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Is there room for politics in bhakti yoga?  If social media on election day is any indication, the answer is yes.  In droves, bhaktas and yogis have taken up the call to engage, fully and consciously, in the quadrennial rite of passage that is the American Presidential election.  Even artists who you might not exactly consider “political” or “activist” are joining the drive to get out the vote, and in some cases, being very explicit about which candidate they support.

You might call it “Chant the Vote,” kirtan’s own informal spin on the popular “Rock the Vote” drive that enlists pop/rock idols and celebrities to encourage young people to register to vote and make their voices count at the polls.  The chant world may be coming to the game a little later than say, Madonna (who was booed at a concert for saying “I don’t care who you vote for, as long as it’s Obama.”), but, like Madonna, kirtan artists are not shying away from naming their allegiances. 

White Swan Records, the label of sacred chant superstar Deva Premal, posted this picture of her, apparently standing before a huge mural of Obama.  The caption read: “From Berlin, Deva Premal says to ‘vote.'”  If the written message was neutral, the picture says it all.

On Sunday before the elections, Snatam Kaur, the soft-sp0ken Sikh chantress, posted this message to her facebook followers:

No ambiguity there...

In two days on facebook, the post received nearly 4,000 likes, 170+ shares, and over 300 comments, which were overwhelmingly positive, by our reading.  (Snatam has the largest facebook following of any Western chant musician, with 109,000+ “fans” following her page; in comparison, Krishna Das and Deva Premal & Miten each have about 70,500.) 

Chanters with Chutzpah Ki JAI

The outspokenness of these two artists, both of whom have a reserved, quiet demeanor (in terms of their public face at least) surprised us a bit — in a good way.  Anyone who is willing to stick their neck out to voice their opinion in this close, contentious race deserves a Golden Cojones prize, in our view, especially in digital age, where one can be slashed and burned in mere minutes on social media. 

"Seize the day"

Mid-day today, Donna De Lory joined the chorus of Obama supporters, posting this message on her facebook page:  “Today is a day to ask yourselves, who do I trust? Despite all of my human disappointments, Who is most compassionate and concerned in the sustainable future of all living beings, this beautiful life as we know it?”  De Lory then reprinted a lengthy message from a friend named “Allison” laying out the case for re-electing Obama.

Of course, there are folks like MC Yogi who have left no question as to their political allegiances:  the conscious hip-hop artist released a special single and video in support of Obama’s first campaign (Vote for Hope).  He has also been an active proponent of Yoga Votes, the voter-registration drive that has had a strong presence at Wanderlust and other yoga festivals in the past year. 

MC posted this Obama graffiti portrait on his facebook page yesterday, with the message: “We can’t wait for the change, we have to be it!”

Vote Then Chant

Other artists have focused more on getting out the vote than on promoting a particular candidate.  Girish and manager/partner Virginia Rodriguez launched a special election-day concert called “Vote then Chant” that was scheduled for election night on Long Island — but sadly, was cancelled due to the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  Undeterred, the artist has taken the effort worldwide, offering up a special live version of Om Namah Shivaya for 99 cents and up to encourage people to “vote then chant,” and at the same time help the victims of Sandy. Proceeds from the sale of the single will be donated to the Red Cross’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund.  Get the details here. 

“Chant with us in support of our east coast chant family and in support of the highest outcome of our national election,” Girish implored fans in his newsletter mailing.   


What Will You Be Chanting?

From the buzz we’re seeing on facebook and elsewhere, people are going to be chanting through the results from coast to coast, whether in small community kirtan circles or with touring musicians.  In Hillsboro, NH, for example, Bethel Farms is presenting “Bhagavan Das–Electing Kirtan” in a three-hour election-night chant and in Atlanta, Bhakti Messenger’s Ian Boccio is leading a group of bhaktas in a Rama mantra (because “every little bit helps,” he said).  In Minneapolis, Pascale LaPoint of Kirtan Path was hosting satsang at her house “where we will chant, chat and meditate in peace without following the results.”  In Sacramento, Radiant Friend kirtan is getting the chant out at Yoga Shala …

The Bhakti Beat wants to know: did you chant through the election results?  What were you chanting and where? 

And, the burning question we have: are there any Romney supporters out there in chant land?  We know there must be…

Vote then Chant. Yeah, you!


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  • Lauren H. November 6, 2012, 8:49 pm

    To me the Bhakti path is about awakening our love for life, and opening our spirits up to our true nature-that of divine interconnection and unity. Part of awakening this consciousness is also about living in a place of surrender and trust in divine perfection. I think as bhaktas we face a paradox: we need to learn how to live in the world and express our values because from one perspective we are each unique expressions of the divine. But we also need to learn how to detach from the “mundane” and connect with the spirit that underlies it all.
    I celebrate when people are active participants in their world: it’s inspiring and uplifting to be around passionate people. But I think our focus and attention is better spent on our personal practice that awakens our divine relationship. When we each take responsibility for living a life that uplifts ourselves, it uplifts others too.

    • Brenda Patoine November 7, 2012, 3:30 pm

      Thank you, Lauren, for this thought-provoking comment. I appreciate your opinion and candor. A follow-up question for you, if I may: are the two mutually exclusive? Is it possible to be truly “detached from the mundane” and still be “active participants” in the world. A paradox, as you say…

  • sarah November 7, 2012, 9:47 am

    I know a few folks who didn’t support Obama or Romney. Some abstained from voting while others voted libertarian or green. But yeah, overall, my impression is that most kirtan lovers voted for Obama. Now let’s keep chanting….

    • Brenda Patoine November 7, 2012, 3:35 pm

      Thanks for your insight sarah. It would be interesting to see the party allegiances of bhaktas (or not!) I sense there is a lot of disillusionment with Big Government in general, as with Big Ag and Big Pharma and. Big Banks…so on, and I also empathize with those who feel it’s just all rigged and controlled by some shadowy Illuminati or something. When I posted a picture of my “I Voted” sticker, someone commented: “Which shadow government did you vote for?” Fair enough question…

  • Debra November 7, 2012, 9:58 am

    LOVE this post, Brenda!! I caught all of these beauties in the stream over the last week as well…except for Donna DeLory’s…missed hers somehow.

    Found myself chanting one version or another of Wahe Guru Wahe Jio! all day and night yesterday. Especially LOVE Simrit Kaur’s and Snatam Kaur’s versions. 🙂 Seemed like the perfect chant to help move the energy of the day… I love Snatam’s translation of this chant. Ecstatic Bliss, Here and Now…from Darkness to Light…Ecstatic Bliss, Here and Now…this is the experience of my soul!!! Mmm…Wahe Guru, Wahe Jio!!! <3

    Loved my fb stream last night… A bhakti-beautiful stream of unity consciousness flowing abundantly. 🙂

    Love YOU! Thanks for all you do to make this world a brighter, more brilliant space to BE.

    • Brenda Patoine November 7, 2012, 3:39 pm

      Oooh, I do love the energy of that chant Debra! Good choice. “Ecstatic Bliss, Here and Now…From Darkness to Light…Ecstatic Bliss, Here and Now…. What’s not to love? 🙂

      Thank you for your sweet words — you Brilliant Blissful Being!

      Wahe Guru!

  • Kitzie Stern November 7, 2012, 12:36 pm

    Love this post, Brenda. I’m always struggling with the fascination I have with politics and my spiritual process. Right now chanting allows me to be an active political observer without being overwhelmed by the negativity. It was wonderful to feel part of the worldwide Yoga/kirtan community through this election. We can change the world through the power of chant.

    • Brenda Patoine November 7, 2012, 3:46 pm

      Yeah! Change the world. Why shoot any lower than that? 😉

      I’ve struggled with it too Kitzie, from being a loud activist (led a demonstration on George I in college when he came to our college campaigning on the Reagan-Bush ticket) to completely giving up on politics (my political affiliation on facebook is officially “Fed Up” and it’s true). This year somehow I felt a strong urge to exercise that little thing called the right to vote….not because I’m a huge Obama fan (I’ve got issues with some of his issues) but just because I could. So many people in this world just can’t do that, or they take their lives in their hands to do it. We forget that sometimes.
      Thanks for your comment!

  • Virginia Rodriguez November 7, 2012, 1:20 pm

    Thank you for this article Brenda. You really brought a nice perspective to how the kirtan community participated in the election.

    We enjoyed the sense of community we felt in the worldwide kirtan community coming together for one day with the same intention – in support of those suffering from the aftermath of hurricane Sandy, and in support of the highest possible outcome of our national election.

    It would have been nice to have everyone in one giant room, chanting together (maybe 2016?), but this was the next best thing!

    • Brenda Patoine November 7, 2012, 3:51 pm

      Thank you Virginia. I so love the “Vote then Chant” concept behind that ill-fated Long Island concert — thank you for fueling this beautiful trend! And the way that you turned it into a “worldwide invitational” that raised money for the victims of the very hurricane that shut the shore down was brilliant. I think this idea can pick up a lot of steam between now and 2016 — look forward to that!

  • Kevin Korody November 9, 2012, 12:13 am

    I have some friends who hold dance parties, and one of their rules is “no political energy.” Their reasoning is that they want their events to bring people together, while political energy often focuses on people’s differences and can turn angry. I respect that kirtan artists have their own political views and have the right to speak about them, but I think partisan politics should be left out of kirtan events. I also find that there’s often an assumption that people involved in kirtan share the same political views, but I know people from across the political spectrum who enjoy kirtan. I personally don’t want to go to a kirtan event and be told I have to support Obama or any other candidate.

  • Bhakta Steve December 17, 2012, 8:36 am

    why would Vaishnavs vote for the Marxist Obama? It’s a strange world! Srila Prabhupad saved his most acerbic criticism for three groups of people: atheists, Impersonalists, and Marxists.

  • awakened jiva November 1, 2014, 4:14 am

    This is the most sickening thing to see done in the name of Bhakti…now 3 years later of obamination, i hope that people can reflect on the deception done in the name of misplaced devotion…
    Its a shame the intelligent people judge kirtan by the loosers that represent atheistic devotion in the modern “yoga scene” “In the present day also, people all over the world may join together in the Krsna consciousness movement and protest against the present degraded governments of the world’s godless societies, which are based on all kinds of sinful activities. Srimad-Bhagavatam states that in the Age of Kali, thieves, rogues and fourth-class people who have neither education nor culture capture the seats of governments to exploit the citizens. This is a symptom of Kali-yuga that has already appeared. People cannot feel secure about their lives and property, yet the so-called governments continue, and government ministers get fat salaries, although they are unable to do anything good for society. The only remedy for such conditions is to enhance the sankirtana movement under the banner of Krsna consciousness and protest against the sinful activities of all the world’s governments.
    SB 10-3-21
    “The Hare Krishna movement is also an incarnation of Krsna in the form of the holy name. Every one of us who is actually afraid of asuric rulers and politicians must welcome this incarnation of (Maha mantra) Then we will surely be protected from the harassment from asuric rulers. At the present moment these rulers are so powerful that by hook or by crook they capture the highest posts in government and harass countless numbers of people on the plea of national security or some emergency”

    In the present age, Kali-yuga, the number of such shameless men, who are agnostics disbelieving in the existence of God, has increased. Trying to defy the authority of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, so-called scientists, philosophers and politicians manufacture plans and schemes for the destruction of the world. They cannot do anything good for the world, and unfortunately, because of Kali-yuga, they have plunged the affairs of the world into mismanagement. Thus there is a great need for the Kṛṣṇa consciousness movement for the benefit of innocent people who are being carried away by propaganda of such demons. If the present status quo is allowed to continue, people will certainly suffer more and more under the leadership of these demoniac agnostics. SB 2-1-40