In general, Kirtan is sung in greed and heard to gratify ears – ਕੰਨ ਰਸ – (with “rare” exceptions) at religious places, religious ceremonies, homes, radios, televisions, tape-players, CD-players, Internet, and so on. As per the Gurbani, is it the purpose or definition of Kirtan? Not according to the Gurbani!

Kirtan is defined in the Gurbani as Viaakhiaa of the Gurbani, of the One, of the Divine Wisdom or Virtues, etc. (Viaakhiaa – ਵਿਆਖਿਆ: ਬਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਾਨੁ, commentary, explanation, interpretation, definition, annotation, elucidation, ਗੁਣਾ ਦੀ ਵਿਚਾਰ, ਗੁਣਾ ਦੀ ਕੀਰਤ, ਸਿਫਤ ਸਲਾਹ, ਸਬਦ-ਵਿਚਾਰ…)

  • ਅਨਦਿਨੁ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਕੇਵਲ ਬਖ੍ਯ੍ਯਾਨੁ ॥: Andinu Keertanu keval bakhyaanu (sggs 281).

In other words, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) urges us to live daily life (Anadin) with the Divine Wisdom (Giaan) or Virtues (Gun-ਗੁਣ).

The SGGS further asserts that such a person of “Pure Dharma-ਨਿਰਮਲ ਧਰਮ” remains absorbed in “Bhagti Kirtan”:

  • ਕੇਵਲ ਭਗਤਿ ਕੀਰਤਨ ਸੰਗਿ ਰਾਚੈ ॥: (A person of “Pure Dharma”…) remains absorbed in “Bhagti Kirtan”. (sggs 274).

Now, what is Bhagati in Sikhi or Gurmat? Let’s ask the SGGS:

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ ਤੂੰ ਲੇਹਿ ਇਆਨੇ ॥ ਭਗਤਿ ਬਿਨਾ ਬਹੁ ਡੂਬੇ ਸਿਆਨੇ ॥: You ignorant fool, take the Gurmati (i.e., Divine Wisdom or Aatmic-Giaan of the Gur-Shabad); without (this) Bhagti, even many clever have drowned (in perplexity). (sggs 288).
  • ਕਹੁ ਕਬੀਰ ਜਨ ਭਏ ਖਾਲਸੇ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਭਗਤਿ ਜਿਹ ਜਾਨੀ ॥: O Kabeer! Those persons become “Khaalsae” (ਖਾਲਸੇ) who have realized the Prem Bhagti (Virtues-ਗੁਣ, understanding of the Gur-Shabad, Giaan or Wisdom…). (sggs 655).

Thus, in nutshell, Bhagti in Sikhi is to obtain the spiritual Knowledge of the SGGS (Giaan Bhagti or Gurmat Bhagti) or awaken the Divine Virtues (Rabbi Gun-ਗੁਣ) within and live daily life accordingly!

  • ਭਗਤ੍ਯ੍ਯੰ ਭਗਤਿ ਦਾਨੰ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਰਤਨਹ ॥: Bhagat are blessed with Kirtan of the Divine Naam and Virtues. (sggs 1355).
  • ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Without acquiring Virtues, Bhagti can not be performed (sggs 4).
  • ਸਚੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦ ਪਿਆਰਿ ॥: True Bhagti consists of love for the Gur-Shabad (i.e., life of the Shabad-Giaan, Wisdom, Upadesh, Virtues…). (sggs 158).

This is the Real Kirtan! However, we have been brain washed by the crafty Pujaaree system that Kirtan is just singing with harmonium, Dholak, Tabla, etc. However, that’s not the Gurbani’s real Kirtan but a mundane business (ਧੰਧਾ).

The Gurbani has strong words of caution, warning, admonition (whatever we want to call it) about such Kirtan.

However, we almost never hear Raagees (professional singers) talk about it! It’s not a surprise. Because, if they do, it will be like the famous proverbial expression: “kicking on one’s own stomach” (“ਅਪਣੇ ਪੇਟ ਪਰ ਲੱਤ ਮਾਰਨੀ”). The Gurbani says:

  • ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ ॥: For the sake of bread, they perform melodiously (sggs 465).
  • ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀਆ ਰਾਗਿ ਨ ਭੀਜਈ ॥: Some sing according to traditional Raag, but the Lord is not pleased by these Raag (sggs 1285).
  • ਗਾਵਹਿ ਗੀਤ ਨ ਚੀਨਹਿ ਆਪੁ ॥: You sing the songs, but you do not understand your own self (i.e., your Mool). (sggs 903).
  • ਮਨਿ ਪਰਤੀਤਿ ਨ ਆਈਆ ਸਹਜਿ ਨ ਲਗੋ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਸਬਦੈ ਸਾਦੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਓ ਮਨਹਠਿ ਕਿਆ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਇ ॥: O mind! You have no conviction (of Truth, etc.) and you have not embraced love (for the Truth) with Sahaj (Natural State of Being, Wisdom or Giaan-Avasthaa. etc.). You do not enjoy the sublime taste of the Shabad – what (is the use of) singing Praises stubborn-mindedly? (sggs 549).

To keep us from sinking into Maya’s illusion, we are time and again alerted by the Gurbani. If not alert, than we take the risk of falling into the same dark pit of ignorance like countless so called Raagees, Sants, Baabaas, Giaanees, Gurus, Swamis, Saadhoos, and Kathaakaars; not to mention professional singers who sing the Gurbani in the pretext of making money (ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ, sggs 465)! They read and memorize the Banee like a parrot, and sing it in attractive melody or Taals; however, it goes in vain because they do it in greed and selfishness. The Gurbani confirms as follows:

  • ਗੀਤ ਰਾਗ ਘਨ ਤਾਲ ਸਿ ਕੂਰੇ ॥: (Forgetting the Shabad: Vichaar, Giaan, etc., mortal indulges in) the various songs, Raag and rhythms, but these are all false efforts. (sggs 832).
  • ਅੰਦਰਹੁ ਅੰਨਾ ਬਾਹਰਹੁ ਅੰਨਾ ਕੂੜੀ ਕੂੜੀ ਗਾਵੈ ॥: Blind inwardly (blind from the mind – ਮਨੋਂ ਅੰਨਾ), and blind outwardly (from conduct or deeds – ਕਾਲੀਆਂ ਕਰਤੂਤਾਂ), he sings (ਝੂਠੀ ਮੂਠੀ) falsely. (sggs 960).
  • ਰਾਗ ਰਾਗਨੀ ਡਿੰਭ ਹੋਇ ਬੈਠਾ ਉਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਪਹਿ ਕਿਆ ਲੀਨਾ ॥੩॥: He sits and play music, but he sits as a hypocrite (ਪਖੰਡ ਦੀ ਮੂਰਤ); what can such person obtain from the Lord? (i.e., nothing) ||3|| (sggs 654).

In nutshell, without understanding the Gurbani (Giaan…) and without living it, just keep singing and listening Gurbani (for sense-gratification) is not the Kirtan as talked by the Gurbani.

  • ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਤ ਰਹੇ ਮਨਿ ਸਾਦੁ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥: Some sing on and on, but their minds do not find happiness. In egotism, they sing, but it is all wasted uselessly (sggs 158). (sggs 158).
  • ਗਾਵਹਿ ਗੀਤੇ ਚੀਤਿ ਅਨੀਤੇ ॥ ਰਾਗ ਸੁਣਾਇ ਕਹਾਵਹਿ ਬੀਤੇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਮਨਿ ਝੂਠੁ ਅਨੀਤੇ ॥੧॥: (Those who) sing religious songs (for others to listen), but in their consciousness is wickedness. They sing Raag (for others to) lsiten, and call themselves knowlegable (expert, ਗਿਆਨੀ, etc.), but without the Naam, their minds are false and wicked. ||1|| (sggs 414).
  • ਸਚਾ ਅਲਖ ਅਭੇਉ ਹਠਿ ਨ ਪਤੀਜਈ ॥ ਇਕਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਰਾਗ ਪਰੀਆ ਰਾਗਿ ਨ ਭੀਜਈ ॥ ਇਕਿ ਨਚਿ ਨਚਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਕੀਜਈ ॥ ਇਕਿ ਅੰਨੁ ਨ ਖਾਹਿ ਮੂਰਖ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਿਆ ਕੀਜਈ ॥: The True, Unseen, Mysterious (Universal Energy) is not won over by stubbornness. Some sing according to traditional Raag, but the Lord is not pleased by these Raag. Some dance and dance in perfect beat, but this is not the way of Bhagti (either). Some refuse to eat; (tell me) what can be done with these fools? (sggs 1285).

The Real Kirtan as defined in the Gurbani demands we become the Gurmukh (follower of the Truth, whose mind is linked to Antar-Aatmaa or whose Akal – ਅਕਲ – follows Gurbani and restrains the mind instead of following the mind, Sach Santokhee, his state is that of “Ik Mann Ik Chit“, ਮਾਇਆ ਵਿਚ ਉਦਾਸੀ, one established in Viveka-budhi, ਜਿਸ ਨੂੰ ਗੁਰਮਤ ਦੀ ਸੋਝੀ ਹੈ …). That is, we are urged to immerse in the Naam or Shabad-Surati (Shabad-Consciousness, Aatam-Giaan …) by integrating our cracked mind and Chit (Consciousness) into One. Then the Real Kirtan happens in the Home of the Heart within, Naturally.

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਰਾਗ ਸੁਆਦ ਅਨ ਤਿਆਗੇ ॥: The Gurmukh renounces other “Raag” and tastes (sggs 415).
  • ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੋਹਣੇ ਜਾ ਲਾਗੈ ਸਹਜਿ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥ ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਛੋਡਿ ਹਰਿ ਸੇਵੀਐ ਤਾ ਦਰਗਹ ਪਾਈਐ ਮਾਨ॥: The melody and music are beautiful only when, through the (Gur-) Shabad, “Sahaji Dhiaan” is experienced, within (i.e., contemplation, self-communication, Reflection, attention – ਸੁਰਤ, ਬਿਰਤੀ – by means of the Natural State of Being …). Forsaking the Raag and Naad, serve the Lord (by focusing on the Naam); then the Honor in the Court of the Lord is obtained. (sggs 849).
  • ਕਰ ਕਰਿ ਤਾਲ ਪਖਾਵਜੁ ਨੈਨਹੁ ਮਾਥੈ ਵਜਹਿ ਰਬਾਬਾ ॥: Kar kari taal pakhaavaju… (sggs 884).

In nutshell, the type of Kirtan the SGGS recommends can ONLY be performed within the mind!

  • ਹਿਰਦੈ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਇ ਜੈ ਜੈ ਸਬਦੁ ਹਰਿ ॥: Within my Heart (mind, Aatmaa), I sing the Divine Praises, and (thus I) celebrate the Shabad (i.e., obtain understanding through Shabad-Vichaar and then live the Giaan or Vrtues in daily life). (sggs 790).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਬਿਬੇਕੁ ਸਦਾ ਆਪੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੀ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੩॥: (By the Grace of the Gu-Giaan who stills his false ego-sense) awakens discerning intellect (Bibek-Budh, Giaan…) within and continually examines own-self (examines his spiritual life). Through the Gur-Shabad, he lives by the Virtues or Giaan. ||3|| (sggs 128).

Apparently, the true meaning of the Kirtan has totally been derailed by our greed and stubborn mindedness (Mann-Hatha).

11 replies on “Kirtan”

I couldn’t agree more!!
So true,,,Where do we stand today as a sikh for the most part… “Kann Rass”

• ਰਾਗੈ ਨਾਦੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਇਨੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: (To abide in the Lord – ਪਰਮਾਤਮਾ ਦਾ ਮਿਲਾਪ) is beyond Raagas and Naad (ਰਾਗ/ ਨਾਦ ਦੀ ਕੈਦ ਤੋਂ ਪਰੇ); by these Raagas/Naad, Hukam (of the Lord) cannot be understood. (sggs 1423).
• ਗਾਇ ਹਾਰੇ ਗੰਧ੍ਰਬ ਬਜਾਇ ਹਾਰੇ ਕਿੰਨਰ ਸਭ ਪਚ ਹਾਰੇ ਪੰਡਤ ਤਪੰਤਿ ਹਾਰੇ ਤਾਪਸੀ ॥੨੦॥੯੦॥: Gandharvas (the musicians, singers…) have got tired (of singing…), Kinnars (the players of musical instruments) have got tired (playing musical instruments…), the Pundits (scholars…) have got highly weary and the ascetics observing austerities have also got tired (i.e., none of the above-mentioned people have been able to know the secret of the Supreme Lord). ॥20॥90॥ (Dasam Granth 52).

most revered,
In dhun atmic samadhi, while concentrating on the sound current, vibrating above the ear, how can dim light be spotted, is this light leading the sound current towards itself and would only expose when reached, that void,,sunn,,god particle,,panch shabad, as light travels faster than sound.

Satkar jog Gurmukh T.Singh ji
Parmesher kare is gurbani-vichar kardeya hoyea tuhada gyan prachand gyan ho jaye te jis naal tuhada DEO(chit,anter-atma,ram-ansh,brahm) jagrit avastha vich aa jeye te oh GURDEO(satgur,puran-brahm) ban ke lotus flower di tarah ban jaye.
Please write an article on JOT, SURAT , MAT & BUDH

Satkar jog Gurmukh T.Singh ji
Whenever i see the Lotus image in your reflections on gurbani i have the glimpse of your enlightened DEO(jeev,chit,ram-ansh). Tuhada khidya hoya hirdye najar aonda hai because only and only TRUTH resides in your articles.
jisto thoda ja chanan eh nimana das vi lai laida hia.
Gurpreet Singh

Thank you Gurpreet Singh Ji,
As a beginner student, I am just learning along with you, Brother.
As far as the flower icon goes, instead of using a picture of a body-frame (“ਕਾਚੀ ਗਗਰੀ”, “ਰਕਤ ਬੁੰਦ ਕਾ ਗਾਰਾ” …) or instead of using some strange and weird looking Avtar, I decided to use this simple flower icon. That’s all.

Thank you Ji.

• ਬਿਲਾਵਲੁ ਤਬ ਹੀ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਜਬ ਮੁਖਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਰਾਗ ਨਾਦ ਸਬਦਿ ਸੋਹਣੇ ਜਾ ਲਾਗੈ ਸਹਜਿ ਧਿਆਨੁ ॥ (sggs 849).
• ਕੋਈ ਗਾਵੈ ਰਾਗੀ ਨਾਦੀ ਬੇਦੀ ਬਹੁ ਭਾਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਨਹੀ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਭੀਜੈ ਰਾਮ ਰਾਜੇ ॥ (sggs 450).

Satkar jog Gurmukh T.Singh ji
Yes, when the Brahm(jeev,ram-ansh,chit) of a gurmukh becomes puran brahm(puran jot,khalsa) it takes bath(drinks) in NAAM (ram-ras,har-ras, anhad-naad, shabd-dhun, dhur ki bani) then at that time whatever he(gurmukh) speaks are the words (rag) actually spoken to him by NAAM, he just utters those words in the regional language. This is the Bilaval Raag(gurmukh jado bulaya bolda hai).

Gurpreet Singh

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