Leela sankeerthana refers to the enjoyment
by the devotee of the sacred sport of the Divine in ecstatic
dancing and singing and being totally absorbed in it. This is
exemplified by the Geetha Govindam of Jayadheva.
Bhaava Sankeerthana: This is illustrated by
Raadha alone, who expresses her different feelings towards God and
identifies herself with the Divine in every mood of devotion. She
expressed her devotion in the five forms of Shantha (Serenity),
Saakhya (friendliness), Vaathsalya (eternal love),
Anuraaga (affection) and Madhura (sweetness). Raadha
and Meera were the exponents of Bhaava sankeerthana.
Naama sankeerthana: Chaithanya was the
exponent of this form of keerthana. "All names are yours.
There is nothing in this cosmos which does not bear the imprint of
your name or form "Sarvaroopa Dharam Shaantham Sarvanaamadharam
Shivam Satchidaananda Roopam Advaitham Sathyam Shivam Sundararn"
(Svaami sang this sloka). Chaithanya reveled in singing the
name of the Lord as signifying all that was beautiful and glorious
in the universe.
While in each of the previous aeons the
devotees adopted one or other methods of singing the glories, it
is the supreme good fortune of the residents of Prashaanthi
Nilayam to enjoy all the four forms of sankeerthana. The
bhajans sung here are a combination of all the four forms of
The significance of Naamalikhitam
There is yet another special form of glorifying
the name of the Lord. This is Naamalikhitam (writing the
Name of the Lord). Contemplating on the name of the Lord mentally,
uttering the name by mouth and writing the name by hand serve to
perform Trikarana Suddhi (purify the mind, the speech and
The name of the Lord has been glorified in
different ways all over the world. Jayadheva was one who enjoyed
always the leelas (sport) of the Divine, experienced the
presence of the Divine within him, devoted every one of his daily
activities to enjoying the sport of the Divine, felt that he had
no use for anything other than God's love, merged his love in
Divine Love and thereby became the very embodiment of Divine Love.
As people did not comprehend the spiritual significance of his
keerthanas, they misunderstood and misinterpreted the meaning
of Jayadheva's Ashtapadhis (octaves).
Hanumaan, after the completion of his mission
in Lanka, went to Seetha to receive her blessings before returning
to Raama. At that time, Mother Seetha blessed Hanumaan in this
manner: "Hanumaan! You are full of prowess, intelligence and
fortitude. May you never grow old." This did not give joy to
Hanumaan. Noticing his sense of disappointment, Seetha blessed him
again: "Live as an immortal." Even this did not please Hanumaan.
Seetha then blessed him again: "Hanumaan! You are full of virtues!
May the dwellers in the three worlds extol your qualities."
Hanumaan felt embarrassed and bent his head as if he was ashamed
to hear her praise him. Observing Hanumaan's reactions, Seetha
finally blessed him thus: "May Shri Raama always love you!" The
moment he heard these words, Hanumaan was in rapture. "This was
all that I wanted," he declared. "I must be worthy of Raama's
love. A life without Raama's love is an utter waste. It is a
living death. The only thing I desire is Raama's love."
Hanumaan was proficient in music. There was
none that could excel him in singing. Even Naaradha and Tumbura
could not prevail against him. Such a great singer continued
always to chant the name of Raama.
Devotional singing is outpouring of love to God
What then is the essence of Sankeerthana?
Its essential purpose is to earn the love of God. Combining one's
voice, tune, feeling and rhythm to the appropriate beat of the
song, the devotee should immerse himself in the singing.
Harmonizing the feeling with devotion and Love, the sacred words
of the song should be an outpouring of love towards God. That
alone is devotional singing.
When the song is rendered without understanding
the meaning of the words and without any inner feeling or genuine
love for God, it is a mechanical performance. Bhaava
(feeling), Raaga (melody) and Thaala (rhythm) are
the essentials for proper singing.
Even the name Bhaarath signifies the
combination of these three elements. (Bha-Ra-Tha).
In every action in daily life, the combination of these three
elements should be observed. This rule can be applied even to one's
studies. Bhaava, in relation to study of a subject, means
understanding the subject thoroughly. Raaga implies
cultivating a love for the subject and Thaala means
expressing one's knowledge coherently and clearly.
Understand the meaning of songs while rendering
In the rendering of Thyaagaraaja's songs, the
failure to observe the meaning of the words of the song has
produced bizarre results. Thyaagaraaja's songs are in Thelugu.
Thamil musicians, who are experts in music, rendering
Thyaagaraaja's songs have often mangled the words of the songs and
made them meaningless. In one of his songs, Thyaagaraaja sang: "Ne
pogadakunte neekemi kodhavu Raama?" (If I do not praise you,
what do you lose Oh Raama?). A Thamil musician sang the song in
such a manner that it meant: "If I eat pakodas, what do you
lose?" It is essential to ensure that the meaning of the words,
the emotional feeling of the composer and the melody of the song
are all brought out in rendering the songs during
Nagarsankeerthan and in bhajans. Where one does not
understand the meanings of the words, he should get the meaning
from those who know.
Embodiments of Divine Love!
Regard community singing as sacred devotional
exercise. Even if you have no musical ability, utter the names of
the Lord with feeling and love.
There is no greater means of God-realization in
the Kali Yuga than chanting the names of the Lord.
Dhyaana (meditation) in Krita Yuga, Yajna (sacrifice)
in Tretha Yuga, Archana (worship of idols) in
Dhvaapara Yuga and Naama sankeerthana (Reciting the
name of the Lord) in Kali Yuga are the methods prescribed
for realizing the Divine.
Remembering the Name is the panacea. When the
name is chanted as a song set to music, it delights the heart
immensely. Many pandiths recite the names as slokas
(verse). They do not experience the intense yearning expressed in
the stanzas. Some actors are able to pronounce the words loud and
clear, but without any depth of feeling. But when the names are
sung melodiously they appeal to the hearts of the singers and the
listeners. Even non-believers and agnostics nod their heads in
appreciation when they listen to devotional music.
A song sung melodiously tugs at the
The word of a song can be expressed in prosaic
manner which has no appeal to the listener. But when they are sung
melodiously as in the song: "Raama! Nannu Kaapaadu"--"Raama!
save me," they tug at the heart-strings. (Svaami sang the song to
demonstrate its appeal). Such sweetness is contained in the song
when it is rendered melodiously.
Everyone, whether he is well versed in music or
not, should listen attentively to the singer and try to repeat the
words of the song with feeling.
Some persons attending bhajans do not
move their lips at all. They may say that they are singing the
songs mentally within themselves. This is not proper. If you have
devotional feeling, it should be expressed by the tongue joining
in the bhajan. Only then it can be called Sankeerthana--singing
in unison with others. You must sing the names aloud,
full-throated, as far as the voice can reach. Only then the Divine
will respond in full measure and shower His grace. No one will go
to the rescue of a drowning man if his cries are feeble. Only when
he cries aloud at the top of his voice will the cries be heard and
people will rush to save him. Sankeerthana means singing
with abandon and fervor.
Everyone should realize that every limb and
organ in the body has been given to man to be used for a sacred
purpose: The tongue to utter the Lord's name, the hands to offer
worship, the feet to go the temple and so on. These organs should
not be used for frivolous and unholy purposes. Sanctifying
everyone of the sense organs, man should purify the mind and
contemplate on God.
The only means to purify the polluted world
Embodiments of Divine Love!
It is impossible to describe the sweetness and
sacredness of the name of the Lord. The intensity of the devotion
with which you chant the name of the Lord will yield commensurate
benefits and confer joy on you. All should strive to chant the
names in unison. Today, all the five elements in the world--space,
air, fire, water and the earth--are polluted. You cannot get pure
water or pure air. The sounds you hear are impure. The earth is
polluted. The Kali Yuga has become Kalmasha Yuga
(the age of impurity). To purify all this the only means is
chanting the names of the Lord.
Today people spend most of their time watching
the TV and Video screens. Is it any surprise if children born in
these circumstances are TV products? They behave as actors from
childhood. They indulge in stunts. Only the parents are to blame.
In olden times, when a woman was enceinte, she used to hear
stories about Prahlaadha, Sathyavaan and other noble characters.
The child in the womb was influenced by such stories.
Atmosphere is purified by chanting Divine Name
Experiments in Russia and other countries have
demonstrated the relationship between the food one consumes and
one's mental attitudes. It was found, for instance, that a child
which had been fed on apple juice while it was growing in the womb,
exhibited a love for apples after birth.
The recitation of the names of the Lord will
help to purify the atmosphere as a result of the sacred sound
waves getting absorbed in the atmosphere. The power of sound waves
is evident from the way radio waves are transmitted and received
over long distance. The atmosphere that has been polluted by
impure sound waves can be purified by the chanting of the Divine
Likewise, sacred thoughts, pure speech and pure
actions will purify other polluted elements. There is no better
purifying agent than this. Crores are being spent to purify the
Ganges water. Of what use is this exercise if the Ganges continues
to be polluted by the discharge of drainage water into the river?
First prevent the flow of filthy effluents into the Ganges.
In the same manner, the evil thoughts arising
in the mind should be diverted and it should be filled with pure
Godly thoughts by reciting the Divine name.
Everyone participating in bhajans should
sing the name of the Lord and thereby serve to purify the
atmosphere and promote the well being of the nation.