There is a special mantra in the Kundalini Yoga tradition called the So Purkh which Yogi Bhajan specifically recommended be used by women. The mantra’s purpose is to elevate a man. Many women in the tradition use the So Purkh to “manifest the divine” in the men in their lives. A So Purkh sadhana is 11 recitations of the mantra every day for 40 days.
It’s important to realize that a mantra, or a sadhana of this sort, is in no way a guarantee to manifest a specific outcome. Rather, this type of sadhana is a way of putting energy behind an intention. And the So Purkh is an interesting and unique practice because it’s intended to benefit someone else, whereas a majority of the other meditations within the tradition are intended for the person practicing.
A good friend of mine once reminded me at a difficult time that we don’t do spiritual practice to manifest specific outcomes in our lives. In other words, it isn’t penance. It’s not as if, once we’ve meditated enough, we’ll get the right job or spouse or something like that – we’re not earning our success.
Spiritual practice is a commitment to a specific way of being in the world. It’s not a results-oriented practice in the way we often think of being goal-oriented in this culture. If there is a goal in spiritual practice, it’s to remain graceful in the most challenging circumstances, to remain peaceful in the midst of chaos, and to be a radiant light in places of shadow and darkness.
So Purkh is a beautiful and powerful mantra. To discover it for yourself, listen to the SoPurkh on YouTube. I also recommend “Ask the Yogini: So Purkh” by Ramdesh Kaur.
Kirtan is a devotional practice that includes call-and-response chanting of mantras set to music. It could also be defined as prayer or meditation in the form of the names of the divine. The musical aspect of kirtan is slightly different from “singing” in the sense that the goal is not to be on key so much as it is to participate in the group sacred energy.
Kirtan is very much a participatory experience. One goes to kirtan not just to be an audience member, but to take part in the creation of sacred space through raising one’s voice (don’t worry, no one’s listening). The purpose is to create a sacred sound vibration, and to be immersed in the experience, to be moved (sometimes literally, as you will see in the video clips). As discussed in Meditation and the Monkey Mind, a mantra can be a helpful focal point – a place to return to over and over when distracted by stray thoughts.
If you’ve ever been to a great concert, you’ve probably experienced how the music can take you somewhere, outside of yourself. Kirtan combines this musical experience with the meditation/mantra experience. Meditation has an impact on your brain waves; it changes your brain chemistry. The easiest way to understand that change is to experience it.
Check out these popular Kirtan artists in concert on YouTube (3 very different styles):
Now that you’ve had an introduction to kirtan at home, come experience live kirtan with The Sacred Waters Kirtan Group at Unity Church in South Bend on Friday, March 23, at 7pm.
In the Kundalini Yoga tradition there is a special all-day meditation experience called “White Tantric Yoga.” (WTY) It’s a partner meditation where hundreds of pairs sit facing each other in rows. The day consists of a series of meditations of varying lengths, generally 62 minutes or less, with breaks in between. WTY is designed to release blocks in the subconscious. The meditations typically include hand/body positions (mudra), eye focus, and sacred sound (mantra). In between the meditations, video clips of Yoga Bhajan, the Master of Kundalini Yoga, are shown in which he discusses the purpose and benefits of each meditation in that day’s program.
It’s probably worth mentioning here that WTY is not a sexual practice. The word tantra has become almost synonymous with sex, but it’s important to realize there are different types of tantra, not all of them sexual. While the meditation is done with a partner, it need not be someone you are romantically involved with, or even someone you know. Many people just show up at WTY and see who else shows up that they’d like to partner with for the day.
In my first WTY experience, the element that struck me most was the eye gazing. Many of the meditations were performed with the eyes open, looking directly into the partner’s eyes for 30-60 minutes at a stretch. It was a completely new experience for me. I’d never sustained that kind of eye contact before, even in my long-term romantic relationships – and my partner for the day was a complete stranger I’d met when I arrived at the workshop! At first, I found it uncomfortable, then I started to notice changes. I found I could see aspects of myself reflected in the other person, and I found that, in time, I was looking through that person, rather than at her.
So far in my Kundalini practice, I’ve completed 10 days of WTY. Every experience is different. Sometimes the day is intensely physical; sometimes it’s intensely emotional. Sometimes I wished it wouldn’t end, and other times I was ready to run out the door 2 minutes after we started (but I didn’t). That often depends on whatever I’m working through at the time, and whatever is triggered by the meditations in that day’s program.
WTY is a fantastic opportunity to move through blocks in your life. It’s offered in major cities in the United States and around the world. Chicago’s WTY is Saturday, April 21, 2012.