Kirtan: Ancient Medicine for Modern Man
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© 2004 - Hansadutta das

Kirtan: Ancient Medicine for Modern Man

By Hansadutta das

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Chapter 2

The Spirit of Kirtan

Kirtan--Universal and Transcendental

There are no hard and fast rules for chanting these names.-- Shikshastaka

Call for Help
Every living entity in this material world is always full of fear and anxiety, because he is absorbed in the material energy. He is especially absorbed in this material body. The bodily concept is the source of all fears, doubts, anxieties and stress. There are so many treatments available to counteract stress, anxiety, disease and insanity. So many solutions to so many problems are being offered to people today. However, none of the problems can be solved by any of the multifarious solutions, because our problems are spiritual, not material. Our problem is that we have become godless. We have forgotten to chant the Lord's holy name--not ritualistically, but as a genuine call for help.

Matter is only an expansion of a higher force. It is only a by-product of the spirit. We have to find the solution to our material problems not in material arrangements, but in a spiritual adjustment. That spiritual adjustment is made in Kirtan.

Christian Kirtan
All religious communities originally practiced some form of Kirtan. The prophets of the Old Testament were the spiritual masters of Biblical times, and through them came instructions for conducting spiritual life in a progressive way. We find Kirtan everywhere in the Bible.

From the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, the Lord's name is to be praised.--Psalms 113:3

Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. --Acts 2:21

The early Christians practiced Kirtan. Before their meetings they would sing and in this way purify their hearts as well as the atmosphere. Then a holy spirit would descend, and certain persons would become vehicles of expression for such holy spirits. Not only Christians, but Jews, Muslims, Hindus and all other religious groups originally performed Kirtan.
Allah, who does not fit into heavens or worlds, fits into the hearts of men. The process used to clean the heart is dhikrullah (chanting the names of Allah). Dhikr is a key to the secrets of life. --Ninety-nine Names of Allah
Praise God in His temple on earth,
Praise Him in His temple in heaven,

Praise Him for His mighty achievements,
Praise Him with blasts of the trumpet,

Praise Him with lyre and harp,
Praise Him with drums and dancing,

Praise Him with strings and reeds,
Praise Him with clashing cymbals,

Praise Him with clanging cymbals,
Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh!

--Jewish Old Testament
In this age of quarrel and hypocrisy, there is no other way, no other way, no other way to attain God consciousness than to chant the holy name, chant the holy name, chant the holy name of the Lord. --Vedas

One must learn to call upon the name of God, even more than breathing--at all times, in all places, in every kind of occupation. --Eastern Orthodox Philokalia

Unfortunately, Christians, as well as practically all other once-strong spiritual communities have lost the real meaning behind the singing of hymns and chanting of prayers. They have minimised Kirtan. They ritualistically attend church and ritualistically sing songs. Their spiritual life has become ritualistic, like reading the morning newspaper. Hymns and prayers are not recited with the ecstasy with which they were written. Hymns and prayers have lost their import for them.

It is the spirit and the consciousness in which we perform Kirtan that makes the difference. Spirit means consciousness. Where there is spirit, there must be consciousness. Our consciousness should be Krishna consciousness.

Kirtan is not ritualistic. It is the soul's awakening in touch with God--the song and dance of the soul. There are no rules or regulations for Kirtan. One can dance in any way one likes, one can sing God's names to any tune, one can dress any way one likes, one can perform Kirtan anywhere. Kirtan is universal and transcendental, and it should be re-established world-wide, because Kirtan is the only means to counteract the fear, anxiety and illusion of this age.

Perverted Kirtans
Primitive societies also utilise the principle of Kirtan. Even in societies where they have no clear conception of God, there is some kind of get-together in which congregation members appeal to spirits through music. Some societies worship lower spirits and appeal to them through music. For example, in places like Fiji, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, people become possessed by lower spirits. Spirits speak through them, and they are able to perform extraordinary mystical acts like walking on fire or putting hooks in their backs and swords through their tongues and cheeks without feeling pain.

Kirtan, in its broadest sense, is the process of appealing by sound vibration to the spirits beyond. Devotees appeal to the Supreme Spirit, Krishna, and materialists appeal to the dead or to the demons; but the principle of Kirtan is the same. The difference between the materialist's Kirtan and the devotee's Kirtan is the object of the Kirtan. The object of the devotee's Kirtan is Krishna, while the object of the materialist's Kirtan is some mundane object or person.

Kirtan is also exhibited in a perverted way in the army. When soldiers march, one man calls out the cadence. Football rallies, baseball games and soccer matches are all forms of Kirtan. When someone hits the ball, the fans all jump up and cheer. Rock festivals are also a perverted form of Kirtan. Many people assemble with great enthusiasm, even though the Kirtan leader, the rock star, may be a demon. The godless gather together to focus their energy on the person who is the most godless, who has the most audacity, and thus they are drawn into a whirlpool of illusion and godlessness.

In Mexico and Spain, people worship the matador, the bullfighter. Actually, they don't really worship him; they want to see him get killed. Spectators at the bullfight jump and yell, hoping to see the matador get killed. In auto racing, spectators like to see the driver get killed. When cars pile up, people shout, "It was great! You should be been there! Five men got killed!" The materialists want to see people suffer and die.

Everything rests on sound vibration. Devotees are vibrating the name of the Supreme Spirit, and materialists are vibrating the names and qualities of evil, demoniac spirits. Presently, the world is overflooded with demoniac sound vibrations being broadcast through radio, television, records, tapes, books and videos. This demoniac, godless vibration is flourishing everywhere, and imperceptibly, people are being polluted.

We are Haunted
There are gross sounds which vibrate through radio and television. Besides these, there are also subtle sounds or spirits which are unseen and also vibrate. We cannot see these spirits, but they are vibrating. Subtle sounds travel through the ether, through incarnate spirits and through thoughts. People are thinking, and their thoughts are vibrating imperceptibly in the ether. All these vibrations are perverted reflections of the original principle of Kirtan.

Chanting Hare Krishna is the most important activity in the world, because it protects one from the influence of both gross and subtle spirits. One should make Kirtan the root, the very essence and basis of life. Otherwise, imperceptibly, we will be bewildered, deluded and diverted from the original purpose of life: to become God conscious. Unless we are firmly established in the original principle of glorifying and serving God, we will eventually fall into the service of those spirits who are against God. Their powerful, subtle influences will overwhelm us.

The entire creation is nothing but spirit in different stages of evolution. Even rocks are spirits trapped in a lower form of life. The trees, the sun, the moon, the stars, the air and the water are all spirits. Unless we keep the Supreme Spirit, Krishna, always in the foreground of our consciousness, we will be diverted by other spirits.

The Lord's Appearance
The material world is inhabited by the lower spirits, or spirit souls who have rejected Krishna. It is a godless society. Krishna Himself came to this planet as Lord Chaitanya 500 years ago to propagate this Sankirtan movement. Krishna says:

Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice and a predominant rise of irreligion, at that time I descend Myself. In order to deliver the pious and to annihilate the miscreants, as well as to re-establish the principles of religion, I advent Myself millennium after millennium.--Bhagavad-gita 4.7-8

Lord Chaitanya demonstrated how one can be delivered from this godless atmosphere by chanting the holy name of Krishna. This Krishna Kirtan is the most powerful force in the world today. In the spirit of Lord Chaitanya, Krishna's devotees have undertaken the mission to spread the Sankirtan movement to every town and village.

Presently we are travelling world-wide and introducing world-wide Kirtan. We want everyone to experience Krishna Kirtan. Now people experience the Kirtan of a football game, a baseball game or a concert--the congregation of many people shouting, cheering and singing. These mundane Kirtans are only for the body or mind, and because they are material, their pleasure is temporary and frustrating.

Kirtan in Every Sphere
Real Kirtan means to glorify Krishna, God. To chant the holy name of God with drums, cymbals and other instruments is called Sankirtan. But the broader, more mature understanding is that anything done in the association of others who glorify God is Sankirtan. A doctor, a lawyer or even a businessman can be engaged in Sankirtan. Sankirtan may be digging a well, building a cottage, weeding a garden, earning money or begetting a child. Anyone, in any sphere of activity, can participate in Sankirtan. That is the real meaning of the Sankirtan movement.

Do Everything with Devotion
We cannot simply chant all day, but neither can we work all day. All work and no pray and all pray and no work are both undesirable. We cannot just sit and chant Hare Krishna. If some rare individual can, that's good, but we haven't found anyone who can. Therefore, everything should be done with feeling for Krishna, whether it's working in the field, cooking in the kitchen, shopping or chanting Hare Krishna.

God is not concerned with how much you give or how much work you do for Him. He cares how much you keep, how much you do not do. Krishna does not need service, but we need to serve Krishna, because that is our natural and eternal function. The natural function of the finger is to give service to the whole body. If the finger is separated from the body, the body will go on, but the finger alone has no value. A finger separated from the body is useless. When we work for Krishna, our activities become purified. Otherwise, the tendency is to become attached to the result or fruit of our work. When Krishna is firmly established in our heart through the holy name, then our activities and the result of our activities become clear.

In this spirit, whatever you do as work--as long as it is not connected with eating meat, fish or eggs, taking intoxicants, illicit sex or gambling--can be considered Kirtan, glorification of God. Broadly speaking, everything done in Krishna's service constitutes Kirtan.

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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

©2004 - Hansadutta das
Chaitanya MahaprabhuChaitanya Mahaprabhu

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