Guru Nanak Dev is the first Sikh Guru who founded the Gurmukh Panth. Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru did the first major compilation of the works of the preceding Gurus and his compilation was known as the Adi Granth. Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Guru did the final compilation and the panth came to be known as the Khalsa Panth. Guru Gobind Singh also ended the physical lineage of the Gurus and proclaimed the holy book of the Sikhs, Shri Guru Granth Sahib as the final Guru.
This has been put forth in one of the verses, in an attempt to reveal the "form" of Shri Guru Granth Sahib, as the Guru personified:
Bani Guru, Guru Hai Bani
wich Bani, Amrit Sare
The Word is the Guru, Guru is the Word
Within the Word is the crux of Purity (Truth)
It may be interesting to note here that in all the holy writings of the subsequent Gurus, with the major exception of Guru Ram Das, the signatory is "Nanak", implying thereby the work of Guru Nanak himself. To me, it appears to be as the most befitting salutation and reverence to Guru Nanak Dev. Inspite of the fact that major contribution of the verses in the holy Shri Guru Granth Sahib is by Guru Arjan Dev, yet almost the entire Gurwani is attributed to "Nanak".
Verses included in the holy book by Bhagat Kabir, Dhanna, Pipa, Beni, Namdeo, Sheikh Farid, Ravidas and others, however, have the "signatures" of the respective authors.
Shri Guru Granth Sahib contains 974 verses by Guru Nanak.
Japji Sahib, is the first book of the holy Shri Guru Granth Sahib, containing only 41 verses. It is said to have been compiled by Guru Angad, when he was still known as Bhai Laihna. In obedience with his master's orders, Guru Angad selected appropriate verses and gave Japji Sahib its present form during the last decade of Guru Nanak's life.
The Japji Sahib does not follow a strict meter of poetry and even the rhyming seems, at places, uneven and incoherent. Why is it so? Because when Bhai Laihna compiled the verses, he did not change or arrange any words of any verse to define a meter. Each verse complete in itself is the way Guru Nanak uttered them. We have to also remember that Guru Nanak did not sit down to write, he simply spoke and sang. He was not repeating words from somewhere (as if reading a book!) but simply singing in ecstasy. The verses originated from within his inner depths, hence also called as "Dhur Ki Bani" or the words ascending from beyond! Therefore, the pulse, the grammar, the rhythm and the meter of his verses is not of man, but of God.
To truly appreciate, one has to have some knowledge about Hinduism, India, Indian culture and history, a fairly good knowledge of Hindi and Gurmukhi., and most importantly a simple and open heart with willingness to be in line with the main inquiry of the Japji Sahib - the Search for Truth.
My first exposure to Sikhism came early in my childhood due to my grandmother's love for visiting Gurudwaras, particularly on the days when Langar (community kitchen) was on. It was at these Langars where I was encouraged by her to clean the shoes of the Sangat (visitors), participate in serving the Parshada (Bread) and finally clean up the mess. Perhaps, I did not like doing all that then, but I must say this method of karseva (service by one's hands) helped me learning humility and also perhaps in becoming a better human being. Truly understood, the Langar is not only a means of social interaction, but a great opportunity for one to rejoice in the act of selfless service.
At the age of eleven, I had the opportunity of visiting the Golden Temple, Amritsar in 1962. As an intellectual and academic pursuit, I have had occasions to read portions of Shri Guru Granth Sahib.
However, my real contact with Japji Sahib came in 1995, while driving around with my Sikh friend Gopal and doing errands. It just so happened that during our drive, he played some Gurwani audio cassette wherein Bhai Jasbir Singh, Khannewalle, gave a very interesting explanation of the Mulmantra of Japji Sahib. The Word gave a new insight and meaning to life and just after our errands, I was asking Gopal a million questions. It was Gopal who presented me the Gutka containing Nit Nem or Japji Sahib.
Within 2 days, I had acquired an audio tape of Japji Sahib and for the past several years, it has been my most precious company while driving to and back from my work in the bustling city of New York. In 1997 when I visited India, I went to the Golden Temple again with my mother. Some things just happen! While I was offering Kara Parshad in the Harminder Sahib temple, the Raagi was singing the last shloka of the Japji Sahib:
Jinnee Naam Dhiyaya, Gaye Mashakkat Ghaal
Nanak Te Mukh Ujle, Keti Chutte Naal
These words just penetrated me through and through. Was I listening to sacred words or truth itself was beckoning me? In that holy surrounding and in those blessed moments, I heard myself talking, "One day I will write about Japji Sahib".
And today when I start writing this, I bow to everyone who has contributed in my life in learning the wonders of Love and Truth.
Japji Sahib Links