Kirtanam literally means to repeat, recite, call, or glorify. We usually refer to it as recitation of mantras or mantra meditation.

Kirtan is both, an enjoyable and a powerful practice. It’s probably for this reason that it has made its appearance (unlike other bhakti practices) in today’s modern yoga studios.

Why is kirtan so enjoyable? Well, first of all because it’s pleasing to the senses (music, dance), and then also because it almost effortlessly takes you to a higher dimension of consciousness.

It is powerful because it helps you overcome all obstacles on the spiritual path and leaves a lasting impression on your mind.

Kirtanam not only refers to group kirtan with musical instrument but it may also mean individual japa practice. Both are super important in the practice of bhakti. We’ll explain in a minute how to do them.

Mantra meditation significantly differs from other types of meditation you might have tried. Usually a successful meditation session culminates in the experience of pure consciousness by having you take the position of a neutral witness. Some meditation techniques take you more or less directly to that position while others merely prepare you for the experience. This is so valuable because it helps you to get out of your conditioned mind and gives you deep insights into yourself.

Before I started practicing bhakti I cherished this experience as the most precious in my life.

You may have read or heard different explanations about what mantra meditation means. Things like “mantra means that which liberates the mind” or “it bestows peace and prosperity” etc.

What kirtan really means…

To me mantra meditation means a vehicle to meet the person the mantra is dedicated to. That is, of course, if the mantra is directed to person, which it is in most cases.

It is nothing less than that.

Remember that we have previously mentioned that on the spiritual plane the person is not different from his or her name? In kirtan practice this is what you might experience yourself.

This is, of course, a gradual experience. In the beginning you just experience the aura of the person. As in bhakti most mantras are directed to the Absolute, you’ll experience the aura of the Supreme Person.

Like before sunrise. The sun itself is not visible yet, but you can already feel its power, beauty and brilliance.

That’s why kirtan can give raise to amazing feelings. It’s soothing, lovely, joyful, ecstatic because the atmosphere is surcharged with the appearance of the Supreme.

Kirtanam is the most important practice in bhakti. Sravanam and kirtanam are both able to engage your mind and immerse it in the spiritual sphere. Both practices are complementary. For engagement of your physical body in bhakti you’ll need to engage in other practices, e.g. in arcanam.

Kirtan as a group experience

Presently, kirtan seems to be in vogue in the yoga world. It has always been in vogue in bhakti.

In a kirtan event you can take full advantage of the powerful support of the group. It is not only your own devotion that counts but you can feel the expression of the bhakti of the whole group. The bhakti of the kirtan leader usually has the strongest influence on the group as he or she is guiding the performance.

Mantras are sung with captivating melodies accompanied by lovely sounds of musical instruments. All these make it easy to enter into the devotional mood.


Japa Meditation

Japa meditation, or individual mantra meditation can be as powerful as kirtan events. Plus you are completely independent and able to practice whenever you like. You don’t depend on external circumstances (you can repeat the mantra mentally at any time) and you don’t require any paraphernalia.

However, with individual mantra meditation it may take you some time to build up sufficient strength. Japa should be practiced as a sadhana, a daily or regular practice.


If you want to dive deep into bhakti, I recommend you to practice both forms of kirtanam (individual japa and group kirtans) alongside, together with a good dose of sravanam


Kirtan is a method which can quickly take you to deep levels of bhakti. Just imagine what a place this earth would be if we could transform our emotional world into a world of love.

“That heart must be steel-framed which, in spite of one’s being immersed in kirtanam, does not change when ecstasy takes place, tears fill the eyes and the hairs stand on end.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 2.3.24)

“O King, the Age of Kali is an ocean of faults. It is an age of quarrel, confusion and hypocrisy. But in this age there is one great advantage. Simply by practicing krishna kirtanam, one can be freed of all material contamination and thus be elevated to the spiritual world.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam, 12.3.51)


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