Writing Sanskrit as Spiritual Practice

During the previous decade, I attended Sanskrit classes for about five years. For a while I even attended two classes a week. My goal was to be able to converse in Sanskrit.

I became discouraged, however, when class after class of Indian students zoomed past me. I may have known more Sanskrit when each class began, but many of the Indian students’ native languages were rooted in Sanskrit so they were able to easily able to develop a Sanskrit vocabulary. I couldn’t do that. I progressed in my studies, but the time came when I was no longer willing to dedicate the hours it would take to reach my goal; besides, I was no longer convinced my goal was even possible.

One day during the current pandemic, it occurred to me that I could write in Sanskrit as a form of spiritual practice. It had been a long time since I’d written the Devanagari letters and I knew I would enjoy doing that once again.

Many years ago, a devotee of my spiritual teacher, Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi), wrote a beautiful chant consisting of 108 characteristics of Amma. I realized I could focus on one line of that chant each day by writing it in Devanagari script ten times. I have been doing that exercise for the last 28 days!

In the past, I often wrote about my Sanskrit studies on this blog. I decided a few days ago that I would do that again. But each day, I determined that my writing wasn’t good enough or the line of the chant wasn’t the right one. Today, I decided that since my purpose was to share the process, nothing about it had to be perfect.

I picked the 24th and 25th lines of the chant to share:

om nissabda janani garbha nirgamadbhuta karmane namah (Salutations to Amma who did the miraculous deed of keeping silence when she came out of her mother’s womb.)

om kali sri krishna sangkasha komala shyamala tvishe namah (Salutations to Amma who has the beautiful dark complexion reminiscent of Kali and Krishna.)

I hope the pandemic ends before I reach the 108th day, but even if it does, I may continue this practice until I have finished the last line.

I will end my post with the following prayer:

Om Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings in the world live in peace

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
Peace, Peace, Peace

मनसा सततं स्मरणीयम् – Let Us Always Remember

I received an email from one of my Sanskrit teachers today asking us to learn a new chant.  I listened to it and loved the tune.  I then found a YouTube version that had the Devanagari script, the transliteration and the translation.  The translation brought tears to my eyes.  I think the chant is so beautiful in every way.

Here is the translation and the video:

Let us always remember,
Let us repeatedly speak out:
Our duty is to do good to humanity.

Let us not focus on material pleasures
Nor lay in the lap of luxury;
Let us be awakened always that
Our duty is to do good to humanity.

Let us not enumerate our sorrows
Nor constantly reflect on our happiness
Let us step up to take action:
Our duty is to do good to humanity.

Let us sail over oceans of misery,
Let us scale mountains of difficulty.
While roaming through the jungle of adversity,
Our duty is to do good to humanity.

Be it a dense forest of extreme darkness
Or surrounded by kith and kin
When we travel these paths,
Our duty remains – to do good to humanity.

(Note: Kith and kin means friends and relatives.)

*****

Memories of Taize

Yesterday, I read a beautiful and moving poem, Remaining True, written by Wendell A. Brown.  The picture that went with the poem contained the words from Psalms 103:1  “Bless the Lord, oh my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”

The Psalm reminded me of a song from Taize that I love, Bless the Lord My Soul.  I found it on YouTube and played it.  As I listened, tears came to my eyes.

Wikipedia says this about Taize:

The Taizé Community is an ecumenical monastic order in Taizé, Saône-et-Loire, Burgundy, France. It is composed of more than one hundred brothers, from Protestant and Catholic traditions, who originate from about thirty countries across the world. It was founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, a Reformed Protestant. Guidelines for the community’s life are contained in The Rule of Taizé[1] written by Brother Roger and first published in French in 1954.

The community has become one of the world’s most important sites of Christian pilgrimage. Over 100,000 young people from around the world make pilgrimages to Taizé each year for prayer, Bible study, sharing, and communal work. Through the community’s ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.

In December of 2001,  two friends and I went to Taize on our way to Amma’s ashram in India.   I felt so blessed to be in the presence of Brother Roger.  He radiated a spiritual energy that was so palpable….. and so kind.

Below you will find YouTube videos of two Taize songs.  The first is Bless the Lord My Soul and the second is my favorite Taize song, Veni Sancte Spiritus.  I picked this version to share with you not only because the music is beautiful, but also because it has pictures of Taize and of Brother Roger.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

As I listened to the second song, tears started pouring down my cheeks.  There are places in Seattle where Taize chants are sung regularly.  It is time for me to go again….. very soon!