A CRITICAL STUDY OF JAPUJI
Japji is considered as the epitome of the Adi Granth and the crux of Sikh Thought. It is said to have been composed by Guru Nanak in the later years of his life, when he settled down at Kartarpur after his long journeys. People from far and near used to gather around him and listen to his discourses. He composed this longer poem for their recitation, guidance and spiritual advancement. It was meant to he recited by the disciples in the early hours of the morning. Though Guru Nanak did not consider mere recitation as a sufficient dose for the spiritual progress, he wanted his disciples to comprehend the basic tenets through regular study and practice.
Besides the Mul Mantra (the original sacred formula), the prologue and the epilogue, there are thirty-eight stanzas of varying meter and length in this poem. The Mul Mantra gives us an insight into the nature of ultimate reality. The sacred formula is followed by Shloka, which forms the prologue of the poem. The subject is introduced to us in this Shloka. This subject is Truth. In the next thirty-eight stanzas, the poet has dealt with this subject, laying emphasis on those medias through which the wall of falsehood can be completely demolished. The last Shloka or the epilogue presents before us the conclusive remarks of the poet.
Like Gita and the Upanishads, Japji is poem of perennial importance, because it deals with the perennial philosophy. It talks of time and space in relation to the Timeless and the non-spatial entity. We live in the world of Name and Form, hut our ideal is the attainment of the Formless and Attributeless Lord. For the realization of this ideal several hints have been given in Japji. Since this poem is a compendium of Sikh Thought, we shall try to touch upon all the main points contained in it.
The main subject : As has been said above, the main subject of this poem is Truth. A question has been posed in the very beginning : "How can we become true and how the wall of falsehood can he demolished ?" The poet himself has given the answer to this question in the next verse: "To work under the Divine Will Nanak hath written it with (the above question)." This clearly shows that Guru Nanak believed that Truth can only be realized in concurrence with the Divine Will. But the question arises as to the nature of this Truth. The answer to this question is found in the prologue of the poem:
Truth was in the beginning,
Truth was in the beginning of the ages,
Truth is prevalent in the present,
Truth will he prevalent in future also.
Only Brahman or God pervades all the three divisions of Time i.e. past,
present and future, therefore only God is the Truth referred to in the
Prologue. Thus the attainment of Truth is the realization of the ultimate
In the Mul Mantra, the poet has given the name of God as Truth, the ever-existent ONE. Truth is indivisible and imperishable. The world of Form, Action and Name perishes, but the Lord of this world abides for ever along with the finite selves. The soul or the finite self, which is a part and parcel of the Higher Soul enters the world of form, action and name and undergoes births and deaths. But this cycle ceases, whenever the Truth dawns upon the finite self. The entry into the plane of Truth can only be achieved through the Grace of the Lord which puts us on the right track and brings an equilibrium of action, devotion and knowledge.
Since God is Truth, the Truthfulness in practical life is, therefore, godliness. All the attributes of God, whenever practiced, take us nearer God.
Time and Space : The eternal and non-spatial Lord has created this world of time and space, which may be called Qudrat (Nature) or maya. Hinduism talks of several ages and periods in the process of creation. Science also gives its estimate of different ages in the evolution of the world. In different countries and different schools of thought, different times of the origin and the periods of the evolution of the world have been imagined. Some scriptures have even given the number of years that have passed since the creation of the world by God. But Guru Nanak does not agree with all such thinking, pondering and rumination. He holds that only God Himself knows the time of the origin of the creation.
This question in Japuji is significant:
Which is that time, lunar date or the day, Which is that season or month when the material world came into being?
The Guru himself has replied:
Only the Creator, who hath created the world, knows Thus none knows
or can know the exact time of the birth of
universe. The natural corollary of this fact will come to this that a,~ the divisions of time are the result of mere human imagination. The apparent division of time i.e. Past, Present and Future is only for the human body and the soul suffers because of this limitation of the body attached to it. When it knows itself and the Lord, time-element vanishes. The body experiences birth, childhood, youth, old age and death, hut the soul always remains the same.
The concept of time works in the created space. According to Guru Nanak the creation of the Infinite Lord cannot be delimited. He talks of an immeasurable expanse in the sense of ‘Neti, Neti’:
There is no limit of the created material world,
There is no limit and no end.
Several people wander for the knowledge of His limits,
None can know this limit,
The more we think of it, the more it goes farther. Some cosmological systems extend the limits of the universe
created by God to seven skies and seven nether-worlds,
but Guru Nanak talks of lakhs of skies and lakhs of nether-worlds:
There are lakhs of nether-worlds and skies,
The ends were explored, the Vedas declare, but in vain.
The source is only one, the Hindu and Muslim scriptures say,
He is unaccountable. Whosoever takes account, perishes.
Only He THE SUPREME knows Himself, saith Nanak. Thus time and space have value only in relation to jiva i.e. the embodied soul and no significance in relation to God.
Jiva : Time and space are an imprisonment for the soul. The jiva acts under the will of Brahman and enters the arena of his Sport, which is called Jagator Samsara in Indian Philosophy. The Samsara is a Karma-Bhoomi (field of action) bound by the Laws of God. In this field of action the jiva undergoes a very hard test, because it is surrounded on all sides by such forces which keep him away from the Lord. The worldly pleasures attract him, but he gets no satisfaction out of them. At times he is subjected to lust, anger, greed, worldly affection and ego. At times he is hungry and thirsty. At times he is jealous of others. He is subjected to several ills and finds his release very difficult. He approaches the Perfect enlightener by the grace of God and addresses him thus:
O Guru Give me the knowledge of ONE
Who is the only sustainer of all the Jivas.
I may never forget Him.
Karma and Grace: Because of our karmas (actions), we are enchained to the world of duality and ego and thus face misery and grief in this world. We are known by our actions only which are judged in the court of the Lord. The plane on which we live is the plane of action, therefore we have to he very much cautious about our actions. By our actions we become lowly, by our actions we rise in esteem. We rise and fall because of our actions. There are certain actions which we are enjoined by Shastras to perform for our spiritual remuneration, hut Guru Nanak has strongly rejected such actions. He says:
The birth is due to our actions,
The final liberation is due to Grace.
Great emphasis is, thus, laid on the grace of the Lord. Karma and grace, the two opposing factors, have been reconciled. Both are necessary for the spiritual development. Through the grace of the Lord, we are put on the right track and the necessary effects and precautions are performed on this path through the grace of the Lord.
Hukam : The surrender to the Judgement or Will of the Lord is the beginning of the grace of the Lord. The Arabic equivalent to the Judgement of the Lord is known as Hukm. It is also interpreted as the laws of God (or Nature). These laws are universal. Among these laws are the physical law of causation, the moral law of causation (known as the doctrine of Karma) and the spiritual law of love. The whole world moves and works under the Laws of God. The Guru has said:
The world of matter is created by His Hukm,
The Hukm of the Lord is inexplicable;
The jivas are created by His Hukm,
The esteem is gained by His Hukm;
One rises higher or falls lower according to His Hukm,
The comfort and sorrows are written and obtained by His Hukm,
Some attain grace according to His Hukm,
And some are led astray by His Hukm;
Everything Is within His Hukm, none is outside of it;
If one comprehends His Hukm, he loses his ego.
Name and Guru :
By an analogy, the Guru has emphsized the significance of the Name. When the hands, feet and body are smeared with dust, they are cleaned with water. When the clothes are polluted with urine, they are washed with soap. In a similar manner the sins are washed away by the Name of the Lord. The Name is the Word of the Guru, which leads us to the knowledge of ONE. The Shra van and Mannan of the Name are the forward steps in the spiritual domain. By the Grace of the God, we meet the Guru and by the grace of the Guru we get the Name through which we meet the Lord. The functions of the Guru are two-fold:
There is WORD with the Guru,
There is KNOWLEDGE with the Guru.
The Guru, thus, gives both the Word and the Knowledge. Those who remember
the Word of the Guru or the Name, not only obtain final emancipation for
themselves, but others also, who adopt their line:
Those who have remembered the Name have labored well. They are revered in the Court of the Lord and get release of others.
Panchas or Liberated Ones: Such persons are known as Pancbasor the liberated ones. These perfect beings not only get high positions in the Court of Lord, but they are also recipients of best regards in this world. They are the disciples of the True Guru and are invaluable traders of the invaluable Name. By dint of their efforts, grim determination and the Grace of the Lord, they enter the ‘tenth door’ into the presence of the Lord. ‘That door’ has been depicted in one of the stanzas of Japji. All the gods, goddesses and other forces, while awaiting there the orders of the Almighty, sing His praises. There are countless singers and countless musical instruments being played.
Shastric Injunctions and Formalism : The religion of Panchas is love and devotion. They have no faith in Shastric injunctions or religious practices. For them all Karma Kand is of no avail for spiritual development. The pilgrimage to holy places is useful only if the Lord approves it. All formalism is absurd. A true Yogiwears the ear-rings of contentment and the staff of faith. The inner qualities are essential and not the outer garb. The love of the Lord should be for love’s sake and not for any material gain. A yogi who attains miraculous powers through concentration and meditation should neglect these powers because they will drag him down from spiritual heights.
Higher Planes : The plane, where we are horn, is the plane piety (Dharma Kband). It is a plane of actions. In this world of ti1ne.~ and space, of days and nights, of lunar dates and seasons, of air, water and fire, there are Jivas of diverse types, colors and names. These Jivas reap the fruit of their actions. Only Panchas are received with respect in the Court of the Lord because of their actions. Thus the plane of piety is the initial state of actions requiring us to adopt the real virtues in life by discriminating between good or bad actions.
Having imbibed the virtues in our practical life and having acted or moved on the right path, we enter the next plane i.e. the ~ plane of knowledge (Gyan Khand). In this plane the seeker ~ observes the vastness of the Universe. He comes to know of various winds, waters, fires, Vishnus, Shivas, Brahmas, Karma Bbumis (fields of action), pole stars, Indras, moons, suns, spheres, countries, Siddhas, Buddhas, Nathas, goddesses, gods, demons, sages, gems, I seas, Khanis(divisions of creation), Vanis(modes of speech), kings, scriptures and their believers. There is no end to all these created forces. This plane gives an idea to the seeker of his position in this huge set-up. It gives him an impetus to recognize his own potentialities and try to rise on higher planes. He feels elated.
After leaving the plane of knowledge, the seeker enters the plane of effort (Saram Khand) wherein he washes away all the dust of passions, vices and ego. He is purified and beautified. The intellect and mind become pure and beautiful. The seeker becomes a Sidha and godlike.
But the real power and strength comes when the seeker enters the next plane i.e. the plane of grace (Karam Khand). The Lord is All-Powerful. His powers manifest themselves in a seeker through His Grace. With full health and vigor, beautiful thing looks many times more beautiful. Thus the state of full bloom is attained in this plane. The saint-soldier reaches this plane and resides here in full, ecstasy and glory.
The state achieved in the fourth plane leads the seeker to h goal i.e. the plane of Truth (Sach Khand). This plane is the abode of the Formless, who is Infinite and Creator and Master of the infinite creation. He controls the whole universe and directs it according to His Will. He is a conscious Power and sees and enjoys the sport his Creation conscientiously.
Triple Interpretation of the Five Planes:
The above-mentioned five planes can be explained physically, morally and
spiritually. The physical interpretation takes the whole of the creation