Sikhs are a religious community from Punjab (north-western state of Indian sub-continent),
they have as point of reference of their doctrine, the teachings contained in a sacred book, called Śrī Gurū Granth Sāhib. The text was compiled between the end of the 1400 and the beginning of 1700; it consists of more than one thousand of poetical compositions from the Sikh spiritual masters and other saints and mystics from Islam and Hinduism. The hymns describe the primary experience of reality as Oneness: the qualities of God are exalted and the devotees are incited to sing His name and His praises in order to be reunited with Him. The role of singing is part of the Indian medieval tradition of singing saint poets, whose aim was the achievement of ecstasy.

Floriana Asperti carried out her fieldwork in the Sikh temple of Odivelas, in Lisbon’s suburbs for an 8 months period. Some important elements come to light from the observations realized and data collected, especially about the effects caused by this music in performers and listeners. These don’t consist of specific clear externalizations as in trance cases, and yet performers and listeners speak about particular state of ecstasy, peace and fusion.
The question leading the investigation was “What do you feel when you sing?” and she tried to give an answer and to find possible indicators of the emotional state created by musical experience.

The state of peace and bliss coming out from the mystical experience of union with God is
called sahaj, translated as perfect, spontaneous, natural balance. Repeating God’s name, Nām simran, means acting on the mind of the individual so that he tunes in to the sound current of the music and have the chance to have the merging experience. Nām singing is the connection between the interiority of a mystical experience and the exteriority of an action.
Fieldwork highlights some fundamental aspects of musical practice firstly as a vehicle to
reach the experience of sahaj, perfect balance. On one side, music is a memory device able to recall to the mind the only truth: all is one because God is everywhere, both transcendent and immanent. On the other, it set forth a tight connection among thoughts, words and actions, creating a sort of continuum between interiority and exteriority. In this sense the superimposition of meanings and the easy substitution of the terms that express the concept or the experience of God in Sikh tradition, reveals a fundamental understanding: there is an only unique source of existence to which men turn their consciousness so that all forms of their communication express this truth. The poetical sang word of the Sikh, even in its more essential version (for example Wahegurū, one of the name of God), can be perceived as an “informed vibration” able to transform our way of being in- the-world.

You can find more about the research of Floriana Frida Asperti here.

Asperti, Floriana Frida
2017 – Suono e Parola: L’equilibrio Perfetto. L’esperienza di Sahaj Presso la Comunità Sikh di Lisbona, MA Thesis, University of Milan.