The Mysticism Of Sound

Merike Taza tells Veda Studies’ Sophie French how the ancient runo songs of Estonia share mystic similarities with ancient India’s Veda, and that’s not the only thing the two countries have in common.

By Sophia Ann French


Merike Taza found it easy to relate to the teachings and sounds of Veda because music and sound has been used to exalt and worship nature even in her native Estonia. The founder of Veda Studies, Shantala Sriramaiah, encourages people from all over the world to recite veda with the right phonetics and she is insistent that her students get every syllable of Veda right. Her belief is that these universal sounds transcend barriers of language, race and gender so her students’ nationalities or native language is never taken as an excuse or reason for getting Veda pronunciation wrong. 

Merike affirms this belief and aligned with Shatalaji’s teachings instantly because she had a background in chanting before she joined Veda Studies and it also helped that ancient Estonian culture shares similarities to ancient Indian culture. “I have been singing all my life in different music groups like choirs and bands, until finally, I dedicated myself to runo singing. 

Old Estonian runo songs are similar to ancient Vedic mantras — there are only a few notes and we repeat lines like a thread/sutra and there is no breathing between words in lines. Like Veda, runo songs describe the forces of nature, life and philosophy.  In ancient Estonia, our people lived in total harmony with nature. Even today, you will find places in my country — near wells, rock formations, places in a forest — where people go to pray, to connect with our ancestors and before Christianity came to Estonia, our old religions were all about worshipping nature. Our old runo songs are like prayers and incantations to invoke the divine. Even when it comes to sound, Estonian is not exactly like Sanskrit but it has similar sounds. The only syllables in Sanskrit that are completely new when an Estonian learns Veda are the retroflex sounds and we have to make an effort with the aspirated sounds,” says Merike. “Even in terms of looking at nature as a healer, Estonia and India share similarities. In much the same way that Ayurveda takes so much from nature, even in our culture, in old times, we used medicinal properties of trees to make teas, etc., for healing purposes. So there is this common philosophy to be in harmony with nature and to communicate with the forces of nature. We even have a map in Estonia that points out places in nature that we consider holy and I know even in India, there are many places in nature that are considered holy.”

Veda, My Miracle

Merike is a Business Software Consultant, a Veda Recitation Teacher and the only woman Purohit in Estonia. She equates her journey to Veda recitation to, “nothing short of a miracle. I have been on this self-development path for 35 years, and it is an ongoing journey. I have been looking for the meaning of life since I was a child. I wanted to find the right ways, principles and knowledge of how to live happily, successfully and in harmony with other people, nature and at the same time be successful and effective. I had learned a lot of different teachings and methods starting with Transcendental Meditation, sound healing, Buddhism, Sacred Geometry, Ayurveda, etc. I found Yoga in 2002, and my yoga teacher, Ingvar Villido, introduced me to a yoga ashram in Estonia. I went to that Ashram and there I learned and practised Kriya yoga and some very special self-transformation and purification methods. Our ashram is part of the Haidakhandi ashram network that was established by Haidakhan Babaji, who was a teacher to several Indians and Westerners. 

After Babaji experienced Samādhi on 14th February 1984, many of his Western students went back to their countries and established ashrams there including one in Estonia. I also met my husband through this ashram (my Hindu name is Meera) and my husband is Indian. We travelled a lot through India and on one trip to Gomukh, we visited Haidakhan Babaji and that’s when he gave me his blessings to become a havan pujari. I was hesitant at first (because I didn’t know women were allowed) but my husband was very supportive so I took up the responsibility. I started learning mantras in 2021, and as I wanted to be a pujari, it was essential to study the mantras, their pronunciation and meaning accurately and in-depth. I was invited to a Vedic Chanting Teacher Training in Estonia in 2013 and that is where I met my first veda teacher, Radha Sundararajan. She was a student of T. K. V. Desikachar (the son of Yogacharya Tirumalai Krishnamacharya). I studied Veda mantras with Radha Sundararajan for seven years and she became like a spiritual mother to me. So when she passed away in 2021, I felt a sense of tremendous loss personally and also because I had no idea how to continue my Veda education. Miraculously, in the month of June 2021, I attended some lectures at Indica Yoga’s Online Global Festival of Yoga, and that was when I first heard about Veda Studies and I heard Shantala Sriramaiah reciting Veda. I knew that was God letting me know that when one door closes, another opens. I knew she was the teacher I was seeking,” recalls Merike. 

Merike researched Veda Studies and was thrilled to learn that Shantalaji is a student of Guruji M.S. Sreenivasan of the Challakere Brothers. “I have known about the Challakere Brothers and felt drawn to Shantala’s Veda recitation. I wrote her a letter asking to be her student and immediately signed up for various courses at Veda Studies. This took my understanding and recitation of Veda to the next level.”

Learning and Teaching Veda

Yoga is a global practice at the moment and for good reason. Many spiritual aspirants start their spiritual journey with yoga and even if your practice is only asana-oriented at first, eventually, the practice will steer you towards deeper exploration. It is the nature of all spiritual practices to do that. So even if you start with just asana, it is a beautiful beginning and if practised sincerely and for the right reasons, your practice will lead you to explore more subtle aspects of spirituality as well. 

Merike is convinced that any student who has reached the self-development or yoga path, must know about the roots, history and principles behind the yoga and Vedanta wisdom. She feels that, “these are the basis of Indic Knowledge Systems that have been given to us from a divine source so we can become connected to the divine and universal consciousness. These practices will lead us to the divine source, the omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient God (or whatever you want to call that essence). When I started my spiritual journey, I understood that people all over the world are searching for the same happiness and wisdom, ease and harmony, love and contentment. So my question was, ‘what is the best way to reach God and be truly happy?’  When I started to learn mantras, Veda recitation, Sanskrit and the meaning behind these words, a totally new universe was revealed to me. I understood more deeply the profound wisdom behind even the simplest exercises and mantras. I found that every movement and thought is important. We spend most of our lives using our mind to blur our true Self. Our true Self is veiled by the conditioned ego. But if you start asking questions, start investigating the source and meaning you can find totally beautiful and amazing divine love and support and this wisdom of Veda will carry you to divine bliss. I am always in awe when I read something about Vedic wisdom. The more I learn and practise this wisdom, the more harmonious  and efficient I become as a human being. It teaches me how to live, work and serve people.”

When Merike teaches Veda to her students, she encourages them to be precise with the pronunciation and the sounds. The importance of the rules of Veda recitation became evident to her when she started reciting with Shantalaji and anyone who studies at Veda Studies, knows how essential these rules are. She also feels that teaching, to her, is another form of learning, and that was why she signed up for the Indica Veda Studies Teacher Training Programme, “The TTC programme has been a life-changer for me. When I first read about the TTC,  I started to cry. I was already studying with Shantala and to be given an opportunity to learn how to teach from my teacher was a totally next-level achievement. The course was awesome. It gave me access to so much valuable information. I learned the more profound and subtle shades and nuances of Veda recitation and she also taught us about the long history of this ancient wisdom. I also learned so much from my fellow students. It was such good training to be able to learn with people, correct each other and collectively find the right pronunciation and ways to recite correctly. As a bonus, we also got exposure to some amazing guest lecturers like the Co-Founder and Director of Indica Yoga, Dr Vinayachandra Banavathy, Guruji M.S. Sreenivasan and his incredible daughter Sreeraksha.”

The Veda Life

After learning, investigating and practising Indic Knowledge systems for over 20 years, Merike feels this path is the only path she wants to tread. “Sanātana Dharma is my dharma. The Vedas are an ancient, divine source of wisdom and this ageless, vast and profound wisdom is the best source of knowledge that can support living in the modern world as well. I also respect how applicable these mantras and sounds are to every human being. I have seen the benefits of reciting even the simplest mantras. Even just the sound of Om is so profound. I understand why it is called Pranava. It is the most sacred and creative sound, and it is the source of everything. Just doing a japa of Om with the right intention and bhava can help us achieve bliss and blessings. When we experience these miracles that start happening with even the simplest recitation, we will automatically feel inclined to study and learn more. Do it with the right intention,” advises Merike. 

Merike’s dream is to establish a Shiva and Śakti temple in Estonia where she can recite Veda, conduct pūjā-s and teach Indic philosophy. She has already begun to share this dream online at Hum, where she offers students various courses on reciting Veda and also lectures on Indic philosophy. About her students, Merike says that, “I encourage people to first learn Veda by just reciting with the correct pronunciation and Veda rules. In the beginning, it may be strange and a little difficult, but very soon, it will become easier and as each student gains more harmony in the recitation, the meaning of the mantras will be revealed and the vast wise universe behind these will also open-up to you.”

For further information on Merike’s courses, visit Hum.