By Caitanya Cintamani dasi
Obeisances to all the Radhadesh devotees, dedicated servants of the Divine Couple Sri Sri Radha Gopinatha!
A concentrated, committed, effort to chant the Holy name is known as Nama Yajna, sacrifice. A Nama Yajna can power a whole spiritual community. Understanding this, Srila Prabhupāda inaugurated the 24 hour kirtan in Sridham Mayapur, and Aindra Prabhu inaugurated the same in Vrindavan Dhama. The consistent, punctual, steady sound vibration and the dedicated efforts of the participants generates great auspiciousness.
Our temple in Leicester is closed for the foreseeable future, our Lordships Sri Sri Radha Madhava are sequestered in a private location. I felt completely lost without normal kirtan and temple life. As soon as the borders were open, I came to Radhadesh, so eager to chant with the devotees, to hear mrdanga drums.
It felt like home, like breathing again after a long time underwater. But after an hour, the evening kirtan is finished, until the next day. I felt oddly disatisfied, like someone whose plate had been removed mid-meal, mid bite! Were we not just warming up?
I joked that we needed six more hours. Surabhi told me patiently, with the air of someone who had explained this a thousand times before, that it is better and easier to maintain one hour a day than to burn out quickly with a single day of six hour kirtan. I wasn’t totally satisfied with this answer, but I didn’t argue, feeling instinctively that I was about to learn a lesson of sorts.
After a few days, I began to understand that the time limit was part of the austerity of the yajna. It added a nuance of sense control and quality to the offering. If you only have one hour, every mantra counts. There’s no time to jam, or experiment, or play. This is serious business. Going overtime would be almost akin to tasteless decadence.
I remembered how Srila Bhakti Siddhanta Sarasvati Thakur compares the concept of honouring kirtan to the way one should honour prasad. His amazing Harmonist article- The Chanter of The Kirtan of Hari, discusses thus:
“The sadhu helps the fallen jiva to regain his natural state of freedom from sin, by the constant service of bringing about the descent of transcendental sound in the form of words uttered by his lips and the mahaprasada in the shape of food that is offered by him to the Lord. The sound uttered by the sadhu and the mahaprasada are not things of this world. They are not identical with ordinary sound or ordinary food which are only means for the gratification of our sensuous appetites. The word of God and mahaprasada cannot be enjoyed, or in other words cannot be used for the gratification of the senses, because they are spiritual. Those who enjoy the kirtana, or any spiritual discourse, or eat the mahaprasada for appeasing hunger or for gratification of the palate are guilty of sacrilegious acts which serve only to prolong the state of sin and ignorance. This is the greatest possible calamity that can befall the human soul.”
This I had read many times but had only half understood. I’m sure there’s still yet more to understand as time goes on but I was grateful for the realisation, so sweetly demonstrated by the Radhadesh kirtan crew, that performing kirtan until you personally feel satisfied, or when you personally feel like it, is not high quality sacrifice, it is just indulgence.
One might argue that one should chant the Holy Name constantly, and they would be absolutely correct. The point I am trying to make here is we must develop a taste for quality, and a mood of service. That particular mood of chanting cultivates genuine taste over time, and this alone is actually sustainable as truly constant. There are also many different ways to chant the name of Lord Hari, and filling our days with all the varieties such as japa, book distribution, nagar sankirtan, and deity worship, to name a few, make for a vibrant devotional life. If one yajna ends and you are still hungry, simply begin another! There are many, variegated forms in the constance of “kirtaniyah sada harih” and that is why Srila Prabhupāda gave us so many different ways to express our kirtan, knowing our hearts.
So yes, we should come, before the audience of Radha Gopinatha at the appointed time, just as a court entertainer appears promptly before a King and Queen at Their summoning, and offer the very best kirtan we possibly can, at Their pleasure. The moment of dismissal is also at the discretion of the King. It is a great and rare privilege never to be taken for granted, certainly never to be done to satiate our own senses. Inevitably in the future, it will slowly increase at His will, but in the best way- lovingly cultivated and maintained at high level to the point of constance, because that is the way of service, to expand and mulitiply.