This precious gift was given to us by Guru Nanak Dev ji. It is written in Guru Granth Saheb starting on page one. It starts with Mool Mantra (the beginning hymn), then 38 Paurees (stanzas), and ends with a slok (verse).
Japji Saheb is the essence of Sikh religious philosophy. It is a lyrical, but very compact composition, with verses packed with deep meanings, many times without assigned verbs, and lot of times leaving the interpretation to the imagination of the readers. Among all the banis that we come across on a daily basis, this is probably the most difficult to understand. This is one of the five banis every Sikh is supposed to recite every morning in accordance with our Rehet Maryada (Code of Conduct). While most of the bani in Guru Granth Saheb is assigned to various ragas (melodies), Japji Saheb is not assigned to any raga. Therefore, this bani is generally recited without any musical instruments.
In Japji Saheb Guru Nanak Dev ji emphasizes the concept of One God, although we may call Him by many names, everything happens under His Divine Law (Hukam), He is beyond human comprehension and union with God can only be achieved by His Grace. His Grace is obtained by getting rid of one’s ego and total surrender to His Will. Guru ji discredits the ritualistic practices to please God such as fasting, pilgrimages, and self-punishment. He says that to please God, you must speak His language – the language of Love, love for Him and His Creation. Those who meditate on His Name with love and devotion become worthy of His Grace.
Towards the end, Guru ji describes the five stages of spiritual development –Dharam khand (stage of righteousness), Gian Khand (stage of spiritual knowledge), Saram Khand (stage of spiritual effort), Karam KhandSach Khand (the final stage of Union with God). In the last slok (verse), Guru Nanak Dev ji says that the world is a stage, where we are all actors and we are playing our roles assigned by God. Our performance is being closely watched by Him. Those, who remained absorbed only in worldly possessions (Maya), they could not get close to God and kept on wandering in the cycles of birth and death. Those who worked hard in seeking spiritual advancement and remembered Him with love and devotion, they achieved the ultimate goal of human life – they became one with God.