After months, even years of restrictions, we gathered once more for an evening of kirtan. On nights such as this, the community floods the cozy four walls of the Yoga Studio in downtown Squamish. Children snake around bolsters and bodies, on their countless trips to the snack table, while past students, friends, family, and newcomers unite, to chant the names of the Divine. Tonight, we gather to celebrate the new initiates of the SYI 300-hour Yoga Teacher Training, weaving them into a wider circle of support. We prepare to be cracked open by love.
Kirtan is form of bhakti yoga; a spiritual methodology governed by loving devotion. When we come together to sing, no matter the form love takes, we are invoking an aspect of Divinity that captures our hearts and supports us in our work. As Kavita Chinnaiyan explains in her “Introduction to Non-Dual Tantra” course:
Bhakti is the fuel for all practices, if I don’t have the love or devotion to awareness, this devotion to the path, why would I be on it? The devotion to the work is bhakti. It doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s. It doesn’t assume your devotion to a particular form of the Divine, it doesn’t mean you are melting away in tears looking at a deity. Although, you may, you may fall boundless into this type of love.
Absolute devotion to the Divine, bhakti, is the same as saktipat: the same as the descent of grace. When this descent of grace happens, I want nothing else except the truth, that is bhakti. Bhakti makes us progress, sit for meditation, makes us do the self-inquiry, leads us to jnana, to wisdom: the doorway to freedom.
Tonight, the melodies start slow, with a haunting beauty. The call and response of the musicians and the crowd building a bridge to Spirit. As the tempo increases, some of us begin to move and dance, stirred by joyful surrender. We practice faith and hope here, allowing our reality to be assembled by our hearts, singing, and being sung, giving, and receiving. When we orient ourselves from this place of devotion, what we value and what we perceive in the world begins to transform.
As the chanting ends, we say our goodbyes and allow the vitality of togetherness carry us out into the night. This is where the practice begins. The very nature of bhakti is responsive, it is a call to action. The root, bhaj, means to offer service – where service is synonymous with love (Edwin Bryant). And so, we need to ask ourselves, after we have been nourished, after we have experienced this descent of grace, how can it fuel the work necessary in our lives? First, let it “fan the flame at the altar of your heart” (Christine Selda). And then, let it inform how you answer the call of love in your life, your community and how you serve the collective.