Kirtan with Swami Sivananda

From the teachings of Swami Satyananda Saraswati

Whether it was a sunny, stormy or a rainy day Swami Sivanandaji always came to kirtan on time, even if nobody else turned up. He used to call it satsang. He came every day. First we chanted Om three times, then Swami Sivananda used to start kirtan with Ganesha, guru, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Hare Rama, Krishna, Allah, Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha and Zoroaster. He remembered all the gods and saints in the world. It took about five minutes.

Then he started reading a chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita was read every day as a recitation which used to take about seven to ten minutes. After that we took up one of the books: Vishnu Purana, Srimad Bhagavata, Ramayana. One swami would read one chapter every day, and we would take turns.

After that three or four swamis would sing a kirtan. They had to be ready for there was no harmonium, nothing, just a kirtan without anything. We had to sit down and sing. Swamiji used to say, "Kirtan is singing the Lord's name. It is the easiest, surest and safest way for attaining God. Kirtan is the divine food for the soul. Kirtan can make you immortal." He said that just as fire has the natural property of burning things, so the name of God does have the power of burning sins and desires.

When the musician or the singer used to get into ecstasy, Swamiji used to say, "Ganga Mai Ki Jai," and just break the kirtan there. Ganga means Ganga. Mai means mother and jai means glory. ‘Ganga Mai Ki Jai' means ‘Glory to Mother Ganga'. That was Swamiji's slogan and he used it also when he wanted to say, "Don't get into ecstasy."

In all the years I was at the ashram, whenever a swami or any kirtanist went to a certain point and wanted to prolong it, Swamiji would say, "Ganga Mai Ki Jai." He stopped the kirtan then and there.

At the end of the kirtan, Swamiji used to give a lecture for three to five minutes maximum. His lectures were direct. He would say, "What is vairagya? It is a special detachment to the earthly objects of enjoyment for your own sake."

Like this three or five minutes of instructions, guidance or explanation. We finished with a little prayer and arati and then we went to sleep.