I have been listening to, or reciting Kirtan Sohila (evening Sikh prayer) my whole life. My first conscious memory of this prayer was when my stepfather, Sat Santokh would read Kirtan Sohila to me every night before going to sleep. I am grateful beyond any words I can come up with that my stepfather did this. There was a purity and love in his offering that helped me to connect to Kirtan Sohila in a deep way. Night after night as the words were recited to me, they penetrated into my heart. It was at this time that my love for this prayer was sewn into my heart.
Later, as a full fledged teenager, I learned the Gurmukhi language, the sacred language of the Sikhs, and began reciting it myself. It was just something I did every night. Pretty soon I had it memorized. I continued with this practice throughout my twenties and into my thirties. My practice with it stayed very strong, although at times I would just recite it in my mind. And there were even days when I missed reciting it all together.
It wasn’t until we had our daughter that the practice of reciting it out loud every night no matter what came back. It worked almost every night to put our new baby to sleep. That is when I reconnected with this prayer in a very deep way once again. I noticed that the pure recitation of the words stopped the mind and put me into a state of meditation, of no thoughts, of the energy I felt of Guru Nanak. There was no more up, no more down, no more this, no more that. A stillness, and a meditative state was all that was left. An ability to let go of the day, and go to sleep took over. For our daughter, it was just the right vibration to allow her to go to sleep without fail… every night! As new parents this discovery gave us the golden gift of much needed sleep.
The practice of reciting it out loud is very important to create this energy. That is why we included a recitation track on our new album, Evening Prayer.
In order to receive all of the benefits of the practice, it is best to do it correctly in the way that it was originally taught. Here are the basics:
- Get yourself ready for bed.
- Sit up straight in bed.
- Cover your head.
- Recite Kirtan Sohila
- and then go to sleep!
You can just play the CD for the whole night as well. We made a big effort to keep the music in a very peaceful way, so that one could do just this. This will keep a peaceful and meditative vibration in your room as you sleep. If you cannot sleep with music playing at night (like me!), you can just play the music as you are doing your “getting ready for bed” routine. And then do the recitation right before bed.
One of the most powerful things about this prayer is that it gives you a very deep teaching to your subconscious. All Gurbani does this. But, because this is recited before going to sleep it can work at a very deep level and set the vibration not only for your night, but for your life. I encourage you to take a look at the meaning of this prayer in its entirety. We have included the meaning in our CD booklet.
Follow this link for the English translation along with a brief explanation of Kirtan Sohila. As you read the meaning, it will help you to understand the impact of this prayer.
We were fortunate to find this excerpt from a lecture that Yogi Bhajan gave about Kirtan Sohila in 1977, that goes into just one line of this prayer. Please enjoy it.
Excerpt from July 21, 1977 Lecture by Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan:
“That is why the sixth Guru said, Kirtan Sohila, before sleeping oh Sikh, you seek a peaceful night, you don’t seek your horror, you don’t seek your misery to come out on you, recite Kirtan Sohila, sing it. How does it start?
Jai ghar keerat aakhee-ai kartay kaa ho-ay beechaaro. (In that house where the Praises of the Creator are chanted and contemplated). Tit ghar gaavhu Sohilaa sivriihu sirjanhaaro. (In that house, sing Songs of Praise; meditate and remember the Creator Lord.) Tum gaavhu mayray nirbha-o kaa Sohila. (Sing the Songs of Praise of my Fearless Lord.)
And that is the most highest thing, Tum gaavhu mayray nirbha-o kaa Sohila. [This line means] you should chant and sing the Sohila the grace, Sohila means grace. You should sing in grace of my fearless one. There lies the secret of it, Tum gaavhu mayray nirbha-o kaa Sohilaa. Who is singing you are singing, who is telling you, your Guru is telling you. Some people say, how is the Siri Guru Granth the Guru? Siri Guru Granth is saying this thing, Tum gaavhu mayray nirbha-o kaa Sohila. Why is there a chance of salvation unto to God for a Sikh and why is there a hassle for another person, have you ever understood it? Let me tell you, it’s a very great secret, which people don’t know. When you say, Guru says, you hear and you practice. Here you say, you hear and you practice. Highest meditation is what? You are saying it to yourself.”
Visit www.snatamkaur.com to find about Snatam Kaur’s music, workshops and courses.
About Snatam Kaur: Through inspirational concerts, workshops, immersion courses and retreats, the much-beloved devotional singer and Grammy nominated recording artist Snatam Kaur shares the power of Sikh sacred mantras with all the world. Possessed of an incandescently luminous voice and a deep knowledge of Kundalini yoga, her concerts and events are joyous occasions and a source of solace for our troubled times.
“A big focus in all I’m doing now is simply coming back to ‘I am love’ and feeling that vibration of love,” she says. “There’s such a feeling of divisiveness in the world now—division amongst each other, and division within ourselves in the form of either shame, guilt, fear or anger. Mantra is powerful in awakening us back to what it means to be loving to ourselves, and loving toward our neighbors who may not agree with us. It’s really from that place of love that we can find the language to work together—to be together.”