in Bhakti Yoga Meditation
Kirtan plays an important role in bhakti yoga meditation. In general, there are three important aspects of devotion. These are:
- Listening (shravan)
- Chanting (kirtan)
- Remembering with love (smaran)
By listening to the teachings of a true Saint we acquire knowledge of spiritual philosophy. These teachings include who you are, what is the world, who is God, what is the path to God, how to receive God's grace and countless other important aspects of spiritual theory. This especially includes how to practice bhakti yoga meditation.
Remembrance (smaran or roop dhyana) and Chanting (kirtan)
Kirtan is also referred to as sankirtan, keertan, bhajan, chanting, sacred chants or yoga chants. This style of devotional remembrance uses call and response singing to engross the mind in devotion. Chanting is an aide in meditation that helps us channel our devotional feelings. The sound of the kirtan also helps to eliminate any external distubances in our environment that may be a distraction to our meditation.
Although we can't see, conceive, or understand God, His or Her name is an omnipresent divine power. Through meditating with chants, we introduce that same divine power in our hearts and minds. The divine name introduces the sweetness of divine love in our hearts.
For example, if a tuning fork is struck, it emits a sound. If another tuning fork is placed close by, it will be begin to resonate at the same frequency automatically. When the divine name combines with our emotional remembrance, its vibration inspires our devotional potential and begins purifying our hearts and mind.
A chantings's effectiveness depends on our feeling. Just as the soul is the 'life factor' in our body and without it we would be a lifeless corpse, similarly loving remembrance of God is the 'life factor' of chanting. Without love, kirtan is like an unsigned check for millions of dollars.
Therefore, the most spiritually beneficial chant has three aspects:
Because of this, at a higher stage of devotion you will realize what is NOT important in chanting:
- the music and beat
- the other people present
- the quality of the lead singer's voice
Types of Kirtan
There are many different types of chanting that fall into two main groups:
- Naam kirtan is a simple chanting, involving just a single or a few names of God. This is an example of a simple chant with the names of Krishna: "Krishna Govinda Govinda Gopala"
- Pad kirtan is a devotional song that is a more complex composition. It gives a glimpse into the form, decorations, qualities, name, beauty, actions, and abode of God.
This is an translated example of such a pad composed by Jagadguru Shri Kripalu Ji Maharaj. It is written in the Hindi dialect of Braj Basha, the language of much devotional literature. It describes Radha's form and decorations (Radha is the supreme power of Divine love):
Dharo man Bhanulali ko dhyan.
Oh my mind, always meditate on Radha.
Jako dhyan dharata nishi-vasara,
sundar Shyam sujan.
She is continuously meditated upon with love by Krishna.
Kanaka mukutasira charu chandrika,
tapara lara muktana.
Beautifying her head is a delicate gold crown with a dangling pendant and strings of pearls.
Choonari jarina kinara gaura tanu, neelambara paridhana.
Her complexion is radiantly golden. Her body is adorned with a beautiful blue sari.
Shruti tatanka guthi var beni,
lajavati bhaumha kamana.
Her delicate ears are decorated with sparkling earrings.
Her long black hair is braided in the most beautiful manner, and the arch of her eyebrows is putting even a bow to shame.
Nasa bhala muktahala sohata, mana mohata musakana.
Her nose is adorned with a beautiful pearl pendant and She is stealing the hearts of all with Her transcendental smile.
Paga-payala, gati ati abhiramini, lakhi marala sakuchana.
Her ankles are adorned with tinkling anklets, and Her intoxicated walk puts even a swan to shame.
Paya Kripalu sarasa asa swamini, charana na kasa lapatana.
Jagadguru Shri Kripalu ji Maharaj says, "Oh my mind, after finding such a supremely sweet governess of your heart, why haven't you surrendered yourself completely and taken hold of Her lotus feet forever?"