The purpose of life is to sing!

Message from Shiv

People call me shiv. I am a singer. And I believe the purpose of life is to sing. I really want you to know, dear reader, that I was not always this crazy.

I was always a musician, but mostly dormant. Things changed in the recession of 2009. While the market was depressing I was doing OK. I put more buys on stocks than I ever had and was waiting for things to turn. One of those days I stumbled into an old poem that my Guru had composed for me to sing: “Why are you wasting your life in wasteful pursuits? When will you sing?”

It had taken me over 20 years to understand the warning. There was more to life than a great-wall street job, supportive parents, a loving wife, 2 wonderful kids, dinner/movie night-outs, and fun times. I had a decent life, but there was something missing.

Over the years I had collected a lot of musical ideas in my head. But there were hardly any recordings. I needed to fulfill my passions. If I were to die, I thought, I would die with all the music in me. I needed to sing.

I recorded my first track in several years over a 3-hour period over a weekend, and put it on the web. Many kind people, like you, friends and strangers alike, said kind things. You all encouraged me to do more. You taught me the lesson of generosity. You taught me that singing included me focusing on listening to you. I promised myself to record at least once a month.

Then I started involving friends and online strangers, like you, in my musical exploits. Feedback I received on this music was even more ebullient. And it made all the sense in the world, because there were no monetary exchanges in such creation. This music was purely made of love. It reminded me of the love of music my Guru had passed on to me, training me for 10 years without a penny in exchange. You, dear reader, reminded me of the lesson of true love. Not only did I need to sing; I needed you to sing with me.

And this has brought me to where I belong. I have come to place now where you are not a stranger. You are my friend. And I sing with you. Even more so, I believe that it is our harmony that makes this world beautiful. People may still call me shiv, but I want you to know, that I am lost in our harmony. Like Kabir says,
Saying ‘you’, I have become you.
Now everywhere I look, I see you.

-Shiv

The earth becomes beautiful when we come together and sing

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The word Dharamsaal literally means the home of dharma, or a temple.  Just like paathsaal means house of education or school.  Guru Amardas says, "Your beautified the earth like a temple" in the following line:

ਹੁਕਮੇ ਧਰਤੀ ਸਾਜੀਅਨੁ ਸਚੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲਾ ॥
Hukamae Dhharathee Saajeean Sachee Dhharam Saalaa ||
हुकमे धरती साजीअनु सची धरम साला ॥


By the Hukam of His Command, He created the earth, the true home of Dharma.



In the 34th pauri of Japji Sahib, Guru Nanak says

ਰਾਤੀ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ॥
Raathee Ruthee Thhithee Vaar ||
राती रुती थिती वार ॥
Nights, days, weeks and seasons;

ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਪਾਤਾਲ ॥
Pavan Paanee Aganee Paathaal ||
पवण पाणी अगनी पाताल ॥
Wind, water, fire and the nether regions

ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮਸਾਲ ॥
This Vich Dhharathee Thhaap Rakhee Dhharam Saal ||
तिसु विचि धरती थापि रखी धरम साल ॥
In the midst of these, He established the earth as a home for Dharma.

Guru Arjan Dev describes what happens in a temple in a Chhant in Raag Gauri:

ਮੋਹਨ ਤੇਰੇ ਊਚੇ ਮੰਦਰ ਮਹਲ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥
Mohan Thaerae Oochae Mandhar Mehal Apaaraa ||
मोहन तेरे ऊचे मंदर महल अपारा ॥
O Mohan, your temple is so lofty, and your mansion is unsurpassed.


ਮੋਹਨ ਤੇਰੇ ਸੋਹਨਿ ਦੁਆਰ ਜੀਉ ਸੰਤ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲਾ ॥
Mohan Thaerae Sohan Dhuaar Jeeo Santh Dhharam Saalaa ||
मोहन तेरे सोहनि दुआर जीउ संत धरम साला ॥
O Mohan, your gates are so beautiful. They are the worship-houses of the Saints.


ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ਅਪਾਰ ਦੈਆਰ ਠਾਕੁਰ ਸਦਾ ਕੀਰਤਨੁ ਗਾਵਹੇ ॥
Dhharam Saal Apaar Dhaiaar Thaakur Sadhaa Keerathan Gaavehae ||
धरम साल अपार दैआर ठाकुर सदा कीरतनु गावहे ॥
In these incomparable worship-houses, they continually sing Kirtan, the Praises of their Lord and Master.

ਜਹ ਸਾਧ ਸੰਤ ਇਕਤ੍ਰ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਤਹਾ ਤੁਝਹਿ ਧਿਆਵਹੇ ॥
Jeh Saadhh Santh Eikathr Hovehi Thehaa Thujhehi Dhhiaavehae ||
जह साध संत इकत्र होवहि तहा तुझहि धिआवहे ॥
Where the Saints and the Holy gather together, there they meditate on you.

Places of worship are made so saints can get together, meditate upon the one and sing the ONE's praises.  The purpose of life is to sing and the earth has been designed to be a place where this singing can be done.  The earth has been designed by God to come together and sing. Earth becomes beautiful when we come together and sing.  Such a beautiful concept. 

What is singing other than just following the command of the ONE.  Gurbani says Sabhai Ghat Raam Bolai or Every heart is singing in the temple of the earth. 


Ignore whatever distracts you from singing

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We had dinner at "On the Border" in Dublin, California today. We were celebrating the Sixty Plus'th birthday of my uncle who is visiting from India with my Aunt and their son. This was their first trip to America. The idea was to ease them into American food. What better food to start than Mexican.  It is spicier and more flavorful than most other American food.  That makes it similar to Indian food. It was a safer bet.

We must have been 80 percent done with the mean when I popped the question. I was not as nervous as I should have been.  Even though I knew that my Aunt is a complainer and among all the 4 siblings my dad has, she is known for being tough to please.   So I asked a safe question: "Which dish did you like the most?"

She had shared a chicken fajita with uncle, shared a chicken enchilada with her son, and I had shared some of my cheese enchilada with her.  We also had chips, salsa and freshly made guacamole.  There had got to be something that she liked.  It was a safe question like, "You won't have tea, will you?"

Then came the dreaded response: "Nothing really" ... along with the famous why-are-you-doing-this-to-me headshake.  We all had a great laugh ... and made several jokes about it. I jokingly laid the blame on mom and dad, and said they ordered the wrong dish for her.  Her son said, it didn't matter what restaurant or dish it was, she would have the same response.

Then we came back home.  Poor thing, my aunt. She said what she said, but then her conscience was hurting her. At home she thanked me for the dinner, and apologized for being rude.  I knew she was feeling bad.  I told her its OK; I told her that I don't even hear negative comments.  I told her about the filter I have developed as a performing musician.  You learn to not hear criticism, however well it means.

Awaken to your humanity – A letter to the next generation of artists by Wayne Shorter & Herbie Hancock

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Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock have been friends for over forty years. In the pursuit of their art, they’ve shattered boundaries previously believed unbreakable, they’ve revolutionized the concept of innovation, and have chosen to make the endeavor of living compassionately and courageously the center of their lives.

From their early days composing and playing together with Miles Davis in Davis’ Second Great Quintet, to branching out and flourishing in their individual endeavors, Wayne and Herbie’s contributions to the world of music have been nothing short of extraordinary. Together, they’ve won a combined total of twenty-five Grammys. Despite their countless accolades, they’ll both insist that their greatest achievements lie in their roles as husbands, fathers, and humans of this earth.

After the recent rash of tragedies around the globe in the past year from Paris to San Bernardino, we had the opportunity to ask Wayne and Herbie how the next generation of artists can respond. Below is an open letter with their thoughts.

To the Next Generation of Artists,

We find ourselves in turbulent and unpredictable times.

From the horror at the Bataclan, to the upheaval in Syria and the senseless bloodshed in San Bernardino, we live in a time of great confusion and pain. As an artist, creator and dreamer of this world, we ask you not to be discouraged by what you see but to use your own lives, and by extension your art, as vehicles for the construction of peace.

While it’s true that the issues facing the world are complex, the answer to peace is simple; it begins with you. You don’t have to be living in a third world country or working for an NGO to make a difference. Each of us has a unique mission. We are all pieces in a giant, fluid puzzle, where the smallest of actions by one puzzle piece profoundly affects each of the others. You matter, your actions matter, your art matters.

We’d like to be clear that while this letter is written with an artistic audience in mind, these thoughts transcend professional boundaries and apply to all people, regardless of profession.

FIRST, AWAKEN TO YOUR HUMANITY

We are not alone. We do not exist alone and we cannot create alone. What this world needs is a humanistic awakening of the desire to raise one’s life condition to a place where our actions are rooted in altruism and compassion. You cannot hide behind a profession or instrument; you have to be human. Focus your energy on becoming the best human you can be. Focus on developing empathy and compassion. Through the process you’ll tap into a wealth of inspiration rooted in the complexity and curiosity of what it means to simply exist on this planet. Music is but a drop in the ocean of life.

Read More: The 5 side-effects of kindness

EMBRACE AND CONQUER THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The world needs new pathways. Don’t allow yourself to be hijacked by common rhetoric, or false beliefs and illusions about how life should be lived. It’s up to you to be the pioneers. Whether through the exploration of new sounds, rhythms, and harmonies or unexpected collaborations, processes and experiences, we encourage you to dispel repetition in all of its negative forms and consequences. Strive to create new actions both musically and with the pathway of your life. Never conform.

Read More: Walk Alone by Rabindranath Tagore

WELCOME THE UNKNOWN

The unknown necessitates a moment-to-moment improvisation or creative process that is unparalleled in potential and fulfillment. There is no dress rehearsal for life because life, itself, is the real rehearsal. Every relationship, obstacle, interaction, etc. is a rehearsal for the next adventure in life. Everything is connected. Everything builds. Nothing is ever wasted. This type of thinking requires courage. Be courageous and do not lose your sense of exhilaration and reverence for this wonderful world around you.

UNDERSTAND THE TRUE NATURE OF OBSTACLES

We have this idea of failure, but it’s not real; it’s an illusion. There is no such thing as failure. What you perceive as failure is really a new opportunity, a new hand of cards, or a new canvas to create upon. In life there are unlimited opportunities. The words, “success” and “failure”, themselves, are nothing more than labels. Every moment is an opportunity. You, as a human being, have no limits; therefore infinite possibilities exist in any circumstance.

Read More: Deepak Chopra on Success

DON’T BE AFRAID TO INTERACT WITH THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM YOU

The world needs more one-on-one interaction among people of diverse origins with a greater emphasis on art, culture and education. Our differences are what we have in common. We can work to create an open and continuous plane where all types of people can exchange ideas, resources, thoughtfulness and kindness. We need to be connecting with one another, learning about one another, and experiencing life with one another. We can never have peace if we cannot understand the pain in each other’s hearts. The more we interact, the more we will come to realize that our humanity transcends all differences.

Read More: I have no enemy, I have no stranger

STRIVE TO CREATE AGENDA-FREE DIALOGUE

Art in any form is a medium for dialogue, which is a powerful tool. It is time for the music world to produce sound stories that ignite dialogue about the mystery of us. When we say the mystery of us, we’re talking about reflecting and challenging the fears, which prevent us from discovering our unlimited access to the courage inherent in us all. Yes, you are enough. Yes, you matter. Yes, you should keep going.

Read More: All is sound, that is it

BE WARY OF EGO

Arrogance can develop within artists, either from artists who believe that their status makes them more important, or those whose association with a creative field entitles them to some sort of superiority. Beware of ego; creativity cannot flow when only the ego is served.

Read More: What am I, after all (Walt Whitman)

WORK TOWARDS A BUSINESS WITHOUT BORDERS

The medical field has an organization called Doctors Without Borders. This lofty effort can serve as a model for transcending the limitations and strategies of old business formulas which are designed to perpetuate old systems in the guise of new ones. We’re speaking directly to a system that’s in place, a system that conditions consumers to purchase only the products that are dictated to be deemed marketable, a system where money is only the means to an end. The music business is a fraction of the business of life. Living with creative integrity can bring forth benefits never imagined.

APPRECIATE THE GENERATION THAT WALKED BEFORE YOU

Your elders can help you. They are a source of wealth in the form of wisdom. They have weathered storms and endured the same heartbreaks; let their struggles be the light that shines the way in the darkness. Don’t waste time repeating their mistakes. Instead, take what they’ve done and catapult you towards building a progressively better world for the progeny to come.

LASTLY, WE HOPE THAT YOU LIVE IN A STATE OF CONSTANT WONDER

As we accumulate years, parts of our imagination tend to dull. Whether from sadness, prolonged struggle, or social conditioning, somewhere along the way people forget how to tap into the inherent magic that exists within our minds. Don’t let that part of your imagination fade away. Look up at the stars and imagine what it would be like to be an astronaut or a pilot. Imagine exploring the pyramids or Machu Picchu. Imagine flying like a bird or crashing through a wall like Superman. Imagine running with dinosaurs or swimming like mer-creatures. All that exists is a product of someone’s imagination; treasure and nurture yours and you’ll always find yourself on the precipice of discovery.

Read More: Guru Nanak's Aarti

How does any of this lend to the creation of a peaceful society you ask? It begins with a cause. Your causes create the effects that shape your future and the future of all those around you. Be the leaders in the movie of your life. You are the director, producer, and actor. Be bold and tirelessly compassionate as you dance through the voyage that is this lifetime.

The time to sing is now, the time to row your boat is now – Khara Bayu Boy Bege – Translation

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A timeless songs that reminds us that the time to sing is now ...



The wind is high, clouds dark,
O the boatman, Row your boat.

You give it the direction, 
while I prepare the sail high-
Row, Row your boat.

Resonance of the chains, time and again, 
Isn’t the yell for despair
Unbearable are the bounds, 
its oscillations are hence.
Row, Row your boat.

Do not ask, whether or not to venture,
The day, time just or not, anxiously.
If your luck runs against, roughness beyond control,
Smashing storm, sea waves even higher,
Be confident, adjust to the rhythm,
Chanting His name merrily. 
Row, Row your boat.

Kharobayu boi bege charidik chai meghe
Ogo neye naokhani baiyo
Tumi kose dharo hal, ami tule badhi pal
Hai maro maro tan haiyo

Srinkhole barbar jhanjhano jhankar noi a to taronir krandon sankar
Bandhon durbar sajjyo na hoi ar talomalo kare aaj tai o
Hai maro maro tan haiyo

Goni goni din khan chanchal kori mon
Bolo na jai ki nai jai re
Sanshoi parabar antare habe par
Udbege takaiyo na baire
Jodi mate mahakal uddam jatajal jhore hoi lunthito dhau uthe uttal
Hoyo nako kunthito tale tar diyo tal joy joy joygan gaiyo

Hai maro maro tan haiyo



Commentary on ‘The Promise,’ a poem by Jane Hirshfield

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The Promise
- Jane Hirshfield

Stay, I said
to the cut flowers.
They bowed
their heads lower.

Stay, I said to the spider,
who fled.

Stay, leaf.
It reddened,
embarrassed for me and itself.

Stay, I said to my body.
It sat as a dog does,
obedient for a moment,
soon starting to tremble.

Stay, to the earth
of riverine valley meadows,
of fossiled escarpments,
of limestone and sandstone.
It looked back
with a changing expression, in silence.

Stay, I said to my loves.
Each answered,
Always.


Poem copyright ©2011 by Jane Hirshfield, from her book of poems, Come, Thief, Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 

The message seems clear. Nothing stays.  Even those that you trust to stay the most.  The ones that you love. Even you yourself.  You cannot stay.  

To me this poem explains two things simultaneously: that the promises that our loves make to us are false.  Our loves keep leaving us even if they promise to stay.  It also shows that we -- or even they themselves who leave -- have little control over leaving.  The changes happen whether we want or not.  

We are all looking for our happiness to stay with us.  Many of us have also realized that will be happy as long as we are with our love.  As long as we have love, we are with our love, we should remain happy.  As soon as we are seperated from our love, we become unhappy.  

The key to unending happiness is to always be in the presence of our love.  Whatever that love is, we want to make sure that love is absolutely real and true -- that it does not change.

Guru Nanak defines absolute truth simply like this: "That which was the same in the past, is the same now, and will always be the same in the future is the truth."  The name of truth, or the essence of truth, is that which does not change over time.  Your true love, is similarly your love that does not change over time.  It was always your love, it is now your love, and it will always be your love. In a rather optimistic tone Guru Gobind Singh says that Love is the only path to God.  (Because that God is Ekonkar, it is that love is the path to oneness.)  

So where is this true love that is the path to oneness and happiness?  Is it the love that exists between two people?  

Nothing stays.  What we see and feel from our senses cannot be true love.  Because everything changes.  Not only does everything change, we generally have little control over these changes.  

In a poem that I have found very profound and direct in its message, Guru Tegh Bahadur says the love of this world is false (Jagat Main Jhoothee Dekhee Preet).  Whether it is the spouse or the friend, their love is not real.  Whatever we think love is, it is not. The places that we are looking for love are equally obscure.  Wherever we think love is, it is not.  The love of the world is sham.  The people who said "You're mine" are acting on behalf of their own needs.  The pronouncements of love are a result of ulterior motives. In the end no one is with you.  "I keep telling my mind," says Guru Tegh Bahadur says, "but it is stupid.  I keep explaining the reality of love to my mind, but it does not understand."  He concludes that the only person who can cross the trecherous ocean of the world is the one who sings the songs of the limitless. 

The only love that has staying power is the love of singing oneness.  For staying happy, we have to adhere to the love that stays with us always.  What stays with us always is acceptance.  The love of acceptance can stay with us.  The song of limitless life is the love of acceptance.  If we can sing acceptance of all the changes.  If we can understand that our loves -- no matter how much they promise -- are going to change and leave, we will not have the expectations that make us unhappy.  Having accepted we would sing the song of limitless life.  We would realize that the purpose of life is to sing. The promise to sing is the only promise that can be kept forever.  That is the only true promise. 

How many deaths will it take to realize that too many have died? – Bob Dylan

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One of Bob Dylan's greatest songs Blowin' in the Wind was written in 1962 and released on his album The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan in 1963. The song is about peace. In that, the song is about Ekonkar, the oneness of all. My thesis has always been that the most powerful and songs tend to be one that are singing Ekonkar.  This is true of Michael Jackson (We are the world), John Lenin (Imagine) or even contemporary singer/songwriters like Taylor Swift (Mean).

Although "Blowin' in the Wind" has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war and freedom. According to Mick Gold, the refrain "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind" is "impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind." The third line in each of the three stanzas is especially poignant; the whole song makes you think about the futility of war.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand?
How many times must the cannonballs fly
Before they're forever banned?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many years must a mountain exist
Before it is washed to the sea?
How many years can some people exist
Before they're allowed to be free?
How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn't see?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

How many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind
The answer is blowing in the wind

"Blowin' in the Wind" has been covered by hundreds of artists. The most commercially successful version is by folk music trio Peter, Paul and Mary, who released the song in June 1963, three weeks after The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan was issued.  Here is that version:


Shivpreet Singh

Shivpreet Singh is a California based singer and composer. Trained initially by the legendary Indian Classical master Pt. Raghunath Prasanna, and later at U.C. Berkeley, his music blends multiple genres. He was the first south asian in the US to land a major label contract. Since 2010 he has been producing music independently in collaboration with musicians around the world and his compositions have been downloaded and streamed over 1 million times in the past 5 years.

More About Shiv

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