Love! How would you define it? Myriad textbooks, both academic and spiritual, have tried to pin down this elusive concept. However, the intellectual process always falls short when characterizing a concept that must be felt within each individual. Once you’ve experienced love inside of yourself, then it only makes sense to extend that love to others in your immediate path and beyond. For me, that feeling of love manifested itself through Bhakti Yoga, which involves the musical form, popularly known in the yoga community as Kirtan.
As a neophyte navigating the seas of the Bhakti movement, I felt it important to interview the notable Kirtan artist, Govindas, who has immersed himself in the devotional lifestyle of Bhakti Yoga and participated in its evolution in the West. Govindas and his graceful wife, Radha, who seems to embody the feminine life-force of Shakti with her extensive background in both dance and music, have produced and performed together on a number of Kirtan CDs. They are Co- Founders and Directors of Bhati Yoga Shala (BYS), a Kirtan Yoga studio in Santa Monica that subsists purely on donations. Bhakti Yoga Shala provides the space for LOVE to resonate into the community through a combination of yoga classes fused with Kirtan and performances by an array of local and traveling Kirtan artists, who come to share their devotional service through chanting.
After attending several Kirtan/concert events at BYS , I realized that I always felt “at home” there. Both the audience and BYS created an atmosphere of unconditional love and warmth. So, I was very curious about the philosophy behind Bhakti Yoga Shala and its creators Govindas and Radha.
ST: I understand the growing movement of Bhakti in the West has a far longer history than the Yoga of “force” (hatha). In fact, the path of devotion (bhakti) has its roots in the mystical ritualism of the ancient Vedas making it over four thousand years old. What is the modern Bhakti movement all about?
Govindas: The Bhakti movement of today is about love: love for ourselves, love for mother earth, love for each other and love for the divine. It is the practice of giving everything that we are into the ineffable vastness of that love. It is about making LOVE the central core and radiant energy within everything that we find ourselves doing; chanting, doing yoga asanas, preparing our food or making love with our beloved. My guru, Neem Karoli Baba was quoted as saying, “Love is the strongest medicine.” [Read more…]