Radhanath Swami – Kirtan and Harmony

Kirtan and Harmony

When we are chanting the holy names in congregation, if the leader of the kirtan sings one melody and everybody in the group decides to sing in whatever melody they like best, the resulting sound won’t be so melodious. Therefore, whether we like the melody or don’t like the melody, everybody surrenders to sing the same. So in this way, for a kirtan to sound beautiful and sweet it needs cooperation. Cooperation means the higher principle. We may have preference for a melody and preference for a speed or a style, but we all accept in unity to follow the leader. When is the kirtan harmonious? When there are so many people. It’s tumultuous sound, it’s a beautiful sound. We can’t hear just one voice during the chorus; yes, we hear one voice, but that one voice is actually the sound of everyone’s voice. That’s our offering to God. And why is it so pleasing to the Lord? Because we are all cooperating for higher purpose; we are all united for the pleasure of the centre or Krishna in spite of all our differences.

Some may have very melodious and sweet voices trained in classical singing; others may crock like frogs by material standards. Some may be children with high shrilled voices; others may be very old people with chocked up voices; and still others may be very young screaming out. There are men, women, old and young. There are people from different nationalities, different races, but the voice becomes one—the voice of our common unity for a higher purpose than ourselves. So God hears that, but he is also hearing each and every individual’s voice according to what they sound like.

We may be just moving our lips so that other people think that we are chanting, but God sees that we are not chanting. Not only does he see, but he hears. He hears what we sound like, our volume, our melody, and our rhythm. Simultaneously, God hears intention of every single person. What do we want? Why are we chanting? Are we chanting just because everybody else is chanting? Are we chanting because we want good grades in exams? Or are we chanting because we want unalloyed pure devotional service? God hears one voice of our unity while simultaneously he hears every single devotee’s voice. He is feeling, seeing, and hearing our desire, our intention, our motives. This is actually what is happening during congregational chanting. God is going to reciprocate and manifest himself to each and every individual, and collectively to everyone, and to the world, according to all of these different considerations and many more.

-Radhanath Swami