I’ve been asked several times this week, "What is Kirtan?"   

The experience of Kirtan is beyond words, But I’ll give it a try.  Technically, Kirtan is a method of learning via call and response. Back before teachings were written down, they were passed in an oral tradition.  Students would learn the acres of scripture by repetition and rhythm.  

In the Vaishnava tradition, Kirtan is the only way to self-realization that works in our current times. Way back in the Sat-Yuga, (age of truth) people lived to be 100,000 years old, and that is the last time that Yoga really worked.  In our current age, Kali-Yug,  the age of darkness, we don’t have enough time, and must recite the name of divinity to realize our own divine nature. 

If we lived to be 100,000 years old, our IRA’s might have enough time to recover huh?

In our culture, Kirtan has come to mean songs of devotion, called out in Sanskrit by a leader; responded to in chorus along with some instruments.  You hear some of these songs in Yoga class.  The voices unite, and you feel really good after.  You can ‘hide’ in the chorus until you find your range, and join in…. Everyone can sing kirtan.  Really.

My personal experience of Kirtan is that the whole of Yoga is contained within it.

The songs are sweet, or Ahimsic in nature.  They are devotional: Ishvara Pranidad.  We sit still, in Asana.  These Mantras takes all our breath, a focused Pranayama.

Once The rhythm is established, we slide into Pratyahara, a withdrawal from the external senses.  This brings about a single point of focus: Dharana, the gateway to Meditation: Dhyana.  In this meditation we are cleansed of negative thoughts and emotions: Kriya.

When the music stops, In that viscous-stillness we look within: Swadyaya, and get a glimpse of Samadhi, our blissful true nature.  

That’s a sliver of how Kirtan has unfolded for me.  To find your truth about Kirtan, come try.  I host at least once a month, and maintain the Boston Kirtan Facebook group where you can find out about all the local offerings.



2 thoughts on “Kirtan”

  1. I love this post, John. How true, “Everyone can sing Kirtan. Really”

    My world was stirred (in a good way) the first time I experienced Kirtan. I was on one of my many solo weekends at Kripalu. I stumbled upon Shubalanda’s Saturday night kirtan in the main chapel, and I was hooked. I have a wretched singing voice and it didn’t matter, as I suddenly found myself chanting right along with the crowd of about 200 people. It was a meditation, ecstatic chant and prayer all merged together and I was PRESENT. I hope catch you soon at a Boston Kirtan Event!

  2. Tears stream down my face as I have just finished writing my morning pages early this Sunday. They are tears of happiness, joy and gratitude. Today’s writings are richer and carry far more meaning as a result of the amazing spirit I experienced at last night’s Open Mic Kirtan. Thank you to all of you for sharing of yourselves in music, song, words and thoughts, and most of all for your presence. Thank you, John, for providing the opportunity for this community to gather and share.
    In gratitude, Bettina
    “Being open to change, having the courage to change and making a change is a process that can and does bring self-discovery and peace. May you be blessed with the same on your journey.”

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