by Robert Phair

This Saturday, 11 May, I had the good fortune to be present at the first Dublin Krishna Temple bhajan class, which was suggested at our 2012 Ratha Yatra and has finally come to fruition.  Our temple community has a great number of amateur, enthusiastic and self-taught musicians but only a small number of those classically trained in the Vedic and Bengali styles of music, and our teacher Sanghamitra Sanyal is one of them.

One term she mentioned that I don’t hear often enough is Sanātana Dharma (eternal religious law), a more correct form of the popular & often misused term Hinduism.  To me this implies that there is always some proper thing I should be doing, instead of giving in to the pressures of society and the materialism of the world around me.

A primary goal of bhajan is to cleanse the mind, and like other purification techniques of Indian religious culture, that involves making an offering of the mind itself… like the food offerings in a Vedic sacrifice.  Our teacher also suggested bhajan is a contraction of bhajatam (rendering devotional service) and manas (mind).

She went on to say that the five asuras, forces like anger and envy which beset all of our minds like demons, are driven away by bhajan, which also can be compared to a protocol for re-connecting with the Supreme in something like our primeval state in which our material body is less predominant, providing a bridge to self-realisation.  A popular term appropriated by our teacher is that we are upgrading ourselves.

These philosophical ideas were woven tightly with our practical instruction, which began with the Bengali hymn Jaya Radha Madhava describing the pastimes of Lord Krishna on the holy ground of Vrindavan in the presence of His family, friends, and beloved associates.  We all went around the room by stages learning the correct wording, pronunciation and notes of the melody, then finished with a short and gentle kirtan session at the end.

The bhajan class will be beneficial for anyone interested in the music of our temple programmes such as our Sunday Feasts as well as visitors who are interested in a calm, respectful and gently paced introduction to the devotional music of Indian culture.

NOTE: This class is currently suspended until further notice.