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Jai Shri Radhe Shyam! What a difference this year’s summer rains have made! I can’t wait to get back to the Shyam Forest, and I hope you’ll come by to see your tree soon too! Our project manager Prakash reports that 35 of our 200 trees needed replanting…not a bad figure considering all the hazards and severe weather. In these most recent photos you can see our friend Nitai Prabhu lent a hand, alongside hired labor and a gardener, as they weeded the tree guards, trimmed the lower branches, increased the trenches around the base to add natural cowdung fertilizer and water. Prakash hand selected new saplings from Mathura, mostly Neem, Sisam, and Ashok trees, which have proven to do well at this site. Once the rains trail off we will resume twice monthly water tankers to keep the trees growing happily. At any time you can still contribute a new tree guard with your name or that of a loved one, group or organization. Thank you for helping to keep Govardhan green in Shyamdas’ memory!


In 2016 may we all move closer to Nirodha, the continual state of divine awareness Shyamdas described as follows in Inner Goddess: Nirodha is defined in yogic literature as restraining the tendencies of the wandering senses through the practice of yoga. The nirodha that arose in Vrindavan, however, was not achieved through practice; it was a matter of God’s grace. It occurred when the Gopis became so attached to Hari that they simply forgot the false world. It created for them endless connections with Hari everywhere. In this way, Shri Krishna bound the Gopis into His reality.

Thanks to your generous support, we were able to offer prasad (blessed foods) to pilgrims at the Govardhan Hill on this year’s full moon Christmas Day! Our esteemed guests Janaki (pictured with a sacred cow) and Simha (photo and video credits) were able to participate and enjoyed the scene very much. It got a little intense for a moment there, as you can see in this video. People clearly love prasad!


Janaki Christmas cow prasad


Jatipura turban prasad



If inspired to share prasad with others please do consider supporting this prasad project.

Divali Govind Kund

Wishing everyone an auspicious Diwali (the festival of lights) and Annakut (the celebration of Krisha’s lifting the Govardhan Hill and accepting their mountain of sweet food offerings). As Shri Milan Goswami explained this year, the festival of Diwali is truly fruitful when, through the power of grace, the Beloved guru gives the illumination of the shelter of the Lord of Sweetness, dispelling our ignorance and mayic entanglements. If we can accept that shelter, offer everything to the Beloved, and relinquish unrelated attachments, our Annakut utsav is truly fruitful.


Shyamdasji has given us a glimpse into these sacred celebrations in his book, The Path of Grace, the cover of which depicts the Annakut celebration as it takes place in Nathdvara.

2009_pathofgrace_cover_600


DIWALI
Kartik Krishna 15

This major festival of the quarter marks the end of the Hindu calendar year. Shri Krishna wears clothes of silver brocade and a fan-shaped plume of peacock feathers. His ornaments are made from diamonds, rubies and emeralds. Cows are also ornamented and brought into the temple. For some days before this festival, Shri Krishna sits in a Hatari, a pavilion of mirrors where Krishna sells various sweets and other goods and tries to attract the Gopis. He bargains in the currency of love. The bhakta poet Paramananda Das sings of the occasion:

Raga Kanharo

Today is the auspicious day of Diwali.
The Vraj ladies gather and sing auspicious songs.
They decorate the courtyard by the auspicious gate.
Fruits, nuts, sweets and fried foods
are brought on a golden tray.
Paramananda Das follows Shri Krishna,
who is adorned with precious garments and jewels.

[Listen to Shyamdas’ kirtan teacher Mishralalji singing this poem by clicking here]


ANNAKUTA
Kartik Shukla 1

This festival takes place on the day after Diwali and is the most renowned festival of the Pushti Marg. It is the day when Shri Krishna persuaded the inhabitants of Vraj to worship the Govardhan Hill and cows instead of Indra, the rain god. Then Shri Krishna Himself became the Govardhan Hill, and with a thousand arms, enjoyed all the offerings. In a jealous wrath, Indra showered destructive rains on Vraj, and Shri Krishna lifted the entire Govardhan Hill with one finger, protecting everyone. In this Lila, Shri Krishna directs the bhaktas’ worship away from the material divinities, towards the Supreme Brahman.
To this day, a huge mountain of rice and many other items are all offered to Shri Krishna. Cows are beautifully decorated with peacock feathers on their heads and brought into the temple, with anklet bells tied to their hooves. The backs of the cowherds and the cows are marked with red handprints, for red is the color of love.

Raga Sarang

See Hari eat with a thousand arms.
Over there He is talking with the Gopis.
Lalita says to Radha, “See, there He is!
The One who inhabits your heart.”
Blessed are all those who live
with the Lord of Gokul.
Nanda is elated to see Him eat.
All the men and women of Gokul are also full of joy.
Sings Surdas, “Krishna is an ocean of bliss and full of virtue.
Now He dances to the beat of the Gopis’ clapping hands.”

[Listen to Shyamdas’ kirtan teacher Mishralalji singing this poem by clicking here]

The Shyamdas Foundation proudly announces its prasad distribution program, led by Madan Mohan

Jai Shri Radhe! Anyone who encountered Shyamdas knows he loved to feed others! It is at the heart of the compassionate, culinary, devotional tradition of Vaishnavism which he followed and shared. “Bhakti” after all comes from the Sanskrit root “bhaj” which means to “distribute, share.” Shyamdas’ lifelong friend and companion Mohan is thrilled to be administrating this new Shyamdas Foundation project distributing prasad (foods first offered to God) to locals, pilgrims and animals passing by the Mathuradheesh temple, where Shyamdas lived by the side of the Govardhan Hill, and the sacred town of Krishna’s childhood plays, Gokul, where Shyamdas also lived for many years.

If inspired to share prasad with others please do consider supporting this prasad project.

 

The Shyamdas Foundation proudly announces its prasad distribution program, led by Madan Mohan

Prasad Project 5

Prasad Project 8Mohan giving roti to dog in GokulPrasad Project 4Prasad Project 6Mohan feeding dog Gokul

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Jai Radhe! Thank you all for welcoming and following us on Instagram! We find this platform to be a classy option for sharing our favorite photos and inspirations with you all, so please follow us (shyamdasfoundation)! Check for our Sanskrit Sunday posts, photo contests, latest project photos, inspirational Shyamdas quotes and memes, and more. Click on our social media links at the bottom area of our webpages to connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and Soundcloud to keep up with all the latest Shyamdas-inspired posts.

 

 

Bhaktifest Midwest 2015 Booth

Jai Shri Krishna! To all who stopped by our table to talk and reminisce about Shyamdas, to inquire about our mission and projects, and to peruse Shyamdas’ bhakti publications, thank you! It was a true pleasure to meet and share satsang with you all. As usual, many attendees at Bhaktifest were remembering their ecstatic meetings with Shyamdas and the power of his voice and presence, and expressed the longing to learn more of his life and legacy.

Our deep thanks to Sridhar, Amy, Mark, Samantha and the rest of the Bhaktifest production crew for allowing us to attend and represent the Foundation, and to Narayan, Vitthaldas, Madhu, Amit, and Yoga Now Chicago for the inspiration and support getting there. I was invited up to the main stage on multiple occasions to speak, read from Shyamdas’ books and invite everyone to our upcoming Kirtan Retreat at Ananda Ashram.

Bhaktifest Midwest artist David Newman (Durga Das), whom we are thrilled to have sing for us on Sunday afternoon at our Ananda retreat this fall, spoke lovingly of Shyamdas during his beautiful acoustic bhakti workshop, which was one of the highlights of the weekend in my book!

Saul David Raye, a dear friend and frequent guest at Shyamdas’ residence in Braj, eloquently offered his gratitude and admiration for Shyamdas during his absolutely ecstatic mainstage performance.

Govind Das, a true bhakta and loving host of our Bhakti Yoga Shala event last week, remembered Shyamdas sweetly at Bhaktifest Midwest and continues to support the Shyamdas Foundation and our future trajectory.

Nina Rao, who delighted all as usual at Bhaktifest with her Hanuman Chalisa workshops and kirtans, offered us her invaluable advice for the planning of the Foundation’s upcoming kirtan festival and will join us there, September 25-27 at Ananda Ashram…Hope you can all be there too!

Until then, jai ho, and stay in the bhava!

Shri Prathameshji performs his daily sandhya prayers with a painting of Shri Vallabhacharya in background

Today the First House of the Path of Grace (the Pushtimarg Pratham Peeth) celebrates the auspicious birthday of Shyamdas’ guru, His Holiness Shri Prathameshji. Shyamdas spoke and wrote about the priceless teachings Prathameshji blessed him with and their close relationship. From giving Shyamdas a room to live in by the Govardhan Hill, gracing him with initiation and seva, guiding him in all matters personal and devotional, encouraging him to speak, write and teach about bhakti, and simply filling his life with laughter and joy, Prathameshji was clearly an enormous influence on Shyamdas’ life.

Shri Prathameshji performs his daily sandhya prayers with a painting of Shri Vallabhacharya in background

Shri Prathameshji performs his daily sandhya prayers with a painting of Shri Vallabhacharya in background

 

 

In honor of this blessed occasion we have uploaded a kirtan sung by Prathameshji, recorded by Shyamdas. Besides Shyamdas and the others present at that time, it has probably never been heard before. It is one of the longest and perhaps richest tracks available of Prathameshji’s captivating, bhava-filled singing.

 

Click to enjoy this audio-restored first-time release of Prathameshji singing “Banaṭhana kahā ju cale ho.” Experience more of the sacred guru-disciple relationship and teaching treasures of Prathameshji by listening to Shyamdas’ “Island Talk” in which he describes their meeting and lives together. You may also enjoy this photo album of Prathameshji and Shyamdas, as well as the following excerpt from the book Ocean of Grace: The Teachings of His Holiness Shri Prathameshji:


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. As he once told me, “To sing of the Lilas of Hari is the fastest flight to God.”

On the evening of His Holiness’ birth in 1930, the outline of Shri Krishna’s lotus footprints appeared, in red powder, on the floor of his father’s temple courtyard in Jatipura. His father, Goswami Dwarkeshji Maharaja, commented at that time, “He will certainly be a very powerful lineage holder.” By the time His Holiness was fifteen, he was already an accomplished pundit, speaker, and musician. I had the fortune of meeting him in his home in Jatipura, near Vrindavan, when he was forty-three years old. I was nineteen.

His Holiness gave me many teachings and amazing explanations of his lineage, the blessed Path of Grace. Whenever he spoke, the meaning of the words filled my heart. My greatest pleasure was to be around him. Some years later, having noticed that His Holiness kept many accomplished scholars, musicians, Ayurvedic doctors, and artists around him, I asked him, “Why do you keep me around?”

He answered, “Your position here is to simply hang out and shoot the breeze with me.” I felt very blessed to be given that appointment. After living with Goswami Prathameshji for several years and reflecting upon his empowerments, I came to understand that the most important thing is not how much you know, but how to apply your wisdom to devotion. He showed me that it is not a matter of how well you sing, but of how much bhava you sing with. It is to always sing for the right reason: for the pleasure of God, and to serve Shri Krishna, for His pleasure. His Holiness pointed me towards the blessed path, wherein everything in life is an effortless offering to the Beloved.

In Praise of Vallabh book cover

Tomorrow, on April 15, the Pushtimarg world Shyamdas inhabited and loved will celebrate the appearance day of its founder, Shri Vallabhacharya. On this auspicious occasion, we are pleased to announce the impending release of the 3rd edition of Shyamdas’ book In Praise of Vallabh: The Vallabhakhyan of Gopaldas. The following excerpts from the introduction and text hint at what tomorrow’s celebration is all about and give a taste of what’s to come in this June 2015 book release:

 


“I have spent many years in this pilgrim guesthouse in Gokul, listening to the satsang of the bhaktas who live downstairs. The monkey bars in their windows and mine are the only barriers between us. The sweet fragrance of their bhakti-soaked voices wafts into my room at about 4:30 am and continues throughout the day and late into the night. Their voices have nourished me. They are my inspiration for undertaking this translation of Gopaldas’ sixteenth century Vallabhakhyan, originally composed in Gujarati. The bhaktas downstairs recite the Vallabhakhyan every evening, and while hearing their songs I look up towards the Vrindavan sky, where Shri Krishna resides as the moon, and I taste a bit of what they have been living. If a small portion of that essence appears in this work, then my efforts in this joyful undertaking have been well spent…”

NEW cover image In Praise of Vallabh

In this second Akhyan, Gopaldas sings of Shri Vallabhacharya, the incarnation of Shri Krishna’s face and the founder of the Path of Grace. Gopaldas tells us how Shri Vallabhacharya appeared in order to connect grace-filled beings with the blissful lila.

The son of Shri Lakshman, Shri Vallabhacharya,
  is the emperor of devotion.
Bad karmas dissipate simply by remembering him.
He provides the way for souls to get through
  this age of struggle.

The Vedas continually praise his form and profile.
They contemplate his blissful being
  and matchless beauty,
  yet cannot ascertain his end.

Shri Vallabh’s face glows like Vrindavan’s full moon.
He is the incarnation of fire, the chief of the Brahmins,
  and his name is known throughout the three worlds.
He has taken on an incomparable form.

Shri Vallabh is the replete being.
Nectars flow as he bestows his teachings on Vedanta.

He manifests upon this earth
  with unmeasured brilliance and purity.
He is both the sun and the moon.
Shri Vallabh is the saffron tiger
  who shattered the elephant-like pride
  of Shankaracharya’s Mayavadian teachings.

On the pretense of pilgrimage,
  Shri Vallabh was spiritually victorious in every direction.
He uplifted all the holy places
  with the dust that touched his feet.

He set his souls firmly on the path
  and awarded them the highest joy of worship.
He gave them Krishna mantra,
  creating an auspicious sweetness in their mouths.

With his opulent, soft feet like a lotus,
  he toured many lands,
  showering grace upon numerous souls.
Blessed, I say, are the places he visited.

[copyright Sacred Woods, 2002]
Pratham Peeth Publications

We are thrilled to report that the Shyamdas Foundation began planting your trees and tree guards by the sacred Govardhan Hill last week. With logistical support and permission from the government Forest Service, we have planted more than 50 trees, in two rows, and aim to complete 150 more in the upcoming week.

We are grateful to all of you for your support and giving us this seva opportunity. We are fortunate also to have the selfless service of Devaki Pran Baba of Radha Kund, who has spent many hours assisting us with planning and planting! He can be seen working hard in these photos, along with manager Prakash and local assistant Shankar. There is much work to do, and more updates to come…

It’s never too late to plant a tree in the Shyam Forest in your name, in memory of a loved one, or as a gift on a special occasion. Click here to contribute to the Shyamdas Foundation’s reforestation seva project today.

tree guards rows Hill 2tree guards srutiram lagate tree guard rows Hilltree guards grouptree guard dawnTree guards devaki planting

Click here to visit our archive and listen to a newly added recording of Shyamdas reading from his book, The Call of the Flute (pp 25-50). We restored the sound from a more than 20 year old cassette tape as best as we could, and hope you will enjoy hearing the voice of a younger Shyamdas, exuberant as ever.

The content is of course brilliant. These are Shyamdas’ own favorite teachings: the Bhagavat Purana literature describing the Gopis’ love for Krishna, illuminated by the Subodhini commentary of Shyamdas’ chosen philosopher-guru, Shri Vallabhacharya.

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