This summer I have been immersed in the 19th stanza of a sacred poem, called Japji, given to us by Guru Nanak, a saint and sage of the 15th Century in Northern India. I always feel that the Naad, or the sacred sound current of the Guru, is alive and that it finds us exactly at the moments when we need healing. It literally sends us the particular words and sound vibrations that we need.
Lately, I have been feeling a huge sense of the unknown as I look forward to the coming years. We all have to fathom the great planetary changes and the political landscape together and we are also each in a deep transformation of soul growth. That is the soul’s occupation on this planet. We must grow. Yet, what I have been surprised with lately is that we have to grow into such a great sense of the unknown. We have to move forward accepting that we do not know. Accepting that there are many choices and that we may never really know for sure the direction that we are to take. We just have to take it – much like walking in the dark confidently.
How do we do this as yogis and meditators? I have found some really important messages in this 19th stanza of Japji, which have helped me immensely. (I have included this stanza at the bottom of this article for you and you can visit this link in order to receive the entire text of Japji.)
When we embark on a spiritual path there is the honeymoon phase of having a really wonderful experience of the sacred teachings – feeling a sense of inner transformation, ecstasy, and elation. This is wonderful but can be a kind of “here today, gone tomorrow” experience for many of us. Until we stabilize this energy fully into our beings there is a process of integration that although painful for many of us, must eventually happen. When we are not on the meditation mat, we can easily turn back to our neurotic patterns and we struggle with day to day problems as if nothing spiritual even exists. The idea with all of this practice is to have the wonderful experiences of merger and joy on the mat but then off the mat as well. Like a goldsmith, melting a coin, it is not easy work in the fire of life. How do we embark into this next and deeper level of integration?
Guru Nanak reveals a very powerful way for us in this 19th stanza of Japji. Let’s take a look at it.
First, he uses the term “asankh”, which means countless, to describe all of the names and places of this creation. Right away, he brings us into the cosmic awareness that we just cannot count, we cannot define, we cannot know the end or limit. We are in a state of “agam” with the Divine in that we have surrendered to the idea that we cannot know or fully obtain the Divine. But it is in this surrendering process that we actually experience the fullness of the Divine. It is like when a lover shuns her beloved, and he surrenders to the rejection but still proclaims his love. She sees the strength of his love, and a tenderness, the combination of which allows her to invite him back into her heart. God is like that, inviting us back into ourselves, only after we have experienced the questioning, the vastness and the surrender of love. We are tempered out of our neediness and brought into our infinite self-acceptance.
Now that we have surrendered into this great expanse, how do we as human beings find our way through? Guru Nanak teaches that we have the power of the word, or “akharee”. He tells us, as do many other sages, that all creation comes from the power of word, the power of sound. We are a creation of sound. As individuals, who are not separate at all from the greater ocean of sound, we also take part in this creativity through the sounds that we create. We have the power of the spoken word in conversation and then the power of chanting sacred words to transform our lives fully. Let’s look at both.
Spoken Word in Conversation
Speak the words that reflect the vibration of your soul and then honor those words. This will continue to call forth the Divine energy of the universe because you are a trustworthy channel of that infinite flow and creativity or “kudarat”.
Chanting Sacred Words
Chanting sacred words is a powerful form of meditation that encodes our beings with Divine vibration. Even if we do not know the meanings of the sacred words that we recite, we are infusing their vibration on a cellular level. Word by word, choice by choice, day by day, we come in tune with the Divine through a regular chanting practice. Our vibration becomes a source of peace and joy for yourself and all those around you. Like a thousand servants at your beck and call, the universe fulfills the request in your words because you have merged fully with the creativity, or the “kudarat” of the One.
When we have a meditation practice of chanting, we allow the Divine to flow through us and infuse us. After this internal work, then our words can guide us into the Unknown, like hands reaching into the dark.
My take home lesson: Meditate and then honor and live by your word.
19th Pauri of Japji written by Guru Nanak, born in the 15th Century, Northern India:
Asankh naav asankh thaav
Countless names, countless places.
Agam agam asankh lo-a.
Inaccessible, unapproachable, countless celestial realms.
Asankh kahah(i) sir bhaar ho-i.
Even to call them countless is to carry the weight on your head.
Akharee naam akharee saalaah.
From the Word, comes the Nām; from the Word, comes Your Praise.
Akharee gi-aan geet guṉ gaah.
From the Word, comes spiritual wisdom, singing the Songs of Your Glory.
Akharee likhaṉ bolaṉ baaṉ.
From the Word, come the written and spoken words and hymns.
Akharaa sir sanjog vakhaaṉ.
From the Word, comes destiny, written on one’s forehead.
Jin ayh(i) likhay tis sir naah(i).
But the One who wrote these Words of Destiny–no words are written on His Forehead.
Jiv phuramaa-ay tiv tiv paah(i).
As He ordains, so do we receive.
Jaytaa keetaa taytaa naa-u.
The created universe is the manifestation of Your Name.
Viṉ naavai naahee ko thaa-u.
Without Your Name, there is no place at all.
Kudarat kavaṉ kahaa veechaar.
How can I describe Your Creative Power?
Vaari-aa na jaavaa ayk vaar.
I cannot even once be a sacrifice to You.
Jo tudh bhaavai saa-ee bhalee kaar.
Whatever pleases You is the only good done,
Tū sadaa salaamat nirankaar.
You, Eternal and Formless One.