Shanti Shanti is the only Sanskrit rock group in America. The group is fronted by two young sisters, Andrea & Sara Forman from Reno, Nevada, who discovered at ages 9 and 7 they could read the ancient language of Sanskrit without any prior training. With voices like angels, these two combine traditional Sanskrit recitation with popular lyrics, which gives them a sound unlike any other in the world today. They are quickly gaining worldwide recognition for their celestial sound and unique approach to popular music.
Sanskrit, the ancient language of India, is said to be the source of all modern languages and even of other ancient languages like Latin and Hebrew. Sanskrit has long been known for its tranquil and harmonious effects.
Slipping in to the study and borrowing her mother’s books on Ayurveda (the ancient system of natural medicine) became an obsession for nine-year-old Andrea. She had an indescribable drive to read the ancient texts and didn’t even know her ability to read the script, called Devanagari, in which Sanskrit is written was a special gift.
Gradually her parents recognized Andrea’s unique abilities, and helped her contact Sanskrit scholars. Nothing could hold young Andrea back from learning and understanding everything about this ancient language. As Andrea describes it herself, It wasn’t so much that I was trying to learn a new language, as it was that I was remembering one I already knew.
As Andrea became exposed to all the different aspects of this language of the gods, she realized she needed someone to chant the ancient texts with her. She tried asking her mother to chant with her, but her Mom told her there was no way. So, Andrea enrolled her 7-year old sister, and quickly discovered Sara was able to read the ancient Devanagari script even more rapidly than her older sister.
With this, Andrea was content. She now had the ability to chant the ancient texts as they were intended, with the resonance of two voices powerfully intertwined.
In the Vedic tradition of ancient India, Sanskrit is not simply a language. It is a sequence of sounds, cognized by ancient Rishis or seers. These specific sounds are said to resonate at a frequency, which enlivens the laws of nature in the environment where they are recited, creating powerful positive effects on listeners. Today, Andrea and Sara Forman, at the ripe young age of 24 and 22, are considered among the top Sanskrit scholars in the West.
Initially the sisters performed for themselves and their family, just for the joy of it. However, soon more and more people wanted to hear their unique sound and within a few years they were performing to sold-out crowds. Sometimes they even pulled their little brother, Micah, up on stage with them, and the audiences loved it!
The girls have performed Sanskrit nationwide, including appearances on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, PBS television programs, the nationally broadcast Coast-to-Coast radio program and before thousands in concerts throughout North America.
They have just released their fourth album, which steps into a whole new level of enchantment. On Dreaming in Real Time they combine traditional Vedic recitations, Indian bhajans, and original pop tunes in their amazingly unique style, which sounds both modern and ancient at the same time.
This month, Chris Attwood speaks with Linda Forman about how it all began, and then picks up the conversation with Andrea and Sara themselves to see how Sanskrit can change your life:
Chris Attwood: Linda the theme of our magazine is health, wealth and wisdom. As the girls’ mother I would love to have you just give a little context, and perspective on how Andrea and Sara’s gifts and this whole phenomenon with Shanti Shanti has affected you and your family.
Linda Forman: Basically, when you say the topics for this magazine are health, wealth and wisdom, the first thing I see is that if you have health and you have wisdom, you have wealth, right? That’s all about balance.
When my husband and I were first together, we were very avidly pursuing things that would increase balance, such as meditation, proper eating, Ayurveda, and that type of thing.
When we started having children we included them as well – which meant introducing them to a meditation technique when they were about five, making sure that their diets were all about balance, and exposing them to numerous cultural experiences to broaden their understanding of how people regard spirituality and what kind of role it plays in their lives.
When our children were nine and seven, that’s when the whole Sanskrit phenomenon reared it’s head.
It was as if you have this really nice, sweet-smelling flower garden and all of a sudden somebody throws a big fish in the middle and says, Now what are you going to do with this?
You see we had two children who were fluent in a dead language. They were speaking a dead language in the middle of what had been a fairly balanced household.
All of a sudden, we understood the meaning of imbalance.
We were saying, okay, we thought balance was just about diet, some aspects of spirituality, and meditation, but then all of a sudden, here are these two children who are fluent in a dead language.
We basically just tried to keep everybody healthy and pursuing spiritual wisdom. We found we had this wealth of experience that came to us and included trying to keep our children as balanced as possible in the middle this phenomenon.
But the girls didn’t look at it as a phenomenon. They thought everybody had access to this type of thing. They thought everyone could understand a language just by looking at it. They thought everyone could be fluent in Sanskrit.
In fact, they asked me, Why don’t you study your Ayurvedic text in pure Sanskrit, because that’s what it was written in? They had no concept that other people would have to actually learn the language. They have a gift, and they couldn’t comprehend a life where that gift did not exist.
The way we approached balance after that was simply to expose as many people as possible to their gift, in as natural a way as possible, not putting any agendas around it.
We just said. This is what it is. This is what they can do, and they feel compelled to share this gift with as many people as possible because they feel Sanskrit has a huge healing effect on the world.
Chris Attwood: Many people, looking at your family from the outside, might say, Well, that Sanskrit thing is really wonderful and it’s great. Maybe this is something the girls could use at a university and teach Sanskrit, or maybe it’s a nice hobby.
And yet your family has made this a very successful life project.
Linda Forman: Bob has talked about this in concerts and in other interviews. You know he tried to stop it. He told the girls, You shouldn’t be learning Sanskrit. No one else speaks it! Why don’t you learn Spanish because it will likely have a value in the job market?
When they would sit in their room for hours, chanting, he would open the door and say, You kids come out here and watch more TV!
We really felt that if we weren’t careful, this could get very imbalanced very quickly, because Sanskrit has its own energy field that comes with it.
You see, childhood nervous systems are very, very pliable and very sweet and pure. They metabolize the energy in a very pure strain. We were trying to make sure they maintained balance – while thinking of their future.
The music part got started completely by accident. Bob wanted to have something, when the girls grew up, where he could say, Do you want to hear what you were doing when you were nine and seven years old?
That’s why he made the first CD.
Then people started saying, I heard your CD…
It was really for the children, but people wanted to buy it. Before we knew it, we did one pressing and it was gone.
We did the second pressing, and the second pressing was gone.
Then the third.
Then we started hearing, When are you doing your next album?
They did another album and all of a sudden, it just started snowballing.
That’s why we say we really didn’t do it. It happened by its own power, its own energy, its own desire to manifest, and we had to learn to just literally, get out of the way and let it do what it wanted to do – not argue about it, not try to understand it, not try to direct it – just accept it.
When people listen to the music, they all hear and take different things out of it.
We had one young man who came up after a concert. He didn’t even mean to be there. It was one of those things where he was sort of listening outside and then he walked in the door, sat down, and was absolutely glued to it.
He came up to us afterward and his face was just streaming with tears. He said he had no religious pathway at all, absolutely none. He was just standing across the room and all of a sudden, his grandmother said, Go over and listen to this.
Well, his grandmother had been dead for ten years.
He couldn’t believe it, but he went over, sat down, and started listening. He said, halfway through the concert, all of a sudden all of the Hebrew he had learned as a child started coming through his head in complete and total sentences. He’d never been able to remember Hebrew if his life depended on it, and all of a sudden, this perfect stream of Hebrew started flowing through his system, as fast as the words could manifest.
It just shook him to his very core, and he said at the end of it, he realized that not only had he just had a conversation with his grandmother, she was redirecting him back to his heritage.
He had felt very lost and it was such a wonderful thing for him.
Chris Attwood: If I understand correctly, your explanation of why such a thing could happen is that listening to Sanskrit opens up a channel – would that be a way to describe it?
Linda Forman: It puts you in instant contact with the very essence of yourself.
Sanskrit puts you in contact with who you are and all of a sudden clarifies your role in life.
We were at a financial seminar with hundreds of people and this guy came up afterwards. He said:
I was annoyed at first that I was going to have to listen to something else besides another financial talk. I was here to learn about finances. I didn’t want to have this Sanskrit thing, whatever it was, in the middle of everything.
I have not thought about anything except money for the last 20 years, and all of a sudden, halfway through this concert, I realized that my life had no meaning!
I had all this money, and I had nothing. I had let my family go, I had let my home go, I had no foundation in anything, but I had a lot of money.
I realized I had no balance in my life.
So as these people are discovering themselves – we were unwitting participants. It’s the absolute beauty of God’s design – we didn’t design this.
We did what we knew to do and out of that, this beautiful flower came out. That’s what I was saying to you earlier with the analogy of the garden. You have this garden; you think everything’s fine and you think you’re doing everything right.
You’re cultivating your seeds and everything is going well, and then all of a sudden, somebody tosses in this fish and you say, Okay, well now, this doesn’t smell as good as my flowers. I don’t really know what role this has, and all of a sudden you realize this fish is a part of your beautiful garden, and that by grinding it up into fertilizer, you’re going to have a garden such that no one has ever seen before.
You’re going to have a garden beyond all gardens, and yet at first sight, you kind of go, What in the world am I supposed to do with this?
Chris Attwood: Beautiful. Thank you so much Linda. I’d love to talk to Andrea and Sara now and see what they have to say about their gifts and their work.
Linda Forman: Thank you Chris, it’s been a pleasure.
Chris Attwood: Great. Andrea, Sara, if you would, begin by talking about your childhood and what role your parents, friends, teachers or mentors played in what you’re doing today and specifically, your outlook about health, wealth and spirituality.
Andrea Forman: We were pretty introverted as kids, but we actually had really great teachers and our parents were very, very open-minded and supportive. My parents strongly believe in exposing us to many different elements and aspects of culture, and spirituality, so we were introduced to Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism, and it’s been very beneficial.
Chris Attwood: What effect has exposure to so many different spiritual traditions had on your lives?
Andrea Forman: It encouraged us to be open-minded, look at everything and to not judge things based only on the culture we’re used to, but rather on all of them together.
Sara Forman: And to also approach spirituality as not a right or wrong path, but with the idea that many different spiritual paths can be interwoven.
Chris Attwood: The two of you have a very interesting and fascinating path of your own. What is it that enabled you to live that gift and not decide, ‘Well, that’s a hobby and we’ll have to go do something else with our life,’?
Andrea Forman: This was actually the path that was the easiest to travel, so it was natural for us. It wasn’t like we said, ‘Okay, today, I’ve decided that we’re going to be Shanti Shanti and we’ll perform Sanskrit and spiritual music.’
Chris Attwood: Studying Sanskrit was not just something you found you could do. You have a real love for it don’t you?
Andrea Forman: We are actually very passionate about Sanskrit and the way it makes us feel, and the way it makes our audiences feel.
Chris Attwood: Why is Sanskrit – this ancient language – so important? It’s from a tradition that’s around the other side of the globe.
Sara Forman: Sanskrit is so ancient and has so many different aspects to it that it’s not something that is tied to a specific religion, therefore it is applicable to all religions and it enhances all religion, it doesn’t change it.
Andrea Forman: It actually acts more as a tool for interacting with that aspect of mental clarity we could call pure consciousness.
Sara Forman: We call it the Sanskrit Buzz.
When you listen to Sanskrit, when you chant it, or when you’re just engaging this language, you feel very calm inside, but also very excited at the dichotomy that goes on with the language.
Chris Attwood: What do you mean when you say pure consciousness and how does Sanskrit allow you to interact with that aspect of life?
Andrea Forman: Pure consciousness is the experience of absolute being, and it’s the experience of truly allowing yourself to be who you actually are, as opposed to who you think you are. It is that being, that intelligence that is underlying everything, permeating not only you, but everybody and everything around you.
Chris Attwood: Talk more about the effect that Sanskrit has on this value of being.
Andrea Forman: It transcends, or gets you past all the mental thinking, all the mental clamor that goes on in your mind.
Sara Forman: Everyone has daily stresses they have to deal with – the stress of work, of family, of everything else.
And Sanskrit allows you to escape from all of that noise and just be with the essence of you, with the most evolved, simplistic aspects of your being.
Chris Attwood: Talk about this Sanskrit Buzz. What is it, how does it feel, what’s the experience like?
Andrea Forman: It’s absolute clarity and heightened sensory perception – its absolute joy, and a feeling of ecstasy that comes as a result of that clarity.
Chris Attwood: That’s why you guys do this all the time?
Andrea Forman: Yes.
Chris Attwood: How long have you both been touring and doing concerts?
Andrea Forman: We’ve only been Shanti Shanti for about six years, but as far as this intense kind of a schedule, it’s been about three years.
Chris Attwood: What kind of response do you find you receive to your music from people around the country?
Sara Forman: I think people come into our concerts wondering what it’s about. You know, Who are these Shanti Shanti girls that chant Sanskrit? Then as they actually come and listen, they understand it and they love it.
Once people are exposed to the Sanskrit Buzz they can’t seem to get enough of it.
Chris Attwood: You both, obviously, travel a lot and you live very busy lives. In the context of that, do you find your life is more in balance or out of balance when you’re pursuing your passion and doing these things that you love so much?
Sara Forman: We live such busy and very intense and exciting, interesting lives, that you have to be in balance…
Andrea Forman: It’s not an option. We have to eat right, we have to…
Sara Forman: Get lots of sleep, you have to exercise, but then you also have to do all the other stuff, you know, meditation, Abhiyanga, which is the oil massages, stuff like that, and make sure you are very balanced.
Andrea Forman: If we’re not balanced, then we can’t do a good job of portraying the Sanskrit and giving this to other people.
Chris Attwood: Your family is very unique in that you basically work and play and travel together, correct?
Sara Forman: Yes, we’re a tight-knit family and we do everything together. Even our little brother Micah travels with us and does everything with us, since our mom is home schooling him. He’s learning the base and it is very much all within the family. That’s what we love so much about what we do. That’s what creates such a supportive environment.
Chris Attwood: Many people who teach principles of success talk about how important it is to have a team, and it sounds like you guys grew up with a team.
Andrea Forman: Yes. Team is wonderful because it gets you past thinking about yourself.
Chris Attwood: How would you say that pursuing this passion of yours with Sanskrit, and sharing it, and creating music around it has affected your own, personal health, your wealth, and your own spirituality?
Andrea Forman: I think that when you allow yourself to pursue your passion and you pursue it fearlessly, you actually allow the body to be in its natural state, which is naturally healthy, and naturally balanced. It’s when we force ourselves to do things we don’t like, that we’re not passionate about, that the body becomes imbalanced.
Sara Forman: I also think it keeps us very aware of the importance of being healthy and maintaining that health, because if we don’t maintain it, then we can’t do what we do.
Chris Attwood: Why do you think it is that most people give up on their dreams and what would your advice be to those who may have gotten discouraged along the way?
Sara Forman: Many people start down a path, and sometimes that may not be their path. That may be why they were encountering such hardship with it, and they may need to look into other areas that may seem more supportive.
Those that do follow their path, the path they are meant to pursue, are usually very clear in that they’re supposed to pursue it, and that is what keeps them going.
Andrea Forman: It needs to be taken out of the realm of thought. Stop asking, ‘What should I pursue?’ Stop thinking about it but actually do it.
Chris Attwood: Is that what you guys do?
Andrea Forman: Yes.
Sara Forman: Yes. I would say that’s definitely it.
All those people out there who are wondering what to pursue, or how to pursue their dreams, look at what you are drawn toward.
Once you figure that out, just do it.
Stop thinking about it and start doing it.
I think that is one of the main things with pursuing your dreams…
Andrea Forman: See, the reality is, Nike had it right all along – just do it.
They don’t say, let’s talk about it, let’s think about it, let’s question it… and then do it.
They say Just do it!
Chris Attwood: Has fear ever stopped either or both of you from achieving any things that you set out?
Andrea Forman: Of course it has.
Sara Forman: We’re not fearless by any means.
Andrea Forman: But we have a council, our entire family, who is very good at reminding us that our job is to do, not to sit around and think about ourselves.
Sara Forman: Or to worry about things, because fear and worrying about things, doesn’t fix anything and it doesn’t make things better. It simply stops you from doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.
Chris Attwood: Would you say the most effective thing you’ve found for dealing with fears is having support from those around you, and getting on with doing it and not getting lost in the fear?
Andrea Forman: We have an Indian friend who says, Your family is not here to tell you how great you are. Your family is here to remind you of what you’re supposed to do and to keep you in check and on the right path.
Chris Attwood: What do you both feel has been your greatest accomplishment in life so far? You’re both very young, and yet you have accomplished quite a great deal, I would say.
Andrea Forman: I think our greatest accomplishment is our family.
Sara Forman: And even that’s not our accomplishment. That’s just our blessing.
Andrea Forman: It’s by grace, because accomplishments come and go. One day they can seem incredible and the next day they can seem like a burden. So it’s all relative.
We don’t care.
I don’t think Mother Teresa sat, at the end of her day, and asked herself, How many people did I help today? How many lepers did I clean today?
I think she just did it.
Chris Attwood: So accomplishments are not so important to you. What do you both see as being the most important thing about the work and play that you’re doing today?
Andrea Forman: The reality is, it’s what we do. It’s fulfilling and makes us happy and brings us peace.
Sara Forman: Trying to pursue other things doesn’t have the same positive effect that pursuing our Dharma has.
Andrea Forman: Why we do it? In just being here and doing what we’re doing, we get to share the happiness and the bliss we get to experience on a regular basis.
We get to share that with other people, and by doing that, it may or may not have an impact, but for the most part, we see is has a wonderful impact.
Chris Attwood: Most of our readers are probably not familiar with this word Dharma. Can you describe what that means?
Andrea Forman: It is the path that you came here to travel. If you try and travel on other paths, they’re going to be very difficult and rocky…they won’t be supported.
But when you travel on the path you came here to travel – your Dharma – then you will be fulfilled and you will be happy.
You will be given difficulties that are perfect for you.
You will be given blessings that are perfect for you.
If you’re Christian, the word Dharma would be the same thing as carrying your cross. It’s what you are here to do, and it’s wonderful. When you find your Dharma, and you find the path, and you find the way that you’re supposed to go, it is truly divine.
A lot of times, people are already on their Dharma and they’re still busy looking around at everybody else’s path, but they’re not even seeing that they’re already there.
Chris Attwood: Would you say everyone has one of these paths?
Sara Forman: Oh yes, definitely.
Andrea Forman: The Dharma of a dog is to be a dog, and to be loving, to eat, and to chase birds in the yard.
The Dharma of a rock is to sit there. The Dharma of a mother is to love her children. The Dharma of a father is to provide for his family. There are many layers to your path of what you’re supposed to do. Everything has a Dharma.
Chris Attwood: What would be the relationship between one’s passions or the things that one loves, and one’s Dharma?
Andrea Forman: They’re the same thing. They’re intertwinable concepts.
Sara Forman: Yes. Usually your true passion is your Dharma.
Chris Attwood: At Healthy Wealthy nWise, we believe very strongly in the power of intention to manifest outcomes, so what is your current, most important project and what intention would you like us to hold for you and why?
Andrea Forman: We don’t actually do that. We strongly believe in just residing in the experience of right now with fullness of presence, and we encourage all your readers to experience every day fully, every moment fully.
The term stop and smell the roses, means literally, stop and smell the roses and admire their beauty in all aspects. Don’t sit down and have your coffee without thinking about and experiencing having your coffee. Don’t talk to your neighbor without experiencing their presence.
Sara Forman: It’s very much about living in the moment to its fullest, because those moments of each day, if you step back and you look at it, can be such a wonderful experience.
Andrea Forman: So it’s about living in the moment and experiencing it to its fullest and allowing the presence of God to interact with you right now.
Chris Attwood: Sounds like good advice. Before we close, would you like to say a little bit about how people who would like to hear your music or to know more about Shanti Shanti can do that?
Andrea Forman: We encourage people to visit our website, www.ShantiShanti.com. It has everything, and anything interesting is already on there.
Chris Attwood: In bringing this to conclusion, what would you say is the single most important piece of advice that you’d like to leave our readers with that we haven’t yet discussed?
Andrea Forman: Experience God and allow the universe to manifest for you.
Chris Attwood: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Andrea Forman: No, I think you covered it all, Chris.
Chris Attwood: Well thank you so much.