Kirtan - It's Not Shabad Vichaar

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

In order to impart the Truth (ਸਚ) to masses, as examples (ਹਵਾਲਾ), all the 35 contributors of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) have used terms in their Bani (ਬਾਣੀ) that were prevailing in common language spoken by average citizens of their time. BUT, WITH DIFFERENT OR CHANGED MEANINGS!

In general, Kirtan is sung in Haumai (false ego-sense) greed, etc., and heard to gratify ears ( ਕੰਨ ਰਸ).

It can be heard at religious places, religious ceremonies, homes, radios, televisions, tape-players, CD-players, Internet, digital media, mobile phones, and so on.

However, the illiterate and corrupt Pujaaree groups and the Pujaaree system has entrusted upon people's head that Kirtan is the most exalted action ("ਪਰਧਾਨਾ-Pardhaanaa"), and that it is to sing the Gurbani loud with musical instruments.

As we'll see in the pages that lie ahead the above assertion or interpretation of the Pujaaree is totally self-serving (ਰੋਟੀਆਂ ਦਾ ਜਰੀਆ, ਧੰਧਾ, business...).

Pujaaree claim Kirtan to be the most exalted action

To make their point, the cunning Pujaaree groups always misquote the following verse: "ਕਲਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਪਰਧਾਨਾ ॥: Kalyug mahi kirtan(u) pardhaanaa".

But they seldom quote the next verse, or they misquote that one as well: "ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਪੀਐ ਲਾਇ ਧਿਆਨਾ ॥: Gurmukhi japeeai laai dhiaanaa". This second makes it very clear what the Gurbani is talking about.

First off, the Gurbani does not believe in four Yuga as does the Brahmin Pujaaree. For the Gurmat (Wisdom, Giaan, Upadesh or Way of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), Yugas are the state of an individual's  mind at a given moment.

For example, Kal Yuga is the state of mind dominated by falsehood (untruthfulness), doubt, ignorance, Haumai, Bikaar... Also, literally, Kirtan (ਕੀਰਤਨ) means Keertee (ਕੀਰਤੀ – ਵਡਿਆਈ, ਸੋਭਾ, to celebrate or live by the the Divine Virtues and Wisdom in daily life...). Now combining both verses:
  • ਕਲਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਪਰਧਾਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਪੀਐ ਲਾਇ ਧਿਆਨਾ ॥: The most exalted is the Kirtan in this Kal Yuga. Therefore, by becoming the Gurmukh, understand (the "Naam Padaarath": Wisdom, Virtues, Truth...) with full attention (sggs 1075).
Among other verses, the Pujaaree also often misquote the following verse: "ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮੋਲਕ ਹੀਰਾ ॥: Kirtan(u) nirmolak heeraa". But, when you combine rest of the verses, the picture becomes very clear that here the Gurbani is talking about the Jewel or Diamond ("Heeraa") of Wisdom, Virtues (ਗੁਣ). In nutshell, The SGGS is telling us that the 'Bani -ਬਾਣੀ' (i.e., Giaan or Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad) is the priceless Jewel of Wisdom, Ocean of Virtues (ਗੁਣ) and Bliss, most excellent 'Poonjee-ਪੂੰਜੀ' (wealth, capital, assets, fund, etc.) ...
  • ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਨਿਰਮੋਲਕ ਹੀਰਾ ॥ ਆਨੰਦ ਗੁਣੀ ਗਹੀਰਾ ॥ ਅਨਹਦ ਬਾਣੀ ਪੂੰਜੀ ॥ ਸੰਤਨ ਹਥਿ ਰਾਖੀ ਕੂੰਜੀ ॥੨॥: Kirtan(u) nirmolak heeraa...  (sggs 893).
The Gurbani further Teaches us:
  • ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਹਥਿ ਕੁੰਜੀ ਹੋਰਤੁ ਦਰੁ ਖੁਲੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰੈ ਭਾਗਿ ਮਿਲਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੭॥: The key is in the hands of the Satigur (True Knowledge or Wisdom, ਸਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ...); no other means can open this door. By great fortune (i.e., who lives by the Naam) realizes. ||7|| (sggs 124).
  • ਗੁਰੁ ਕੁੰਜੀ ਪਾਹੂ ਨਿਵਲੁ ਮਨੁ ਕੋਠਾ ਤਨੁ ਛਤਿ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਮਨ ਕਾ ਤਾਕੁ ਨ ਉਘੜੈ ਅਵਰ ਨ ਕੁੰਜੀ ਹਥਿ ॥੧॥: (One's) mind is (like a) house, the body is (like its) roof, and the attachment of Maya is lock (on this house of the mind - like the chain locked on the animal legs). The Guru (Gur-Wisdom or ਗਿਆਨ) is the key (that open this lock - this is only key that can remove the spell of Maya from the mind...). O Nanak! Without the Guru (Gur-Wisdom or ਗਿਆਨ), the door of the mind cannot be opened. No one else holds the key in hand (to open this lock) ||1|| (sggs 1237).

Gurbani cautions us about mundane Kirtan

The Gurbani has strong words of caution, warning, admonition (whatever we want to call it) about the kind Kirtan that's being promoted and  propagated by the Pujaaree groups. However, we almost never hear Raagees (professional singers of the Gurbani) talk about it! It's not a surprising at all!. 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 Raagee, Baabaa, Sant, Giaanees, Swamis, Saadhoos, Kathaakaars, professional singers who sing the Gurbani in the pretext of making money (ਰੋਟੀਆ ਕਾਰਣਿ ਪੂਰਹਿ ਤਾਲ, sggs 465), etc. They read and memorize Bani 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 or Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad...) and without living it in daily life, 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 ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਿ ਗਾਵਹਿ ਬਿਰਥਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: Some sing on and on, but their minds do not find happiness. In egotism, they sing, but it is all wasted uselessly (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) listen, and call themselves knowledgeable (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).
  • ਰਾਗੈ ਨਾਦੈ ਬਾਹਰਾ ਇਨੀ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਨ ਬੂਝਿਆ ਜਾਇ ॥: (Union with the Divine Consciousness) is beyond Raagas and Naad (ਰਾਗ, ਨਾਦ ਦੀ ਕੈਦ ਤੋਂ ਪਰੇ); Hukam (Law or System of Nature...) cannot be understood through these Raagas and Naad. (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 Divine). ॥20॥90॥ (Dasam Granth, 52).
Bhai Gurdas calls it "swindling" (ਠਗੀ) of gullible people by the "cheat" Ragi or singers of the Gurbani:
  • ਤੈਸੇ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦ ਸੁਨਾਇ ਗਾਇ ਦਿਖ ਠਗੋ ਭੇਖਧਾਰੀ ਜਾਨਿ ਮੋਹਿ ਮਾਰਿ ਨ ਬਿਡਾਰਹੀ ॥੬੧੧॥: Similarly, a cheat different from inside and outside swindle gullible Sikhs by singing to them the sacred hymns of the Guru. But those Sikhs enamored by the sweetness of Gurbani and of very generous nature, don't even scold me despite them knowing that (Bhai Gurdas, Kabit 611).

Shabad Vichaar is the most exalted Kirtan

According to the Gurbani, Shabad Vichaar is the supreme or most exalted action ("ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ", "ਸਭਸੈ ਊਪਰਿ", "ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ").
  • ਸਭਸੈ ਊਪਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਸਬਦੁ ਬੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹੋਰ ਕਥਨੀ ਬਦਉ ਨ ਸਗਲੀ ਛਾਰੁ ॥੨॥: Reflection on the Gur-Shabad is above all (other notions, speculations, calculations…). I don’t care for anything else, for all else (i.e., other than the Wisdom of the Gur-Shabad) is just worthless. ||2|| (sggs 904).
  • ਊਤਮ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦ ਬੀਚਾਰ ॥੩॥: The ultimate action is Reflections on the Shabad – Shabad Vichaar ||3|| (sggs 158).
  • ਡਿਠੈ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਵਈ ਜਿਚਰੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਨ ਕਰੇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਹਉਮੈ ਮੈਲੁ ਨ ਚੁਕਈ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਲਗੈ ਪਿਆਰੁ ॥: (One is) not liberated by merely seeing (the Satigur), unless the Shabad is Reflected upon. (Because, without the Shabad-Vichaar) the filth of Haumai (false ego-sense) is not removed, and love for the Naam (Shabad, Hukam, Divine Virtues, Divine Wisdom, Giaan…) does not get affixed (in the mind). (sggs 594).
  • ਸਿਖੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਵੀਚਾਰਿ ॥: Sikhi sikhiaa gur veechaari (sggs 465).
So, if we truly want to respect the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, then, as the Gurbani urges us, we must churn Giaan (Divine Wisdom or Virtues…) in the Gurbani through the Shabad-Vichaar and become the Gurmukh (the follower of the Wisdom of the Gurmat…), and live daily life accordingly.

The one who truly respects the Gurbani becomes the Gurmukh and his mind and life get transformed (ਜੀਵਨ ਪਦਵੀ). He gets absorbed into the Gurmat (“ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਮਤਿ”, ਗੁਰ ਕੀ ਸਿਖਿਆ, the Gurbani’s Teaching, Virtues, Wisdom, Giaan…).

  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕਰਣੀ ਸਬਦੁ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: One who has become the Gurmukh, his "Karanee-ਕਰਣੀ" (lifestyle, conduct, practice....) is Shabad-Vichaar (Reflections on the Gur-Shabad). (sggs 841).
Fittingly, Kirtan is defined in the Gurbani as Viaakhiaa of the Gurbani, of the One Truth, 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 nutshell, the true singing as recommended in the SGGS is to live the Virtues (ਗੁਣ) or Hukam in daily life — "ਗੁਣ ਗਾਵਾ" (singing Glorious Praises, et.) — Truth (ਸਤ), honesty (ਇਮਾਨਦਾਰੀ), contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), humility (ਮਨ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ, ਬੁਧਿ ਗਰੀਬੀ), sweet speech (ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲੜਾ)... 

In other words, the SGGS urges us to live daily life (Anadin) with the Divine Wisdom (Giaan) and 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).
  • 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).
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 obtaining the spiritual Knowledge of the SGGS (Giaan Bhagti or Gurmat Bhagti) and Awakening the Virtues (Rabbi Gun-ਗੁਣ) within and live daily life accordingly!
  • ਵਿਣੁ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਤੇ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Without acquiring Virtues, Bhagti can not be performed (sggs 4).
  • ਭਗਤ੍ਯ੍ਯੰ ਭਗਤਿ ਦਾਨੰ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਗੁਣ ਕੀਰਤਨਹ ॥: Bhagat are blessed with Kirtan of the Divine Naam and Virtues. (sggs 1355).
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 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 kind 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 the Pujaaree's corruption, greed and stubborn mindedness (Mann-Hatha).

— T. Singh