Kirtan and Philosophy

Question: Namaskara, I have read the question and answers section of your web site with great interest. Coming from the Gaudiya Vaishnava parampara myself, in pursuance of my guru Sripad AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada’s teachings, sankirtan of the holy names of Sri Krsna is the yuga dharma in the age of Kali.  Although the philosophical precepts presented here are profound and deep and represent the true teachings of Sri Gadadhara Pandit, Sri Jiva Goswami et al, I don’t see any reference to or recommendation of the Sankirtan movement of Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu at this site.  Why is that?

Answer: My stress is on teaching shastra which is very much lacking in our sampradaya. There are hundreds of temples for doing kirtan but not a single place where people have the facility to study Gosvami literature. My Institute is open to all, but you know that not many people are interested in studying. It is very taxing for the brain. However it is necessary to maintain the siddhanta. Because we do not study shastra, and stress is given only on kirtan, there are so many deviations and branches, although we all claim to be followers of Mahaprabu and the Gosvamis. Srila Prabhupada also said – books are the basis. We interpret it to mean book distribution. But books are the basis for what? We need to study them to follow, teach and preach.

Every sampradaya has at least one place where you can go and study the literature of that sampradaya deeply. The Gaudiya sampradaya has no such place – only temples. Therefore I have created such a facility in Vrindavan.

Q: Thank you again for your kind reply.  Yes, I agree completely, that there seems to be a lack of true philosophical and ideological depth in most circles associated with the Gaudiya sampradaya and affiliates, and that is to be noted.  It is very essential and great work that you are doing therefore, and from what I’ve seen, I don’t think there is anything quite like your institute in presenting the depths of knowledge in the Gosvami literature.

My only question vis à vis sankirtan of the holy names of Sri Krsna, is that this was the central focus and matrix of the teachings of Mahaprabhu and his followers.  There must be a seamless binding of shastric knowledge and then sadhana of the holy names in order to be fully conversant with the siddhanta. If you, for example, go into the text of Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, then almost every chapter elucidates the Kali-yuga dharma of chanting the holy names of Ram and Krsna.  Verses that come to mind are as follows:

“kali-yuge yuga-dharma, namera pracara……..”
Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 3.40
Namnam akari nija sarva shaktis…..” – Sri Siksashtikam, 2
yan myselfajnaih sankirtanaih prayair…..” – SB 11.5.32
“amanina manadena, kirtaniya sada harih……” – Sri Caitanya Caritamrta, Adi-lila 17.31
“kaler dosha nidhe rajan, asti hy eko mahan gunah; kirtanad eva krsnasya, mukta sanga param vrajet – SB 12.3.51
“krte yad dhyayato vishnum, tretayam yajato makhaih; dvapare paricaryayam, kalu tad hari-kirtanat ) – SB 12.3.52

There are as many verses as there are waves in a river describing the Kali-yuga dharma, Mahaprabhu’s mission, and the ultimate trajectory of the Goswami and all successor teachings in the parampara.

The nine processes of devotional service lists kirtanam as second in order, and thus without practicing it as regular sadhana, one cannot understand the intrinsic teachings of the shastras. There must be a connection between sadhana on the one hand, and then studying of shastras on the other.  They have to come hand in hand.  Sravanam comes first in order, but then second is kirtanam, and thus they are inseparable in so far as the substantive teachings of Mahaprabhu is concerned.

Please do not take my writing in the wrong way, as I have great respect for you and your mission and what you have accomplished thus far.  What I’ve written above is my understanding of the heart of Gaudiya Vaishnavism, and if I am wrong, I will stand corrected.  But I agree with you, that book distribution as emphasized by Prabhupada, means learning the essence of those books, for this you are doing great work, and I commend you.

Jiva Gosvami
Jiva Gosvami

A: I am not against kirtan. I do kirtan myself, and we even have music school where interested people learn kirtan. But my stress is on the philosophy behind kirtan. Lord Chaitanya’s life was full of kirtan but he sent his most intimate followers to Vrindavan, away from the kirtan atmosphere, to write literature about kirtan. What we now understand about Gaudiya Vaisnavism is from the gosvamis, not from those who did kirtan. Sadhana is most important, but for that the siddhanta must be clear. Improper knowledge leads to improper action, which gives improper results.

Kirtan can also be done in a proper and improper manner, and both will give two different results. I think the one is known to all, about the other hardly anyone has any idea. This is most amazing and sad fact. Do you think all those who do kirtan do it properly or even have an idea about it?

One thought on “Kirtan and Philosophy”

  1. wihtout humility, effective kirtan is not possible, and humilty comes only by learning shasatra

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