The Message of Guru Nanak
What is Jap Ji ? Jap Ji is the beautiful hymn of Guru Nanak which appears as a prologue to the Guru Granth Sahib, the voluminous scriptural treasure of the Sikhs, which comprises over 1400 pages. The Jap Ji lays down the basic principles of his teachings and explains the means to achieve at-one-ment with the One Being, the Creator of all.
The title "Jap Ji" is composed
of two words--"Jap" and "Ji." "Jap" stands for meditation
on a certain object to a degree that one loses his consciousness and merges
into the very object of meditation. By this Japa the meditator is transformed
into that very object, losing all sense of his own separate existence.
Here this word conveys the idea of deep concentration or internal repetition
of the Word, to the extent that it will efface the tint of ego in man,
letting in Divinity which already exists in him with full expressive effulgence--spiritual
life taking the place of physical existence. "Ji" means a new life--life
achieved through meditation on the Word--which brings us in closer communion
with the Ever-Existent Source of Life. This title thus contains within
itself the solution of the mystery of life. It is really life-giving--True-life
giving--by contacting the Divine Word within.
Therefore if you wish to have life worth living, unite yourself with the Divine Word that is already within you.
Without realisation of God within, the body is but a bellows that breathes in and breathes out without any purpose. To live in communion with Him is the chief object set forth by the Great Master. The Jap Ji commences with the basic principles of life, and concludes by giving the substance of his teachings: Equality of man in the sight of God, all beings endowed with equal privileges; their approximation and separation due to their respective actions; their final emancipation through communion with the Divine Word, the Eternal Song; and competence of the Master-soul in raising others to find the Ever-Active-Will diffused in the world. It deals with the views of different schools of thought; and through questions and counter-questions, it seeks to establish the One Reality working at the back of all creation.
Guru Nanak begins by laying down the principle (in stanzas I, II and III of the text) that we must make His Will our own. in order to achieve oneness with Him. Communion with His Holy Naam--the Divine Word, which is an emanation from the One Being--reveals to us His Will. The Holy Naam is the Eternal Divine Song, reverberating throughout the whole creation.
The one thing which helps communion is Simran, the constant remembrance of the Lord. This, and the elementary steps ensuring success towards this end by meeting the qualifications befitting an aspirant for taking up the path of Truth, and the different spiritual planes through which the soul has to pass before achieving oneness with the Lord, form the subject matter of the thirty-eight stanzas of the text of Jap Ji.
The Jap Ji is a compendium of the teachings of the Master. Guru Granth Sahib, the supreme treasure of Sikh sacred literature, is, in a sense, an elaborate exposition of this preliminary state-ment. We will take up each subject as dealt with by the Master, in turn, and try to explain how He solved the riddle of life which has perplexed so many. Let us have the patience to study it carefully. Then we can see to what heights of spirituality the Master is calling each one of us.
Religion, as it is generally understood today, has been grossly misconceived. Prayers consisting of set phrases, forced ceremonials, time-consuming rituals, adherence to outward symbols at the sacrifice of their inner spiritual meaning and superiority of one creed over another--these and similar other absurdities have usurped the title of religion. One religion is waging war against the other; brothers are fighting with brothers, on the plea of differences of opinion regarding the means to salvation. Bloodshed, falsehood, hatred, intolerance and bigotry have often been preached in the name of religion while the vital offices of religion, the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, are set at naught.
Reason has been banished altogether, reducing religion to a mere profession of creeds and dogmas. Words have replaced deeds. Religion no longer seems to be concerned with such ennobling issues as the knowledge of one's self, and union with the Divine origin. The seeking of God in the observance of outward means, and the repetition of verbal formulae, the haunting of pilgrimages and synagogues amidst unfeeling hearts, reveal the depths to which religion has sunk. Many God-gifted men in the past when faced with similar situations revolted against the fossilized religions and the ritualistic codes of priest craft.
Is not all this deplorable ? It is a sad spectacle, indeed ! Fortunately, all this is due to human ignorance of true religion which knows no artificiality or fabrication. The slavery of the priest craft is not the aim of religion. Its aim is not to bind but to set man free from its slavery.
The Master prescribes a religion which teaches the equality of Man. Nature does not distinguish between a Hindu, a Mohammedan or a Christian. All belong to the one humanity on earth. Guru Nanak exhorts us to accept this --the brotherhood of man--as the grandest religion (stanza XXVIII).
We should consider all men our equals,
irrespective of colour or creed. Just as in a class, boys of all sects
and denominations sit together, play together, love each other and learn
the same lessons from one and the same teacher, just so the whole world
should be as one class. No distinction of caste or colour should be observed.
The Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man are the true essence of
religion. All humanity are alike, no matter if they pose under the garb
of Sikhs, Hindus, Mohammedans, Jews, Christians, Buddhists or the materialists.
The Master loves Nature and conforms to all the laws of Nature. He knows no artificiality or fabrication. Nature is beautiful, except when tormented by man. He therefore leaves Nature to take care of the outer man and to preserve it as best it may. The majority of the sages both in the East and West--Christ, Buddha, Ramakrishna and others--did not interfere in the least with the bodily form Nature gave them. There is in fact no higher religion than this. It is one aspect of religion, the objective side. But there exists also the other aspect which may be termed the subjective--the inner side of it of which we have no knowledge at all. In this respect the Master teaches us to develop the subjective life by the natural means, which consists in living in Divinity and realising the presence of God in our souls. This is the true nature of religion. It is not merely an oral profession, but a highly practical and living essence.
The first lesson to be learnt is to realise the existence of the Divinity in man and to feel, nay--see, its very presence everywhere. It is an ever-active and moving principle diffused throughout creation that accounts for the existence of the universe itself. Nature, with her immutable laws, infinity of forms and phenomena, is not a mere edifice of chance. By one Supreme Ruler is this universe pervaded, held in control and kept in order.
Man must reap the fruit of what he sows here or hereafter. All are subject to the domain of the Karmas and none is exempt therefrom. The only competent means for obtaining emancipation from bondage to the inexorable law of Karmas is communion with the Holy Naam--the Divine Word, learnt at the feet of a Gurmukh, a Master. When one has understood this, one is fit enough to take the next step.
All men are equal and carry with them the spark of the Divine Light, ever effulgent and eternal. The rites of the synagogue or the mosque, the Hindu ways of worship or the Muslim prayers or the devotional services of the Christians, are but different ways of offering love to the one Supreme Lord.
All of us are playing in the lap of Dame Nature, day and night, serving in the capacity of either male or female, one the ever-active and the other passive. All live on the same earth, under the same sky, breathe the same air, drink the same water. In a few words, all are nourished by the same elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether.
Again, all enjoy the same privileges. All have the same eyes to see, the same ears to hear, the same limbs to move about and the power of articulation to speak. None is deprived of Nature's instruments, for Nature extends the same facilities to all alike and grants equal protection to each.
All human beings--here, there and everywhere--are
the children of one Father, and form the links in the unbreakable chain
of Divinity, like beads on one string. If you try to tamper with any one
of them, you are bound to affect the whole chain. Therefore, molest not
anyone is the injunction of the Saints. Baba Farid says in Guru Granth
Guru Nanak would have each one of us breathe affinity to the whole creation, and look upon the world with boundless compassion from the very core of our hearts, wishing peace unto all. He has set forth the above in beautiful words:
Why, then, does there exist all this variety in the outward symbols and external observance of the different religions ? This, the Master explains, is due to the different formalities and customs prevailing in different countries. He says:
Let us take one instance: To go about bare-headed is a sign of respect in the West, whereas in the East it is taken as disrespect. This evidently changes the outward mode of worship of the West from that of the East. The Christians conduct their services in churches bareheaded, but in the East devotees perform their prayers with their heads always covered.
The climatic influences also play a great part in determining the mode of ritual. In Arabia, the cradle of Mohammedanism, for example, the Arabs, because of the scarcity of water, perform Namaz (offer prayers), after Wazu (washing of the face, hands and feet); but where water is not to be found at all, they have to be content with Tayumum, which is the use of sand for cleansing their limbs, before saying prayers. With the Hindus, in India, the use of water is profuse and a bath is considered necessary before observing religious practices. Such is also the case with dress and other similar matters. These regional practices were assimilated into the religions which sprang up there; and it is this which accounts for the differences in the rituals and customs that we find among various religions today. Again, there are differences in temperament of the people in different parts of the world. When each one has his own inclinations and his own modes of thinking, it would be simply cruel if one were to force the same views on all. As a result of this tendency, we have the different systems or schools of thought as they exist today, and these keep on increasing and multiplying with the progress of time. All are, of course, meant to make progress in the development of men's intellects. All men must therefore choose what is best for themselves; until at last they come to the subjective aspect of religion, which is one and the same for all humanity.
The subjective or the true religion, then, refers to an eternal principle, not to outer forms and customs, and is, therefore, universal. It insists on the internal spiritual advancement, instead of attaching mind to external formulae. It is the one aspect where all religions meet. The same strain throbs in the teachings of all spiritual Masters who visited this earth of ours. We will see the truth borne out in the following pages, by giving illustrations and quotations to support this view.
There are then two aspects of religion: the one is the outer, which is the shell and the other the subjective, which is the pith or substance. Man has begun to realise that outer religion aims at the social reformation of a certain class of people only. Their advancement in the way of religion, each establishing its own rules and laws for observance, makes the conduct of life easy in weal or woe. It means giving up one's all for the service of that class of people alone. This, of course, is necessary for a man to live in the world. Following outer customs results in the several societies and communities as they exist today. This may be defined as social religion.
But the subjective religion is quite independent of the societies and communities, although they are the superstructure based on this solid foundation. Deterioration is the feature of time. Those who started the social religions, being fully aware of the subjective side, have left traces of Truth gleaming through their codes of outer rites and observances on which they were based. As time wears on, posterity simply hands down these codes, growing more and more ignorant of the great and noble truths around which they were originally built. In these circumstances, adherence to outward rituals and forms inevitably takes the place of the inner meaning they once symbolised. Thus the material aspect remains and the essence is lost. Fanaticism, bigotry, casteism and sectarianism then are the inevitable results, as the followers of all religions betray in one form or another in the conduct of their lives. It is this that explains the corruption that has entered into the vitals of religion, making it not the bond of union, but the apple of discord.
The subjective aspect of religion gleams through the teachings of all the great scriptures of the world. There is no religion without a spark of Truth in it. All faiths are to be respected from this point of view. The subjective side of the religion is what all the Masters taught. It is one and the same for all. No distinction is made for any creed or class. All are welcome to partake of Truth without detriment or interference with their respective creeds. It is part and parcel of all the creeds, and affords men a deeper insight into their particular faiths. Subjective religion is not a matter of books. It is our own experience which stands to prove the truths taught by the various religions.
We will now go on to attempt an examination of this inner phase of religion, as conceived by Guru Nanak.
The Master explains the basic principles.
There is One Being, who is the Creator and the Uncaused Cause of all. He
has created the whole universe through His Ever-Active Will which is diffused
throughout. The scientists have now come to find a unity in the varieties
of the world's great phenomena. They trace the whole creation back to the
one primal cause from which it evolved. It irresistibly follows that there
is one Cause alone which upholds the whole creation. Like the Sun, which
is a responsible agent for the changes of seasons and growth of the vegetable
kingdom, there is such an Existence responsible for all the phenomena of
the world. The Master speaks of it as "There is One Being." This numeral
"One" is used only to denote the Absolute--the Wordless. Since we are finite,
we express Him in finite terms.
"To make His
Will one's own," is the means to achieve Him. Will, itself, baffles all
description. Still, to give us an idea of it, Nanak explains it to some
extent in stanza 2. It may be defined as something making and unmaking
the universe, with a conscious entity at its back. The Absolute is Wordless,
Imageless and Nameless. When It came into being, It was called Word or
Naam which is the cause of all creation. The Word might be taken as the
All-Pervading Spirit, working out the world's great phenomena. The Will
is identical with this All-Pervading Spirit, but we must not imagine it
as blind--for it is intelligent, sentient and purposive. This Ever-Active
Will, enshrouded by the illusive matter, can only be revealed by attuning
one's will to it. All other means fail. Man's ways are all in vain. The
The Divine Will is revealed unto man by communion with the Holy Naam--the Divine Word. The words Naam, Bani, Akath katha (indescribable song), Nad, Shabd, Gurmat, have been used by the Master in His discourses for the one "conscious entity" working at the back of all creation.
This Principle has two aspects, the one objective and the other subjective. The objective refers to the various qualities pertaining to His manifestations. It has its own use which will be dealt with later under the heading of Simran. The subjective is the "quintessential reality" which is at the core of all religious books. Without it there can be no creation, no spiritual advancement. Without it, nothing whatsoever can come into existence. This can be understood by a simple example, say that of water. The word "water" is the name, and not the thing itself which it represents. Just the same, Naam or Word, has its two aspects: one the name and the second the "conscious spirit" it represents--working at the back of all creation. It is very difficult to describe this in words.
The Naam, or
the subjective Reality or Word, had been there from the very beginning,
and was there before the creation. It was a "Nameless-Something" which
was God, from whose Conscious Manifestation a wish projected, accompanied
by vibration which expressed itself in Sound and Light Principles. As the
conscious current flowed down, it formed spiritual planes. With its further
descent, it became the source of creation of the spiritual-material and
the material planes. This Current-Consciousness emanated from God and is
the Creator and Sustainer of all the universe with various planes and sub-planes.
The term Shabd or Word as used by Nanak, signifies that Spiritual Current
which expresses itself in Light Principle and resounds in fullness in its
subtle spiritual planes. This Naam or Word helps in the elevation and edification
of spirit, which being essentially of the same substance as Naam, is attracted
by the latter, for "Spirit is the Breath of God"-(Bible). "It is the soul
of God" -(Quran). All the saints of the world who came either before or
after Guru Nanak, have sung the praises of this creative Life Principle
or Word. A few quotations will enable the reader to be convinced of this
basic Truth as given in all the religious books.
Christianity: Saint John
has stated in his Gospel:
Word of the Lord were the heavens made.
Upholding all things by the Word of His Power.--Hebrews 1:3
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth but the Word of God shall stand forever.--Isaiah 40:8
Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven.--Psalm 119:89
St. Paul said: For the Word of God is quick (living) and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of thoughts and interests of heart. --Hebrews 4:12
Hinduism: According to the Hindu theological books, the whole creation was made through Nad. They also refer to It as Akash Bani (voice coming down from the Heavens). We have references to It even in the Vedas, the ancient scriptures of the world. We read of It in the Upanishads, as for instance, the Nad Bind Upanishads, which deal with the matter in a very lucid manner. The Hatha Toga Pradipaka also speaks of this Sound Principle.
sit on Sidh Asan and while practising the Vaisnavi mudra,
he should hear the Sound through his right ear.
--Nad Bind Upanishad
with the Word he will become deaf to the external sounds,
and will attain the Turiya Pad or a state of equipoise within a fortnight.
--Nad Bind Upanishad
the murmuring sounds resembling those of the waves of oceans,
the fall of rain and the running rivulets and then Bheri will be heard
intermingled with the sounds of bell and conch, etc.
Madame Blavatsky, the founder of the THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY, in her book "Voice of the Silence," states that several sounds are heard when holding communion. "The first is like the nightingale's sweet voice, chanting a parting song to its mate. The next, resembles the sound of silver cymbals of the Dhyanis, awakening the twinkling stars. It is followed by plain melodies of the ocean's spirit, imprisoned in the conch shell, which in turn gives place to the chant of Vina. The melodious flute-like symphony is then heard. It changes into a trumpet-blast, vibrating like the dull rumbling of a thunder cloud. The seventh swallows all other sounds. They die and then are heard no more."
Mohammedanism: Among the Muslim Sufis, it is known as Sultan-ul-Azkar, (the king of prayers). Another order of Sufis calls it Saut-i-Sarmadi, (the Divine Song). They also call it Nida-i-Asmani, (the sound coming down from the (Heavens), Kalam-i-Qadim (the ancient sound) and the Kalma or Word. The fourteen regions were made by the Kalma--the Word.
Khawaja Hafiz, a great divine, says:
Maulana Rumi, in his Masnavi says:
Prophet Mohammed says:
Shah Niaz, another Muslim devotee, says:
is the Will and the Secret of God. Its meditation is carried without the
help of tongue and palate. Alas! thou art stuck fast in the physical bondage
and do not hear the Holy Sound of God. My Beloved is speaking to thee all
the while, but woe to thee for thou heareth not the Voice.
The whole universe is resounding with the Sound, and thou hast only to open the door of thine ear.
For opening the ear, it is sufficient to stop hearing the outer sounds. If you do this, you will hear the perpetual and unending Sound. It is infinite and has no beginning nor end, and on account of that, it it called Anhad (without any limits). Without this Word--the Eternal Sound- an infinite expression of the Infinite, the world could not have come into existence. Hold communion with the Melodious Sound and lose yourself in it, O wise man.
Kabir Sahib says:
Without the Word, Sound or Eternal Song, the soul sees not. Where could she go? As she cannot fathom the mystery of the 'Word,' she is wandering from place to place. --Kabir
Mind hankereth after evils; through the Word, the Master restraineth it.
--Guru Teg Bahadur
Through the medium of Word, soul doth cross the endless ocean of matter. Lowly Nanak, therefore, glorifies His Naam (the Word). --Ram Kali M.1
The Word is both earth and ether. TheSe had their being through the Word. This Word expressed itself in other aspects as well. The whole creation sprang up after the Word. O Nanak, that endless Word is reverberating in each heart.
The all-pervading Word has attracted all my mind. What else have I to think of? Communion of the soul with the Word creates everlasting Bliss. At-one-ment with the Lord procures the Essence of Joy and Peace. --Shri Rag M.1
I am emancipated. The God-Man has un-fettered me. Through the communion of soul with the Word, I have gained the resplendent seat of honour: O Nanak, the all-pervading Naam or the Word dwelleth in the hearts of all. The company of the Gurmukhs procures communion with It. --Malar M.1
Far off, on the other shore, is my Beloved. The God-man's Word, alone,
carries the soul across. In the company of saints, man is in clover and
How can the ignorant get to the principle of union of soul with the Word ? Without communion with the Word, soul comes and goes. O Nanak, the Gurmukh who is himself emancipated, meets by the merciful Writ of the Lord. --Maru M.1
The creation and the ultimate dissolution of the universe is caused through the Word. Again, through Word, it takes its existence anew. --Magh M.3
By good luck, the Lord consort has become ours. The Endless Song (the Word), resounding everywhere, gives a clue to His Court. --Bilawal M.5
The Word made all the earthly systems. --Gauri M.5
Tulsi Das says:
He is the true saint, who talks about the secret of the Divine Word (the Eternal Song). Having scrutinised the Unknowable and the Unthinkable. He has realised the Bani (the Eternal Song).
Doolan Sahib speaketh:
Charan Dass speaks:
Swami Shibdayal Singh Ji describes the Word as:
The Sound or the Word is the prime cause of all. It is also the be-all and the end-all. The three regions and the fourth were made by It. The Word and the spirit are of the same origin and both spring from the essence of the Nameless One. It is both the cause and the effect, and all were created by It. The Word is the preceptor, as well as the disciple and is resounding in the heart of everyone. The Word is water and It is the fish, also. Kabir spoke only of this Word. Nanak and Tulsi proclaimed the same Truth. The king and the minister, both are Word personified. Radha Soami (the Lord of the Spirit) says: 'My brave son, listen to It.'
The Word (Sound) is echoing and re-echoing in the whole of creation. There is no place without It. It is resounding in living temple of the human body.
The Word forms a connecting link between man and God. Thus each body is the abode of the Almighty. This is Holy Naam--the Word permeating through all the pores of our bodies. With the help of it, we have to trace back our steps to the source from which we emanated. This is truly the only way back to God. There is no other way.
The Master says:
By taking to countless outward formularies and rituals, we cannot escape the inner fires of attachment and lust, etc. Millions of ways you may adopt and countless forms you may make, but not one is acceptable at His Court.
withdraws us from the outer connections and recedes back in to It's Origins.
It is the way that Guru Nanak taught, and so did the nine Sikh Gurus after
him. Namdev, Ravidas, Kabir and others whose compositions have found place
in the Guru Granth Sahib, were one and all the teachers of the Surat Shabd
Yoga, or the Science of communion of the soul with the Word. There have
been others, too, such as Dhruva, Prahlad, Tulsi, Shamas Tabrez, Mulana
Rumi, Hafiz Shirazi, and Christ, who
practiced the Word. Dadu, Paltu, Soami Shib Dayal Singh, each taught the same Truth, in his own time.
The Holy Naam, or Word, can be practised by all alike, without the agency of tongue or palate. It does not require adherence to the outward observances of the social religions. This Word may be defined as the spirit-current which emanates from the One Being. It forms all the spiritual and material planes as It comes down, from plane to plane, reverberating in and out of all of them. As the lower planes are less subtle and more material than those above, the Word accordingly changes in sound as It comes down. Since It has to pass through five planes, It takes on five different sounds. These are five aspects of the one and the same Word. Guru Nanak deals with this at full length in stanza XV of the Jap Ji.
The whole of the Guru Granth Sahib is filled with beautiful pen-pictures, illustrative of the Word. There is no hymn which does not speak of It. A few quotations will suffice here. For exhaustive references, the reader is requested to refer to the voluminous treasure-house itself.
Through the writ of the Ever-flowing Pert of the Creator, we were attuned with the Lord, according to the instructions of the Master. We heard the five sounds, sounding in His Presence and thus rejoiced at our union with the Lord. --Mali M.5
Day and night, I am in communion with the Lord, with my mind fully convinced. The temple of my body has thus been beautified. The five Sounds of the limitless Music--the Word--are resounding. O, the Lord has entered my body. --Suhi M.1
The five Sounds become audible through the instructions of the Gurmukh--the Personified Word. Great is the luck of him who hears Them. The source of Joy and Peace (Word), I see as pervading everywhere. Through the Word, the Lord made His appearance and became manifest. --Kanra M. 4
The five Sounds of the limitless Music (Word) are resounding within me. I am attracted to Them, as the Sarang or the sea-bird is attracted by the sight of water. Thy bondsman, Kabir, thus glorifies in Thee, O Lord, the Unknowable and above all human ken. --Parbhati Kabir
The Lord, revealing Himself in five Sounds of the Word, has come.
Guru Nanak speaketh:
He is the true Preceptor who shows the real Home within the temple of the body wherein five different Sound Currents are resounding and gives a clue of the Holy Naam. --Malar War M.1
Word is the Guru. Soul is the disciple of the Word -- the melodious song.
--Ramkali M. 1
All the handmaids that meet the five Sounds, become the Gurmukh (or the devoted disciples) and reach their True Home, within. Whoever by practice of the Word finds out his True Home, Nanak, shall serve him truly. --Malar War M.1
Bhai Gurdas, a Sikh sage, tells us in no ambiguous terms:
These five Sounds are heard when we rise above the body made of five elements.
When the sphere of five elements is transcended, you hear the five Sounds in all their sweet and powerful melody.
The other saints have likewise spoken on the same theme, as the following:
Everyday there are the flares of five drums at His threshold, proclaiming His Greatness. One who hears that drum-beat, he is freed from egotism and envy and passes beyond finite existence. --Shamas Tabrez
Silence thyself and listen thou to the melody of the five trumpets coming
down from Heaven--the Heaven that is above all the skies Overhead. I laid
the ears of my soul at the threshold of my heart and heard the shrouded
mystery but did not see anyone opening his mouth. -- Hafiz Sahib
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continued in part 2