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 3 Performing Kirtan (Cont'd.)

Kirtan--From the Heart


O my Lord, when will my eyes be decorated with tears of 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 everything. We 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 holy.

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 the chanting 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 Kirtan, chanting 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.

Shooting Blanks
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. It is 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 juice.

For most people, including many of Krishna's devotees, 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 love for 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.



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Hansadutta das
Rittvik Representative of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
Trustee, BHAKTIVEDANTA BOOK TRUST
WORLD SANKIRTAN PARTY


Kirtan - Page 7/ WORLD SANKIRTAN PARTY
©2004 - Hansadutta das
Chaitanya MahaprabhuChaitanya Mahaprabhu


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