The sublime spiritual beauty of the Gurbani is well recognized by all those who have been lucky
enough to be exposed to it. Sadly, however, there are many, even among the twenty plus million
Sikhs who find the ‘Gurmukhi’ script a barrier; or more often find the message difficult to understand
because the language differs so much from present day Punjabi. As Prof. WH. McLeod said, "The
world is poorer for its ignorance of the Sikh Scriptures." Also, to quote Macauliffe, The Granth
Sahib thus becomes the most difficult work, sacred or profane, that exists, and hence the general
ignorance of its contents." He was of course referring to the fact that this sacred Writing had
employed such a large variety of languages and dialects, and it was hard for any one man to be a
scholar in all of those.
‘Efforts to bring the message to the world in simpler, easier to understand language have often been
made. Some European translations exist, especially noteworthy among them being Macauliffe’s six
volumes: The Sikh Religion, Its Guru’s Sacred Writings and Authors. There are then detailed
commentaries in Punjabi, notably by Prof. Sahib Singh and Bhai Vir Singh. There are dictionaries
such as Bhai Sahib Bhai Kahan Singh’s Gurshabad Ratnakar, more commonly known as the Mahan
Kosh. Finally, there are verse renderings in English, Prof. G.S. Talib’s being notable. All these
learned men have tried to make clear the meaning of the Gurbam. Our subject here being the Japji
Sahib we may note that all these have naturally also included their perceptions inter alia, on this, the
foremost of the Guru’s compositions. Commentaries specifically on the Japji in the English language
have been few Generally we find verse translations figuring either as a part of an overall commentary
on the Sikh scriptures, or the Japji being rendered into poetry in English with a few explanatory
footnotes. The Punjabi commentary in greater detail exists but is not accessible to those who do not
have an understanding of the ‘Gurmukhi’ script.
There is therefore a large audience, which is aware of the grandeur of this scripture but cannot
access it, this being true of the Sikh diaspora with even greater poignancy There are also many, not
necessarily adherents of the Sikh religion but keen seekers of spiritual growth who would like a
detailed explanation of the terms used and the thoughts which possibly lay behind those words. It is
for all of them that this humble presentation is made. It has been three years in the preparation and
the writing, and is based on half a century’s personal pursuit of the Guru’s Path, however imperfect
and lacking in true merit that effort may have been. It owes also a great deal to the many learned
commentaries and translations, in Punjabi and in English. A special debt is owed to Prof. Sahib
Singh’s 10—volume Sri Guru Granth Sahib Darpan where he has in Vol. 1 annotated the Japji
Sahib. Vol. l of Bhai Vir Singh’s commentary has also been a constant source and guide. Giani Sant
Singh Maskin’s twenty-cassette audio—commentary on the Japji has also been relied on. Osho’s
twenty-cassette commentary in Hindi and his very readable commentary ‘The True Name’, on the
Japji Sahib have also been of help in formulating and shaping these thoughts.
Apart from the above, many other translations, and commentaries, mostly in English and Narain
Singh’s erudite commentary in Punjabi have also been of great help. This offering refers to all the
learned commentaries and then seeks to offer conclusions on how the message of the Guru in the
Japji Sahib is to be construed. In offering these conclusions effort has been made to steer as close as
possible, to the extent the limitations of intellect and knowledge would permit, to the Central message
of the scripture. Individual words used in the composition have been explained and a line-by-line
commentary attempted. This book should therefore be useful to those who would at one single place
like the meaning explained and clarified, to help them read and recite this first prayer of the ‘Nitnem’
with better understanding. It should also help direct scholars to the other very much more learned
commentaries that are available, some of which we have touched upon above.
May this effort be of some avail, to at least a few in reaching I better understanding of the message of
the Sikh faith. May the learned reader also forgive your humble interlocutor for We many
shortcomings that will no doubt be noted here. Be assured that this is placed before you in full
awareness of the Vastness of the subject, and of the many highly evolved souls in whose hands it will
Back of the Book
Sikhism is the youngest of the major world religions, and is the most modern and egalitarian in its
practice. The scriptural authority for its followers is the ‘Gurbani’ in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Japji
Sahib is the quintessential ‘bani’, and is the key to the philosophy expounded by the Gurus.
Composed by the founder of the Sikh faith, Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji, the Japji Sahib spells out the
basic roadmap prescribed for a Sikh to undertake the great journey from the mundane to the Divine.
As the very epitome of the Sikh doctrine, it finds pride of place among the set of daily prayers
recited by Sikhs in the early morning hours.
Guru Nanak’s Jipji Sahib-Way to God in Sikhism by Maneshwar S. Chahal is a unique
presentation in that before offering well reasoned conclusions it puts forth many a point of view and
not just any single interpretation of the verses. It will help the lay reader to easily understand the
Guru’s message, while the scholar will find ready material for deeper study of this vast subject.
At the beginning of the book has been added the text of the verses of Japji in Roman
scripture as also in ‘Gurumukhi’ for those who would want to also experience the joy of chanting the
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