By Shabad Kaur Khalsa
At Khalsa Women’s Training camp (now called International Women’s Camp) in the 1980’s, I met another woman named Shabad Kaur. On some mornings during the morning Gurdwara service there would be a hukam read aloud (order of the day from the Siri Guru Granth Sahib, Sikh scriptures) that included a reference to Shabad. Afterwards, my name-mate and I would sit together and ponder the metaphors carefully to learn more about the nuances of our destiny names and our related actions in the world. The hukam would speak in different ways about the power of the Shabad.
Here are a few excerpts of hukams for you to get an idea:
In every heart, the Beautiful Word of the Infinite’s Shabad resounds. (Raag Sorath Guru Arjan Dev, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 628)
Through the Naam, peace is obtained; I am adorned and embellished by the True Word of the Shabad.(Third Mehl, Guru Amar Das, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 34)
The desires of the mind are fulfilled when one is filled to overflowing with the Shabad. (Third Mehl, Guru Amar Das, Siri Guru Granth Sahib, p. 34)
It’s not a small name. I’ve had to grow into it over the years. Primarily, I am humbled by it; it feels like an honor to carry it. I tell people that it means, “Princess of the Word of God or the Divine Vibration.”
When studying the verses of Gurbani (text or words of the Guru), it becomes clear that the Shabad is also referred to as Guru, Satiguru, God, Akaal Purakh, Naam, Divine Light, Word, Naad (Divine Sound), Hukam, Bani, and so many terms we use to speak about our spiritual path.
As described in the excerpt above, the Shabad or Naam resides in the heart of all beings, and it also exists in the entire creation as fragrance of the flowers, and as fire in the wood. We can recognize that the Unstruck Celestial Sound animates, vibrates, creates, guides, directs, and sustains every atom of our finite and infinite Universe and Cosmos.
Gurbani is beyond ordinary poetry or songs. In its essence it is not just a few hundred years old, but it is as timeless as the Akaal Purakh (Timeless Consciousness) expressing the eternal human longing of the soul. It is Eternal, Immortal, and Divine.
This is a ‘Common Grace’ with the Christian concept from the Bible, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
An introvert by nature, I’ve learned over time to be very conscious with my words. In terms of the power to destroy, I do see the impact of a negative word. A few years ago, there was an incident when I criticized a member of our community in a reactive way, and it resulted in creating a rift between us for some time. We finally smoothed it over with, you guessed it, words! Our discussion was tentative at first, light chit-chat, before we got to work in re-building a bridge.
“The word is shabad. Sha-bad. Sha means ego, being macho. When “I” is bigger than “Thou,” that is sha. Sha means provoking and conflicting. Boosting and boasting is called sha. Bad means when you chop off the neck of something. From there the word come badi. Badi means bad deeds. What is not morally, ethically, or spiritually right is called badi. But it comes from bad. From that word you can understand shabad means something which 'kosher-izes' man’s destiny to God. Shabad cuts down that badi, that bad luck.” -Yogi Bhajan
And on the opposite polarity, words can heal and become a balm to soothe, to reassure. I see that proven every day in my psychotherapy work. When I counsel a couple who is repairing a relationship which has contained a betrayal of one form or another, words of apology and personal ownership of the behavior can go a long way to re-establishing trust. The next vital steps, of course, are keeping their word to prove their trustworthiness.
I truly love words and I believe that they deserve respect. They can act to teach, uplift, inspire, even entertain and bring in the light of humor. I’m a grammar ‘freak,’ a huge poetry fan, and a good movie or TV show for me absolutely must be well written.
The translation of Shabad literally means to ‘cut the ego.’ One evening I was completing kitchen seva at the Baba Siri Chand ashram in Florida during Winter Solstice week. It had been a beautiful but very long day of seva, and I was standing at the sink, spacing out a bit and calculating the time when I could wash my hair. Yogi Bhajan walked through the kitchen, passing right by me, and said, “The shabad never asks anything for itself.”
There will always be time to wash my hair! But is there always an opportunity to help bring someone to a more conscious place? He aimed an arrow of truth right at my heart.
So, every time I recite Japji Sahib, or chant a mantra, I am activating energy, aligning with the divine vibration and focused on what I can create. And what I destroy are my attachments of ego, my fear, my drama, and my self-doubt.
“The whole language of Gurbani has the power to make a person divine, just in its recitation, if done correctly. One need not be concerned with the meaning for a change in consciousness. Read Gurbani in the way Guru says it, and understand it, and you will be in such ecstasy you will not believe it!” -Yogi Bhajan
Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500, KRI Level 1 Lead Teacher Trainer. She is co-founder and director of Spirit Rising Yoga Center and Spirit Rising Foundation in Chicago, IL. She has taught Kundalini Yoga for 30 years, and as a psychotherapist, she integrates the teachings into treatment for adults and couples. She is honored to have served Yogi Bhajan directly and has transcribed, edited, and illustrated several books including his women’s camp lectures, Master’s Touch and Flow of Eternal Power. The health and empowerment of women through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga is a cause that is near and dear to her heart and also specializes in Humanology, marriage, conscious birth, self-care, health and wellness. Shabad Kaur leads the Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat in Wisconsin from October 5-8, 2017. (www.spiritrisingyoga.org)