Members Talk: Joy Graham on training to become a TSYP Vedic Chant Teacher

Joy Graham, a TSYP member who lives in Oregon in the United States, describes her journey on the recent Vedic Chant Teacher Training course taught by Radha Sundararajan, Helen Macpherson and Gill Lloyd. Joy was one of the 22 course participants, who came from the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, Estonia, Sweden and the United States.

Enchanting location

I attended the three week-long modules of the TSYP Teacher Training course that was held in Scotland once a year from 2017 to 2019. The venue was Lendrick Lodge, a wonderful large old house situated on a rushing stream in the Trossachs National Forest near the small town of Callander. The area is enchanting, with lush walking trails and lochs, and wonderful surprises at every turn.

We had a daily schedule of breakfast, chant, lunch, Sanskrit and chant, application in asana and pranayama, dinner and lastly, an evening session of song and chant in front of a beautiful fire in the Gathering Room. 

A rewarding training

When I first learned Vedic Chant, it was by listening to the teacher and then reading the Romanised transliterated Sanskrit. During the course we learned the Devanagari transliteration of Sanskrit, which is the official script in India for Sanskrit. After lunch each day we spent time learning this script. At home I was able to dedicate 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week to learning the script. This allowed me to learn it so that I can read the script and write it. I still practise writing it and it has inspired and helped me continue my deeper inquiry into the Sanskrit language, the sources of Vedic Chant and to understand more fully all the nomenclature and metaphors that are used in the mantras.

We learned the rules of chant pertaining to the invocatory and closing chants, and 15 other chants moving from the simpler to the more complex, practising them progressively. We also learned meditation practices that included chant. The meanings of each chant were also taught. It was a 185-hour Training, consisting of 115 hours in the 3 modules, and 70 hours for the weekends, with our own study on top of that. Living abroad, I was not able to attend the weekend classes that were part of the course. Luckily, I was able to meet with one of the instructors on Skype to receive the additional course material and ask any questions I might have. One could add 100 hours of personal private study hours to both of those figures (making 285 and 232 hours respectively).

I also learned that each mantra in the chants holds all the seeds of pure truth and as we chant, we return to this infinite light, that is benevolent, loving goodness, wisdom, beauty and vibrant life. The more regularly and devotedly we chant, with appropriate application, the more deeply we are harmonised. Rededicating all of our efforts again and again we are always rewarded with a safe return Home to Truth.

Grateful for my teachers

The training offered a unique chance to receive authentic instruction from experienced and dedicated teachers: Radha Sundararajan, Helen Macpherson and Gill Lloyd, within a structured process in the company of a lovely group of women. I have been following this lineage since 2000 and am eagerly studying more deeply, learning indispensable skills. I now feel that I am able to offer students a clear step-by-step introduction and in-depth study of Vedic Chant.

I think it is important to know that this teaching comes from a lineage of teacher to teacher, and is a protected body of sacred knowledge. While following the course, I understood how important it is to present our questions and comments with the correct humility and courtesy to the teachings and to the teachers who are preserving this special knowledge through us. If we rely on what we simply research from the internet or other teachings on the same subject, we may miss the opportunity to learn what has been passed down through the stream of teachers in the course we are taking. Our teachers are faithful to their teachers and it is helpful to be faithful to our teachers and the teachings from this lineage.

I would willingly continue with another three modules if offered, to keep on learning more about Vedic Chant, learn more about Sanskrit and deepen those skills, and learn more chants. The journey continues ……

Joy Graham

Photos courtesy of Mari Kadanik

For more information on the Vedic Chanting courses and other training we offer click here.

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