Writing an initial blog post is something more daunting than I expected; how do I introduce myself and my idea for what I hope my blog to be without giving off the impression (or maybe rather revealing) that I am narcissistic, unbalanced, or, most likely, both? And so, as long as I have wanted to start a blog, the unavoidable question of how to skin this cat has been purring in the corner of my mind. However, much to the disdain and horror of the poor cat, I have had previously resolved that today, the 25th of February 2021, would be the date I begin this blog, and so I settled on deciding that by exploring the meaning of and reasoning behind the name of my blog, Gregorian Kirtan, I will also be able to some degree convey who I am, and what content I wish to be filling this blog with.

Kirtan can refer to many things,1 but underlying most of its meanings, is worship and glorification. However it has more colloquially come to refer mainly to musical kirtan, a form of musical meditation focusing on divine names. Gregorian carries further the notion of the musical, referring to Gregorian chant: the mellifluous Western Christian musical tradition that has defined Christian culture for over a millenium.

The name Gregorian Kirtan may therefore seem asynchronous enough to be an awkward attempt at heretical syncretism, it may be hinting towards a Zen-like contradiction meant to provoke thought on interfaith issues, it may be a bad joke, or it may be an attempt to draw a strained ecumenical connection. It may also make no sense. I think any of those options, in many ways, can be true. Why I have chosen it, however, is because to me it speaks very much to who I am, and more-so, to the influences which have moulded me so.

I was born into and raised amidst the bhakti-yoga practice of the mystical Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava tradition, and while I would be eager to say that I had been actively and studiously absorbing the culture and philosophy of that tradition from my earliest years, I admit that my nurturing from it was purely through a vague osmosis. Concurrently, growing up in a large yet still rural town in Australia, I attended an Evangelical Anglican school for all my thirteen years of schooling.2 If vague osmosis were to be the standard for what is considered an influence, then that evangelical influence were to be even stronger than the Vaiṣṇava one. Yet, at one point, for reasons I will not discuss in interest of the length of this post, I found myself plagued both with intense existential concern, and an eagerness to learn as much as I could about the many responses and tenative solutions to that anxiety which is so core to the human experience. I devoured Christian material, everything from the conservative Evangelical John Piper, to the milquetoast orthodox–Catholic Bishop Robert Barron, to the delightfully iconoclastic Hans Küng, to the almost excessive but definitely stimulating John Shelby Spong. I made good use of the personal resources available to me through my heavily Christian setting. However, at the same time I dove into resources regarding Vedānta, and broader Eastern thought, that my family opened up for me. I had, and continue to have, the privilege of studying under and being guided by masters of both the philosophy and practice, siddhānta and sādhana respectively, of Gauḍīya Vedānta and bhakti-yoga.

And it is within Gauḍīya Vedānta that I found my home. Try as well as I may, I could not, and still can not, shake the hold that the Kṛṣṇa conception had, and deeper and deeper continues to have, on me. Yet I never felt that such a commitment meant a messy divorce to this figure of Jesus the Christ,3 nor to all the profound insights that the many people who have come in the traditions following him have given. Instead I began to see these traditions not as isolationist ones, as much as some of their adherents would wish it so. Instead I found traditions in dialogue with others; true meaningful dialogue that in the case of Greek philosophy allowed it to learn from others how to articulate its very foundational philosophy. I saw not a Jesus who brought the message of a god in competition to eradicate and displace all the other “gods” (as if one could so absurdly reduce the majesty of that transcendent source of existence to polytheistic squabbling), but rather a Jesus who only reveals to me the same God who dances in the heart of all His devotees, regardless of tribal concern. A God who in His dance is so captivating that He must be an all attractive God. To use the Sanskrit; Kṛṣṇa.

And then therefore, what is Gregorian Kirtan? In many ways it is me: it is the way that I do Kirtan, now meaning Kirtan in the broader sense of glorification in general. I cannot say that my attempts at doxology are anything other than attempts at Kṛṣṇa Kirtan, and yet I cannot deny that when I speak in praise of God, I do so with a distinctly Gregorian lisp. I cannot escape that which has influenced me so much without ceasing to meaningfully be. So then if I am the primary composer of the work on this blog, then Gregorian Kirtan strikes me as the most fitting name for it.

There is an almost unspoken maxim in Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava circles, that one should never let a holy day go to waste, especially for launching a project with little direction or plan. I hope this blog is not one of those directionless launches, but I definitely have to confess that my aforementioned haste to launch my blog today is due to the significance of today in the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava liturgical calendar. For today is Nityānanda Trayodaśī, the day commemorating the divine advent of Nityānanda Prabhu, a day with strong theological significance as a day in which meditation upon the sacred mystery of the Guru is encouraged. This is not only a theological reflection for me, but one of deep personal import: it was on this day (according to the Vaiṣṇava lunar calendar) a year ago, that my revered Guru, Śrīla Rādhā Govinda Dāsa Gosvāmī Māhārāja, gave me Harināma, formally connecting me to the Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava lineage, and gave me the name Toṣaṇa Kṛṣṇa Dāsa. A story for another time, it never-the-less gives this holy day an extra personal significance for me, and will forever remind me deeply of the love and mercy that has been shown to me by Gurudeva.

And so, I plan to write a variety of things on this blog, maybe not much of it, if any of it at all, useful. Yet I still hope that some of it will be, and I wish to offer all that which is good and beneficial, not only in this blog, but in the entirety of whatever life I live unto the lotus feet of my Guru, His Holiness Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya Aṣṭottara-śata Śrī-śrīmad Rādhā Govinda Dāsa Gosvāmī, and unto Sri Nityānanda Prabhu Avadhūta, who empowers all those who are manifestations of that guru-tattva, the focal mystery of the spiritual practitioner’s life.

And I offer it to my Param Gurudeva, His Divine Grace Nitya-līlā-praviṣṭa Oṁ Viṣṇupāda Paramahaṁsa Parivrājakācārya Aṣṭottara-śata Śrī-śrīmad Bhaktivedanta Svāmi Śrīla Prabhupāda, who, directly empowered by Nityānanda Prabhu, stole the hearts of the whole world to himself, that he may in turn allow them to be stolen by the cowherd boy Kṛṣṇa, the All Attractive Reservoir of All Pleasure, Supreme Personality of Godhead, Reality the Beautiful.

I pray to Jesus Christ, the suffering saviour, that I may eventually be able to love and serve in even a shadow of how he did; a love so profound and alien to this world that it can result only in giving all, a self sacrificial love so powerful it brings whole nations to their knees, cripples the oppression of powers and principalities, and slays power itself through the strength of weakness.

And finally, but always, I offer it to all the Devotees of the world, to all those, who in some way or another, recognise the deepest substratum of reality to be personal, and intuit the obvious and still so deeply profound truth that such reality communicates purely through love.

My name is Toṣaṇa Kṛṣṇa Dāsa (or Tilak Gröger), and welcome to my blog, Gregorian Kirtan.

Updated on 11/2/2023

  1. In IAST kirtan is rendered kīrtana↩︎

  2. Evangelical is capitalised here to indicate allegiance to the broad Evangelical school of thought, rather than being evangelical in nature, which any theological or denominational camp can lay claim to. ↩︎

  3. I do not wish to enter into the debates regarding whether “Christ” was used as a name or a title with my wording here, I simply thought it sounded nicer to write it this way 😄. ↩︎