by Jennie Shillingford and Debra Trca

See the Divine in everything, when you practice bhakti, the yoga of devotion. Kirtan wallah Ode Howard created a magical afternoon of bhakti yoga, or devotional chanting to our gathering of some 46 people at the Net Loft on Sunday.

Ode focused on Kirtans from India, in particular those of Hindu and Sikh faiths. Kirtan is the Sanskrit word meaning to call, recite, praise, or glorify some form of divinity. Sanskrit has a strong energetic and vibrational component, and it is said when chanted creates a powerful vibration in the body affecting a person’s mind and spirit. Kirtan is considered one of the most powerful and enjoyable forms of meditation, because of the power of the sound which resonates through every cell of the body. Kirtans are chanted in a group which adds exponentially to the power, a bit similar to group prayer or group meditation.

These Sanskrit chants originated from the Vedas, the Hindu Bible, which dates back 6 to 8000 years ago. Sections of the Vedas are written in chant form.

Ode also told us that Kirtan is an essential part of the Sikh’s devotional practice. It’s believed that the mantras have the capacity to cleanse the mind of impurities, both physical and sensual. It can liberate one from the yoke of death, cast away disease, sorrow and suffering, and bring peace and bliss.

Ode believes in magic, miracles and God. He is a truth seeker who spoke to us of his travels and of how he came to kirtan. After many years of traveling and playing multiple instruments in numerous bands, he shared that rather than performing in front of an audience, he preferred the inclusivity of kirtan where the group is not separate from the musicians.

He highlighted how beneficial devotional chanting can be,  quoting the metaphysical author Ted Andrews, and the acclaimed ayurvedic expert Dr. David Frawley. He also said that unlike Western traditions where some of us are instructed not to sing, in kirtan we can all sing. It does not matter what level of musical skills we have, we all have voices which are also musical instruments.

Ode led us in three devotional chants ending the afternoon with the beautiful Loka Chant:

Loka Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.

Ode leads Kirtan on Gabriola, in Nanaimo, and elsewhere on Vancouver Island. For more information on Kirtan events you may contact Ode Howard.