by Swami Sivananda
Kirtana is singing of Lord's glories. The devotee is thrilled with Divine Emotion. He loses himself in the love of God. He gets horripilation in the body due to extreme love for God. He weeps in the middle when thinking of the glory of God. His voice becomes choked and he flies into a state of divine Bhavana. The devotee is ever engaged in Japa of the Lord's Name and in describing His glories to one and all. Wherever he goes he begins to sing and praise God. He requests all to join his Kirtana. He sings and dances in ecstasy. He makes others also dance.
Such practices should be the outcome of a pure heart, and they should not be merely a show. God knows the inner secret of all and none can cheat Him. There should be perfect straightforwardness and all his actions should be the natural outpouring from the heart. This is the easiest of all modes of approach to God. In Kali Yuga, iron age, Kirtana alone is the best Yoga. 'Kalau Kesava Kirtanam.' This is the prescribed method of devotion for this age. The mind is ever intent upon singing Lord's Names and glories and it has no occasion to take interest in things of the world. Day and night the devotee feels the presence of God and thins out his ego. He becomes Sattvic and pure at heart.
Great divine persons like Narada, Valmiki, Sukadeva, in ancient times, Gouranga, Nanak, Tulsidas, Surdas, etc., in comparatively recent times, have all attained perfection through Kirtana Bhakti alone. Even the great sinner Ajamila crossed the ocean of Samsara by repetition of Lord's Name. Japa and Kirtana are the most potent methods of realising God in this Kali Yuga. If even sinners can cross this Maya through devotion to God, what to speak of good persons who have a pure heart, who have served their Guru, and the country, and who are nearer to God than sinners?
Kirtana is a very effective method of devotion for another reason. Man is an erotic being. He loves and loves. He cannot but love things of the world. But his love is only passion and is not pure divine love. He wants to hear sweet music, wants to see beautiful objects, and wants to witness a dance. Music melts the heart of even the stone-hearted man. If at all there is anything in this world which can change the heart of a man in a very quick time, that is music and dance. This very method is made use of in Kirtana-Bhakti, but it is directed towards God instead of towards sensual enjoyments. Man's emotion of erotism is directed towards Divinity and his love for music and singing is not destroyed; because sudden destruction of such a sentiment which he holds as very dear will not prove successful in making him perfect. Kirtana is sweet and pleasant and easily changes the heart. Suka-Maharshi is an example of a Kirtana-Bhakta. He told the Srimad-Bhagavata to Parikshit. He was fully in the state of Bhava-Samadhi at the time of reciting the Bhagavata. It is told in the Bhagavata Mahatmya that, when Sri Suka was singing the glories of the Lord, the Devas themselves came down from heaven and took part in the Kirtana with various musical instruments. Narada played his Vina and Indra played the Mridanga. Prahlada danced with his cymbals and Lord Siva Himself began His Nritya. Lord Vishnu was present. All those assembled there were thrilled by the occasional dance of Sri Suka himself. Kirtana is the most suitable method even for householders. This gives pleasure to the mind and at the same time purifies the heart. This has double effect. Kirtana is, perhaps, the best method suited for all people without distinction.