MANTRA & SOUND
Kirtan originated in India and was popularized in Bengal by Sri Chaitanya - considered to be Krishna in the form of his supreme devotee - in the 16th century as an ecstatic devotional chanting practice to concentrate the mind on feelings of devotion. Chanting works at breaking the shell of the ego and expanding the heart and consciousness. Many great souls have reached Self realization just through this practise. Now it has become diverse and cross-cultural and also incorporates mantra. The instrumentation has evolved from drums dotara and Ektara (ancient single string instruments) and finger cymbals (karatal) and later harmoniums to guitar and Western and world instruments. A lot of the power of kirtan can be attributed to the repetition - the mind gets more and more concentrated with each repetition and creates an intensity of deep devotion. One pointed concentration is the goal of all yogic practices. Concentration or Dharana leads to meditation or Dhyana which leads to Samadhi (state where there is no subject or object, one is not aware that one is meditating - even the witness disappears). Although kirtan enhances an uplifting and wonderful sense of community, it has a deeper and more important personal value - that of stilling the mind of it’s chatter and discursive thought and tapping the primal wellspring of intense and causeless Love within each one allowing healing on all levels - physical, mental and causal ~
The Path of Devotion, Bhakti yoga is one of six systems of yoga revered throughout history as paths that can lead you to full awareness of your true nature.
Five thousand years ago, yoga represented a spirit of struggle, a solitary pursuit of overcoming the body and mind. In his quest for enlightenment, the aspirant shunned material possessions, and paid little heed to the body’s desire for food and sex. By renouncing all worldly pleasures, he sought to quiet his mind and know the Self. But another idea was also brewing—one that emphasized the importance of channeling love toward God [or devotion to Truth]. The turning point in accepting this new path was the Bhagavad Gita, The Gita, often called a “love song to God,” expressed the idea that it’s possible to move toward the highest goal—that of spiritual realization—by developing a connection with the heart. Yogis began to view devotion as a legitimate route to enlightenment.
By the fifth century, the first devotional schools in the Shaiva tradition started to spring up in Southern India. These schools advocated devotion: chanting mantra to deities like Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, and Kali; singing devotional songs; meditating on the Divine; reading and writing ecstatic poetry. The bhakti tradition emphasized the intense longing to know God, often called “the Beloved” in the poetry of the time.
The culmination of Bhakti or the path of devotion is becoming one with the beloved who is found to be the self within.
~ Yoga Journal