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Kirtan opens the heart and stills the mind. It is the yoga practice of ecstatic chanting. Through repeating the divine names in Sanskrit, the mind is cleared of worry, doubt, fear and all limiting concepts. The joy of peace and infinite love is given to the practitioner, and transmitted through the world by chanting. The ancient Rishis (the Illumined Ones) could hear the sound vibration that translates into perfect creation. They used Sanskrit mantra to communicate that perfect consciousness. By singing kirtan, we raise our vibrational energy to its perfect potential. It feels like an expanding sense of lightness – a permeation of the being with luminosity. (You can actually see the aura of the body expand) The body is an instrument and kirtan is the gift that tunes the self to Bliss (ananda) This mantra technology clears the nadis (energy pathways) to allow the free flow of the Universal Life Force Energy, (Shakti,) which promotes vibrant health, longevity and buoyant joy!
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One of the paths of yoga is called Bhakti Yoga. It is the path of the Heart. The Spiritual Heart. It is one of these places inside that we can’t necessarily see, but we surely can feel. Bhakti Yoga is working with the heart channel. Love. Acceptance. Surrender. Endless Surrender. Into something greater. One of the practices that amplifies the Heart channel is Kirtan. Singing the names of the Divine. Our voices connect our Hearts. All praising the One. We become an orchestra together. We feel that connection to each other. We know we are connected to something greater. In the feeling of gratitude, we celebrate the beauty of love!
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The Sanskrit words that we sing in these Kirtans are mantras, or divine names. A mantra can be thought of as a sonic embodiment of the supreme being who, through grace, takes infinite recognizable forms. When touched by the blessings of an enlightened master or the longing of a pure heart, these mantras become fully alive and have the power to carry us back to the One, the universal heart. These ancient words hold within them the very presence of the deity; they are prayers, they are vessels for our prayers, and they are that One to whom we are praying.
The chants don’t tell stories and aren’t actual sentences. Rather, they are like simple roadmaps to help the mind leap from mental remembrance into the deepest heart essence, where we actually meet and commune with that being who is the source of all. And, really, it’s okay if we don’t fully understand the translations or pronunciations. Through these simple Kirtans, we can communicate with our hearts, with our souls; we can cry, we can laugh, we can dance.
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“Music that is saturated with soul force is the real universal music, understandable by all hearts.” — Paramahansa Yogananda
“Kirtan is for all people. There are no experts, no beginners. The practice itself is the teacher, guiding us to ourselves. Kirtan allows us to enter into a mystery world—a world where all the logic of our minds, all the condition and learning are left outside. And in this mystery, we create a temple inside of our hearts, a place of refuge, a place of love, a place of just being.” —Jai Uttal
“Chanting is a way of getting in touch with yourself. It’s an opening of the heart and letting go of the mind and thoughts. It deepens the channel of grace, and it’s a way of being present in the moment.” — Krishna Das
“You start doing chanting as technique. You start to sing ‘Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.’ You start thinking it means, Honorable Ram, Hail Ram, Hail Hail Ram. Then after an hour you stop thinking about all of that and you are just singing it. You are realizing the aesthetic of the music and how beautiful it is. Then after a while it starts to go deeper until your heart is just singing, it’s singing from inside you. Then there’s a point where true bhakti starts- where dualism ends and you become like the chant. You are in a space where it’s not emotional anymore. It’s moved into the deeper, intuitive quality of love. Touching that love leaves you with trust in the method and trust in where the method takes you—trust in the Beloved and trust in how you get there.” –Ram Dass
“If we know anything about a path at all, it’s only because of the Great ones that have gone before us. Out of their love and kindness, they have left some footprints for us to follow. So, in the same way that they wish for us, we wish that all beings everywhere, including ourselves, be safe, be happy, have good health, and enough to eat. And may we all live at ease of heart with whatever comes to us in life.”
– Kirtan closing prayer by Krishna Das