December, 2022

What is Kirtan?

What is Kirtan (Call and Response Chanting)?

Chanting – or singing the name of God in an ancient language – is a way to attain direct communication and connection to the divine. For most, it Is an ecstatic practice.

But for me, at first, it was agony.

I endured chanting in Sanskrit because it would lead to my favorite practice: meditation.


I lived with my teacher, Gurumayi Chidvalasananda, for many years, both in India, and in her Ashram in upstate New York.

Gurumayi loved chanting. She would sway in ecstasy, her arms raised like slender antennae, and she had us chant for up to two hours each Satsang. It was unbearable!!!! I would burn with rage! I would become so angry my butt would get hot! But I knew I could not leave the hall because not only would I have to give up my excellent seat in the front of the 2,000+ hall, I would be seen, and this was a no-no.

But after the chant, when the beautiful tamboura and harmonium faded, we would sink into a delicious meditation for an hour or better yet – two hours! Then Gurumayi would speak. My heart swelled with anticipation and longing

This was nectar!!


I was to learn the chanting was purifying me. It was doing exactly what it was supposed to do, but I was too stupid and thick to understand. At least at first.

When the Kundalini awakens, it can take us on an amazing journey. Some have physical KRIYAS, some emotional, and for me – I had a great deal of anger to burn through. I had both psychological and emotional KRIYAS (energetic movements of the NADIS) to burn through….


One day, I GOT IT!!! Like a light bulb, I got it, and at that moment, I looked up at my teacher, and our eyes met.

A steady blue light beamed from her eyes to mine, she nodded, I fell forward, and I went into a trance which left me for many hours in the hall. The kind hall monitors knew enough to leave me after the satsang ended, and I was helped, transfixed with joy, back to my room, where I slept for 72 hours.

Chanting has become my favorite practice now – 20 years later. The Sanskrit language is Chaitanya – imbued and enlivened with the grace of the many masters who have repeated the words over and over.

I invite you to a KIRTAN – a call and response chant – which we will do in Satsang – for at least 15 minutes from time to time.  

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