Japji sahib

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A calligram of Guru Nanak Dev ji using Japji Sahib Bani, by Devinder Singh

Japji Sahib is the first sacred composition found in the main Sikh holy scripture called the Guru Granth Sahib. It is a famous and concise summary of the Sikh philosophy which was compiled by the founder of Sikhism and the first spiritual guide of the Sikhs known worldwide as Guru Nanak.

The composition consists of the Mool Mantar, an opening Salok or verse, a set of 38 Pauris or hymns, and a final closing Salok. This Bani called Japji Sahib, appears at the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib from Page 1 to Page 8 in the Holy Book of the Sikhs Nay! of Humanity. It is the most important Bani or 'set of verses' and is lovingly recited by all Sikhs every morning. The word ‘Jap’ means to ‘recite’/‘to ‘chant’/'to stay focused onto'. ‘Ji’ is a word that is used to show respect as is the word ‘Sahib’.


This Bani was composed by the founder of the faith, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji who was the first of ten human Gurus of this faith. The Ten Gurus of Sikhism were responsible for the creation of this faith which took place over period 1469 to 1708 - a period of about 239 years.

At the point when the last of the Human Gurus departed this Earth, the Guruship was passed to the Holy Book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). The SGGS is treated as a living Guru and the respect shown for its Commandments is unique. This Bani (composition) encompasses the spirit and theme of whole of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

The collections of hymns of Sikh daily prayer are often compiled separately in a small book form called Gutkas or "Nitnem" (meaning daily prayer) Gutkas. All Nitnem Gutkas start with Japji Sahib and contain other Banis (hymns) as well.

The description of Japji Sahib that follows is taken from "The Encyclopedia of Sikhism" by Harbans Singh (published in 1996 by the Punjabi University, Patiala):

...Japji is the most riveting Sikh Prayer recited by the devout early in the morning. The composition is not assigned to any particular raga or musical measure, as is the rest of the Scriptural text...

"Japji is universally accepted to be the composition of Guru Nanak, the founding prophet of Sikhism, although, unlike other scriptural hymns and compositions, it remains anonymous without being credited individually to any of the Gurus..."

"Preceded by what is called Mool Mantar, the basic statement of creed, the Japu comprises an introductory sloka and 38 stanzas traditionally called pauree (steps) and a concluding Salok attributed by some to Guru Angad. The initial Salok too appears again in the Scripture as a preamble to the 17th Astapadi of Guru Arjan's famous composition Sukhmani, the Psalm of Peace. The entire composition including the Mool Mantar, two saloks and the thirty eight pauris form the sacred morning prayer Japji Sahib or “Japu Nisanu”. It serves as a prologue to the Scripture and encapsulates Guru Nanak's creed and philosophy, as a whole..."

"The message of the “Japu” is abiding in nature and universal in application. It simply describes the nature of Ultimate Reality and the way to comprehend it, and is not tied to any particular religious system. In a word it simply defines Sikhism, the religious view of Guru Nanak..."

Miracle of Japji

An exquisitely illuminated page from one of the Guru Granth Sahib manuscripts at the Sikh Reference Library, showing the Mool Mantar and the beginning of the Japji Sahib Bani

The Japji, and in particular the Mool Mantar, is a compilation which has freed humanity from thousands of years of superstition that had gripped their psyche of many common people. It is humanity's declaration of independence from soothsayers, yogis, priests, traditions, etc, whose validity had never been questioned. It is a direct communication between the human and master; it opened and established the communication path for this direct and close link of humanity with spirituality. It is a magical compilation which the Sikhs believe has not been equalled elsewhere.

All the falsehood in the name of religion that hitherto had been accepted as "ultimate truths" was challenged in the stanzas of the Japji. All rituals, practices, empty recitations of meaningless mantras, etc. has been accurately and summarily denounced as worthless. The Japji, places Waheguru/God above the most powerful of the gods from other mythology domains. However, it goes further and explains the infinite characters of Waheguru and Nanak, himself admits to being unable to describe the indescribable Waheguru.

The Japji, is scientifically accurate:

Jo kich payee so ekaa vaar
whatever is stored, was put once for all, enough for ever
which is another way of saying, Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

The Japji, claims the existence of other worlds and planets, a concept that had not been entertained in the World at the time of its writing.

The miracle of Japji, happens when one embraces its message and is thus enabled to experience heaven (oneness with Waheguru) while still on this planet.

A personal account

An edited account of a personal experience of the miraculous power of Japji, as published in the www.aquariantimes.com Aquarian times

The story of one woman who was transformed at a cellular level by the sound current of Japji Sahib

Late one summer night in June 2003, unable to sleep, I sat at my computer listening to audio clips from a spiritual music website. I clicked on a Gurmukhi version of the Mul Mantra from a list of options available from the compilation of Japji by a male artist. During the few moments it took for him to sing this mantar in his resonant voice, what felt like a great far-reaching awakening began within me.

I thought to myself, "This is the most beautiful music I have ever heard," and while I "knew" that I had never heard it before, it felt familiar to me. This was my first personal encounter with Japji Sahib. I felt like I had found a precious jewel that I had forgotten I had. Re-encountering brought an instant, gentle, and complete breaking open of my heart. I began to cry. I played that 60 second audio clip over and over again, and sang with it, and cried, while my mind wondered vaguely in the background, "What does this mean?"

What do the words say?

Something about the artist’s singing of this particular mantra pierced me to my core. “What is this Japji?” I thought, “and if this one portion of it is so powerful, what dynamic is contained in its entirety?" I knew that I needed to explore this experience further.

I immediately ordered the CD of this Bani. When the CDs arrived in the mail, I immediately put on a pair of headphones and listened to the 45-minute Gurmukhi version. I wept my way through it. I found my mouth forming the sounds though I had no idea what the sounds might be and certainly no idea of what the words might mean in English.

But I found myself thinking, "Even though I have no idea what he’s saying, I know what he’s saying." (On a level far beyond left-brain comprehension and literal understanding of dictionary definitions, I knew the beauty and the grace and the transformative power of that sound current.)

Initially I deliberately chose not to question or analyze the way that this bani instantly took up residence within me. I knew that intellectual objections would arise, stemming from the fact that I had been studying Kriya Yoga since 1995 and had in fact been ordained as a swami in an order established by Paramahansa Yogananda.

I had found my medicine

I had studied Sanskrit and spent a great deal of my time in meditation chanting in Sanskrit. My immersion in Sanskrit mantra had helped me recover from a debilitating bout with chronic fatigue that had begun in 1994 and lasted for seven long and painful years. So part of my discomfort revolved around the idea that I "should" continue spiritual practices within "my own" tradition.

By the time I discovered Japji in June 2003, I had been trying for 3 1/2 years to come to terms with fibromyalgia. I had repeatedly altered and curtailed my physical activities, trying to find that magic level at which I could remain active without provoking continuous and excruciating pain. It eluded me.

I had taken several private sessions with a wonderful instructor to learn Kundalini Yoga sets specifically designed to correct the internal imbalances related to fibromyalgia and fatigue. I wanted very much to be consistent with these practices, but my body was not capable of doing them on a regular basis. When I had finally regained enough energy and vitality to begin moving in and through my life again in 2000, fibromyalgia symptoms flared up with full force and incapacitated me in a new way. Finally in 2002 I stopped everything, altogether.

The pain was taken away

Mool Mantar in the handwriting of Guru Arjan Dev ji

During the course of a year the pain decreased, eventually allowing me once again to sleep though the night. By the summer of 2003 I felt "plateaued"- happy to have reached a relatively pain-free resting place, but also stuck there. Tentative attempts at walking more than a block or two or doing gentle yoga caused rumblings below the surface which signalled that the volcano of pain could be activated with little provocation, and I was very resistant to triggering that cycle again. I thought I needed to commit myself again to intense japa (reciting), but didn’t feel drawn to any particular Sanskrit mantra.

Such was my state of affairs when I visited the spiritual music website and clicked on the Japji audio clip. I knew instantly, without even thinking it, that I had found the mantra that I needed - or that it had found me. I knew that it resonated in me and that I resonated with it and that chanting it was going to change my molecular structure - was going to literally rearrange my DNA, transform me at a cellular level, and gradually move me up and off the plateau I was resting on.

Intuitive and instant connection

I knew all of this within the first minute of hearing the audio clip-knew it completely and wholly as though someone had pressed an imprint of its truth on my third eye and I had absorbed it without needing to mentally process it. I had a fairly good idea of what my "logical" objections to pursuing this path might be, and I didn’t want to give them precedence. I wanted to have the experience first and then judge it, rather than pass a judgment which would keep me from having the experience.

In June 2004, I attended the Naad of Japji workshop in New Mexico, USA. The concentrated immersion in the sound current accelerated my physical healing in a way that I couldn’t have imagined. At this point in my life it had been over two years since I had engaged in any type of regular physical activity. One day during the Japji course we were asked to do a meditation that involved holding our arms over our heads for 11 minutes.

I thought, "I can’t even hold my arms over my head for 11 seconds because my muscles are so weak, and even if I could, the pain would be unbearable." And then I thought, "That might not be true anymore. Let’s test it." I did the meditation for 11 minutes. My arms were strong enough. And although it was somewhat painful, it was the predictable pain of the nervous system adjusting and the muscles working. At that moment I knew I was on my way off that plateau.

The miracle continued

When I returned to Chicago after the Japji course, I designed a "Return to Exercise" program for myself and repeatedly renewed my 40-day commitment to chant Japji. In June 2005 I returned to New Mexico centre for more Japji! By this time I was able to engage in some sort of cardiovascular exercise for an hour at a time, four or five days a week, at a moderate to intense level, as well as lift weights three times a week.

I was also getting out of bed consistently at 4:00 a.m. for sadhana, and I had gradually increased the amount of time I spent at my job to 40 hours weekly-something I had not been physically capable of doing since 1995. In New Mexico, I was able to participate in group sadhana, which I had not been able to do the previous summer.

It’s now June 2006. I’m still chanting Japji every day. I’m also attending a weekly Kundalini Yoga class, doing a yoga set in my own morning sadhana, and preparing to take Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training in the fall!

It has been a great blessing to be engaged in a transformative relationship with Japji Sahib, and to discover through experience that “at the root of all there is only the One.”

Learning Japji

At Japji Sahib Step by Step you can read and listen to Japji in Gurmukhi/Punjabi. The Bani is written in Roman script and it has translation in English. Click on any of the highlighted options 1 to 38 or M for Mool Mantar or S for Salok and you will be able to listen and also read this beautiful Bani.

See also


External Links

Video links

Audio links

Text of Japji Sahib

Other Links

Suggested Reading

1. Japji (English Translation) - Sher Singh MSc Kashmir

2. Jap Ji Sahib - Vyakhya, Vichar Darshan atey Kala - Dr. Gurcharan Singh Mehta

3. Japji Viyakhya dey Prasang vich Rajneesh di Asliyat - Dr. Karamjeet Singh

4. The Japji - Guru Nanak Dev's Master Key-Holy To The Mystery Of Deification Of Man - Sher Singh MSc Kashmir

The book: "The Japji - Guru Nanak Dev's Master Key-Holy To The Mystery Of Deification Of Man" was published by Bhai Sher Singh, MSc, Kashmir on August 1, 1950.

5. Japuji Exegesis and Poetic Rendering - Dr. S.S. Bhatti

6. Translation of the Japji - M. Macauliffe

7. Sri Japji Darpan - Amarjit Singh Dhawan

8. The Japji - Ha! Guru Nanak's Honey!! - Sher Singh MSc Kashmir

9. The Japu of Guru Nanak - Sirdar Kapur Singh

10. The Region of Grace - Sirdar Kapur Singh

11. Sri Japu Nisan - Kartar Singh Dakha

12. Dua-E-Sahari (Japji Sahib ka Urdu tarjuma) - Kartar Singh Kaimbalpuri

13. Vird-E-Haq (translation of Japji Sahib in Urdu verse) - Master Lal Singh Anand Khalsa

14. Guru Nanak's Japji and Sohila-Arti - Prof. Puran Singh

15. Jap Vichar - Japji Sahib da Bahu-Pakhi Adheyan - Prof. Prakash Singh

16. Jap Ji Sahib - Vyakhya, Vichar Darshan atey Kala - Dr. Gurcharan Singh Mehta

17. Jap Vichar Tract No. 56

These are the Popular Banis of Sikhism

Mool Mantar | Japji | Jaap | Anand | Rehras | Benti Chaupai | Tav-Prasad Savaiye | Kirtan Sohila | Shabad Hazaray | Sukhmani | Salok Mahala 9 | Asa di Var | Ardas