Druids know the power of chanting the Awen, particularly in a group, where the sound swells and expands and fills all present, spilling out into the world. Mantras are powerful tools with which to calm the mind, reconnect with our deepest selves and the Divine.
There is a form of mantra chanting that comes out of the Bhakti devotional traditions in India. This group chanting where the Wallah sings the mantra and the group sings back is called Kirtan and has become an increasingly popular form of meditation and worship in the West. Ragani, a long time practitioner of Kirtan, writes here about the unifying and transformative impact of sound:
Something about the kirtan experience goes beyond the music itself, goes to a deeper experience of vibration. We all resonate at different frequencies, and these frequencies change according to what we are doing and thinking. So when we are all doing the same thing-chanting, breathing, and moving to the same rhythms-our vibrations begin to synchronize and the resulting experience is very powerful. The laws of vibration help us out here, because vibrations align themselves to stronger vibrations, so even if you’re having a truly rotten day, it may be difficult to hold onto those feelings during the chant experience. If you were only to sit in the room without participating, the idea is that you could still feel the shift. Something happens-the energy begins to activate the spirit that exists within us all.
It’s the Heart, not the Art!
Although the kirtan involves music, the underlying art of kirtan chanting is not actually about musical ability or training-it is about the heart. Everyone can participate, regardless of age or cultural background. The purpose of this music is to get us out of our heads and into our hearts. Typically, the songs can last for 20-30 minutes each with a few moments of silence in between each song so you can soak it all up. The longer songs allow for deeper experience of the effects, and with the simple, repetitive lyrics (it’s a chant, after all!) we really don’t have to think much about the words.
In fact, because the ancient Sanskrit lyrics are not familiar to many of us Westerners, these words take us away from the mind’s constant chatter a little easier. The powerful healing and transformational energies of these ancient chants can help to reconnect us to the Ever-Present and Eternal Being that lies within us all. All the mantras, melodies, and instruments of kirtan are designed to lead us toward this meditative state.
In the old Celtic stories, we hear of the Druid’s knowledge of the power of the word – language is magical. In Kirtan, the names of the divine in all its many aspects are sung and this is believed to bring positive change and healing in the chanter. Krishna Das, one of the leading modern Kirtan artists in the West puts it rather nicely:
Let the river of these Names take you…
Let yourself float in the beauty of your own heart
into the ocean of Love that fills all space,
that ALWAYS is…
that ONLY is.
When we know ourselves to be That,
then we can be This too.
Then we can play,
We are free and bound in the same breath,
The breath of the One breathes in us.
It’s OK to be messed up, to feel small and sad and hurt
with no hope of ever seeing a good day.
It’s OK to forget, to be forgotten,
to be left behind,
It’s OK to be betrayed, strung out on everything
that everyone has ever done to us and we can’t ever forgive…
The breath of the One breathes in us.
Even when we don’t know.
Where is this One? How can we find that One?
The Saints say that the One is hidden in the Name.
The Divine Name. The name of Love.
And that by constant repetition,
gradually but INEVITABLY
the Presence that is hidden in the Name reveals itself!
Where? In our own hearts!
The medicine of the Name
hidden in the sugar syrup of music…
~ Krishna Das (his website can be found here)
When listening to our very own Damh the Bard perform at the OBOD 50th Anniversary Party – hearing the audience sing with him – it seemed to me that in those unifying and joyful moments, there was the spirit of a Kirtan. Perhaps Druid Kirtan is something that could be developed further?
Here is one of Krishna Das’ live Kirtan performances: Baba Hanuman (praise of the God Hanuman) from The Breath of the Heart album – listen how it gradually builds, quickens and swells – joyful stuff!
For more information on the links between Druidry and the Dharmic Traditions see here.