June 16, 2017

Baba Jai Ghar Karte Keerat Hoye - Guru Nanak in Raag Asa

Bābā Jai Gẖar Karṯe Kīraṯ Hoe 

While this Guru Nanak shabad is often recited, especially in evening prayers, I have not heard it sung much. I composed this in a simple Raag Asa tune a few years ago and this year is the first time I published a studio recording of this shabad.  I hope you enjoy it, immerse into it, and share it with your minds and hearts as I have.

Featuring Ahsan Ali on Sarangi and Background Vocals

I am excited that this is first of many recordings that I am releasing which will feature Ustad Ahsan Ali, one of the leading Sarangi players from North India.  Ahsan Bhai, a seventh generation musician from the Kirana Gharana, is not just a sarangi player and vocalist with intimate knowledge of Indian ragas, who has traveled worldwide and performed live at prestigious locales, he is an amazing composer with a great ear and penmanship for western harmonies and has composed music for Sardool Sikandar ji and Abida Parveen ji.

A note on the raag - Raag Asa

Raag Asa is named because of the feelings of "hope" it exudes; some suggest that it was created by Guru Nanak during his travels to a region called "Asa".  Compared to other raags in Hindustani classical music it is a relatively new raag - approximately 500 years ago.  Therefore the versions of raag Asa have not been codified by musicologists; perhaps I will do it sometime. Unlike other raags which generally have one time for singing during the day or night, Asa has two.  In general there are two major forms of the raag - one that includes komal Ni and one that does not include a komal Ni.  From what I have heard from researchers at the Patiala university, the Asa version that has the komal Ni (like the one in this shabad) is sung in the evening time. Komal Ni is generally not used in the version that is sung in the morning.

In this shabad, while the melody adheres to Raag Asa, the instrumentalists took liberties to go beyond the scope of the raag. Historically I would have not included tracks that did not adhere to the pure raag, but as I mentioned in a recent interview, I have been more accepting of deviations as long as the general mood of the shabad remains unchanged.  For the vocalist at one point sings "Re Ga Ma Ga" as part of the background music - that is not allowed in Raag Asa but I still included it in this recording. Acceptance within the hukam is often liberating I have realized.

Free Ringtone:


ਰਾਗੁ ਆਸਾ ਮਹਲਾ
रागु आसा महला
Rāg āsā mėhlā 1.
Raag Aasaa, Guru Nanak.

ਛਿਅ ਘਰ ਛਿਅ ਗੁਰ ਛਿਅ ਉਪਦੇਸ
छिअ घर छिअ गुर छिअ उपदेस
Cẖẖia gẖar cẖẖia gur cẖẖia upḏes.
Six houses of wisdom, six teachers, and six sets of teachings.

ਗੁਰੁ ਗੁਰੁ ਏਕੋ ਵੇਸ ਅਨੇਕ
गुरु गुरु एको वेस अनेक
Gur gur eko ves anek. ||1||
But the Teacher of all teachers is the One, who appears in so many forms. ||1||

ਬਾਬਾ ਜੈ ਘਰਿ ਕਰਤੇ ਕੀਰਤਿ ਹੋਇ
बाबा जै घरि करते कीरति होइ
Bābā jai gẖar karṯe kīraṯ hoe.
O Baba, the house (body/school) in which the Praises of the Creator are sung -

ਸੋ ਘਰੁ ਰਾਖੁ ਵਡਾਈ ਤੋਇ ਰਹਾਉ
सो घरु राखु वडाई तोइ रहाउ
So gẖar rākẖ vadāī ṯoe. ||1|| rahā▫o.
in that house (body/school) rests true greatness. ||1||Pause||

ਵਿਸੁਏ ਚਸਿਆ ਘੜੀਆ ਪਹਰਾ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰੀ ਮਾਹੁ ਹੋਆ
विसुए चसिआ घड़ीआ पहरा थिती वारी माहु होआ
visu▫e cẖasi▫ā gẖaṛīā pahrā thiṯī vārī māhu hoā.
The seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks and months,

ਸੂਰਜੁ ਏਕੋ ਰੁਤਿ ਅਨੇਕ
सूरजु एको रुति अनेक
Sūraj eko ruṯ anek.
From one sun come many seasons.

ਨਾਨਕ ਕਰਤੇ ਕੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਵੇਸ
नानक करते के केते वेस
Nānak karṯe ke keṯe ves. ||2||2||
Of one creator there many forms ||2||2||

Reflection (June 2017)

Six teachings
Six are their teachers
And Six the houses of wisdom
Even though appearances differ
the teacher of all teachers 
remains ONE

Minutes, Hours,
Days, Weeks, Months ...
From Just ONE Sun
come so many 

Oh mind ...
the house in which 
the creator's praises are sung ...
You should consider
that house to be
the greatest

Alternative Reflection (Nov 2012)

Six houses, six teachers, six philosophies.
But Guru's guru: One

Seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, and seasons,
All come from one: the Sun.

Nanak hail that house where
One's praises are sung

Notes on the reflections above and some words in the shabad:


Ghar is house or residence. In Gurbani it can refer to a house or it can be a metaphorical reference.  It could refer to the residence of the soul or body, it could refer to the residence of humans, or earth, the residence of wisdom or scriptures (6 shastras of India), the house of worship or temple, and the house of thought or “Mann”/heart etc. 

"Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (Corinthians 6:19-20)

"Chheh Ghar"- Six houses of wisdom or philosophy

Several Indian intellectual traditions were codified during the medieval period into a standard list of six orthodox systems or ṣaḍdarśanas (literally "good views"). The credit for codifying these "visions" is generally given to six different Gurus or Rishis as mentioned below:
  • Nyāyá, the school of logic, codified by Rishi Gautam
  • Vaiśeṣika, the atomist school, codified by Rishi Kashyapa
  • Sāṃkhya, the enumeration school, codified by Rishi Kapila
  • Yoga, codified by Patañjali 
  • Mimāṃsā, the tradition of Vedic exegesis, codified by Rishi Jaimini
  • Vedanta, codified by Rishi Vyasa

Baba in arabic is a respected person. In this case it is the listener. In Gurbani, the emphasis is on recitation from the mouth and listening from the ears so our mind is enabled. The mind is the ear of the ear. So in this case, to make this shabad focused on myself internally, I use "mind" as the translation for Baba. 

"Karte Keerat"

I have translated this as "praises of the creator" but this is a very simplistic translation. The meaning is very deep. The complete meaning of "Karte" can be obtained through a meditation upon the Mool Mantra.  And the word Keerat has been translated by scholars in two ways: (1) from the Sanskrit Origin word "Keerti" which means Yash or grace or awesomeness (2) from the Arabic word "Qirat" which means recitation of the holy word.  The essence of Gurbani is to find God within and around and thereby the "Karte Keerat" becomes imbibing the qualities of God.  For example a "compassionate God" of Gurbani encourages us to absorb his compassion and emanate for the world. 

When the mind contemplates on the "ONE", absorbs the "ONE" and then reflects the "ONE", the greatest house of wisdom then becomes our mind. A mind that is full of "ONE" -- lets call it a Onefull mind.  If a Onefull mind is found, this wisdom encourages us to hold the greatest respect for it. 

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June 9, 2017

Guru Arjan Dev's advice on what is rare in life

Guru Arjan Dev's advice on what is rare in life -

57978 ਸਲੋਕ ਸਹਸਕ੍ਰਿਤੀ (ਮ: ੫) 
ਗੁਰੂ ਗ੍ਰੰਥ ਸਾਹਿਬ : ਅੰਗ ੧੩੫੭ ਪੰ. ੩ 
Salok Sehshritee 
Guru Arjan Dev

ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਧਨੰ ਰੂਪੰ ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਸ੍ਵਰਗ ਰਾਜਨਹ ॥
Nach Dhuralabhan Dhhanan Roopan Nach Dhuralabhan Svarag Raajaneh ||
नच दुरलभं धनं रूपं नच दुरलभं स्वरग राजनह ॥
Wealth and beauty are not so difficult to obtain. Paradise and royal power are not so difficult to obtain.

ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਭੋਜਨੰ ਬਿੰਜਨੰ ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਸ੍ਵਛ ਅੰਬਰਹ ॥
Nach Dhuralabhan Bhojanan Binjanan Nach Dhuralabhan Svashh Anbareh ||
नच दुरलभं भोजनं बिंजनं नच दुरलभं स्वछ अ्मबरह ॥
Foods and delicacies are not so difficult to obtain. Elegant clothes are not so difficuilt to obtain.

ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਸੁਤ ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਭ੍ਰਾਤ ਬਾਂਧਵ ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਬਨਿਤਾ ਬਿਲਾਸਹ ॥
Nach Dhuralabhan Suth Mithr Bhraath Baandhhav Nach Dhuralabhan Banithaa Bilaaseh ||
नच दुरलभं सुत मित्र भ्रात बांधव नच दुरलभं बनिता बिलासह ॥
Children, friends, siblings and relatives are not so difficult to obtain. The pleasures of woman are not so difficult to obtain.

ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਬਿਦਿਆ ਪ੍ਰਬੀਣੰ ਨਚ ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਚਤੁਰ ਚੰਚਲਹ ॥
Nach Dhuralabhan Bidhiaa Prabeenan Nach Dhuralabhan Chathur Chanchaleh ||
नच दुरलभं बिदिआ प्रबीणं नच दुरलभं चतुर चंचलह ॥
Knowledge and wisdom are not so difficult to obtain. Cleverness and trickery are not so difficult to obtain.

ਦੁਰਲਭੰ ਏਕ ਭਗਵਾਨ ਨਾਮਹ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਬਧ੍ਯ੍ਯਿੰ ਸਾਧਸੰਗਿ ਕ੍ਰਿਪਾ ਪ੍ਰਭੰ ॥੩੫॥
Dhuralabhan Eaek Bhagavaan Naameh Naanak Labadhhiyan Saadhhasang Kirapaa Prabhan ||35||
दुरलभं एक भगवान नामह नानक लबध्यिं साधसंगि क्रिपा प्रभं ॥३५॥
Only the Naam, the Name of the Lord, is difficult to obtain. O Nanak, it is only obtained by God's Grace, in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy. ||35||


Wealth is so common
So many are rich
and beautiful

Good food, ornate clothes
big houses, smart cars,
all so common

Friensdhips, common!
Relations, common!
Lovers, common!

Cleverness common
Intellect common
Wisdom too

Kingdoms and heavens
too so many attain
all so common!

But Love!
Love is rare
Love is very rare!

Read more ...

June 2, 2017

Bhao Bhaao - Guru Amardas on Fear & Love

Bhao and Bhaao are two similar sounding words with vastly different meaning: fear and love.  Guru Amardas says Bhao Bhao Sabh Tisda - Fear and Love are both His.  This shabad is from a Vaar in Suhi raag and it shows us the path from fear to fearlessness.  More importantly, it shows the importance of Fear.

I am honored to do this shabad in collaboration with Pt. Rajendra Prasanna, who is in my view the best bansuri and shehnai player from India, a living legend.  Pandit ji has travelled worldwide and represented India at many music festivals at the world's best venues. A few of his many prestigious awards include Surmani in Mumbai, Sangeet Pujari and Sangeet Saurabh in Delhi, Nadratna in Ajmer,  and Sahara India's Life Time Achievement Award. But most of all, he is an amazing down-to-earth human being.  Look him up on youtube ... his renditions of Raag Marwa and Raag Shri are magically ethereal and have millions of views. More on Pt. Rajendra Prasanna: http://www.rajendraprasanna.com/Profile_Rajendra_Prasanna.aspx

The path to fearlessness is through the need of a certain kind of fear. There is a certain kind of fear, the fear of the loss of unity, that grows love. Once Guru Nanak sang about this fear in the color of rain ... an enlightening shower of wisdom from the true Guru in Raag Malaar (Ang 1288): 

ਆਪਿ ਉਪਾਏ ਮੇਦਨੀ ਆਪੇ ਕਰਦਾ ਸਾਰ ॥
He Himself creates the world, and He himself takes care of it.

ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਨ ਕਟੀਐ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
Without Fear doubt is not dispelled, and love for Naam is not embraced.

And in this shabad, Guru Amardas continued this rain of love ... he sang about this fear in the color of love, showing the path from fear to love in Raag Suhi (Ang 788): 

ਭੈ ਬਿਨੁ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥
Without Fear, there is no devotion, no love for Naam.

ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਮਿਲਿਐ ਭਉ ਊਪਜੈ ਭੈ ਭਾਇ ਰੰਗੁ ਸਵਾਰਿ ॥
Meeting the Satguru, this fear wells up and rides the color of love

ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਰਤਾ ਰੰਗ ਸਿਉ ਹਉਮੈ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਮਾਰਿ ॥
Body and mind colored in love surrender the greed of ego

ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਅਤਿ ਸੋਹਣਾ ਭੇਟਿਆ ਕ੍ਰਿਸਨ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ॥
Mind and body, such purified and beautiful, meets Krishna Muraari

ਭਉ ਭਾਉ ਸਭੁ ਤਿਸ ਦਾ ਸੋ ਸਚੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਸੰਸਾਰਿ ॥੯॥
Fear and Love belong to the one that pervades everywhere.

What does this shabad really mean?  How can you get the Guru to come to your aid?  Jo Prabh Ko Milbau Chahai, Khoj Shabad Main Lai.  If you want to find the Guru, you have to discover him within the shabad.  And the discovery of the shabad is incomplete unless it resides in your heart. While I was singing this shabad I came across a tweet from Ravinder Singh ji, the founder of Khalsa Aid, who often goes to dangerous places so he can offer langar to people who are really in need.  And the meaning of this shabad became clearer. This is what the tweet said:

My fear isn't 
for my life on a 
given aid mission. 

My fear is that 
I might fail to help those 
who see us as their last hope!

- Ravinder Singh 

During my discourses I often talk about Ravinder Singh ji and his amazing efforts at Khalsa Aid around the world. His is an effort that reminds me that Guru Nanak is singing amidst us. For he said, "As long as I sing, I am alive. As soon as I forget, I die." Guru Amardas' pangat before sangat is now found in places where most fear to go ... in Syria, in Iraq. And not just that. He is inspiring a new generation of Sikhs to walk the true path of Guru Nanak around the world.

Khalsa Aid (http://www.khalsaaid.org/) has been supporting refugees that most governments and agencies have ignored.  They have been supporting Yezidi and Assyrian refugees in Iraq since 2014. It is beautiful to see some of the pictures and videos of their efforts ... the langar provided by Khalsa Aid is often the only hope for these families who are living in these isolated locations. 

It will be great if you can physically help - ask where they need help, pack up your bags and go there. But not all of us can pack up and go to Iraq, but all of us can spread the word. Spreading the word helps gain useful resources that this organization needs.  I encourage you to learn about them and share their work with your hearts, friends, families and strangers.  

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