During my first evening at Govinda Valley, I was invited to attend the weekly Kirtan and truth be told, I had no idea what this was!
Whilst I have practiced meditation on many occasions, I often struggle to focus and dim the constant stream of thoughts going through my mind, particularly as there is so much stimulation out there via social media and mobile phones, which often never leave our sides.
Within a few minutes I was up to speed with the verses of the mantra and already feeling the power of the vibrations in the room. Rather than a serious, silent meditation, which requires so much intense concentration (and, for me, a constant internal battle) Kirtan is simple and easy to participate in. With a member of the group taking the lead, you sing repetitive mantras, with musical instruments such as the harmonium, drum or guitar adding to the rhythm.
The mantras trigger a flow of deep emotions, yet quieten your mind and cease the buzz of internal voices and thoughts. Whatever emotions you are feeling can be channelled into the song and you find peace in a meditative state.
“Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.”
― Victor Hugo
This was a new and welcome feeling to me. After Kirtan I went to sleep feeling rested and peaceful.
What are the origins of Kirtan?
Kirtan is said to have originated in India some 500 years ago as a way of sharing the philosophy of Bhakti yoga and there are detailed descriptions of the power behind sound. A Kirtan movement developed across India, although it was not until the 20th century that the movement spread west.
George Harrison of the Beatles brought Kirtan to the forefront of the music world, producing a hit single “The Hare Krishna Mantra” in 1969. The mantras have also made their way into the charts with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Madonna, Placebo and Fleetwood Mac!
What is the Hare Krishna mantra?
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Often referred to as the Great Mantra, the Hare Krishna mantra contains 16 words and includes the three Sanskrit names of the Supreme Being; Hare (he who removes illusion/the energy/shakti of the Supreme), Krishna (he who is all attractive) and Rama (he who is the source of all pleasure).
The power of sound
Across the world there are so many examples of sound/vibration as a way of healing including Tibetan bowls, Chinese meditation gongs, sound baths, chimes and even singing along to your favourite playlist in the car or shower. Music heals the soul. Simple. For me, kirtan is a prime example of this and a way to connect with the community around me at Govinda Valley. I look forward to our weekly sessions and have found myself singing along to the mantras during the daytime.
If you have an opportunity to attend Kirtan, go! It is difficult to put the benefits into words - the best way to understand is to experience it first-hand.
“Words can show us the direction in which to look for the Kirtan-experience, but only when you sit down, move towards your inner space, and then sing out, will you start to know what Kirtan really is. Because at that time your soul will rise up and start to dance…”
― Sacinandana Swami
Written by: Lottie Elizabeth