Contemplating Alone can Know the Self

Continued from “Suniye – The Art of Listening – Japji Sahib – V”

Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib – VI

Pauri - 12

Manne Ki Gati Kahi Na Jaye
Je Ko Kahe Pichhe Pachtaye
Kagad Kalam Na Likhanhar
Manne Ka Bahi Karani Vichaar
Aisa Naam Niranjan Hoye
Je Ko Mann Jane Mann Koye

Contemplative state cannot be explained
Whoever does try, later repents
No paper, pen, nor the writer
Can sit and reflect on such a mind
Such a name (state) becomes (is) flawless
That’s known only by the contemplating

In Pauri # 12 through 15, the word Manne is the prominent expression. Depending on how the word is used, it signifies mind (mann), contemplation (manan), obedience and belief (manne). However, the primary focus in Guru Nanak’s verses is on manan or contemplation.

In thinking (a mental activity) the process oscillates from one strand of thought to another. It is for this reason that Guru Nanak explained in the very first Pauri that God (ik Onkar) cannot be comprehended or realized by thoughts, even if one was to think a million times.

In the preceding Pauries Guru Nanak explained and exalted Suniye – the art of listening. Now the Guru extols the next ensuing logical step – Manne (manan) – contemplation.

Contemplation is a state of immersion on a core idea. And what is the core idea or the underlying principle of Japji Sahib? It is “Ik Onkar Satnam” – the mulmantra. The mantra first needs to be heard and then contemplated upon. This is the central idea of Guru Nanak’s teaching. First hear then reflect. The mantra is not to be thought about or debated upon. One has to submerge into it to directly experience the resonance of the Word – the mantra.

In meditation practices, we are taught to first utter the Word “Om” aloud, then listening to the echo articulate the Word using the mind and as the last step simply listen in silence the resonance of “Om” that’s reverberating within. When one reaches this third state in meditation, the mind is gone and contemplation begins. Absence of mind means all thought process is put to rest – all debates and arguments cease – and awareness of the ‘sound of silence’ begins. The more the depth of our immersion, the more the Word unfolds on its own accord. The highest state in the progress of meditation is called Samadhi – a state when the very word contemplated upon reaches its ultimate point i.e. Void.

Guru Nanak says in this Pauri that this contemplative state cannot be expressed and he reinforces this by saying that he who expresses it, later on regrets / repents.


Mind is movement, contemplation is non-movement. Mind travels from one point to another, with contemplation the journey comes to an end.

We can talk about movements, about journeys and about our observations of places, landscapes and interactions; because we are moving somewhere and things are happening. However, in a state of Samadhi, nothing is happening, one is not going anywhere, one is not observing anything and there is no interaction. So, how can one talk about such a state and what is really there to talk?

Any effort to give expression to silence can only become the cause of regret and repentance. How can the experience of infinity be expressed with the limitation of our finite language rules and syntax?

Thus Guru Nanak explains that if you have experienced even a microscopic glimpse of the infinite, don’t start bragging about it, because, the ways of the ego are crafty, cunning and deceptive.

Here lies the distinction between a sage and a pundit. The sage who has had a direct experience is silent, whereas the pundit who is full of “knowledge” is busy preaching with debates and arguments.

Guru Nanak says further that there is no pen, paper or writer who can give expression to such a contemplative state.

Kabir says in his Doha:

Akath Kahani Prem Ki, Kuchh Kahi Na Jaye
Goonge Keri Sarkara, Baithe Muskaye

Inexpressible is the story of Love
It cannot be revealed by words
Like the dumb eating sweets
Only smiles, its sweetness he cannot tell

Kabir refers to the situation of a person in Love, a person who has realized the Truth. This compassionate one does not brag, does not talk for the wise one knows that it would be as futile an effort as the mute smile of a dumb trying to express the sweetness of the sweets.

The dumb here is the sage who has experienced the taste. Only he knows the taste and because he is silent (cannot or would not express the taste), he simply smiles blissfully.

Now in a situation like this, what pen, paper or author can write?

The Pauri ends with the aphorism, that such a state is a union, an immersion with the divine; which is Niranjan – the flawless − and is experienced and known only by the one contemplating.

Pauri – 13

Manne Surat Hove Man Budh
Manne Sagal Bhawan Ki Sudh
Manne Muhn Chotan Na Kahye
Manne Jum Ke Saath Na Jaye
Aisa Naam Niranjan Hoye
Je Ko Mann Jane Mann Koye

Contemplation awakens higher consciousness
Contemplation unfolds the mysteries of the Cosmos
Self-awareness wards off all disgrace
Fear of death, contemplation annihilates
Such a name (state) becomes (is) flawless
That’s known only by the contemplating

As stated in the preceding Pauri, Manne (manan) or contemplation is the next logical step after Suniye. Contemplation leads to awareness.

The word surat in this Pauri refers to the consciousness of our own self. Simply stated surat would mean our state of wakefulness and alertness.

While talking our focus gets directed towards the other and invariably our impressionist attitude arising from our bloated ego makes us say things to the other, which we regret later on. We make false promises, say things that we do not mean and are not even capable of fulfilling at all. When this happens, our consciousness of our own self is at its lowest ebb at that time.

However, if we are silent, then our awareness of our own self is higher.

To be aware of our own self at all times and under all circumstances is to be in a state of higher consciousness. Then we become mindful of what we say and instead of just blabbering, we weigh each and every word before we speak.

Guru Nanak says in this Pauri that by contemplation one stays awakened, at all times, with higher consciousness. In such a wakeful state one does not do anything senselessly, leave aside chattering and gossiping. One is aware and alert. Such a state corresponds to the right mindfulness of Buddhism.

In this context a brief note on the Eight Fold Path is relevant.

The very foundation of Buddhism is explained in the Eight Fold Path as (1) Right View; (2) Right Thought; (3) Right Speech; (4) Right Action; (5) Right Livelihood; (6) Right Effort; (7) Right Mindfulness and (8) Right Concentration.

On the Right Mindfulness (in a state of manan − contemplation), Buddha says:

Being mindful of the crux of matters can help us overcome suffering with understanding. When sitting, laying or moving, being mindful of the following four frames of reference can help us achieve great understanding, and can even help us unlock the secrets of our hearts.

The Body: Paying attention to our physical being can help us direct the mind away from the distractions of the world. Focusing on our breath, our movements, our actions, our components, and on the sheer miracle of our physical existence, we can arrive at calmness and clarity.

Feelings: Paying attention to our external and internal feelings, observing their rise and fall, can help us realize their origination, development and decline. Understanding the nature of our feelings can help us let go and break our habits of clinging.

Mind: Turning the mind upon itself, observing our thoughts, can help us realize the origination and aim of our thoughts. With this understanding, we can understand the nature of the mind and break the cycle of suffering.

Mental Qualities: Paying attention to our mental state of mind can help us recognize the five obstacles of our mentality (sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, anxiety and doubt). Observing their origination, development and decline, can help us realize how we can overcome them. By observing the origination, the components, the development, and the decline of things with regard to these frames of reference, we can find a deeper understanding in the nature of ourselves, and to know our own hearts is to know the hearts of others.


Only when we become mindful and alert, only then we are able to appreciate our surroundings, our environment. Only then we become aware of “Satnam” (absolute existence – sagal bhuwan) and see the signatures of “Ik Onkar” in everything. Guru Nanak says that the wonder and mysteries of existence and the cosmos start unfolding with contemplation.  Life, however, diverse, reveals itself in all its unified glory.

Guru Nanak also says, “Manne Muhn Chotan Na Khaye” – literally, when one is in contemplation (in wakeful and alert state), one would not be slapped on the face or be disgraced.

What causes disgrace? Our senseless talks that lead to absurd actions! As stated earlier, when we are not aware of our own self, our impressionist egoistic attitude makes us say things that we do not intend to utter. In such a stupor and dullness, we make promises and sell dreams. But, when we cannot fulfill the promise, a sense of betrayal is felt by the “other” and conflict starts. It is natural that insults and slaps are the result. In other words, we invite disgrace by talking rubbish.

On the importance of speech, I would like to quote Kabir, who says, in his Doha,

Aisee Vani Boliye, Mann Ka Aapa Khoye
Apna Tan Sheetal Kare, Auran Ko Sukh Hoye

Speak such words
sans ego’s ploy
Body remains composed,
giving the listener joy

In the Hindu philosophy, the ancients have laid tremendous emphasis on speech. They have mentioned in numerous shlokas that our speech has a direct connection with our bodily humors. They proclaimed that sound and sight are the underlying source of all vibrations.

This has been scientifically proven over and over again. The spoken words of the human speech flow exclusively with the exhalation of the breath. While inhaling one cannot speak. Thus the Pranava or the breathing system itself makes the speech a process of the outgoing phenomenon. Words once spoken cannot be retrieved. Hence instead of being apologetic or remorseful later on, it is better to (a) talk less and (b) whatever our conversation we always remain aware of what is being spoken.

We know that all sounds create vibrations and these vibrations affect both the speaker and the listener. Soothing, compassionate and loving words breed togetherness, while harsh speech breeds hatred.


Thus, Guru Nanak says, “Manne Muhn Chotan Na Khaye” – when one is in contemplation and thereby in a state of wakefulness (alert and aware), one would not talk or act rubbish and get disgraced.

Next is “Manne Jum ke saath na jayee”. Yama makes us fearful as he is known as the lord of death. Guru Nanak makes a very interesting point here.

By contemplation, the self-awareness or higher consciousness increases. It is also in this state that one consciously kills one’s ego and realizes the mahavakya of the Upanishads: Aham Brahmasmi. Through contemplation, having thus, become one with the One, with all concepts of dualities vanished, the fear of death is annihilated. Death then is acknowledged as the finale of an individual role and not the end of the eternal drama of Life.

The Pauri ends with the aphorism, that such a state is a union, an immersion with the divine; which is Niranjan – the flawless − and is experienced and known only by the one contemplating.

Pauri - 14

Manne Marag Thak Na Paye
Manne Pat Siun Pargat Jaye
Manne Mag Na Chale Panth
Manne Dharam Seti Sanbandha
Aisa Naam Niranjan Hoye
Je Ko Mann Jane Mann Koye

Contemplation clears all hindrances from one’s path
With honor and distinction one moves on
Un-tempted by misleading ways
On righteous Dharma one stays
Such a name (state) becomes (is) flawless
That’s known only by the contemplating

Guru Nanak, in this Pauri says that all hindrances from one’s path are removed by contemplation.

What is the path and what are the hindrances?

The path is our journey of life and the hindrances are our incessant sensory desires. Before we have fulfilled one desire, another one is already knocking on the door. These create dilemmas and the mind oscillates. Greed and fear set in. Eventually these desires become obstacles in our journey of life.

Guru Nanak proclaims that with the awareness that comes with contemplation, we realize that all the enemies, the hurdles, the hindrances and obstacles are created by ourselves. This understanding and acceptance gives us the ability to discern between the right and the wrong, the good and the bad, and this discernment eradicates our insensitivity (caused by greed and fear) thereby clearing the hindrances from the path.. Instead of correcting others, with contemplation we in actuality rediscover the true meaning of ‘Self’. With self-awareness, we move on the journey of life with honor and dignity. This honor and dignity is not dependent on external factors or others, but ascends from within – as a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving.

With contemplation, the futility and falsity of rituals and customs is realized. Guru Nanak says that by blindly following rituals, customs and traditions do not make one religious − rather they mislead and let people go astray. True religion or Dharma begins with contemplation. Contemplation that leads to self-awareness or higher consciousness is not bound by sectarian laws. Dharma is universal.

Once a person has attained contemplation i.e. reached the higher consciousness, then that person does not confine himself to any sect, instead gets connected with Dharma (the divine order) that is universal.

This is true secularism.

The Pauri ends with the aphorism, that such a state is a union, an immersion with the divine; which is Niranjan – the flawless − and is experienced and known only by the one contemplating.

Pauri - 15

Manne Pave Mokh Duar
Manne Parvare Saadhar
Manne Tare Tarey Guru Sikh
Manne Nanak Bhavahi Na Bhikh
Aisa Naam Niranjan Hoye
Je Ko Mann Jane Mann Koye

Contemplation takes one to the liberation door
Making one’s fellow beings find evermore
Liberates oneself, leads others to follow
Says Nanak, no more the emancipated begs
Such a name (state) becomes (is) flawless
That’s known only by the contemplating

The state of freedom, emancipation, liberation, salvation, deliverance or moksha is inversely related to bondage. We are in a state of bondage because of our desires and our desires are endless. Each desire causes expectation and attachment which in turn becomes yet another link to the chain that keeps us tied down in shackles. We keep groping in darkness and keep yearning for the light.

Guru Nanak says, in this Pauri, that by contemplation one proceeds towards the door of liberation. Manan or contemplation means to awaken. In sleep or darkness, we cannot see. But once awakened, we can see with clarity the cause of our bondage. Terminate the cause and the links start dismantling. Expectations and attachments start weakening. When they cease, desires cease. The bondage is destroyed and in that state we attain emancipation. We see the door to liberation.

In the sangat (association) of a liberated soul, the family of the fellow beings also gets transformed and discovers the path towards the door to liberation.

Thus, not only the Contemplating (the Gurus) emancipate themselves; they also become the medium for emancipation of others (their followers).

In our mundane life, all our desires direct us to actions wanting, more and more – a veritable state of begging.

Guru Nanak says, with contemplation when one attains emancipation – desires automatically fall. When there are no desires, there are no wants. The need for begging vanishes.

The Pauri ends with the aphorism, that such a state is a union, an immersion with the divine; which is Niranjan – the flawless − and is experienced and known only by the one contemplating.

Continued to “The Prominent Five and the Force – Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib – VII ”

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More by :  Rajender Krishan

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Comment Thank you , this is a precious gift.

04-Oct-2013 07:40 AM

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