Kirtan people experience:
• Inner peace
• Opening of the heart with feelings of love and compassion
• Connection with the Divine and other kirtan participants
• On occasion, goose bumps and tears as the heart jumps with joy
There are three authorities from which to understand the benefits of kirtan:
2. Academic research findings
3. The authority of Vedic-yoga texts.
When the lead chanter and the group participants are sincere and sing from the heart with devotion – there is nothing in the world that has the power to move and uplift like kirtan. When we look back on oury life, our happiest, most blissful moments, were all in kirtan.
2. Induces trance like meditative states of altered consciousness, including feeling of spiritual upliftment that last long after the kirtan event has concluded.
3. Opens the heart, allowing greater connection and community amongst other kirtan participants, even those of diverse backgrounds and traditions.
The teachings of the Vedic-yoga texts
Interestingly, study of the Vedic-yoga texts reveals similar themes, but describes the benefits of kirtan at a deeper level. This is a level that is not consciously perceptible to the senses. My analysis of the Vedic-yoga texts unveils five themes:
1. The first benefit is that kirtan chanting destroys negativity. The Yoga Sutras (1.27-31) state that chanting om destroys “disease, procrastination, laziness, doubt, pain, nervousness, and lamentation”. According to the Vedic-yoga tradition, such negative conditions as disease, and mental distress are the result of deeper negative psychological impressions from unwholesome actions performed even in previous lifetimes – bad karma. Therefore, the more important benefit of kirtan is that it destroys the seeds of negativity waiting to sprout as the result of negative karma from previous lifetimes. In this regard, the Brhad-vishnu Purana goes as far as saying that chanting one holy name destroys more negative karma than a person is able to commit. It is natural that when a person is free from the burden of negativity they will be peaceful and happy. This leads us to…
So you can see, the benefits of kirtan described in the Vedic-yoga texts is similar to those people explain from their personal experience, but it goes further by describing benefits at a level that is beyond the purview of our limited sensory perception.
For example, while people describe that kirtan relieves distress and induces a state of peace. The Vedic-yoga texts reveal, however, that the effects of kirtan destroy negative karma even from previous lives that is yet un-manifest.
Chaitanya is the personality who 500 years ago, revolutionised spirituality in India by promoting kirtan as the easiest and most practical path to enlightenment. He wrote eight stanzas of spiritual instruction called the Shikshastakam. The first of these stanzas summarises the teachings of the Vedic-yoga texts by describing seven benefits to chanting similar those described above. These are that kirtan:
2. Destroys all suffering by ending the cycle of birth and death
3. Awakens all auspiciousness and good fortune
4. Reveals knowledge of ones true spiritual nature and relationship with the Divine
5. Awakens the highest bliss
6. Delivers the nectar of immortality
7. Allows one to share the highest Divine love by purifying one of all selfish desires for personal pleasure.
Excerpt from The Perfection of Yoga, an edited series of lectures on the sixth chapter of Bhagavad-gita As It Is.
by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada:
In India there are sacred places where yogis go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in Bhagavad-gita.
Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but insofar as kirtan—mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Krishna mantra: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare—is concerned, the more people present, the better.
When Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was performing kirtan in India some five hundred years ago, He organized in each group sixteen people to lead the chanting, and thousands of people chanted with them.
very possible and actually easyThis participation in kirtan, in the public chanting of the names and glories of God, is very possible and is actually easy in this age; but as far as the meditational process of yoga is concerned, that is very difficult.
It is specifically stated in Bhagavad-gita that to perform meditational yoga one should go to a secluded and holy place. In other words, it is necessary to leave home. In this age of overpopulation it is not always possible to find a secluded place, but this is not necessary in bhakti-yoga.
In the bhakti-yoga system there are nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Krishna as a friend and sacrificing for Him.
Out of these, sravanam kirtanam, hearing and chanting, are considered the most important.
At a public kirtan one person can chant Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, while a group listens, and at the end of the mantra, the group can respond, and in this way there is a reciprocation of hearing and chanting.
This can easily be performed in one’s own home, with a small group of friends or with many people in a large public place.
One may attempt to practice meditational yoga in a large city or in a society, but one must understand that this is one’s own concoction and is not the method recommended in Bhagavad-gita.
In conclusion, analysis of people’s personal experience as well as the Vedic-yoga teachings reveals that kirtan offers wonderful material, emotional, and spiritual benefits – for body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes kirtan is compared to India’s legendary kalpa-vrksa “wish-tree”, which can grant wishes. So why limit our comparison of kirtan to a mango which must be experienced to know its flavour? A wish-tree can deliver pineapples, coconuts, and anything else you might desire.