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Krishna Das, on Singing, Looking Within, and Living Life

Source:Anjula Ram

In this video, Anjula Ram interviews Krishna Das, who kindly graces us with some authentic dialogue on a number of matters such as: what kirtan is, why he sings, the difference between gurus and teachers, transcending religion, the role of having a practice, and dealing with ourselves, others and what’s going on in the world.

Layering traditional kirtan with instantly accessible melodies and modern instrumentation, Krishna Das has been called yoga’s “rock star.” With a remarkably soulful voice that touches the deepest chord in even the most casual listener, Krishna Das has taken the call-and-response chanting out of yoga centers and into concert halls, becoming a worldwide icon and the best-selling western chant artist of all time. His album ‘Live Ananda’ (released January 2012) was nominated for a Grammy in the Best New Age album category.

For more info, please visit:

www.KrishnaDas.com

www.anjularam.com




Scientists Identify Rare Brain Disorder Linked to Kirtan Chanting

Brenda Patoine | thebhaktibeat.com | April 1 2014

Scientists have definitively identified, for the first time ever, a rare but rapidly increasing brain disorder affecting the frontal lobes, amygdala and hippocampus of people who regularly chant kirtan.

Publishing in Journal of Neuroscience and Non-Duality, lead author Baba Bhavakirtananda, a former saddhu who spent 20 years chanting the Maha Mantra nonstop in a cave near Braj, India, before accepting a research position at the University of Vrindavan, even coined a term for the condition: bhav brain.  Symptoms of bhav brain include markedly decreased attachment to one’s self-identity, blurring of the demarcation between “self” and others, disillusionment with materialistic gain, and reduced anxiety about what the future may bring.  In extreme cases, Bhavakirtananda said, bhav brain can produce symptoms that can mimic intoxication or drug use, including inexplicable elation, stumbling or aimless wandering, or general “spaciness.”

These symptoms, he said, explain why people who have been chanting for many hours — as is common at kirtan festivals — are sometimes described as “stoned on the bhav.”

The scientists reported that they had also identified a potent neurotransmitter that seems to be expressed in excessive quantities after prolonged chanting, which they have accordingly named bhavatonin. They found bhavatonin-specific receptors in the hippocampus, where the biochemical seemed to trigger a remembrance of one’s own divine nature, and in the amygdala, where it apparently tamped down fearful reactions and anxiety.

Long History in India, But New to the West

That’s no coincidence, says Bhavakirtananda.  He said he had long suspected there was a signature biological “fingerprint” associated with the syndrome, and was frustrated that no serious scientist had attempted to investigate it. So he took it upon himself, first investigating it in a pilot study at India’s legendary Kumbh Mela festival before traveling all the way to Southern California to study attendees at a 4-day festival where the chanting was virtually nonstop.  His team recruited 100 men and women ranging in age from 16 to 97 (median age 39), and conducted functional MRI scans before, during and after the festival.

[If you like this, you might also like “10 Signs You Might Be a Kirtan Addict”]

Prevalence is Rapidly Increasing

In the article, the authors noted that the prevalence of the condition — virtually unknown in the West until recent years — has been rapidly increasing in step with the growing popularity and “mainstreaming” of bhakti yoga, an obscure form of yoga from 15th century India that eschews the Western yoga world’s fixation on having a really great butt in favor of an emphasis on loving devotion and seva, or selfless service.

Reactions from the bhakti community have been mixed.  Kirtan musician Dave Stringananda said he was not surprised.  “I’ve been fascinated for years by how chanting might be affecting neurotransmitters like anandamine and serotonin, so the idea that there is a brain chemical called bhavatonin that is specifically ramped up by kirtan makes so much sense. I am elated.” Stringananda immmediately set to work incorporating the findings into a new workshop series.

Skepticism in the Bhajan Belt

In Woodstock, N.Y. in the heart of the Bhajan Belt, long-time kirtan wallah Sruti Ramananda dismissed the findings as overhyped hogwash. “Symptoms of a disorder?  Pshaw! Here in Woodstock, these kinds of behaviors are as common as peacocks in Vrindavan,” he said.  “If ‘bhav brain’  is a disease, then I’m a monkey-god’s uncle.”

The Bhakti Beat asked the members of the popular ensemble band The Hanumen, fresh off a regional tour that included stops at a prison and a psychiatric treatment facility, to comment on the research, but a spokesperson said the band was covered in mud on a beach somewhere and couldn’t be reached.

The Chant and Chill Foundation issued a statement praising the research as an important step forward in understanding what’s going on in the brain of a bhakta:  “This continues to be one of the deepest mysteries of the universe — just look at those Hanumen.  We are delighted to see that someone is finally putting some real effort into it.” The foundation plans to start a campaign encouraging hard-core bhaktas to donate their brains to research in hopes of advancing scientific knowledge about bhav brain.

Stay tuned to TheBhaktiBeat.com for more on this developing story. Because no one knows bhav brain like we do…