Today we are having non-stop twenty-four-hour global devotional singing (akhanda bhajan) by Sai devotees all over the world. This is being done not for the sake of one individual, one nation, or one community. It is for the welfare of humanity as a whole.
The bhajans that are sung permeate the ether in the form of sound waves and fill the entire atmosphere. Thereby, the whole environment gets purified. Breathing in this purified atmosphere, our hearts get purified. Reciting the Lord's name is a process of give and take. Singing the Lord's name should become an exercise in mutual sharing of joy and holiness. It should be remembered that the sounds we produce reverberate in the atmosphere. They remain permanently in the ether as waves and outlast the individual uttering the sounds.
Community bhajans should not be treated as a pasttime. When thousands of persons join in singing bhajans, they should be fully absorbed in the devotional process and the ecstasy of that experience. The singing should be vibrant and soulful, and not mechanical or drawling and uninspiring. It should combine feeling (bhava), melody (raga) and rhythm (tala). What delight can be experienced when all sing in chorus, with the same feeling, in the same tune, and to the same timing! When there is such unity, the Divine can be experienced.
Not all realize the potency and efficacy of reciting the Lord's name. The first requisite is purity of thought, word, and deed. The name that is uttered by the tongue should be meditated upon by the mind. What is uttered and dwelt upon should be hailed by clapping the hands. This threefold concentration on the Divine name --unity of mind, speech, and action-- purifies the heart and nourishes the feeling of devotion.
When chanting the Name is done in community singing, it should be in a form in which the entire group can participate easily. The tune, the rhythm, etc. should be such that all can follow the bhajan. If the lead singer takes up a song that is not familiar to others, the response from the group will be poor. There will be no enthusiasm or genuine participation. Their minds will be distracted. When all the devotees participate in the bhajan, the vibrations that are produced will generate joy and harmony.
Many who organize mass singing on special occasions are not aware what kind of bhajans that should be sung then. A person who has an individual style of his own may sing as he likes in private, but he is not suitable for community singing.
Some rules are to be observed in conducting community bhajans. Elaboration of a melody (alapana) may be done in individual singing (keerthana), but it is wholly out of place in community bhajans. Hence, in such bhajans, the accent should be entirely on the Name.
Embodiments of the pure Atma! Last November, on the 23rd, people from all parts of the world had assembled here to celebrate the Golden Jubilee, and office-bearers of the centers were here for the Second World Conference and other functions that took place. Later ,they expressed their desire to be allotted a date before the close of the Jubilee Year when they could celebrate the happy occasion in their own places. In order to overcome their disappointment, it was decided that, in all centers all over the world, singing the glory of God's name (namasamkirtan) would be held for a full twenty-four hours beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday (yesterday) and ending at 6:30 p.m. today.
Therefore, in 42 countries around the globe, more than 7,000 centers have enthusiastically taken up this pleasant assignment.
This has been named an akhanda bhajan, that is to say, devotional singing done without a break. But was it really an akhanda bhajan? It is begun at 6:30 on the evening of one day and closed at 6:30 on the evening of the next day. Can we call it 'unbroken' devotional singing? What is a period of 24 hours, when we consider the vastness of the universe and the eternity of time? It is just a wink, a minute part of the life of man on earth. By engaging yourselves in the recitation of the name of God for one single day, you claim to have done devotional singing "without a break!" Akhanda-bhajan must be as continuous as breathing itself if it is to deserve its name.
You must probe into the real significance of the singing of the name of God (samkirtan) in which you are engaged. Kirtan is "singing aloud the glory of God". Samkirtan is the process of singing that originates in the heart, not from the lips or tongue. It is the expression of the joyous thrill that wells up from the heart when the glory of God is remembered. It is the spontaneous manifestation of inner ecstasy. No attention is paid to the blame or praise that others may give. It does not seek the admiration or appreciation of the listeners. It is sung for one's own joy, one's own satisfaction, one's own delight. Only kirtan of this supreme type deserves the name samkirtan.
Singing this intense yearning for God and enjoying the experience of adoring Him helps to purify the atmosphere. Today, man is forced to breathe the air polluted by sounds that denote violence, hatred, cruelty, and wickedness. Therefore, he is fast losing the high attainments that are in store for him. The vibrations resulting from singing the glory of God can cleanse the atmosphere and render it pure, calm, and ennobling. It is with this high purpose in view that this program of global singing aloud the glory of God (samkirtan) was designed.
Again, akhanda bhajans means that it should not be just a twenty-four hour affair or even a seven-day affair; it must go on from birth to death, this contemplation of the Source and Goal of things. The procession to the cremation ground starts immediately on birth, and the beating of the heart is the drumbeat for the march toward that place. Some take a longer route, some reach quickly, but all are on the way. Therefore, bhajans has to start in childhood and has to continue. It must be the constant companion of man, his solace and strength. Don't postpone it to old age, for it is the essential food for the mind.
Take the name of the Lord and repeat it always. I was listening to the bhajans you did here yesterday and today. Your voices were low; they could scarcely be heard outside this hall. I know that in a certain institution where they decided to do akhanda bhajans, they had to hire a few persons at so much per hour so that their plan could succeed. Do bhajans with faith and enthusiasm. Let the whole city shake with the devotion you put into every Name that you sing. The Name promotes comradeship and establishes concord; it stills all storms and grants peace.