opening mantras

It’s only right to invoke one’s sources of inspiration and support. Before classes or meeting with clients, I chant the following prayers in Sanskrit. My translations are both eccentric and rhapsodic, and are meant to convey the personal feeling that has accrued (up to the moment of this posting – it will surely continue to evolve) over years of recitation and contemplation. Direct written translations are inherently misleading. They are the fossils of song.


om gananam tva ganapatim havamahe

kavin kavinam upamashravastamam

jyestha rajam brahmanam

brahmanaspata anasrinvanutibhisiddha sadanam

sri maha ganapataye namaha

o elephant-dancer. you survived your father beheading you, and thereby remembered the first poetry. you wander the globe collecting stories and holding close those in pain. you remind me that to write truly I must keep an animal head and use my very bones to scratch my marks. sated with your pilgrimmage, sit beside me in this meadow. allow me to feed sweets to your mouse. lend me your bleeding tusk, to trace the shadows of what I do not know, to pierce the heart of longing.


om vag devyai ca vidmahe

kama pradayai dhimahi

tanno devi pracodayat

the strings quiver over the hollow gourd, the womb. language emerges, encoded in meter and pitch. o pleasure of taste and communion. you blend the honey of speech from the nectar of blossoming sound. your play showers forth sweet speech, true speech, kind speech. i vibrate in sympathy with your drone, and my upper strings begin to glisten. let my every word both name and embody your tuning. sing me to delight while others trudge to church.


om prabha karaya vidmahe

diva karaya dhimahi

tannah surya pracodayat

daymaker, shining on the oscillation of rich and poor, the oscillation of consumer and consumed. the thinnest nerve warbles with your light. command the earth to sprout, etch the horizon, and spread the turquoise bell of space. i know when you will rise tomorrow and on the day of my death; you are the perfect father. your inexorable timing commends my heart to faith. i spin at the limit of your shining leash.

prayer for learning:

om sa ha navavatu / sa ha nau bhunaktu

sa ha viryam karavavahai / tejasvinavadhita mastu

ma vidvisavahai / om santi santi santih

may what we have yet to learn protect us both. may what we have yet to learn nourish us both. may we shine in our nature of learning-without-end. may we know there is too much to learn, so we must share the task (the tusk), and each bring unique nectar back to our hive. may we warm ourselves with love and the fire we use to burn away dogma and cowardice.

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