“We will be chanting a garland of namasankirtanas,” Meera announced. An “Oooooh!” spread throughout the hall as participants expressed their delight. Meera shared that we would be chanting Kali Durge Namo Namah, Shri Krishna Neela Krishna, Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho, and Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya in the Bhakti raga.
Gurumayi invited Meera to explain that the children had chosen the chants. Meera told us that Gurumayi had asked that the children be invited to choose their favorite namasankirtanas for today’s garland.
Meera said, “The children couldn’t decide which was their favorite chant. They loved them all. So we had to narrow it down to just four favorites.”
I completely understood why the children would have so many favorite chants. Each Siddha Yoga namasankirtana is unique; each one extols particular aspects of the Divine. Each raga has its own rasa and evokes particular qualities. Some namasankirtanas are tender, sweet, and playful. Others are grand, triumphant, even majestic. Still others are deep and tranquil.
The beauty of chanting a garland of namasankirtanas is that in one sitting, participants can experience many flavors of this devotional practice. It’s like the divine virtues Gurumayi has given us for Birthday Bliss: just as each virtue provides a different means to access and act from the bliss of the Self, each namasankirtana draws us in distinct ways back to the source of our being.
There is a teaching by the fourteenth-century Maharashtrian poet-saint Namdev that precisely describes the power of namasankirtana, of chanting the divine name. In one of his bhajans, Shri Namdev says:
The divine name is the abode of divine Consciousness.1
All ragas and rasas of Siddha Yoga namasankirtanas, all the names of God that we hail when we chant guide us to the space of the one divine Consciousness within.
It is because of Gurumayi’s immense compassion—and her prolific composition and refinement of Siddha Yoga music over the last three decades—that we have so many ways to tap into this experience.
Having offered seva in the Music Department on previous visits to Shree Muktananda Ashram, I was invited to sit alongside and support the music ensemble during this satsang. In the moments before the chanting began, I fixed my attention on the music conductor, Krishna Haddad, awaiting his cue. I relaxed my shoulders and allowed my spine to lengthen. I brought my awareness to my breath. A stillness settled over the hall.
We then moved into the bright and tender melody of Shri Krishna Neela Krishna
in the Tilang raga
. Gurumayi composed this chant about bala Krishna—the beloved baby Krishna—especially for children.
I looked over at the children in Shri Nilaya and smiled. Many of them were swaying to the music. The drum quickened its pace, and the conductor led us in chanting at different volumes: first in a soft lullaby, and later in an exuberant crescendo. There was a kind of spirited sweetness in the air—a joyfulness. The more we chanted, the more I experienced this joyfulness growing within me.
The third namasankirtana in our garland was Jaya Jaya Shiva Shambho, in which we praised Lord Shiva, our own Self and the Self of all. We shifted to a slower tempo, and lower, deeper notes sounded from the instruments. As we chanted with Gurumayi, the statue of Lord Shiva on the Silent Path in Shree Muktananda Ashram came to my mind. The Lord, as depicted in this murti, is seated upright in a yogic posture; he is steady as a mountain and his gaze is drawn inward. As I chanted “Jaya jaya shiva shambho, mahadeva shambho,” I experienced the Great Lord’s absolute stillness, strength, and meditative quality.
I am a musician by profession, and it was my love for Siddha Yoga music that motivated me to pursue this career. What makes Siddha Yoga music unique, however, and what makes it so powerful is its effect on the mind and heart. As I chanted with my beloved Gurumayi, the thoughts in my mind gradually quieted. My heart became more and more open. My whole being rested on a gentle and palpable loving vibration. I felt as if the sounds of the chant were uniting my heart with the heart of my sweet Guru.
The final namasankirtana
was Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya
, in a melody composed by Gurumayi in the Bhakti raga
. This chant felt like a homecoming.
After chanting in praise of so many different manifestations of God—Mahakali, Mahadurga, Shri Krishna, Lord Shiva—we were hailing the Siddha Yoga lineage. The experience of devotion to the Guru had been growing within me from chant to chant, and now, as I chanted in the Bhakti raga
of devotion—I gave full voice to it.
As the tempo of this chant increased, Gurumayi directed participants on one side of Shri Nilaya to sing Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya, and those on the other side to sing Om Namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya. It was an ecstatic acknowledgment of the suggestion Tejas had made earlier in the satsang. Soon everyone in the hall was on their feet, the tambourines jingled, and we chanted a euphoric “Bhagavate! Bhagavate! Bhagavate!” We remained standing as the harmonium transitioned into the melody of the arati Jyota se Jyota Jagao.
As soon as the arati came to a conclusion, Tejas spontaneously started singing to Gurumayi “Happy Birthday to you,” and we immediately joined in. Then Tejas began singing the second verse: “May God bless you!” And again, we joined him.
“That’s very sweet, Tejas,” Gurumayi said, once we had finished singing. “Thank you. Now I know how to celebrate my birthday.”
We all laughed and applauded. Meera thanked Gurumayi for the glorious garland of namasankirtanas—and especially for leading us in chanting Om Namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya as a surprise at the end. Meera then thanked Tejas for making this suggestion earlier on in the satsang.
“Tell the full story,” Gurumayi said, smiling.
Meera explained. “The children were polled, as I mentioned. We asked them what chants were their favorite chants. The children chose so many chants, we would have been chanting all day! When Tejas was asked, he said he likes Om Namo Bhagavate Nityanandaya, Om Namo Bhagavate Muktanandaya, and Om Namo Bhagavate Chidvilasanandaya.”
“He still sang Om Namo Bhagavate Chidvilasanandaya,” Gurumayi said. “Krishna heard him.”
Krishna said, “I did hear, as we were singing, that Tejas was chanting Om Namo Bhagavate Chidvilasanandaya.”
“It’s true!” Tejas exclaimed.
“Tejas said he wanted to include everybody,” Krishna explained. “All the Siddha Yoga Gurus.” Gurumayi gave Tejas the most heart-melting smile. There was a chorus of “Awww” around the hall. I felt that all our hearts, which were already so tender and open from chanting, had become one great ocean of love! I recalled the experience I’d just had while singing the arati with Gurumayi, to Gurumayi. As I gazed at Gurumayi, and sang the words that mean “Light my lamp from your lamp, O Sadguru,” a prayer arose in my heart: “May every song I sing be an offering to my Beloved. May every note be an expression of gratitude for the life-transforming gifts I have received from my Shri Gurumayi.”
Click here to read Part V