Bhakti yoga is the yoga of pure devotion. The yoga of love! It is one of the pillars of Jivamukti Yoga and is a fundamental aspect that links together all spiritual traditions. One of the most powerful expressions of Bhakti is chanting mantras and prayers with the elevated intention of transcending into a state of cosmic consciousness…entering an ocean of bliss and tranquility!
At first that may sound like some far out activity that is limited to those in cults or maybe it sounds dry and boring…or maybe you are not comfortable with the sound of your own voice. In my experience, you have to try a few different styles and find one that really resonates deeply within you. There are many expressions of Kirtan (ecstatic chanting) and these days there are a lot of really great modern variations such as MC Yogi, Wah!, Manorama, Sean Johnson and Wade Morrissette. These artists have gained inspiration from traditional guys like Ravi Shankar, who played with The Beatles back in the 60′s. Krishna Das, Jai Uttal and Bhagavan Das really brought chanting into its current popularity with their folk and rock influences. Mike D. from the Beastie Boys even played with Bhagavan Das on the album Now! and accompanied my guru, Sharon Gannon, on a few tracks such as SATTVAM for her album neti-neti and Reverend Run from Run DMC rapped with her on the same album on the track “Sound is God”.
Why would these popular mainstream artists do side projects with Ravi Shankar, Bhagavan Das and Sharon Gannon? Perhaps they experienced something profoundly uplifting when they explored Sanskrit chanting during their yoga practice or spiritual journey…and since they are the sort who are ahead of the curve, they realized the potential of blending the ancient with the modern and wanted to share the gifts they received and pulsations they experienced from these mantras with the rest of the world in a way that felt hip and familiar.
When we chant sacred sounds, a vibration awakens within us and we heal our hearts and sooth our minds and emotions. Sanskrit is a language where sound and meaning unite. It is a universal language like music or mathematics. Actually, I feel this beautiful language is like a marriage of music and mathematics. The ancient rishis or seers, put the same attention to detail in formulating the Sanskrit language that they put into creating mathematics. You might notice if you ever see Devanagari script written that the alphabet has some very familiar shapes. While this is fascinating on the intellectual level, the experience is even more amazing. When we chant in Sanskrit, we promote healing of the mind and emotions. Ultimately, one of the aims of yoga practice is to lift ourselves up out of our thoughts…going beyond the mind and the definitions of how we see things so that we can see the world trough a fresh set of eyes. We see the world differently and the world sees us differently. We raise our vibrations and thus become a shining light to those around us and the world looks shiny and new to us!
This month’s “Focus of the Month“ from Jivamukti is “Panoramic World“. ( If you get a chance, I highly recommend reading Sharon Gannon’s essay which is linked into the previous sentence.) Mantra repetition and chanting plant seeds deep in our hearts for strength and faith to grow. Faith is an essential element for yoga practice and it is something that no one else can give you. It is what each of us is made of. As we cultivate bhav (the mood of one who is intoxicated by love for the Divine), we uproot doubt and confusion and gradually profound shifts begin to occur.
As we chant these mantras and verses silently or aloud, we attract the virtuous qualities of the divine manifestation which we are calling out to and we find a healing outlet for our multi-faceted, tumultuous emotions.
On a scientific level, we are quite literally rewiring our neural nets, uprooting stagnant, negative patterns of thought and expanding positive thoughts. Now that is something worth investigating.