Mind is a peculiar combination of various moods, temperaments, whims and fancies, a strange mixture of various sentiments, emotions etc. Therefore the rishis of yore designed various methods to control the mind. One method they described is the path of bhakti, devotion or unselfish love. The innate nature of all beings is to love an external object. We cannot but love or cherish something in the heart. The Absolute alone exists. Love for external things is an unconscious internal urge to become unified with everything.
Bhakti yoga, love for love's sake, includes such practices as puja (ritual worship), hearing the stories of the Lord and especially kirtan (one of the nine modes of bhakti), the easiest, surest and quickest means of God-realization. One can realize God through kirtan alone. Kirtan is singing of God's name with devotion (bhava), love (prem) and faith (shraddha). Singing about the Lord is usually known as bhajan in most parts of India. In sankirtan people join together and sing God's name collectively in a common place with accompaniment of musical instruments such as harmonium, cymbals, drums, etc. The Sanskrit verb 'krit' means praising. Such singing has a benign effect on both the physical and subtle bodies. It is an excellent method of soothing the nerves and directing the emotions to a positive goal. During kirtan a special spiritual power comes from the Indweller of your heart; it purifies the mind and the heart. Sattva flows from the Lord to your mind. Kirtan gives you strength to face the difficulties in the battle of life; it is a powerful mental tonic. There is a power in every word. Even as the name of a thing brings that object to mind, the name of God generates God-consciousness in the purified mind. It becomes the direct cause of the realization of the highest perfection of God. There is infinite shakti (power) in kirtan. It will remove all impurities from your mind. Vedantins say that there are three kinds of obstacles to Self-realization: impurities, restlessness and ignorance. To remove them they prescribe selfless service, worship and meditation. Sankirtan alone can achieve all of these together. Kirtan removes the impurities of the mind, steadies it and checks its tendency to vacillate, and ultimately it tears the veil of ignorance and brings the sadhaka face to face with God.
In this Kali Yuga (Iron age), kirtan alone is the best yoga; it is the prescribed method of devotion. When the mind is intent on singing the Lord's names and glories, worries and stress are released. The devotee feels the presence of God and thins out his ego. The heart opens and purifies. Kirtan is a very effective method of devotion for another reason. Humans are erotic beings by nature. We love and love; we cannot exist without loving. But most love is only passion, or is selfish; is not pure divine love. We crave sweet music. Music melts the heart of even the most stone-hearted person. If there is anything in this world which can change the heart of a person in a very quick time, it is music. This very method is made use of in kirtan bhakti, but it is directed towards God instead of towards sensual enjoyments. Human emotion is directed towards God, and our love for music is not destroyed. Music is nada yoga, the yoga of sound. The various musical notes vibrate in the subtle channels (nadis), purify them and awaken the psychic and spiritual power dormant in them. Kirtan opens the heart, fills the mind with purity, and generates harmony and Divine Love. The person who chants the name of God forgets the body and the world. The devotee enters into the super-conscious state by singing devotional music. The chanting of kirtan, even mechanically done, produces many positive, beneficial effects. When done with devotion and awareness, its benefits are immeasurable. Kirtan will enable you to realize the Infinite here and now. Kirtan will save you from delusion. Therefore sing the names of the Lord always.
1. Why is kirtan supposed to be the easiest way to God-realization in Kali Yuga?
2. Describe the benefits of kirtan.