July 9, 2011

Kirtan hurts my inner child.

A call for Kirtan lovers to teach kirtan as a path, not just offer it as a performance to groove to.

Kirtan is worth knowing about & learning, not just monkey-imitating-dancing to.

“alalalalalallalalaallalala​alallalalalaallaalalallala​lalalalala (rock back and forth) repeat: alalalalalalalalalalalalal​alalalalalalalalalalalalal​ al (rock back and forth, smile pleasingly and pleased at oneself and others) repeat, close eyes, think about Divine Mother: lalalalalalalalalalalalala​llalalalalalalalalaalalala​lal (etc until you want to shoot yourself).”

To be clear, I love kirtan, to the infinitesimally amount that I know anything about it. It helps me loosen up and cheer up and the community is great.

Problem is, I and most other kirtan folk know next to nothing about it, never having been taught anything. To my mind it’s asking to cultural appropriation—like jumping in a sacred sweat lodge without any training or approval. No one knows what they’re singing, or meaning, they’re just grooving off the vibe. I’ve interviewed Krishna Das twice about this and, of course, he defends the practice of not teaching, but just charging tickets and inviting folks in and he says folks get a lot out of it. The wafting fumes of spiritual love n’light, however, give me a horrible hangover the next morning. I think those who love kirtan should bother to study it, and instruct others. I’d love to take a kirtan class.

I had the same problem with Buddhist ngondro, when we’re asked to recite sanskrit. At least we studied and knew what we were saying, and said it with some specific intent.

What’s kirtan, some of you may wonder? These will give you a feeling for it:

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