Page 1 Spring Issue 2014

GuruGanesha pg.25 Kirtan as Living Wisdom pg.7

The Call & Response Foundation pg.12

The History of Kirtan pg.16

The Nectar of the Divine Nam pg.32 New Mantra Music Releases pg.38

$5.95 Apr.-Jun. 2014 No.2



Welcome to

Pranava Magazine: The Art & Culture of Kirtan in the West ~Spring Issue 2014~

“I Am Om (the Pranava), The Word that is God.� ~Sri Krishna~ The Bhagavad Gita 7:8 Table of Contents:

GuruGanesha pg.25

Kirtan as Living Wisdom pg.7

The Call & Response Foundation pg.12

The History of Kirtan pg.16

The Nectar of the Divine Nam pg.32 New Mantra Music Releases pg.38

What is Kirtan? Kirtan is a form of devotional chanting performed in a call & response fashion with all who are present. Kirtan gives voice to the longing heart of Bhakti-Yoga, which is the path of Divine Love. The devotional sadhana of Kirtan is the means by which we court our Beloved with music & chanting. In Bhakti-Yoga, our Beloved is none other than our very own Inner Divinity that provides final liberation from suffering. Bolo! Jai Bhagavan!


*Pranava Magazine

Editorial Note

Like the fragrant blossoms of the beautiful magnolia tree, bursting in the brightness of our radiant Sun, dancing & swaying in the mood of Bhakti ~ in the cool breezes of Spring, I offer this publication unto You, oh Lover of the Divine! Jai Ram ~ Sita Ram!! I am overjoyed in presenting to you all our 2nd Issue, as it’s been so very exciting preparing & designing the layout; what a fulfilling way for me to express the surging of creativity juices! Sri Ganesha has surly been gracious in clearing the Way for our vision for a new independent magazine, & after the launch of the pilot issue in Jan. 2014, & His powerful presence & grace has been steady for this very issue to unfold & manifest. May it always be so for the many issues to come! Om Gam Ganapatiye Namaha!! It is my enduring aspiration as the creator & editor of Pranava Magazine, to provide a continual source of inspiration for lovers of Kirtan & for those who have yet to discover the precious gems that the bhakti-movement in the west has to offer. As the vision of Pranava Magazine is refined, it unfolds to allow everything to just naturally fall into place~ valuable connections have been made, vital partnerships are now formed & many enthusiastic bhaktas are rising to offer aid & support to ensure the steady incline of such a blessed offering to humanity. I feel our readers are going to especially love this issue with GuruGanesha’s delightful interview. Those who’ve had the grace to see him on stage will appreciate leaning in a little closer on page 25. In addition, we have two amazing articles by two dharma brother contributors, as they shed nectarful light, & insightful jnana on the ‘History of Kirtan’ & ‘Kirtan as Living Wisdom’. To highlight the 3HO Dharma of the Sikhs in the west, & to inspire the awakening of the consciousness, the article:‘The Nectar of the Divine Nam’ (written by yours truly), unveils the mystery & power of Kundalini-Yoga Mantras. I do hope you all enjoy this issue! I’d like to take this moment to thank Sridhar & the entire Bhakti Fest staff; Dakini of the Denver Chant Fest; Jennifer & the entire staff of the Call & Response Foundation, Shanti of the Give Back Yoga Foundation, Joel & Parmita at Black Swan & White Swan, Ky with Gaud Tags, all of our advertising partners & new client vendors of the magazine & everyone on the ground level networking & spreading the word throughout all channels; a heart felt thank you & deep pranams!

Pranava Magazine


‘Pranava: The Art & Culture of Kirtan in the West’

Editor in Chief: J.Yochanan Russell Assisting Editor: Shannon Chambers Senior Columnists: Maturanath-ji, Vamadevaji, Shanti Shivani Guest Contributors: Geoffrey Earendil Art Director: J.Yochanan Russell Advertising, Marketing & Circulation: J.Yochanan Russell Senior Photographer Ankush Vimawala Article Submission Inquiries: Request our Media Kit for Ad Submissions:

May your hearts forever remain ablaze in the bhav of Bhakti, as you draw ever nearer unto the One! OM Shakti OM!! Yours in Loving-Compassionate-Wisdom, ~J.Yochanan Russell

*The definition of Pranava: Pranava is the name of the Primordial All-pervasive Sound Vibration that culminates as OM/AUM, which is the Word of GOD/Divinity. Pranava is the voice of the life-force in motion. Pranava is that which impregnates all with Life, & it is that which puts everything into Motion, hence the etymology, Prana= Life-force & Va: the root of Vayu, Vata, Vaccha (voice). This is why Every invocation & prayer to the Divine begins & ends with the Pranava seed syllable OM ~ aum, amen, amin~ 4

Let us Tune in! Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo! TRANSLITERATION: Ong is the Pranava, the "Infinite Creative energy in manifestation & activity". Namo is "Reverent Greetings" invoking humility, Guru means "Teacher/Essence of Wisdom." Dev means "Divinity/GOD." Meaning: ‘With reverence, I call upon the Divine Wisdom of GOD, the One who dwells within, as the Self-Essence of all.’

Pranams & many thanks to our Media & Non-profit Humanitarian Partners



Original Yantra Art by Geoffrey Earendil

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014



of us are attracted to these yoga practices, asana, pranayama, meditation, and kirtan by a deeply rooted desire to penetrate the true nature of the mind,  to overcome identification with this small personality,  all its strategies and negotiations, in favor of a direct, visceral relationship with the Supreme Cosmic Consciousness. We are drawn to these practices as a path of Enlightenment.

“Any identity as it limits our capacity to perceive the Truth, must be rejected as an obstruction to our progress on the path of Enlightenment.”

In the Western World we are living in a materialist society. Much of what we understand about the nature of things is tied up in the value of stuff and its capacity to be exchanged for other stuff. Even our own selfworth is wrapped up in perceptions of our Desirability. Furthermore, we have developed a Culture of Consumption in which our Identities are ensnared in the tangled web of our appetites. In Vedic culture this age is called the Kali Yuga, the Era of Kali; the Devourer.

The recent popularity of hatha yoga has certainly contributed to Sanskrit words like karma, yoga, prana and kundalini entering into fairly common usage in middle-class America. We have simply incorporated the Sanskrit because these terms cannot be translated as they are rooted in the experiences of dramatically different cosmology. The word “chakra” for instance can be literally translated as “wheel”, but we have come to understand so much more in that simple word; an understanding that encompasses the possibility of a luminous and dynamic rainbow In the words of Chogyam Trungpa the spiritual body. path is “a subtle process” of “numerous sidetracks” not to be embarked upon naively. In the mystic language of the Yogis, words are He reminds us “we can deceive ourselves into often encoded with multiple layers of thinking we are developing spiritually when meaning. The word “chakra” also refers to the instead we are strengthening our egocentricity perpetual turning, the spinning of these through spiritual techniques” (Spiritual wheels, and the continuum of flows, the rivers Materialism, 1973).  Even our endeavors to or nadis. It also suggests the cyclical nature of transcend our worldly roles and strategies can time, the interconnectedness of everything, be twisted around to reinforce this very same and the inevitable return to source. Identity; the One who Endeavors.

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

The repetition of names and glories is a meditation unto itself. The repetition serves to interiorize the energies and qualities of the Divine. With authentic devotion, with a true sense of “letting go of one’s self”, letting go of the individual personality in order to focus upon the Supreme Cosmic Personality, as Svoboda describes, “ little by little your own personality will become dissolved and [the deities’] personalities will become present”. (WildYogi, Feb 2014)

Photo Courtesy of Ankush Vimawala

We must not assume that simply because we have acquired knowledge of the words that we have fully understood the implications of the Cosmic Order that is being presented.

This is not to suggest that the Western World-View is wrong or inferior, nor to say it should be rejected. This is nether to imply that an Eastern World-View is superior or without flaw. Any identity as it limits our capacity to perceive the Truth must be rejected as an obstruction Dr. Robert Svoboda, in conversation with Ilya Zhuravlev to our progress on the path of Enlightenment. Handling calls our attention to the fact that: these terms as concepts or techniques to be collected like merit badges, to display or acclaim them for status "In the West ... knowledge is something that is tangible, or gain, is to render this Wisdom lifeless, inert; a is material, it is something that can be transferred commodity, a brand. easily, can be bought and sold; whereas in India, real knowledge is something that is a living being – a Each of these words, borrowed from the Sanskrit, yoga, Vaidya... the embodiment of the potential knowledge karma, bhajan represents an entire Body of Wisdom and that exists in the Universe." (Wild Yogi Magazine, as Dr. Svoboda indicates, a Living Energy, a Shakti. Each, February Issue, 2014. offers a way in, a window or doorway through which to (”interview with Dr. Robert E. Svoboda”) enter into vibrant, authentic relationship with the Goddess as the living energy of Wisdom. It is conceivable that we have not only adopted concepts from a foreign world-view, but adapted those With this understanding  we can enter the practice of concepts, narrowed or limited their scope, so they kirtan, the practice of reciting the praises and names of better fit into our own existing cosmology. If Divinity, as a prayer and not merely an entertainment. enlightenment is our true goal, along the path we must Bhajan is not a distraction, diverting or agitating the necessarily experience revelations of the Truth that attention, drawing it out and away from the center. shake the very foundations of our world-view. To the Although there is a pleasure in this enjoyment, even an extent that we find identity with our World View this ecstasy, without devoted attention towards that can be a terrifying experience. At what cost will we Supreme Beloved, this  is merely the dizziness of strategize to avoid discomfort or displeasure? disorientation, with the tiny self (jiva) established as the inevitable point of return. 9 pranava

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

The repetition of names and glories is a meditation unto

itself. The repetition serves to interiorize the energies and qualities of the Divine. With authentic devotion, with a true sense of “letting go of one’s self”, letting go of the individual personality in order to focus upon the Supreme Cosmic Personality, as Svoboda describes, “ little by little your own personality will become dissolved and [the deities’] personalities will become present”. (WildYogi, Feb 2014) The bliss of this Union, all of your attention focused upon the Divine, your enjoyment of music and song, the pleasure of participating in vibration and harmony offered upon the altar of the heart, is world’s beyond the temporary thrill of disassociation. Kirtan is a Living Wisdom, a Vaidya, and a dynamic expression of the Goddess herself. Enter into relationship with Her with dedication and devotion. Become like the Lover, lost in thoughts of the Beloved. Like Radha dissolving into Shyam.

Geoffrey Earendil has been teaching Hatha Yoga for more than 15 years. A student of the common roots of Chi Kung, Hatha Yoga, and Ayurveda he is an initiate of a traditional Kaula Tantra lineage. He teaches physical practices to support the subtle body from Long Beach, CA. Find him at

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An inspiring Organization offering Bhakti, Karma, & Jnana-Yoga in full devotional service in institutional facilities that need it most. Discover how many are receiving much benefit from the noble cause & movement of the Call & Response Foundation.

lots of people would write & ask if we could come to Missouri, etc. they’d be like, ‘we have no money but we want you to come’, the community needs this... and we ended up giving some grants right in the beginning...& that’s how we got started.

Pranava Magazine interview: With Director & Cofounder of Call & Response Foundation, Jennifer Canfield~ By J.Yochanan


t was a real honor & pleasure to connect with one of the founders of Call & Response Foundation (CRF), Jennifer Canfield, to join forces & to discuss the amazing vision & efforts of CRF. CRF was established 3 years ago as a nonprofit in order to benefit humanity through the therapeutic vibration of Kirtan. It is an organization devoted to serving & expanding mantra music and the healing power of chant.

P: That’s wonderful! I’ve seen that CRF

Jennifer Canfield is the Director of CRF & a mother, athlete, bhakta in training and dreamer of transformation. She lives in Montpelier Vermont with her two kids and black dog Ruby.

Pranava: What inspired you all to

establish CRF? Jennifer: We noticed that lots of communities wanted to have chanting & didn’t have the means to bring it there, or if they did have the means to bring someone to help get started, they didn’t have the finances to cover it... so it started that way, as a way to support communities. We wanted people to start a chanting practice, its grown since It is both impressive & inspiring to see then, with our educational arm, (we’ll CRF in action with devotional service, & talk more about that), but that was the to hear the testimonial feedback from original inspiration. participants who have had the grace to receive their offerings. We started while I was volunteering with Dave Stinger, helping him with bookings & that kind of thing, & we found that With its vision to get one-million chanting by 2020, CRF has now reached thousands through its outreach program, collaborating with universities, schools, hospitals, prisons, music therapy programs, refugee support programs, b a t t e r e d w o m e n ’s o r g a n i z a t i o n s , shelters, hospice, & nursing homes.

has now put on many amazing events... tell me how does an event usually unfold? How does one go about setting up an event with CRF? J: Yeah, it’s fun to give away! We do a little bit of event production, but mostly what we do is we act as the contact person for our 12 partnering artist, & some are more active with us than others, we basically act as a booking agency, even though we don’t behave as one in terms of taking a percentage from the artist. We set up the details & help create promotions & get all the pieces together & help figure out how to get the artist there. Sometimes when there’s underwriting that needs to happen, we can do that. We’ve done this for about 200 events a year, then last year we started adding outreach events. Our policy now with artists is that if they do any touring with us, is that they do some outreach events. Today the Hanumen are doing an event at the big psychiatric hospital.

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P: Wow, that’s amazing! Tell me more P: Great! Is there a particular outreach other teachers. We don’t align ourselves event that has stuck close to your heart & that remains with you till this day? J: I personally was bringing people through the Vermont State Psychiatric Hospital, (no Longer open, destroyed in the flood), but I brought the Mayapuryis there & that sticks out out in my mind. They came through on a summer day, & they were all allowed out on the yard, which was a big deal for this particular facility, because of the challenging folks there, the whole staff came. The Mayapuryis have the ability to pull people in & people were crying & dancing & I can feel the mantras doing their work, going in the building, P: So what kind of response does CRF touching every one of the 50 residencies usually get in these institutions & & 300 staff members- it was really powerful! programs? J: Its pretty amazing! I think people that don’t connect with other therapies, have P: Tell me about the difference between connected with this, so I’m thinking of the University Tour & the Educational like the mental health facilities, it’s piece? been really amazing on how well people J: The University tour is a project that respond to this. You know you’re we wish to launch next year. We have thinking that you’re going in to chant about 15 Universities that have either a Sanskrit to people who’ve probably Bhakti-Club or a Krishna Consciousness never heard that. And when we first Club or a Hindu Organization, so we’ve started I thought that this would be been finding that we can go into those weird for people who don’t know what universities & do pretty big events in that is, but it works so well, just nice theaters & such.. do like a ‘Kirtan because of that, they don’t know what it goes to College’ or something like that is & they’re just left with the vibrations (laughter), to mobilize that younger (You & I know how well those work). So demographic, & we’re hoping that its been a real affirming process for all sponsors will jump on board with that! of us that already know (the benefits of P: That will surly get the One Million chanting), to be able to go into a chanting by 2020 in the West! populace like that & offer a practice Tell us about the Educational Program? with them. We try to keep it non-secular, J: The Educational Program is largely we don’t offer it as a religious practice, online. We’re building an online library we offer is a therapeutic stress relief, as thats free & open to the public we have the yoga of sound- another tool in your a lot on there & want to build more; we tool belt, for managing the world. It is want to have resources about chant such a quick access for people to open lyrics & inspirational reading... there’s up to & I think we’re finding that for so much about the Bhakti Movement that people who have trauma, its been really Westerners don’t really know, so were a successful therapy for them. trying to provide some resources for that... We have a lot of Sham Das’s writing that we love & respect & many about these outreach programs; what organizations are you currently working with? J: We’re partnered with four maximum security prisons. We have a good amount of psych-hospitals that we go into. We also partner with Universities. They’re not underserved in the way we might think, but they are when it comes to having access to this practice (of Kirtan). We’ve gone to shelters, we have a few refugee/immigrant facilities that we work with; we’ve just made contact with some veterans... some children's institutions as well.

13 pranava

with any one lineage, so were trying to pull from the many traditions out there. In my research I found that the original inspiration of the Bhakti Movement was to have it available unto everyone- it wasn’t supposed to be just for the privileged, but for the householder as well. We provide workshops with our events as well. We just partnered with Wanderlust & was able to get a “speakeasy”. This is a perfect example of what our educational program is trying to do; lets get a 90min program in at a big yoga festival about Bhakti, talk about it & chant & then get people thinking “ah, I never knew I thought yoga was just bout stretching”.

P: How could others help out & lend a

hand to the CRF? J: We’re privately funded, so we have a need for more donors, more volunteers, we need people to help with photographs & sending them to us; you know the administrative stuff. Volunteering is always welcome, you could email us & ask how you could help with your time, & it doesn't matter where you are in the country. We just are really looking to build a group of ambassadors, folks who would just be willing to help get the word out. We also have a free music program bringing free music to prisons & we’ve had such good response with that; inmates asking us for more- & its great & lovely to have that! We’re also looking for more partnerships with artists, & recored labels, & with those who are willing to donate music.

P: Great! It been really inspiring to

speak with you today Jennifer, thanks so much for your time all the great energy you’re putting out there with Call & Response Foundation.

















Inspiring Testimonials It is both impressive & inspiring to see CRF in action with their devotional service. Here are some of the testimonial feedbacks from participants who have had the grace to receive their offerings.

Here is what some have to say from Behind bars in Salem Oregon: ‘The Foundation’s partnership with Mindful Yoga in Salem Oregon has connected our Behind Bars program with 4 correctional institutes in the Pacific Northwest. Mindful Yoga’s volunteer teachers offer regular meditation, yoga and chanting events to minimum and maximum security institutions.  In 2012, the 4 man ensemble of Gaura Vani, John de Kadt, Benjy Wertheimer and Purusartha Dasa offered a live chant event after successfully clearing the extensive background check and entry restrictions.  Comments after the event included: “This is the first time I’ve felt free behind bars after 25 years in prison” and “this was the best day I’ve had on prison”. Another inmate stated, “I was there at Oregon State Correctional Facility when you and the rest of your kirtan group The Hanumen came – and also when Benjy and his wife came in February. Both of those times were moments where I completely forgot where I was and felt as If I wasn’t captivated by the state but rather by the joy and interest I gain from music and my spirituality. Thank you so much”. Here’s what John de Kadt, a participating Musician had to say about CRF: ‘Thanks to all the hard work of Jennifer Canfield and The Call and Response Foundation, Brenda McMorrow and I where able to play two kirtans at two Oregon State Correctional Institutions which are full on prisons. The men who came... many of them in for 25 years to life… are all practicing yoga and mediation and are amazing beings doing incredibly deep work on themselves. I can’t express what an honor and heart opening experience it was to be with them in song and bhakti. This work is all made doable by The Call Response Foundations vision and hard work.' There are many other inspiring testimonials like these on the Call & Response website; please stop by for a visit & get positively motivated: If you’d like to get involved at any level, from volunteering, to making a generous contribution to the seva of CRF, please visit their website, send an email, get motivated & spread the word! Discover more about their amazing offerings of Bhakti-KarmaJnana-Yoga & how many are receiving much benefit from their noble cause: Jennifer can be contacted It is an absolute honor to have them as one of our partners! Jai Bhagavan!!

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014


“Regardless of time or place, one who chants the holy name, even while eating or sleeping, attains all perfection�. ~Sri Chaitanya By. Matura Matthew Bennett relationship with the Universe from the very irtan is now beginning because vibration or sound is essentially what becoming ever increasingly the Universe is popular among all types of fundamentally made of. It people, East and West. But could be said that sound is what is Kirtan? No doubt many interpretations can be the essence of everything. The Vedas call it shabdhatendered. From my own bramha, or, transcendent Guru and lineage I learned sound vibration appearing as that Kirtan is the congregational experience of matter. Another Vedic mantra states: sarva a group of souls vocally communing with their divine kalvidam bramha, meaning everything is a source. An added perspective could be that we transformation of consciousness via sound are connecting with the deepest part of our selves in vibration. the joyful process of In the deepest sense we can vibrating in resonance with say that Kirtan is integral to the universal life that we all life, and has been woven share. In fact, humanity has through every culture and been vocalizing its expression of humanity. Just


as songs at dawn are natural to birds, or the way that crickets chirp at dusk, so man has similarly given praise to the miracle of life on earth with song and dance since before the memory of recorded time. We could say that Kirtan is a natural expression of life or the soul of every living being. Every religious or spiritual path from primitive animism, shamanism and tribalism, to Native American and all indigenous cultures, to Christian devotion to the sophisticated mystical expressions of Buddhism and the Hindu Vedic philosophies all employ sacred sound as a vehicle to contact and commune with the Divine.

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

In the Sanskrit language of India, Kirtan is defined as "praise, and is a form of call and response chanting performed in India's devotional traditions." Traditionally the performance of Kirtan involves the chanting of songs, hymns or mantras to the accompaniment of instruments such as the harmonium, tablas, the two-headed mrdanga or pakawaj drums and hand cymbals or kartals. It is integral to the practice of the Vaishnava and Shakta devotional faiths as well as the Sikh and Sant traditions and some forms of Buddhism. Most religious groups and traditions have their unique form of Kirtan. In India, Kirtan is often accompanied by story telling and acting as well and of course the subjects are typically of religious, mythological or social subjects.

In reality, karma, jnana and yoga, are impediments to the purity of prema, or the selfless divine love that manifests when kirtan is performed in the nirguna state that is completely free from any worldly aspirations. Few of us have the ability to manifest this type of higher nirguna kirtan, and its appearance is even rare within traditional settings. However, it is the apex of the kirtan experience and is a pure and noble aspiration that all traditions ultimately aim for, and every kirtaniya should aspire for. In short, saguna kirtan will benefit the aspirant with worldly benefits. Nirguna Kirtan will liberate your soul from rebirth in samsara and lead towards the ultimate fulfillment of prema, or divine love.

Saguna and Nirguna

There are numerous saguna and nirguna deities and this will also be a determinant of the nature and quality of the kirtan being performed. It will indicate whether the benefits are worldly or transcendent. The quality and level of realization of the kirtan leader will also be of great significance. When a saint of great purity and potency chants it may far transcend the type of experience we are capable of producing. All kirtans are not equal. Like everything in life there are gradations of quality and refinement. This is why a traditional guru is necessary. For it takes training to understand the subtleties of what is mundane and transcendent.

When we explore kirtan we are exploring inner realties and these realities have gradations of experience. Kirtan can be approached with two basic divisions that give divergent results. The saguna approach to kirtan means performing kirtan with personal motivations for worldly gains. The word saguna means with worldly qualities. To sing kirtan with the aspiration to improve one’s worldly life is certainly auspicious, but not necessarily transcendental. The holy names do indeed carry the potency to liberate us from cyclical existence when received from a potent source in the form of a realized guru, however if our motivations and intentions are tinged with any trace of karmic gain, the result will be punya or worldly pious merit. This pious merit or good karma may take the form of dharma, artha, kama and moksha, or improved health and status, prosperity and enjoyment as well as the attainment after this life of heavenly states of bliss in subtle realms that may last incalculable ages from our perspective. But these effects are ultimately transient and liable to the pass away when our pious merit or good karma’s run out. By contrast, Nirguna kirtan, is kirtan that is solely motivated by service to the guru, and is selfsacrificing in nature. It is performed for the satisfaction of the deity and the realized sadhu under whom it is directed. When kirtan is performed purely like this it manifests its truly transcendent nature because it is motivationally pure of material self-seeking, mundane ego, the desire for liberation and the search for mystic powers or knowledge, in other words, karma, jnana and yoga.


Monistic and Theistic In the traditions of India there’s also a difference between Kirtan and bhajan, although occasionally t h e t e r m s a r e u s e d s i m i l a r l y. Ki r t a n i s a congregational, or communal experience of a group of people divinely communing through the expression of sacred sound, whereas bhajan is a single person or small group of no more than three, expressing love for the Great Spirit through sacred songs and chants. Bhajan is a personal expression, like japa meditation it is typically performed individually. By contrast, kirtan is a congregational and public expression. It is communal. Kirtan is also an essentially theistic practice in that it often addresses a particular deity or personification of divine power. Impersonal approaches to the Divine often chant AUM or the omkara and employ mantric seed syllables or bija mantras in pursuit of personal yogic transformation. However, kirtan is an expression of the souls reaching out to a personal deity.

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

For the impersonalist schools of yoga, worship of a personal deity is employed as a means to reach an absolute unity with the allaccommodating absolute aspect of the supreme consciousness, or the impersonal Brahman. Brahman is realized as the unchanging reality beyond the world, and the nondifferentiated transcendent spirit. The impersonalist schools often view the personified deities as temporary saguna manifestations and expressions of the Formless Absolute Unchanging Reality. Whereas, the theistic schools view the deity as the nirguna as the Absolute Unchanging Reality with form. These eternal, transcendent and primary manifestations (as in the case of Vishnu in particular) are imbued with nama, guna, rupa and lila, or names, qualities, forms and pastime activities that are all nirguna or transcendent in nature and when such names and qualities are repeated, sung or chanted in kirtan they release the chanter from the binding effects of karma and resulting rebirths in samasara or cyclical existence. From the theistic or personalist view, the impersonal aspect of Brahman is the effulgence and outer periphery of the all conscious personal deity, as stated by Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita: brahmano hi pratishtha hum: “the impersonal Brahman is my effulgence.” These are the two main approaches to kirtan and their underlying ontological paradigms.

humanity for its Sacred Source. In truth, we have to acknowledge that Kirtan was here from the beginning with the Native Americans who sang and danced as communities in glorification of the Great Spirit. This form of tribal kirtan had been going on for tens of thousands of years by the time African peoples were brought to America. The exploitive atrocities and abuse that were inflicted on the people of Africa by Europeans drew out some very deep expressions of faith and sincere religious vocal and musical expression, and although the indigenous songs of the African slaves were quickly over taken by the imposition of Christianity, the inner faith, vitality and rhythms of African spirituality gave new life to the line

formality. Slave songs were a type of kirtan, and it was probably natural for these first African Americans to relate to the enslavement and oppression of the Hebrews and thereby express their inner hearts longing for freedom. These early expressions of faith and longing later gave rise to the Blues, which also birthed Jazz and Rock musical expressions. But throughout it all there is a yearning of suffering souls for freedom by vocally communing with their divine source. In fact we find that kirtan has a very ancient history going back thousands of years. The Puranas are a collection of India's oldest mythological histories, and relate that there has been an ongoing exchange of culture between the East and the West prior to 5000 years ago. From some of these histories we can learn that Indian mystics and saints have been influencing European cultures for many millennia. Some scholars argue that The Indo-aryan cultures of Europe were direct outgrowths and expansions of original Sanskrit speaking Vedic peoples, and if we look at the etymological origins of Latin and its linguistic expansions of the romantic languages throughout Europe we find they all have a common source in the Indo-aryan sanskrit of the ancient Vedic people.

There is also information relating that our most Indigenous and esteemed Greek philosophers Imported Kirtan such as Plato, Socrates and Pythagoras may have travelled The modern kirtan movement in search of knowledge to the in the West has a long, great seats of wisdom such as complex and interesting Egypt and India. They may history. A history that can be have had Indian guru's and it's approached from many angles certain that they were and I apologize to the readers influenced by the yogic of this article, for it would be culture of India, for in the difficult to cover each and writings of Plato there are every aspect of Kirtan in the concepts and Ideas that harken West in one short essay. However of Jesus in the New World. Black back to Indian ideas of varnashrama from a broad perspective we can gospel singers in the New World dharma and the raja rishis, or saintly attempt to touch upon some of the eventually invigorated the European kings of India’s glorious and high p r o m i n e n t h i g h l i g h t s o f t h i s expression of singing hymns, which ancient cultures. continuing expression of love of had reached a constricted state of

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

Paramahamsa Yogananda ~ Founder of Self-Realization Fellowship

Swami Vivekananda ~ Pioneer of Yoga in the West

to America in the mid 1960's and from there Emergence of Kirtan in the 14 th came expanded all over the world. Century There have been many wandering saints and enlightened kirtaniyas throughout India’s amazing history, but it was Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486– 1534) who in recent centuries inaugurated public kirtan with his civil disobedient movement, which challenged the ruling Mogul authority with his chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra in the towns and villages throughout India. Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu was a saint of West Bengal who is worshipped by followers of the Gaudiya Vaishnava faith as the full incarnation of Lord Krishna and Radharani combined. Sri Krishna Chaitanya was a major proponent for the Vaishnava school of Bhakti Yoga based on the philosophy of the Bhagavat Purana and Bhagavad-Gita. His philosophical system is called Achintya Beda Beda, meaning simultaneous “unity in diversity”. Specifically, he worshipped all the forms of Krishna or Vishnu and publicly popularized the chanting of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and composed the Shikshastikam (eight devotional prayers) in the Sanskrit language. His line of followers, known as Gaudiya Vaishnavas, revere him as an Avatar of Krishna in the mood of Radharani who was prophesied to appear in the later verses of the Bhagavata Purana. There are numerous biographies available from the time giving details of Chaitanya's life, the most prominent ones being Chaitanya Charitamrita and the Chaitanya Bhagavat, both originally written in Bengali but now widely available in English and other languages. These works are in Bengali with some Sanskrit verses interspersed and detail all the events of the birth of the modern Kirtan Movement of chanting Hare Krishna publicly in India, which later


Europeans Exposed to Yoga and Kirtan 200 years after the kirtan movement of Sri Chaitanya Deva had challenged Mogul authority, Queen Elizabeth granted a royal charter to the British East India Company, which began to trade the basic commodities of India, such as cotton, silk, spices and opium. Shares of the company were owned by wealthy merchants and aristocrats, which began a cross-cultural influence upon the West as many British and Europeans began to encounter the Upanishads, and the yogic devotional mysticism of the East. By the 1700's many Vedic and Indian devotional texts had been translated to English and found their way into the libraries of prominent thinkers of the day such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson who was himself nicknamed by close friends as "the Hindu on the Hill". As authors of the American constitution Franklin, Jefferson and others were certainly influenced by Indian spiritual ideas for we find in the opening lines of the American Constitution the ideals of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness" which have a direct correlation with the Indian mystic concepts of "satchit-ananda, or eternal life, consciousness and joy. Although these events and personalities are not directly related to the public performance kirtan, they did lay a familiar foundation in the Western consciousness that would be carried forward by several romantic poets and visionaries of the 19th century, who drew from the deep font of Vedic wisdom.

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The Song Celestial One notable British savant who brought Indian spirituality to the western public in the 19th century was Sir Edwin Arnold who travelled to India in 1856 and spent seven years as the Principal of a Sanskrit college in Puna. Inspired to share Eastern philosophy with western audiences, He began working on The Light of Asia, a popular work that was subsequently translated into various languages. It appeared in 1879 and was an immediate success, going through numerous editions in England and America. In 1885, he also published the The Song Celestial, which is a translation of the ancient devotional classic, the Bhagavad-Gita upon which much of the philosophy of the modern bhakti/kirtan movement is founded.

Kirtan from Bengal Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakur (1838 – 1914), was a prominent figure among the Gaudiya Vaishnavas of Bengal and was educated in the British educational system. Eventually he rose to the position of a high court judge when he began to explore his own Indian cultural roots and came to the astonishing realization as an adult that India had a far deeper and profound place in world culture than what he had been educated to believe by the British colonial presence. Inspired by the kirtan movement of Sri Chaitanya Deva, The Thakur launched a full-scale renaissance of the Bhakti and Kirtan Movement and was among the first Vaishnava scholars to present the kirtan and teachings Sri Chaitanya Deva to the English-speaking world. In the 19th

detected in the writings of Emerson who built many of his essays upon the bedrock of Indian devotional concepts. Bhaktivinoda Thakur eventually married and had several children, including Bimal Prasad who later took the renounced order and as a sanyasi monk was known as Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati Thakur. He was the founder of the Gaudiya Math and the guru of my own guru Srila Bhakti Rakshaka Sridhar Deva Goswami and Srila Prabhupad, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami, the jagat-guru or world teacher who famously brought the chanting of Hare Krishna upon the world stage by sending his western disciples to chant the Hare Krishna maha-mantra in every town, village, and city of the world, thus effectively launching what we now experience as the "modern-bhaktikirtan movement."

R a m a k ri s h n a Vivekananda


By the mid 19th century the ideas of Indian saints such as Ramakrishna Paramahamsa had also begun to reach western shores. Ramakrishna's disciple Swami Vivekananda rose to worldwide fame in 1893, when he visited America to attend the first Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. The uninvited young monk addressed this august assembly and electrified the audience with his dynamic speech, which made him world famous overnight. William James called the Swami the "paragon of Vedantists." Max Muller and Paul Deussen, the famous Orientalists of the nineteenth century, also held him in genuine respect and affection.

States aboard the ship City of Sparta, as India's delegate to an International Congress of Religious Liberals convening in Boston. That same year he founded the Self Realization Fellowship (SRF) to disseminate his teachings throughout the world on India's a n c i e n t p r a c t i c e s a n d Yo g a philosophy as well as its tradition of meditation. For the next several years, he lectured and taught on the East coast and in 1924 embarked on a cross-continental speaking tour that was attended by thousands. During this time he attracted a number of celebrity followers, including Clara Clemmens Gabrilowitsch, the daughter of Mark Twain. The following year, he established the international center for Self-Realization Fellowship in Los Angeles, California, which became the spiritual and administrative heart of his growing society. Paramahamsa Yogananda was the first Hindu teacher of yoga to spend a major portion of his life in America. He lived there from 1920―1952, only interrupted by an extended trip abroad in 1935–1936, which was mainly to visit his guru Sri Yu k t e s h w a r i n I n d i a . B e s i d e s publishing numerous books and a magazine, Paramahamsa Yogananda would eventually introduce an EastWest style of "Cosmic Chants” that were essentially Indian style Kirtans and Bhajans using harmonium with English lyrics suited to the western public. Paramahamsa Yogananda was a major force of Hindu spirituality and kirtan in America decades prior to the explosion of Indian cultural interest in the 1960's.

Bhaktivedanta Swami and the 1960’s Kirtan Explosion P a r a m a h a m s a century he sent his original Yogananda. publications to the West in hopes of The 1960’s were a turbulent time of inspiring the Western Tr a n s c e n d e n t a l i s t M o v e m e n t founders Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Emerson and Thoreau had already been reading the Indian epics such as Mahabharata and Ramayana and were deeply influenced by the profound teachings of the BhagavadGita. Many Vedic concepts can be

The next great beacon of ancient wisdom to greatly influence American hearts and minds was Paramahamsa Yogananda. A Bengali Indian yogi who introduced millions of westerners to the teachings of meditation and Kriya Yoga through his now famous book "Autobiography of a yogi." In 1920, Paramahamsa Yogananda travelled to the United

social unrest, upheaval and intense social revolution that had been boiling underground in the bohemian Beat Culture of the post war years after World War Two. The beat culture was interested in art, culture and everything exotic. Buddhist culture held a great

fascination for the Beats both intellectually and mystically. continued on p.22

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

History of Kirtan continued from p.20

Following the Beats was the emergence of “Flower Power” and “Free Love” Movements which both enthusiastically embraced Indian clothes, food and culture and the idea of “finding a guru”. The Beatles brief involvement with Maharishi Mahesh yogi, the founder of Transcendental meditation and subsequent visit to India also helped to put Indian spirituality in the spotlight. Alan Ginsberg was a leading poet and spokesperson of those times and when Srila Prabhupad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami arrived in New York in 1966 the burgeoning counterculture was ready to embrace the Bhakti–kirtan movement that he began to present publically in the form of chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra. It was a time of protests and all types of youth gatherings in parks and public places, and when Bhaktivedanta Swami sat down under a tree in Tompkins Square Park with only a pair of kartals to accompany his singing he was quickly surrounded by interested youths and people from all walks of life who were curious about this new swami and his Kirtan movement. Very quickly ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness) grew and eventually Krishna temples were established in every major city throughout the world. Eventually Krishna devotees arrived in England and when George Harrison of the Beatles met with them he was immediately attracted to their purity. George soon produced the Radha-Krishna Temple Album which rapidly rose up the pop charts with its catchy arrangements of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and eventually led the devotees to appear on the nationally televised BBC television show “Top of the Pops” which was viewed by millions. The Hare Krishna song was even played before a nationally televised football match and when the crown heard the Hare Krishna maha-mantra thousands of football fans joined in with the chanting. Soon the Hare-Krishna maha-mantra was being sung everywhere in America and Europe and throughout the 70’s, saffron clad devotees were ubiquitously chanting in the streets and airports of all the major cities of the world. I personally encountered these devotees when I was 13 in 1973 and later read the Bhagavad-Gita in 1975. That year I also participated in public kirtans on the streets of Berkeley with the Krishna devotees as I was visiting the thriving Berkeley temple at that time. Throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I had the good fortune to chant, lead and organize many public kirtans and witnessed the gradual public acceptance of this amazing spiritual phenomena. In 1977 I was attending the Berkeley temple when Bhaktivedanta Swami left his body and some years later it was the instructions of Bhaktivedanta Swami that led me to my own guru Srila

Sridhar Maharaja. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami left behind a monumental spiritual legacy that continues on dynamically to this day. In 1970 George Harrison donated the Bhaktivedanta Manor estate just North of London in my wife’s hometown of Watford to the Krishna devotees and donated $50,000 towards the printing of the threevolume book “Krishna, The Supreme Personality of Godhead” and a small paperback book called “Chant and be Happy” was also widely distributed. John Lennon and Yoko Ono also invited the devotees and Swami Prabhupad to create a temple on their Tittenhurst Estate and the Beatles attended many functions there.

Ravi Shankar George Harrison eventually recorded the now famous song “My Sweet Lord” and it became a worldwide pop hit. Because the song incorporated the Hare Krishna maha-mantra this also spread awareness of mantra meditation and Indian kirtan and when he became more deeply interested in Indian music he eventually met and befriended the great sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar. Ravi Shankar had himself been an ambassador of World Music for several decades and had been sharing traditional North Indian Hindustani Music with the world through his concerts in the West for quite some time when he met George. In Europe and the UK and later in America, Ravi Shankar brought Indian music to world attention and directly assisted Indian Spirituality’s growing popularity by his association with the Beatles. In the early 70’s he produced an album called “Ravi Shankar and Friends” which included George Harrison and also brought India’s rich culture into the Western public eye once again. Later, George himself produced the landmark “Chants of India” which was entirely composed by Ravi Ji and became an instant classic in mantra music. But it was George Harrison’s involvement with the Krishna devotees that help popularized chanting and mantra meditation widely among American and European youths. Srila Prabhupad A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami was inspired by his guru Bhakti Siddhanta Saraswati in the 1920’s to spread the Hare Krishna Kirtan to the Western countries, and by capturing the attention of the 1960s' counter-culture youth he fulfilled the desire of his Guru who had been similarly inspired by his own guru (and father) Bhaktivinoda Thakur.

pranava 22

It was Bhaktivinoda Thakur who in the 19 th century had originally

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

envisioned Europeans, Americans and Indians all joining together in a World Kirtan Movement that was a direct out growth of the public kirtan renaissance of Sri Chaitanya Deva, the 14th century Bengali

As a gifted teacher of Bhakti Yoga, Author and a Certified Ayurvedic Lifestyle Counselor, Matura has conducted hundreds of classes, and lead uplifting kirtans in America, England, Australia & India, inspiring others to seek and serve the Conscious Spiritual Reality that is the basis of all world faiths. A preview of Matura's forthcoming book "Absolute Abundance" can be previewed

avatar of Krishna who had himself initiated the public kirtan movement as the Yuga-dharma or most appropriate form of selfrealization for the age of Iron, the current kali-yuga said in the scriptures to last another 400,000 years. When A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami came to America alone in 1965, with not more than three US dollars but with the empowered singularity of purpose to spread the kirtan movement of Sri Chaitanya Deva, he captured the hearts of the American youth with his wisdom, purity and sincerity. What happened next is one of the most astounding spiritual and social events in modern world history. As I mentioned when the Beatles and specifically George Harrison began to chant Hare Krishna, and George produced the LP called the Radha-Krishna Temple Album, it led to worldwide public exposure with performances on “Top of the Pops”, a popular BBC television show, the Hare Krishna mantra went world wide overnight.

Baba Ram Das Earlier in the 1950s', Indian culture had been of particular interest to the Beat generation and the flower Power Hippies that followed them in the 60’s. Dr. Timothy Leary and his associate, Dr. Richard Alpert had been Harvard psychiatrists who began experimenting with LSD and who were eventually ousted by the professional community as they began to espouse the counterculture philosophy of psychedelic experience. Dr. Alpert eventually left the company of Dr. Leary and travelled to India where he came in contact with Bhagavan das, and American born hippie sadhu and Neem Karoli Baba, a Vaishnava saint and devotee of Sita-Ram. Dr. Alpert was initiated by Neem Karoli Baba and given the name Baba Ram das. When Baba Ram Das published his seminal East-west spiritual classic “Be Here Now” it influenced millions of young people in America to take interest in Indian spirituality,

yoga and kirtan. I read that book in 1974 and was

impressed by its yogic mysticism. Several other notable disciples and admirers of Neem Karoli Baba also became famous kirtan performers in the West such as Jai Uttal, Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das. Since the 1970s' the Modern Kirtan Movement has made great strides into the public awareness by the emergence first of the world wide R a t h a Ya t h r a C a r t F e s t i v a l s presented by the Krishna devotees of ISKCON, and in recent years by the emergence of numerous Bhakti and Kirtan festivals such as Bhakti Fest, Chant Fest, Shakti Fest and others throughout the world.

The Modern Kirtan Scene Over the past several decades many western kirtan singers have risen to national and world prominence. Krishna Das is probably the most notable leader of these pioneers followed by Jai Uttal, David Stringer, David Newman (Durga Das) Benji and Heather Wertheimer, Guru Ganesha, Shimshai, Arjun Baba and numerous others. In recent years many popular female artists have also begun to gain greater notoriety such as Deva Premal, C.C. White, Wah!, Snatam Kaur, Jaya Lakshmi and Donna de Leroy. Also notable are many rap and hip-hop artists such as Satya Yuga and DJ Drez, incorporating ethnic grooves, conscious lyrics and even classic Vedic mythologies set to modern beats. Most notable among these is M.C. Yogi, who combines spot on philosophic content with complimentary hip beats and top instrumentation. Another interesting development is the emergence of

the new form of Kirtronica, introduced by Jaya Lakshmi and Ananda which incorporates danceable electronic beats to ancient mantras for a lively and uplifting danceable kirtan experience. Kirtan is just beginning a new dynamic phase of evolution in this country and its public popularity reflects a growing interest in sustainable, conscious and spiritual lifestyles now being sought by a materialistically weary public who want a deeper experience of life. The ideals that the Bhakti and Kirtan Movements represent are entering deeply into the mind stream and hearts of the American people and as we move forward with outward technological expansion it seems the human heart also aspires to reach deeper into the depths of reality. As Sri Chaitanya Deva predicted in the 14th century: “The Holy Names will be sung in every town and village of the world”. We are all witness to the realization of this prophecy, and to taste the nectar of Kirtan is to touch the depths of our soul in earnest love with our Creator.

Just as songs at dawn are natural to birds, or the way that crickets chirp at dusk, so every man and woman can give praise to the miracle of life on earth with song and dance by joining together in Kirtan. We could say that kirtan is a natural expression of life or the soul, and the Vedas tell us that it is the Yuga-Dharma or perfect and easiest path of self-realization in this modern age of distraction, distortion and upheaval known as Kali-Yuga.

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An Ecstatic Evening with GuruGanesha

pranava 27 Photos Courtesy of Ankush Vimawala

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

“There are also so many different names (of Divinity), & that’s what Guru Nanak & Yogi Bhajan preached; to sing to GOD by whatever name inspires you to sing GOD’s name by." ~GuruGanesha

The GuruGanesha Band

An Ecstatic Evening with GuruGanesha Oct. 2014 Portland, OR. Exclusive Pranava Magazine interview By J.Yochanan

We had the fortune to catch up with GuruGanesha on the 20th date of his national tour that he & his band been on since August with Deva Premal & Miten. Scheduled to go on stage at the Roseland in Portland, OR in just twenty minutes, we sat for a short-but-sweet interview in his dressing room backstage. GuruGanesha has got to be one of the most energetic & positive individuals that anybody could ever encounter. He & I met in Eugene, OR over a decade ago at Yoga West, (the local Sikh Gurdwara), & ever since then such an impression remains undiminished. Hailing from the Sikh Dharma in the line of Yogi Bhajan, GuruGanesha is the living embodiment of the teachings

of Guru Nanak (founder of Sikhism), which transcends cultural limitations, while embracing the universal Dharma of unity, love & compassion as a way of life. His online bio states: ‘World devotional music pioneer, Spirit Voyage Records founder, distinctive guitar stylist, s o n g w r i t e r, s i n g e r, p r o d u c e r, e n t r e p r e n e u r, accomplished yogi and lifelong spiritual practitioner, GuruGanesha is a man of many talents. His most recent project is the GuruGanesha Band, an adventurous ensemble of mantra music all-stars born of GuruGanesha’s longstanding wish to combine the profound spirituality of mantra music with the visceral excitement of a great guitar-driven band.

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

The GuruGanesha Band’s debut album ‘A Thousand Suns’ takes world devotional music to visionary new realms of musical innovation with an inspiring fusion of kirtan, rock, raga, folk, blues and Latin sounds that has left audiences from coast to coast dripping with bliss and ecstatic joy. The GuruGanesha Band is just one of many high points in a career that has spanned several decades, bringing joy and inspiration to music lovers all around the world. GuruGanesha’s shimmering, incandescent guitar work and creative vision were instrumental in launching the career of Snatam Kaur, with whom he has recorded and performed extensively. His rich career path has also embraced collaborations with Guru Singh, Seal, Tina Malia, Nirinjan Kaur, Thomas Barquee and Jai-Jagdeesh. The deep catalog of GuruGanesha’s solo recordings includes Grateful Ganesh, Pure Ganesh, Joy is Now, and Kundalini Surjhee.'

blessings that you’ll be initiating our official first issue of Pranava as our first interviewee.

GuruGanesha: It’s an honor for me to be with you guys. It’s very inspiring that you’re doing this.

“Yogi Bhajan didn’t come to the West saying join my religion; what he was sharing with us were technologies that would provide direct experience of the Dharma." Pranava: As I was saying earlier, the vision of

Pranava Mag is to inspire those who enjoy sacred music & who participate as aspirants of Kirtan, to take them deeper below the surface of just the performance aspect, to inquire into the essence & to discover whats going on at the heart of it all. I know that you’ve been involved for so many years as a Sikh, you’re very knowledgeable, & renowned in the entire culture of Kirtan (being the founder of Spirit Voyage & instrumental in Snatam Kaur’s debut as an international sacred music artist); what Pranava: It’s really beautiful to have this would you say is the contribution to the Kirtan opportunity to have an interview with you; Movement in the West from your tradition in thank you for taking the time. It’s a real particular?

“I’m not trying to be somebody’s perception of what a “kirtan wallah” should be, I’m just trying to be me”. ~GG

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

GG: Let me start by saying that what I think is unique about the sacred music we are doing, whether you call it kirtan, mantra music, or devotional music, that it is the intention behind it, & unlike the intention behind say, the rock & roll that I played when I was young man, and the intention is to really inspire ourselves & others to move in the direction of our soul, our higher & divine self & away from the ego self, the little self; not that the ego is a bad thing, it’s just that the soul is such a good thing, & all the divine attributes that fall under the umbrella of what’s on the souls team; loving awareness, kindness, compassion, selfless service, etc., & the feeling of oneness with how they introduced the influence of Indian instruments into their everybody. music. The music was powerful in the 60’s & 70’s, the rock & roll we were GG: George Harrison is the pioneer, playing, that was the forerunner of he started to study with Maharishi the kirtan & everything that we’re Mahesh Yogi, went to India, started doing now, that’s when people c h a n t i n g H a r e K r i s h n a , w a s s t a r t e d t o r e c o g n i z e g r o u p introduced to Ravi Shankar, the great Sitar player, & ended up a consciousness. student & before you know it it Pranava: Exactly, as in George shows up on his ‘Norwegian Wood’ Harrison's & the Beatles influence, & record, & then we’re all like “wow,

“As fragrance abides in the flower As reflection is within the mirror, So does your Lord abide within you, Why search for him without?” ~Guru Nanak

what’s that?!”... & this is before the internet where you could figure out whats going on in just a few clicks! It took us months to figure out what was going on, but is made it all the more sweet when we found out.

P: Is there much of a distinct difference between the Sikh, Vashnav & Shaivite traditions & how Kirtan is being expressed here in the West?

GG: I don’t think so. Guru Nanak, musician on the other side, teaching

“God is neither there nor anywhere. If there is any God, it is either in you or not at all. To relate to God as outside of you is the biggest insult.” ~Yogi Bhajan

whose considered to be the founder of Sikhism (although he never planned on starting another religion)-he was actually preaching the unification of everything. He was born into a Hindu family, yet when he traveled all over India (preaching), it was with a Hindu musician on one side, & a Muslim

about oneness! And he dawned a garb, which was even a blend, (kinda what I’m wearing today), of what Hindus & Muslims wore & people were confused, (which he wanted); they were like ‘are you a Hindu or a Muslim’, He would say, “well, I’m neither!"

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P: Was Guru Nanak a Kirtan Wallah? GG: Absolutely, that’s what he did! He wrote divine poetry which included the various names of GOD from a number of different traditions, as there was no “Sikh religion” at the time. Look at me; my father is Jewish, my mother is catholic & I embraced Sikhism as a young man. Yogi Bhajan, my teacher was Sikh, & he gave me a Hindu name, ‘Ganesh’ (laughter) so there’s a message there!

P: Even Yogi Bhajan’s name carries a message! GG: Of course. Look at Gurmukh, the sacred language

of the Sikhs, its a manifestation of a language that arose out of Sanskrit. In the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, (the Holy Scriptures of the Sikhs), the name Ram appears everywhere. There are also so many different names, & that’s what Guru Nanak & Yogi Bhajan preached; to sing to GOD by whatever name inspires you to sing GOD’s name by. And that’s what I loved about the Sikh Dharma, which is more than a lifestyle that one can relate to, more than a “religion." It’s like Mitten says, “Religion is for those who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have already been." (Laughter).. I love that quote! Yogi Bhajan didn’t come to the West saying join my religion; what he was sharing with us were technologies that would provide direct experience of the Divine.

What I embraced was the experiences I had with Kundalini-Yoga. I tried it & had a powerful experience. And by the way, Yogi Bhajan took a lot of grief, because there’s some more “traditional” Sikhs that think that ‘yoga is not for Sikhs, yoga’s for Hindus’. Which is ridiculous, yoga is for everybody! The physical aspect alone; the body is a Temple, so with Yoga we’re purifying it, stretching it out, getting all the Nadis & the Sushumna opened up, so with whatever your singing/chanting could really flow beautifully.

P: So would you say that Kirtan/devotional chanting is one of these technologies? GG: Yeah, its a technology!, but one that is validated by experience! For many years I’ve been chanting mantras

that were derived from the Sikh tradition which Yogi-ji gave us to practice Kundalini-Yoga with, but now the GG Band does it all! We’re singing Sikh mantras, Hindu mantras, Buddhist mantras & Gospel right out of the Christian tradition; & I’ve gotta tell ya, they all work! They’re all very uplifting! The biggest challenge on the world right now come from people that believe their way is the only way. Of course I honor their right to believe that, yet all hell breaks loose when they cross the line and start imposing their will upon innocent people who don’t share those beliefs.

P: What is your vision on where Kirtan is going in the West? GG: It’s growing steadily, & the reason it’s growing steadily is because people come to these events, or they get

dragged to one of these events by their significant other & they have an (direct) experience. I had a guy come up after one of the last concerts & said, “well man, ya broke me!" I wanted to hear more, I said, ‘what do ya mean I broke ya?’ He said “Well ya know my wife's been dragging me to these chant concerts for 3-4yrs now but half-way through tonight I was singing!” I said when you realized you were singing you stopped right? He said, “no man, I was embarrassed to say, that gal (Paloma Devi) broke me! I kept singing the rest of the way!” We’ve seen this many times on this tour, this is concert number 20! The PR attracts people now who aren’t even into yoga, & they’re discovering something new & beneficial at these kirtan events. Had a guy email me last night & said he didn't know what to expect, he thought is was going to be a sitar concert, & he said when you come back to Seattle, I’m coming again! It was way better than he expected!

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PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

P: I see how your music in particular is Guru Nanak's words with a reggae vibe, & it’s bridging worlds so to speak, the indian/ eastern influence with the western/rock/jazz, etc., & with a little reggae too! Do you see yourself using these mediums of enjoyment as a way to awaken people?


After every concert people are coming up asking when/where they could get a recording of that... I tell them... it coming! And you know what... I bet Guru Nanak would dig it GG: Yes! That’s a big part of it, & it’s about too if he were round to hear it! being true to oneself. As your spiritual practice deepens, your music changes too & I’m very grateful to the universe. After many you become more authentic, & for me being many prayers after many many years, I’m authentic is what you’re hearing. What you really down to two prayers: 1. Lord, make me hear from me is an amalgam of blues, jazz, an instrument of your divine will; e.i. thy will rock, a little bit of raga, & lil this & that, & be done. 2. Please help me figure out what that’s what my life has been. I’m not trying to your divine will is (laughter)! Which requires be somebody’s perception of what a “kirtan really listening deeply within yourself, wallah” should be, I’m just trying to be me. because really the divine teacher has a voice Also, I’m surrounded by these beautiful, inside each of us, but is very quite voice & not younger, more talented, smarter, better always easy to hear. looking people (my band) & I really listen to P: Yes, so true! Thanks, lovely to see you! them. When they say, ‘hey lets do something reggae style’, I say great! I’ve never played Stay aligned with GuruGanesha! reggae, but its far out! Playing on the upbeat Find him online: instead of the down beat. Now we’re singing

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The Nectar of the Divine Nam: The Healing Potency & Power of Kundalini-Yoga Mantras By J.Yochanan


PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

“The wise mystics & yogis of the past & present know very well that when we employ sound, mantra & chanting consciously in daily practice, that our spiritual development is fueled to enjoy steady momentum & sustainable growth."

The Nectar of the Divine Nam: The Healing Potency & Power of KundaliniYoga Mantras Krishna Kaur, GuruGanesha, Simrit Kaur, Paloma Devi, & the many other chant masters who are showering their blessed class, & I never forget feeling immediately inspired by the vibrations all over the globe. vibration & sound of the invocation & closing mantras we chanted. From then on, I’ve dedicated a daily practice to Golden Languages of Fire & Light: chanting such mantras before & during my practice of pranayama, sat-kriyas, yogasana & meditation. Over many Around the globe, there are sacred languages that have years of applying these mantras I’ve come to realize & derived from the ancient tongues of fire that lick & sway experience first hand their benefits & how the practice of within the Vayu-Tattva. Such languages are: Sanskrit (with its vocalizing mantras is actually apart of an ancient yogic derivative languages), Hebrew, Arabic, Latin, & all the sacred science that can be found in every sacred tradition. tongues of the indigenous masses of the Mother Africa & the

It was over 15yrs ago that I took my first Kundalini-Yoga

Americas. Some of these languages have been lost within the Let us delve into the rich tradition of Sikh Dharma & their shadows of the ages, while some are preserved only as accompanying mantras that many are becoming more familiar written glyphs or for chanting in prayer. with now, due to rise of the sacred music of Snatam Kaur,


It is stated that these particular languages are more refined & empowered than the modern languages of Spanish, French & English, etc., which are known as “Romantic” languages, being that they all stem out of Rome. The Golden Languages of Fire & Light are fused with deep empowered intention that go beyond just being symbols that define something with a particular meaning. Such languages have the potency & power to awaken the slumbering aspects of the consciousness when spoken or chanted. I’ve witnessed on many occasions, within myself & within others, a very apparent shift of energy & awareness when chanting. These fiery languages come alive when applied as Mantra-Yoga. The term ‘mantra’ literally means to transform & protect the mind.

There’s a mystical connection to these languages in relation to our energetic/subtle body, also known as the Pranic Body. Upon intimate observation we discover that all of phenomenon in the material universe is actually vibration, & there’s a particular soundsignature to everything in creation. Years ago there was a study conducted in where a group of botanist teamed with a group of scientist, experimented with plants & their hidden soundvibration-languages. A documentary was produced called the ‘Secret Life of Plants’. We saw in the documentary how they were able to electrically connect plants to audio outputs, in where one could actually hear sound-communication being

“The Sound Current is the backdrop to cosmic existence all around & is the vital foundation for the expression of life itself."

produced from these plants. Now-a-days, we have the technology to do the same kind of experimentation with many other things, ‘live’ & ‘inert’ objects alike, & we could perceive how sound is constantly resounding in all things around us.

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Our very own vital body, with its Seven Major Chakras, is related to the plant kingdom & has many of its own sound vibrations that it produces (Bija-Mantras). Being Ethereal in nature, the subtle-body is actually sound itself, yet crystalized in form with channels & pathways for prana & vayu to flow. While in deep meditation, the practitioner can hear these subtle sounds, & they’ve been detailed to resemble many outer sounds in nature within yogic texts. All this illustrates to us is that the Sound Current is the backdrop to cosmic existence all around & is the vital foundation for the expression of life itself. The wise mystics & yogis of the past & present know very well that when we employ sound, mantra & chanting consciously in daily practice, that our spiritual development is fueled to enjoy steady momentum & sustainable growth.

The Nectar of the Divine Nam: Those who are more familiar with the more popular Hindu-Sanskrit Mantras are immediately made aware that Kundalini-Yoga mantras are pronounced in a slightly different language. This language is called the sacred language of Gurmukhi. It has been stated that this particular language connects us with the inner sound current, the Naad. ‘The words 'guru-mukh literally mean "from the mouth of the guru." While "Gurmukhi" is spoken, it is a poetic rendering, written in a script intended for spiritual writings. Chanting a mantra is also considered a meditation and can include a mudra (hand position), breathing in a certain way, and the sound of the words’.*

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The most familiar of any Gurmukhi term is ‘Sat Nam,' which we hear as the common greeting & departure blessing. Beyond being a mere greeting like ‘hello, how are you?’, it offers a salutation to the core of who you/ we REALLY are; Sat means Truth; Purity; Clarity; Equilibrium. Nam means name, but not like the conventional “name” we give to our personality, but rather the inner keynote signature of our souls Essence. So ‘Sat Nam’ means ‘Greetings, Salutations & Honor to the Pure True Name, the real Being who abides within You & Me’~much like the beautiful definition of the salutation ‘Namaste.' In White Tantric Kundalini-Yoga, the Sound Vibration that arises spontaneously in every moment from the heart of the Universe, is called the Naad. The Naad resounds everywhere & in all things, but in particular it has been condensed in the sacred scripture of the Sikhs; this is affectionately known as the Shabd Guru. Every pattern of sound of the Shabd Guru is based in the ‘Quantum Technology of Sound.' It is stated that ‘the correct pronunciation of these ancient Kundalini Yoga mantras vibrate different parts of the roof of the mouth, by way of the tongue touching & tapping on particular meridian points that balance and stimulating different parts of the body and brain. There are 84 meridian points on the roof of the mouth which the tongue stimulates, and they in turn stimulate the hypothalamus which makes the pineal gland radiate. When the pineal gland radiates, it creates an impulse in the pituitary gland. When the pituitary gland gives impulses, the entire glandular system secretes balancing neurochemicals & a human being obtains bliss. This is the science.

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014


Bhajan tells us that Mantra Yoga is perhaps one of the most ancient ways of self realization. "Man" means mind and "tra" means transformative-wave, Mantra is that which transforms the waves of the mind. According to the yogic and metaphysical science, Mantras are primal sounds that alter the patterns of the mind and brain chemistry. The ancient sages describe Mantra as a seed, which when ripe flowers the Divine within you. * Every Kundalini-Yoga student & instructor is trained in these wondrous mantras. When chanted within a set framework of time, the affects of mantra are made viable & tangible unto the practitioner. After a course of purification of the subtle undigested impressions within the psyche, the channels & pathways, & within the heart-mindstream through chanting, the practitioner begins to become firmly established in the Bliss of ones own Inner Divinity. Eventually ones ears become so pure that they begin to hear the Nam (the Divine Name) resounding all around in all auditory impressions, & here is where life becomes a reservoir of pure nectar for the yogi.


With this mantra we declare that we are timeless, deathless beings With this mantra, we strengthen the and promotes victory in all aspects connection with the infinite self, of our life. the part of us beyond the physical world, beyond creation. Sat Siri, Siri Akaal Siri Akaal, Mahaa Akaal Mahaa Akaal, Sat Naam Akaal Moorat, Waah Yantee Wahe Guru Kar Yantee Jag Dut Patee Aadak It Waahaa Brahmaadeh Great Truth, Great Undying Tresha Guru It Wahe Guru Great Undying, Great Deathless Great Deathless, Truth is God’s Name Deathless Image of God Great Macro-self Creative Self All that is creative through time All that is the Great One RAKHE RAKHAN HAR Three aspects of God: Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh That is Wahe Guru. This is a mantra of protection against all negative forces, inner MUL MANTRA and outer, which are blocking us from moving on our true path. It This mantra gives an experience of cuts like a sword through every the depth and consciousness of your opposing vibration, thought, word, s o u l . I t e r a d i c a t e s d e e p , and action. longstanding pain and sorrow. It expands creativity and projects us Rakhay rakhanahaar aap ubaaria-an into action in line with our destiny. Gur kee pairee paa-i kaaj savaarian Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Kartaa Purkh Hoaa aap da-iaal manaho na visaari-an Saadh janaa kai sang Nirbhao Nirvair bhavajal taari-an Saakat nindak dusht khin maa-eh bidaari-an Tis Akaal Moorat Ajoonee Saibung saahib kee tayk Naanak manai maaGur Prasad eh Jis simrat sukh ho-i sagalay dookh jaa-eh Jap!

Kundalini-Yoga Mantras:

Aad Sach Jugaad Sach Here are a collection of the Mantras Haibhee Sach employed in Kundalini-Yoga Sadhana. Nanak Hosee Bhee Sach They are said to be the vibrational frequency of this Aquarian Era, thus One Creator created this Creation swiftly aiding in the Revolutionary Truth is God’s Name Awakening of the Consciousness: Doer of everything The Adi Shakti Mantra This mantra initiates the kundalini, initiating the relationship between our soul and the Universal Soul. It opens all the chakras. Be sure to apply Neck Lock to let the Kundalini energy rise.


Revenge-less Undying Unborn Self Illumined It is by Guru’s Grace Repeat and Meditate!

Thou who savest, save us all and take us across, Uplifting and giving the excellence. You gave us the touch of the lotus feet of the Guru, and all our jobs are done. This mantra is one of humility. It opens the Heart Center (4th chakra) so that we can feel and effortlessly radiate universal love. We call on Guru Ram Das in praise of his spiritual guiding light and protective grace. Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru

True in the beginning Ek Ong Kaar Sat Naam Siri Wahe True through all the ages Guru The first part (Guru Guru Wahe True even now Guru) projects the mind to the Nanak says Truth shall ever be. source of knowledge and ecstasy. One Creator created this Creation Truth is His Name SAT SIRI, SIRI AKAL (Mantra for the The second part (Guru Ram Das Guru) means “the wisdom that Great beyond description is His Aquarian Era) comes as a servant of the Infinite. Infinite Wisdom pranava 36

PRANAVA MAGAZINE March/April Spring Issue 2014

You have become merciful, kind, and compassionate; and so our mind does not forget Thee.

“ W o w, G o d i s g r e a t ! ” o r “indescribably great is His Infinite, Ultimate Wisdom.” GURU RAM DAS CHANT

In the company of the holy beings you take us from misfortune and calamities, scandals, and disrepute. Godless, slanderous enemies—you finish them in timelessness. That great Lord is my anchor. Nanak, keep firm in your mind, by meditating and repeating His Name All happiness comes and all sorrows and pain go away. WAHE GURU WAHE JIO This is a mantra of ecstasy with which we establish ourselves for victory and the right to excel. Chant sitting in Vir Asan (warrior pose), sitting on the left heel, with the right knee against the chest, with hands in Prayer Pose. Eyes are focused at the tip of the nose. Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Guru Wahe Jio

This mantra is one of humility. It opens the Heart Center (4th chakra) so that we can feel and effortlessly radiate universal love. We call on Guru Ram Das in praise of his spiritual guiding light and protective grace. Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das Guru The first part (Guru Guru Wahe Guru) projects the mind to the source of knowledge and ecstasy. The second part (Guru Ram Das Guru) means “the wisdom that comes as a servant of the Infinite.” * CHANTING DURATION BENEFITS ~3 minutes - affect the electromagnetic field, the circulation and stability of the blood ~7 minutes - Brain patterns begin to shift and the magnetic field

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surrounding the body increases in strength ~11 minutes - begins to change the nerves and the glandular system ~22 minutes - the 3 minds balance and begin to work together, The subconscious mind begins to clear ~31 minutes - allows the glands, breath, and concentration to affect all the cells and rhythms of the body.Endocrine secretions are completely balanced ~62 minutes - Stimulates the frontal lobe of the brain; pituitary and pineal glands. You work through the physical body, the emotions and mental states and are then in communication with aspects of the Divine within yourself. ~2 1/2 hours - changes the psyche in its co-relation with the surrounding magnetic field so that the subconscious mind is held firmly in the new pattern by the surrounding universal mind. You totally remake your psyche.

*References courtesy of

New Devotional Music Releases ~Spring 2014~ Sheela Bringi Re-Imagines Indian Mantra on Incantations “Indian American musician Sheela Bringi has been exploring the connections between her ancestral and actual homelands her entire life. The talented singer and multi-instrumentalist’s debut album, Incantations (White Swan; Release: February 25, 2014), is a milestone in a young career rooted in the integrity of India’s classical music tradition and the beauty of its mantras, as well as a groundbreaking exploration of American blues and jazz." As the masterful revolutionary world-bridging album it is, Incantations is sure to win the hearts of music lovers of all kinds, even outside of the ‘sacred music’ genre. Truly a necessity have for ones collection! Definitely a five OM album!

~Return the Shiva Station: Kailash Connection~ Jai Uttal revisions his ground breaking Shiva Station “This wholly new album brings us closer to the music itself with unadorned, intimate arrangements that illuminate directly the spiritual heart of each composition...” Sounds True Release: March 25, 2014 How does one take an an already masterpiece album, revisit it & render it yet again a masterpiece?! Feats like these are rare in any art form, & its been gracefully done by Jai Uttal with Return to Shiva Station. Return to Shiva Station will surly tune all listeners into the ‘Kailash Connection’, where the Divine Couple’s presence will attract your longing heart to find permanent residence therein! Every song on this album deserves five OM’s each! Pick up/download your copy today!

~Mantras Beats & Meditations~ MC Yogi “MC Yogi creates the perfect mix to move & inspire an emerging new culture of yoga practitioners & truth seekers. If you’ve been looking for a soundtrack to fuel your practice, on or off the mat, this is it." Indeed! This new Sounds True Release: April 1, 2014, captures the timeless essence of late 80’s-90’s era conscious Hip-Hop & takes it to a soaring level with lyrical content that inspires the body, delights the heart & educates the mind! Five OM’s for this one!

Pranava Magazine is happy to align & partner with one of the most reputable sacred-music labels in yoga culture! Visit our website to enjoy a Free Music Download on White Swan/Black Swan Wednesdays! Visit to peruse their selection of albums from outstanding sacred music artist on the riseDJ.Drez, MC Yogi, Sheela Bringi, Srikalogy, EarthRise Sound System, & more! Hari




Pranava Magazine: The Art & Culture of Kirtan in the West Spring issue 2014  

In this issue, get up-close to the radiant GuruGanesha! You are sure to be inspired by his message of transformation & awakening through the...

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