Kirtan is a process of naturalising the wavering nature of the 'monkey mind' and a must for every thinking individual. It is non-sectarian and has universal appeal because it has a definite and direct impact on the entire personality of an individual, and can be sung in any language. It is not the monopoly of a few individuals. Everybody is fit to sing the Lord's name.
Kirtan has a potent quality which gives solace to the sufferings of humanity. In our modern age of constant stress, strain and tension, kirtan has a key role to play in tranquillising the fluctuating tendencies of the mind. Just as a mother can give peace to her troubled child, similarly, kirtan tranquillises the oscillating mind and makes the heart pure and innocent.
According to Swami Sivananda, "Kirtan is the easiest, cheapest, safest and surest method to go inside and to attune with one's self."
Once, at a yoga training course, when the group was requested to chant Om, a few people who were more conscious of their status than their spirit felt hesitant to chant loudly. They were told that Om is a natural cosmic sound vibration resonating throughout the universe. By expanding your consciousness, you can listen and discover the sound of Om in natural sea-breezes, waterfalls, spring waters, tolling of a temple bell and in mountainous regions.
Watching the deep, natural and rhythmic sound of the breath, the entire group discovered a soothing vibrational sound very similar to the mantra Om. Therefore, this helped them realise that even if one does not chant Om or sing kirtan loudly, it is already inherent in each of us with every breath we take. Realising the real purpose behind this collective chanting and singing, almost all present started feeling surprisingly quiet, serene, steady, tranquil and introverted.
You should try to discover this unstruck spontaneous sound of creation, either by chanting loudly or silently. For a beginner, Om chanting can be a stepping stone to attune oneself to his higher self.
The investigations of modern science and medicine have found that chanting causes the mental patterns of the brain to change from fast moving beta waves to slower, relaxed alpha rhythms. Alpha denotes the condition of mind where you withdraw from the external world to the internal space. This relaxed state of awareness enables you to achieve a steady, one-pointed, and ultimately tranquil state of mind. Singing kirtan produces a similar alpha predominant effect on the brain, which in turn calms and reintegrates the personality.
In India, during the early years of school education, the teachers direct the students to collectively pronounce the alphabet. Similarly, we now have to learn to chant and sing kirtan together, so as to develop and make progress in our spiritual education.
At present we regard ourselves as an evolved and civilised human race, but in fact, we are not. We can only claim to be semi-evolved; many of us still act at the instinctive level of consciousness. To overcome the limitations of anger, greed, pride, attachment, lust, power, hatred, jealousy, we have to involve ourselves in the powerful yogic culture. In turn, this will direct and change the course of our lives. Only then can mankind live peacefully and progress in its evolution.
To live a life of contentment, balance, steadfastness, tranquillity and peace in the world is more appropriate for the people of today than the life of a recluse. To run a family, work and live in society and inculcate the attitude of universal brotherhood, you need a tension-free steady mind, balanced emotions and sound physical health.
Kirtan is one aspect of yoga through which mankind can develop the many dormant qualities within. According to the great saint, Swami Vivekananda, "Every man is potentially divine." Certainly this ignorant man can awake, arise and reach the goal of life following any path of yoga. Kirtan is a sure way for everyone. If we stop and ask ourself, 'What actually is gamed in return for our daily work?' most of us would answer, 'Stress, strain, frustration and above all chronic tension.' This accumulated tension results in an imbalance in family relations, chaos in society, conflict between nations, distrust and insecurity all over the world.
To alleviate the growing tension, we must have a means to exhaust our surplus emotional energy. Rather than suppressing this energy, it can be channelized in a positive and healthy direction through kirtan. It is one of the most natural, easy and yet most powerful means to neutralise the imbalances of emotional energy in man.
Therefore be practical and put yourself to the test. Become your own laboratory. Sing kirtan regularly each day at home, or at social gatherings. Sing with your children and friends instead of going to the movies, watching TV or social drinking. Discover for yourself the magnificent, magical effects of its soothing rhythm. Kirtan has the power and potentiality to take you to higher planes of consciousness which are the birthright of man. Mira, Radha and Mahaprabhu Chaitanya are outstanding examples of what kirtan can accomplish by transforming man from the instinctive to the intuitive level of consciousness. Make your birth qualitative, fruitful and dynamic, full of manly virtues. Try to become human first, then divinity will dawn automatically. Raise yourself through the yoga of kirtan.