The World is Sound

by Sat Darshan Singh Khalsa

OK, going to talk about something that may be a little controversial, but what are blogs for, eh? I’ve had or witnessed a couple of independent conversations that dealt with opposite sides of the same issue. Both of them made me feel kind of sad and angry as well. I have one very close friend who is relatively new to Sikhism, and her family has mixed feelings about it. They are all very open minded and universal, but they perceive Sikhism as being somewhat limited and ritualistic. My friend has said, and I agree with her, that Sikhism seems kind of insular from an outside perspective. And they also don’t understand why she would want to devote so much energy into Sikh music. It is hard for her because she’s stuck between 2 worlds that don’t really relate to each other.

I spent some of my weekend with Snatam and Guru Ganesha because they wanted me to record the intense Raag training that they had scheduled. It came up during one of the sessions that at a number of different Gurdwaras that they visited while on tour, the Granthis or heads of the Gurdwara wouldn’t let them play if they were going to include their non-sikh tabla player.

What has happened to Sikhism that these kind of things happen? Don’t get me wrong, I love being a Sikh, and nothing makes me feel more empowered than wearing my 5 Kakars and full bana, or when I do Panj Baniaa. But to me, Sikhism was founded on a few very basic principles. A sense of Seva, or selfless service, and very strong concept of all inclusion. The Siri Guru Granth Sahib is full of hymns written by a number of Hindu and Muslim saints, some that lived before Guru Nanak’s time. Members of all faiths were always welcome in Gurduara and the Lungar kitchen, and Guru Nanak’s own chela and Rhebab player was a devout Hindu. Sikhism has never preached that it wasn’t necessarily better than other religions or that other faiths aren’t valid. The reason Guru Nanak Ji offered a new path was much of Hinduism and Islam at the time was so corrupt and the people weren’t living their faith, not because the faith and philosophy itself wasn’t also a valid path to God.

Above all though, Sikhism was founded on the Pillar of the Shabd Guru. The whole Universe as we know is just vibrations at different frequencies, different manifestations of God if you will. And it is when these vibrations vibrate at higher and more pure frequencies that we perceive them as sound. The Guru’s of the Sikh faith understood this phenomena and gave us the tools to fully utilize it in the form of the Shabd Guru, the perfect sound current. As Sikhs we only bow our head to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and the logic behind this is that only the perfect sound current, or Naad embodied in our Guru can truly help one vibrate with and become one with God. This isn’t to say that you can only find Naad in our Guru, but I would be hard pressed to find so much, so centralized anywhere else.

But to have a friend who says she almost felt guilty wanting to devote her life to the Shabd Guru because of how her family perceives Sikhism and what they may have told her, or to hear that members of other faiths are not allowed to help lead our Sangat in experiencing the Shabd through music, even though they have the talent and devotion to do so, it makes me a little sad

I should be optimistic though. All this is just a very small part of the Global Sikh picture. The Golden Temple in Amritsar is a place that members of all faiths feel comfortable to visit, not just Sikhs. At least half, if not more than half of the people that come through every day to bow their head have short hair and are clean shaven. And there are people like Snatam who have devoted their lives to sharing the Shabd Guru with as many people as possible. And on that positive note, here’s a beautiful picture from Winter Solstice taken by Sita Kaur and a track I put together a while ago that I feel is appropriate to the topic. I was taking an Audio Production class and our teacher gave a lecture on the concept of silence and an amazing man by the name of John Cage ( John Cage’s 4’33”). It really resonated with me, because I’ve been taught as a Yogi and a Sikh that the universe is always vibrating God’s name, so there is never “true silence.” The Unstruck Sound Current, God frequency, is always vibrating in everything. It was a great opportunity to experiment with this concept, and so I did. I think I could do a better job today, but I’ll let this stand alone.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


I’ll post more beautiful examples of the Shabd Guru being sung soon.