Founder Acharya His Divine Grace
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada

Kirtan Academy on the Road
By Promila Chitraka   |  Jul 23, 2017

madhuraḿ madhurebhyo ‘pi  / mańgalebhyo ‘pi mańgalam / pāvanaḿ pāvanebhyo ‘pi  / harer nāmaiva kevalam

“More sweet than all other sweet things; more auspicious than all other auspicious things; the greatest purifier of all purifying things. The holy name of Sri Hari alone is everything.” – Kevalastakam verse 1

The Hare Krishna mahamantra, the pacifier and purifier of eternally afflicted hearts, has touched millions of people across hundreds of countries on the planet earth in last five decades. As the circumference of the sankirtan expands, the cultural and personal tones of the performers of kirtan, too, make a place for themselves in it. With the fast spreading sankirtan movement, the need to preserve the essential standards of sankirtan is also growing. 

Yasomati Devi, a co-founder of Kirtan Academy in Mayapur, toured important states such as Delhi and Punjab, in North India to educate devotees about Gaudiya kirtan standards. She explained each standard and also engaged in kirtans with devotees. She gave suitable examples so that the devotees could internalize the knowledge with ease. During her talks in Delhi and Punjab, she introduced the upcoming International Kirtan Village in Mayapur wherein devotees can not only learn chanting standards, but also go deeper into their chanting, while reaping 10,000 times more benefits of the kirtan and chanting being in Audharya Dham of Caitanya Mahaprabhu. 


”My dear Lord, although You bestow such mercy upon the fallen, conditioned souls by liberally teaching Your holy names, I am so unfortunate that I commit offenses while chanting the holy name, and therefore I do not achieve attachment for chanting.” CC Antya 20.16 

Yasomati dd stressed the importance of avoiding the offenses to the holy name if we are to reap the full benefit from chanting. Not that “namaksara bahir haya nama nahi haya – Simply the alphabets are coming, but that is not nama. Namaksara, Hare Krsna, the alphabets, are coming out, but it is not the holy name.” Even beyond the avoidance of offenses is the chanting with affection.

In regards to the growing mood of stardom or showing off, performing in kirtan she said: “It is the duty of the kirtaniya to present, offer, ornement the Holy Name to the best of his/her ability, skills, while he himself becomes invisible. The audience is Krishna Himself, no one else. We are the offerers and He is the recipient of the offering.” says Yasomati Devi.

A Soulful Kirtan is the Soul of Surrender

“When the saṅkīrtana resounded, it filled the three worlds. Indeed, no one could hear any sounds or musical instruments other than the saṅkīrtana.” CC Madhya 13.50.

“When we see a person, let’s call her Khusbhoo, do we identify her with her clothes and accessories separately, or do we acknowledge her presence as a person? Things that Khushboo wears serve her. Similarly, kartal, harmonium, mridanga are there to serve the Holy Name, in this way there remains one sound, only the Name.” explained Yasomati Devi.  

While in Delhi, Yasomati Devi shared the experiences of devotees including her own, on how the chanting and kirtan of mahamantra transform hearts. She herself, at the age of 16, was challenged by a new devotee she met to start chanting so that the maha mantra could answer  her unending questions. She said with joy, “I’m happy to tell you that I lost the challenge. I’m still chanting and finding answers.” Everything is in the holy Name who is non different from Krishna Himself.

“Who is a kirtaniya?” Yasomati Devi quizzed the devotees. “All of you who participate in kirtan,” she revealed. Kirtan is everyone’s responsibility. Sanga-kirtan, everyone together, we use our musical skills for kirtan to serve Krishna, not to serve ourselves, not for money or fame. Kirtan done with ulterior motives is maya kirtan. Srila Bhaktisiddhant Saraswati Thakur says:

“Kirtan is called Sankirtan when many people perform it together. But will it be worthy of the name sankirtan if some worthless people, without any ardour for Sri Bhagavan’s service, come together to shout in unison? It will be true Hari-Sankirtan when we join the Sankirtan of true devotees who are serving Sri Bhagavan according to the principles established in the vedas and allied sastras.” – 

Yasomati Devi enlightened the devotees that kirtan shouldn’t be used as a remedy for the prevention of epidemics or to bring rain. While the Hare Krishna kirtan can solve the adhidaivik problems, this type of kirtan is also chanting within the jurisdiction of the illusory potency. The mahamantra kirtan is not cheap. As we work hard for material achievements, with the same eagerness we should pursue the mahamantra.

The naam sankirtan is not just for humans. Animals, even though, they hear it passively, become transformed when the nectar of the holy names enters their ears. Srila Prabhupada makes this point in the introduction of Srimad Bhagavatam, “The wild tigers, elephants, bear and deer all together accompanied the Lord, and the Lord accompanied them in sankirtana. By this He proved that by the propagation of the sankirtana movement (congregational chanting and glorifying of the name of the Lord) even the wild animals can live in peace and friendship, and what to speak of men who are supposed to be civilized.”

Yasomati Devi appealed to the devotees to fan their sincerity, to make it grow from a spark into a fire burning all anarthas. She said, “All of you have some sincerity, otherwise you would not be here. Increase the magnitude of your sincerity. Bring your shraddha to a higher level. Introspect.” She encouraged us to face and accept our insignificance. One soul, in a room full of souls, in one city, in one country, on one planet, in one universe. So small we are, and unable to chant the pure holy name, being constantly victimized by the demands of the mind and body! What’s the solution? Take the shelter of guru, his guru, his guru, beg the whole sampradaya.  So, during Japa or kirtan, when our mind wanders everywhere in the universe, we should pray helplessly, as Draupadi did, raising both hands without worrying about her saree, without reservation. Let’s also surrender fully to Harinaam and feel free to express the love for Krishna fledgling in our hardened hearts. 

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