My Musical Collaboration with Yogi Bhajan
I have been blessed in many ways through the course of my life. One of the most lasting blessings began in 1976. That was when I began my spiritual journey in earnest. This journey ultimately led me to become a student of Yogi Bhajan and a Sikh of the Guru. The miracle of my growth continues to this day as the Siri Singh Sahib’s (Yogi Bhajan’s) teachings and the Guru’s wisdom continually bring new challenges and understandings into my life.
The student/teacher relationship has many facets, some of which are tests and challenges and ultimately successes. Yogi Bhajan provided me with numerous tests and challenges, as he did for many of his students. Of those challenges, one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling was our musical collaborations. This musical partnership began in 1988. I was fortunate to live in Los Angeles and in the same neighborhood as Yogi Bhajan. This afforded me many opportunities to be with him personally.
At the time, I was experiencing difficulties in my personal life, so to distract myself, I decided to start a new hobby: the art and science of audio recording. I started by making simple recordings of other people’s music, mantras and meditations. As these efforts began to circulate around our community, they eventually found their way to the ears of Yogi Bhajan. He inquired about these recordings and how I made them. I explained that I was studying recording as well as practicing piano and guitar. I also informed him that I had built a small recording studio in the garage of the ashram where I was living. His interest increased regarding my hobby and its potential.
The Making of Ong Namo
A short time later, in his living room, he sang the melody for ‘Ong Namo Gur Dev Namo.’ He only sang it one time but the template was captured on a small cassette recorder. I was instructed to make a 31 minute version of the Ong Namo mantra. He requested that I use Nirinjan Kaur, one of his senior staff, to sing the vocal. So, I went home and made a simple recording with a few instruments and Nirinjan Kaur added her voice. Soon after, I brought a cassette back for his comments. At first listen, he seemed delighted with the results. Our first recording is still being used today in White Tantric Yoga® courses and by Kundalini Yoga teachers.
A Continuing Collaboration
Thus began our musical collaboration. It continued for about five years, from 1988 until 1993. With his guidance, I recorded over thirty poems and mantras. These collaborations gave me numerous opportunities to speak directly with Yogiji. Often I would ask for clarification and even make suggestions such as adding extra verses or a mantra to his poems. With few exceptions, Nirinjan Kaur sang the lead vocals on what became known as: The songs for the Aquarian Age.
Nirinjan Kaur continued to bring me more of his poems and mantras, often with very specific instructions. Truly a lifetime of creative output was waiting for me. In addition to his very specific arrangement ideas, he often wanted me to write, record and deliver a finished cassette tape to him, in as little as a day! The song Tantric Har, is an example of a one day production. It was a great privilege to work so closely and creatively with Yogi Bhajan. I truly treasure these memories.
From the first Ong Namo to this day, the spirit of our collaboration continues. I feel very blessed to have completed our latest project, Heal Me.
The Genesis of Heal Me
Having just completed the recording of Suite: Kirtan Soheila at the end of 2011, I thought a hiatus from musical creativity would be good idea. As I lay in bed one night in December 2011, a voice came to me. This was the voice of the Siri Singh Sahib, my spiritual teacher. Hearing my teacher’s voice has been a very common experience for me, having spent thirty years in his physical presence. In addition, I have continued reading his books, listening to his lectures and teaching the wisdom he shared so freely with all of his students. Throughout these 36 years as his student, I continue to maintain a close relationship with his spirit.
So, as I lay in bed that night, trying to fall asleep, I heard him clearly demanding that I should begin a new album. This command was from his subtle body, but felt real enough that I committed myself to act on it. This was to be an album for healing—healing on multiple levels. The healings would encompass the physical, mental, financial, spiritual and creative realms, and even our Dharmic community.
The Agony and Ecstasy of the Creative Process
I committed myself to begin this album, but I felt anxious about starting a new project so close to having just completed Kirtan Soheila. For me, musical creativity can be an endeavor that is both agony and ecstasy. Recording Kirtan Soheila, was a great blessing but was physically and emotionally exhausting. Between the two albums, I have spent nine months focused on the recording process.
And recording the album Heal Me coincided with my own health challenge. In January 2012, I developed a very stubborn respiratory virus that took about three months to heal. So making Heal Me was really intertwined with healing myself. Recording this album brought me into a new depth in my own spiritual development and allowed me to experience a profound sense of trust and renewal. I am most grateful to God, Guru and the Siri Singh Sahib for guiding me through this challenge.
Putting music to words that come either from the Guru or my teacher is exciting and at times exasperating. Getting what I hear in my head and heart into a finished recording takes time, skill, money and a bit of “fairy dust,”—some unplanned magic. Then there is the concern that my efforts might not turn out as well as hoped for. To achieve success on this project I had the very good fortune to again work with Randy Emata, the album’s producer, as well as my wife, Simran Kaur. Together, I believe we have created something very special. A big part of the magic of recording Heal Me was Simran’s singing. Her voice brought life to the Siri Singh Sahib’s words. Simran sang all but one of the main vocal tracks. In addition we had great musicians contributing their special talents to the recording of the album’s songs.
The Songs of “Heal Me”
Deciding what material to use was a meditative and intuitive process for me. By ‘material’ I mean the poems and mantras that are the essence of these compositions. Most of the poems used on the album can be found in Yogi Bhajan’s book, The Game of Love. Individually the songs have their own stories and/or meditative experiences, but taken as a whole the album becomes greater than the sum of individual songs. The songs are meant to be experienced as a connective story that moves the listener to wholeness.
The album begins with “Creation.” The soundscape invokes the beginning of creation, with the first primordial sound of Ek, the One projecting itself, and thus creation unfolds into the vastness of time and space. The listener hears the sound Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam Siri Wahe Guruas it morphs from one sound into two, then three, four, and ultimately five. These voices represent the five tattvas, the elements of earth, water, fire, air, and ether. With the manifestation of the elements, God reveals Himself through his Mantra.
The Mantra is explained and restated in the song “One Vibration,” which ends with the sound of the Shaman voice proclaiming the human spirit on Earth.
Next, the journey moves to “Heal Me.” The central theme of “Heal Me” is the chorus: Kurdat khavan kaha vichar. Human birth is the opportunity to experience God’s love as the true power that moves the Universe. Only by acting in a way that allows us to receive God’s love is any real good done. Our healing becomes pleasing to God, as we move closer to His true nature and embody the form of the formless. The more we embody the form of God, the deeper and more complete the healing. The challenges of being on Earth and in this body often cause the human spirit to lose its way and forget its purpose. Sadly, this often leads to despair. Heal Me is a plea, a prayer for our restoration and redemption so we may become whole.
Heal My World
From Heal Me the journey moves to “Heal My World.” This song the calls for the collective healing of all of us. Healing must start with the individual but must move to and through the whole world. Through faith, the Divine is realized, as we sing and chant the primal sounds of Ha, Ma, Ra, Ya, Sa. From our collective oneness, we call through Thy Word to restore and heal the world for each individual and all of humanity.
“My Song” takes the listener into the mind of Yogi Bhajan. This song is his personal prayer for those who are committed to living for each other, as siblings of destiny. The poem tells his story of his challenges that he faced as a spiritual teacher. “My Song” clearly states the purpose of the Siri Singh Sahib ji’s (Yogi Bhajan’s) mission. This song simply and eloquently describes his hopes and prayers for all of his students to live and become “holy, happy and bright” and that our legacy, and ultimately our individual and collective destinies, will live on in our smiles and our songs. This is a song for our collective healing as a body of righteous living humans. To me it is the “theme” song for our spiritual community, the “siblings of destiny.”
For a conscious community to grow, we must prosper, and this prosperity must include the physical, mental, spiritual and financial realms. The song “Prosperity Hymn” provides a healing for our individual and collective pro-spira (for the breath). To know God inside and out we must open our hearts as well as the smallest cells of our bodies. Thus our total being is able to receive the needed resources and we become prosperous. Even our cells can heal and prosper as we sing the chorus of Ang Sang Whahay Guru: “Every cell of mine is filled with love and light.” This song states the essence of Yogi Bhajan’s teachings on prosperity.
Inahee Kee Kirpa
The student on a spiritual path will always be tested and challenged. It is only by the Grace of God that we are truly successful and saved from suffering. Trust in God and Guru heals all doubt, which then allows His grace to deliver us from our limitations and weaknesses. This is the essence of the song “Inahee kee kirpa.” This type of music is known as Gurbani Kirtan, meaning song of the Guru. This shabad was written by Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Guru. It speaks the Guru’s wisdom to give an understanding of how, through God’s Grace, we are blessed, and by his Grace we receive all we need to fulfill our destinies. Receiving God’s Grace bestows a special healing that protects, nurtures, educates, and allows us to share without fear and insecurity. Singing God’s praise deepens the relationship between our souls and the One who created us. The gratitude we share in our songs keeps the bonds of God’s love flowing to and through us.
I believe there can be no peace on Earth until there is grace on Earth. ‘Siri Simitry’ is a special mantra for healing the grace of all women. Grace on Earth can only be achieved when women know that their true strength and power lie in their ability to live and act gracefully. It is only through graceful women that our future will be secure with the birth of heroes, givers and saints. Unfortunately, many women have been damaged by circumstances and their dignity, divinity, and ultimately their grace has been compromised. This mantra can heal the damage by experiencing the affirmation that it affords. Siri Simitry translates as: Great meditating princess, Great goddess of good fortune, Great Undying, Wow! The experience of Infinity guided by the Guru. Creativity, Great Creativity, Wow! The experience of the Infinite, guided by the Guru.
Time and Space
To live in the ease known as Sahej, is the antithesis of disease. To be one with God within time and space as the song proclaims, is to be free from cause and effect, traumas and dramas. To affirm that, ‘I am the star of the human race,’ is a confirmation of the pure light radiating without the karmic shadows. The ‘great wonder of life’ is the Grace of God that keeps the world from total chaos and sufferings. That is the essence of the healing. Through God’s pure light and our human experience we can share this consciousness. As we share it, we heal and become spiritual sons and suns. This song represents both a completion of healing consciousness, and also a new beginning as healers who deliver the world from the sufferings of time and space.
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Guru Prem Singh Khalsa was named ‘Posture Master’ by Yogi Bhajan. He is a Master Yogi and he has been practicing and teaching Yoga for over 30 years. He is certified K.R.I. Kundalini Yoga teacher trainer and an advanced Kundalini and Ashtanga Yoga practitioner. An expert on body awareness in relation to personal growth, he travels all over the world teaching the tools and rules of Divine Alignment and having your Heart Rule.
GuruPrem has had an active practice at the World famous Khalsa Medical Clinic in Beverly Hills as a structural, breath, and Yogic and Massage Therapist for over 28 years. He understands the body, and can read its patterns of tension and breathing. The author of three books, The Heart Rules, Divine Alignment and Everyday Devotion. GuruPrem is also a musician, producer and composer. He has produced and arranged more than twelve albums of Mantra music, Chanting, Kirtan, Gurbani and Spiritual Songs including the new Suite: Kirtan Sohila, The Heart Rules, Tantric Har, Aquarian Sadhana, The Therapy Series with Nirinjan, and more.
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