The singing of Bhajans and the chanting of Mantras and Stotras is one of the oldest forms of worshipping God. For many people it is one of the easiest and most pleasurable ways to get close to Him, awakening joy and love in one’s heart. It is not exclusive to any spiritual path and practically all paths include singing as a central element.
In the ancient Hindu scriptures, the singing of the Lord’s many names, Kirtana Bhakti (devotion through the singing of God’s names), is described as one of the nine ways to express or experience love for the Divine. Through the singing of the Lord´s names, one can experience complete stillness of the mind or, at least, the interruption of one´s day-to-day thoughts and worries.
But why is it that singing has such positive effect on us? Hindus believe in the all-pervading, omnipresent sound ‘OM’, the sound of creation and manifestation (similarly, in the Bible it is said, “in the beginning was the word”, i.e. cosmic vibration), through which everything came into existence and which is present in every little cell, every atom, every part of us. Hindu mythology says that it was Lord Shiva who developed music and dance and gave it to His wife and all the gods and demigods in heaven. All the heavenly inhabitants rejoiced and drank the beauty of singing the highest Lord’s glory and dancing for Him.
Once Narada, the messenger of Lord Vishnu, travelled to Earth to see what mankind was doing and how everything was going. He was deeply concerned when he found out that human beings did not seem to enjoy their days unlike the heavenly inhabitants rather, they seemed to spend their lives in darkness, fear and hopelessness.
The worried Naradmuni sought help from His father, Brahma. He told him, “Venerated father, I fear mankind has lost it's way. It seems that the Holy Scriptures are of no use to them, to do penance, austerities and pujas as prescribed in the Vedas seems too difficult. Please, have mercy and save them!”
Brahma meditated for a very long time and, after He had completed His meditation, He spoke thus to Naradmuni, “Narada, the only way to save humankind and to guide them back to their Creator is to pass onto them the art of music and dance. I will call this the fifth Veda and it will be the easiest of the Vedas, as it is meant for everybody. Everybody, regardless of sex, origin, caste or age, can participate in the singing of the Lord’s names and thus be guided back to Him.”
This mythological story illustrates to us what an integral part music and especially the worship of the Divine, plays in our lives. Everybody who partakes in the singing (even if it is only the clapping of hands), will feel it’s positive and joy-bringing effects. It makes us inwardly calm and peaceful, as it stops the stream of thoughts, allowing our natural positivity to flow freely. This more positive attitude arises because our mind becomes imbued with His name, with His Self. Thus those thoughts that do not serve us, but rather seek to take us away from our trues Selves, can gradually dissolve. While we are singing with others, we feel that we are part of something, co-creating an atmosphere of peace, happiness and oneness.
In the temple in Springen, for example, people come together twice a day to express devotion and joy through the singing of God’s names and glories. At 7 a.m in the morning, people gather and wake up Sri Krishna with the Krishna Suprabhatam, then bathe, dress and adorn Him with fresh flowers. Suprabhatam is a Sanskrit word and can be translated as ‘auspicious dawn’. It is sung to awaken the Lord of the Temple which, in the Shree Peetha Nilaya Temple, is Lord Krishna (there are various Suprabhatams for the different aspects of the Lord).
After the Suprabhatam, the Govindam Prayers from the Sri Brahma Samhita are sung, another prayer addressed to Lord Krishna. Since Abishekam (bathing ceremony) for Narasimha is also done, greeting Him too with the prayer ‘Namaste Narasimhaya’ from the Narasimha Kavacham.
After the evening prayers, there is time for spontaneous Bhajan-singing. Usually, started with a Ganesha-Bhajan, since Ganesha, the elephant-headed God, is the remover of obstacles on our spiritual path. Traditionally, every day of the week a certain aspect of God is venerated: Monday it is Shiva, Tuesday it is Hanuman (together with Rama and Sita), Wednesday it is Ganesha, Thursday it is the Guru, Friday it is the Divine Mother and Saturday it is Narayana. So one Bhajan, at least, should be sung for the deity whose day it is.
Although the prayers take place in a Hindu temple, there is no limit on which names and songs may be sung, since all forms of the One God is worshiped. One can sing the names of Krishna, Christ, Allah; one can sing Kyrie Eleison, Allah Hu Akbar, Shalom or Om Mani Padme Hum.
Accompanying the Bhajans and songs are various instruments such as Harmonium, Keyboard, Guitar, Cymbals, Djembe, Tabla, Mridanga. Sometimes the songs are more calm and peaceful, being the perfect invitation for a meditation or inner prayer. At other times, the singing and clapping of hands gathers speed and intensity, which can bring about an ecstatic experience of joy and happiness.
Please join us for morning and evening prayers as we lift our hearts and voices to God!