To progress in devotion, we must practice it daily. Spiritual progress does not come merely by doing devotion only on special occasions. We must make habit of daily practice of bhakti. This regular practice will gradually and systematically increase the attachment of our mind towards God.
During the time you have set aside for sadhana, you can engage in deity worship, meditation, singing keertans or hearing discourses. Of all the different kinds of practices, engaging in keertans is particularly important. Chanting, hearing and remembering the names, forms, virtues, abodes, and leelas (pastimes) of God is the simplest and most powerful form of devotion in Kaliyug and keertan is the combination of all three of these activities and hence it is also called Tridha bhakti, or three-fold devotion. Engaging in this three-fold devotion cleanses the heart and extinguishes the blazing fire of material existence. It is because of its power that people engage in devotion day and night and experience the bliss of God. This form of devotion is extremely sweet because it helps us to easily attach our mind to God. We can chant the names of God, sing His glories, contemplate on His beautiful form for hours and hours.
Tridha bhakti involves three activities:
1. Chanting the names, and descriptions of the forms, virtues, pastimes, and prayers to the Lord in melodious tunes.
2. Listening to the chantings.
3. Thinking deeply about what you are chanting, and feeling the presence of God in his Holy name.
The glories of keertans are also mentioned in the Scriptures:
This verse from the Shreemad Bhagavatam states that Kaliyug, the present era, is an ocean of faults – people have disturbed minds, unsound health, they live in polluted environment, and face disturbing situations. However, there is one very great virtue in Kaliyug. By lovingly chanting the melodious keertans of the Lord, one can easily get liberated from the material bondage.
If someone was to ask you to sit and contemplate on Radha Krishna, you would probably be at a loss regarding what to think. But the sweet bhajans and keertans written by the Saints describe the divine names, forms, virtues, pastimes and abodes of God. When we sing them, the mind naturally dwells upon their meaning. The bhajans and keertans become aids to contemplation and meditation. If you would like to bring divine thoughts to your mind, keertan is the simplest and greatest way of doing that. Therefore, keertans are an extremely powerful way of remembering God.
As one engages in this three-fold devotion, there is however an important point to keep in mind. The heart and soul of keertan lies in the involvement of the mind in devotion. In the material world unfortunately, external behaviour takes precedence. We say many things, but we hardly feel them from within. But this behaviour does not work in the spiritual realm. God takes note of each and every single thought in the mind; hence deception does not work here. God says, “I will only consider the feelings in your mind”. Hence, you may think you are engaging in chanting and hearing really well, but actually you may be practicing devotion merely with your material senses. You may be hearing the Guru’s lectures with your ears and reciting prayers with your lips, but your mind could be wandering elsewhere. There is no benefit of engaging in such devotion.
So when you engage in keertan, you must be genuinely engaged in the remembrance of God. This remembrance becomes possible when we meditate upon the form of God. Jagadguru Shree Kripaluji Maharaj calls this as Roopdhyan.
All the means of sadhana are like the body, while Roopdhyan (meditation on the divine form of God) is the life-air. As a body without life-air is eaten by dogs and vultures, similarly sadhana without roopdhyan is eaten by lust, greed, etc.
Along with Roopdhyan we can also chant divine names, virtues, pastimes, abodes, of God, and sing keertans that will be helpful in the remembrance of God. So if you wish to progress strongly on your spiritual path, make keertans a part of your daily sadhana routine and experience the sweet bliss of devotion.