|Pre-chant chatter. Students taking coconut after yogasana practice, |
while others wait for chanting...
The start time for chanting has been changing over the last couple of weeks, from 11:30, to 11:45, to now 11:55am to accommodate the swelling numbers at the shala and the new comers finishing close to midday. Imran is still outside, hacking into coconuts for the late-finishers, who will most likely go straight back into the shala to chant. During the class, a few practitioners come out from the locker-rooms, a little disoriented to open the doors to the packed room chanting Sanskrit verses. I'm not really sure, but there must be at least two hundred of us. Possibly more.
The energy of having so many students chanting together is hard to explain. Before chanting, as people mill about the steps, the around the gate, the coconut truck across the street, there's a lot of chatter, so many little conversations amplified by number. It's a little intense--as is everything around the practice here. Then, once Prakash, allows us, we file in slowly, find our bit of carpet or marble floor. The chatter escalates until Lakshmish starts, and we suddenly all fall into step with each other: "Vakratunda mahakaya..."
The chant to Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, does the trick. And the room harmonizes. And our large number with all our voices, which seemed chaotic and dispersed only minutes before, are now sounding and feeling more cohesive. Ganesha, the god that unites, has formed us into a group, all with one agenda: to chant together for a half hour.
The years of chanting have refined our "group-ness" it seems. In 2010, during my first trip to Mysore, I remember discord, Lakshmish wincing politely as we butchered this sacred language. Then, there were two levels. Level 1 was for "new friends" while Level 2 was for "old friends," meaning only that old friends had been registered for at least a month, Level 2 mouths were a little looser and somewhat more adept at forming the Sanskrit syllables. Still, struggle was there. It was seemed one chant would take forever to get--if not right, at least--good enough.
January 2013 and the difference is quite significant. We're in no way proficient, far from it, but the improvement is significant. We're all in one group now and the vibrations from the chanting Shantihmantra, Mahisasuramardini Stotram, Bhagavad Gita, opening and closing chants, even the asana names and numbers is quite indescribable. This, too, is yoga.
Conference two weeks ago, someone asked about why was chanting made compulsory at the shala. Sharath answered that chanting is for: "self-transformation. Our mind also will be calm, which will help also for our spiritual development."
And while there is still a significant amount of people skipping the compulsory chanting classes (and some for good reasons too, some have children--though kids are welcome to run around and be kids as far as Lakshmish is concerned--while some study chanting with other teachers), it is plain to see that many more are taking the chanting classes seriously. And there's something to reciting these mantras, it vibrates deep down, and like the transformation of these chanting sessions themselves, something somehow shifts.