In his teachings on the Shabd Guru, Yogi Bhajan often stated that the sound current is the medicine for the Aquarian Age. Like many of us in the Sikh Dharma and Kundalini Yoga communities, practicing and teaching sound and mantra and Gurbani kirtan – and tapping into the healing affects of the Shabd Guru from doing so – is an abiding personal passion. In this journey, I was blessed to be invited by Japbir Kaur of Shanghai to teach sound and mantra in April 2015 in several cities in China and Taiwan. Over 20 days, we traveled from city to city where we held many workshops and shared mantra and Gurbani kirtan in concerts.
There were many profound and subtle insights along the way. For the most part, many of the yogis were relatively new to Gurmukhi and creating sound in this way. We spent a lot of time getting deep into the experience of Shabd Guru by focusing on bij sounds and simple Gurmukhi mantras, how to vibrate and resonate, and exploring why chanting works. All of us who are not familiar with Punjabi and Gurmukhi language pronunciation have to figure out how to make the sounds. For Mandarin Chinese speakers, getting the tongue to flick off the roof of the mouth when pronouncing ‘r’ is challenging. Also, many words in Mandarin end with vowels so closing the word with a consonant was a sometimes elusive concept – for example chanting Sat Naam versus Sat Naaaa without closing the lips with the ‘m’.
A few stand out moments to note was in each of the two day workshops, having the students sing lines of classical Gurbani kirtan in a call and answer style. It was so beautiful to hear their voices rise together in a style of music that many of them had likely never heard before.