By Snatam Kaur
I have been listening to, or reciting Kirtan Sohila my whole life. My first conscious memories of this prayer were when my stepfather, Sat Santokh, would read Kirtan Sohila to me every night before going to sleep when I was in my early teens.
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.
Then a few years 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 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 from www.sikhnet.com.
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.
“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 Sohilaa. (Sing the Songs of Praise of my Fearless Lord.)
And that is the highest thing, Tum gaavhu mayray nirbha-o kaa Sohilaa. [This line means] you should chant and sing the Sohila, the grace. Sohila means grace. You should sing in grace of the 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 Sohilaa...When you say [what the] Guru says, you hear and you practice. You say, you hear, and you practice. Highest meditation is what? You are saying it to yourself.” ~Yogi Bhajan, July 21, 1977
Snatam Kaur embodies the Sikh message of strength through inner serenity. Snatam plays the harmonium and violin, and along with her voice delivers a universal message of peace. Accompanied by Todd Boston, a gifted guitar player and musician, her band is an alchemy of eastern and western musical sounds. While traveling the world on tour she also teaches yoga and meditation to children and adults alike, as a part of her commitment to give people tools for a daily experience of inner peace.
For more information about Snatam Kaur’s music, tour dates, and mission of peace, please visit www.SnatamKaur.com.