In the various practices of Ananda Marga, the importance of maintaining ideation is always emphasized. In other words, it is essential to be aware of the meaning and intention of what we are practicing. This also applies to kiirtan, Baba nam kevalam. We repeat these three words so often that we do not always keep in mind the powerful meaning behind them, or we do not understand it so deeply.
The best known and most widespread meaning of Baba nam kevalam is “everything is an expression of love.” Although this translation is inspiring and essentially correct, it is an approximation of the literal meaning of the kiirtan. Although there are variations according to each acarya or margii, the following is generally understood:
BABA – Adored, Beloved, Dear. The entity most dear to someone, to whom we direct all our devotion.
NAM – Name, Expression, Manifestation. The origin of all manifestation, as well as the nature of names, is sound, which in turn is a vibration.
KEVALAM – Only, One. A continuum without any interval.
So, if we imagine the meaning of kiirtan as an iceberg, ranging from the most immediate, general understanding, to ever deeper layers, then just below “Everything is an expression of love” we have another meaning: “only the name of the most beloved “. If we investigate what these words imply, we can go deeper: “continuously, without break, in everything that exists, I feel the vibration of the Entity dearest to me.”
If we dive even deeper, new meanings open up. The kiirtan, in fact, is like a sutra or a shloka – a short phrase that can lead to infinite reflections. Every devotee, aware of the basic meaning, common to all, may create an intimate relationship with these words, so that his or her ideation becomes personal and strong.
Devashish (Donald Acosta, Puerto Rico/Brazil) describes Baba nam kevalam as follows: “The universe is an ocean of consciousness. We think we are separated, like a drop, but in fact we are the ocean. Different waves arise in the ocean – one wave is a person, one a tree, one a star, but even though the ocean is made up of an infinity of waves, it is the same ocean. Singing the mantra, we try to feel that everything is an expression of a single consciousness. They are simply waves of the Universal Soul.”
Alok Joddha (AJ Hernández) argues in his article “The Secrets of Mantra” that although the notion of the divine as a formless consciousness is an impersonal concept, we as human beings are not impersonal. “The beauty of meditation is that when we begin to feel the existence of that one Cosmic Consciousness within ourselves, we don’t feel it as some dry philosophical, impersonal “absolute” — we feel it to be something closer to us than our own thoughts, more precious to us than our own feelings — something which has been with us from the beginning of our existence and will never, under any circumstances ever leave our sides — we feel it to be our most intimate beloved. None of this is a matter of “faith,” as religions so dearly preach to us — it is a matter of direct, unmediated experience.”
For him, the beauty of the word “Baba” is that the names of entities such as Jesus, Buddha (or even Anandamurti) have specific attributions, that is, they refer to persons who incarnated in a certain time and place. That is, however elevated they may be, they are entities imprisoned by a certain history. He explains that “The beauty and simplicity of Baba nam kevalam is that “Baba” isn’t the name of an entity — it’s the name of a relationship. This is where the true power of the “ideative” meaning lies. Baba is a Sanskrit word whose etymological origins points to an entity that is “nearest” and “dearest” to us. It is a term of endearment, akin to “darling” or “sweetheart.” To quote a good friend of mine, “nobody signs a check as ‘honey’ or ‘sweetheart.” The same goes for “Baba.” Baba, being the name of the relationship we have with the divine, is a relationship that constantly changes with time — minute to minute and moment to moment.”
Therefore, he says, Baba is the absolute that our mind cannot understand, translated into a very personal and intimate relationship. “The mantra Baba nam kevalam, therefore, accepts the emotional reality of being a human being. Accepting the Tantric notion that the whole world can, with its proper use, become an engine for liberation rather than a cause of bondage, the chanting of Baba nam kevalam is a practice that is at once both universal in its theory and personal in its praxis. Baba always changes and yet never does; Baba, ultimately, is us.”
And you? How do you translate Baba nam kevalam kiirtan? What ideation do you keep in your mind as you sing? Share with us in the comments.
By Gurucaran (Gustavo Prudente)
Read the full article by Alok Joddha at: