The oft repeated stance by most people in today’s context of “busy schedule” is that “meditation” is not for me, I do not have the time etc.
However, when we pause and take time to visit temples on “auspicious” days, there is an unconscious effort to bond with the Lord, take the Lord’s blessings. It is in this context that Bhajans play a vital role in awakening our inner self.
Two major disciplines are involved: listening and following. By listening deeply with complete self-abandon, we cut out our own ego static and acquire the grace to simply follow, to absorb into our being the rhythm, tune, words, and total feeling of the music so deeply that we can reproduce them exactly. Bhajan singing requires much discipline; the world is blocked out and concentration is at its peak.
Bhajan is a Hindi word derived from the Sanskrit bhaj, meaning “to serve, honor, revere, love, and adore.” Generally speaking, prayers, psalms, anthems, rosaries, hymns, and oratorios like the Messiah are all bhajans. Bhajan also refers to a spiritual practice, originating in Vedic times (Sama Veda) in India and now used all over the world, in which names of God are chanted by a lead singer and repeated by the congregation.
A lama newly from Tibet, when asked what that change was that occurred, put his hand out and picked up the clean glass in front of him. Then he took his table napkin and draped it over the glass. “You are like this,” he said, holding the covered glass high. “Now you must become like this,” and he pulled away the napkin, looking at the sparkling clear glass. “So our task is to reveal our Real Self?” He nodded.
This was an enlightening concept. What exactly must be removed? When brass or silver becomes tarnished, the tarnish has to be removed by repeated rubbing before the object shines forth again in all its glory. In our case, we are told by the masters of the mystical sciences that it is our wrong thinking about who we really are, our wrong habits of thought and action, and our negative feelings that obscure our real identity. A big point made by my spiritual teacher was that our thoughts, our words, and our deeds must all be alike. Someone whose thoughts, words, and deeds are not the same has a fractured spiritual body, and the true divinity of the person’s atma-ic nature cannot shine through. Healing and mending our broken spirits is the reconstruction work that happens when bhajans are sung wholeheartedly. When we need to peel a potato, we look for a potato peeler. If we want to chop wood, we search for an axe. To untangle hair, we need a comb. What tool do we have to repair a spiritual body? Obviously, a spiritual tool is needed.
kalerdoshanidhe rajannasti hyeko mahan gunah
kirtanad eva krishnasya muktasangah param vrajet
(Shreemad Bhagavatam 12.3.51)
This verse from the Shreemad Bhagavatam states that Kaliyug, the present era, is an ocean of faults – people have disturbed minds, unsound health, they live in polluted environment, and face disturbing situations. However, there is one very great virtue in Kaliyug. By lovingly chanting the melodious kīrtans of the Lord, one can easily get liberated from material bondage.
Devotional singing, known as bhajans or kirtan, can help to quiet the mind so that the heart can open to the divine, allowing us to taste the blissful reality that is our true nature. It is a participatory spiritual practice in which everyone is encouraged to sing and express their inner joy. Devotion, not musical ability, is the most important aspect of kirtan. To gain concentration in this age of materialism, bhajan is easier than meditation. By loud singing, other distracting sounds will be overcome and concentration will be achieved. Bhajan, concentration and meditation, this is the progression. Bhajan is important for the devotee because it is intimate and free in expression. Bhajan preserves India’s rich legacy of devotion, wisdom and mysticism from saints like Meerabai, Tulsidas, Kabir, Surdas, Thyagaraja, Purandaradasa, Tukaram, Namdev, and many, many others.
Many Spiritual leaders and gurus in recent times have stressed the importance of bhajans and as such this is an integral part of many traditions.
Sankirtans or musical gatherings are an effective form of yoga or spiritual discipline, necessitating intense concentration, absorption in the seed thought and sound. Because man himself is an expression of the Creative Word, sound exercises on him a potent and immediate effect. – Paramahansa Yogananda
Bhajana is regularly conducted at Shree Balaji Mandir, Kurla on Saturdays, Ekadashi days and Vishesh days of Mandir by Gurukrupa Bhajana Mandali and on Fridays by Mahila Vibhag of GSB Sabha (Regd.) K.C.G. Devotees are invited to attend and seek Grace of Lord Balaji.
(This article is extracted from blog contributed by Shri Nagesh R. Bhakta, he writes blogs for GSB Sabha (Regd.) K.C.G., Kurla(W), Mumbai 400070)