Why Do We Chant Kirtan?
Chanting kirtan is a devotional practice that helps to uplift the mind, open the heart and bring inner peace. It is the fastest, easiest and most joyful way to achieve peace of mind. The mantras are mystical universal sounds that resonate with our chakras and remove negative energies. So, it is important that we chant so that we can benefit from this powerful healing energy.
It is not about our ego or our self, but it is about chanting the name and the glories of God. We need to chant to express our devotion to something higher than ourselves to open our heart. We need to open our heart daily to the Supreme so that we can live in peace and compassion with all. These kirtans are very old chants composed of mantras which have been given to us by sages and saints. They are in the Sanskrit language which is the language of the Gods, a universal language with pure vibrations corresponding to the vibrations of our chakras, our vital, subtle energy centers. The Sivananda Organization uses the method of call and response, where the leader of the kirtan chants first and the rest of the group follows out loud. The musical instruments generally used are the harmonium, tablas, tambourines, and other percussion.
To learn to chant, you need only close your eyes, and practice following the sounds, without worrying about how you sound. Beginners can follow along in the Kirtan book, but the book needs to be held so that you can sit erect and connect to the breath. It may be best for you to buy the Kirtan book and CD so that you can bring it home and listen to it daily. Don’t worry that it is in Sanskrit or that it is culturally foreign or that you are not a good singer and you don’t have a good voice. Eventually you will pick up the chants, and develop a liking for particular chants that correspond to your own inner vibration. It is a devotional, intuitive approach to meditation and not an intellectual one.
The Sivananda Daily Chants invoke the main aspects of divinity which are in the universe and within us. Though they are Hindu gods, they are not only for Hindus, but represent the subliminal spiritual archetypes within our minds and personalities. Every one of us resonates on a subtle level with a certain vibration and everyone in reality is divine, but we forget ourselves, and chanting the names of God links us with our true divine nature. The different gods represent the different manifestations of the same Supreme Reality. Our expressions in daily life—and even more, our expressions in spiritual life—differ from each other and are unique. This is why it is said, “the paths are many, but the Truth is one”. The names or forms are many but God is one.
The Yogic approach to spirituality is very tolerant of cultural differences and respectful of traditions. We understand that you might come from a different spiritual background, but please try to take this as an opportunity for you to understand the concept of Unity in Diversity, and open yourself to other ways of finding union with God, whether you call it Buddha, Jesus, Allah, Mohamed, Guru, Divine Mother, etc. This is what Yoga means by Union—Union with all that seems to be different than ourselves. In that union only, we find peace and health.