Kirtana-Yoga and the Maha-mantra

Kirtana-Yoga and the Maha-mantra

( – Kirtana-Yoga and the Maha-mantra

By Satyaraja Dasa

Kirtana is a simple and effective way to commune with God.

The word kirtana means “praise” or “glory” and is the name given to glorification of God in song, especially in call-and-response style. There are different categories of kirtana. For example, nama-kirtana refers to singing God’s sacred names, lila-kirtana celebrates the transcendental activities of God and His associates, sankirtana is group singing, and nagara-sankirtana is public chanting in the streets. There are numerous variations of these.

Closely related is bhajana, or prayerful song. Devotees generally stand or dance while performing kirtana, and they sit to conduct bhajana. In addition, bhajana is generally more subdued than kirtana. Various sects and regions in India attribute different labels to different forms of prayerful song, sometimes defining bhajana as a subcategory of kirtana and vice versa.

Kirtana is a simple and effective way to commune with God. The Padma Purana tells us, “Because Krishna’s holy name and Krishna Himself are nondifferent, the name is fully complete, pure, and eternally liberated.” In the material world, all things are relative and a thing is different from its name, but in the spiritual realm a thing and its name are one. That’s the nature of the Absolute.

The implications here are tremendous. If God and His name are the same, by chanting one can get close to Him in every sense of the word. The chanter is close because God’s name is on his or her lips; the chanter gets purified by close association and becomes godly, cleansed, divinely inspired-thus becoming closer to God’s nature; and the chanter gets close to God through the intimacy of calling His name with love and devotion, achieving the goal of yoga, or linking with Him.

Loving union with God is the ultimate effect of kirtana, but kirtana does not ask us to achieve the highest level at once. Instead, it dutifully takes us there gradually, sometimes in spite of ourselves. Kirtana is joyful at any stage, and it leads to higher and higher modes of spirituality. It gradually takes us beyond the physical, mental, and intellectual strata and situates us in transcendence. Thus, whether we approach chanting as mere entertainment, as a night out, as part of a yogic regimen, or as a method for getting close to God, we benefit from the practice and move upward toward the Supreme.

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