On Saturday I joined in the annual celebration of Sri Chaitanya’s birth. Known as Gaura Purnima, it marks a momentous day for all practitioners of kirtan and bhakti yoga. Chaitanya may have only been personally present more than 500 years ago in India, but his legacy is vibrant and pulsing with the same energy today. He protested against priests who wanted to keep the chanting of sacred names of God as an exclusive practice within the temple, and brought sacred song to the streets. This caused uproar at the time, but the power of his actions soon overwhelmed any protestors and much of Eastern India, as well as pockets of the West and South fell in love with the practice of kirtan. In this way, different classes, castes and genders were united. My friend Gaura often calls him one of the first non violent social reformists. In honour of his birthday, we paraded down Oxford Street, chanting and dancing, waving flags and handing out sweets. It was all quite jolly. Kirtan continued late into the night, and the next day too.
Yesterday I visited Oxford with my dad for another kirtan with the lovely group there, organised by Keshava. It’s always a treat, and yesterday was no exception. Sun streamed in the windows and we were blessed to have a group of enthusiastic singers, including many who had never attended a kirtan before. One girl came all the way from Manchester just to find out what it was all about! They hold events every month – the next on the 19th April. Please come along if you can – and come early to explore Oxford – it’s a fantastic place. It feels like breathing there makes you more intelligent!
More to come: this coming weekend my dad and I will lead a kirtan retreat in Ireland. It’s happening at a place called Inisrath – a beautiful Victorian house on an island near Co. Fermanagh. There are still a few places left if you feel like booking a last minute ticket. It’s sure to be a great event, run by the Lake Isle retreat team who are well seasoned in offering delicious organic food, alternative therapies as well as spiritual philosophy.
Coming up in London is our next kirtan at Yogabase in Islington on 2nd April. I’ll be there with some wonderful friends and guest singers from 6.30pm onwards. Our recent dates there have been truly enlivening, so if you can make it, please join us.