As commonly understood, Kirtan, devotional music, simply means singing the hymns of the Saints, There is a power of attraction even in the outer melody, and concentration and refinement of one's feelings may be secured by listening to it. There are two powerful forces which attract living beings: beauty and melody. Of the two, melody has the greater power of attraction and influences the mind to a greater extent.
The deer, for instance, which can outrun a horse and is hard to catch, is attracted by melody and is then easily caught. When the hunter plays music in the forest, the deer is attracted by its notes and conies to rest its head on the musical instrument and is thus caught. The influence of music on serpents and birds is a matter of common experience. The snake-charmer, for example, plays on his flute (made of gourd) and the serpent, forgetting for a moment its venomous nature, submits tamely to the piper. The influence of melody on man is far greater. Music certainly has a powerful effect on the mind but it cannot take us into the higher spiritual worlds.
Saints and Gurus say that the Shabd, the Divine Sound is resounding constantly inside everyone of us and that contact with it brings deliverance to the soul. This melody has been described as Akhand Kirtan, ceaseless music in the Adi Granth, the holy Sikh scripture.
The way to the Light in the Iron Age and to full freedom from the prison of egotism lies in the Shabd, oh Sage!
In the Iron Age Regard the Name as supreme worship, and the essence of all devotion for the soul's inward progress. To gain the glory of the Name, seek the Master's counsel, and remain firm in your faith in Him.
Kanar Var M4, Shalok 1314
The Gurus regard Naam, the Name of God, the Word or the Shabd, as the only way to the Lord. Naam or true Kirtan, devotional music, is within us; the Name is omnipresent. The divine melody of Naam can be heard in the region of the forehead.
The melody plays at your door, in the region of the forehead, beyond the bounds of the three gunas (attributes).
Kabir, Ramkali 970-1
No spiritual practice other than that of Naam or the Shabd, Divine Sound is advised in this Iron Age. Of all the practices, rites and observances, Naam is the most fruitful and the most suitable in this Age; no other practice is so effective or worth-while.
This is the essence of the wisdom of the Four Ages; celibacy, self-control and pilgrimages were good for Three Ages; Naam is the only proper means for the Iron Age.
Bilawal M3, 797-18
Now is the time of the Iron Age, the time in which it is right and proper to sow the seed of the Name; to sow any other seed in this Age, is labour lost and utter waste.
Asa M4, 446-3
The practice of Naam and the ability to listen to its music may be learned only from perfect Saints and holy men by their Grace.
The Lord's Kirtan is a secret of the Saints. Believe in the word of the Master, and He will reveal it to you.
Kalyan M4, 1326-14
The Gurus say that only those who find a perfect Master can practise Naam, and can gain contact with it by implicit faith. It is only a true devotee who can do this.
Fortunate is he who finds a Satguru, for he will always hear the Music within.
Vadhans Var M4, 592-8
Unless one meets a perfect Master and dies while living by rising above the nine doors of the body, he does not obtain release, and he does not really hear the true Kirtan.
Gurus say that only the Naam or Kirtan within is true Kirtan, and not choral singing in places of worship.
Dancing and singing to instruments is a vain attempt to tame the mind; the mind is blind and deaf to this mimicry. The fire of worldly attachment burns within, and the wind of doubt blows constantly; 'tis hard to light the lamp of right understanding.
Rag Asa M3, 364-14
We have sung His praises for many ages in songs that please the ear and move the heart, but uninspired by Naam, it is all delusion.
Rag Asa M1, 414-15
Just as a magnet attracts iron, similarly the melody of Naam, which emanates from the Lord, attracts the soul to His feet. The mind is fond of pleasures and nothing in this world can make it remain still. It leads everybody in the world to dance to its tune. There is only one way to still the mind, and that is by listening to the inner music of Naam, or the Shabd. Whoever has stilled the mind has done so by this method, the various benefits of which are described in the writings of the Gurus.
All the defects of the senses are removed by this practice; enmities end; lust, anger, attachment, greed and pride are banished; the soul, which for ages has been sleeping the slumber of worldly attachment and Maya, illusion, awakens; the devotee is saved from death and the Lord of death; he is released from birth and death; he becomes detached while living in the world; and the mind, which is otherwise uncontrollable, becomes enchanted as a result of hearing the Inner Melody, that is, Naam, and becomes still. These benefits cannot be gained by listening to external music.
This precious treasure, Naam, is inside everyone, and one should search for it in the company of Saints and holy men. This is the only way to make one's life worthwhile.