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Krishna Das: On Board

How does one person in suburban California manage to raise $20,000 to fight sex trafficking in India? 

Enlist the kirtan troops!

That’s been a big part of the winning strategy for Srutih Asher Colbert, a Palo Alto yogi mom and hair stylist who is now within sight of meeting her ambitious fundraising goal by the end of the year.  The troops who signed on to help include none other than the Chant Master himself Krishna Das, who contributed his share of the proceeds from NYC’s Bhajan Boat charity cruise in late September (check out the video here).  That pledge alone added $3,000 to Colbert’s coffers. 

Coast-to-Coast Kirtan Fundraisers

The drive also benefited from a gathering Oct. 20 at Brooklyn Yoga School when the best known bhaktas in the borough, Nina Rao, Devadas, Ambika Cooper and friends, joined forces to lead a four-hour kirtan in support of the project.  The chants to fight sex slavery continue this weekend, back in Colbert’s home ‘hood in the San Francisco Bay Area, with Prajna Vieirra and David Estes leading the call.  Local favorites in NoCal, Vieira and Estes are among the rising stars on the national kirtan scene as well; each had a debut set at Bhakti Fest West in September,Vieira with producer/multi-instrumentalist Ben Leinbach and Estes with his band Ananda Rasa Kirtan.

"Kirtan is not about getting blissed out and escaping life..."

Both jumped at the chance to help raise money.  Vieira told us:  “As kirtan leaders, we’re here to serve the devotees in their practice and help provide the conditions for exploring the depths of love and devotion. To me, expanding that sweetness of devotional service into the world is the whole point.”

“As a woman,” she added, “sex trafficking is an issue that is very dear to my heart, and I wish I could do a thousand kirtans for it…If we have an opportunity and the means to contribute even a little bit of time, energy or resources toward the solution, it’s a great blessing. Kirtan is not about getting blissed out and escaping life’s problems. It’s a call to wake up, to broaden our capacity to love and our willingness to serve.”

Off the Mat Into the Bhav

Colbert’s funding drive is part of the Global Seva Challenge, a worldwide service project created by Off the Mat Into the World (OTM) that has raised over $2 million since 2007 for a range of international humanitarian causes.  The 2012 campaign is focused on battling sex trafficking in India through locally based empowerment and rehabilitation programs, and Colbert is one of about 200 yogis who have taken the $20,000 challenge this year; so far about half a million dollars has been raised, collectively.  (OTM is the charitable organization founded by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri and Suzanne Sterling with a mission to “use the power of yoga to inspire conscious, sustainable activism and ignite grassroots social change.”)

Suzanne Sterling: Not resting

Colbert got involved with Off the Mat at Wanderlust Festival three years ago, where the OTM session is always a favorite.  (No wonder: two years ago at Wanderlust VT, Michael Franti and his band joined Seane Corn on stage for a rockin’ 2-hour party-for-a-cause.  This summer, MC Yogi riled up the troops with a rousing rendition of “Give Love” (watch it below), then Suzanne Sterling knocked it home with a foot-stomping, soul-stirring rendition of a civil rights anthem called Ella’s song  — “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes” — that flowed right into the yogi’s anthem, Om Namah Shivaya.)

A top fundraiser for OTM three years running, Colbert kept earning herself a free ticket back to Wanderlust — and doing it all over again.  When she heard that the 2012 Global Seva Challenge was directed at helping the young victims of sex trafficking in India, she signed on. 

 ‘We Live in This Little Bubble’

“I have two daughters myself — 5 and 8.  I just felt moved to try to help these girls, and inspired to show my own girls how important it is that we help people who can’t help themselves,” Colbert told The Bhakti Beat.  “We live in this little bubble.  There’s so much suffering in the world and we can do something to help other people.”

OTM works with six different charities in India that are working in local communities to rescue, rehabilitate and empower women and girls affected by the sex trade.  “They [OTM] talk to people who are already doing this work to create sustainable change, instead of just throwing money at the problem.”  The funds might be directed, for example, to build a new wing on a safe home, or to teach women self-sustaining skills. 

Nearly $2,000 was raised at a Brooklyn kirtan (Photo by Srutih Asher Colbert)

Reaching out to friends in the yoga and kirtan worlds to support the drive was natural, she said, because “those are the two things I love and practice regularly.  It’s been an amazing blessing to reach out and have people say, ‘absolutely, how can I help?'” 

People like Krishna Das.  Not bad.

Colbert first met Krishna Das at her Yoga Teacher Training at the Sivananda Ashram in the Bahamas, at a time when she “didn’t know anything about chanting and thought it was weird.”  After five straight nights of kirtan with KD, “it really clicked for me,” she said.  “I totally fell in love with chanting.  It completely changed my life from that moment forward.” 

Ten years later and $3,000 away from her goal, with bhakti yoga strongly at her side, Colbert is paying it forward, hoping to help change the lives of girls trapped in India’s sex trade, from this moment forward. 

“It’s been quite a journey,” she said. 

TO DONATE to Srutih Asher Colbert’s Global Seva Challenge (Type “SR” in the first box to support her project)
Srutih Asher Colbert’s Global Seva Challenge on Facebook
Chanting for Change w/ Ananda Rasa Kirtan & Prajna Vieira, Nov 10 in San Francisco
Off the Mat Into the World
www.chantkirtan.com (Nina Rao)


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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Feb. 24-26


It’s a “Wallahs-to-Watch” kind of weekend:  Five rising chant artists — Gina Sala, Irene Solea, Prajna Vieira, Larisa Stow, and Eddy Nataraj — lead the bhav this weekend coast to coast.  Plus, the party of the decade at Exhale Venice; Sean Johnson immerses NOLA in bhav; Bodhi Fest brings Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer and Deva Premal & Miten to Australia, and Brenda McMorrow sings in Estonia.  Yes, Estonia.

Best of the Weekend Bhav

Gina Sala, Prajna Vieira

GINA SALÁ plays in her home ‘hood of Seattle for Singing Satsang at Samadhi Yoga Friday night. Sala, who was introduced at Bhakti Fest 2010 as “the best kirtan artist you’ve never heard of,” facilitates “wholeness through voice” as a vocalist, teacher, composer and sound healer. She began chanting at age 3, living in a Hindu ashram in Canada. Today her music blends original lyrics and compositions with traditional chants from Hindu, African and Tibetan cultures, among others. If you can’t be in Seattle Friday, how about joining Gina in Mexico in March? Her Ocean of Devotion Sound & Wellness retreat holds court in Yelapa, a boatride away from Puerto Vallarta, March 17-24. (Use the code on the link to save $75, for friends of Sarah “Bhakti Babe” Garney.)

Irene Solea, Om Trinity

IRENE SOLEA, a favorite throughout the Northeast, takes her bhav West to Colorado this weekend for a series of events starting with the popular FRIDAY NIGHT YOGA CLUB in Denver 2/24, where she’ll play for yoga with JEREMY WOLF and ASIANA HARPER before kirtan.  Irene will be joined by Colorado kirtaniyas DAKINA MA JAEGER, JIM BECKWITH and DAMAN GROSSMAN.  Saturday morning, there’s more live-music yoga with Irene at Karma Yoga in Denver, and on Saturday night Irene is joined by local wallah MIRA GALE for an evening of devotional chanting at Yoga That Heals in Boulder. Word is that Irene’s new CD will debut in the spring: eight original chants set to pop/rock, Latin and reggae beats. GIRISH and JONI ALLEN are guest artists. Download a teaser track here, a luscious medley of uplifting original lyrics and Om Namah Shivaya.

Speaking of CD’s we can’t wait for, the long-awaited duet release by PRAJNA VIEIRA and BEN LEINBACH is coming soon. There’s even a date for the mandatory CD Release Party: April 20 at Rudrimandir in Berkeley, Calif.  “Amrita” represents “almost two years of hard work, love, devotion, laughter, tears and deep friendship,” Prajna said in an email. This Saturday, Prajna reunites with DONALD FONTOWITZ and RAMANA ERICKSON, aka the MUKTI KIRTAN ENSEMBLE, for a benefitconcert in Pacifica, Calif. (South Bay area) in support of Dyllan Kianna Wicks, a 2-year-old who was born with a rare heart defect and received a heart transplant a year ago. Call Ocean Yoga to pre-register: (650) 355-9642. But hurry, this event is likely to sell out.

Larisa Stow, Bhakti Fest 2011

LARISA STOW & SHAKTI TRIBE continue their quest to transform the world, one soul at a time, with love and mantra rock. Described by the Tribe as a “raise-the-roof celebration of unity-in-community,” Soul Transformation hits the Orange Coast U.U. in Costa Mesa, Calif. on Saturday 2/25. The Love Fest continues in Temecula, Calif., where the Tribe will be rocking the mantras at Living Yoga Sunday night 2/26.
And, on Sunday morning — we love this! — Larisa & Tribe are performing for Reverend Pat Campbell’s services at the Center For Spiritual Living in Temecula Valley. Sunday service with Larisa Stow?  Wish my parents had taken us to that kind of church…

Eddy Nataraj, 700 Voices

Returning to the theme of “best kirtan artists you’ve never heard of,” have you heard EDDY NATARAJ? We caught up with him last Spring at 700 Voices in Connecticut, where he “opened” for DAVID NEWMAN and SNATAM KAUR, and thought he pretty much blew everyone away with his phenomenal Spanish gypsy guitar-strumming and soulful vocals melding Spanish, English and Sanskrit.  On Saturday 2/25, Eddy will be singing at Dharma Yoga of Central CT in Meriden, Conn., so if you’re in the Northeast, go see him.  You will not be disappointed.  (Next week he’ll join up with BARRY RACCIO for Bhakti Shakti, a kundalini yoga workshop and kirtan in New Haven.)  How does he do all that with a brand new baby?

Those are 5 Wallahs to Watch this weekend.  Lots more below…


More of the Bhav

Yoga Bash of the Decade?  Exhale Center for Sacred Movement in Venice, Calif., is celebrating 10 years as a mecca for SoCal yogis with a birthday bash Saturday 2/25 featuring a live music all-star jam and dance party with SAUL DAVID RAYE and the RED MUSETTE ENSEMBLE (aka MICHELINE BERRY, DJ DREZ, JOEY LUGASSY, DEEPAK RAMAPRIYAN, CARLOS TORRES, YEHOSHUA BRILL and others to be announced.  Music is from 8-10 p.m. (apparently there’s a curfew), and there’s YOGA WITH SHIVA REA & FRIENDS from 5-7 p.m.  Oh, and it’s all FREE.  Beam me there Scotty.

Gwendolyn Colman, Sean Johnson

Show Us Your Chants: Trade in the Mardi Gras beads for a mala, and join SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND as they kick off their BHAKTImmersion retreat in New Orleans this weekend . The 8-day intensive starts with a full-on kirtan celebration in their home ‘hood on Saturday 2/25, and fills the week with ecstatic interactive chanting, dancing, storytelling, mythology, “bhaktiful asana practice” with live music, journaling, and love poetry from the Bhakti tradition. Sounds better than Mardi Gras, doesn’t it?

Gone Down Under: The Aussies’ itch for kirtan is being scratched this weekend with BODHI FESTIVAL in Newcastle, Australia, which claims to have “the finest kirtan (devotional) musical line-up ever seen in Australia.” U.S. headliners DEVA PREMAL & MITEN are ending their Australia tour there; DAVE STRINGER is beginning his there, and JAI UTTAL is…flying out for the weekend. (He’ll be joined by the Queen of Hearts Orchestra Oz.) Plus dozens of other artists, yoga and meditation teachers, and inspirational speakers. And get this: admission is by donation, a policy the festival’s spiritual director, Shakti Durga, said “liberates us to
dance together in truth and deep harmony.” This is a trend we’d like to see spread to the U.S., wouldn’t you?

Kirtan College Connection: So, maybe we missed something, but Estonia wasn’t at the top of our list for bhakti hot-spots. In fact it wasn’t even on the list. Well, guess what? Kirtan’s thriving there too, and thanks to a connection made at one of DAVID NEWMAN’S Kirtan Colleges, BRENDA McMORROW is in the former Eastern bloc country for two workshops and concerts in the capital, Tallin, and in Tartu. Palju õnne Brenda!  Meanwhile, DAVID NEWMAN is busy creating more connections: his first 2012 Kirtan College is going on right now at Kashi Ashram in Sebastian, Florida, and KC students will be showcasing their talents at a free public concert Friday 2/24 at the ashram.  More Kirtan Colleges with David coming up in greater Toronto (April 27-29) and Satchidananda Ashram in Yogaville, Va. (September 27-30).

Northeast Region

Bhav in Brooklyn: In New York City, AMBIKA COOPER holds space at the Brooklyn Yoga School Friday 2/24 for the ongoing Friday Night Kirtan series that features a rotating cast of bhaktas. Stay tuned for the live CD recorded Feb 10 at BYS featuring Ambika and the rest of the Brooklyn bhavsters (e.g., NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, JEREMY & LILY CUSHMAN FRINDEL) singing the Hanuman Chalisa.

Helping Hands in Harlem: ANJULA PRASAD sings at Interfaith Chanting for Forgiveness, a benefit on Sunday 2/26 at the Harlem Holistic Center that will raise money for Def Dance Jam Workshop, a Harlem-based non-profit performing arts troupe and academic program serving deaf, hearing and physically or  developmentally challenged youths and their families.  Anjual tells us she’s got not one, but TWO new CD’s in the works.  Her current CD, “Anjula,” is available here.

Calling All Wallah Wannabe’s: It’s open-mic kirtan night for the BOSTON KIRTAN & SATSANG gang, who gather monthly at Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Mass. for “kirtan for the people, by the people.” JOHN CALABRIA starts off the chanting, then passes the mic to any wallah wannabe’s or budding musicians trying out their tunes. But if you’re like me and would rather have a root canal than lead kirtan, just soaking in the bhav is also permitted.

Sundays in the Sanctuary with Dave:  In Northamptom, Mass., DAVE RUSSELL leads weekly Sunday night kirtan sessions at the Yoga Sanctuary.  Dave’s been chanting for like 40 years, and going strong.  Check out his schedule for deets on the Sundays in the Sanctuary and lots of other gigs throughout the Northeast.

Left Coast

Wah! Bhakti Fest

Wah! for MA: In Los Angeles (Granada Hills), WAH! is leading kirtan at the “Day of Healing,” a day-long conscious living expo to help launch the MA center in L.A.  Wah! sings for Amma at 1 p.m.  Her new album, Loops n Grooves is now out!

Psalms to Ma: In Santa Monica, PSALM ISADORA is back from India and back at Bhakti Yoga Shala for Jai Shakti Ma: The Power of Devotion. The workshop, described as a “celebration of the Mother through prayer and devotion,” includes chanting, ecsatic dance to open the heart, and a Tantric Goddess Ritual to awaken grace.   Jai Ma.

Dance Divine:  In the Bay Area, the now-weekly DEVOTION DANCE at Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley, Calif. starts Saturday at 7 with an hour of kirtan led by STEPHANIE WINN and SHARAN PAL (tabla).  Devotional DJ Dance Party with DJ OSHAN ANAND rocks till 11.

Sacred in Sacramento: MARTI WALKER is presenting Nada Yoga: Mantras and More Made Easy at Rise Yoga in Sacramento, an experiential workshop where students will learn basic concepts and practical uses of four primary aspects of Nada Yoga: Vedic and tantric mantras, kirtan/bhajans, and pranayama sound techniques.

DC and South

Ten Years and Counting:  That’s how long SACRED CHANTS KIRTAN has been bringing together chanters in the D.C. and Maryland area, and they’re at it again this Saturday 2/25 in Columbia, Md.  And on Sunday 2/26, BE Yoga in Sterling, Va., is hosting a vegetarian pot-luck and community kirtan at the studio’s backyard Yurt.  Eating starts at 4:30 p.m., singing at 6.

Texas Tunes:  More Wallahs to Watch:  The BHAKTI HOUSE BAND, fresh from a gig at the Texas Yoga Conference last weekend (along with DAVID NEWMAN, SEAN JOHNSON & THE WILD LOTUS BAND, and SUZANNE STERLING & THE DESERT DWELLERS), is right back at it with “an evening of sacred sound and devotion sharing the practice of Nada Bhakti Yoga through a very east-meets-west sound in music.” Friday 2/24 at Aledo Yoga, outside Fort Worth.

Mountain Time

Colorado Crooners:  In addition to the IRENE SOLEA tour in Denver and Boulder, TOM FUHRMAN is hosting an all-Shiva night of community kirtan on Saturday 2/25 at his home in Littleton, Colo.  More details at the Colorado Kirtan facebook page — a great source for all things kirtan in Colorado.

Arizona Energizers:  Local band the KIRTAN WALLAHS are leading ecstatic-chant call-and-response at the Yoga Shala in Prescott, Ariz. Saturday 2/25.

If you made it this far, comment here and tell me which of these events you’d like to be beamed to. One person will be randomly chosen to get their choice of the 3 new CDs mentioned.

Don’t forget to send events to bpatoine@aol.com, post them to The Bhakti Beat’s Facebook page., or Tweet us!







Where’s the Bhav? Maha Shivaratri 2012


Maha Shivaratri, the Great Night of Shiva, is upon us.  Said to be one of the most sacred and auspicious nights on the Yogic calendar, Maha Shivaratri honors Lord Shiva, one of the three energies of the Hindu trinity (the trimurti).  Of all the Hindu dieties, Shiva’s pretty intense.  He’s the  “god of yogis,” both creator and destroyer,  timeless, formless, nameless.  Shiva is consciousness and bliss.  He wears a cobra for a necklace.  And he really likes kirtan.

Maha Shivaratri can be intense too.  It’s traditionally celebrated with a series of elaborate pujas (sacred ceremonies) that pay homage to Shiva (in the form of linga) with offerings of flowers and incense, baths of milk and honey, and non-stop kirtan that goes all night.  The ritual culminates in the marriage of Shiva and Parvati (Shakti), which is symbolic of the union of consciousness and matter — the dance of universal creation.  As dawn breaks and a new moon rises, a sumptious feast of prasad is shared as a final offering to Shiva.

Wait a Minute, Did You Say Linga?

In case my Dad is reading this (unlikely), or anyone who is new to Hindu culture or Maha Shivaratri, I know what you may be thinking.  Ritualistic worship of linga?  Bathing them in milk and honey?  Marriage, union and creation?  Some people go right to the gutter with this, like there’s some kind of cultish sex worship going on (not to be confused with the cultish sex worship allegedly going on in the Anusara kula).

Indeed, a friend once described a Shivaratri event he attended in Colorado as “beautiful young women pouring yogurt over a huge stone phallus.” Huh?  At the time, I had just registered for a Krishna Das retreat at Sivananda Yoga Ashram in the Bahamas and had decided to extend my stay to experience Shivaratri at the ashram.  Frankly, I knew little about the significance of the night; I just saw “all-night chanting” and signed up.  My friend’s description of his experience made me wonder what I had gotten myself into…

Samadhi By Sunrise?

Shivalingam puja at Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas.  March 2009

I can assure you that there wasn’t anything remotely sex-cultish about the Sivananda celebration.  It was sacred, beautiful, and profoundly moving.  As my first introduction to a “real” puja — performed by a bona fide Tantric priest from South India in the ashram’s little open-air temple — it made an impression on me.  If felt authentic.  And powerful.

The legends surrounding the significance and power of Shivaratri as a holy night for spiritual purification and rebirth are many.  It is said that those who please Shiva on this night, worshiping him in accordance with the rituals set forth in Hindu scripture, will be freed from all past sins, dwell with Shiva in enlightened bliss and be blessed with moksha, liberation from the cycle of life and death.

Freedom from past sins? Dwell in enlightened bliss? Who doesn’t want that?

I don’t know if that’s all possible, but it makes for good story-telling.  And when it’s 5 a.m. and you’ve been chanting every incarnation of Om Namah Shivaya for eight hours straight and haven’t eaten or slept for 20 hours but somehow are feeling incredibly clear and energized and ready to jump right onto the “shiva train” that is about to slither its way through the ashram grounds in a joy-filled chant-along version of the dorky wedding chain-dance, you might even start to believe it.

Where’s the Shiva Bhav?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

India would be a good place to start.  Just about anywhere there will do, neighborhood Shiva temple or home puja.  Or, you could celebrate with SRI SRI RAVI SHANKAR, (NOT the sitar maestro; the founder of the International Art of Living Foundation), who will be leading the festivities at his organization’s headquarters in Bangalore.  If you can’t be there, you can still be there (sort of) through the magic of LIVESTREAM.  The broadcast starts Saturday 2/18 at 8 a.m. EST (6:30 p.m. IST).

Sivananda Yoga Ashram (Paradise Island, Bahamas) continues their annual Maha Shivaratri tradition with pujas throughout the night by Ashram priest Krishnan Namboodiri and continuous Shiva chants from dusk until dawn led by senior staff.  The prasadam buffet served at dawn is a feast fit for Lord Shiva himself.  Festivities begin Monday night, 2/20 (the astrologically correct day of observance).  Here’s a sliver of the festivities from last year:

Sivananda has a worldwide network of ashrams, and many others will be marking Shivaratri as well.  At the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center in Marina Del Rey, Calif., festivities and chanting begins at 9 p.m. Monday 2/20.  And at its Hollywood and Santa Barbara locations, the Vedanta Society of Southern California hosts celebrations Monday 2/20 beginning at 6 p.m. till 1:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m., respectively.  These are described as traditional fests marked by fasting, meditating, praying and singing to Shiva. (Hat tip to Joni Yung, deva of yoga events tracking in L.A., for posting these.)

In Venice, at Exhale Center for Sacred Movement, superstar yogi SHIVA REA is joining forces with superstar kirtaniya DAVE STRINGER for what I’m guessing will be a somewhat UNtraditional initiation to the auspicious period surrounding Shivatri.   The event starts with “body mala-based yoga” led by Shiva (all levels) and ends with ecstatic kirtan.  Sunday 2/19, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.   (If you can’t make it to LaLa Land, you can join a free Shiva meditation led by SHIVA REA via teleconference on Monday 2/20.) Also on Sunday at Exhale Venice, SAUL DAVID RAYE presents Shiva Nataraj, the Cosmic Dance of Shiva, an immersion in Shiva teachings and practices that includes Shiva mantras, meditation, kirtan and a flowing asana/pranyama/mudra practice.  1 p.m. to 4:30 Sunday 2/19.

Way up the coast in San Francisco, CHRISTOPHER “HAREESH” WALLIS will lead Shiva-focused satsang, kirtan and storytelling at The Center SF, Friday 2/17 beginning at 9:30 p.m.

The Shiva bhav starts flowing early in Colorado too.  At Boulder’s Studio Be, Colorado’s vibrant kirtan community joins up for ecstatic chanting and shivalingam puja with BHAKTI SHAKTI, Friday 2/17, 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.

In New York City, the place to be for Maha Shivaratri is the Broome Street Temple, which kicks off the celebration Saturday 2/18 (4-10 p.m.) with a SIX-HOUR KIRTAN (part of the Bhakti Center’s monthly chant marathons) featuring SRIKALA KEREL ROACH, ACYUTA GOPI, ANANTA GOVINDA, special guest RAGHUNATH and others .  Festivities continue Sunday, 2/19 (8 p.m.) with an all-night puja consisting of a series of abhishekas, or ritual baths of the shiva linga.  Kirtan will be provided all through the night by NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, AMBIKA COOPER, JEREMY & LILY FRINDEL, and other special guests.

Ananda Ashram in Monroe, N.Y., about an hour north of NYC, will mark its fifth annual Maha Shivaratri All-Night Music & Dance Celebration from 9 p.m. Saturday 2/18 to sunrise Sunday.  DEEPAK KUMAR PAREEK has organized a “Concert for Positive Change” with a line-up of musicians including NAREN BUDHAKER (tabla), KEDAR NAPHADE (harmonium), ANDREA BRACHFELD (flute), KRISHNA DEVI (leading kirtan), MITALI BHAWMIK (vocals), AMIRA DVORAH (bansuri flute), INDRAJIT ROY-CHOWDHURY (sitar), STEVE GORN (bansuri flute), SHEETAL KARHADE (vocals), SRI KALIMA (dance), AQUEEL BHATTI (tabla), and DAVID KEEN (violin).

Not to be outdone by New York or L.A., the little Hridaya Hermitage in Industry, Maine will be marking the occasion with an open forum on the meaning of life, from the yogic perspective.  The 5-hour program on Sunday 2/19 includes bhajans from the Hermitage’s high-energy house band SHIVA LILA, shivalingam puja and dinner, concluding with an intention-setting ceremony to alleviate suffering in the world.

Where are you getting your Shiva Bhav this weekend?


Learn More About Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri: Celebrating Lord Shiva.  Glimpses of Divinity

Maha Shivaratri Significance (a secular overview from the India tourist board)

Who is Shiva? (from the Chopra Center, Archetype Series)

Shiva Linga and Its Significance (from Rudraksha-Ratna)

Maha Shivaratri Puja Overview & Shiva Symbolism

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Where’s the Bhav This Weekend? Feb. 10-12


What’s in store: rocking buttes in Colorado with Dave Stringer, bhaktas band up in Brooklyn, Deva does Down Under, and Gurunam Singh sings for peace.  Plus Irene Solea, Jai Uttal, Girish, David Newman, Wynne Paris, Satya Franche, and regional kirtaniyas to watch!


Colorado Rocks Its Butte

DAVE STRINGER will be rockin’ the bhav in Colorado this weekend, finishing out the “Dave-Joni-Patrick Utah-Colorado Kirtan Tour” with long-time accompanist JONI ALLEN on vocals and guitar and PATRICK RICHEY performing his percussion magic.  Next stop: Friday Night Yoga Club in Denver, Friday, 2/10, where the Dave Trio will be joined by local musicians Dakini Ma, Kate Drazner & Kendall Perry.  Live-music yoga at 6 p.m.; concert at 8.

Then, on to YOGA ROCKS THE BUTTE, a “snowga” and music fest in Crested Butte, Colo. with the requisite line-up of big-name yogis (including SHIVA REA, SARA IVANHOE and MICHELINE BERRY, among others).  STRINGER headlines Saturday night, 2/11.  GOVINDAS AND RADHA, JOEY LUGASSY, DJ DREZ, and STEVE GOLD will round out the bhakti love on the butte with performances throughout the weekend.

Brooklyn Bhaktas Band Up for BYS

JEREMY FRINDEL and LILY CUSHMAN FRINDEL have made the Brooklyn Yoga School, which they co-founded, a regular destination for Brooklyn bhaktas with their ongoing Friday night kirtans (this Friday’s features SATYA FRANCHE and friends).  On Saturday, 2/11, Brooklyn bhaktas give back with a 4-hour kirtan with everyone from the Friday night series taking a turn at the call.  That includes NINA RAO, DEVADAS, ANJULA PRASAD, SHYAMA CHAPIN, AMBIKA COOPER, TERRENCE POMPEY, AND SUNDAR DAS along with JEREMY & LILY.  Whew! The whole thing will be recorded and edited into a CD to raise funds for BYS programs, so you can get your Brooklyn bhav on no matter where you are.

Deva & Miten Dive In Down Under

Photo Credit: Deva Premal & Miten

Have you noticed that Australia is the new hot destination for kirtan wallahs?  DAVE STRINGER was there last fall, JAI UTTAL is heading there soon, KRISHNA DAS will be there in April…  Right now, DEVA PREMAL, MITEN and MANOSE are gracing the Aussies at the Ecstatic Chant Retreat in Byron Bay.  Retreatants got a special treat on night 2 when the GYUTO MONKS OF TIBET stopped by to offer puja (sacred ceremony) and in return, were serenaded with Om Tare Tuttare, the beautiful Tibetan mantra invoking compassion and liberation.  The retreat was sold out, but the trio’s tour Down Under continues, culminating with the Bodhi Festival Feb. 25, which also features JAI UTTAL and DAVE STRINGER.

Gurunam Singh Sings for Peace

In Boston, a workshop to invoke power, peace and prosperity will feature the divine melodies of GURUNAM SINGH.  The Friday evening session begins with a 75-minute live-music-powered vinyasa class, then a meditation to dissolve energetic blocks in order to live with prosperity, followed by kirtan to enter into a place of peace.  Sounds perfect to us: Gurunam’s 2008 CD The Journey Home is a favorite, especially Dukh Par Har, a chant subtitled From Pain to Peace.  Works every time.


Boston Metro Leads

Tons of bhav flowing inside and outside of Boston.  In Byfield to the north, IRENE SOLEA is at Roots to Wings Yoga on Saturday, 2/11 for a kirtan concert with her rockin’ band, EZRA LANDIS (guitar), OWEN LANDIS (drums/percussion) and DANNY SOLOMON (keyboards/bass).  We’re in love with Irene’s rich harmonies and soulful expressiveness — a joy to chant with.  On Sunday 2/12 Irene plays for morning yoga in John Calabria’s class at Yoga & Nia for Life in West Concord, Mass.

In Malden, Mass., the place to be Friday 2/11 is the Grand Opening for the new Hridaya Hermitage Kaya Kulpa and Yogic Healing Center.  The benefit kirtan starts at 8 p.m., and we know it’s going to be good, promising “lots of full volume-kirtan” and dancing with the SHIVA LILA BAND, TOM LENA and others.

In Cambridge, JAISHREE & PREMA BHAKTI will be chanting at Dazza’s Urban Ashram on Friday 2/10.  On Saturday 2/11, the band heads to S. Portland, Me., for a kirtan at Sadhana.  Check out their sound here.  Me like.

And, in Brookline, Hebrew chants with Boston’s HEBREW KIRTAN BAND, who will open the festivities at Dance Friday (1615 Beacon St.) Kirtan from 7:45 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., followed by DJ dance party.

California Calling

In Oakland, a special treat when JAI UTTAL teams up with his beloved NUBIA TEIXEIRA for “The Alchemy of Yoga and Kirtan,” a workshop described as a “heart-opening adventure through breath, movement and sacred sound, blending those traditions in a deep and playful way.”  Namaste Grand Lake hosts the three-hour afternoon workshop and kirtan Saturday 2/11.  Deets here.

In Sherman Oaks, DANIEL STEWART & FRIENDS present ecstatic kirtan at his studio, Rising Lotus Yoga, Friday 2/10; 8:30 p.m.

GIRISH’S tour schedule shows no signs of slowing anytime soon.  This weekend he plays in Corono Saturday 2/11, at the Yoga Den Health Spa, then heads to Santa Monica to chant with the kirtan junkies at Bhakti Yoga Shala, Sunday 2/12.  Next up for Girish:  Pittsburgh.

L.A. take note: The KIRTAN WALLAH’S (aka ARJUNA O’NEAL & FRIENDS) and BHAKTI DANCE are having a kirtan LOVE FEAST, and you don’t want to miss a single course.  At Core Power Yoga on Wilshire.

Southern Kartals

Two events to note:  WYNNE PARIS is leading kirtan in Alachua, Fla., Friday 2/10 at the Ayurveda Health Retreat, with VISVAMBHAR SHETH of the MAYAPURIS joining in!  Wynne never fails to bring it; have you heard his masterful collaborative CD, Om Spun by Groovananda?  Good stuff.  And rumor has it he’s working on a new live kirtan CD.

And, a Georgia band that just came into my consciousness, RAHASYA, is spreading the bhakti love throughout the Southeast.  This weekend they’re chanting at the Yoga Room Healing Arts Cooperative in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Friday 2/10 and at Open Heart Yoga School in Carrboro, N.C., Saturday 2/11.  Check out their music here, and catch them live if you can.  They are going to be at Chantlanta, the sacred music festival in Atlanta March 9-10 that features WAH!, DAVID NEWMAN and SEAN JOHNSON AND THE WILD LOTUS BAND.

Northeast Notes

Speaking of DAVID NEWMAN, he’s back east after a mini-California tour, playing in Westmont, N.J., Friday 2/10 at a concert at Anjali Power Yoga to benefit Africa Yoga Project.  On Saturday 2/11, he’s chanting back in Pennsylvania at the Shri Yoga and Wellness Center in Reading, Penn.

In New York City, DREAM TIME is back!  The event that was born on New Year’s Eve lives on, and has now morphed into a two-day conscious-living extravaganza that includes (among LOTS of offerings) ecstatic kirtan, dance-party kirtan with SRIKALOGY, contact improv with JESSE JOHNSON, a tantra workshop with RAN BARON, and tons more.  Friday 2/11 starting at 8 p.m.; Saturday 2/12 Noon to 6 a.m. Sunday.

Maine Kirtan Soars

PREMA BHAKTI is in S. Portland at Sadhana Meditation Center for kirtan Saturday 2/11, preceded by a Chakra Shakti Yoga class with JAISHREE.

In Portland studio Bhakti in Motion, TODD GLACY and KALEE COOMBS weave sacred tones of gongs, singing bowls, flute, voice and other sound remedies in a feast of sound at the Be-Loved Valentines Concert Saturday 2/11.  Best thing about it?  You don’t need to be a couple.

Elsewhere in Maine, ANANDA BHAKTI is playing at the new 6-S Yoga in Manchester, Me. (near Augusta) on Saturday 2/11; and ShivaShakti School of Yoga in Rockland, Me. hosts kirtan with AIYANA & KRISHNA on Sunday 2/12.

Maine kirtonaholics have a great Facebook page: Maine Kirtan.  Subscribe to it to stay on top of the Pine Street State’s bhakti flow there.

Where do you find out about kirtan or yoga in your community?  The Bhakti Beat wants to know…


Tell us where you’ll be chanting.  Email us, post links on our Facebook page, or Tweet us.




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The majestic Meditation Hall at Garrison Institute

Unlike a Krishna Das kirtan, where you pretty much know what you’re going to get, a workshop with KD can be wholly unpredictable.  Case in point: last weekend’s Heart of Devotion Retreat at the awe-inspiring Garrison Institute, a former Franciscan monastery perched on the banks of the Hudson River across from West Point, N.Y.  The retreat included two afternoon workshops along with public kirtans Friday and Saturday night, daily chanting of the Hanuman Chalisa with Nina Rao, Shyama Chapin and Ambika Cooper, and morning yoga with Jeremy and Lily Frindel of the Brooklyn Yoga School.

The kirtans were classic KD (well, classic in the current post-Heart As Wide as the World era).  It’s the music you know and love, the songs that are playing on your car stereo, the ones playing at the yoga studio.  But the chantmaster himself is right there in front of you (and several hundred others), pumping the harmonium and singing his heart out for his beloved Maharaji.  And whatever that place is that he goes when he’s chanting, KD takes you right along with him.  Repeating the names has a way of “polishing the dust off the mirrors of our hearts,” he has said often.

Garrison retreat inspires a new KD T-shirt. (Photo provided by “Jenni;”original shot by Dr. Ellen Ruth Topol; as shared by Krishna Das on Facebook)

‘I Survived a KD Workshop’

It was the mid-day workshops where the polishing got a little intense.  So intense that KD opened the Saturday night kirtan by joking: “After this afternoon, we’re having a T-shirt made that says I SURVIVED A KD WORKSHOP.”  (It took about a day for the photoshopped version of the imagined T-shirt to reach Facebook; the organic cotton version can’t be far behind, we predict.)

What was so grueling about a couple hours chanting and chatting with KD and a couple hundred of your bhakti family?  No, folks, it was not the chanting.

‘So, What’s Up?’

If you’ve been to any of these day workshops or retreats with KD, you know the drill:  there’s going to be some singing and there’s going to be some talking.  The ratio of one to the other, you never know.  You have to hand it to KD; he essentially opens up the floor to anybody who wants to ask anything.  “So, what’s up?” he said as he invited questions Saturday afternoon in the grand meditation hall at Garrison, the same soaring sanctuary in which the Capuchin friars used to pray.

Think about it:  it’s your chance to ask this icon of Western kirtan, this beloved devotee of Neem Karoli Baba, this bhakti rock star, anything you want.  What would it be?

Why Is Your Apparel Red?

The very first question: “Why do you always wear red?”  A lot of people must wonder about this, because it came up not once, but twice in the first Q&A (the second asker declared herself “Busted!” for coming in late when KD replied perplexedly “Were you here earlier?”) Note to conference participants: never ask a question unless you’ve heard every question already asked. D’oh!  But I digress.

The answer? Well, it’s a long story.  Here’s KD’s condensed version for now: “Maharaji said, ‘Wear red.  Even your underwear.’  It’s Hanuman’s color.”

After the “red question”, KD was asked if he would relate his experience at Aushwitz with Bernie Glassman’s Bearing Witness retreat.  He exhaled loudly, and begged off.  “I will, but not now.”

KD on Relationships: ‘Love Is Not Between People; It’s In Us”

Next, he was asked what constitutes a “spiritual marriage?”  “It’s so horrible everything else looks good?”  KD replied playfully.  Then he said he had no idea what that meant. “That’s not the world I live in.  What’s not spiritual?”  This is what I love about KD, this wry, self-deprecating humor and irreverent wit that just lays it on the line.  He makes no claim to be an expert on anything, least of all relationships, which he has essentially said, more than once, that he sucks at.  Still, he offered this:  “We can learn a lot from relationships.  They can teach us a lot about ourselves, because they show us what we are not.  But relationships never last!…Love is not between people, it’s in us.”  Then, more wry wit: “I’m kind of cranky today, so romance might not be the best topic.”  (Several hands went down.)

Later, he came back to the love question.  “Maharaji didn’t give love.  He was love.  You were loved unconditionally.   That’s what we’re all looking for.  But who can give that?  I can’t.  Only someone who is love can let you into that room.  That room is your heart.”  He said Westerners have a hard time believing this kind of love exists, but  that it “already lives in us.  It’s who we really are.  We just don’t quite know how to find it.”

Pulling Back the Proverbial Curtain

Someone asked what sustains him.  He paused, finding the words.  “It’s not hope, but some kind of wisdom that, in spite of myself, everything’s going to be okay.”  He attributed this to Maharaji, who “pulled back the curtains” one day and opened KD’s eyes to “what is.”

“Within each of us there is this sense of well-being,” he said.  “This is who we really are, but mostly we’re cut off from that.  We need to look at whatever ‘stuff’ is cutting us off from that — whether it’s greed, selfishness, attachments, whatever.”  That’s where spiritual practices like chanting, meditation or yoga come in, KD said.  “These practices help us let go of our stuff, to gather our longings and focus them on what is most important to us, whatever that is.  The result is that we actually start to focus on what’s important, which is finding that missing piece of ourselves that we’re looking for.”

‘Bliss is Our True Nature’

Just when things were getting deep, someone asked a deep question — about the relationship between Sita and Ram in the classic Hindu story, the Ramayana, and who Ram really is.  KD’s answer? “I don’t even know who I am, how do I know what Ram is?”  Then he dropped a bomb that made my jaw drop — and I don’t think I was the only one.  He said: “Look, folks, let’s get real.  I know one thing:  Maharaji is love.  That’s my whole life in a nutshell.  All this other stuff, I don’t have a f***ing clue.”  Thanks KD, for keeping it real.

When everyone stopped laughing, he paraphrased Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s idea that what most people call bliss is really just a little less pain.  “Bliss is our true nature,” he said.  “Singing extracts me from all that stuff that has me stuck, and I come back to that place of love. That’s all I know.”

The moment that prompted the “I Survived” T-shirt came later, an exchange between KD and a participant he knew, quite well apparently.  Well enough to call it like he saw it.  There was sobbing involved.  I felt a little like an awkward observer to a spiritual counseling session.

Chanting Brings Stuff Up

But that’s exactly the point, isn’t it?  We’re all in this room together, chanting and hashing out our individual “stuff.”  And stuff is coming up.  Chanting brings stuff up.  If you’ve ever lost it in the middle of a kirtan, silently weeping or sobbing and heaving, you know what I’m talking about.  And if you haven’t, keep dusting.

“Every time you sit down to practice,” KD said, “you’re breaking that cycle of attachment, so you can let all that stuff go.  The moment you let it go, you feel better.  But we have big problems letting go.  These practices are training us to work with stuff in a new way, to have a vote in the way we deal with things that come up in life.”

Okay, I’m in.  Now can we just chant?  Then we did, blessedly.

After the chant, just before the workshop ended, he left us with this:

“So much pressure builds up in our daily lives to be someone we are not.  That’s why I love these weekends, because everyone gets to see that everyone else is just as weird as they are.  It’s okay to be just who we are.  It’s crazy to go through life expecting the bottom to drop out at any moment because someone is going to find out who you really are.  We have all this stuff that we are trying to hide from others, from the world.  What are we hiding from?”

And then there was silence.  Looooong pin-drop silence.

End of Workshop #1.  I think we survived.