Kirtan – by Khadiravan Dasi

I want to share with you my favourite thing, something real.

Usually ‘meditation’ sounds peaceful, low-key, and intriguingly mystical in aim; a personal, portable grounding tool, bringing resilience to the ups and downs; it’s the hope for a sparkle of tantalising insight from beyond the usual time-worn experiences. In practice, however, meditation may be a tad tedious and hard to do every day. A nice idea but …

Try this instead: An emerging style of meditation called Kirtan. If you love music and love dancing, Kirtan is the best night out; non-toxic, hangover-free, and nothing has ever felt better, tasted better, or left me so absolutely satisfied. I am talking about a new brand of pleasure, what the yoga texts call Ananda – bliss tasted on the spiritual platform as opposed to just plain vanilla happiness that comes and goes on the material plane, abandoning us to make room for its flip side, unhappiness, and not very satisfying in the first place compared to the bliss we are entitled to. (And yes, it is easy to say this once you have tasted even a drop of the other type of happiness.)

Kirtan is mantras sung to music. A mantra is sound vibration that frees the mind. It’s an ancient yoga process and super easy. A Kirtan leader and musicians lead you in chant, and the class responds back and forth. In this way we go on for an hour or more and it gets better and better.

kirtan mantra chanting meditation

You don’t have to be musical. Indian and Western styles with instruments combine to take you deeper and deeper into the mantra. Ultimately the freedom and bliss you experience just make you want to throw off all inhibitions, including your meditation cushion, and dance in ecstasy. I’m not kidding!

What’s going on?

Kirtan is a place the mind can rest. The sound vibration, being composed of spiritual energy, provides shelter for the mind. The difference between these spiritual and material energies is chalk and cheese, day and night. In yoga knowledge, matter is composed of ignorance, temporariness, and distress, whereas spiritual energy is made of full knowledge, permanence, and bliss. We can choose to get absorbed in either.

Kirtan is freedom. How do we get beyond the limitations of body, mind, and material environment we know so well? Why do we, or at least some of us, crave the taste of some fresh air beyond the same old world we are used to?

Kirtan is touchdown on the transcendent self beyond body and psychology; it’s the soul, the atman of yoga. Unlike many meditation methods it is not just a psychological exercise, an observation of thoughts or breath, or an experience that still keeps you on the material plane. Once you taste that freedom, that release beyond limitation that you get in Kirtan, you’ll never be satisfied inside the stale walls of what you know now.

So what does it feel like to really begin to be yourself again? It’s an experience that grows as you pursue it, and considering self-realisation is the goal of multiple spiritual disciplines throughout history, it’s not a quick and easy fix. However, from the very beginning you start to taste a loosening from the mental states that crowd your consciousness moment to moment; you begin to taste a focusing of vision that clarifies the muddle of life and makes you gradually hunger to live the most real life. The heart opens to radiate and shine, and barriers between you and the people in your life – friends, family, and workmates start to disappear.

You feel the desire to connect unselfishly, with all beings, via our Common Source. Those are just a few of the herculean shifts that are possible at the beginning of this exciting adventure into Kirtan.

Ultimately, Kirtan reboots our original intelligence so we start to see and act in harmony with dharma: the cosmic order or intelligence that gives rise to the natural laws and order we see in the reality around us. Effectively, we are tuning ourselves like an instrument with the Creator, creation, and other creatures, bringing us to a state of alignment with everything.

The mantras we chant in Kirtan are names for that complete spiritual whole, Krishna. Supported by other mantras, the headliner is the maha-mantra, or great mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. You can experiment by chanting this mantra to yourself for ten minutes every morning or evening to see what it does. This is a yoga process to be experienced, so there is no need to believe in anything; it’s just like stepping into a yoga session to try out what it does for you.

At the very least you will feel a release from stress, anxiety, and boredom. At the most you will be the next fully self-realised, blissful, supercharged, intelligent, authentically and unselfishly powerful person walking the earth, a beacon of pure compassion, honesty, and deep knowledge that can contribute big time to easing the multitude of problems the world shoulders.


Experience Kirtan at a bhakti-yoga centre near you!

Photos: Mahavan (AKA Kirtan Yogi!)


© The Yoga Connection 2016

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