(Very) Basic Background: So Purkh is listed as written by Baba Ram Das (often spelled Ram Dass), a contemporary spiritual teacher and former Harvard professor named Richard Alpert, son of well-connected and affluent Jewish parents. He is perhaps best known for his book Be Here Now. He is a contemporary of Krishna Das and Bhagavan Das.
My Query: My understanding was that So Purkh is an ancient mantra of the Sikhs that was translated and popularized by Ram Das. That is quite different than being written by him. My original question is can anyone shed some light on the etymology of this song/mantra, and its real history?
Random Comments: Ultimately, 'the answer' does not matter, I suppose. This is a beautiful devotional Bhakti mantra, part of a holy kirtan. Whoever wrote it or channeled it brought us something beautiful, and for that we are grateful. We find it much better to fill our heads and hearts with this rather than FOX TV/popular materialistic paradigms.
One very special Yin Yoga and Kundalini teacher plays this mantra often before class, as we prepare and enter our bodies more fully. Afterward, she reports that many men ask about this mantra, and report that it makes them feel good somehow. I find this mantra brought positive change to all who hear it, regardless of spiritual practice or religious belief.
As a Nowist, I find this mantra just as special as if I were a Sikh or Hindu or atheist or whatever. It speaks of truths known by all people and all beliefs, truths written on our hearts.
Related Queries: Many sounds in Sanskrit are considered root sounds or bija mantra, and thus transformational and holy. Do the Sikhs consider the sound alone to be holy and curative, aside from the (obviously) holy words?
Caveats: All comments are based on my admittedly limited knowledge. I write this in hopes others who know can help reduce my ignorance on this. Namaste, Salaam, Peace...AUM Siva Das 18:19, 9 August 2009
Welcome to SikhiWiki and many thanks for your kind comments and query. In fact Sopurkh is Gurbani (word of the Guru) and Bhai sahib in this case it is written by the fourth Sikh Guru, Guru Ram Das. The original text appears here.
Bhai sahib, the beginning of the shabad, "Rĝg ĝsĝ mėhlĝ 4 so purakẖ" contains the reference to the writer - "mėhlĝ 4". Your can read about the word Mahala and Guru Ram Das which will give you more information about the term and the time scale.
I am not sure if this holy verse existed before 16 September 1574, when the fourth Guru attained Guruship. My guess would be that it did not unless the previous Gurus used it in a slightly different context. I believe that this was the creation of Guru Ram Das during his reign from 1574 to Jotijot in 1581.
I agree with you that "connecting" with word like these brings much more reward than any type of TV programme; the only sad thing is that the mind wants to run in the opposite direction and attach itself to Maya. Like most things in life, the healthier, purer and truer path is always more difficult than the easier, lazier "fast-food" route.
Bhai sahib, as you say, the words of all our Gurus, Prophets, Avtars, Christs, etc are linked and related and they bring us "real peace" as they connect us with our reality; as the Gurus tell us, "There is no religion in God's domain"; these are creation on Earth for people to follow different and varying routes to the same ultimate destination.