(Kadamba Kanana Swami, 21 March 2013, Cape Town, South Africa, BYS Picnic Talk)
Kirtan, or mantra meditation, is something that you got to do. How can you describe it? It’s like, one can give a lengthy explanation about eating and how it’s done and how it’s experienced and how there are different tastes and different flavours. How there is salty, sweet, hot and what not but ultimately, sooner or later, by the experience itself, one understands!
The sound is not just musical, it’s spiritual. It’s meaningful. It’s joyful. It’s liberating. Here in this world, we pick up so much baggage into our consciousness, due to our activities, which we carry with us. Everything we do, it sticks. It leaves remnants in the consciousness. So many remnants in our consciousness of hard-hearted behaviour, of selfishness and so on. Gradually one becomes hard and dull and cannot penetrate at all. The thicker the layer of sinful remnants is, the more we are blocked from entering the deeper experience. Therefore at the beginning, it’s just a tune.
Once we were sailing with some boats and we were going from the northern islands of Holland towards Denmark and there was very little wind. It was quite a large boat. Sixty people on each boat. There was no wind so we went on engine power and the water was quite calm so I thought, “What are we gonna do?” It was a thirty-hour journey and no wind so I thought, we will just have kirtan. So we had thirty hours of kirtan and then in the end of that we came into a sluice gate. It was a German one, a control tower. There were no people there. And after thirty hours you can imagine, the kirtan was rocking. It was, I mean, it was really, we were somewhere else, you know. So we’re just in the middle of this sluice gate and the mantra was echoing on all the walls. No people around. But suddenly, this voice came out of a loudspeaker, “Got any other tunes?” (laughing) So you know, it’s like that. It’s difficult to penetrate for the outsider. It just seems monotonous. To us, it’s fun and there are different moods and different mellows, different flavours. Sometimes, slow and meditative, sometimes joyful and exuberant and so many ways to express the natural feelings of the soul.
It is said that in this world, the soul is now in a sleeping state, a dormant state and it is the mind that has taken over the functions of the soul – thinking, feeling and willing. That thinking, feeling and willing goes on with the world around us and we’re trying to make something out of it. Like I heard, just as I came, Mr Rhodes who is the person that is being honoured in this place (Rhodes Memorial), was a business man in Cape Town and they put him as a Greek god on a horse here. That’s Mr Rhodes; romanticising reality; colouring it with the mind; thinking, feeling and willing, we add so much colour and so much hope that it’s gonna be wonderful.
Yes, it may be but also, it may not be because it’s matter. Matter is like that. Sometimes great, sometimes not so great. Like the Cape Town weather – changing. But spirit is different. So thinking, feeling and willing are functions of the soul which have been burrowed by the mind and now that thinking, feeling and willing has been awakened in kirtan. There is something joyful about kirtan. A taste is there which we maybe can’t quite grasp, but actually it is the joy of the soul, the depth of the soul, the meditation of the soul that is re-emerging and therefore once one gets that taste, we can go on for hours.