Kirtan: sacred chanting

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.

— Swami B.R. Sridhar

Kirtan is an ancient Vedic tradition which is a natural, joyful 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. Kirtan brings persons of vastly differing backgrounds together in expressing their mutual appreciation for the Divine.

Of the nine practices described as being the most helpful to the cultivation of bhakti, devotion, kirtan is considered to be supreme. 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


The Vedas describe that the material world moves continually through a cycle of creation, maintenance, and destruction. During the extent of any period of existence, there is additionally a cycle of four revolving ages that move from more evolved to more degraded conditions. According to the nature and capacity of people in any given age, the Vedas prescribe an appropriate practice.

At present, the Vedas tell us, we are near the beginning of the final, and most degraded age: Kali Yuga, the age of quarrel and hypocrisy. Because of the degenerate, distracting, and polluted nature of this age, the Vedas prescribe the most simple and accessible of all spiritual practices: glorifying and calling upon the divine through the medium of sound.

kaler doṣa-nidhe rājann
asti hy eko mahān guṇaḥ
kīrtanād eva kṛṣṇasya
mukta-saṅgaḥ paraṁ vrajet
(Srimad Bhagavatam, 12.3.51)

“Although the age of Kali is an ocean of faults, there is still one good quality about this age: simply by chanting the holy name of Krishna, one can become free from material bondage and attain the highest spiritual destination.”