you will go to another path, and then time is wasted. I have imposed pain on you. In many yogasana schools they have hurt students because that point they have not taken care of.
J: For example, backbending is not possible for everyone, but if you force it then you will hurt them and they will have to see a doctor.
I asked Jayashree about the importance of learning the Sanskrit language.
J: If you can read Devanagari, you need not write. If you see the text you have to read, but you are not asked to write. Nowadays the next generation will not take a pen at all. They will always be on the computer and will not write. And that will become an art.
Now can we write on the palm leaf? We lost that knowledge. How they used to write and the tools they used and how they improved those tools. All that we have forgotten. We want to improve in the technological field, so the previous will go.
E: Are you worried about preserving the Sanskrit language?
J: That which has strength in its own will live. That is all. Nature takes care of that.
But we have to try to preserve as much as possible. The palm leaf manuscripts in India now are so many. If it was just a leaf, it would have been thrown long ago. But because something is written on it we want to excavate it.
Whatever is written, it is knowledge, so we want to preserve those things. And many people don’t know the scripts. And don’t think all the manuscripts are written in Devanagari script. No. In South India you don’t find a single manuscript written in Devanagari script. It will be Grantha or Nandinagari. Different scripts are there. And in North India also up to the 7th Century, 8th Century Devanagari was not there.
Somewhere around the 9th Century they standardized the script. Before that you find Sharada script, different scripts are there. So we have to learn those scripts. And very few are there to teach those scripts. Somehow we have to preserve that otherwise we cannot read those manuscripts.
And so many manuscripts are left unread. Not even the title of the book is known. If you do not know the language then it is like the Sarasvati Sindhu seals. Those scripts still we haven’t been able to decipher what it is. Or the Rosetta Stone. They had the same subject matter in three different scripts and still we couldn’t decipher them.
E: What about the importance of preserving the script itself?
J: As a language it is okay to preserve it. Script doesn’t have any sacredness. Script is the same as a drawing. To represent a sound you use a letter. It is mainly a sound, but it is represented in different ways in the form of a script.
E: But is there a power behind the script? Is there something more immediate that you get when you look at the script? Is it like looking at Chinese? For me the traditional characters leave a different impression on the brain, a more powerful and immediate one than the simplified ones do. And I find pinyin too confusing; it is just the Romanization of the Chinese.
J: Maybe. It is called Devanagari because it has its own power. But those who do not know the script should not be kept away from Sanskrit. So we do need to preserve the script as well as the language, both.
Thank you again, Jayashree, for all of your time. Thank you, Narasimha and Nagaraja Rao. I hope to see you all again soon.