This and other sacred texts translated by Shyamdas are available now at sacredwoods.net
I had the extreme pleasure of living with His Holiness Goswami Prathameshji, a direct descendant of Shri Vallabhacharya and the head of the first seat of the Vallabh Sampradaya, for eighteen years. Although his physical form disappeared from this world in 1990, Prathameshji’s devotional teachings remain with us. His knowledge was vast. He was a pundit of Ayurveda, Vedanta, as well as the Shrimad Bhagavatam. He was a master of Sanskrit, Urdu, Gujarati, and Vrajbhasha languages and an accomplished classical musician.
Prathameshji masterfully played the tabla and pakhavaja drums, harmonium, sitar, flute, and even sarangi, but most of all, it is the way he sang Dhrupada-Dhamar devotional kirtan songs that still resonates throughout my being. He was a master of “Lila kirtan.” His life and songs emerged from the eternal realm and somehow manifested here in this world. His being was full of Lila-mood. He often sang, in total ecstasy, poems written by great bhaktas who had actually seen and experienced Shri Krishna’s Lila.
In this recording, His Holiness Shri Prathameshji ends one of his amazing teaching sessions by leading the audience in the traditional concluding kirtan, the following poem by the famous blind bhakta-poet, Surdas:
I have firm faith in Shri Vallabh’s lotus feet.
Without the moonbeams that shine from His toenails,
the entire world falls into darkness.
In this age of struggle, there is no other practice
by which to attain true liberation.
Sings Sur, I may be blind in two ways,
but I am His priceless servant.
During the month of Shravan, occurring roughly in August, Shri Krishna plays with all of His bhaktas in Vrindavan by the door of His Lila bower, filling them with His inner nectar. During Shravan, Shri Krishna daily swings in a Hindola, which can be painted, studded with jewels or mirrors, decorated with fruits or flowers, or can be made of silver or even gold. Shri Harirayaji explains in a kirtan:
Swing, swing, swing – Beloved Krishna, swing!
A golden Hindola stands by Yamuna’s banks,
surrounded by lovely blossoming trees and vines.
Rasika Pritam sings, “When I see this, the pains of my heart are relieved.”
[excerpted from Path of Grace by Shyamdas]
They swing together, arm in arm.
Look by the door of the fresh forest bower – see the splendor all around!
Krishna first plays a full scale on His flute, then plays a protracted tone, and then softens the note.
Sings Swami Haridas, “Radha plays in Krishna’s bower.
When I behold that divine beauty, I give everything else away.”
Radhe Radhe! If you are in the New York area don’t miss this intimate devotional retreat at the serene Ananda Ashram. I consider Ananda to be my home-ashram, where I have been visiting and leading programs for decades. We will have plenty of time and the lovely space to explore bhakti teachings, stories, mantras, songs, and more. anandaashram.org
Arjun Bruggeman is featured on Shyamdas’s Songs of Sweetness album and joins him for several events every summer. Shyamdas and Arjun combine their passions for rhythm and improv to create spontaneous bhava well worth witnessing — and taking part in!
Arjuna is Krishna Das’s primary touring and recording tabla accompanist. He studied classical percussion under Michael Frashe and tabla with Zakir Hussain, Ty Burhoe, and Benjy Wertheimer.
Adam Baba — doesn’t this photo say it all? A blissful, benevolent being who loves to “bhaj.” His humor and goodness are matched only by the spiritual funk he conjures up with his bass, enough to get anyone in the divine mood. Connect with this soul brother at one of Shyamdas’s many New England events, like the Boston Chant Fest, Omega, and others. Sample Adam Baba’s groovy bhajan bass from Shyamdas’s Songs of Sweetness album, below:
We are fortunate to have a musician of the caliber of Steve Gorn (stevegorn.com) in the U.S., offering virtuoso bansuri flute performance and accompaniment. Shyamdas and his audiences are thrilled by Steve’s presence in a number of Shyamdas kirtans every year, as he accentuates the devotional heights and depths of the divine praise that is kirtan. Steve G offered this hauntingly beautiful finishing touch to the “Grace Goddess Yamunaji” track of Shyamdas’s Beloved Chants.
What to say of Naren? One of the sweetest people you could hope to meet, as well as most versatile and sensitive tabla artists you could hope to hear. He accompanies dance, instrumental, and vocal artists in an astounding array of musical genres, a testimony to his broad aesthetic sensibilities. Naren regularly supports Shyamdas in venues in and around New York city. You are sure to enjoy any performance and conversation with this remarkable man. Here’s a sample of his tabla wizardry, from Shyamdas’s album Sweet Radhe!
The following passage is from the famous Puranic text, the Shrimad Bhagavatam, in the section called the Venu Gita — the Song of the Flute. The original Sanskrit can be found in any copy of the Bhagavatam. Shyamdas also included this passage in the introduction to his text, The Teachings of Shri Vallabhacharya
varhapidam natavaravapuh karnayoh karnikaram
vibhradavdasah kanakakapisam vaijayantim ca malam
randhran venoradharasudhaya purayan gopavrndaih
vrndaranyam svapadaramanam pravisad gitakirtih
Shri Krishna is adorned with a peacock feather, and His ears are graced with flowers. His shawl is the color of brilliant gold. He wears a garland made of forest flowers and appears as the Actor-Husband. He is the Swaminis’ choice, their Lord and Husband. He fills the holes of His flute with the nectar from His lips. His praises are sung as He enters Vrindavan, surrounded by His cowlad friends. His lotus feet appear splendid and create dalliance wherever they touch the earth.
Shyamdas also sang these lovely verses on his first CD, Beloved Chants (track 2: “Krishna”)