When Srila Prabhupada sat down in Tompkins Square Park, New York in 1966, pulled out a small pair of hand cymbals, and began singing kirtana, nobody in the small crowd that gathered had heard this chanting before. It was a sublime, yet strange experience, as the listeners heard the exotic Sanskrit mantras for the first time.
Fast forward to the ‘70’s and ‘80’s, and the most likely place that you would expect to hear kirtana was on the sidewalks of the world’s big cities, where ISKCON centres would regularly pour forth devotees onto the streets to dance and chant in ecstasy, fulfilling the prediction of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu spoken some 500 years earlier, that the holy names of Krishna would be chanted in every town and village of the world.
Now, as we head further into the new millennium, an interesting phenomenon is taking place, and it seems as though that most ancient of religious practices – kirtana – is rapidly becoming the next big thing.
In yoga studios across the globe, rooms that had been presided over by silent concentration as practitioners focussed on the postures of hatha-yoga, with the occasional hush tones of ‘om’, are now resounding with the sound of Hare Krishna kirtana, and professional kirtaneers such as Krishna das and Jai Uttal are playing to packed houses in yoga centers across the globe.
While the Vedic scriptures recommend that the serious practitioner should exclusively hear the Holy Name vibrated by one who is a pure devotee of Lord Krishna, the Nama-Acharya Srila Haridas Thakur has explained that if one chants the Holy Name to refer to something other than the Lord, but without any obvious offense to the Name – as in the case of Ajamila who chanted the name or Narayana, even though he was using it to represent his son – one will experience the second stage of chanting, technically known as nama-abhasa or the clearing stage of chanting. This stage is characterized as giving an experience of liberation from the material pangs, thus giving a feeling of relief and bliss to the practitioner.
In a Time magazine article on the explosion of kirtana, those who attended the chanting reported that they felt relief from their stress, and a feeling of well being and peace from the external influences of their lives, just as Srila Haridas Thakur has described.
It is interesting to note, however, that these practitioners did not describe an awakening of devotion to the Supreme Lord Krishna, the actual object of many of the prayers that they are singing.
Srila Haridas has explained that to reach the third stage of chanting, suddha-nama, or pure chanting, the practitioner has to become completely freed from the ten offenses to the holy name (put link here to ten offenses page on iskcon.com), and Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu has also explained that to achieve pure devotion for the Lord, one must first receive the seed of devotion from a pure devotee, or his representative.
Once a person has received this seed of devotion, they must become a gardener, carefully culitivating this seed of devotion, by watering it with the hearing and chanting of kirtana until it grows big and strong, and eventually bears the fruits of love of Godhead.
Thus the devotees of ISKCON continue to have a unique role to play in the evolution of ‘kirtana consciousness’ in the Western world. While the popular kirtaneers draw crowds with their polished musical kirtana presentations, devotees who have received the seed of devotion, in disciplic succession from Lord Caitanya, the predecessor acharyas, Srila Prabhupada, and the current spiritual masters, have the special ability to pass on this seed of devotion to sincere seekers of the real bhakti-rasa that is contained in the holy names of the Lord, when chanted in kirtana by His loving devotees.
Today I was talking on the phone to someone when I noticed this beautiful peacock opening his plume just out my back window. I had to rudely put them on hold just so I could snap this shot:
Look at the size of him!
Hercules was recently awarded the honorable distinction of Worlds Biggest Dog by Guinness World Records. Hercules is an EnglishMastiff and has a 38 inch neck and weighs 282 pounds.
With "paws the size of softballs" (reports the Boston Herald), the three-year-old monster is far larger and heavier than his breed's standard 200lb. limit. Hercules owner Mr. Flynn says that Hercules weight is natural and not induced by a bizarre diet: "I fed him normal food and he just grew".... and grew... and grew... and grew.
What equipment do we need to see that God exists? According to Christian author and speaker Ray Comfort we only need "eyes that can see and a brain that works."
In May of 2007 Comfort appeared in a live televised debate with Brian Sapient of the atheist group Rational Response Squad. At issue was the existence of God, which Comfort stated he could prove scientifically, without relying on faith or the Bible. ABC Nightline's Martin Bashir served as moderator at the event.
Here's an idea that came to me to spread the chanting .... simple, scalable and replicable.
This poster is for a program I'm going to do where a few devotee families and mine just sit in the park one evening and chant. We'll have some bliss-balls and some lemonade prasadam for refreshments. No maha-feast that everyone shows up just in time for. No sparsely attended class - just chanting and meeting the hopefully nice people that come.
This poster is generic at the moment as I need to find a good location. That should be easy though - there are lots of parks around here. I just need to find one with low traffic or beach noise so that we don't need to worry about amplification. Or mabye just bring a mic and battery powered amp for whoever leads.
The time of 6pm is also strategic. Its not dark yet and people have enough time to get home from work and grab a quick bite before coming - and of course there will be late comers. Setting things up in the dark is lame. We could put a time as 'first thursday of the month' or even 'every thursday' if we want to make a regular thing of it. At the moment I'm thinking to do it in different places every time and those who want to keep coming can be notified of the location via a mailing list.
Sound good? You can do it too. There are two options for you if you'd like to use this poster to advertise:
I've tried to make the poster contrasty enough to work as a black & white copy for $$ reasons. The most affordable way (colour or b&w) is to take them to a printer and have a run of copies made. There are also good online print houses that can do the work for you and post them when done - just Google for one in your country.
The whole point is to keep it simple. That way everyone has a good time and nobody is overworked and stressed out.
Spread the chanting!
Today I spent a little bit of time on the social networking site MySpace.com.
They have a section where you can register as a 'band' and shamelessly promote your own music. I thought "Why not? Its a legitimate way to spread the chanting." so I created a profile here:
Then I thought "Why don't all the devotees put some kirtan up?"
So now I'm writing this blog post to tell you that it only takes a little bit of your time to expose thousands of people to the Holy Name. If you have some of your own kirtana recordings then its a simple process.
Social networking sites are 'in'. Kirtana is 'in' (an offshoot of the yoga community phenomenon of the last decade). So don't be the last one to put some kirtanas up for the world to download.
Spread the chanting!
(now there is a link at the top of my blog 'Kirtana!' that will take you there.
"Krishna Consciousness is also a sort of fight; but not with rifles. Our weapon is karatalas."
- Srila Prabhupada: Letter to Robert Hendry: 3 August, 1969
(And for anyone who's ever been donged in the head with a pair of karatalas, you know this is true.)