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”)
The poet Rasakhan was a gay, Muslim born Krishna bhakta who lived in the 16th century. I guess you could say he was radical! Shyamdas, like the rest of India, is very fond of his works, and in 2007 he translated a collection entitled The Poems of Rasakhan: Treasure House of Love, which includes this poem, “Unfathomable.” It is without a doubt one of the most widely recognized poems throughout North India. At Shyamdas’s kirtan events, you will notice any Indians in the audience singing along to this one — at least the last line. Next time you can too!
shesha, ganesha, mahesha, dinesha, suresha hu jahi nirantara gavain
jahi anadi ananta akhanda acheda abheda su veda batavain
narada se suka vyasa rahain paci hare tau puni para na pavain
tahi ahira ki chohariyan chachiya bhari chacha pai naca nacavain
The gods Shesh, Ganesh, Mahesh, Suresh and Dinesh constantly sing of Him Who is beginningless, endless, unlimited, indestructible, void of differences, and revealed in the Vedas. Narada, Sukha, and Vyasa are exhausted from searching for Him — they can never fathom His limits. Yet, the dairymaids of Vrindavan can make Him dance – for a sip of buttermilk from the palm of their hands!
And yes, I selected this poem because Shyamdas also sang it for you on his CD, Sweet Radhe! (track 3 “Rasakhan I”). Click on the play button below to listen
A boat cruise on the Shri Hudson-ji River and a crew of kirtaneers — a boat full of bhajan! Be sure to join us next time for this awesome annual event.
Interview with Shyamdas by Hinduism Today, May 1986
Hinduism Today. Please tell us how you became involved so deeply in the Vallabhacharya Sampradaya.
Shyamdas: I went to India originally to meet a teacher, Neem Karoli Baba, who was the guru of Ram Dass. He resided in Vrindavan as well as in the Himalayas. So I went to Vrindavan to meet him and remained in the Vrindavan area, a 168-mile region which encompasses all the areas sacred to Lord Krishna. I eventually took initiation into the Pushti Marg Sampradaya about a year or two afterwards. I lived by the Govardhan Hill, which is the Hill which Lord Krishna held to ward off Indra’s rains for 7 days. There, I studied with various bhaktas and acharyas on Vaisnava Vedanta. Read More→
(Excerpt from Inner Goddess by Shyamdas. Pratham Peeth Publications, 2009)
Shri Krishna revealed His Lordship when He stole the Gopis’ clothes and returned them infused with His Essence. The Glorious Lord revealed His Potency when He accepted food from the Brahmins’ wives. In the following play Shri Krishna turned His people towards His Blessed Self and thereby displayed His Fame. Read More→
An Excerpt from Ecstatic Couplets by Shyamdas (Pratham Peeth Publications, 2010)
The Eastern yogic paths, as well as other philosophical and spiritual disciplines throughout the world, have been established to guide us through reality toward their own brand of fullness – or even emptiness. Their adherents may see the world as an impermanent illusion; others, as a place of retribution; while still others believe in only its physical substance. Some seek total absorption into the infinite, where all sense of individuality is dissolved into universal consciousness, while other faithful souls seek a personal Beloved who is the source of all things. Some meditate, practice yoga, chant, pray, or follow their own unique path, while some claim to do none of the above. Read More→
(Excerpt from Krishna’s Inner Circle: The Ashta Chhap Poets, by Shyamdas. Pratham Peeth Publications.)
Raga is one of the main kinds of service offered to one’s deity in the devotional path. Raga may be interpreted as “love,” or as “music.” In the 16th century devotional renaissance in India, poems were sung when recited, and the great mystic poets of those times were often great musicians. Therefore, the poetry composed by the eight Ashta Chhap poets is meant to be sung to music. Its essence is rhythmic invocation, and its real meaning is best expressed when performed as part of devotional service. Read More→
First published at Hinduism Today, November 1997
From the 12th to 16th century in India, a Bhakti Renaissance occurred in which five great schools of Vaishnavism arose. Each school was founded by one of five saints, Ramanuja, Madhva, Nimbarka, Vallabha and Chaitanya. The Pushti Marg, the “Path of Grace” of Shri Vallabhacharya, is one of these five and is followed today by tens of millions of people, mostly from northern and western India. This school is unique within Vaishnavism for its philosophy of suddhadvaita, or “pure non-dualism.” Among the Vaishnava, Krishna worshipping traditions, only this tradition teaches that Krishna is everything, and everything is Krishna. Read More→