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Bhajan Guidelines

"Share aloud the glory of God and charge the atmosphere with divine adoration. Think of it as a part of spiritual training to be taken seriously for reducing the attachments to fleeting objects, for purifying, and for liberating you from the circle of birth, death, and consequent misery."

- Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Following guidelines must be followed during bhajans:

  1. Everybody should be seated a few minutes prior to start of the bhajan.
  2. Men should sit on one side of the prayer hall and women on the other.
  3. Bhajan leader and instrumentalists must be seated in the front few rows.
  4. Devotees arriving late must not disturb those already seated. They must quietly seat themselves behind the already seated devotees.
  5. Do not look around greeting one another, nor talk during the bhajan.
  6. Maintain perfect silence and restrict your movements to a minimum while sitting in the prayer hall.
  7. Sing sweet, familiar and devotional bhajans in any language which can be understood and sung by other devotees.
  8. Musical instruments used during bhajans should not drown the voices of the singers and those who follow, thus maintaining a balance between the instruments and singing.
  9. Do not clap out of tune.
  10. Do not monopolize the time in bhajans by singing one bhajan for six or ten minutes repeating the same lines again and again.
  11. Bhajans should be sung in two speeds: slow and fast. In the slow speed, sing each line twice and, in the fast speed only once except the last line which should be sung twice to signal the conclusion of the bhajan.
  12. After the bhajan, everyone should disperse quietly, maintaining silence.

Please read the quotes below from Sri Sathya Sai Baba regarding the guidelines to conduct Bhajans:

Any devotional song, in any language can be sung as long as all can follow. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 29) Sing familiar bhajans, so that all can share in ananda (bliss). (Sai Bhajana Mala, 29)

When you sing bhajans, dwell on the meaning of the song and the message of each name and form of God. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 30)

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. (SSS VIII, 75)

Bhajan has to be a thrilling experience, which must leave the participants full of pure energy and elevated enthusiasm. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 29)

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. (SSS VIII, 47-48)

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. (SS, 35, April 1992, 70)

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. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 30)

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. (SSS VIII, 60)

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 mastery of musical skill. They have to please the Lord, not your fans. (SSS IX, 177)

Bhajans should be sung with complete obliviousness to the body. Devotional fervor is more important than musical skill. (SS, June 1996, 156)

Pay attention to the tune, the meaning, the variety, the voice, the raga (rhythm), the tala (beat), and other fine points of the bhajans. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 30)

Let your heart pant for God, then the raga (rhythm) and tala (beat) will automatically be pleasant and correct. (SSS VII, 60)

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. (SSS VII, 438)

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. (SSS VII, 177-178)

If your voice is not pleasant or sweet, keep quiet; that is the best service you can do. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 31)

Do not cause discontent or disharmony, insisting on singing because you are an office-bearer. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 31)

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. (Sai Bhajana Mala, 31)

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. (SSS VI, 220)