Kirtan Retreat with Sacinandana Swami

September 4th, 2010

Kirtan Retreat with Sacinandana Swami
Island of Iz, Croatia
June 12-18, 2010

A friend once told me that a good class is where you learn at least one new thing. I learned many things at the kirtan retreat. Each class of Sacinandana Swami filled my book with notes. In the next few days I'll share them with you.


Day 1

Entering a retreat means to enter a new atmosphere, a new mode of thinking, for the purpose of change or transformation. “Kirtan Retreat” means how to connect to God, the power who can really transform us.

Attending a retreat is not just a matter of going through the programs. It entails a change in intention, as only according to our intention do we act. Intention is so important it even determines life and death. For example, in a serious life and death health crisis, our intention, our will to live, determines whether we do or not. So if you want to have a successful retreat, if you want to ensure the best use of your time here, you must first create a serious intention to be transformed. A sankalpa is necessary, an expressed intention of what you hope to achieve.

When we come to a retreat we may feel an initial discomfort. That's because we come not alone, but with our old life, a life that must be changed, which means creating space in the mind for something new to happen. It may make us initially uneasy, but it is exciting and important work.

Common maxim: if you think of the same things and do the same things, you will get the same result. Retreat is to move from that place and get different, better results. Accept your limitations, but take this opportunity to get the empowerment to go beyond your limitations. If you take this opportunity, you will bear the fruit of this opportunity.


Day 2

Kirtan is the process of falling in love with God.

When you praise someone, the object of your praise occupies more and more of your consciousness. Kirtan is the process of praising Krishna and magnifying His presence in our consciousness.

Kirtan is the process of bringing Krishna, who is far from us, into our awareness and consciousness.

I become sad when the devotees become “normal persons”, especially in today's world when the culture is to become forgetful of God.

(Paraphrase of Sri Sanatana Gosvami) Kirtan is like a potent mantra that can attract precious objects from a distance.

Sri Caitanya instructs that kirtan must be done in a humble state of mind. That means anuraga, humble longing, to deeply want Krishna's mercy.

Sri Caitanya did thunderous kirtan, but after bhava, or deep feeling, not before. Mrdanga is Krishna's flute, so it must be sweet.


Day 3

The process to come to ruci in kirtan is alignment, to put things—the body, mind and heart—in the proper position. We learn this from Sri Rupa.

To do kirtan, or any spiritual practice, anugata is important. If you follow the path of the great souls, they will be attentive to you and correct you: “not this!”

Haridasa Thakur chanted 192 rounds. This is not possible if we are chanting the name; it is only possible if the name is chanting us, the name is chanting and dancing on our tongue.

Humility is like an earthquake. If you are truly humble your egotistic conception come tumbling down. Real humility therefore requires a reconstruction, a new orientation, a fresh identity as servant of Krishna.

Are you chanting the holy name, or is the holy name chanting you? Only when Krishna comes on your tongue and moves your tongue are you actually chanting. It is thus important to note that of paramount importance in chanting is our mood, for it is a certain mood only that causes the holy name to appear and causes Krishna to chant.

When we think of the meaning of the mantra, it unleashes the power of the mantra to purify us. It is a key which ignites the mantra.

Do you see the chain around your neck? It is an invisible force, but we only see it when we refuse to go further than we are. We can become free from the invisible chain of our mind that stunts spiritual growth, by developing sambandha, or relationship with Krishna. Only Krishna has the power to control and purify our mind and free us from the clutches of illusion.


Day 4

Kirtan: first bhava, deep devotion, then ornamentation.

Three key meditations:

  1. Who you are: I am an eternal particle of consciousness eternally connected with the Supreme Consciousness
  2. Who are you related to: Krishna is that infinite Conscious Entity and my only master
  3. What is the space in which you exist now: This present material world is the field meant to reform my non-devotion.

A kirtaniya should take long walks with Krishna and tell him how he has forgotten Him and how much he wants to renew that relationship.

You can only get rid of strong desires by falling in love with Krishna. He will then naturally help you.

How to take darshan or audience of the Deity: Meditate on the beautiful form of Krishna and drink with your eyes like a thirsty person.

How take darshan or audience of the Deity: Look at the Lord's from and bring it inside, see it inside.

Words carry forms into the consciousness. By seeing the Deity in the mind when chanting His name, you will gradually realize the name and from as one. Therefore one who does kirtan must also worship the Deity.

When Sura dasa, the blind poet was asked why he was taking darshan of Deities: “That I am blind doesn't mean that Krishna is blind”.

The effort to connect in relationship to the Holy Name:

  1. Behave properly: avoid offense
  2. Give oneself: chant clearly and distinctly with attention
  3. Increase affection: Meditate on the Lord's beautiful form


Day 5

Dancing with hands in the air attracts the Lord's mercy like a helpless child stretching hands out to be picked up on the lap of His father.

Hope for the Holy Name: The object of devotion melts with compassion and flows down to us.

Secret of surrender: When we meet that person who can really give us what we want we surrender. That is Krishna! Only Krishna!

Prayer of surrender, Krishna to Arjuna: “O Arjuna, listen carefully to what is in My heart. Persons who sing my name and dance directly before the Deity in the temple purchase Me.”

If you want to enter deeply into kirtan, enter deeply in the space of surrender and then in your mind go to a holy place for support and say, “My Lord I am yours!” Regardless, for quality chanting find a peaceful place, either physically or in the mind. Don't stay in your ordinary surroundings!

Turning point in kirtan is when you chant in seva bhava, a deep mood of service. That makes not just a yogic or musical experience, but a devotional one.

Seva bhava in nam bhajan is accepting the Lord as a guest.


Day 6

A dying person has one main regret—that I was not there in mind, fully present, in important relationships. Devotees should have the same regret if they are not there present with Nam Prabhu.

Krishna-bhakti, like a tree, has to have a root. That root is association with advanced devotees.

There is no better association with devotees than kirtan because you cannot act frivolously.

Prayer for kirtan, “May the Lord come into my heart and come out on my lips.”

Good kirtan must come from the heart because it is meant to touch the heart [of others]. Guru is the personal relationship where Krishna can flow into the heart. For good kirtan one should chant in the consciousness of being in Sri Guru's presence. One should thus worship the holy name with his permission and in his presence, at least within the mind.

Connection with the spiritual master is the channel by which blessings come through, especially to chant the holy name.

When you create an individual bound with your spiritual master, you will access an energy that was not there before, that gives you strength and success in spiritual endeavors.


Day 7

Success in life means to embrace those things that can stand in the face of death.

Krishna has one weakness: When one from the core of his or her heart takes shelter, He is forced by love to accept us.

Have you ever been in love? Have you ever noticed that chanting the name of that person gives solace and enlivens you? Chanting the name of Krishna with genuine devotion thus gives comfort and joy.

The first encounter of the soul with God is the Holy Name.



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