Why is nama samkirtan considered an easy path?

Nama samkirtan or singing of the lord’s name is considered an easy path because it uses sound, nada. The frequency and tuning of nada creates a good effect on the chemicals in the brain. Why do you feel nice when you hear a song? Music influences the electronic and chemical activities in the brain in such a way that you feel good. ‘Feeling good’ can be explained in terms of electric and chemical activity.

Music has an intimate relationship with human beings; it has a direct connection with our state of mind. Therefore, music is used to awaken bhakti bhava, devotion. You can attain a very high state of consciousness through music. In fact, most realized people have used music as the base for their teachings. Bhajan and kirtan is the chief method of expressing devotion among the Sikhs and the Vaishnavas. Music is also used in churches. Wherever there is a connection with spirituality, music has been emphasized. This is because sound can absorb the mind and thoughts the way water absorbs sugar or salt. If what I am saying is given to you in a written form, you will absorb it less. You are able to absorb it better when I speak it. If I were to say it in the form of a poem, it will create a greater impression on you, and it will influence you even more if I were to sing it. What this means is that when something is conveyed through music, it reaches your head straightaway.

There are two elements in what I am saying: sound and idea. To allow the idea to reach you, the medium of akshara, letters, is used. An idea can be conveyed through letters, pictures, speech and sound. Many thinkers have said that if you want an idea to reach someone directly, use sound because sound is directly infused in the brain. Through eyes you acquire knowledge, but it is not infused in the brain directly. Somewhere along the way, it needs to be processed. When you read a book the words go to the brain, but they need to be first processed. However, sound does not have to be processed.

Whether you sing God’s name through kirtan or just produce musical notes, the sounds will go to the brain directly and alter the brain waves. The brain waves are not the same in everyone, they are dissipated and disorganized in different degrees in different people. However, when a harmonious sound influences them, they are reformed. This has been stated by different people since antiquity beginning with Sage Narada.

Can someone practise kirtan the whole day long?

A mad person will sing kirtan the whole day long. Mirabai used to do that and you may call her mad. If you were to sing Hare Rama Hare Krishna the whole day long in your house, think about how your family will react.

You can sing the Lord’s name at any time, you don’t need to fix an hour for this. Don’t create any conditions before God. Whether you are working in the kitchen, tending to the children, having a bath or a fight with your spouse, sing along a kirtan. When the fight is intense, say Sri Krishna Govinda Hare Murare, He Nath Narayana Vasudeva. When you are cooking or travelling, the mind is continuously thinking. Don’t let it get absorbed in thoughts; absorb it in kirtan. How you can adjust this depends on you. The circumstances are different in every house, but if the circumstances are favourable, then it is possible to sing God’s name all the time.

There is no single way to sing bhajans just as there is no single way in which thoughts move. The realized ones have spoken of one thing. There is an experience that takes place within: the eyes are closed, the mouth is closed, no sound is emanating from it, they are sitting silently, but they can hear the sound of a drum. Nothing is going on outside, but they can hear the sound of the conch, the veena, the musical scales or the flute. This is called internal sound. There is a song:

Lagan lagaa kar suno hridaya mein, Shyaam bansee bajaa rahe hain.

Listen carefully to your heart, Shyam is playing the flute there.

What is the meaning of this song? Where is Shyam playing the flute? They say that if you listen carefully, you will hear the sound of his flute in y our heart. ‘Heart’ does not mean the physical heart here; it means your atma, spirit, that which resides within. You hear the transcendental sound in your spirit and this is called nada yoga.

Nada yoga means the ability to hear internal sounds. You are not manifesting anything outside, it is all happening within. When something is visible inside, it is called dhyana yoga. You may see clouds, fire, Krishna, guru, a trident, damaru, conch, snake or something else. God manifests as form and as sound. We are talking of sound.

The sadhana of nada yoga is practised at midnight when the whole world is asleep. It is practised between eleven at night and three in the morning when all sounds in nature have silenced. When you achieve proficiency in the practice, first you hear a sound like ‘chin chin’; it feels as if you can hear crickets chirping within. Sometimes it feels as if birds are chirping. And gradually the sound becomes stronger. When this happens, you hear a melodious sound at first and then a loud sound. Then the situation changes. It does not change in a day, but after practising nada yoga for months and years. You hear the roar of thunder or sea waves. It feels as if you are standing on a beach and waves are tumbling towards you, or sometimes it feels as if far in the darkness a woman is singing the musical scales. Sometimes the sound is clear and continuous, sometimes broken. Gandhiji wrote in his books that he heard the flute of Krishna. That was nada.

In the science of tantra it is believed that there are three ways to experience Shakti: mantra, yantra and mandala. The gods and goddesses who are worshipped as idols are mandalas. Yantras are geometric forms. Mantra is sound. So mantra is a form of God, and the essential quality of mantra is nada.

What is the nature of nada? The realized ones say that Om is essential nada. When you open your mouth, the immediate sound is ‘a’; when you close your mouth the sound is ‘m’. Now if you move from ‘a’ to ‘m’, the sound in between is ‘u’. It is the conjunctor, which in Sanskrit is called sandhi. The basic sound is ‘am’, but its extension becomes ‘aum’ or ‘om’. Om is considered the base mantra in tantra as well as the Vedas. From Om seven other sounds have emerged, these are the scales of Indian classical music: saa, re, gaa, maa, paa, dhaa, nee, saa.

For all sounds in the world, in every language, the base sound is Om, and it is a sound that goes on continuously within you. There is not a living being in whom the anahada nada of Om is not vibrating twenty-four hours, but you do not hear it. It remains hidden. Om is the hidden bhajan that everything in creation is continuously singing. To hear it you need to practise nada yoga.