Different Types of Chanting

QUESTION: I have a few questions that are important to me. It would be very kind of you to speak to them.

Of the sādhanāga

№ 32 is gīta, singing songs about Krishna

№ 33 is sakīrtana, “nāma-līlā-guādīnāmuccair-bhāā tu kīrtanam”

№ 34 is japa, “mantrasya sulaghūccāro japa ity abhidhīyate”

And a little later…

№ 45 is smti – yathā katha cin-manasā sambandha smritir ucyate

№ 46 is dhyāna - dhyānam rūpa-gua-krīdā-sevāde suṣṭhu cintanam

My questions are:

What is the difference between gītā (32) and sakīrtan (33)? Is it that sakīrtan need not have a musical element?

ANSWER: Usually sankirtan involves three things: musical instruments, loud singing and many devotees. This distinguishes it both from gītā and japa. But, sometimes the words have been used interchangeably in the slokas

Murti of Haridāsa Ṭhākura  in Bangladesh

Nāmācārya Haridāsa Ṭhākura

QUESTION: If this is the case, is nāma-japa actually nāma-sakīrtan? (I noticed that in Caitanya-caritāmta, Haridās Ṭhākur refers to his counted nāma-japa as his nāma-sakīrtana).

ANSWER: If nāma is chanted loudly then it has one of the above characteristics of kīrtan. Yet, in the true sense of the word it is not nāma-sakīrtana. That is why I say that sometimes the words are used as synonyms.

QUESTION: I noted that in Bhakti-rasāmta Sindhu 1.2.231, 242 a musical element is clearly noted for nāma-sakīrtan, but the other references in BRS show sakīrtan without musical elements.

ANSWER: Remember the three basic components of sakīrtan may not always be present or mentioned. A word may take on nuances of meaning over time and usage. Although sakīrtana has the above components, it is also used just for saying something vocally or explicitly. In Nyāya books the word sakīrtana has been used just for the enumeration of topic. Similarly, the word bhajan originally meant to do seva, but now it is commonly used for doing japa or singing devotional songs. So we have to see the context and then give the meaning.

QUESTION: The difference between sakīrtan (33) and japa (34) at first seems to be that the former is loud (“uccair-bhāā”) and the later is very soft (“sulaghūccāram”), but another difference seems to be that sakīrtan is done for nāma-līlā-gua, while japa is of a mantra. The example given (verse 150) is the mantra kṛṣṇāya nama.” 

This seems to confirm that nāma-bhajana on beads is nāma-sakīrtan, while recitation of mantra (“klī kṛṣṇāya svāhā” etc) is japa. Is this correct?

ANSWER: Nāma-bhajan on beads is nāma-japa and not nāma-sakīrtana unless one sings it loudly. It may be that Haridāsa Ṭhākura was actually singing.

QUESTION: If this is correct, does this mean that nāma-bhajana on beads should be ucchair-bhāā?

ANSWER: Japa has three divisions: mānasika (in the mind), uśu (chanting very softly), and vācika (audible). Bhakti-rasāmta Sindhu mentions the second one, uśu.

Sadhu in Vrindavan 1992When japa is done in the mind, it falls into the category of smaraa. When it is done loudly, it may fall into the category of sakīrtana, and there, in the definition of japa, only the second type has been included (uśu or sulaghūccāram). Hari-bhakti Vilāsa mentions all three. If japa is mānasika it comes under the category of smaraa. Thus, sometimes the word nāma-smaraa is also used for nāma-japa.

QUESTION: Also, I wonder why rūpa-sakīrtan was left out from the definition of number 33?

ANSWER: In Bhakti Sandarbha Śrī Jīva Gosvāmī includes it. It was probably left out because the others are more commonly practiced.

QUESTION: The difference between 45 (smti) and 46 (dhyāna) seems clear – the first is “katham” (“somehow remembering”), and the second is suṣṭhu cintanam (“deeply contemplating”). But, what perplexes me is that I had considered japa a method of smara(aka dhyāna), yet the definition of № 46 (dhyāna) conspicuously leaves out nāma from the list of subjects (“rūpa-gua-krīdā-sevāde”), while BRS 1.2.177 explicitly notes nāma in relation to smti (№ 45). So, what aga is chanting on beads? 

ANSWER: If it is manasika japa, it is smaraa

QUESTION: Why didn’t Śrī Rūpa mention the Hare Krishna mantra, but instead a regular mantra with a verb (nama)

ANSWER: He is giving an example of mantra-japa. He could also have given an example of ma-japa. 

Sri Vinod Bihari Gosvami

Sri Vinod Bihari Gosvami

QUESTION: Is it dhyāna/smaraa? If so, I am happy because I have been treating it like that, but confused because it would then not be one of the five special agas (so why should I spend so much time and effort on it?), and I wouldn’t know why Śrī Rūpa would neglect to include “nāma” in his list of topics of dhyāna. 

ANSWER: I think that Rūpa Gosvāmī includes both nāma-japa and nāma-sakīrtana under the heading of nāma-sakīrtana (63). This is clear from the five verses he cites from 1.2.230-234. First two seems to refer to kīrtana, third to japa, and the last two to both.

So, as long as you do nāma-seva either by japa or by kīrtana you are following one of the five important agas.

 

 

Comments ( 4 )
  1. Vāyu.

    It seems we tend to conceive the bhaktyaṅgas as rigid extensions or compartments of the ocean of nectar. But, in fact, we can flow harmoniously and even simultaneously through some of them and thus achieve states of extreme spiritual sensivity. For example, we can go from japa (34) to gīta (32) and then to kīrtana (33); or from japa (34) to smṛti (45) and then to dhyāna (46). Is it a correct view?

    • Babaji Post author

      In bhakti, some rigid guidelines are given for a sadhaka, otherwise a neophyte would be just lost and not able to decide where to begin. Yet, ultimately there is no rigidity in all the angas. Just as japa, kirtana, dhyana, etc. are complete in themselves. They can all be followed independently or in combination with other limbs.

  2. Stoka Krsna Das

    Would there be any chronology within Vacaika, manasika and upamasu or can one take up the practice of Naam Seva in any of these three manners in which one is comfortable to pay undivided attention?

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