«The Kirtan Standards Committee (KSC) was established by the GBC to formulate clear standards and guidelines for kirtan within ISKCON based on the ...»
Another time in that same room there was a discussion about kirtan, the Radha Damodar kirtans that we were having on campus or on the street where we set up. Prabhupada was saying we just should use khol and karatals. At that time we had many instruments. We had harmonium, we had esraj-which was like a violin-we had ektara, and we had an instrument that had strings and you play it with little hammers. So there was a discussion where Prabhupada was saying just to use khols and karatals. And Adi-kesava said that people were attracted to the party because of the instruments, and Prabhupada didn't seem to take that very seriously. And then Adi-kesava said, "But Visnujana said..." and Prabhupada cut him off and said, "Who is Visnujana? I am your spiritual master." And also in that meeting Prabhupada said that there shouldn't be any harmonium during the aratis. And previously you hear lot of tapes of Bharadvaj and others playing harmonium. So that was stopped during aratis. And it didn't seem like Prabhupada just wanted some expert musicians. He wanted devotees. So that was stopped, and that time the Radha Damodar party just went back to mrdanga and karatals on the public kirtans, for a while, and eventually we had a couple of instruments here and there, I had heard with Prabhupada's permission; I don't know for sure.
Bhurijana dasa, "My Glorious Master":
Bhurijana: "Prabhupada, we have been holding kirtanas using guitars. Is that all right?" Prabhupada: "Kirtana means khol (mrdanga) and karatala. That's all."
Bhurijana: "But it is so difficult to preach in Hong Kong. And the Chinese people like kirtanas better when they are soft and with guitars. They don't like loud kirtanas with many instruments."
Prabhupada acceded to my pushing and gave us permission to also use guitars in our kirtanas along with the standard khol and karatala. Our spiritual master may sometimes agree to our requests because we present them forcefully, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is Krishna's desire. We should be careful that our own enthusiastic vision does not cover our ability to recognize our guru's actual desires.
The Kirtan Standards Committee has concluded that Srila Prabhupada gave the same basic instructions for outside kirtans as he did for non-arati temple kirtans and bhajans. Thus, for attracting the public, harmonium, tamboura, plus other non traditional instruments may be added. And as has been mentioned in the previous section, because Prabhupada was extremely conservative and cautionary regarding adding additional instruments to those he specifically advocated (mrdanga, kartals, harmonium, tamboura), if such instruments are used outside the temple, it should again be understood that the temple president and local authorities
should ensure that:
1. The additional instruments do not become the dominant sound in the bhajan/kirtan but should support it, never being louder, more noticeable, or more prominent than the basic and traditional ones, or than the chanting of the holy name.
2. The musician does not play a solo without any chanting, or if he does so, they are just a few measures long.
3. If the musician is playing a wind instrument, it is better that he or she not play it continuously, but rather alternate playing and chanting, so as to receive due benefit from the holy name and not overemphasize