Going through the songs in Gurbani Sangeet is like mining underground. Having heard there are rich veins of precious minerals there, and having seen with my own eyes some of the jewels the mine has produced, I have gone underground to see what I can find.
You can’t go into the mine unprepared and empty-handed. You need someone to take you, show you how it’s done, give you the tools to do your work, give you the eyes to recognize the valuable ore when you see it, give you the knowledge of how to extract what you find. You need a teacher.
A pick and shovel might be good tools for getting started, maybe even some dynamite, but once you get to the ore you have to know what to do. How do you pry the secrets from the rock and what kind of fine tools can scrape away the sediment without losing the hidden gems?
Of course, after discovering the treasure trove, the real value comes from carrying the riches forward, polishing them, enjoying them in the light, sharing their awesomeness with others, wearing them as a decoration. But this process has been like enjoying the discovery underground in the mine. Having imposed a timeline on myself to get to the end of the tunnel, it is like exploring the cave, learning what is there, making note of the crevices that will take some more time, planning to return later. I’ve been guided through similar tunnels with my teacher, Bhai Baldeep Singh, many times, and this solo journey reveals the learning so far, both what has been grasped and where more practice is needed.
Other miners have been exploring there before, too, and each has left their mark. Teachers, scholars, musicians, translators, website designers, there are so many people who make this adventure possible. There are so many resources in the community and online to support the work of the seeker.
I feel overwhelmed most of the time, but it is a good way to be overwhelmed, like a princess whose jewelry box is so full there will never be enough hours in the day to try on all the exquisite pieces. There is so much treasure here, how can one begin to enjoy all of it? Well, one piece at a time is the only way to start and this week has touched on the seminal modes of raga asa.
So I return underground, pick my way through, satisfied to be in the mine, grateful to have been given access, imagining the splendor of all of these gems, polished, set with intricate ornamentation, gleaming, fully crafted, exquisite.