Kauai sishya along with with Woody and Sadhaka Tejadevanatha (behnd the camera) joined Sivakatirswami yesterday for the bi-monthly singing/chanting workshop. We practiced our basic Tamil invocations, two Vedic chants and then we went around the room with everyone leading a bhajan. Swami is teaching everyone to develop “auditory memory.” We sing out loud while looking at the book and then you try to “listen and hear it” inside your head with your eyes closed and just mouthing the words, but making no sound. The goal is to memorize the songs and to go deep into the meaning while we sing. So it requires both understanding what you are singing and also not being dependent on the song books. We practiced some of the Natchintanai we all know well and started learning a new one “Nalluran Thiruvadi,” which is very popular among Yogaswami’s devotees. We also practicing some basic vocal exercises as recommended by Adi Sankara: taking deep breaths and then doing long SAAA, RIII, GAAA notes.
Swami pointed out that after radio came record players and then CD’s and now iPods and iTunes. This change in the our interaction with music has turned us all into “listeners of the professionals,” but in the old days, everyone would sing. You can see some videos from Jaffna where an elder is singing. He may not be in perfect tune, but he knows the songs! So we want to get back to the “old ways” where we all sing and we are not just “listeners.” This is one of the main cultural components of bhakti sadhana in Hinduism.