Gurbani Kirtan illiteracy and the soul's journey

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Gurbani Kirtan illiteracy and the soul's journey

Postby Mateman » Thu Aug 07, 2008 6:51 pm

Concerning the language of Siri Guru Granth Sahib, I am illiterate. I am only literate in English. Thus the following:

I am trying to get a rudimentary understanding of the essential relationship between Guru Granth Sahib and Gurbani Kirtan as it pertains to a non-Punjabi speaking person; That is, I trying to summarize the intellectual knowledge about these two seemingly inseparable aspects of Sikhism with the handicap of not understanding the original language. (I understand that SGGS is not purely Punjabi, but has words from many other languages.)

I am reading “Indian Classical Music and Sikh Kirtan” by Gobind Singh Mansukhani. (Thanks to sher_singh for refering me to this text) It is quite enlightening and confirms much of what I have been taught since childhood about the power of music and sound to reach God, even though the musical traditions of India and Native Americans differ substantially.

Without understanding Punjabi or the language of Guru Granth Sahib, how affective can listening to Gurbani Kirtan while in a meditative state be on one's soul? In other words, can just the sound vibrations, absent any intellectual understanding of the sung words, be spiritually helpful? Absent understanding, is such listening devoid of spiritual effect? Would not such listening be on par with listening to calming classical baroque or easy-listening jazz?

As I listen to Gurbani Kirtan without understanding the words, I am calmed and feel like I am closer to God. This could be placebo effect, a self-delusion; only time will tell. I have the same feeling when I listen to song-prayers in the Navajo language. Isn't something done without understanding, or just for the sake of ritual, hollow and empty and detrimental to the upward journey of one’s soul?

I am approaching this subject having listened to, sung, and prayed many Native American spiritual song-prayers (Note: There is a difference between ‘singing’ a song-prayer and ‘praying’ a song-prayer). I know firsthand that many spiritual, and secular, Native American songs have no intelligible words, only vocables. These vocables are specific sounds meant to invoke specific thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and/or connections within those who sing or listen to the song-prayer. They are usually meant as praise to Creator. I believe that this is similar, though not identical to what I personally find in Sikh Gurbani Kirtan because I do not understand the meaning of the words.

Because each shabad has words of specific meaning (granted, each word may have multi-layered meanings), it would seem improbable that the mere sound of the words absent intellectual understanding, even if sung or listened to in a state of pure devotion and intention, would have the same effect on one’s soul as if the words were understood. If only the sounds were needed, then any vocable, whether a word or not, would suffice – so it would seem to me.

To head off the obvious: Yes, I am attempting to learn something of the language of Guru Granth Sahib, but as I have never been great at learning new languages, the understanding of the words will probably be long in coming. Learning about Sikhism, reading the Sikh daily banis (in English), reading/studying Siri Guru Granth Sahib, and continuing life as a worker and husband is a full-time endeavor even without trying to learn another language and script.

Also, remember that I have not yet finished the book. It is quite possible that the above questions may yet be answered as I read further.
अब जगु जानि जउ मना रहै ॥
But if someone, even now, comes to know the transitory nature of the world and restrain his mind,

ਜਹ ਕਾ ਬਿਛੁਰਾ ਤਹ ਥਿਰੁ ਲਹੈ ॥੪੪॥
जह का बिछुरा तह थिरु लहै ॥४४॥
he shall find his permanent home, from which he was separated.
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Re: Gurbani Kirtan illiteracy and the soul's journey

Postby sher_singh » Mon Aug 11, 2008 2:28 am

Dear Shawn

Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa
Waheguru ji ki Fateh

Sorry for being so late to reply here. I m really very irregular here. I found that book as a real master piece. But for sure it doesn't covers much about Sikhism. It is impossible for me to describe each and every aspect if Sikhism.

Keertan or singing of Gurbaani in Raagas (though Gurbani is now sung in non-Raag music too), is actually how the Gurbaani originated. In Sri Guru Granth Saheb Ji, the eleventh Guru, the living Guru, now and forever, has Gurbaani composition by 7 Sikh Gurus(first-fifth, ninth and tenth), a few Bhagats (31 i believe) and probably few more...

Gurbaani by 7 Sikh Gurus (atleast) originated directly in form of singing. I mean to say, when Guruji created the Gurbaani, they didn't wrote it, and then decided the Raags into which to sing them. Instead, they directly sung the Gurbaani even when they sung it for the first time.( I hope I m able to explain that).

Now raag is only a vehicle.. a vehicle to deliver the real Gold, the Diamond, or the unpricely passenger called Gurbaani. The beauty of the vehicle raag is to create the appropriate environment for the type of Gurbaani being sung...

for e.g. , Raag Maaro is a raag of sorrow. When this raag is played an emotion of sorrow is created all around... So this raag is used for serious shabads. When Guru Arjun Dev ji went to Raavi river for his last bath, he listened to a shabad in Maaro raag (dont remember that shabad at the moment). Guru Arjun Dev ji went into the river and never came back...even his body was not found

So raag is used to create an appropriate environment for the type of emotion the Shabad or Gurbaani expresses...and its easy to concentrate on the subject through Keertan, as human ears like sound...

It is really very easy to concentrate on Gurbaani through keertan... more pure is the singer or the Keertaniya, more effective is the concentration.

The best environment in Keertan develops when all the "sangat" or the listeners(though not absolutely appropraite word) sing with the Keertaniyas...

all this is beat when experience it yourself... this experience is best found in Keertan, and "naam abhyaas"...

even if you dont understand what is teh actual meaning of what is being sung, we still get nectar from Keertan... though the sweetness increases many fold when we understand the meaning too.

So never mind even if u dont understand it... even I dont completely !!! you will begin to understand gradually.

Bhul Chuk Maaf (Pardon my errors)

Waheguru ji ka khalsa
Waheguru Ji KI Fateh
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa
Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
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Re: Gurbani Kirtan illiteracy and the soul's journey

Postby wicky » Mon Nov 24, 2014 12:26 am

I am trying to get a rudimentary understanding of the essential relationship between Guru Granth Sahib and Gurbani Kirtan as it pertains to a non-Punjabi speaking person; That is, I trying to summarize the intellectual knowledge about these two seemingly inseparable aspects of Sikhism with the handicap of not understanding the original language. (I understand that SGGS is not purely Punjabi, but has words from many other languages.)
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