Anyone who has heard the word "FIRE!" shouted knows the power of words - they can convey knowledge, information, and even abstract concepts. Stubbing a toe will result in an exclamation of "AH!" or "OW!" or some variant - and illuminates the connection between body, mind, heart and word. When remembering to get something at the store, we might repeat its name, or make a poem about the grocery list. Words are the means by which we consciously come to understand what we think, feel and believe - and remember to do what we must do.
Words can be used to strengthen mind, body and heart. When this is done, it is a practice of Kirtan Yoga. The word conveys narration, telling, speaking, enumerating, accounting for, recounting - a constructive use of words. When accompanied the process becomes known as Sankirtan. This accompaniment may be undertaken by others, or by the self playing a musical instrument, or by any other means. Including the echo of mind. And may not involve words at all.
Whether undertaken by words, music, rhythm or even silently, Sankirtan is a conversation, evolving from call and response to dialogue. This dialogue permits examination of the constructs of self and other: at times they seem one, at times they seem individual, but both are illusionary. What is being observed is the Sankirtan. Is a quartet one instrument playing? Or four? Or is it the combination of four instruments? Like fire does not exist in of itself, but is a state of matter produced by the heat resulting from combustion, self and other are also not accurate descriptions.
The words utilized are chosen carefully to permit examination. They take the form of single words, simple sentences, poems, or even complex stories similar to novels.
The practice of Sankirtan Yoga evolves so that even daily and mundane conversations become opportunities to meditate and understand. The difference between self and other is illusionary; the difference between others are also illusionary. The conversations we have every day are how we consciously come to understand what we think, feel and believe - and remember to do what we must do.
One of the most basic Kirtans focuses on identity: identifying the other, identifying the self. Who are you? Who are they? Who am I? Who are we, together? What difference is there between me and you? Between him and her? It and them?
Another of the basic Kirtans focuses on what has happened - and is happening, and will happen. Or where things have happened, happening and will happen. What have you done today? I am glad you're here. Let's have some tea! What difference is there between here and there, then and now?
Another focuses on the way things change and stay the same - the way you have changed, and stay the same, the way others have. Understanding permanence, and impermanence, illuminates the illusionary nature of both.
There are many forms of Kirtan. But one of the most advanced practices of Kirtan Yoga is honesty. Talking to anyone as honestly as you would yourself, talking to yourself as honestly as you would to others. Do you have the strength of mind, body and heart to be so honest? Discovering the nature of truth is itself illusory, we come to understand what is more important, permanent and universal than even truth: love. And by such love we gain the skills of continence to use words and conversations in our practice of Bhakti Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga. We learn to use words for Sacrifice, for Tarpana, for Veneration, for all our training.