Explaining the nature and history of Bhajans Baba says:
Keerthanam & Sankeerthanam
There is a big difference between Keerthanam and Sankeerthanam. Keerthanam is an individual affair. It is singing by an individual for the fulfilment of his prayers. Sankeerthanam aims at the well-being of the whole universe. This is also described as Saamaajika bhajans (community singing). This method of singing bhajans was first initiated by Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
Dhyana (meditation) in Kritha Yuga, Yajna (sacrifice) in Thretha Yuga, Archana (worship of idols) in Dwapara Yuga and Nama Sankeerthana (Reciting the name of the Lord) in Kali Yuga are the methods prescribed for realising the Divine. Sankeerthana is of four kinds: One is Guna Sankeerthana; two, Leela Sankeerthana; three, Bhava Sankeerthana; four, Nama Sankeerthana. While in each of the previous aeons the devotees adopted one or another methods of singing the glories, it is the supreme good fortune of the residents of Prashanthi Nilayam to enjoy all the four forms of Sankeerthana. The bhajans sung here are a combination of all the four forms ofSankeerthana. (Divine Discourse, 3 Mar 1992)
Bhajans & Akhanda Bhajans
Bhajans is an integral part of the daily routine of Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram, be it a normal day or a festive occasion. But Akhanda Bhajan is conducted twice a year. Once as part of the night-long vigil during the Shivaratri celebration when Bhajans start at 6 in the evening and end at 6 the next morning. The second Akhanda Bhajan is conducted on the second Saturday of November. This Akhanda Bhajan last for 24 hours and is also conducted in various Sai Centres and Mandirs across the globe, simultaneously. This tradition started way back in the year 1945 when a group of devotees in Bangalore decided to commemorate their observance of Thursday Sai Bhajans for one year, with a 24 hour non-stop Bhajan session. When Swami was informed of it, He was delighted and came Himself to participate and encourage the devotees. For many years Akhanda Bhajan used to be held in Bangalore before it became a part of the Birthday Celebrations in Prasanthi Nilayam.
'Akhanda' means unbroken or uninterrupted. Bhagawan would often remind His devotees that though it is commendable to participate in the Akhanda Bhajans, what one must strive for is to make one's very life an Akhanda Bhajan. One may attend to their duties in accordance to their roles in life, but the mind should ever be engaged in Namasmarana – Akhanda Namsasmarana. Just as one's breath is ceaseless, the chanting of the name too must be ceaseless. When we exert ourselves physically, we pant or breathe harder don't we? So too, when in excitement – anxiety or exhilaration, we must think of the Lord with more intensity, but think of Him at all other times too. This is the most important message of Baba, an emphasis of the message Krishna gave in the Gita! He told Arjuna, “Sarvesu kalesu Mam anusmara yudhya ca' – At all times, think of Me Incessantly; even as you take part in the battle. This is the message behind the observance of Akhanda Bhajan.
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