This week I found myself in a state of sadness and anxiety, nothing seemed to be going right. I tried all the usual self-talk, positive thinking exercises, even meditation and breathwork to quiet the mind. Sometimes the mind can be very stubborn. Even singing practice seemed to become a mental engagement as I worked at making my way through the shabds in rāga dev gandhāri. Then I came upon a shabd from Guru Arjan Dev Ji.

Sometimes a shabd is a gentle prayer. In this shabd, the asthai begins with gandhār ascending to madham, tu-u, reaching out, lifting hands in supplication. “You, my mind immersed in you, without you, no other”. In the antarā the prayer becomes a call, komal dhaivat to the komal gandhār in the tār saptak, rikab, kharaj, “you are my friend and companion, why be afraid?” Pleading, convincing, perhaps my own mind needs the most convincing.

This shabd was originally in rāga āsā but someone had a vision to place these words in rāga dev gandhāri and it is a sweet prayer. The feeling of the verses evoked by the notes themselves,  words and music seem to belong together.

BBS Note: One may note Devgandhari as a derivative blend (chaya-lag) of both Asa and Asawari – both have so much to do with Devgandhari’s DNA.

In Gurbāni Sangeet there are many songs like this that have shifted the bāni into a different rāga. I have noticed that these are sometimes the more difficult ones to sing from the notation, working out the thought process of the composer along with the music. Although once the form of the composition has been worked out, it may reveal itself as spectacular! Other songs, like this one in rāga dev gandhāri, seem more immediately recognizable, a certain expectation that it would naturally move this way. The composers have gifted us with their innermost thoughts, their intimate experience with the meaning and the music, the connections they have known.

A few pages later, another shabd presented itself. Originally in rāga gond, Bhagat Nam Dev Ji describes a state I know too well, restless, lonely and unhappy like the cow without her calf, in pain like the fish without water. In dev gandhāri the composition is a lively teentāl that can cheer up even my stubborn mind. “Like the calf let loose to drink the mother’s milk, Nam Dev has found the Lord, meeting the guru he has seen the unseen.”

After being reminded that the answer to my discomfort was close at hand, I decided to sing something I knew well enough to let the mind loose. It was kind of a challenge, “Ok Guru Ji, you have said that by singing the praises all anxiety goes and all our affairs will be set right, please let this be true!”  The taus came out and I began to play in rāga bilāwal, a rāga of celebration. “Now break from the senses and be released, the mind gulps the essence of Har, changed by meeting the Sādhu, now no other, no other, Nānak, love is at your feet, your feet.”

After singing, the knots in my stomach disappeared. The rest of the day had a flow. People in conflict seemed to settle down a bit. I actually felt happy! So is it true? Do you need to ask?