Learning the Art of Mantra and Vedic Chanting

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with Paul Harvey in the Cotswolds

Paul was taught Mantra and Vedic Chanting privately within 121 lessons by his teacher TKV Desikachar over 20 years. As well as studying Chanting, he also studied Indian singing through 121 lessons in Chennai within both the traditional Indian Carnatic and Hindustani music systems.

Paul also explored the application of Indian voice work in the West with some of the leading proponents of Indian Rāga singing and movement fusion workshops and Indian Rāga 121 vocal skills lessons.

Originally it was during Pauls continuing visits to study the Arts and Practices of Yoga from 1979 with Desikachar in India that he became exposed to the Art of Mantra, Veda and Yoga Chanting. It was taught by his teacher both as a method of transmission for sacred texts and teachings and as a personalised Sādhana through which one became deeply focused as well as facilitating access to the profundity of an experience of the Sacred.

This experience and the other benefits such as a deepening confidence in the message of the heart, improvements in memory through the teaching and learning processes, confidence and power arising in the sound of our own voice, led Paul in 1985 to begin nearly 20 years of formal study with his teacher.

Desikachar and Paul Chanting in 1999Though having had no prior training in singing, the use of the voice, in Western or Eastern music or ever having played a musical instrument, Paul began a formal study and practice of the art of Mantra and Yoga Chanting. Meeting within the traditional 121 setting of teacher and student, the Mantra would be taught through the ancient method of personal transmission through working individually and privately with the teacher.

This involved refining the art of listening by repeating what was heard, traditionally two or three times, until it exactly matched what was being chanted. Learning primarily under his teacher and, through his guidance and recommendation for Vedic Mantra and Yoga Chant material, also working within additional 121 lessons with Desikachar’s own senior-most Chanting students including Sujaya Sridhar and Desikachar’s wife Menaka Desikachar. Through these many 121 resources, to refine both Vedic and Yoga Chanting, Paul’s interest in this ancient art and practice flourished.

The influence and value of chanting to steady the mind and open the heart was soon appreciated by many and this has led to the story today.

“To share Chanting is to share an experience of silence through listening,
a process of healing, and a link with nature, the deeper self and the divine.”
– TKV Desikachar

However, as with any aspect of the viniyoga of learning, it is only through personal transmission within 121 lessons that the individual needs of the student can be truly met in terms of pronouncing and pitch, timing and strength, maintaining a note and continuity of breath and sound. A process possible with the help of a careful methodology, a student committed to a personal Chanting Sādhana and a persistent teacher.

From this slow beginning Paul began to teach the Art of Sound, Veda Mantra and Yoga Sūtra Chanting in the West from 1986.

As interest in the practice of Vedic Chanting grew in the UK with it also arose a blurring of the boundaries between Yoga and Indian religion. Thus a distinction between Yoga teachings and practice and the Hindu religious practice of Vedic Chanting was established in 1999, at the personal request of TKV Desikachar to Paul and other of his senior pupils, as a separate aspect from the teaching of the viniyoga of Yoga.

This was both in order to clarify the confusing boundaries appearing between Yoga body, breath, voice and mind practices and the Indian religious practices within which Vedic chanting resides, as well as to offer and develop the teaching of Vedic Chanting as a specific reflective and meditative personal Sādhana for all interested in this ancient Indian tradition.

“Unfortunately, many people are not able to differentiate between Yoga and Hinduism.
This is the biggest blunder I have seen in many institutions.”
From an interview with TKV Desikachar

During this time it had as its core a group of students who had studied Vedic Chanting for many years with Paul through 121 lessons.

“I think, that all those who want to practise Vedic chanting must be able to do so,
provided there is no confusion with Patañjali’s Yoga.”
– TKV Desikachar

Paul’s focus these days continues to be on the transmission of Yoga Sūtra Chanting and Veda Mantra through:

121 Personal lessons for the refinement of core practice skills and cultivation and progression of a personalised Chant and Mantra Sādhana.

Module One Small Group Workshops for the theory of Saṃskṛta and study and practice of core Chant principles.

Module Two Small Group Courses for the application and practice of advanced Yoga Sūtra Chanting.

Module Two Small Group Courses for the application and practice of advanced Vedic Mantra Chanting.

As well as 121 Lessons, Workshops and Courses, a traditional Vedic Mantra Chanting Saṅga is offered monthly free near Stroud as a support for all interested in exploring, learning and experiencing the ancient Art of Mantra and Vedic Chant.

Each meeting will focus on developing the principles of Vedic Chant and authentic Saṃskṛta Mantra practice through practical experience along with theory teaching on Chant and Saṃskṛta.

These meetings will be Monthly at Paul’s home studio, near Stroud, on Wednesday evenings from 6.45 – 8.00pm.

The maximum size in this and all group situations will be limited to a maximum of five students and there will be no fee for joining the monthly group or the ongoing sessions.

All are welcome to apply though a consistent commitment would be helpful for both student and teacher.

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