Songs of Devotion

We all have a different notion of what spirit is and define God in many different ways. Part of Bhakti Yoga is to sing bhajans or songs of devotion. These songs are sung during kirtan and is done through call-and-response singing. Kirtan is an offering or gift that we make to God who has given us everything. Through the power of sound we express our needs, prayers, and yearnings while celebrating our connection with the Divine. The chants or songs, are personal prayers and when we allow ourselves freedom from expectations, inhibitions or self-judgement, we encounter the Divine in a way that defies description. Jai Uttal calls kirtan “food for the spirit, a life raft of song”.

Satsang is similar to kirtan, but may also explore chanting, meditation, discussion and lecture. On my recent trip to India I was very privileged to attend a satsang with Prem Baba at the Sacha Dham Ashram in Laxman Juhla, Rishikesh. Prem Baba is from Brazil and is a spiritual master of the Sacha lineage in India, as well as a shaman. On the first morning of the International Yoga Festival I sat at a table having breakfast where a very bubbly Australian girl couldn’t stop talking about Prem Baba and the daily satsang sessions he leads. Not wanting to miss this unexpected opportunity, I asked if I could tag along later that day, and that is how I found myself in a room packed with spiritual hippies radiating love. We engaged in the singing of the most beautiful bhajans that filled the room and my heart with love and connection with the Divine, until Prem Baba joined us for his daily “lecture”. He speaks Portuguese, but the translator managed to make a flawless translation that was not only quick and fluent, but reflected a deep understanding and connection with the words that were spoken by the guru.

Prem Baba works to build bridges between spirituality and psychology, East and West. He mixes satsang with meditation, music and chanting in a rigorous, but practical form of psycho-spiritual work he calls “O Caminho do Coracao” or “The Path of the Heart”, which allows one to go beyond fear and ego to love and compassion. The aim is to awaken God in people so that they recognize and experience their true radiant nature. Being in his presence is truly to experience pure love.

After his lecture, which really is simply a response to a question he gets asked, devotees lined up to offer him gifts and receive his blessing. Long lines kept snaking towards him, yet he never got tired or impatient, gracefully accepting even the more unconventional gifts such as the shirt of a man who took it off on the spot. Young children, of which there were many, excitedly skipped over to also bathe in his love and receive a blessing. Time got suspended in the room that overlooks the beauty of the Ganges, and when I left three hours later, it felt as if I were floating.

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