There are lots of different practices in the realm of yoga. You’ve probably practiced asana, the physical poses practiced with the breath, and you may also practice meditation and contemplation techniques, which primarily use the mind.
Kirtan is one of many practices that I like to call ‘emotional yoga’. In kirtan, we chant uplifting, spiritually powerful mantras until we feel them. It’s a way of getting our emotions to join with our bodies and our minds in the quest for our spiritual growth and ultimate liberation. Those who practice kirtan find that kirtan uplifts their emotional state, leaving them feeling happier and more open hearted, which in turn affects how they go about their lives and how they relate to others, as well as feeling a stronger connection with the Divine.
Chanting is a Bhakti Yoga practice. Bhakti Yoga is the yoga of devotion and Bhakti practices are all about offering loving attention to the Divine.
In the Bhagavad Gita*, Krishna describes two ways in which we can revere the Divine: We can
“..revere the Imperishable,
the Unsayable, the Unmanifest,
the All-Present, the Inconceivable,
the Exalted, the Unchanging, the Eternal..” (12:3).
Pretty lofty and…well, Inconceivable, right?
The other option is to offer love and reverence to a symbol or representation of the Divine, e.g. Krishna himself, or other deities, gods, goddesses, masters, teachers, or other more easily conceivable ‘godly’ concepts.
Because we are currently human, choosing the path of revering the Divine through abstract, all-encompassing concepts means choosing a path that
“..is much more arduous
because, for embodied beings,
the Unmanifest is obscure,
and difficult to attain.” (12:5).
If we focus on a symbol or representation of the Divine, this focus can act as a doorway to our realisation that we are the Divine, “..the Unmanifest, the All-Present, the Inconceivable..” In the end, we are taken to the same place.
The practice of kirtan gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in Bhakti, to offer loving attention to the Divine in forms we can easily conceive. Along the way, we get to enjoy a simple and beautiful practice that uplifts us and brings more joy into our lives.
Join us on 29 November for a Kirtan session at the studio.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
(Manifest Peace Peace Peace!)
*The verses in this post are taken from Bhagavad Gita: A new translation, by Stephen Mitchell, Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000