Bhajan Guidelines

Devotional Singing

Devotional singing (bhajan) must become an unbroken stream of bliss on your tongues and in your hearts; it must confer on you the uninterrupted awareness of soham, of the unity of I and He. Sathya Sai Baba.

Devotional singing weaves the very essence of man into a conversation with his beloved God. With each note that is sung, the orchestra of the mind, body and spirit unify into the perfect symphony of bliss. The words of any devotional songs help mankind hear the echoes of the love within. We sing the praises of our Divine Bhagavan so we may burn the obstacles that stand between Him and us.

Sathya Sai Baba has said, “Realize that there is nothing greater than bhajan. What bliss is there in bhajans! What a demonstration of oneness is it when a myriad throats join in uttering the name of God! The vibrations emanating from them make the heart vibrant. If you sing alone in your shrine, the vibrations return to you as a reaction. But in community singing, what you have is not a reaction but a wave of vibrations. They enter into the atmosphere and purify the polluted air. (SS, Jan. 1995, 26)

Devotional singing has remained steadfast for devotees. The string of words in a bhajan create the japamala of “unity in diversity”. Singing on different religions, praising of different deities or uttering mantras, devotional singing is the conduit that raises awareness and helps mankind see God in each other.

In a typical bhajan format, songs are lead by an individual or a group of lead singers. Lead singer(s) sing one line at a time which then the other devotees repeat in unison. Each line of a bhajan is sung twice in the first speed and sung once in the second speed to conclude out the bhajan.

Sai Baba has urged all His devotees to follow the devotional points of conduct

  1. Have the bhajans on as many days as possible or at least once a week. Have them in a central place where all can come.
  2. Any devotional song, in any language can be sung as long as all can follow.
  3. Sing familiar bhajans, so that all can share in ananda (bliss).
  4. When you sing bhajans, dwell on the meaning of the song and the message of each name and form of God.
  5. You cannot insist that in the bhajans only songs on Sathya Sai should be sung! Fanaticism of that kind I very much dislike and condemn … You betray your ignorance of the truth when you stick to any one of my names and avoid the rest.
  6. Bhajan has to be a thrilling experience, which must leave the participants full of pure energy and elevated enthusiasm.
  7. Bhajan must spread good-will, love, ecstasy. It must cleanse the polluted atmosphere. It must invite all to share in the joy and peace. The nagarsankirtan (congregational singing of bhajans) must be radiating devotion and love. The ananda (bliss) I derive from bhajan, I do not derive from anything else. That is the reason I am emphasizing these points. Fill every moment with energy, enthusiasm, and effort.
  8. Some persons attending bhajans do not move their lips at all. They may say that they are singing the songs mentally within themselves. This is not proper … You must sing the names aloud, full-throated, as far as the voice can reach. Only then the Divine will respond in full measure and shower His grace. No one will go to the rescue of a drowning man if his cries are feeble.
  9. Together with melody and rhythm, you have to impart feeling to your singing to make the bhajan a sacred offering to the Divine. A tune without feeling is an infliction. Giving up conceit and exhibitionism, you must sing the bhajans in a spirit of humility and devotion. That is the right way to perform bhajans.
  10. Bhajan must be a felt experience. Do not sing with one eye on the effect the song makes on the listeners and the other on the effect it makes on God.
  11. Bhajans have to be sung and offered to God in an attitude of utter humility. They are not to be taken as exercises in an exhibition of talents or as competitions for masteryDevotionalSingingBhajan2 of musical skill. They have to please the Lord, not your fans.
  12. Bhajans should be sung with complete obliviousness to the body. Devotional fervor is more important than musical skill.
  13. Pay attention to the tune, the meaning, the variety, the voice, the raga (rhythm), the tala (beat), and other fine points of the bhajans.
  14. Let your heart pant for God, then the raga (rhythm) and tala (beat) will automatically be pleasant and correct. (SSS VII, 60)
  15. Do not monopolize the time in bhajans by singing one song for six or ten minutes, repeating the same line often. Repeat each line twice and no more. Have only two speeds; one slow and the other, fast. In this way you can have in one hour of bhajan, more songs on more forms, more tunes and more variety, giving more people a chance.
  16. Let those with a good voice and musical talent lead. The keertan (singing the name of God) must be pleasant. It should not jar on the ear. If your voice is grating or out of tune, do not disturb the melody, but, repeat the namavali (song reciting the name of God) in your mind.
  17. If your voice is not pleasant or sweet, keep quiet. That is the best service you can do.
  18. Do not cause discontent or disharmony, insisting on singing because you are an office-bearer.
  19. After bhajans , there should be meditation for five to ten minutes.
  20. People should return from bhajan carrying the elevated, uplifted and sublime mood created by the atmosphere at the bhajan. Therefore, after the bhajan people should disperse quietly, maintaining silence. Then the joy and peace derived at the bhajan will linger and abide in the heart.
  21. Have bhajans as simple as you can and without competitive pomp or show. Reduce expenses to a minimum, for God cares for the inner yearning and not the outer trappings. Even this small unavoidable expenditure must be silently shared, spontaneously … not collected by means of a plate … or a subscription or donation list.