At one point during the weekend-long love feast that was Shakti Fest 2014, I ran into Vijay Krsna and his beloved, Sarasvati Devi, the couple who lead the Kirtaniyas. It was the day after their late-night set, and I was gushing to them about how deeply touched I was by their kirtan and teachings (I despise gushers, frankly, but there I was, gushing…) Vijay asked if he had talked too much. I was perplexed by the question. He said that he had “gotten into a little trouble” for talking too much during his set.
Really? I was dumbfounded. I mean, I know we’re here to sing, to chant the Names, to raise our voices in unity, to dance and clap and twirl in ecstatic joy. I’m all for that. But really, too much talking? Kirtan is, after all, more than just another live-music concert like you can get at any bar or nightclub on a Saturday night. It’s the core practice of bhakti yoga, an ancient discipline of devotion and service. There is so much joy and wisdom in the teachings of bhakti yoga! Personally, I love it when kirtan wallahs pause from the chanting to offer little bits of wisdom or profound teachings from this tradition, or simply personal reflections from their own bhakti path. Am I alone on this? I don’t think so.
Here, in honor of the “talking” part of kirtan, are a few of our favorite quotes — at least the ones that we had the presence of mind to write down — from the bhakti feast in the High Desert at Joshua Tree:
“It’s no longer enough to perform kirtan. We want to inspire kirtan. We want to be inspired by kirtan.” Vijay Krsna of The Kirtaniyas, Thursday night’s pre-kirtan.
“We are the way heaven shows up.” Akahdahmah Jackson of Aykanna (an Aramaic word from the Lord’s Prayer meaning “as it is in heaven”), Friday afternoon.
“Our true nature is whole and complete. You are infinite joy. When you realize you are one with Krishna, you realize you are whole and complete.” ~Manoj, the Deity Wallah, speaking between sets on Friday.
“It’s half English, half Sanskrit, and 100 percent ecstasy,” ~Dave Stringer, Friday night, speaking of his forthcoming collaborative CD with Donna De Lory interpreting the Radiance Sutras in mantra music.
“Sometimes I feel like I’m dangling from a thread. The mantras are all I have to hold onto.” ~Simrit, Kundalini chantress, Friday afternoon.
“You’ve got to give love in order to receive love. With every step you take, give love, receive love. Give love, receive love. Give love, receive love.” ~Wah!, Saturday evening
“Every day I wake up with the a feeling of being completely lost. How can I function in a meaningful way on this earth? The answer is that I get to sing God’s name. Without that I’m basically a lost cause.” ~ Jai Uttal, in his “playdate” (aka workshop) Saturday afternoon.
“I love that silence at the end of the chant. It’s almost as if you work the whole song to get to that point of silence. Then it’s just you and the Divine for a moment.” ~Cooper Madison, The Gandharvas, Sunday afternoon.
“Hanuman is the embodiment of grace. The Chalisa opens up our hearts to that channel of grace.” Govindas, of Govindas & Radha, during the Sunday morning Hanuman Chalisa session.
“It takes a lot of people to make a kirtan revolution.” Kamaniya Devi of Prema Hara, Sunday afternoon.
“Unconditional love. It’s really the only thing we should be practicing all the time. But it’s hard, isn’t it? Singing is the most powerful way to unconditional love. ” ~ Masood Ali Khan, Sunday morning.
“The only way to get back home is to fall in love with God.” ~Saul David Raye, putting to song a quote from Italian musician Alex Cigolini, during Monday’s Post-Intensive.
“Because the one I love lives inside of you, I lean as close to you as I can.” ~Gina Salá, singing one of her signature love songs during Saul David Raye’s Post-Intensive.
Pssst…Pass it on.Also See: Top 12 Bhavalicious Moments at Shakti Fest 2014 (Photos) “Shakti Fest Moments” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page “Shakti Fest Finale” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page “Jai Uttal” Photo Journal on The Bhakti Beat’s facebook page ‘We Need a Bus!’ Kirtaniyas Kick Off Shakti Fest Kirtan and Take Bhakti to A ‘Whole Other Level’ Connect with The Bhakti Beat! Subscribe to The Bhakti Beat The Bhakti Beat on facebook The Bhakti Beat on twitter The Bhakti Beat on YouTube The Bhakti Beat on Google+