Japji Sahib

Japji Sahib Meanings | Part #1

These blogs are derived from Sri Guru’s Satsangs on Shri Japji Sahib, & compiled to give a brief interpretation of the Pauri’s by Guru Nanak Dev ji. For detailed understanding, please watch the Japji Sahib Series.

Mool Mantra
ੴ ਸਤਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰਤਾ ਪੁਰਖੁ ਨਿਰਭਉ ਨਿਰਵੈਰੁ ਅਕਾਲ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਅਜੂਨੀ ਸੈਭੰ ਗੁਰ ਪ੍ਰਸਾਦਿ ॥ 
ੴ सतिनामु करता पुरखु निरभउ निरवैरु अकाल मूरति अजूनी सैभं गुरप्रसादि ॥

Ik onkar satnam karta purakh nirbhau nirvair aakaal murat ajooni se bhang Gur parsaad

This foremost verse of Japji Sahib as well as of Guru Granth Sahib, commonly known as the “Mool Mantra” comprises the first few words that were recited by Guru Nanak Dev Ji when he came out of his samadhi after attaining enlightenment. In this verse, Guru Nanak Dev Ji attempts to define the formless God-consciousness, its characteristics and how it can be experienced. Here God is the timeless, formless, all-pervading energy and not any living being bound by time or space.   

Meaning:

Ik: There is only one God, the supreme and absolute power that is the cause of all creation, operation and dissolution. This is analogous to the teachings of Advaita Vedanta and other monotheistic philosophies, that everything is a manifestation of a single source of energy irrespective of their outer forms. And if we start getting into multiple forms, there will always be conflict. Thus, Guru Nanak Dev Ji puts it as the first word of the Mool Mantra, emphasizing oneness as the only path.  

Onkaar: As represented in the Mool Mantra using Gurumukhi script, this is a symbol and a combination of two words Om and Kaar. Its description helps us get the answer to the obvious question that if God is One, then from where he came.  

The first part of the symbol, “Om” (depicted in several different ways) denotes sound. It signifies that our ever-expanding universe was born from a gigantic explosion in the dormant dark energies, producing an immense cosmic sound, followed by immeasurable amounts of light and heat. The same is confirmed by modern scientific studies, such as the phenomena of Sonoluminescence and the Big Bang Theory.

The second part “kaar” means that this entire creation is immersed in the Creator. The creator is everywhere and in everything, and cannot be separated from the creation. For instance, when we see a dancer getting deeply immersed into her expression, it is said that the dancer and dance have become One. Similarly, every great painting is a reflection of its painter. Thus, God’s presence as the creator is manifested in every element of creation. It cannot be separated from the creation.   

Sat: God is eternal and ever present. That Supreme energy from where everything is born, is the only eternal truth. It was there in the past, it is here now and will always be there. All its manifestations are transient in nature and as a result keep evolving and dissolving.

The above words of the Mool Mantra (Ik Onkar Sat) denote the name of God, as defined by Guru Nanak Dev Ji. The subsequent words of the Mool Mantra define God’s characteristics.

Karta: God is the Creator of all, and therefore resides in everything. The grand universe, whose magnitude we cannot even perceive, is the creation in which God remains immersed.  

Purakh: God is all-pervading. Generally, this word is confused with the word “Purush”, which means male. But that is not the case, as the word “Purakh” is derived from Sanskrit, where it means “Puri shaite itee purush” – meaning that which is present everywhere. That is what the formless God energy is.

Nirbhau, Nirvair: God is without any fear or enmity. Being the sole creator with an all-pervading and omnipresent nature, God has no one to envy and nothing to fear.

Akal: God is timeless, that means he is beyond time and space.        

Murat: At times, He is having a form too. True that God is formless and is the all-pervading energy, but then at times he comes in some form also, for example in the form of a Sadguru. That is the reason that a Sadguru has always been equated to or at times considered superior to the formless and all philosophies and religions have emphasized the need for a living master.

Ajuni: This means beyond the cycle of birth and death. God does not take birth as we or any other creatures do, nor does he have a limited life span like us. He is birthless and eternal.  

Saibhan: God is created by none. He is self-existent and complete and fully capable by himself.  

Having described his name and characteristics, Guru Nanak Dev Ji also gives a way of obtaining or realizing God. The last words of the Mool Mantra shed light on this aspect.

Guru Prasad: Such an eternal, all-pervading God can only be experienced through the grace of a Sadguru. This doesn’t mean you will be given the path directly, because that is just not possible. What it means is that a Sadguru prepares you and purifies you in a step-by-step manner, gradually making you eligible to experience God by yourself. And it has to be an experience, because the magnitude of God’s existence is far beyond your limited perception. Sadguru’s grace is their prasad and your surrendership as a seeker is how you receive it.

Purport:

The Mool Mantra introduces us to the Supreme Energy of creation, sustenance and dissolution. Out of all the characteristics of God illustrated in the Mool Mantra, the virtues of ‘Nirbhau’ and ‘Nirvair’ are the ones we can and must pursue in this life. With these virtues and with Guru’s grace, we can align our being with that Supreme energy. So, let us work towards becoming Nirbhau and Nirvair.      

॥ जपु ॥
आदि सचु जुगादि सचु ॥
है भी सचु नानक होसी भी सचु ॥१॥

The Mool Mantra is followed by the beautiful hymn of “Jap Ji”. Before the first Pauri, there is again an Invocation made by Guru Nanak Dev Ji for understanding the nature of the Supreme.

Meaning:

God was there when there was nothing, He was there before the ages began, He exists now and Oh Nanak, He shall prevail forever.

Purport:

This invocation again emphasizes that we should always remember the eternal nature of God. He is the only truth, rest all is transient in nature and keeps coming and going.

Pauri #1
सोचै सोचि न होवई जे सोची लख वार ॥
चुपै चुप न होवई जे लाइ रहा लिव तार ॥
भुखिआ भुख न उतरी जे बंना पुरीआ भार ॥
सहस सिआणपा लख होहि त इक न चलै नालि ॥
किव सचिआरा होईऐ किव कूड़ै तुटै पालि ॥
हुकमि रजाई चलणा नानक लिखिआ नालि ॥१॥

After describing the name and nature of the Supreme in the opening verse, Guru Nanak Dev Ji starts elaborating on the details by explaining various perspectives of God and how to tune oneself with him. In the first pauri, Guru Nanak Ji denounces the orthodox ways that people have been practicing for experiencing God. In those times, people were being misled by the so-called religious gurus into performing all sorts of empty rituals and believing ill-conceived doctrines, with a false assurance of salvation. Some such prevalent rituals included bathing in holy rivers for material gain, trying to sit in samadhis without silencing the mind, memorizing scriptures without clarity or understanding etc. Guru Nanak Dev Ji said that all such deeds are futile and will lead us nowhere. But then how can we rid ourselves of this veil of illusion, how do we purify the mind and become one with that Supreme? Guru Nanak Dev Ji says the only way is to make God’s Will our own. The subsequent thirty-eight pauris elaborate on this answer and define a path for the seekers for aligning with that supreme God energy.  

The first four lines of the pauri describe the empty rituals practiced by people, the fifth line poses the question followed by a brief answer in the sixth line.   

Meaning:

सोचै सोचि न होवई जे सोची लख वार ॥

Bathing in holy rivers, even for a million times, shall not absolve us of our sins. It will not purify us  Guru Nanak Ji says this in reference to the widely prevalent blind belief that bathing in holy rivers like Ganga would rid people of their sins. He assertively rules out this cult and says that such rituals cannot help one connect to that Supreme.

चुपै चुप न होवई जे लाइ रहा लिव तार ॥

Merely sitting quietly or taking a vow of silence at a physical level, even if one does it for ages, will not accomplish inner peace. Guru Nanak Ji again bewares us of this misleading practice of seeking self-realization. This is because the outer silence is not of much help unless one is able to cultivate the inner silence of the mind. It is only after mastering the inner silence, that one can tune with the Supreme.

भुखिआ भुख न उतरी जे बंना पुरीआ भार ॥

Materialistic wealth or worldly possessions can never help us reach a state of contentment and happiness, no matter how much we accumulate. Here, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is referring to the never-ending hunger for fulfillment in human beings. If one is constantly pre-occupied by these desires, there is no way that he or she can connect to the Supreme consciousness.

सहस सिआणपा लख होहि त इक न चलै नालि ॥

No amount of mental ingenuity, cleverness or intellectual prowess is of any use towards attaining that Supreme. It means that one may gather as much intellectual knowledge as one can, but all that is of no use in one’s progress towards salvation.

किव सचिआरा होईऐ किव कूड़ै तुटै पालि ॥

After highlighting the futility of our empty rituals in the first 4 lines, Guru Nanak Dev Ji is puts forward two important questions. Firstly, how we can become eligible to attune with that Supreme power. Secondly, how we can break this wall of illusion that stands as an obstacle between us and that Supreme Eternal Consciousness. Illusion (कूड़ै) refers to our strong attachments, desires and expectations towards short-lived sources of pleasure. And these form the cause of our never-ending misery.   

हुकमि रजाई चलणा नानक लिखिआ नालि ॥

Here, Guru Nanak Dev Ji answers the two essential questions put forward in the previous line. He says that the wall of illusion can be broken only by listening to and sincerely following the path of the Divine Command of the True One (हुकमि). This Hukam has a great significance throughout the Japji Sahib and several pauris elaborate on this with multiple perspectives. Thus, from a seeker’s viewpoint, it is of utmost importance to make God’s will our own will. And this becomes our path towards aligning with the God consciousness.

Purport:

This Pauri explains the futility of our worldly endeavors and rituals to seek and experience the Supreme. It is important for every seeker to understand these basic principles and avoid falling prey to the blind practicing of religious rituals. The Pauri also touches upon as to how we can achieve the state of Oneness with Him by making His Will (Hukam) our own. 

The next pauri gives an elaborate explanation about Hukam and how the entire creation is operating under Hukam.


Compiled by Bharat Bhushan (New Delhi, India)

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