Updated: Oct 2
Watch Snatam perform live at the 2019 Grammys Awards Premier Ceremony, February 10 from 12:30p-3:30p at Grammys.com
Guru Nanak, born on April 15th 1469, started the Sikh way of life in Northern India, in a time of great turmoil. The caste system was very strong, and religious tyranny and separation ruled the land. His teachings gave rise to a new way that allowed for people of all castes to connect with God. He did not insist that people practice one religion or another, but that their practice be mindful, driven by love, and, at its core, helpful to living a life of truth and service.
One of his main methods of teaching was through singing sacred poetry, much of which he composed during his extensive travels on foot throughout India and surrounding regions with his disciples Bala and Mardana, a Hindu and a Muslim. The two disciples accompanied him musically, and many times they could be found outside, under a tree or by a river, in a deep meditative state, merging with God as Guru Nanak sang. Guru Nanak began teaching people his compositions so that they could experience this merger as well.
It was very helpful that his poems had great rhythm and rhyme, as people were then able to remember and chant them when going about their lives, in the farms, shops, homes, and many places of Guru Nanak’s disciples. The energy of the Guru, the magic and the beauty, stayed alive in their hearts, even after Guru Nanak left their village. From this experience of joy through sound, they were transformed, and the concept of Shabd Guru was born. The Shabd Guru is the energy of the Guru, or teacher, living and teaching within the sacred sound current of the Guru.
The first track on our new album, Beloved, is called “Amul,” and it’s the 26th stanza of Jap Ji, a sacred poem of Guru Nanak that is the seed of Sikh Dharma, as well as a gift to people of all walks of life. I invite you to learn more about Jap Ji through this online learning tool.
Each pauree, or stanza, has a special gift. According to Yogi Bhajan, this pauree transforms nothing to everything. In your business, it banishes losses, misfortunes, and miseries. (1) If you would like to meditate on this Pauree alone, this practice requests you recite it eleven times a day.
“Amul” means priceless. This word gets repeated many times within the stanza, and it also became our chorus for this recording. For me, when I chant this word, it has the effect of rooting me down, to what really matters, the Prana, or energy of life itself.
There is a story of Guru Nanak that I’d like to share with you that relates to this word “Amul.”
As Guru Nanak arrived at one village, a carpenter named Lalo heard of his arrival, came to Guru Nanak on the road, and bowed. He humbly asked Guru Nanak, “Beloved Guru, could you please do me the honor of staying in my home? We do not have much, but we give our hearts to you, and we are here to serve you.”
Guru Nanak accepted the invitation, and he and his small party became the guests of Lalo and his wife. The Guru slept on a blanket on the floor, and the couple prepared very simple yet delicious food filled with love.
The governor of the region, Malik Baago, was preparing a feast that he put on once a year for all of the holy men of the region. During the rest of the year, Malik Baago was a very selfish man, who treated people quite poorly. Somehow he thought that, in the eyes of God, this feast would make up for that behavior.
When the governor heard about Guru Nanak, he sent his messenger to invite the Guru to the feast, which was to be the next day.
But, Guru Nanak refused to come.
The messenger, shaken by the response, said, “Oh please, do come! My master will be so angry with me!”
Guru Nanak decided to accept and came to the banquet, where the most beautiful food was laid out on a large table. Many holy men were there, along with other dignitaries, eating this food. But, Guru Nanak sat down at the table and simply closed his eyes.
When Malik Baago saw this, he was furious, came straight away to Guru Nanak, and said, “You have been eating the food of Lalo from a low caste family! Why aren’t you eating this food, which has been prepared from my kitchen?”
Guru Nanak replied, “I will show you, instead of talking with words.”
He then asked the messenger to go and get some food from Lalo’s kitchen and bring it, along with food from Malik Baago’s kitchen. The messenger went straight away and brought back the requested items. By this time, everyone at the banquet had gathered around. Guru Nanak took a piece of chapati (or simple bread) from Lalo’s house into one hand and then a piece of fine bread from Maalik Baago’s kitchen in his other hand. He proceeded to squeeze each in his hands.
From Lalo’s bread, white sweet milk came out. From Maalik Baago’s bread, blood came out.
Everyone gasped, and Maalik Baago fell to his knees. “What is the meaning of this?” Maalik Baago asked in consternation.
Guru Nanak replied, “Lalo’s kitchen is filled with love. Everything Lalo and his wife does is with love. They earn their money honestly and treat each other and everyone who comes to their home with complete love and respect.”
Everyone in the village knew Lalo and his wife and nodded.
The Guru continued, “The workers in your kitchen fear you, and are angered by how poorly you treat them. The money you earn comes dishonestly, and this energy fills your home. In this food, there is nothing but that fear and anger that is permeating your life.”
Maalik Baago recognized this in himself and asked the Guru to teach him how to change his ways. The Guru agreed, and perhaps this Pauree reflects what he may have taught him. I invite you to take a moment to read it:
amul guṉ amul vaapaar.
Priceless are God’s Virtues, Priceless are God’s Dealings.
amul vaapaaree-ay amul bhanḏaar.
Priceless are God’s Dealers, Priceless are God’s Treasures.
amul aavah(i) amul lai jaah(i).
Priceless are those who come to God, Priceless are those who buy from God.
amul bhaa-i amulaa samaah(i). Priceless is Love for God, Priceless is absorption into God.
amul dharam amul deebaaṉ. Priceless is the Divine Law of Dharma, Priceless is the Divine Court of Justice.
amul tul amul paravaaṉ. Priceless are the scales, priceless are the weights.
amul bakhasees amul neesaaṉ. Priceless are God’s Blessings, Priceless is God’s Banner and Insignia.
amul karam amul phuramaaṉ. Priceless is God’s Mercy, Priceless is God’s Royal Command.
amulo amul aakhi-aa na jaa-i. Priceless, O Priceless beyond expression!
aakh aakh rahay liv laa-i. Speak of God continually, and remain absorbed in God’s Love.
aakhah(i) vayd paaṯh puraaṉ. The Vedas and the Puraanas speak.
aakhah(i) paṟay karah(i) vakhi-aaṉ. The scholars speak and lecture.
aakhah(i) baramay aakhah(i) ind. Brahma speaks, Indra speaks.
aakhah(i) gopee tai govind. The Gopis and Krishna speak.
aakhah(i) eesar aakhah(i) sidh. Shiva speaks, the Siddhas speak.
aakheh kaytay keetay budh. The many created Buddhas speak.
aakhah(i) daanav aakhah(i) dayv. The demons speak, the demi-gods speak.
aakhah(i) sur nar mun jan sayv. The spiritual warriors, the heavenly beings, the silent sages, the humble and serviceful speak.
kaytay aakhah(i) aakhaṉ paah(i). Many speak and try to describe God.
kaytay kah(i) kah(i) uṯh uṯh jaah(i). Many have spoken of God over and over again, and have then arisen and departed.
aytay keetay hor karayh(i). If God were to create as many again as there already are,
taa aakh na sakah(i) kay-ee kay-i. even then, they could not describe God.
jayvaḏ bhaavai tayvaḏ ho-i. God is as Great as God wishes to be.
naanak jaaṉai saachaa so-i. O Naanak, the True Lord knows.
jay ko aakhai boluvigaaṟ. If anyone presumes to describe God,
taa likee-ai sir gaavaaraa gaavaar. ||26|| he shall be known as the greatest fool of fools! ||26||
When we exist as if this earth and all the dealings in it are the bottom line and the reality, we have lost one of the blessings of being a human being, and that is to connect with Spirit. The earth is here as a training ground to bump us back into consciousness. We are chiseled, purified, and trained, each with a very specific lesson plan that involves all of our relations and circumstances. However, we for the most part have lost our remembrance that we are Spirit first.
These are the kinds of things that tend to happen when we forget Spirit:
Our priorities shift in how we spend our time, we forget to nourish the Spirit, and thus feel a deep emptiness.
Our words stop resonating with our inner truth, but instead resonate with the neurosis of the mind, which only leads to shallow talking and living.
We do not see ourselves as beings of wisdom and Spirit, but instead as objects to gain approval or interest from others. Our clothing and the way we treat our bodies instead of being graceful, is disgraceful to the soul.
Our business dealings do not have long-term vision, as we are only concerned with making money now, and not with the impact on our collective quality of life.
All of this activity takes a great deal of running around. There is no depth in this kind of running, and so we have for the most part lost trust in each other. We all know the end of that story. We end up with divorce, loneliness, and lack of love in our lives. It doesn’t matter how successful a person is. This story is a deeply sad one, and most of us are living it.
When we relate to “amul,” we awaken within us a sense of desire for that which is priceless. We live in the world, but we relate to that which is beyond it, above it, below it, and through it; that which is timeless, and that which is true. Guru Nanak calls it “God.” God, in this very real way, is about relating to Spirit, the breath, and the quiet moments when we stop, wait, and listen. Let God do the work! Lean on God! This is a priceless moment. From this moment, we then have the opportunity to choose words and actions of love, courage, and truth. This brings us the greatest prosperity one can imagine. But you need this moment. Without this moment, you can’t see or feel the truth.
If you are like me, singing is a great way to bring this energy forward into the mind.
The more we bring this “amul” moment into our mind, the more we infuse its energy into our lives. We then have the capacity to nourish the soul, think and speak the truth, and live in complete consciousness with our work and lives to serve and uplift all beings. We essentially live by the frequency of the Spirit. It is absolutely totally possible!
Please enjoy these words, and sing with me if you’d like. May they awaken within you the capacity to live in the consciousness of “amul.”
I am so happy to be able to share the chants from Beloved with audiences live on our upcoming concert tour. Being together physically and chanting is one of the most effective ways to teach and transfer the power of these incredible chants, to bring peace, love and light into our hearts. Please check out our schedule to see if you can join us.
Sant Singh Khalsa, Sundar Gutka (Tucson: Handmade Books, 2000), Introduction section
Note from Snatam:
I love to look at Beloved as a sound medicine tool kit, with each track having a specific healing effect. Please use this list as a quick reference to help navigate which track will be helpful for you at this time.
Amul – Priceless – To Feel the Priceless Love of the Divine
Gopaal – To Center the Self
Water of Your Love – To Tune in to the Sacredness of Water
Har Uplift – To Restore Equilibrium
Darashan Maago – Reestablishing Self-Esteem and Honor
Pooran Jot – Pure Light – To Access Your Authentic Light
Har Har Har Har Gobinday – The Power to Self Elevate to Your Highest Destiny
Sat Naaraa-iṉ – To Bring Inner Peace and Blessings