Kirtan: The Art of Ecstatic Chanting

Kirtan is a practice of bhakti yoga, or devotional yoga, a centuries-old form of spiritual practice common in many traditions. While once obscure and generally seen only in ashrams in India – kirtan has become more popular over the last few decades, particularly because of practitioners like Krishna Das  and Jai Uttal, who lead kirtan sessions internationally.

“Chanting isn’t about music at all,” Krishna Das says. Instead, it’s about engaging in a practice designed to bring you more fully into yourself. “What’s being chanted is what’s called in India the ‘divine names.’ We’re calling out to our own true selves, our own inner nature … calling out to that place inside of us that is full and complete, the divine in us: who we are underneath all our masks, all our roles. Most people are so outer-directed that they never experience that place.”

Once a month we organise an evening of chanting and singing, and gather at someone’s house  on Waiheke Island. The chanting is followed by a pot luck shared dinner. It’s a real community event, and everybody is welcome.

Practicing kirtan is not about turning yourself into Hindu or Buddhist devotees. “This is not about religion. Even though these names come from Indian religions, this is not about becoming a Hindu, or anything like that. Any name you use from any tradition will bring you into yourself sooner or later.”

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