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What is Kirtan?
One of the four main paths of yoga is Bhakti Yoga, known as the path of the Heart, or the path of love and devotion. One of the best yoga practices to express Bhakti is Kirtan. Kirtan (pronounced keertan) is basically devotional singing, or singing the names of the divine. It’s not important to believe in the particular names or forms of the divine sung in the chants, or even to know what they mean, because the ancient sounds themselves carry an energy that brings us deep inside ourselves to our true nature, the happiness within.
How is Kirtan Practiced?
Kirtan is usually done in a group setting, where we gather together as a community to remember to turn inward and to help each other find our own inner path. Kirtan uses a combination of sound, vibration, melody, harmony, and Sanskrit mantras to lead us into meditation: a state of unity and inner connection with ourselves, our community, and more expanded states of consciousness. The chanting can be moving and exhilarating, and at the same time, quieting and meditative. Kirtan is typically chanted in a call and response format in which the leader sings a phrase and the group sings it back over and over again. The energy and pace of the chant builds according to the inspiration of the moment as the mind quiets and the heart begins to soar.
What is the Experience of Kirtan Like?
The joy of group singing, especially with like-minded people, is a truly uplifting and nourishing experience. Each mantra or chant is usually sung for about five to fifteen minutes. There is a short silence between chants to allow the energy to settle, and to enjoy the silence. This silence can be a deeply meditative state, or a wave of bliss. It feels so good!
It doesn’t matter how well you sing…just let your voice be an expression of the love in your heart!
Shubalananda travels across the eastern United States leading his unique style of kirtan, which is a sacred call-and-response type of singing that is offered as a devotional practice. As Shubal says, “You can’t sing and think at the same time. Kirtan helps us quiet the mind and experience more peace in our lives.”
He is an Aghor Sadhu who offers his kirtan as a gift to his highest self, as well as the community around him. Shubal has studied kirtan and bhajan with many of India’s great gurus and musicians, and, with a voice of experience and masterful musical skill, Shubal allows his Guru’s Shakti to flow through everyone in the room.
Shubal’s extensive knowledge of world religion, wealth of teaching stories of the Gods and Goddesses, his experiences with the gurus he has known, and his sense of humor, coupled with his guitar playing and powerful voice, create an evening of great spiritual atmosphere.
During Shubal’s 25 years of leading kirtan, he has shared the stage with Krishna Das, sat in with Wah, played with Bhagavan Das, and toured across the US and Canada with Ma Chetan Jyoti, who was, perhaps, the greatest kirtan wallah.