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The Healing Power of Kirtan
by Carol Venable

Art by Sue MillerKirtan (keer-tahn) is a Sanskrit term for glorifying, and sankirtan is the word for congregational glorifying. An ecstatic musical call and response of names of God, it is a regular religious practice for Hindus, and perhaps most famously, for Hare Krishnas. But the principles of kirtan are far more universal than is commonly understood. Once you identify sankirtan as the high vibration of joy and goodwill that it is, you can see its appearance in cultures around the world, and you can support its global spread without misgivings, no matter what your own path may be.

We are profoundly affected, and often healed, by the vibrations of drums, shakers, didgeridoos, Tibetan bells and crystal bowls. Japanese scientist Masaru Emoto’s photos of ice crystals from water that was exposed to different types of music show the beautiful and profound effect that sound has on matter. The visible difference in a crystal of water that has been prayed over for an hour is astonishing.

In the yoga tradition, the call and response in bhajans and the use of mantras to alter awareness takes the use of sound to an even deeper and more profound level.

On the widely-accepted premise that all creation is vibration, it’s no great stretch to the understanding that sound vibration can access consciousness; what we hear affects us, and the sounds we make can affect the larger whole. The idea in kirtan is that the Sanskrit names of God are themselves of such a high vibration that chanting them raises the vibration of the chanter, and that group chanting actually brings us into harmony with the higher vibrations of the larger creation. Chanting and dancing often go together in these observances, because the feelings aroused are so joyous. Praise is scripturally well-established as the natural activity of spirit-souls who are in bliss.

This effect is also taking place in services like that of a gospel church with a mass choir, or even, more solemnly, in the times when congregants feel a trancelike oneness participating in a Catholic Mass. Improved consciousness or feelings of bliss may also be the effect in groups at a rock concert or a wild folk dance, but a limiting distinction begins to be made if the musical material only celebrates the temporal world and intends no connection to a larger Creation. The vibration of the words themselves in group chanting does matter – thus one does not get the same effect from chanting Coca-Cola as from chanting names of God. Kirtan devotees believe that the holy name is that by which the deity named is most immediately apprehended. The name of a deity, then, surpasses the level of symbol. The vibrations of its utterance are understood to be an actual form of the Absolute.

The Bible teaches that faith comes by hearing, again pointing to the effect of sacred utterance on the consciousness of the hearer. It is the ancient, traditionally potent sound vibrations that power great kirtans. If not the holy names of Devi or Shiva or Krishna, or of Jesus, (who can count all the forms and names of a limitless God/Goddess?) then the ancient holy names known to other cultures are those one uses to access Divinity. Or one might just chant the cosmic sound of the Om, which in Sanskrit basically means Yes in the very largest and most profound way. The spiritual sound vibrations we produce and share are a palpable connection with higher realms and a real bridge to a better world here.


The point of the activity is to align ourselves with everything that is Good. In these spiritual settings as we sing, or play our instruments, or even just wave our hands, sharing in harmony, we are expressing our own blessedness and goodwill in a manifest way – we are expressing wholeness, and that really does change things in and around us.

Regardless of path, people praising together is a cosmic vote for Goodness that really counts. Sharing our hearts through music and chanting is a healing and honorable spirituality.
It is a way of experiencing the Divine together and knowing true universal Peace.



- Carol Venable is part of a small mission in Blue Ridge , GA that supports ascension through music and the healing arts. She can be reached at




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