Ancient Traditions

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Hart de Fouw

It seems like only yesterday. As early as my graduation from public school, I yearned for and romanticized about an archeologist or anthropologist’s life—traveling to timeless lands, discovering forgotten civilizations, living sacred knowledge. Then, almost forty years ago, an undying love and respect for the remnants of an ancient culture—a culture that people now call ‘Vedic’—entered my heart after a lecture at my university. The speaker was Yogi Shyam (now Swami Shyam). Little did I know then of what I know now: My dreams were about to come true, but in an unforeseen form.


Hearing Sanskrit and about Yoga intoxicated me with a wish to change my major. I swiftly discovered that my university, a fine institution, offered neither Sanskrit and Yoga philosophy, nor other new interests that crowded my mind. So, like many of my generation, I dropped out and roamed for seven years in a flourishing subculture that was enthralled by eastern mysticism and populated by diverse editions of the guru, India’s most famous export during the late sixties and early seventies.


Dissatisfied with trendy gurus and cults by inherent disposition, the archeologist in me dug deeper until I met K.L. Mantri in 1973. When he proved himself adept at everything I wanted and needed to know back then, I begged him to teach me. He, in turn, showed an interest in my desire to know, and he graciously made time to train me. Together we embarked on an uninterrupted one-on-one journey. He was the mentor; I was the student.


We thus reenacted the core of Vedic culture. Because that culture remains founded on the bedrock of word of mouth transmission of sacred traditions from a living teacher to a student over many years of personal relations, we kept at it continuously for more than fifteen intensive years. We were family and more. Along the way, I adapted to his ways of Indian English, exotic food, eccentric but divinely inspired behaviors, miraculous skill, incomprehensible paradoxes, and above all, genuine knowledge embedded in a teacher’s heart.


Although he welcomed me into his culture and taught me much about it, he never asked me to be Indian or Hindu. He always encouraged me to understand the universal essence of what he taught me, to not confuse it with the trappings that clothe that essence within the boundaries of modern India’s grand cultures. Practical by nature, he undertook to first teach me Jyotish (very loosely "Vedic astrology") as a career. Throughout our journey and afterwards, he trained me in other ancient, sacred traditions as well. I realize now that no amount of book-learning approximates the value of prolonged direct instruction from a skilled teacher, whose genuine living knowledge derives from his or her teacher, going back in an unbroken line for untold generations. 


I strive to honor what he taught me by teaching it to others in a way that mimics the tried-and-true manner of relaying the essence of India's ancient sacred lore. The content and style of those teachings I adapt by necessity to the needs of modern Western students without compromising essence. Whatever others consider worthy in me flows from my mentor and from my other teachers to you.


If you relish traveling to timeless lands, if you revel in discovering forgotten civilizations, if you rejoice in living sacred knowledge, if you yearn for the mysteries of genuine Jyotish and kindred subjects, we have a lot in common. Our dreams come true.


"Light on Life" Penguin England

"Light on Life" Lotus Press

"Light on Relationships"

Extract from a long review of Light on Life published on page fourteen of The Hindu on Sunday, January 5th, 1997. Along with Hindu Times, The Hindu is India's most respected newspaper.
"These authors ...had the patience and the perseverance to learn ...the Indian system of Astrology ...It goes to the teacher's credit that he imparted unreservedly full knowledge of the subject to these disciples, who naturally had to spend a good deal of time and energy to grasp the correct meaning, interpretation and implication of the Sanskrit technical terms, phrases and quotations on the subject. It is easy to learn a subject for the knowledge of self, but it is difficult to chew, digest and express that knowledge for the benefit of readers. This is indeed one of the best books on astrology for all, beginners, as well as experts and practitioners. It is, in fact, far better than many of the books written by Indian authors in English and Hindi in the last 60 years or so."