Chapter 3 Performing Kirtan
Kirtan--From the Heart
O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with
love flowing constantly when I chant Your holy name? When will my voice
choke up, and when will the hairs of my body stand on end at the
recitation of Your name?--Shikshastaka
A Very Sacred Assembly
Because we are conditioned, we tend to ritualise
ritualise, romanticise, intellectualise, mystify and conceptualise. But
Kirtan is not a rite or a ritual. It is not mental or intellectual. It
is not a ceremony. It is a very sacred assembly, a sacred practice
which is invoking Krishna, asking Krishna to come deliver us, to reveal
Himself to us and to accept us. Kirtan is very intimate, sacred and
If Kirtan becomes something rehearsed, then
Krishna is not
attracted. Children very quickly learn, "If I cry, my mother will come,
or my father will come," so they cry deliberately. But the mother and
father also learn, "He just wants attention; he doesn't really need
me," and they leave him crying until there is real necessity,
sincerity, urgency and desperation. Then the mother and father come to
pick up the child, and the child is pacified.
Similarly, if there is sincere feeling behind
of Hare Krishna, then Krishna accepts it. He accepts it just as a
mother and father accept an awkward gesture of service from their
child. The child is coming to bring them something, and in the process
he may make a mess--he may drop a plate or break a glass. The child may
actually do more harm than service, but if feeling and sincerity are
present, the parents accept the offering. They cannot become angry and
reject the child. They may make some attempt to correct him, but not
reject him. We must develop this attitude, this feeling. We must have
faith that when we call helplessly to Krishna, Krishna will reciprocate.
Once Krishna reciprocates, we will see that
the holy name of Krishna, is wonderful. We will be eager to chant, just
as children are eager to have ice cream. They think, "Oh, it's so
wonderful!" They always hanker for more. One must develop such a taste
for Kirtan. One cannot develop a taste by mechanically, begrudgingly
going through the motions of Kirtan, simply repeating the mantra with a
mind that is somewhere else, thinking about a million different things.
One must focus all his attention and concentration on the Kirtan.
Kirtan is an action of the soul. What we see in
terms of the
body is not Kirtan, but the shadow. When I move my hand, my shadow
moves, but my shadow has no substance. Similarly, just banging cymbals
and vibrating the vocal chords is not Kirtan. Kirtan means from the
heart--then the vocal chords and everything else are set into motion. A
prayer should be heartfelt. Without the heart, without the attentive,
heartfelt and humble reception, it is not Kirtan; it is just mechanical.
Ritualistic Kirtan with no feeling is useless.
compared to someone who takes a gun and fires blanks. It sounds and
looks like a gun, but has no power. Only the noise is there. The
substance is missing--no bullet--it cannot have any effect. Therefore
chanting without proper feeling, without any attention, proper
recitation or proper hearing is useless. it is like shooting blanks.
Add Your Heart
The Hare Krishna maha-mantra is meant for relieving
the mind of
material quandary and filling up the heart with transcendental bliss.
This bliss is called rasa. Rasa means juice, or taste. We want the
juice or essence of a thing, such as apple juice or sugarcane juice. We
don't want to just chew on some tasteless pulp. if we can extract the
juice by a machine, then we enthusiastically say, "Oh, give me a glass
of juice!" We drink it down, and it is very refreshing. The juice of
life is the holy name of Krishna. Other than the holy name, there is no
For most people, including many of Krishna's
worshipping or praising God has become ritualistic, like brushing the
teeth, taking a bath or reading a newspaper. People who don't enter
into the spirit of Kirtan will spiritually die. If we have a plant and
we don't water it with great affection and care, the plant will be
unhappy and die. Mechanical watering of a plant is not enough. If a
plant is watered with great feeling and attention, then the plant
actually feels, "This person is watering me. This person loves me." The
plant actually feels the devotion of its caretaker.
We are so fallen and degraded that we have no
anything. We simply take. But when we love Krishna, then we love
everything--the plants, the animals, our neighbour, everybody. We
become a lover. We become mad, and everything is wonderful. Kirtan is
the means to become intoxicated by love.
All over the world, people are drying up and
dying. We must
bring our heart back to this simple thing, Krishna Kirtan. We should
hear the sound, feel helpless and humble. Otherwise, we are missing the
whole essence of human life, missing the one true joy--communion with
God through Kirtan.