What is Kirtan?
A jewel among the various spiritual practices associated with Hinduism is kirtan, or devotional chanting. Kirtan is one of the most beautiful and expansive aspects of bhakti yoga – the path of opening the heart through devotion and surrender.
The meaning of “yoga” is “union,” and the goal of yogic practices is to recognize our true Divine nature. In bhakti yoga, each deity in the the Hindu pantheon is seen as a different aspect or face of the Divine Beloved, and devotional practices are used to bring one closer and closer to the Beloved, until devotee and Beloved become One. Although kirtan involves singing or chanting, it is not necessary to have any musical talent or background, or even a good singing voice. Kirtan is the music of the heart, and it is sung freely from the heart.
Traditionally, kirtan is sung in call-and-response form. A leader sings a line or two of a song, and the participants sing it back. The words to kirtan songs are often repetitions of different names of the deities, usually in the Sanskrit language, or in a language derived from Sanskrit. The focus on the deities, and the repetition of their names releases the mind from its usual associative patterns, which keep us caught in the cycles of pleasure and pain that come with the ups and downs of everyday life. The vibrations of the Sanskrit sounds expand our hearts and minds beyond their normal limitations, into the depths of Spirit, and the recognition that we are never away from the Beloved.
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What is Vedic Chanting?
The Vedas are among the oldest spiritual scriptures in the world, and most Hindu spiritual traditions have their roots in the Vedas. There are four main Vedas, which give various prescriptions for living a basically healthy, happy, harmonious, dharmic, and spiritual life. The Vedas were preserved through a precise system of chanting which has been handed down through the ages. Although they were eventually written, the Vedas continue to be passed forward as an oral tradition to keep them intact.
Some of the most profound and sacred prayers of Vedic tradition are becoming popularly known today, especially in yoga circles in the West. In order to protect and maintain the integrity of this vast body of knowledge, as well as the vibrational/sound intention and subtle deeper meanings inherent in the Vedas, Vedic prayers are meant to be chanted in their original form, with correct Sanskrit pronunciation and intonation.
If you would like to join a Vedic Chanting class with Uma, please check out the Schedule of Events and send her a note through the Contact Us page.
What is Vedanta?
At the end of each Veda is attached one or more Upanishads. As the Vedas offer guidance for living a dharmic life, there are deeper questions that naturally arise: What is the underlying Reality of this life? Is there a God? Who/what is God? Who/what am I? What is my relation to God? What is my relation to this Creation? What happens when I die? Is there anything left of me that will exist after this body drops? The mission of the Upanishads is to answer these questions.
In the simplest terms, because the Sanskrit word “anta” means “end,” and the Upanishads come at the end of the Vedas, the two words combine to become Vedanta. So Vedanta refers to the teachings found in the Upanishads.
The chanting of prayers and mantras found in the Upanishads is also included under the term Vedic chanting.