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Jai Shri Radhe! Thanks to your overwhelming support the Shyamdas Foundation exceeded our initial goal of 100 trees and we now have set our hopes on 200!

Special thanks to Simha Bode and Janaki, our dear friends and experts in horticulture, permaculture, Indian-culture, tree planting, and so many other arts. They visited our site and are helping us refine our species selection, planting methods and mapping. Simha even created for us a 3-D computerized model for a future on-site composting toilet!

We missed what little rains fell last summer, so the Forest Service is asking us to wait until the weather warms up to plant your trees. The plantation site has been finalized, holes have been dug. We are currently ordering tree guards, designing name plates and planning the species composition and design of the forest.

The area the Forest Service has reserved for our Shyam Forest is on the inner parikrama path on the north edge of the town of Jatipura. This is a mostly deforested plot at the beginning of a beautiful section of the path between Jatipura and Govardhan. A covered pavilion on site provides a lovely viewing area of the Govardhan Hill and our project site. An onsite gardener hired by Sevayan Samsthan will safeguard and nurture our trees. The site’s proximity to Jatipura will allow Mohan, Vallabhdas and other Foundation staff to regularly observe and monitor the forest and easily bring guests, friends of Shyamdas and Foundation supporters to see the forest and the trees they have sponsored.

 

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Svan managers

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SVan compost

Go Shyam cover

Shyamdas enjoyed a very close personal, devotional, and scholarly relationship with Goswami Shyam Manoharji, a Vallabhacharya descendant and guru who is considered to be among the most knowledgeable Sanskritists and philosophers of the Pushtimarg lineage today. They co-translated a few select texts together, and Shyamdas translated and published several of Goswami Shyam’s articles in his Braja Raja newsletter. Goswami Shyam has published a new book of commentaries on Gopaldas’ poetic work Vallabhakhyan, which Shyamdas had previously translated and published in paperback under the title, In Praise of Vallabh.

Goswami Shyam not only wrote loving and laudatory remarks about Shyamdas in his introduction to the book, but also, as we can see in this cover image, gave Shyamdas an extremely honored position as one of the recognized “commentators” on the Vallabhakhyan text. Goswami Shri Milan Baba rightfully considers this gesture on the part of his uncle to be “the highest honor given to Shyamdasji.”

For readers of Hindi, Goswami Shyam’s book is now available as a free pdf, online at pushtimarg.net.

For the record, Goswami Shyam notes in his introduction, with appreciation, that Shyamdas’ circle of friends in America have uploaded a number of youtube videos about Shyamdas worthy of watching!

The Shyamdas Foundation was graciously invited to Bhakti Fest in Joshua Tree, CA last month to share Shyamdas’ books and CDs, his newly released Inner Goddess audio CD, and our foundation’s tree project with Bhakti Fest’s devoted crowds. As guests of kirtan record label Mantralogy in their center stage tent, we were able to fully soak in the bhava of this great event. The Bhakti Fest organizers went so far as to dedicate the festival to Shyamdas this year:
Bhakti Fest Dedication

DJ Drez opened with a remix of Wandering with Shyam, featuring clips of Shyamdas from his audio book CD Lover’s Life. MC Yogi began his set with a heartfelt shout out to Shyamdas, encouraging the audience to get to know his works and sweetly describing a beam of bhakti light that burst forth when Shyamdas left his body, carrying his inspired devotional mood and insights even wider out into the world. True to this vision, Shyamdas’ many other friends, including presenters Radhanath Swami, Adam Bauer, Mark Whitwell, Jai Uttal, Deva Premal and Miten, Prema Hara (Kamaniya and Keshavacharya), Karnamrita, DJ Drez and others all had Shyamdas on their hearts and minds as they shared their devotional insights with the throngs of desert dwelling bhakti seekers.

In a main stage address to the crowd on Friday night, Bhakti Fest founder Sridhar and emcee Shiva Baum invoked Shyamdas along with all the other great teachers that have illuminated the bhakti path before us. They encouraged everyone to tune into the beautiful live CD of Shyamdas’ peak performance at Bhakti Fest Midwest 2012 (Hari Lila) [reviewed here by LA Yoga magazine] as well as the newly released audio book Inner Goddess, in which Shyamdas reads from his book by the same title. Both CDs are produced by and available at Mantralogy. We look forward to sharing more of Shyamdas’ publications and Foundation projects at upcoming Bhakti Fest events. Until then, “Be in the Bhava!”

Hari Om! Shyamdas was remembered and honored from the very opening of Omega Ecstatic Chant last night, as Omega co-founder and Shyamdas Foundation board member Stephan Rechtschaffen described Shyamdas’s creative role in this annual event. Stephan also described our Foundation’s mission, our tree project, and then showed the audience of several hundred chant enthusiasts an archival video of Shyamdas (see below), in which Shyamdas describes the interactive and spontaneous process of kirtan, and the auspicious locale of the Omega retreat center.

Stephan invokes Shyamdas while introducing Ecstatic Chant 2014 (photo by Giacobazzi Yanez)

Stephan invokes Shyamdas while introducing Ecstatic Chant 2014 (photo by Giacobazzi Yanez)

A large photo of a joyous Shyamdas (from one of his bhajan boat events) displayed prominently on the right side of the stage will invoke his presence and mood throughout the weekend.
Gaura Vani singing with joy on stage with his bhakti brother Shyamdas behind him (photo by Giacobazzi Yanez)

Gaura Vani singing with joy on stage with his bhakti brother Shyamdas behind him (photo by Giacobazzi Yanez)

The event organizers also integrated into the weekend program 4 sessions, held in the Ram Dass Library, in which Shyamdas’s friends and kirtan colleagues will speak about their experiences with him. Today we are excited to hear his close friends Deva Premal and Miten speak in the early afternoon. In the early evening, Foundation board members and friends Stephan Rechtschaffen and Sharon Gannon will relate their favorite Shyamdas stories. Tomorrow C.C. White, Adam Bauer and others will share their experiences with Shyamdas.


Shyamdas was like a devotional freight train, moving with as much speed and force. He’s gone from this world, but despite his forever glaring physical absence, Shyamdas still seems to have plenty to say. I came across this today in part of some memoir-like musings he had written to a friend in 2004:

“I am sad to leave this stage, but it is good to exit with a longing. It brings not only a quick return, but a graceful transition, full of sweet remembrance and thanks. These things cannot be planned; they arrive on their own schedule and leave us spellbound. You see the subtle in unexpected places—rare finds that were always before you, but only now are recognized. He has come out of hiding.”

There are many hidden treasures within Shyamdas’s unpublished correspondences, memoirs, translations, and audio recordings. I’m sure many of you out there have some too, in your own collections of digital files, photos, analog tapes, letters, emails, and so on. Do consider sending them our way, if you please. We’d love to preserve and catalog them in our digital archive so they can be enjoyed by other inspired bhava-seekers. Jai Shri Radhe!

Shyamdas had dharmik and funny names for so many people and places. One bhakta from Denmark was “Pushti Viking,” a friend who developed routers for the internet was “Router Devi,” and his son-in-law for some reason was “Happy Couple.” His Uncle Larry got the exalted name of a Pushti author, “Lallu Bhattji.” Manhattan turned into “Maha-atma.” He must have partially developed this habit from his guru Shri Prathameshji, who had renamed the state of Vermont “Romancha”–the state of bliss that makes one’s hair stand on end. Did Shyamdas call you or a nearby place by some special name?

Shyamdas influenced the bhakti and kirtan communities of our time deeply, as was made clear by this year’s abundant album tributes.

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Long-time traveling and devotional partner Vrajdevi premiered her beautiful first album, Loving Grace, featuring Shyamdas-inspired yet freshly rendered Pushti compositions (in Sanskrit and Brajbhasha) familiar and dear to Shyamdas listeners.


Adam Bauer's "Shyam Lila" Dedication

 

 

 

Shyamdas’s close friend and bass accompanist, Adam Bauer, released a dedicated kirtan debut album, Shyam Lila, a deep and rich offering featuring several spoken clips of Shyamdas definitely worth the listen. With Adam’s permission we posted a sample here!


Prema Hara "Ocean of Grace" Tribute

 

 

Prema Hara released their heartfelt latest CD Ocean of Grace, whose title track, a “special tribute featuring Jai Uttal & the Mantralogy all-stars,” leaves the memory and bhava of Shyamdas reverberating in your heart with its Shri Krishnah Sharanam Mama, (the mahamantra of the bhakti lineage Shyamdas followed), sung sweetly and by no coincidence on all three of above stellar albums.

We are deeply grateful for the following in-kind donations given to us this year by loving friends of Shyamdas and Foundation supporters:

BookshelfMadhu-ji donated an i-pad to go along with the book cabinet we built in the greeting/prasad room in Jatipura. It plays youtube videos of Shyamdas so that visitors can immediately experience his kirtans when they visit.

Anja Kuehnel donated a fantastic Beats speaker that fills several rooms with the sweet sounds of Shyamdas kirtan played through the i-pad Madhu donated.


On his visit to Braj with Vrajdevi’s India tour, Naresh Mepani became inspired to sponsor this super high-end Canon printer in the memory of his precious daughter Nikita. Their amazing gift helps us to scan old Shyamdas newsletters and photos, print his book manuscripts for editing and proofreading, as well as conduct other essential Foundation business and even print travel tickets for our visiting guests.

PrinterKishor Mepani too became inspired through his brother’s visit and donated to us a truly valuable ongoing item—subscription to his remarkable online program-management system, Web T-cards. This system was invented by a Toyota exec and helps people organize tasks with maximum efficiency.

Ishwari of SRI Kirtan has been spending many hours skillfully digitalizing an extensive collection of tapes which Shyamdas himself recorded in India, featuring lectures, music, and conversations with gurus and saints. We look forward to hearing the fruits of her love labors, once those files have been transmitted, archived and ultimately released.

Shyamdas was a unique soul, as was clear from his ecstatic dynamic presence. Still we have all been astounded by his deepening impact on the kirtan and bhakti communities around the world even after his passing from this world in early 2013. Memorial kirtans were held in Goa, London, Berlin, Jatipura, Los Angeles, Woodstock and elsewhere on the anniversary of his death on January 19. His presence and bhava have been remembered and celebrated at hundreds of kirtan gatherings this year. It all confirms the power of his spiritual life and teachings.

I had wondered if anyone would still come to Shyamdasji’s long-time residence here in Jatipura, but happily, people have been streaming through the door here all year to see his room, enjoy prasad and sing kirtan. We are expecting about 50 guests for his birthday celebration this week. The local Brajvasis, the residents of Shaymdas’s beloved Braj, remember him as one of their own and are as sorrowed by our loss as much as any family member, kirtan fan or friend of his around the world.

Shyamdas left very explicit instructions for his charitable and devotional works to continue into the future. His niece Mae Ryan gathered a group of close friends and family to establish the Shyamdas Foundation and carry out those wishes. One of the major concerns people have expressed is, “Will Shyamdasji’s books still be made available?” The Shyamdas Foundation therefore set as its main priority the creation of an Archive of his works, to collect, preserve and publish his books, performances, interviews, articles, photos, and videos.

One of Shyamdasji’s passions was showing people around the sacred sites of Braj. In that spirit, the Foundation has also resolved to undertake beautification and restoration projects at his favorite pilgrimage sites, like kunds, the Govardhan Hill, and Vallabhacharya baithaks.

Shyamdasji’s brilliant concept of the “Bhajan Boat” was an explicit attempt to spread the bhava of kirtan but also to support the Vrindavan charity, Food for Life. The Shyamdas Foundation have decided to continue contributing to that charity in Shyamdasji’s name, because of the effectiveness and impact of their programs for the children, poor, women and environment in Braj.

We hope you will keep in touch and offer your inspirations and bhava to these and other projects beloved to Shyamdas!

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