Watch Snatam perform live at the 2019 Grammys Awards Premier Ceremony, February 10 from 12:30p-3:30p at Grammys.com
We long for light; the light of kindness in someone’s eyes, the light of courage when a brave word is spoken, the light of compassion when someone who is hungry is given a meal and a second chance. Even when we feel that we are on the right side of things, without that light, nothing is achieved for anyone.
Fortunately, we have access to this light. Once someone achieves a connection with their soul, it is totally possible to not only be a source of light for yourself, but for others as well. How is this connection made? This sacred poem or Shabad of Guru Gobind Singh, who lived in a time of great struggle and challenge, has been really helpful to me in achieving and sustaining this connection to authentic light.
Let’s dive in and explore each line. We’ll start with the repeating line.
pooran jot jagai ghaṯ mai tab khaalas taah(i) nakhaalas jaanai.
One who embodies the consciousness of Khālsā, a living state of purity, has the divine light of the One shining forth from the heart in complete magnificence and radiance. It can be felt and perceived when it is there, and when it is not.
“Pooran jot” is the completely filling, omnipresent light. Only one living in purity, or “khaalas,” will be able to shine this light forward. This kind of purity comes from a clear mind and the capacity to stay in neutrality. Neutrality creates within us a space, and it is only then that the light of the soul can shine forth in this world experience, or “jagai.” When you make it there, you know it, and everyone else knows as well. You can feel it in your heart, or your “ghaṯ.” Likewise, when you haven’t made it to your purity, “nakhaalas jaanai,” people will know it too.
How do we achieve purity? It’s funny, because it’s one thing that you just can’t fake. Purity is really about presence. It’s about being purely present. When you walk into a room, it doesn’t matter how dumb people are, we (even the most dense of us) can sense when someone is being real or pure (which is just a fancy word for real in my opinion). You can’t sell purity. You can’t make someone be pure. You can’t even inspire someone. They have to, you have to, we have to inspire ourselves. It’s a moment-by-moment choice, in which we choose to follow our hearts and not our heads.
Let’s keep going. Here’s the next line.
jaagit jot(i) japai nis baasur ayk binaa man naik na aanai.
That one meditates in a wakeful state on the Ever-radiant Light, day and night, and doesn’t let even a little bit of something else to come into the mind.
To achieve this state of purity, this “khaalas,” we have to be very wakeful, “jaagit.” It is a constant meditation on the light, or ” jot japai.” It’s funny because so much of our culture has us believing that we can achieve inner happiness and peace through easy means; like if you use this shampoo, wear these jeans, go on this vacation, get this hairstyle, etc., you will be totally happy, and experience your essential truth! Don’t all the people in those ads just look so good? The bummer part of it is that it’s not true.
Of course, you already know that. But, here’s the kicker that we all get hooked into. We think that getting happy should be as easy as going to a mall and buying a shirt (or clicking a few buttons and ordering online!), but it’s not, and we feel so betrayed when we realize that we actually have to work at it, a lot.
Actually, as Guru Gobind Singh says, we have to work on it in a wakeful state in the “nis” day and “baasur.”Not only that, we have to be so focused on the One God, the “ayk,” that not even an iota of something else gets into our “man,” or heart/mind/soul.
Now, before you get squirmy about that God word, here’s something to keep in mind. God is the Divine light that is within all beings and within yourself. God is the truth. God is the moment that you remember to come from your breath and not freak out. When we don’t follow our neurosis and instead follow our truth, we are following God. It’s about consciousness and mindfulness, and Guru Gobind Singh is affirming that the greatest work is really that of the meditator.
Let’s continue on.
pooran praym prateet sajai brat gor maṟee mat bhool na maanai.
That one decorates herself/himself with the love and faith in the completely filling Light of the One, and does not go astray with empty religious rituals, observances in graves, or sitting in isolated meditation huts.
When I was a teenager, I remember going to hear a young woman sing in a Gurdwara, or Sikh place of worship. She was a few years older than me. When she sang that day, she became my absolute role model. She seemed sooo cool to me! The bomb! The best! I wanted to be just like her. She had a nice voice, and she was physically beautiful. But those two things weren’t what got me. Here’s what did it for me: Her eyes were closed, and she swayed side to side slightly, singing with absolute passionate devotion, so much so that she didn’t even have time to wipe away a little bit of spit building up on the corner of her mouth.
As I watched that little ball of white spit, I lost it. She was absolutely the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. Her adornment, or her “sajai,” was her love, or “praym,” and her faith, “prateet.” There was a sense that she was speaking to God, and feeling God, and that God in turn was sensing and feeling her. At least the God in me certainly was! She broke through to the other side, to the place where God is real, to where our religious rituals have no meaning. The love inside them is all that matters.
How do you get there? The last line gives us a beautiful way.
teerath daan dayaa tap sanjam ayk binaa nah(i) ayk pachhaanai.
That one knows none except the one Lord in the performance of acts of pilgrimage, charities, compassion, austerities and self-control.
In this line, Guru Gobind Singh talks of the many religious practices of his time that are still alive today. The bathing holy places “teerath,” the giving to charity “daan,” the “tap” or yogic practices, and self-control “sanjam.” In all these, only see, or “pachhanai,” the “ay,” the One God. Let nothing be second to that.
You know, there is this large belief in our modern day world that you have to find someone who is going to save you. A lot of us put that on our spouses, and because of this, we get married and divorced so fast that we cannot even keep up with our own pace. “The other will save me.” We put it on our friends, our teachers, our co workers, our bosses. We put it on everyone else, accept the only one who can actually do something, and that is the Self. We have to do that work of finding the One, the God, the truth in every situation, every breath, and every moment.
As you can see, this is a very beautiful Shabad, with an incredible teaching. You may say to yourself, “Wow, that’s beautiful, but not really attainable.” Here’s where the miracle comes in. It’s called the miracle of positive affirmation. You sing these words that were originally recited by Guru Gobind Singh. In his state of awareness, he left a pathway to that same awareness, through these sacred words. Each verse will take you deeper and bring you to that essence.
At times, you will understand cognitively what is happening, but most of the time, it will be on a subtle level, where the vibratory frequency (of your big toe, for example) gets uplifted. As we uplift ourselves (big toes and all), we saturate our beings with this vibration, and since our beings include our minds, we are infused with it, not only in the physical state, but in the mental state as well. Likewise, we feel it on a spiritual level and call forth the energy of Guru Gobind Singh, whose energy is that of a warrior saint.
I recently recorded this Shabad for my new album Beloved. At the end, we sing the repeating line with a great amount of percussion, which brings to my mind the sensation of the battlefield. I invite you to chant the whole Shabad, and, especially in this section, chant and release, with the ferocity of a great warrior, all of your self doubt, hatred, and misgiving.
Let it all go and find your light.
It’s inside, waiting for you.
I especially recommend singing this Shabad at the beginning of each day, and singing it each day for a period of 40 days, to cycle through all of your changes and see how these sacred words affect you at your core.
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