There is nothing in the world so much like prayer as music is. ~William P. Merrill
Music was my full time career 6 nights a week for 14 years. I’ve also played over 1000 events, weddings and affairs, but last night was my first time playing a kirtan.
What is Kirtan?
Kirtan is one of the oldest sacred music traditions in the world. Coming from India’s rich devotional traditions, kirtan is a call-and-response chanting using ancient Sanskrit mantras and hymns accompanied by diverse instruments like the harmonium, tabla, guitar, hand cymbals and others. Typically, the songs last for 10 or 15 minutes and tempos can speed up and slow down culminating in a short silent meditaton. This music form is for all people, everyone can participate, regardless of age or cultural background. There are no experts and no beginners, kirtan is the yoga of devotion.
A mantra is a religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Mantras are interpreted to be effective as vibration, or more simply as sound, which may include verbal repetition, in the form of chanting, or internal mental incantation. Great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation. Because the lyrics are sung in Sanskrit, this is advantageous, because it is easier to feel sound vibration without mental attachment to meaning.
Power of Music
When I was 12 years old and first picked up the guitar, it sounded magical to me. I could feel it vibrating in my arms. I connected with it, and the guitar connected with me physically and spiritually. Since then, music has brought me great joy, abundance, travel and my wife of 25 years when she auditioned for a band I was in. After playing music commercially all these years, I’ve forgotten the effect that music can have on the listener. Musicians create, weave, inspire, and disseminate joy. Kirtan helps me remember my heart and why I started playing music in my youth.
As I sat playing my guitar, I immediately noticed a deep sensitivity among the musicians that I had not experienced before. I sensed a brotherhood in music, without glamor, desire to impress or ego. I wasn’t thinking about what song I would play next, if the audience was having a good time, keeping the musicians happy, or what cool riff I would play next. In fact, I wasn’t thinking! Whatever music flowed from my heart rose to the surface. I was allowing the music to play me. I discovered that this newfound intentional devotion allowed me to connect with my deeper musical authentic self.
Meeting of the Hearts
Very rarely, do people come to a meeting of the minds. Kirtan goes further and creates a meeting of the hearts. In our modern age, most of our days are spent in our heads. Getting out of our heads and into our hearts is the purpose of this music. When everyone is breathing, chanting and moving together, the resulting synchronized vibration can be transformational. We all resonate at different frequencies, and these frequencies change according to our thoughts and actions. Allowing myself to be open and receptive, I noticed that kirtan brought me to a deeper experience of myself.
If you can get over the initial ‘woo woo’ feeling of singing in a different language, or moving in sync with your neighbor while you chant with devotion, you’ll be amazed at the buzz it can generate. As I became imbued with mantra, music vibration and devotion, I became more in tune with my inner heart self. Kirtan helps the mind become quiet, and when the mind quiets, we can begin to perceive the sacred experiences that are around us.
Music: Deeper Meaning
Our mental awareness is like a pond. When it becomes agitated it becomes less able to reflect the light of soul, resulting in distorted perception. We see, but it is through a marred or distorted lens. Like mindfulness meditation, kirtan serves to quiet the mind and bring us back to the center of our being. As we reconnect with our authentic selves, our bodies become magnetized with music vibration, rhythm and song. We become more relaxed, peaceful and we’re ready to see life clearly, and in a new way.
Inner Heart Self
Since all of creation is a process through which the Self or divinity expresses Itself, kirtan offers the perfect vehicle to get in touch with your Inner Heart Self.I’ve always felt that music lacked devotion or a deeper feeling. I’ve found this deeper feeling in kirtan. Even the next day, I’m still feeling the effects of the music and I can’t wait to play it again. So leave your ego at the door, try kirtan, and allow the music and chanting to bring you to new levels of peace, harmony and joy.