Friday, February 29, 2008

Course 2: Sanskrit and Puja/Homa Studies @ Veda Vijnana Gurukulam (Continued)... I Don't Want to Leave This Place

I must mention that all of my classes are one-on-one. Every single one of them is interesting. Let me tell you a little bit about my teachers here, in order of my schedule.


First at 7:00 AM there is vedakakshyaa (check the previous post for my schedule). Srivatsa Acharya is 21 years old, a 5th-year here. He’s one of the funniest people I have ever met. But he has such good pronunciation, the likes of which people at home have never seen before. He’s a great teacher. And he gives me time, if I start laughing or something during the chanting (because sometimes it sounds really funny to me). The way this class works is, he chants one line and I’m supposed to repeat after him twice. Sometimes when he chants it’s so funny, and when it’s my turn, I can’t even start because I’m laughing so hard. Then he starts laughing too, and it’s a great time. For a couple of days I had a cold, and my nose was blocked, so when there came parts where the letter “m” or “n” had to be said, or a nasal accent had to be made, I couldn’t do it, and we laughed so hard… for those who have heard Vedic chanting before you know how funny it sometimes sounds. Outside of class, Srivatsa Acharya is a joker through and through. He doesn’t know English very well at all (he knows all the grammar rules – words like preposition and participle – but speaking is another story). And he knows it’s funny when he speaks English, so he speaks it all the time and is almost never right… it really is hilarious.


Next comes my Subhaashitanikakshyaa. Naagaraaja Acharya is an alumnus of this Gurukulam, having come out of it only last year. This is his first year teaching, and he is really good at it. We have some of the most interesting discussions about different verses from different scriptures that are especially meaningful. Since he’s an actual teacher here, he’s a little more serious during class, but outside of class he’s just like one of the kids. Actually he’s younger than a good chunk of the 5th and 6th-year students here so it’s easy for him to be one with the students… and he just graduated last year so he probably knows all of them super well anyway.


Really quickly, this Gurukulam does not provide a certificate at the end of the 6 years here. In fact, people come here only out of their own will, and nothing more. Most students here take correspondence courses at universities or colleges and get credits from them, but remain in the Gurukulam environment. I think that’s such a great idea because the richness of life training you get here is unparalleled. So when I say “graduated from the Gurukulam” it means that they simply went through the 6 years here. Each and every student here is looked at independently, surveyed, analyzed, and evaluated by the main Acharya, Ramachandra Bhatt Acharya. He’s a really unique guy, I’ll get into my description about him later.


Anyways next comes my class with Mahabaleshwar Acharya. He is an actual Acharya here as well, and also graduated from the Gurukulam only. He is my puja homashcha kakshyaa teacher and my interaction with him is the most interesting out of all of my teachers. All my classes are in Sanskrit, but this one requires a lot of explanation because there are lots of concepts that I don’t understand, regarding doing a puja. I am not that good at Sanskrit and he is not so good at English, and so we compromise a lot and it makes for a lot of laughter sometimes. He’s such a deep guy… I don’t think I can really ever comprehend everything that goes on in his head all the time. But he’s really interesting – We talk about some of the deepest concepts and somehow always come to some kind of understanding. He was the first one to take care of me here and he is in charge of my well-being, and he’s doing a wonderful job.


At 2:30 PM my sangeetakakshyaa with Shivaji Acharya is probably one of the best things that has happened to me in the past few months. I am learning a new instrument, called the venu, which I can say that I have wanted to play for the longest time, and am finally getting to learn it. When I come back, hopefully I’ll be good? I’m going to try to continue my training in venu all the way until I go back to America. We’ll see how it goes! I’m learning karnatic style of playing right now, (which should make some of you happy, I know) but then when I go to Varanasi we’ll see what happens. It may transform into hindustani style. But either way, I don’t want to stop playing the venu. It truly is a divine instrument, no wonder Krishna used to play it! Shivaji Acharya teaches so well. He has been teaching me different raagas (sets of notes) and I try to improvise (if you’ve ever heard me play the piano, that’s all I do… it is just my style). It’s a ton of fun!


After that, I have my yogakakshyaa at 5:00 PM, with Bharata Acharya. He’s such an interesting person. He comes from a city background (raised in Bangalore City), and has such interesting opinions – we have some really deep conversations/arguments/discussions. It’s pretty cool. He was the first student we met when I entered the Gurukulam, and he was the one who gave us the tour. I had a good opinion of him then, and I still do now, so that speaks well for itself, I think. I can’t say much about him. Actually, every single one of the students here knows so much… I’m so happy to just know them… they each have the potential to run a country, such is the training they are getting, so the ones with the courage to stand up to the world will reach some great heights, I think. I only hope that some of their wisdom has rubbed off on me while I have been here!


At 7:00 PM my sambhaashanakakshyaa happens with Arvinda Agraja, who is kind of my guide and role model here at the Gurukulam (I’m probably not supposed to say that, but oh well it’s true). He’s a fifth-year student here from Chennai, and speaks Sanskrit, Kannada, Hindi, English, Telugu, Tamil, and Malayalam (not in any specific order). He was the first guy to really take care of me here, and I’ve grown to like him a lot since. We share a lot of things in common, including nakshatra, gotram, and ideas about how to change the world. In this class, we just talk. It’s basically to improve my fluency in Sanskrit, but sometimes when it gets really intense we switch off between Sanskrit, English, and Hindi. It’s a really interesting session every time.


Finally at 8:30 PM my grammar class, vyaakaranakakshyaa, with Tilaka Acharya happens. He is a sixth-year student here, and he knows everything. I am in amazement every time he pulls out some root for some word here and there without any referencing! He’s like the Hermione of this Gurukulam. But I think that is why they appointed him as my grammar teacher! My real interaction with him really only happens during class, but whatever it is, I’m just in awe of him.


I don’t want to leave this place. I have received so much from this Gurukulam, and I feel like the only way I can properly give back is by learning more and more and just applying what I learn here. But there’s no time! Time schedules suck. I was actually just given a few gifts from the Gurukulam:


  1. A brand new venu (flute) from Mysore, brought by Shivaji Acharya.
  2. A new veshti, which I received during my upanayanam.
  3. A pure silken angavastram (the top garment), given to me by the main Acharya himself.
  4. A ton of music.

(Yeah, be jealous).


So I have to leave today itself at 3:00 PM with Ashwin Mama, who is coming to pick me up…


watersquash said...

a ton of music? *intrigued voice*

you are doing awesome :) <-- I didn't use smiley faces before you

talk to me soon!
lots of love,

mary said...

VARUN ...loved the HP comparison!! ..understand that the 6th movie is coming SOOON! (like november soon!) PS....i am so sad for you to be sad to leave the school -BUT realize that you have MUCH learning to do ahead of you, and in no way should you compare the experience which lay ahead to those you've just had and loved so much... i know that you will appreciate EVERY part of the journey... can't wait to hear more =)

love you lots!


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Anonymous said...

Varun Agraja! This place sounds so cool! I wish I could go! I'm glad we are emailing each other! I'd like to ask you a few things regarding your amazing experience here!