Is it right for devotees to use kirtan singing for earning their living?

by Chaitanya Charan dasNovember 28, 2013

Answer Podcast

Transcribed by: Geetanjali Nath

Question: Is it right for the devotee kirtaniyas to earn their living by doing kirtan ? charge money for doing kirtans.

Answer: That cannot be any absolute answer in terms of black and white , Shrila Prabhupada does indeed talk about professional Bhagavatam reciters, as people who recite Bhagavatam simply to earn a living and he speak about them in a strongly critical opinion, at the same time we see that during Shrila Prabhupada’s time when through  George Harrison devotees did the kirtan in Radha Krishna temple and other such kirtans  and they did phenomenal sales and prabhupada was pleased by that, and record went to the top of the popular song and huge amount of revenue came in and Prabhupada was very pleased by that, so that means in principle to do kirtan just for the sake of earning money is wrong. But if by doing kirtan Laxmi can be arranged for Narayan’s service, it is not wrong. Prabhupada considered it laudable, so now when a particular devotee is doing kirtan , if the devotee is full time  devotee staying in the temple and is supported by the temple then that devotee should not be taking any laxmi , even if people want to do some kirtan donation that is different. But if the devotee is grahasta and is arranging for a lively hood for one self to sustain one self then what is the motive of that person how do we know ?  whether that devotee may actually want to be simply doing kirtan and what ever Laxmi comes by that may be maintaining by that Lacmi, so is that devotee  doing just for the sake of earning laxmi and or to glorify Krishna, we cant know it very easily, and it is best not to go into Zone of judging others , so the fact of the matter today is that kirtan itself is a industry, it is a big industry, bhajans and kirtans, and it is filled often with non devotees, people who are as using devotion for their commercial , for promoting their own commercial and financial interest. So rather than having the kirtan arena filled entirely with non devotees who exploit people pious sentiments and earn their living through that without doing any devotional service substance, it is better that we have devotees who are singers and they sing and they attract people through their singing towards Krishna, atleast to some level, certainly we can say that because they are also singing and earning, and earning is the important motive for them so their singing may not be as pure as the advanced devotee who sings simply for Krishna’s pleasure. That may be true, but we may consider the outreach of Krishna consciousness in terms of concentric circle of increasing radious. So those who come to the temple and hear the mellody singing kirtan , seeing the adevanced devotees , they sing kirtan, the purification with that will be maximum, but if you consider the extreme, but if they are hearing kirtans from non devotees, and they are appriciating not for the devotional content but for the musical content, so they are not  much benefited, but if there are devotees who can have high level of musical level competence and they certainly have some level of devotional substance, and they combine this devotional substance and musical competence and they attract those people towards Krishna. they will not be able to attract people in same extant as those who are singing purely for Krishna’s pleasure. That is true , but that does not mean that they are not doing the service to Krishna, so shastric principle is that Bhagavatam should not be reduced , bhagavatam or kirtan should not be reduced merely to means to earning livelihood. Kamasya ne indriya ——————–, so dharma should not be suused for artha alone, but when one gets artha by ………….ekanki dharma at that time, it is not that reject the artha but one should not be carried away by the artha and use it only for kama and not use for persuing the upavarga, liberation from material existence. So dharma, artha, kama, moksha. Dharma is not only meant for artha ultimately make for supreme liberation, that is prema, artha we get by dharma that also should be used for the persuit of prema not just for the fulfillment of kama. So is using specifically for the fulfilment of kama only and who is using it for persuing apavarga, primerily, that is difficult for us to judge. so rather than assuming that somebody who is taking Laxmi for doing kirtans as being violation of scriptural teaching, we need to understand that the scriptual teaching has to be applied to the            the truth is that ISKCON was the pioneer of kirtan in the western world. Shrila Prabhupada introduced chanting, dancing and singing to the western world. but after wards IDKCON has been left as the bystandar as  kirtan as spread very widely became immensely popular the genere of kirtan is filled with many people who are having little or no devotional inclination or they are not serious sadhakas. So what is wrong in if some serious sadhakas entering in that arena and if they have musical competence, they also havde to be trained and competent in terms of musical capability and they may not be able to follow the standards that the temple devotees follow and we shoudld not mistake their musical competence to be same as the devotional substance, but sewe should not assume that just because they are having some commercial interest, that means they have no devotion substance at all. So as long as we are able to differentiate between devotees singing purely for Krishna’s pleasure without any commercial interest and devotees who want to sing and spread kirtan in the broad world especially in the kirtan loving world, and also earn a living through that and earn name and fame also. and establish a Krishna devotee kirtan a place on the map of the world , they are also doing a service, We should not mistake that these devotees are as advanced as the devotees who are only singing for Krishna’s pleaseure at the same time we should not reject them as non devotees. thats why it is not the question of right or wrong, it is a question of varying degrees of right purposes . So those who have the most right purpose, their singing will purigy them the most and purify their hearer the most, and those who have other level of purposes , their singling will purify accordingly. so those who can come to the temple and hear the kirtan of advanced devotees and if they start hearing kirtans of these devotees who are not ………….in their spiritual practices, then that many not be very desirable. but is people who are hearing the kirtans of non-devotees and they because they like the musical quality and things like that and they may not like , they may not find the kirtaqn of serious devotees as musical great, but there are devotees who are having musical competence and are also having some devotional substance and if they can attract those people , for that circle of hearing the non devotees kirtans to devotees kirtans, even if these devotees are doing kirtan for some commercial purpose, that is not wrong. So those who are far away from Krishna they are coming closer to Krishna and those who are close to Krishan, they can hear kirtans from those devotees which will take them further close to Krishan. that’s why focus on not judging right or wrong. but in judging the increase and decrease of degrees of rightness with respect of what is best for my spiritual advancement.   thankyou Hare Krishna

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Chaitanya Charan das
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