As a part of our yoga we preform something called kirtana – a practice that involves chanting hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tables, the two-headed mrdanga or pakhawaj drum and hand cymbals (karatalas).Mantra means ‘that which delivers one from the influence of the mind’, and is the only process of meditation recommended by the scriptural authority of the Vedas for attaining self-realisation in this age.
The tradition of naam sankirtan is very ancient. Naam means ‘name’, sam means ‘complete’ and kirtan is the chanting of simple mantras set to music, together in groups, with rhythm, energy and devotion. The prefix ‘sam’ implies that one should sing kirtan with full feeling (bhava), love (prem) and faith (shraddha). The singing of God’s name is a science which has been perfected in India over thousands of years. It is a part of nada yoga, the yoga of sound, in which you produce sound waves and follow them with your awareness. Nad means ‘flow of sound vibrations’, yoga means ‘to unite or merge with’, so nada yoga is uniting or merging with these sound vibrations in an attempt to transcend the mind. Kirtan is mantra or eternal sound. When the mind becomes one with the nada or sound and the mantra, there is no difference between the mind and the mantra.
The point of singing God’s name is divine intoxication, divine ecstasy. ‘Harinaam ka pyala peekar aur pilakar ban ja tu matavala’ – Drink the glass of wine filled with God’s name yourself serve it to others and become ecstatic. If you could sing just one line of kirtan for three to four hours, you would go into bhava Samadhi (trance).
– Swami Satyananda Saraswati
When total harmony between body, mind and prana takes place, together with the mantra, it is known as bhava samadhi, or ecstasy, where action and emotion fuse into one, and we develop awareness of the inner spirit, or atman. When kirtan is sung correctly with the right rhythm and harmony, it restructures the whole pranic flow, as the body and mind move with the rhythm of the music and mantra. If you continue singing kirtan with devotion in the same rhythm, slowly and steadily, and build to a climax very slowly, you will go into a trance, into bhava samadhi.
Kirtan is a way to relax and to raise your energy. It helps to make you free from tension, high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases, bringing about happiness and mental peace.