Article by Karan from: http://www.spiritvoyage.net
Karan: I wanted to talk to you about the 4 aspects of a Sikh lifestyle: Bana (outward projection/clothing), Bani (recitation), Simran(meditation) and Seva (selfless service). I know that as a musician and devoted Sikh, these play a major role in your life. Can you share with each of these mean in your life?
Sada Sat Simran:
Bana, Bani, Seva, Simran. These are four pillars of a Sikhs life. It is part of our spiritual practice. You may think that you can have one without the others, but actually it doesn’t work. Bana is your outward appearance. It is your projection. It is your commitment to being available to the sangat for whatever seva.
Bana is a statement of what you can deliver. The thing that we deliver is Bani. We meditate on the Bani and immerse ourselves in the practice of it. Not just five daily Banis but the Siri Guru Granth, the Siri Dasam Granth, and the Siri Sarabloh Granth, along with other scriptures written by elevated and spiritual people. Bani is the Shabd Guru. That which eradicates your ego and delivers you from darkness into light. The process of recitation stimulates meridian points in the mouth (the upper gopha) and activates the Thalamus and Hypothalamus glands to secrete. This then activates the pituitary which secretes and gives an experience of bliss, Anand, Higher Consciousness, God, whatever you want to call it. This is the purpose that the Bani serves.
Without Bana, Bani is not delivered. This opportunity to experience ones own bliss is unavailable because the carrier of the technology is invisible. Bana states that we are here to deliver this and to serve. We have a claim to the technology and we are presenting ourselves as a vessel to deliver it. We are the wiring that can channel the electricity to the device necessary.
Seva and Simran is just as important. Seva, or selfless service, is an act of service for the purpose of serving. It has nothing to do with personal gain or self centered attitude. It is the act of serving where there is a need but with no agenda other than serving. The Bana and Bani are tools to assist this service. Bana (as we have stated earlier) is advertisement or a banner of claim that the wearer can deliver the other aspects of a Sikhs life. Bani is the focus of every Sikh but it is also what guides our Seva. We serve where there is a need.
These days Seva is misunderstood. People think that it means to go to a temple and clean, or cook, or serve those who enter. This is a form of Seva, but I have always considered it more a place to learn how to serve better. The Guru’s house is the richest place because the Guru is there. I find that our sangats need to learn to bring the service from the Gurdwara out and implement it into a more general arena.
Simran, or meditation, is the process of cleansing the mind. We bathe every day. That is part of our Bana. Simran is the process of cleansing the mind. Conquer your mind and you conquer your environments. What better way to become the perfect tool for Seva? Neither are we sadhus who live in caves and meditate by ourselves. Or are we self serving business people whose only aim in life is to earn and earn so that they can have a bigger holding for themselves. We live in a Grisht Ashram (householders lifestyle). But our path demands that we remain spiritual while immersed in the material realm. This combination of Seva and Simran creates that balance. Living in a cave and meditating is a beautiful practice but it only serves you. But serving without cleaning your mind and remaining focused on the Higher Self is cheating that which you serve.
Karan: Can you specifically tell us what seva you do living in India?
Sada Sat Simran: Living in India we as a Jatha perform Kirtan (musical recitation of Gurbani) in Gurdwaras and functions all over India. This gives our community (3ho) exposure to the greater Sikh community and inspires the “Punjabi” Sikh community because they are not aware of foreign Sikhs in the world. When they see us in our Bana singing Bani and openly devoted to the Guru it inspires them to do the same. We pray that the Sangats here grow and become empowered through devotion to the Guru and a strong Sadhana.
Another way that we serve is at Miri Piri Academy. Jagat Guru Singh Khalsa is the Director of Spiritual Studies at MPA and has been serving as a Staff member there since 1998. Sada Sat Simran Singh Khalsa and Harimander Jot Singh Khalsa serve in other ways as they are not staff members. They help teach Gatka, Music and spiritual studies as well. We are a permanent presence in the Indian Sikh community. We travel from India for Kirtan trips and to teach at Sikh Youth camps.
Karan: Can you tell us about the experience of being able to join the elite group of musicians invited to play at the Golden Temple?
Sada Sat Simran:
The Golden Temple is probably the highest standard for Gurbani Kirtan or Sikh Devotional Music. Its standards have been set for hundreds of years and the Maryada, or code of conduct, for doing kirtan inside the temple is very strict. All the Banis sung there have to be memorized. You cant bring any papers or Kirtan books to read from. This ensures the quality of the musicians in that they have to have immersed themselves in Bani enough to know it by heart. The time frames for doing Kirtan are strictly allotted and starting late or going over the allotted time by even a minute is looked down on and would probably lead to you not being invited back, and if you are an employee of the Golden Temple would result in you being fired. The first Shabad you sing has to be in Raag. Raag is the classical form of music of India. North Indian Classical Music is based off of a system of scales or modes which have certain rules to their movement, time of day that they are sung at, and vocal techniques used.
There are 31 Raags used in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib and many many more discussed in the Siri Guru Granth, The Siri Dasam Granth and the Siri Sarbloh Granth. All Indian music is based in Raag but inside the Golden Temple the first Shabad must be sung in the classical style which means strict rules in the music as far as notes sung and the rhythms used. Depending on the time of day there are different lines from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib that have to be sung by the musicians.
Nowadays there is another factor that raises the standard. There is a Punjabi channel called PTC Punjabi that has video cameras strategically placed all over the Golden Temple and the Parkarma. These film the everyday ceremonies and Kirtan that happens there. If you are designated to perform Kirtan at the time when the ‘TV is on’ than it is a live performance broadcast in over 120 countries. Whenever we do Kirtan at those times we get phone calls from people in the US and Canada, England and Europe, all over India and Malaysia and Singapore. It is really the central standard for Kirtan in the Sikh religion.
Karan: What music (mantras, gurbani) are you listening to these days. Can you tell us 5 albums that are on your current ‘play list’?
Sada Sat Simran: