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Kirtan and Kirtaneeas


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Guidelines for Sangat Children August Toronto Samagam

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Kirtan and Kirtaneeas

  2. 2. What is Kirtan?  Kirtan is devotional singing of the praises of God in melody and rhythm. It is an aid to enable an individual to attune oneself with the Infinite, a tool to sing His glory and become spiritually aware, ultimately to merge with Him and bring peace and joy to one’s mind.  Guru sahib calls Kirtan a ‘priceless diamond’ - a precious gift.
  3. 3.  The reason Kirtan is called priceless is because it acts like a cleansing agent that has many purposes.  It has the ability to help clear/clean our consciousness, thereby reducing the many types of human sufferings collected over countless lives, and then,  Fill us with love, bliss and joyful longing for our beloved, and make us worthy of God’s Grace.  Kirtan is the magical formula that keeps the human soul afloat in this materialistic world.
  4. 4.  Thus, Kirtan is given a place of great importance in Sikhism. Wherever Kirtan is being sung, that place (sadh sangat) is considered to be equivalent to paradise: Above all kirtan (whether singing or listening) is SEVA.
  5. 5. The Role of the Kirtaneeas  The ‘cleansing’ effect or the ‘magical’ effect of Kirtan is dependant on the kirtaneeas (those blessed souls who have been given the gift of doing kirtan).  When a kirtaneea sings with peaceful equipoise with the intense feeling of love and deep devotion of a disciple, conversing humbly with the beloved, the Kirtan then becomes the necessary bridge, an aid to contemplation and meditation and can help many other souls connect to their Beloved.  This is done spontaneously, in the Divine flow, without any effort on the part of the kirtaneea. It is Gur Prasad – Grace.
  6. 6. Kirtan is a spiritual practice and is not a competition.  When any egoistic effort enters the equation in the form of me, mine and myself (the showing-off factor), then the flow is obstructed, and even though the kirtaneea maybe singing beautifully, the Kirtan does not have the magical effect.  The musical prowess, talents and ability to produce beautiful tunes may be very pleasing to the outer ears, but it does not uplift the soul of either the kirtaneea nor the Sangat.  In fact, the tunes may end up being a distraction to many of the more sincere seekers. The main aim of Kirtan is to sing the glory of our Gurus, to become spiritually aware, to open our heart to the Divine Flow and to bring peace and joy to the mind.  At all times remember Kirtan Seva is a gift and be sincerely grateful for it.
  7. 7. Bhai Sahib Bhai Vir Singh Jee clarifies:  The relationship of kirtan and kirtaneea beautifully in his short talk on Kirtan and Kirtaneeas ( where he explains some of these joys and pitfalls.  Kirtan is like a double-edged sword.  While it is an uplifting spiritual tool, it can also become an ego-enhancing tool if the kirtaneea is not careful.
  8. 8.  He explains that becoming a kirtaneea is like becoming the main target in a battlefield, where arrows of ego related praise are constantly being aimed in one form or another.  Inevitably, one or two of these arrows are bound to hit the target.  Knowing this, the kirtaneea still enters the battlefield because of intense love for Guruji.  Slowly but surely, with practice, humility and His Grace, the kirtaneea learns to make an armor of His love, through which no arrow can pierce, and ultimately enjoys the boons offered by Kirtan.
  9. 9. Some important tips and guidelines for Kirtan Seva  Be mindful not to let your ego get inflated when someone appreciates ‘your’ kirtan. It is NOT yours. The ego is very very subtle. Even when you THINK you are being careful, it enters within and is the source of much spiritual downfall. Beware of the ‘vava’ ras. Be aware and at all times, remember the Divine giver of the gift and place all praise at His feet.  Be mindful not to be the source of inflating someone else’s ego.  Be mindful not to subconsciously try to get Sangat to enjoy a shabad – it is His duty. Your duty is to just be the empty vessel…by emptying yourself of all desires, greed and emotions.
  10. 10. KIRTAN TIME  The time you do Kirtan or who you play table with is irrelevant.  The focus is the KIRTAN & GURBANI and not the KIRTANEEA.  In addition, never ASK or demand for kirtan turn, or let adults get involved in this.
  11. 11. Alotted time  It is of utmost importance that as a kirtaneaa sevadaar you complete your shabad in the given time.  Please do remember that you are taking someone else’s time, be mindful and respectful of this. When you go over time, it’s like taking a gift away from someone else. Is that fair? Would you like it?  Keep the ego in check. Listen to the sevadaar’s instructions as Hukam. Please keep in mind the sevadaar who is responsible for giving turns to as many kirtaneeas as possible.  Remember they too are just instruments, just as you are.  Learn to recognize the Divine hand in everything.
  12. 12. To make sure that you remain in the time limit, here are some helpful hints:  Sometimes kirtanees’s read a small shabad + Dhan Guru Nanak+ Simran before the main shabad.  Try to finish the starters within 5 minutes. Otherwise it becomes difficult to finish.  Remember that the reason you start with Dhan Guru Nanak is to bring your consciousness to the feet of Guru Nanak.  Try to do ‘simran’ at appropriate places in the shabad and not as fillers.
  13. 13. Supporting kirtaneea’s & Shanney players  Both are very important roles.  Make sure that if you are choosing to be next to the kirtannea that you are really being very supportive (singing loudly and being as tuned into the shabad as possible).  When playing shanney, please make sure that you sit behind the kirtaneea’s, not in front row next to kirtaneea.  The sound of the shanney can overpower both the kirtaneea’s voice and harmonium and it becomes difficult to hear the shabad properly. In addition, the recording is spoilt.
  14. 14. TABLA SEVA  Tabla seva is an equivalent seva as kirtan.  It helps to provide the right rhythm, to support the kirtan.  Be Aware, tabla seva can also be a source of the same ego as discussed above for kirtaneeas and can also be a major distraction from main purpose of kirtan.  If you are a tabla player, do not wait to play at ‘prime time’ – offer yourself and your seva to Guru Sahib at all times.  Remember, you play for Him, His Sangat and for no one else.
  15. 15. Other guidelines  All kirtaneea sevadaars should be on stage 20 to 30 minutes before their time. This allows the kirtaneea to become tuned in to the aura and shabad. Imagine how worrisome it is for the stage sewadaar’s when they do not see the next kirtania in the darbar hall.  If you as a kirtannea sevadaar are not feeling well, and you usually do get a turn, it is very respectful and considerate to let the stage sewadaar’s know as soon as possible if you are not going to be able to kirtan.
  16. 16. HUMBLE REQUEST ******* (PYAAR SEHAAT BENTEE TO ALL CHILDREN)  Please if you can, learn :  Not only shabads, but ALL BANIEES - Nitnem, Asa De Waar, Rehras and Kirtan Sohila.  Practice well and then offer the stage sevaadaar’s your name so that you can do seva whenever you are called upon. MORNING TIME is a time when sangat goes to rest.  Be the lone soldiers out there when you are needed the most.
  18. 18. Additional Information available Bhai Vir Singh Ji’s article has wonderful examples. It can be found at: www. (check RESOURCES page)