This week I had the pleasure of hearing some of the Srimad Bhagavatam being chanted. The Srimad Bhagavatam is an ancient yoga text that talks about the life of Lord Krishna.
Was I in India to hear such a thing? Nope, I was in Putney at the London Sivananda Centre in the company of Sri Venugopal Goswami and his wonderful musicians. Based in India in Vrindavan – the birthplace of Lord Krishna – they visit London every year for seven nights of chanting, chatting and meditation.
Sri Venugopal sits on high in front of about 20 people and expertly chants and interweaves readings from the text.
The tambura drones throughout and we’re transported to a land of Krishna and his gopis. “We chant a little” announces Sri Venugopal and his cross-legged musicians perk up. A slight Indian guy with a cheeky grin and an 80’s mullet begins expertly flicking his wrists and fingers on the tabla drum. The pace quickens and the gruff-looking harmonium player gets lost in the music.
Sri Venugopal closes his eyes and his chanting transports us to Vrindavan. We sit and easily forget our snowy, cold London day. And just as quickly as the chanting started, it stops and he talks.
He talks of Stalin. Though I’m sure this is his own addition and not a Srimad Bhagavatam original…
He talks of devotion and the heart. He talks of karma yoga and selfless actions: one man checks up on his neighbour as he hadn’t seen him for a month and was concerned. “Why would you just be coming to say hello?” asked the neighbour suspiciously. Sri Venugopal says how sad it is that we now live in a time when people think that there must be an ulterior motive. You can’t just do something to be kind.
He talks of the ego: imagine a thick block of ice (very easy to imagine at the moment) and a small candle sitting alongside. No matter how small the flame, gradually the ice will melt. The ice is our ego and the flame is chanting, meditation and yoga. Little by little these teachings reduce our ego. How good is that.
I was surrounded by familiar faces and some unexpected ones too. It was a lovely night and I look forward to their return.
*Title courtesy of that famous yogi, 50 Cent and his song, ‘In da club‘. Yes, I can do pop culture too.