The first sound we hear as a human being is the double heartbeat. We hear the beating of our heart and, as if it were an echo, the heartbeat of our mother—who carried us for the first nine moons. At birth the second heartbeat we always knew disappears. So often we feel alone, and not at home, and we spend our whole life silently longing for that missing heartbeat.

Dharam Singh interviewed by Caroline Coxe.
CC: If you want to just talk a little bit about your background and your background with the gong and kind of how you got to where you are with your relationship to the gong.

DS: First off, I mean music touches me in ways that words can't express. Music is beyond personality. It just speaks to us in ways people can’t. Maybe animals can speak to us that way but not people.

I remember being a shy kid going to parties, really wanting to be there, but being really shy and not wanting to dance—you know, unless a certain song came on—so I would just hide in a corner and I would like to play the music for the party. I think that's when I first kind of connected to being the closet sound therapist that I discovered I am. I am a natural sound therapist. I didn't know what to call it. I just went to parties wanting to have fun and wanted to create this uplifting energy.

I grew up in New York City. I grew up in New York City in the Bronx and there was so much music in the South Bronx. There was so much music. I would look out my window from the fourth story up and there were Black people from the Domincan Republic and Puerto Rico, all speaking Spanish and singing with congas. They were singing stuff from Yoruba and I would just hear these rhythms and it was like whoa, that’s deep stuff.

But when I first heard the gong was in the desert in Northern New Mexico at a big gathering—probably 1000 people on the mountains of northern New Mexico, and we were doing yoga and you lay down after the yoga we would all get gonged and it took me to another place. That is a powerful combination and that little closet musician and that closet music therapist started to come out and I wanted to share the sonic experience. I mean, have you been gonged?

CC: I have not been gonged.

DS: It's a powerful experience.For some it tremendous emotional release can come through it and it's very healing.

CC: Could you talk a little bit about how the gong in your work with the gong relates to the Phoenix?

DS: OK. Well, I mean, you can draw parallels easily between the experience of the phoenix and a really strong gong session. There's a phoenix energy within that. It's a gift to have everything taken away and it's all part of the cycle of birth, life, death, rebirth, life, death, rebirth. There is meditation in our yoga circle called satanama: sa, birth; ta, life; na, death; and ma is rebirth. But if you look at the words you see Satan. Some people are going to say “no I'm not going to chant that.” But no, no, no. Satan would be birth, life, death, but you put the MA that's forgiveness. That's redemption. That's the resurrection. And that's the Phoenix. Right. Yeah. As far as I know, that's the Phoenix.

CC: I can already kind of start to imagine the healing powers of the gong and what you're doing, but do you have a specific vision for how this can address some of the issues at large in the world?

DS: We are in such a situation here in the West, we are in such a situation, we don't believe in anything.We really don't have a connecting culture. I'm glad that, even if it's been totally commercialized, people are doing yoga. People have got more yoga people do here in the West, even if it's for whatever the reason—to be part of the club or I think Julia Roberts said early on her yoga practice: “Oh, I didn't really want to change my life. I just wanted to change my butt.” She said that but she found spirituality later on.

Our culture's so monetary focus. There's hardly any rest; you're pretty much working all the time or recovering from working. The gong is about finding your spirituality. It brings you into your body. It connects us.

CC: Well thank you so much Dharam for talking with me and for sharing your beautiful gong sounds with the world.

DS: Of course, it was nice talking with you.

Dharam Singh came up freer than many, on Freeman St—a world where there was no escaping rhythm—where the drumming and chants of Africa via Caribbean and Latin immigrants echoed through the urban canyons of the South Bronx—the birthplace of both Hip Hop and Salsa (Cuban music with a NY attitude).

At the age of 20 in Fairbanks, Alaska he first experienced the confrontative and healing power of Kundalini Yoga. Later that year he would also meet, study and live with Rolling Thunder (old school Shoshone Shaman) and have an audience with the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. During that meeting he was given the name Karma Yeshe Chodhar (scholar of the stars—Truth, Wisdom, Spreading). A curiosity about the possibilities of a 'spiritual' life was borne. Through deep practice, Bioenergetic-Gestalt emotional release, and other fantastic mind-washings Dharam would witness extended glimpses of perfect being that would inform everything from that point forward.

His passion for healing, community and Dharma has found a place in the healing art and sacred science of the Gong as a tool for vibrational transformation. Since the 80's he has taught the technology of Kundalini and Gong Yoga here in the US and in South America. Now, having walked the path of Sikh Dharma with Yogi Bhajan, for 40 years he has come to more fully understand that sound and energy is the essence of the order of everything—and that if he can help a person can find peace and wellness through simply laying down and relaxing into that essence, then who is he to deny them, what he himself considers a refuge.