Would it surprise you if I told you that the people we surround ourselves with have a profound impact on us? Indeed, one of the most widely used sayings in the English language – you are the company you keep – dates as far back as Biblical times: “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” Proverbs 13:20. The term “Sadh Sangat” encompasses this basic premise: “Sangat” meaning community or gathering and “Sadh” meaning fulfillment or completion. The practice of Sadh Sangat, which is used in our spiritual community, refers to the people who come together to sing Gurbani Kirtan and praise the Infinite Creator. As the word “sadh” suggests, by coming together in this way, these souls experience a deep sense of fulfillment – the natural result of being in God’s good company.
Back in the “olden days” of 3HO/Sikh dharma (the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s), we lived in Ashrams and did group Sadhana every morning before the sunrise. Yogi Bhajan lived in Los Angeles but traveled regularly to so many cities – New York, Amsterdam, Rome, London – to teach or lead weekend Tantric courses. We literally sat with him “at his feet” learning, serving and singing. Group singing was how we dealt with every challenge that came our way. Someone needed healing – we would come together and sing “Re Man.” A court case confronted our community – we would chant “Aap Sahaa-ee Hoaa.” A family member was lost, we would gather and sing “Mera Man Loche.” All with a group of at least 5 or more people. And this is how our practice of singing in the Sadh Sangat began.
With the popularity of Kundalini Yoga teacher training, our 3HO family has steadily grown. Yet singing Gurbani Kirtan as a community has become less and less. In fact, Kirtan has come to be seen more in terms of a performance or a product – i.e. a CD – than as an integral component of our yoga/meditation practice. However, the Dharma (the path to one’s highest truth) of this age (Kal Yug is the yogic term for this time) is intimately connected to singing and chanting the Lord’s name. Therefore, the importance of singing Gurbani Kirtan is not solely because the company of God-minded souls offers us a great sense of contentment, but because it is the fastest way to align with our highest destiny – our deepest truth. In fact, that is the reason why the Sikh Gurus came – specifically in order to teach the Dharma of the current age – to bless us with the wisdom that comes from singing these powerful mantras and shabds.
The Dharmic practice of singing Gurbani Kirtan is based on two ancient spiritual concepts. The first is Shabda Brahma, the all-pervading Word, and the second is Naada Brahma, transcendental sound. The Sikh Gurus have gone into great depths of poetry, music and metrical forms to present that transcendental gateway of sound and vibration to uplift the conditioned souls and bring them to their original and most genuine state of consciousness: “The pleasures of the world fade away in an instant, like the shade of a passing cloud.
They alone are dyed in the deep crimson of God’s Love, who meet the Guru, and sing the Praises of the Lord” SGGS pg. 1003
So, dear Yogis and teachers – the last part of Yoga class where we sing the mantras and shabds is the most important part of class. We stretched our bodies, overpowered our egos, sweated and “kept up,” we balanced our chakras, strengthened our nervous systems, and revitalized ourselves with fresh prana…all so we can sit in the bliss of the group sound current of Sadh Sangat and open that portal to the Golden light that our group energy manifests.
I invite you to look for ways to incorporate Sadh Sangat into your yoga practice. Organize a weekly Kirtan at your local yoga studio, temple, neighborhood park or your home. Find your local Gurdwara and take your students there to experience Sadh Sangat. Gather together regularly and with sincerity. So that you may sing these songs as an offering from the heart – as a gesture of gratitude to the One who has blessed you with this perfect science designed for remembering your true nature. Allow the vibrations of the voices around you to wash over you, inspire you and elevate you. Immersed in a collective consciousness that is aligned with God, we excel.