KIRTAN and BHAKTI YOGA
is the yogic practice of heart-centred singing
KIRTAN is a a practice from the tradition of Yoga. Yoga is a saṅskṛt word that simply translates as "union" – bringing one's mind and body into the same place as the same time. Not thinking about something that happened yesterday or making plans for the future, but being completely present in this moment, right now. Mind and body in union, as well as with one's soul/spirit (whatever your personal connection to or idea of that might be), with other people, with nature, with everything in creation, including divinity (again whatever your personal connection to or idea of what that is might be). Any practice that brings one to a state of union, can be deemed as being yoga.
KIRTAN (also knowns as bhajan, chanting, mantra singing) particularly comes from the path of yoga, called BHAKTI yoga. This is to come to this state of union through the heart, and through the mood of love. Often described as the love relationship with divinity. My understanding of BHAKTI practices, is that that they are about cultivating the feeling of love, and an attitude of compassion in all our relationships. With our close family and friends, with people we don't know, with people we don't find ease with, with nature – our environment – the world around us, and with ourselves. With BHAKTI there is the opportunity to fall in love with ourselves just as we are.
The practices from the BHAKTI tradition are all offerings to cultivate this feeling of love and practice for these love relationships in life. They include the beautiful arts of japa (meditative repetition of mantra), pūja and ārati (ceremonies including elemental offering), havan and yajña (making offerings into a sacred fire), as well as, of course KIRTAN.
KIRTAN is to come together in community to sing saṅskṛt mantra. Mantra are "positive affirmations" in an ancient vibrational language, that have a profoundly healing effect on or subconscious and our energetic system. We accompany these healing sounds with live music, often harmonium and drum, and sometimes percussion, guitar and other instruments to support our journey with the mantra.
No singing experience is necessary, all are welcome, and all present co-create the magic that happens in the KIRTAN. It is a space for everyone, and everyone's expression. As we sing together, people clap their hands, dance, sit meditatively or anything else they are inspired to do.
As with and adaptogenic travelling herb, when we journey with KIRTAN it responds to where we are at, and what we need, often bringing up different moods an emotions, from soft, sweet and meditative, to wild, raucous and ecstatic. It can make us laugh or cry, bring us to a state of calm or elation, bliss or peace. It can be deeply moving and incredibly joyful.
“Won’t you help to sing – these Songs of Freedom”
– Bob Marley
Quotes on KIRTAN and BHAKTI YOGA
"Bhajans should be sung like a flower gives nectar-sweetly and softly" – Babaji (Haidakhandi Baba)
"Kirtan is like a magnet, inviting and begging grace to enter our hearts and our lives. It is a most precious thing, something to be cherished and practiced with total gratitude, and those who learn how to enter into it will feel God’s grace and presence as the closest of the close, the dearest of the dear—our true beloved." – Jai Uttal
"Love sustains everything. Love is the foundation of the universe" - Amma
"After no great lapse of time I had the feeling that the Prayer had, so to speak, by it's own action passed from my lips to my heart. Further, there came into my heart a gracious warmth" - Way of a Pilgrim
"The Lord's name is divine nectar, repeat it all the time" - Babaji (Haidakhandi Baba)
"Chanting is like spring cleaning for the soul" – Jahnavi Harrision
"What is universal is that Bhakti is sweet...Bhakti is easy to do and the attainments are sublime" – Namadeva (Thomas Ashley-Farrand)
"Chant Om, the mantra of the / love union of Shiva and Shakti / slowly and consciously. / Enter the sound and when it fades away, / slip into freedom of being." – Vijnana Bhairava Tantra translator Daniel Odier
“Mantras are like bombs, they explode from you and destroy negative energy.” – Paramhansa Yogananda (as told to me by Ambika from Goma)
“The heart is a many stringed instrument that can only be tuned with love” – Hafiz (Sufi Poet)
“Music (Chanting, Bhajans, Kirtan) is the most direct, universal and immediate mode of lifting us into a higher awareness.” – Swami Sivananda