If we were to state the purpose of human birth, and the method to achieve it, in a few words it would be: ‘to reunite the soul with the Creator – this is possible through Divine grace.’
The first composition in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, ‘Japu’, leads us on that path.
The process starts with Gurparsad (Guru’s Grace) in the Mool Mantar, nadree mokh duaar (salvation through grace) and culminates in “Nanak nadree nadar nihaal”, (vision of the Creator through His grace).
Guru Nanak has used two words nadar and nihaal. Nadar Karam or just Nadar is the Punjabi version of the Persian ‘Nazray karam’ meaning looking favorably or showing grace and is used in Gurbani to denote Divine grace. Nihaal also means seeing or sight and is normally used to indicate the benefit of nadar and the resultant happiness.
So Japu leads the soul to profound happiness through Divine Grace.
Japu has 38 Pauris or stanzas followed by an epilogue, the Slok.
The culmination of the process of gaining grace is described in the last six Pauris out of which the 32nd and 33rd Pauris are in preparation of the ascent to the high state or level which metaphorically is the abode of the formless Creator.
The 32nd Pauri says that in order to be one with the Master one must remember and imbibe His virtues endlessly to be entitled to His grace:
ਇਕ ਦੂ ਜੀਭੌ ਲਖ ਹੋਹਿ ਲਖ ਹੋਵਹਿ ਲਖ ਵੀਸ ॥
ਲਖੁ ਲਖੁ ਗੇੜਾ ਆਖੀਅਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਗਦੀਸ ॥
ਏਤੁ ਰਾਹਿ ਪਤਿ ਪਵੜੀਆ ਚੜੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਇਕੀਸ ॥
ਸੁਣਿ ਗਲਾ ਆਕਾਸ ਕੀ ਕੀਟਾ ਆਈ ਰੀਸ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਕੂੜੀ ਕੂੜੈ ਠੀਸ ॥੩੨॥ ੧ ੭
May I have my one tongue multiplied a million times, then twenty million,
and with each of them I utter Naam, the Name of the Master, a million times;
these are the steps of the staircase that raise me to be one with Him.
This is so motivating that hearing the Divine virtues even the worms (those who never thought so) also wish to join; but this is possible by Grace; otherwise it is pointless waffle.
The 33rd Pauri, continuing in the same vein, emphasizes the need for grace stating that no one can achieve this by personal strength.
The next four Pauris describe the five Khands meaning realms or stages of spiritual advancement. The process involves progressive widening of the thought horizon with the individual identifying himself as part of the cosmos and therefore the total creation, finally seeing the Creator in every thing that exists.
In that state one conforms to the laws of nature, accepting them as Divine commands.
The five stages are of Dutifulness, Knowledge, Toil or Effort, Grace and finally the Truth.
For success in any field it is necessary to have commitment and dedication to achieve the goal. Accordingly the first step is to identify what is to be done and do it well.
This is the realm of dutifulness or Dharam Khand. Dharam, which in English language is referred to as Dharma, also means religion and righteousness. The latter two also boil down to dutifulness as one needs to carry out what is expected in the given environment. As in any practical situation one is judged based on deeds or performance.
The 34th Pauri says:
ਰਾਤੀ ਰੁਤੀ ਥਿਤੀ ਵਾਰ ॥
ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਅਗਨੀ ਪਾਤਾਲ ॥
ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਧਰਤੀ ਥਾਪਿ ਰਖੀ ਧਰਮ ਸਾਲ ॥—
Night (and day), the seasons, the lunar movements, days of the week;
the air, water, fire and the nether regions;
in their company the earth has been created to perform one’s Dharam;
ਤਿਸੁ ਵਿਚਿ ਜੀਅ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਕੇ ਰੰਗ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਕੇ ਨਾਮ ਅਨੇਕ ਅਨੰਤ ॥—
On the earth there are creatures of various types and hues with innumerable names;
(this indicates that one should act in the awareness that other creatures also exist and one has responsibilities towards them).
ਕਰਮੀ ਕਰਮੀ ਹੋਇ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਚਾ ਆਪਿ ਸਚਾ ਦਰਬਾਰੁ ॥—
They are all judged based on their deeds, past and current;
the Judge is just and so is His court;
ਤਿਥੈ ਸੋਹਨਿ ਪੰਚ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥ ਨਦਰੀ ਕਰਮਿ ਪਵੈ ਨੀਸਾਣੁ ॥—
Those whose performance is accepted are glorified;
they are marked for Divine grace.
ਕਚ ਪਕਾਈ ਓਥੈ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਗਇਆ ਜਾਪੈ ਜਾਇ ॥੩੪॥੧ ੭
Whether the soul has matured to receive this grace is decided
only when one reaches the Master’ abode.
The words ‘ਕਚ ਪਕਾਈ’ used above literally mean raw or ripe, immature or mature. This concept is frequently employed in Gurbani using Chaupar, a game of dice as metaphor. Briefly stated, in this game the pieces which move according to throw of dice can get home if they have matured. Similarly the souls whose deeds are acceptable are considered mature and entitled to enter Home, the abode of the Creator.
The first two lines of the 35th Pauri indicate that the next stage is the realm of knowledge, thus:
ਧਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਏਹੋ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਗਿਆਨ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਆਖਹੁ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
Having learnt about dutifulness in Dharam Khand let us talk about Gian Khand the realm of knowledge.
Whereas Dharam Khand talks in terms of the earth, our solar system and individual conduct, Gian Khand enlarges the vision to include the belief systems, different types of life forms, their sounds and scientific facts including those about other solar systems:
ਕੇਤੇ ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਵੈਸੰਤਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕਾਨ ਮਹੇਸ ॥
ਕੇਤੇ ਬਰਮੇ ਘਾੜਤਿ ਘੜੀਅਹਿ ਰੂਪ ਰੰਗ ਕੇ ਵੇਸ ॥
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਕਰਮ ਭੂਮੀ ਮੇਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਧੂ ਉਪਦੇਸ ॥—
There are many types of air (gases), water (liquids), fire (sources of heat and light);
there are many Krishnas, Maheshs, many Brahmas with creations in different forms and colors.
There are numerous places to perform duties and many disciples like Dhru and teachers (like Naarda);
It is interesting to note that unlike one each of the gods like Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh in the Hindu belief there are many of them. This confirms that the adjective One applies only to the Creator.
ਕੇਤੇ ਇੰਦ ਚੰਦ ਸੂਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਮੰਡਲ ਦੇਸ ॥
There are numerous clouds, moons, suns, solar systems and planets.
This says that there are numerous solar systems, a fact not known to the scientist when it was stated by Guru Nanak.
ਕੇਤੇ ਸਿਧ ਬੁਧ ਨਾਥ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਵੇਸ ॥
ਕੇਤੇ ਦੇਵ ਦਾਨਵ ਮੁਨਿ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਰਤਨ ਸਮੁੰਦ ॥
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਖਾਣੀ ਕੇਤੀਆ ਬਾਣੀ ਕੇਤੇ ਪਾਤ ਨਰਿੰਦ ॥
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਸੁਰਤੀ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੇਤੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਅੰਤੁ ॥੩੫॥
There are numerous Sidhas, Buddhas, yogis, goddesses, gods, demons;
many silent ascetics, many valuables in the sea.
There are many life forms, types of speech and chains of kings,
Many have wisdom and devotional service; there is no limit to all this.
With this knowledge one is motivated to listen to the celestial music i.e. the Divine Word. This acts as motivation to fashion one’s life and to be part of all this. This leads to the realm of effort or diligence, the Saram Khand described in the 36th Pauri:
ਸਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਰੂਪੁ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਘਾੜਤਿ ਘੜੀਐ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਅਨੂਪੁ ॥
ਤਾ ਕੀਆ ਗਲਾ ਕਥੀਆ ਨਾ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਪਿਛੈ ਪਛੁਤਾਇ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਘੜੀਐ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਮਤਿ ਮਨਿ ਬੁਧਿ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਘੜੀਐ ਸੁਰਾ ਸਿਧਾ ਕੀ ਸੁਧਿ ॥੩੬॥
In Saram Khand one aims at beauty (the method the bride adopts to be attracted by the husband);
the soul fashions itself into incomparable beauty that cannot be described;
the consciousness, thinking and understanding are molded and purified to be like those of the gods and the sidhas.
The mind so molded is able to resist temptations and is not distracted from the path he (or she) has chosen. He gets the strength to embark on the final ascent. This stage can only be reached by Divine grace; he has thus entered the realm of Grace the Karam Khand described in the first part of Pauri 37:
ਕਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਜੋਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ਹੋਰੁ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਜੋਧ ਮਹਾਬਲ ਸੂਰ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਰਪੂਰ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਸੀਤੋ ਸੀਤਾ ਮਹਿਮਾ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੇ ਰੂਪ ਨ ਕਥਨੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥
ਨਾ ਓਹਿ ਮਰਹਿ ਨ ਠਾਗੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਜਿਨ ਕੈ ਰਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਭਗਤ ਵਸਹਿ ਕੇ ਲੋਅ ॥ ਕਰਹਿ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਮਨਿ ਸੋਇ ॥
Karam Khand is characterized by one seeing none else but the Creator (in nature).
Ever imbued with praises of the Master and Naam in mind one gets strength like that of the great warriors;
their form cannot be described;
those in whose mind God abides do not perish or get led astray,
there is devotion and presence of the True Lord in their minds makes them happy.
Karam Khand, therefore, is the state of mind where one realizes that he does not do any thing; every thing is attributed to the Creator. This Divine grace enables one to enter the abode of the Eternal Lord, the Sach Khand described in the second part of the 37th Pauri:
ਸਚ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਸੈ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਖੰਡ ਮੰਡਲ ਵਰਭੰਡ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਥੈ ਤ ਅੰਤ ਨ ਅੰਤ ॥
ਤਿਥੈ ਲੋਅ ਲੋਅ ਆਕਾਰ ॥ ਜਿਵ ਜਿਵ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਤਿਵੈ ਤਿਵ ਕਾਰ ॥
ਵੇਖੈ ਵਿਗਸੈ ਕਰਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਥਨਾ ਕਰੜਾ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੩੭॥੧ ੮
Sach Khand is the abode of the Formless lord;
He creates and bestows His grace;
He pervades all planets, solar systems and the entire universe which has no limits;
it covers all the planets and existence;
every thing happens according to Divine commands, thinking of this the Creator is pleased.
This state is as hard to describe as is iron. So Sach Khand is where the Divine commands, Hukam is obeyed.
That is to say one who lives by Hukam is in Sach Khand.
We read in the first Pauri:
ਕਿਵ ਸਚਿਆਰਾ ਹੋਈਐ ਕਿਵ ਕੂੜੈ ਤੁਟੈ ਪਾਲਿ ॥
ਹੁਕਮਿ ਰਜਾਈ ਚਲਣਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਨਾਲਿ ॥੧॥
How do we break the wall of falsehood and be one with the Truth?
Live according to the preordained Hukam.
Further, it is by Divine Grace that one carries out Hukam:
ਹੁਕਮੁ ਭੀ ਤਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾ ਮਨਾਇਸੀ ਜਿਨ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰੇਇ ॥
ਹੁਕਮੁ ਮੰਨਿ ਸੁਖੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਸੁਹਾਗਣਿ ਹੋਇ ॥੧॥੩ ੫੧੦
Only those who receive Divine grace carry out Hukam;
accepting Hukam they become the fortunate recipients of the Master’s love and comfort (SGGS, p 510).
The 38th Pauri of Japu summarizes the five Khands using the metaphor of a goldsmith’s shop where he melts and casts the precious metal:
ਜਤੁ ਪਾਹਾਰਾ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਸੁਨਿਆਰੁ ॥—
Let self discipline be the shop and let the goldsmith show patience in what he does – Realm of dutifulness, Dharam Khand.
ਅਹਰਣਿ ਮਤਿ ਵੇਦੁ ਹਥੀਆਰੁ ॥—
Let the mind be the anvil which receives the hammer of scriptural teachings –Realm of knowledge, Gian Khand.
ਭਉ ਖਲਾ ਅਗਨਿ ਤਪ ਤਾਉ ॥
ਭਾਂਡਾ ਭਾਉ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਤਿਤੁ ਢਾਲਿ ॥
ਘੜੀਐ ਸਬਦੁ ਸਚੀ ਟਕਸਾਲ ॥–
Make carrying out commands (described as bhau) the bellows, and heat, the remembrance;
make love the crucible in which to put the nectar of Naam (melt the gold)
and understand (mold) it with the Shabad – Realm of effort, Saram Khand
ਜਿਨ ਕਉ ਨਦਰਿ ਕਰਮੁ ਤਿਨ ਕਾਰ ॥—
This is done by those who receive Divine Grace –
Grace, Karam Khand.
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਦਰੀ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲ ॥੩੮॥
With this grace they have vision of the Lord and happiness –
Truth, God’s abode, Sach Khand.
The five khands thus are the final stages of the journey which starts with Gurparsadi (knowing through Guru’s Grace), continues with living according to Hukam and finally receiving Divine Grace leading to being one with the Creator.