Wednesday, June 20, 2012

24 Hour Kirtan Event in West Virginia

The following was written by RadhaGovinda dasi.
Her family hosted our visit to Panama last winter.
She attended the 24 hour kirtan in New Vrndavan, West Virginia last week and took the time to write of her experience. I think you'll enjoy it,especially if you go to this link
and play number 07 Madhava while reading.

"Using our 14th Wedding Anniversary as an excuse, we traveled to New Vrindavan for the Annual 24 hour kirtan. Before even setting out we were tested as Prahlad vomited throughout the night and 4:30 in the morning we had to take him to the hospital. I'm always nervous about anything that involves being on time, a trait inherited from my Dad. We had to reach at the airport for 7 so I was in complete anxiety for both things. 
We did make it but I left with a very heavy heart. Sometimes I feel selfish that I leave them for attending kirtans but I convince my myself that they are taken care of so nicely  by my mother in law and Yolie. Prahlad was so cute that morning showing total dependence on us. My heart was melting and I got a realization. "Just like when a child becomes totally dependent on the parents their hearts melt, so if we become totally dependent on Lord Krishna his heart will melt for us!"
My heart was divided, wanting to be in the kirtan and longing to be with Prahlad. 
I'm now in the airplane flying towards Pittsburg. From the window below me are majestic mountains and untouched lands surrounding. Every minute passed I feel closer to attending the kirtan and somehow I'm thinking about just seeing everyone's smiling faces and feeling inspired. I feel as if I'm a part of a big happening. In my rush in the morning after returning from the hospital I forgot to take blessings from Lord Jagannatha. I mentally bow to him and beg him to let me get totally absorbed and take full advantage of the kirtan. 
11.00- Arriving at the temple we felt the mood saturated with happiness and we immediately snapped into it. I was not eager for meeting people as I felt that I didn't come for socializing but to try to get the full benefit of the kirtan. I reasoned that we spent so much money, left the kids, left the shop and came so better to take full advantage of what we went for. So when I saw some devotees taking a Mauna Vrata (vow of silence) I understood that I was not the only one thinking about full advantage. I didn't take a Mauna Vrata though as I didn't feel ready. 
Opening the kirtan is Madhava Prabhu. Just hearing the first chords of the harmonium I knew this was going to be special. The temple room is packed and I feel like an outsider, like a sinner not deserving enough to be among everyone. He is singing. Each devotee's expression is unique as I look at them I feel inspired to get into the mood like them and try to experience a drop of what they're feeling. A mother and daughter is hugging and singing. I see kids maybe as young as 4 chanting, I see old ladies pouring out their hearts chanting, I see from the highest rank devotee to the lowest (me) chanting. I close my eyes and try to feel Krishna's presence. I feel like a pretender but slowly I feel myself getting purified. The mrdanga beat and my heart beat becomes one. The kirtan starts off with a sense of yearning or longing then it builds up and the feeling of achieving comes, as if Krishna is going to appear any moment, and ends with a sense of yearning and longing again. My whole body and senses has become very alert and I'm aware of everything around me ... The touch of the kartals, each mrdanga beat, each chord strummed in the guitar, each note played on the harmonium and I'm totally absorbed in trying to think of Krishna. Then the unexpected happens to me, I start crying. I start missing Krishna, feeling as if I know him and want to be with him. I understand this has to be the devotees mercy around me because for myself I'm a hard hearted being and this is only because of the devotion surrounding me. I feel grateful for this experience and vowed to keep it etched in my mind for a long time. 

12:00 Kirtan by Bada Haridas Prabhu, 

His voice has a kind of melancholy sweetness, its simple but makes you feel as if you're floating in the sky. I look at his face when he sings and every one of his wrinkles join together and create a blissful face. He's also climbing the ladder gradually of longing, achieving and again longing. I entered the temple room more conscious about people around and feeling myself full of ego. However by his chanting I feel myself getting cleaner. I'm now focused of what's going on inside of me and I'm trying to savor every moment holding on to it. I don't want to be surrounded by goodness and get influenced by my spaced out mind. I'm surrounded by the best musicians, the best singers, the gorgeous deities, the beautiful ladies and the kids and my mind is battling to let it all enter at once. Prabhu has reached its peak in the kirtan  and the heights is a kind of un-explainable phenomena. Everyone is calling out to Krishna in loud voices and I'm thinking today has to expand himself to hear each one of his devotee's cries.

 3:00 - Heavy lunch so my mind is struggling to get into the mood again. Jagannatha Kirtan is singing one of my favorite tunes. I look at the devotees faces and try to catch some drops of influence from them. I realize I am so fallen and I feel myself getting purified just by being around everyone. Since the crowd is getting less (lunch) I gather my courage and put myself closer to the inner circle. I don't know if its a natural division but in the inner circle is sitting all the best musicians with their wives or girlfriends, the second circle one after that comes people who know them and aspire to get in the inner circle, the 3rd is the people who want to get as close as possible and the 4th are the Indian ladies and kids. I sat at the 4th as I didn't feel pushy now just for the moment :-) and seeing how expert the devotee musicians are I feel like an insignificant fly kirtaniya. So I backed out humble as I am... LOL.
You can listen to the entire 24 hours of kirtan at this site;

4:00 Kishori Yatra - 
Young kids have that attractive innocence and their combined singing sounds beautiful. I can see some are nervous to get in front of the microphone but they are being encouraged. I can see that this is Iskcon's future for sure. The mother's are all very proud seeing their kids singing and especially one Mom is almost flipping out in bliss seeing her daughter sing. 

4:30 - 
I did get a bit pushy so I asked if I could do some back up singing. I don't know what it is but being closer to the kirtan just feels right. As a kirtan leader I don't feel part of the whole thing if I'm not directly doing something. Alright so some devotees are doing japa ! I'm wondering if they're not sure if we're all singing Krishna's names. It shouldn't be bugging me but it is :-). I'm surrounded by loud kirtan but sleep is overcoming me. I'm looking at a mother putting her baby to sleep on her lap and I'm wishing that was me. I shake my body and try to focus.

6:30 Gaura Mani. 
She is one of my favorites. Her kirtan is like the rain falling and soaking us in bliss. When she sings, only beautiful thoughts can come to mind. She starts like the gradual opening of a lotus. Each petal is delicately opened and getting ready to offer to the Lord. Finally the summit when the lotus is ready to offer she blows our mind with Hare Krsna Kolaveri style. Super cool! I throw away my umbrella of false ego and feel the sky open and I get totally soaked by mercy. 

Kirtan classical style. The back up singer voice is out of this world! Each note she sings is nothing less than perfect. 

8:00 : Radhanatha Maharaj.
The temple room is jam packed and Maharaj floats his way through the crowd. He's singing a very mellow tune and the response is roaring. There's a group of devotees in black (Men in Black) obviously all Maharaj's disciples are all joined in hand in hand and dancing. Somehow the Indian crowd is going mad by Maharaj's singing. The ladies are dancing gracefully and with lots of devotion. After some time Maharaj encourages everyone to get up to dance so we're all shoulder to shoulder sweating and dancing. The atmosphere is full of energy and then he sings "Hare Hare" "Radhe Radhe" to which the crowd goes loco. Everyone abandons all reservations and starts shouting. Then I get carried away by the waves and I'm shouting, screaming, jumping. I'm feeling full of life and I'm giving myself fully to experience every moment. Maharaj has raised the kirtan to another level. There are 500 hundred people shouting and I'm trying to hear myself shouting so I'm really shouting Radhe Radhe and then obviously my voice gets sore. 

9:00 - Agnideva Das
I always marvel at his effortless singing. His voice sounds same on c.d and same in live. 

10:00- Gaura Vani 
His each and every note is faultless and after the jamming kirtan of Radhanatha M Gaura vani is doing it sweet and tranquil. 

11:00- Vish and Vrinda
Vish is  my favorite all time singer. I feel that he has perfected like we hear the description of the spiritual world of every word being a song. He's already there. His mood is always correct and one cannot help but appreciate the beautiful couple they make. Every time I see them I feel like blessing them to remain together forever! 

12:00 - Slept till 3.

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