Sound vibration can work miracles; sound has the highest capturing potency. Sound can make or mar. It can do anything; it has such intrinsic capacity. It comes from the subtlemost plane, beyond the ether. That universal sound is absolute sweetness and goodness. How much power is there—how it can capture us! Like a blade of grass, we may be played by the current of that sweet sound in such a way that we cannot even trace out our own personality. We may lose ourselves there, but we do not die; the soul is eternal.
Swami B.R. Sridhar
Kirtan is an ancient Vedic tradition which is a natural expression of praise and loving appreciation for our divine source, from which all the beauty, wonder, and glory of this world has manifest. Kirtan is unique in that it transcends caste, creed, and culture, or any designations drawn from this limited world, and can bring persons of vastly differing backgrounds together in expressing their mutual appreciation for the divine.
Nowadays kirtan tends to be somewhat of a styled affair; here at the Bhakti Yoga Institute we put emphasis on simplicity, substance, pure expression of heart, and joyful, loving companionship.
Of the nine practices described as being the most helpful to bhakti, kirtan is considered to be supreme. Thus it has a very central place in our curriculum, and is something we practice on a daily basis. In particular the ‘mahamantra’ or supreme mantra expressing a prayer to the divine masculine and divine feminine moieties is of great importance:
hare kṛṣṇa hare kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa kṛṣṇa hare hare
hare rāma hare rāma rāma rāma hare hare
Lord Chaitanya, who appeared just over five hundred years ago in West Bengal, India, is often called the ‘avatar of divine love’ because he widely spread the teachings of prema, divine love, as well as the practice of kirtan as the highest means to attain that. Lord Chaitanya is also known for putting great importance on the qualities of humility, compassion, and respect for all. In his writings he expressed:
tṛṇād api sunīchena taror iva sahiṣṇunā
amāninā mānadena kīrtanīyaḥ sadā hariḥ
“The Lord’s Name may be always chanted by one who is more humble than a blade of grass, tolerant like a tree, free from desire for respect, and who offers respect to others.”
Feel free to join us for a kirtan any day of the week, or for one of our in-depth sessions or workshops dedicated exclusively to the practice. Look out for details on our events page.
Of Spanish and Dominican heritage, Nitai grew up travelling with his bhakti-yogi parents around India and Nepal, finally settling in England. He spent two years as a full-time monk and is now raising his devoted family in the principles of Bhakti. Nitai participates in kirtan whenever possible and is also known for his lively explanations of Bhakti principles.
Born in India to Swedish and Venezuelan bhakti-yogis, Vira grew up in England immersed in the bhakti yoga tradition. As a young teenager he took vows of celibacy and lived as a monk in an ashram for several years. Today he raises his family in bhakti yoga and regularly participates in kirtan events and programs at the BYI.
Pandita was born and raised in Holland by her mother, a devoted bhakti yoga practitioner. After high school, she travelled to India to spend time with her spiritual master and dive more deeply in the bhakti tradition. A talented editor and artist, Pandita now lives in London and works in publishing. She is a committed member of the BYI team and also regularly participates in kirtan and discussion.
Shyama, of Indian and Venezuelan descent, grew up between Venezuela and England in a family of bhakti-yoga practitioners, and also spent long periods of time in India. She recently settled with her family in London, and in addition to raising her young daughter and participating in kirtan whenever possible, she works as an illustrator and graphic designer.
Originally from the Dominican Republic, Dayanidhi has spent most of his life in London and is known for his unparalleled singing and mridanga playing, and his sweet nature. Dayanidhi is also a patient teacher and in fact he trained most of our young kirtaniyas.
Born and raised in England by bhakti yoga practitioners, KB spent long periods in India as a child in close company with his spiritual master. With many years experience as a musician KB is also a professional photographer and regularly offers his talents in service at the Bhakti Yoga Institute.