Overall it’s an interesting story, and I’ll make it brief. Back in the 1970s and 80s, I lived in Paris. My female companion at that time was Cynthia. Back then I was part of a Tibetan Buddhist group located in the outskirts of Paris. I met a young woman, a Sanskrit scholar and poet by the name of Louise Landes Levi. She stayed with Cynthia and I for no more than three days, and she had translated René Daumal’s Raza, Essays on Hindu Aesthetics and Sanskrit Studies. She gave me my first yoga lesson on Avenue du Maine in a large apartment with friends.
Back in those days I was interested in René Daumal, who managed a group called Le Grand Jeu (The Great Game) an alternative to André Breton’s Surrealism. Daumal was also a Sanskrit scholar. René Daumal also wrote A Night of Serious Drinking and Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidian Adventures in Mountain Climbing.
In the very late 1980s I was living in New York City. Perhaps on a weekend, I was downtown and moseyed into Weiser’s, an occult bookshop on 24th Street off broadway. I found Louise’s translation of René Daumal’s translation of Sanskrit studies, Rasa or Knowledge of the Self: Essays on Indian Aesthetics and Selected Sanskrit Studies. On my way to the cash register Louise, the translator of Daumal, was in the line front of me. We rekindled our acquaintances and were glad to see each other.
And we went to one of the nearby Indian restaurants. Louise spoke Hindi with the waiter. She signed the book I just had bought and which she had translated. She told me she was going to give a lecture at Jivamukti, a yoga studio, then located on 8th Street. The the title of the lecture was “How a Dog taught me Sanskrit.” Actually, Louise was having trouble learning Sanskrit and a dog bit her and she ended up in an Indian Hospital. During stay in the hospital, perhaps in a delirium, all the Sanskrit letters, grammar of noun declensions, verb conjugations, root words, etc. danced in her head and she knew Sanskrit.
I lost track of Louise but continue doing yoga at Jivamukti. During the 1990s I took Sanskrit with Vyaas Houston and the American Sanskrit Institute and moved over to Eddie Stern’s Ashtanga Yoga Shala and went through a four week yoga teacher training course at the Sivananda Yoga Camp in Val Morin in 1994. Got married in 2000 and moved to Vermont in 2001. Over the years I’ve taken several juice fasting workshops and as well Astanga workshops at Yoga Vermont with David Swenson. In 2012 Marty, my wife, and I went on a four week trip to India with Robert Moses and Namarupa doing a Tamil Temple Yatra, a pilgrimage visiting Tamil temples in southern India. Martha Nichols, an accomplished artist, died recently of kidney failure on 6 June 2021.
That’s about it. I could elaborate a more. The whole coincidence of having known Louise in Paris and then meeting meeting her again at Weiser’s bookshop in New York with her translation in hand, is for me astonishing.
John van der Does, Based in Andover, Vermont is a lifelong Yoga practitioner and teacher using the visual tool of creating Yantras. A Yantra is a diagram illustrating sacred geometrical arrangements in a symmetrical design. Usage of Yantras has been practiced since 3300 B.C.. Practitioners use Yantras to emit cosmic positive energies, curb negative energies and help individuals upraise spiritually. Van der Does’s work explores this sacred geometry while also incorporating written and translated Sanskrit.