Many people who practice Kundalini Yoga, as taught by Yogi Bhajan, love the mantras and chants. But where did these chants come from? What language are they written in?
The language the mantras are written in and spoken are in Gurmukhi. While "Gurmukhi" is spoken, it is a poetic rendering, written in a script intended for spiritual writings. As far as languages go, Gurmukhi is relatively new. It's less than 500 years old.
Guru Angad, the second Sikh Master, invented the Gurmukhi script. Guru Nanak named Guru Angad to succeed him as the Guru for the Sikhs in 1539. Gurmukhi means "from the mouth of the Guru." The Gurmukhi script accomplished something very special. It allowed people to be able to read and pronounce the songs written by Guru Nanak. Up until that point in history, the dialect spoken by Guru Nanak and his contemporaries had no written equivalent. Written languages were reserved for the powerful, the wealthy, and the high-castes. There was no writing or reading based on the common language.
Gurmukhi was developed to be a very precise phonetic language. By learning to pronounce Gurmukhi, people could not only learn to read and pronounce the songs written by Guru Nanak; they could also learn how to pronounce the songs that Guru Nanak had preserved during his life from other masters and sages, even if those songs were in a completely different language. The purpose of Gurmukhi was not to simply represent the common language of the time, but to allow people to read and sing sacred songs in other languages as well.
Why did this phonetic language develop? And what does it have to do with the Shabad Guru – the Guiding Sound of Wisdom?
Being awakened or enlightened is not simply a mental state. It is a physiological state as well. How we breath, how the glands secrete, how the nervous system is operating—all of this changes based on what we speak, what we hear, and what we perceive. When Guru Nanak sang his songs, the words he brought forth had a two-fold effect. On the level of language, they imparted a certain philosophical meaning of how to see the world. But in the science of Naad (sound), the songs have the ability to change the physiology of a person and bring them to a more heightened state of consciousness.
The invention of Gurmukhi was key to opening the doors of the Shabad Guru to all people. Through learning this very simple, precise method of pronunciation, and by repeating the words of the sages, you begin to induce in yourself the same state of consciousness that they were in when they sang the songs. It begins to create the same changes in the physiology. It opens the door to higher awareness. And all that is required is your breath and voice imitating and repeating those sounds.
This is the essence of the Shabad Guru. It is between you and you. There is no one else involved. It only requires your breath reciting this sacred poetry. By doing this practice, there is a process you undergo within your own ego and identity to transform your awareness to live at these heights.
If you would like to read more about the particular effects of some of the banis, or sacred songs that people practice on a regular basis,click here.
Shabad – the sound that cuts the ego. Guru – the wisdom that takes us from darkness to light. In his teachings, Yogi Bhajan, also known as the Siri Singh Sahib of Sikh Dharma, taught that the Shabad Guru would become the guiding wisdom for people in the Aquarian Age.
But what, exactly, is the Shabad Guru? How does it work? Why is it important? And where does it come from?
To understand the Shabad Guru as Yogi Bhajan talked about it, we have to first understand the life and history of a very universal spiritual sage by the name of Guru Nanak.
Guru Nanak lived in the late 15th and early 16th centuries in what is now northern India. He lived at a time when there was tremendous social and economic inequality among people; when the degradation of women was a prominent part of society; when religious intolerance was everywhere. As a young child, he looked at the way human beings treated each other and began to search for a better way.
Over time, through interviewing and studying with every master, sage and yogi he could find, Guru Nanak discovered his answers. He had an enlightenment experience that showed him the true nature of Creation, of human life, and how it all worked together under One Creator. After his awakening, he recorded his experience in a song called Japji Sahib.
According to Yogi Bhajan, Guru Nanak was a master of sound. In Guru Nanak's time, only a human being could be considered a Guru. Yet, when people asked Guru Nanak who his Guru was, Guru Nanak would reply, "The Shabad." Guru Nanak did not look to another person to guide him. In his mastery of sound, he could meditate, penetrate into the etheric realms, and simply hear the Universal Wisdom that calls the soul home. All teachings, all traditions, all books of wisdom are a tiny expression of that Sound of Wisdom. Guru Nanak had such a profound level of mastery, he could perceive and hear that Universal Sound directly. He referred to it as the "shabad" or as "gurbani" – the frequency of divine guidance. When Guru Nanak sang a song, he served as a channel for the Shabad. The songs he wrote become a living manifestation of the Shabad Guru. Then, other people could meditate upon these songs and awaken themselves.
Japji Sahib begins the Aquarian Sadhana. Many of the practices within Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan use mantras or segments from Japji Sahib as part of the practice. Yogi Bhajan anchored the ancient technology of Kundalini Yoga into this relatively new practice of the Shabad Guru for a simple reason. In the Age of Aquarius, no human being will be in a position to guide or lead another human being. Each person will need to awaken himself or herself. The highest teacher in Kundalini Yoga is the Shabad – the sound of wisdom that cuts away the ego and brings a person to see the light of his or her own soul.
After his awakening, Guru Nanak travelled on foot far and wide to teach people how to use the sound current to awaken their own souls. As he travelled, the Sound of Wisdom would come to him. He wrote many hundreds of compositions that could bring the human mind to the frequency of Infinity. He recorded all of these songs in a book. Guru Nanak never claimed to be the composer of these spiritual teaching songs. Instead, he would say, "Bani is coming to me." The Shabad would come to him and express itself through him.
Guru Nanak did not simply save his own songs in this book. As he traveled, he would hear the spiritual songs of other wise people from different backgrounds and traditions. In his status as a master of sound, he could tell from listening to the composition whether it was a pure expression of that Universal Etheric Wisdom or not. When he found a song that matched the frequency and vibration of Divine guidance, he recorded it, as well.
In this way, Guru Nanak's life became an embodiment of one of his teachings – that the Guru, the Divine Teacher, can express itself in many different forms and in many different ways. And that no one tradition has a monopoly on wisdom. Rather – it is the duty of the human being to cultivate the inner awareness so that person can see the same One Light of the Divine in all.
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