I am not sure I have mentioned this, but I am a huge fan of Japji Sahib. It is to be pondered, that people like Guru Nanak, Shankaracharya, Gaudapadacharya existed within very recent rememberable periods of time giving us gems such as Japji Sahib, Gaudapada Karika for the Mandukya Upanishad, the Dakshinamurthy sthotram, Bhaja Govindam and so on in clear understandable language. Yet we tend to reject what is written and try to impress on it our own pre-conceived notions and interpretations.
What is needed is for us to be able to look at “I” objectively and not subjectively as “me”!! An “I” which does not compete, “I” which does not fear success or failure, “I” which does not compare against societal norms, “I” that does not want to prove to the society or anyone that it is worthy!! “I” without searching for happiness, “I” without being bogged down by problems, “I” without accusing the higher divine for the sadness!! An “I” purely asking the question of “What is I?”. Purely a perspective of experiment trying to know, rather than a subjective “me” with an idea of “This will improve my life hence I need to do it”. Only then will we stop looking at these verses through the perspective of returns and read them for what they really are!
The Japji Sahib Paudi’s that I translate here are also truly gems! I also believe all these verses need to be read and understood together for it to make really good meaning.
saachaa saahib saach naa-ay bhaakhi-aa bhaa-o apaar.
aakhahi mangahi dahi dahi daat karay daataar.
fayr ke agai rakhee-ai jit disai darbaar.
muhou ke bolan bolee-ai jit sun Dharay pi-aar.
amrit vaylaa sach naa-o vadi-aa-ee veechaar.
karmee aavai kaprhaa nadree mokh du-aar.
naanak ayvai jaanee-ai sabh aapay sachiaar. ||4||
That which you think is the truth is not the truth, even the infinite
Many ask give, give, however much the infinite does
Keep your senses turn away from asking that has seemingly convened this court
What words can be spoken that when listened can be good?
The time of happiness is not the truth, that is just a thought
With actions comes penance and you contemplate the gates of liberation
The "I" always thinks all this reality to be the truth
As I have said before here, “Nanak” in this verses translates to the “I” I don’t think it refers directly to Guru Nanak or God or any other divinity. This verse is another of those verses of Japji Sahib which you need to reflect upon and as you reflect upon it, the meaning stands out clearly that you wonder how you understood this to be anything else at all in the first place!! The last line of this verse is what I like the most. The “I” definitely is going to always think all this around me interpreted by the senses or in short reality is the truth. To it there exists nothing else other than this. But, the first line debunks it and says “that which you think to be true is not the truth”.
thaapi-aa na jaa-ay keetaa na ho-ay.
aapay aap niranjan so-ay.
jin sayvi-aa tin paa-i-aa maan.
naanak gaavee-ai gunee niDhaan.
gaavee-ai sunee-ai man rakhee-ai bhaa-o.
dukh parhar sukh ghar lai jaa-ay.
gurmukh naadaN gurmukh vaydaN gurmukh rahi-aa samaa-ee.
gur eesar gur gorakh barmaa gur paarbatee maa-ee.
jay ha-o jaanaa aakhaa naahee kahnaa kathan na jaa-ee.
guraa ik dahi bujhaa-ee.
sabhnaa jee-aa kaa ik daataa so mai visar na jaa-ee. ||5||
It cannot even be imagined where or what it is
inside you is sleeping the unformed
which if you serve you will get the manas
The "I" will sing its excellent qualities
sing and listen and keep the manas in equilibrium
knowing sadness will be cleared out by happiness
The aspect of density (of this unformed) is vibration, the aspect of density is intelligence, everything is just an aspect of density of the unformed
ishwar is the aspect of density, vishnu and brahma are the aspects of density, paravati ma is also and aspect of density
he who knows this will not ask anymore, what more can be asked?
let that density in me have this one understanding
that there is one giver for all beings, may I not forget it.
Now that the previous verse has told me that “I” always thinks everything around is the truth, this verse tells me, that “I” cannot even start to imagine the unformed that is inside itself. So true! But, the best of this verse is where it starts to talk of “Guru”. “Guru” as I have explained here, while is translated as a “teacher”, I think the original meaning must have been dense or density and hence venerable, heavy etc proliferation of the term starts. If we put this meaning in here, the verse transforms to a totally new level.
With this change, the verse says, you can’t even imagine where this unformed is, but if you serve it, it will give an equilibrium to your manas. The vibration, intelligence, ishwar, vishnu, brahma, parvati ma everything is just an aspect of this unformed with density!! And when you realize this you find “what can I ever ask which is not just the same unformed?”
tirath naavaa jay tis bhaavaa vin bhaanay ke naa-ay karee.
jaytee sirath upaa-ee vaykhaa vin karmaa ke milai la-ee.
mat vich ratan javaahar maanik jay ik gur kee sikh sunee.
guraa ik dahi bujhaa-ee.
sabhnaa jee-aa kaa ik daataa so mai visar na jaa-ee. ||6||
Those who need cleansing go on pilgrimage, other than pretension this will do nothing
Where is this inner being cured, that cannot be got without actions
Not with jewels, gems or rubies, listen to this one thought
Let that density in me have this one understanding
That there is one giver for all being, may I not forget it.
jay jug chaaray aarjaa hor dasoonee ho-ay.
navaa khanda vich jaanee-ai naal chalai sabh ko-ay.
changa naa-o rakhaa-ay kai jas keerat jag lay-ay.
jay tis nadar na aavee ta vaat na puchhai kay.
keetaa andar keet kar dosee dos Dharay.
naanak nirgun gun karay gunvanti-aa gun day.
tayhaa ko-ay na sujh-ee je tis gun ko-ay karay. ||7||
Even if you live for ages or ten times of those ages
Even if you were known through all nine continents or followed by all
Who will keep your fine, with this fame throughout the world
All these will not grace you and none will ask anything
Having the imperfection inside you, you have blamed the whole world around you
The "I" is without qualities, what is quality, oh qualifier, the whole qualification is given by you
This "I" will take on that quality that your give it!!
What more can I say? The last few lines is what I like the most here! The “I” is pure without qualities and takes on that which you impress upon it!! When that imperfection is inside you, why keep blaming the world around you and going on pilgrimage to cleanse everything!! Truly, truly a great set of verses. What I like here is what comes after this in Japji Sahib!
suni-ai siDh peer sur naath.
suni-ai Dharat Dhaval aakaas.
suni-ai deep lo-a paataal.
suni-ai pohi na sakai kaal.
naanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas.
suni-ai dookh paap kaa naas. ||8||
suni-ai eesar barmaa ind.
suni-ai mukh saalaahan mand.
suni-ai jog jugat tan bhayd.
suni-ai saasat simrit vayd.
naanak bhagtaa sadaa vigaas.
suni-ai dookh paap kaa naas. ||9||
Listen oh accomplished sages, the sky, the paatal, the ishwar, brahma, indra and everything, and all that which even time could not diminish, in all of you also is this “I” is resplendent, listen those who try to destroy sadness and happiness, in you also is resplendent this “I”!!!
So, very true! Without the “I” who can claim to be a sage, who can claim to be anything? Anyone can preach and give a whole lot of logic, but, even in them and in me is the “I” resplendent!!!