My first encounter with Japji was in the winter of 2010 in Miami Beach (Ha! winter in Miami Beach). I was at my first early morning sadhana. I was very curious about what in the world people did at 4am. I know what most people did, but not these strange yogi people. I ended up being the only one that showed up. The teacher who was leading it explained all about the Aquarian sadhana. We, of course, started out with Japji. What in the world was I thinking getting up so early in the morning and trying to follow this crazy language thing? Anyway, I survived that as well as the 22 minutes in virasana (I was younger then). It was all very new; I had only started doing kundalini yoga a couple of months prior to that. I was intrigued and determined to tackle the seemingly impossible-to-pronounce Japji!
Not too long after that, I decided I needed to read the entire Japji every day for 40 days. It was an amazing experience (I even think my dog enjoyed it; she would sit near me and listen every night before bed). I was really taken by this lovely poem. I had read bits and pieces of the translation, but had never taken the time to really delve into it and ponder its meaning.
Over the years, Japji and I would have our ups and downs—reading and listening to it daily and then not, and then on and off, and then not. I took a few online courses discussing the meanings of some of the pauris here and there, but my knowledge was still very superficial.
Then, at summer solstice in 2016, I found out there was going to be an intensive Japji course given in Española where all of the pauris would be discussed in detail. Can you imagine?! I was so excited. I thought to myself, this is it! Then, reality hit, and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to come back to Española to take the course. But wait! The same course would be given in 2017 following the European Yoga Festival. Waheguru! That was going to be my chance.
The course started the day the yoga festival ended. I piled into a German camper van with 3 friends, and off we went to Chateau Anand. We were going to spend the next four days learning about Japji. How cool was that?!
Each morning we had sadhana and, of course, we read Japji. Then, after breakfast, we had an hour of pronunciation practice. I had already learned to read Gurmukhi, but still had some questions on how to pronounce certain words. That part of the day really helped with feeling at ease when reading aloud and also cleared up some friendly “disagreements” with friends about how to say certain words.
The rest of the day was filled with discussions about the meaning(s) of each pauri. I write “(s)” because we found out that each pauri has 17 levels of meaning. (OMG! so much to learn/know!) But, it was fine, no sweat, we made it through. There were five instructors for the course, so there were five different styles of teaching. I thought that was great; all of the different ways of presenting the material made the day quite varied. The amount of collective knowledge they possess was just incredible. They each drew on their years of personal experience with Japji and also on their studies of it.
It all went by so quickly; I wished we could have spent more time. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. For homework and to keep us close to those amazing words, we each chose a pauri to recite 11 times for 40 days (some chose more than one). Each pauri has one or more effects when recited 11 times. I chose the 25th (it brings you what you need).
What an amazing experience. It really whet my appetite to look more closely at Japji for myself and see what I might glean from those pages of text we read at sadhana, and see how I might apply it to my life going forward; a new adventure.
I would definitely do the course again, because I am positive it would shed another, totally new light on the meanings held within the Japji. Now, I just need to find the time to get to that course!