"The Holy Name of Lord Krishna is an attractive feature for many saintly, liberal people. It is the annihilator of all sinful reactions and is so powerful that save for the dumb who cannot chant, it is readily available to everyone, including the lowest type of man, the chandala. The Holy Name of Krishna is the controller of the opulence of liberation, and it is identical with Krishna. Simply by touching the Holy Name with one's tongue, immediate effects are produced. Chanting the Holy Name does not depend on initiation, pious activities or the purascharya regulative principles generally observed before initiation. The Holy Name does not wait for all these activities. It is self-sufficient."
- Padyavali (29) by Rupa Goswami, quoted in Chaitanya-charitamrita Madhya 15.110

"There is no vow like chanting the divine name, no knowledge superior to it, no meditation which comes anywhere near it, and it gives the highest result. No penance is equal to it, and nothing is as potent or powerful as the holy name. Chanting is the greatest act of piety and the supreme refuge. Even the words of the Vedas do not possess sufficient power to describe its magnitude. Chanting is the highest path to liberation, peace and eternal life. It is the pinnacle of devotion, the heart's joyous proclivity and attraction, and the best form of remembrance of the Supreme Lord. The divine name has appeared solely for the benefit of the living entities as their lord and master, their supreme worshipable object and their spiritual guide and mentor."
-Adi Purana 104-108

"I do not know how much nectar the two syllables "Krs-na" have produced. When the divine name of Krsna is chanted, it appears to dance within the mouth. We then desire many, many mouths. When that name enters the holes of the ears, we desire many millions of ears. In addition, when the divine name dances in the courtyard of the heart, it conquers the activities of the mind, and therefore all the senses become inert."
-Rupa Gosvami, Vidagdha-madhava 1.15

"With great care, you should eagerly blend this ambrosial name of Radhika with the wonderful sweet condensed milk of the name of Krsna.
Now add into that mixture the sweet fragrance of loving affection, which is both cool and delightful. Drink this nectar day and night,
and you will know what true happiness is."
-Stavavali by Raghunath Das Goswami

"The divine name of Krsna is transcendentally blissful. It bestows all spiritual benedictions, for it is Krsna Himself, the reservoir of all pleasure. Krsna's name is complete, and it is the form of all transcendental mellows. It is not a material name under any condition, and it is no less powerful than Krsna Himself. Since Krsna's name is not contaminated by the material qualities, there is no question of its being involved with maya. Krsna's name is always liberated and spiritual; it is never condotioned by the laws of material nature. This is because the name of Krsna and Krsna Himself are identical."
-Padma Purana

"The divine name of Krsna is the eternally ripened fruit on the desire tree of the Vedic scriptures, sweeter than the sweetest, most auspicious amongst all auspiciousness, the sum and substance of all scriptural knowledge. Oh best of the Bhrgus, Krsna's name awards liberation to all human mankind if chanted even once without offense -be it with faith or with negligence."
-Skanda Purana, Prabhasa-khanda

"My dear King, although Kali-yuga is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: Simply by chanting the Hare Krsna maha-mantra, one can become free from material bondage and be promoted to the transcendental kingdom."
-Srimad Bhagavatam 12.3.51

"In this age of Kali there is no other means, no other means, no other means for self-realization than chanting the divine name, chanting the divine name, chanting the divine name of Lord Hari."
-Brhan-Naradiya Purana 3.8.126

"In this age of Kali there is no religious principle other than the chanting of the Divine Name, which is the essence of all Vedic hyms. This is the purport of all scriptures."
-Sri Caitanya-caritamrta Adi-lila 7.74

"Lord Brahma said, “The sixteen words-Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare; Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare -are especially meant for completely destroying all the contamination of Kali. To save oneself from the contamination of Kali-yuga, there is no alternative in all the Vedas except the chanting of this sixteen-word mantra."
-Kali santarana Upanisad

 

What is Kirtan?

Internationally recognized for his musical abilities to perform the ancient kirtan & bhajan songs, Vaiyasaki Das, a tenor, approaches kirtan and devotional music from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. Vaiyasaki, who is an initiated disciple of Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, spent many years in India and Bangladesh learning the ragas inherent to the various kirtan styles from master kirtan musicians, saints, and singers who inspire whole villages in Bangladesh to join in the ecstatic chanting of the spiritual celebration of kirtan. Since the '70s he has toured doing raga kirtan and devotional Bengali music in 69 countries, recorded 12 CDs, and written two books how the kirtan/yoga culture was transplanted to the West. He has been a practitioner of bhakti yoga for 4 decades and performs his music with a mission to uplift the consciousness of the planet. His considerable knowledge of the vast repertoire of Indian bhajans has provided the foundation for a new generation of artists, in the flourishing genre of kirtan yoga and mantra meditation. Chanting the Divine Names of God, revives the original dormant love for God which is already present in everyone's heart. When the heart chakra is awakened, the chanter is brought to a deeper realization of his relationship with the Supreme and the ultimate goal of his own life.

Kirtan, also known as sankirtan, is the call-and-response chanting Vaiyasaki Das / Chaitanya Mahaprabhuinspired and popularized by the great saint Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The roots of kirtan go back over 500 years to Renaissance India. During this period the influence and style of kirtan became the focal point for the upsurge in religious expression in Bengal led by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. This joyful mood quickly spread throughout India, where today kirtan is accepted as one of the surest paths to enlightenment. The singing is accompanied by the ancient musical raga tradition with a rhythmic drumming style that transports the chanters to profound spiritual realms. In its religious fervor, it has been likened to modern American Gospel music, and in its heartfelt expression it compares to profound states of deep meditation.



History of Kirtan

Kirtan, or Sankirtan, was popularized circa 1506 by the great Bengali saint, Sri Krishna Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. The Sanskrit word, Kirtan, means to glorify, and sanga kirtan, shortened to sankirtan, means glorification in the association of others, or the congregational singing of divine mantras with devotion.

The Sanskrit word, mantra, can be broken etymologically into two root words, mana which means the mind, and tra which means to deliver. Thus, a mantra has the power to deliver the mind from material consciousness or perception, to spiritual consciousness or enlightenment.

Previous to the time of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, the mantras were chanted, but not sung with melodies and instruments. Chaitanya introduced the singing in order to keep the restless mind peaceful. The mantra has to be heard with a calm and peaceful mind. Then it can enter through the ear and into the heart where the purification process takes place. God is within the heart of every living being, and the heart is also the abode of divine love. So the kirtan will open up the heart chakra and revive the divine love that is already present.

If one's mind is restless, with scattered thoughts always coming and going, then the hearing process is disrupted, and the mantra cannot enter into our minds and hearts, and therefore the process becomes restricted.

It was for this reason that Mahaprabhu introduced the singing, and later the dancing, because when we are singing and/or dancing then we are not thinking; we get caught up in the music and/or dance. When the thought process becomes tranquil, the mantra can be properly heard and the sound vibration enters our consciousness to purify the heart. The Sanskrit word sravanam refers to focusing our hearing, and then the kirtanam will produce its powerful purificatory effect.

The reason the mantras have this potency is because these sound vibrations are not spoken by man, apauruseya. They are not of this world, or even the material universe. Rather, they have descended directly from the spiritual plane and thus have spiritual potencies because the mantras are the sound representations of the Divine Names of God. The scriptures of every major religion in the world recommend we glorify God by music and song in order to establish a loving connection with the Supreme. This can be experienced by anyone personally by engaging in the kirtan process.

If one sings a mundane sound vibration, for example coca cola coca cola, that material sound will not produce a spiritual result. What is of the spirit is spiritual and what is of matter is material. The Vedic scriptures of ancient India describe the natures of both the material and the spiritual planes of existence in great detail. Because we tend to absorb ourselves in material energies, our perceptions and our entire consciousness becomes adulterated to material conceptions. Thus we need the purification that comes from singing Kirtan to re-spiritualize our consciousness.

When we speak of purifying the heart we refer to those unwanted things in our heart, like bigotry, resentment, anger, prejudice, jealousy, lust, greed, etc. that cover and obstruct divine love from expressing itself at every moment. So the goal of kirtan is to purify the heart in order to revive the dormant divine love that remains deep in the core of our heart.

Chaitanya Mahaprabhu devoted his life to spreading Kirtan and traveled throughout India bringing it to every community. That's why everyone in India knows about kirtan. Wherever he went he attracted thousands of followers and was received with great affection be people of every caste and creed. Due to his efforts everyone in India chants kirtan in one form or another.

His Divine Grace Bhaktivedanta Swami Srila Prabhupada

Forms of Kirtan - by Vaiyasaki Das

Kirtan reached its highest form of expression in Bengal, located in northeast India.

There are two classifications of kirtan: 1. Nama Kirtan 2. Lila kirtan

1. Nama Kirtan refers to singing the divine names of one's personal worshipful Deity. In Bengal, specifically, the names of Sita-Rama, Radha-Krishna, or Gaura-Nitai, are the most popular. The understanding is that the name of God is non-different from God, because spiritual nature is absolute. In this way the devotee can associate with God through the sound representation of the divine name. The Vedic conception of God is both masculine and feminine. There is always a feminine counterpart which is an expression of divine love, or devotion, while the masculine energy expresses divine power.

Akhanda nama kirtan refers to the continuous non-stop singing of kirtan by various groups of singers, usually singing for two hours at a time before the next group takes over. This event, or festival, may last for 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, or even for a whole week, without ever stopping. The Sanskrit word Akhanda means non-stop.

Kirtans are sung in two moods or bhavas: Sambhoga bhava - this is the mood of joy that one experiences in association with the beloved. Vipralambha bhava - this is the mood of longing that one experiences during separation from the beloved.

Of the two, the vipralambha bhava is a deeper expression of devotion, because in this mood one can barely tolerate separation from the object of one's love. In the case of Kirtan, the object of love is always God.

2. Lila kirtan refers to singing about the transcendental pastimes of the Supreme, either in this realm, or in the eternal spiritual plane. Again, the main pastimes that are sung are of the Deities which are mentioned above for the nama kirtans. There are different types of lila kirtans of which the most popular are:

a) Pala kirtan - the singing and acting out of a particular pastime of one's chosen Deity. One person will sing, recite, and act out a pastime, while a group of musicians accompany him.

b) Padyavali kirtan - the singing of specific pastimes of divine love between Sri Krishna and His associates, sung by one main singer and accompanied by several musicians.

c) Astakaliya kirtan - is the 24 hour non-stop recitation in song, by one singer, of the entire daily pastimes of Radha & Krishna from 6am through the morning, afternoon, evening, night and then ending at 6am the next morning. In order to perform astakaliya kirtan one has to know the entire day of Krishna's pastimes by heart and be able to sing them for one entire 24 hour session. The audience will usually stay with him through the night to hear the songs and pastimes that they know and love.

d) Dhun - is similar to kirtan but is always expressed in sambhoga bhava and is popular mainly in the Gujarat area of India. The words of the dhuns may not be mantras, but they are glorification of the divine names & pastimes of the Supreme, and thus have a similar effect as kirtan.

"Kirtan is based on mood, on rasa, and on bhava. It's not just singing. Bhava means a feeling that you are evoking. Each raga evokes a particular emotion, and that emotion is in harmony with universal energies according to particular times of the day. This is based on the astakalya lila of Sri Sri Radha and Krishna"
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Within each kirtan the singer evokes the coming together and separation of Radha and Krishna. These emotions or bhavas are called Sambhog and Vipralambha. Then there are upabhavas, anticipation of union and anticipation of separation. So all of the moods exhibited by the divine couple are evoked in a proper kirtan."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Depending on the purity of the chanting, the sincerity of the chanting, and the feeling of devotion in the chanting, to that extent Krishna becomes revealed through the sound vibration of the mantras which are His holy names. So Kirtan is a process of purification, a process of God-realization. Kirtan is involved with self-realization much more than it is with music. Kirtan is the path to enlightment to get out of the entanglement of the material energy and to return home, back home, back to Krishna in full blissful consciousness."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"The Hare Krishna mantra has spiritual potency because it has descended from the spiritual plane. It's not a sound vibration from this planet or from this universe but comes directly from the spiritual platform. In sanskrit the word apurusheya means not spoken by man. That's why the mantra has spiritual potency because it comes directly from the spiritual platform."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"For me, Kirtan is a love song to serenade the divine Supreme lover. The beloved serenates the divine lover, that is the bhava, that is the mood. When the mood and the emotion is in harmony with the time of the day or night, then the raga completes our divine union with God, Sri Krishna. Divine union means to enter into a divine loving relationship to become one in your heart, and in your love. But you remain individual in your expressions and reciprocation of the Divine Love Play."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Yoga means divine union, but for me, it means divine reunion because we come from the kingdom of God and we want to return to the kingdom of God. Kirtan is a vehicle to take us there through divine sound energies
and consciouness and higher dimentional realities to engage in eternal loving sporting pastimes with the Supreme. These are the teachings of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu who brought Kirtan to this planet 500 years ago, and spread it throughout India."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"In 1965 my spiritual master His Divine Grace A.C Bhaktivedantha Swami Prabhupada introduced kirtan in New York City, and began a kirtan revolution that spread around the globe, and is ever-expanding now in the 21st century."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Kirtan is based on mood, on rasa, on bhava -inner feeling. And this was developed in Bengal. It's not just singing. There's bhava, there's a sentiment that you're trying to evoke, and that sentiment matures into spiritual love, love for God –Krishna."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Each raga is carefully crafted to bring out a particular emotion, and that emotion is connected to, or in harmony with, Radha and Krishna's pastimes, known as the ashta-kaliya-lila of Radha and Krishna. So, in Bangladesh, they do kirtan according to the ragas and the ashta-kaliya-lila pastimes of Radha and Krishna with all the moods and emotions in the kirtan that corresponds to eight different facets of the day in the spiritual world."
-Vaiyasaki Das.

"Kirtan is the highest puja. The Holy Names are our Murti. We bathe the Lord with our tears, the decorations that we dress the Murti with are the melodies we sing and the ornaments are the Mrdanga beats."
-Vaiyasaki Das

"Kirtan is like the rasa lila: everyone is chanting and dancing together yet we all feel we have Krishna all to ourselves. On the otehr hand, Japa is our private, intimate darshan with Krishna."
-Vaiyasaki Das

 
 
 

Copyright 2007 Vaiyasaki Das (Per Sinclair) www.KIRTAN.org

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