Volume 16 - Issue 11
November 2018
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Posted on: Nov 10, 2018

Bhajans - The Royal Highway


When lost on a path, or when in search of the right directions, we seek help from one who knows the path. Having found such an individual, we listen carefully to the directions given, and follow them diligently to reach the destination. In the same manner, the aspirant on the spiritual path seeks directions from the Guru, the Guru being one who has traversed the distance and is well-versed with it. Lucky is the person, who finds such a true guide, a Sadguru. What can be told of the fortune of those who get guidance from the 'Goal' itself? That is the supreme opportunity presented to mankind when the Lord Himself, who is the destination of every earnest quest, comes in a human form to guide, goad and guard. His message becomes the guiding post for all of mankind. And being thus universal, it is for one and all - old and young, the vibrant and infirm, the simple and intellectual. One such universal tool that Swami has blessed all of us with is Sankirtana or Bhajan singing. As Swami has said any number of times, we need nothing more to take us across to the goal other than this little lantern of the Lord's name. And when the name is sung, it is as blissful as it is beneficial.

To help us all take to this path, and experience the bliss thereof, Swami has made bhajan singing as the single most important Sadhana in the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram. But as Swami would say, these bhajan sessions are only a beginning. It is like the temple lamp from which all can come and light their own. The lamps lit thereby must be kept glowing constantly. So too, the singing of the name should not stop with a bhajan session at Prasanthi, a samiti or a centre; it must become incessant and unbroken. To remind us of this duty each of us owe to our own spiritual quest, Bhagawan instituted the Annual Global Akhanda bhajan, when once a year, the bhajans are sung for an entire day without a break. Even as we all gear up to participate in this year's Akhanda bhajan, we present to you a garland of precious pearls - clips from various discourses in which Swami has spoken about the importance of Namasmarana, Sankirtan and bhajans. Let us internalise these words of Bhagawan. May they become fuel to the Akhanda Jyoti we shall light in our own hearts, and may these words of the Supreme Guide inspire us to sing with such love and vibrance, that the Lord within dances in ecstasy.

When we are ourselves the very Embodiments of Bliss, why do we need to chant the name of the Lord?

There is water in the depths of the earth. If you wish to fetch that water from the depths, what must you do? Between you and the water, there is the soil as an obstacle. That mud or soil signifies the worldly affairs. All those need to be removed. When the mud is removed, we will certainly get the water that is underneath. Otherwise, if you put a bore-well there, it will dig deeper and deeper and get the waters from the depths to the surface. That is remembering the Lord's name, Namasmarana. On your tongue when you put the bore-well of God's name, the happiness in the heart will surface. Therefore, you must make Lord's name dance on your tongue. Whatever work you may do, you must do it with divine feeling. Work will be transformed into worship. Any work done must be thought of as God's work.

- Divine Discourse, March 08, 1997

Easier than to master Maya is to call for the Master of Maya

You need not search for the apt age. You don't have to go after time. You don't need to search for actions. Be it any time and any place, we must be ready to chant the Lord's name. Without thoughts of God, how will He come to us? There are two types of Sadhana or spiritual practices. The master is on the roof. At the gate is a big Alsatian dog. To go inside either you must befriend the Alsatian dog or call the owner loudly. If we don't do that we cannot meet the master.

Hence what is this 'Alsatian dog'? That is 'Maya' or illusion. You must either master the 'Maya' or chant God's name loudly. When you chant God's name loudly, the God who stays above will come down. Along with God you can easily enter the house, then the dog will not do anything, illusion will not do anything. Therefore, to reach God what you should do is, chant the Lord's name.

- Divine Discourse, April 22, 1998

Why underutilize the sacred faculty of verbal expression? Sanctify it with Sankirtan!

What sin accrues to you when you utter the Lord's name? You sing mean and low cinema songs, what disrespect is there in singing the name of the Lord? You are wasting your life in meaningless songs. Why should you be ashamed to say, 'Rama, Krishna Govinda'? Saying those names, you feel ashamed. But in the streets (you sing), "da da da, da da da..." in meaningless songs you acquire great interests. It is a shame to entire mankind. Had you not been born a human you could've sung anything. But having taken a human life it is a waste to spend one's life in this manner.

- Divine Discourse, July 19, 1997

Peace cannot be achieved by just an individual's effort. So too, come together, pray together and then the whole world benefits.

Samyak-kirtanam itihi Sankirtanam (Singing together in harmony is Sankirtanam) There is a vast difference between Kirtanam and Sankirtanam. Kirtanam is merely an individual activity, and it is an individual's effort for one's own gain. Whereas, Sankirtanam can confer welfare on the entire Universe. Another name for it is Samoohika Bhajana (collective singing). This concept was instituted for the first time by the master of Sikhs, Guru Nanak. Sankirtana would make you to see the unity in diversity. Sankirtanam reminds us of the principle of unity in multiplicity. When all voices come together and the bhajan is sung in unity, it is referred to as Sankirtanam.

- Divine Discourse, March 03, 1992

Music was created to be offered to the Lord and for one to be lost in the bliss of communion with Him.

What is the essence of 'Sankirtana', or singing the in praise of God? To earn the love of God is the essence of music. Merging one's sound, feeling and devotion with sruti-laya-raga-tala (scale, rhythm, tune and beat) and losing oneself in God is the essence of Sankirtana. Recognising the feeling, filling it with devotion, adding love to it, and using sacred words to describe the Lord lovingly is singing. Singing performed without knowing the meaning of the words, without filling it with feeling, without infusing with love, is comparable to the music emanating from a tape recorder or a gramophone.

- Divine Discourse, March 03, 1992

A Prayer sung is a prayer heard for sure.

The sweetness of God's name when rendered as a song, attracts the heart. Many pundits express in the form of verses. They may know to express in a verse or Sloka form but they cannot remove the Shoka or agony. Few others like actors may use the words well and deliver them majestically. Even this is incapable of attracting feelings. But through singing, the heart can be made to relish the essence of the feelings. Be it theists, atheists or any such, they too would unconsciously nod their heads to the melody of songs. Using words, we can render a verse, "Rama! Please protect me". But this is not such that it can capture the heart. Similarly, merely delivering the words (like a dialogue), "Oh Rama, save me", is not so appealing to the heart. But the same when rendered as a song, (Swami sings the same words) how it pulls the heart, how it attracts the heart! So much sweetness permeates music and song.

- Divine Discourse, March 03, 1992

What are the various types of Sankirtan and why are Sai Bhajans special?


This Sankirtana is of four types. One is Guna Sankirtana (singing about the qualities of God), second is 'Leela Sankirtana' (singing about the divine acts of God), third is 'Bhava Sankirtana' (singing expressing one's feelings to God) and the fourth is 'Nama Sankirtana' (singing the various names of the Lord). Guna Sankirtana means describing the auspicious qualities of God, feeling ecstasy and striving to inculcate such noble qualities in one's own life. This 'Guna Sankirtana' was practiced by Tyagaraja.

Rama, Your prowess is beyond description by words!
Is it possible to extol Your glory even for Brahma?
I am waiting for Your grace,
Hear my prayers and rescue me oh Lord!
You are beyond description by words!

You brought back and gifted the son of Your guru who was abducted by death,
You uprooted the evil,
You freed Vasudeva and Devaki from imprisonment,
You protected the dove eyed Draupadi by saving her pride,
You safeguarded the Pandavas umpteen times,
You alleviated the suffering of Kuchela,
The hunchback Kubja's physical crookedness You removed,
You saved sixteen thousand damsels,
Rama, Your prowess is beyond description by words!

From where all words together with the mind return, unable to reach – thus saying, Tyagaraja described Rama by singing, "There are qualities in You, O Rama, which words fail to describe." 'Leela Sankirtana', is expressing and dancing the sacred playful acts of the Lord (or leelas) as a musical ballet, thereby experiencing them and being immersed in them. This is Leela Sankirtana. This is also called as 'Gita Govindam'.

Then there is 'Bhava Sankirtana'. This was experienced only by Radha, who lost in feelings for God, transformed her own nature into the essential nature of God. She lived her life experiencing the feelings of peace, truth, motherliness, affection and that of sweet love. Therefore, the sacred feelings of Radha and Meera came to be known as 'Bhava Sankirtana'.

'Nama Sankirtana', Chaitanya (Mahaprabhu) was the one responsible for propagating this. 'All names are Your names. A world without Your name or a world without Your form cannot be found in this cosmos.

Chaitanya was one who proclaimed, 'O God, the beauty of this whole world is but Your name and form!' Thus, with the feeling that every object, atom and moment is an embodiment and reflection of God, Chaitanya redeemed himself, through the name of the Lord. Based on one's fortune, people of each age followed one of the four paths alone; whereas the people of Prasanthi Nilayam are immensely fortunate to experiencing all the four paths. Guna Sankirtana, Leela Sankirtana, Bhava Sankirtana and Nama Sankirtana - the amalgamation of all these four is our bhajans.

- Divine Discourse, March 03, 1992

The paths are many, but which is the best path for the present times?

Embodiments of Love! Sankirtan or singing the praises of God is a very sacred path. We may not know the tune or raga, but the word raga has another meaning too, 'liking'. You chant the name with fondness, chant the name with love. So chanting the name of God is very essential. In this Kali age, there is no path better than that of Namasankirtana or singing the lord's name. In age of Kruta it was meditation, in Treta ritual sacrifices, in Dwapara age worship and in Kali age it is namasmarana, chanting of the Lord's name. Therefore, recognising the truth that chanting is the means for redemption, one must practise it.

- Divine Discourse, March 03, 1992

The best way to redeem our life is to sing the glories of God

In this entire world there is none who does not chant the Lord’s name. They remember God in some form or the other. They might name their children after God and call them. If not, they at least do so by taking their friend's names, “Hey Rama come here, Oh Krishna come here”. In some way they take the Divine name. Hence a place without God’s name cannot be seen. All forms are that of God; all names are names of God. Hence chanting any name, singing the Lord’s name you must redeem your life. Using your imagination, you can describe God in any way. That is your satisfaction. That is your imagination. But the name nevertheless is the Truth. What greater penance can there be other than having the name of the Lord dance on the tongue, at all times!

This one act of chanting the name of God amounts to penance, going on pilgrimages and holy lands - it becomes everything. Therefore among the various forms of singing like Guna Sankirtana (singing in praise of the qualities of God), Bhava Sankirtana (singing songs with certain emotions towards God) – Nama Sankirtana (singing the Lord’s name) is supreme. Therefore, sing the name. Singing the name sanctify your lives. Be wedded to the name.

- Divine Discourse, July 19, 1996


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