This morning’s Washington Post has an interesting article on the growing popularity of kirtan, a form of Hindu chanting, among the spiritual-but-not-religious set.
A couple of things struck me. First, you have to read pretty far into the article before you find the connection of kirtan and Hinduism. This might well reflect the attitude of the practitioners of kirtan. After all, Hinduism is one of the most “religious” of religions, with an extensive canon of scriptures, elaborate rituals (including sacrifices), a cult of holy figures, ascetic practices, a well developed scholastic theological tradition, and so forth. If one is inclined to be spiritual-but-not-religious then one might well want to create some distance between kirtan and Hinduism. Though I’ve got to say that the pictures in the photo gallery make the kirtan gatherings look pretty darn religious.
Second, the article compares kirtan to both Gregorian chant and to evangelical/pentecostal praise songs. Curious, I found a kirtan sampler on YouTube. From the examples there, it is much more in the praise song genre than the chant genre (maybe the WaPo is now following the example of the new translation of the GIRM and calling any religious song “chant”). I wonder how much it has been adapted to American sensibilities? Is this Hindu inculturation?
In any case, I though the article was an interesting testimony to the power of ritual music and made me think about the importance of music in liturgy.