Would we do it in front of Srila Prabhupada?
By Janananda Gosvami
Kirtan Standards Committee – We want to come up with something that is practical, enthusing, long lasting, effective, uniting, and all the other positive adjectives you can think of. Especially however, we would like to have standards that would please Srila Prabhupada. After all at the end of the day what matters is: “Would we do it in front of Srila Prabhupada?”
As the representative of the KSC – Kirtan Standards Committee I am writing this brief letter We (KSC) don’t just want to be seen as “a group of men who keep minutes and waste hours”. We hope not! We are making serious attempts, in spite of the busy schedules of the members, to produce some published guidelines over the next year.
Our policy is to stick as closely as possible to Srila Prabhupada’s standards or his will and at the same time bear in mind the development of Kirtan in ISKCON over the years. There are certainly sensitive, and some say grey areas, where implementation of rules, or even suggestive guidelines are not applicable or representative of the overall mood and mission of Srila Prabhupada. We want to come up with something that is practical, enthusing, long lasting, effective, uniting, and all the other positive adjectives you can think of. Especially however, we would like to have standards that would please Srila Prabhupada. After all at the end of the day what matters is: “Would we do it in front of Srila Prabhupada?”
At this stage we would like to bring to the open forum certain aspects of concern which we are dealing with at present and request your input to come to a balanced and most satisfactory conclusion. Here are a few points to begin with. Any personal experiences with Srila Prabhupada on these points would be most appreciated. Not just sentiments.
1. It is common in ISKCON kirtan, both in the temple and outside, to use no end of musical instruments besides the mrdanga and karatals (including whompers). Probably the most common being the djembe and accordion. Saxophones, violins, other stringed instruments, tamboura etc., flutes, trumpets to name a few are also often to be seen. There is no end of the opportunity to introduce more.
We have seen Srila Prabhupada’s leniency in many cases – mostly early ones – and also his more restrictive advice on instrumentation in Kirtan. There is clearly a difference between certain standards in regards to Temple kirtan, bhajan and public (in the sense of street sankirtan, festivals, halls etc…). Naturally we are taking this into account.
2. There seems very little restriction or guidance in ISKCON today to the forms of dancing, particularly in front of the Deities. There is some scriptural evidence to indicate we should not turn our backs to the Deity at all during kirtan. Srila Prabhupada gave indicators on many occasions regarding dancing. An example might be dancing in circles or spinning etc. Is it okay and were these types of dancing allowed by Srila Prabhupada? Bear in mind that just because he allowed it, does not mean he therefore liked it or wanted it.
3. We sometimes hear that the Mrdanga has descended from Goloka Vrndavana to assist in the sankirtan (any references). What about the karatals? (any sastric references?) What about the other instruments we have become attached to playing? Yukta Vairagya?
Kirtan is the single most important item of devotional service, so it seems that some guidelines need to be in place. Guidelines or rules are there in most other areas of service. Japa, Deity worship, Temple programmes, cooking, book distribution, class giving, management, farming, schooling etc…..
“The Krsna consciousness movement is chiefly engaged in chanting the maha-mantra all over the world: Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu introduced the congregational chanting of the Hare Krsna mantra to give everyone a chance to hear Krsna’s holy name, for simply by hearing Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare, one becomes purified (ceto-darpana-marjanam [Cc. Antya 20.12 – Purport).