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Five 'Khands' (realms) of Jap Ji
Dr Jagjit Singh*
In Guru Nanak Sahib’s bani, Jap Ji, pauri (stanza) 34 to 37, there is mention of five regions or domains in which different intellectual and spiritual states of man have been described. In the course of his journey in the world man passes through various happenings, gains many experiences, tries to know and understand the visible creation, and observes and enjoys its immensity and infinity. He is all awe and wonder at the sight of the remarkable miracles of nature and seeks to know about its Lord Creator. The journey through this empirical world and the curiosity to delve deep into its mysteries gave birth to many scientists who shared with mankind whatever knowledge they could gain and garner about this vast universe. But man’s journey is not confined only to the visible world; there is much which happens in his inner being too. In his visible physical body are mind or heart, intelligence and reason. The holy men also perceive the soul which is lodged in the innermost being, which is a part of the Supreme Soul, Lord God, the Transcendent One, who is Eternal, True, Pure, Immaculate and Omnipotent. The soul is the God whose being is the cause of the existence of all physical forms and creatures. This is the moving or activating Force behind all. It is this spiritual realization which is the goal of human life and endeavour, and this realization or experience is possible only through the Guru, perfect Holy Preceptor. The Guru’s edict is:
Amongst all there is light and that light art Thou.
By His light, the light shines within all the souls.
By Guru’s teaching the Divine light becomes manifest.1
Without the inner (spiritual) journey and experience of the Divine Light, the outer physical life and world-journey, and knowledge of creation is incomplete. It is man’s destiny and his successful sojourn and journey in the world which are described in the entire Gurbani. ‘Jap Ji’ is regarded as the quintessence of the entire bani enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib. In the ‘five regions’ are mentioned the first and last stages of this journey.
The five domains sequentially mentioned are:
Dharam khand (Realm of righteousness or moral living),
Gyan khand (Realm of knowledge),
Saram khand (Realm of spiritual effort),
Karam khand (Realm of grace), and
Sach khand (Realm of Truth or Eternity)
The ‘Domain of Dharma’ (righteousness) is the first stage of this journey. Man’s eyes open to the world outside. The open eye spies the earth, the sky, the sun, the moon, the stars, air, water, fire, etc., and their knowledge and experience man gains as per his need. On the earth are visible greenery and vegetation, the various living creatures, birds and animals, and different kinds of activities going thereon. Also visible are the seas, the rivers and the mountains. In the midst of this environment, man fashions his destiny. Using his intellect, he understood the forces of nature and harnessed them for his use. As a consequence thereof, today’s society and civilization came into being. All the bodily comforts are the outcome of such efforts of man. But inspite of these acquisitions or achievements, man is not contented. He does not have inner happiness and freedom from worries. Even people of rich countries are physically and mentally unhappy. Inspite of outward progress, enmity, hostility and fighting continue to exist in the world, among countries and among men. Today terrorism is reigning supreme. Lakhs of precious lives are being lost for nothing. A spiritualist attributes this state to only one cause that man has not understood and explored his destiny. Saints, sages, holy men, ascetics and Gurus (holy preceptors) understood, explored and experienced the true nature and goal of man through rigorous spiritual endeavour and described it in their writings. Sri Guru Granth Sahib is a compilation of such bani. According to Gurbani (writings enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib), God is the creator of all men. One God alone is the mother, father, friend and brother of all mankind. The divisions into countries are artificial and are designed for administrative convenience only. Enmity, hostility and hatred on the basis of caste, religion, affluence and poverty are contrary to man’s destiny, his progress, peace and prosperity. The realization of God’s existence is the key to man’s successful and meaningful sojourn and journey in the world. It is such an experience and realization that Guru ji is describing in his bani, Jap Ji, and the ‘five khands’ mentioned therein.
In Dharam khand (realm of righteous action) is mentioned man’s true religion or duty, the real goal of his life. Here a correct direction has been given to his life’s journey in the world. In this pauri, there is mention of the Divine law that works in the world and the entire cosmos. The knowledge and understanding of this law directs man’s journey on the right path, as a directionless man, living in a state of ignorance, goes astray and becomes the cause of pain and suffering, both unto himself and others. Guru ji, while showing the path to man, explains to him the all-pervasiveness of the Divine Law: that this universe was created in obedience to God’s Will, the Divine Ordinance. In this sphere of nights, seasons, lunar days, week days, etc., the five elements of air, water, fire, etc., are regulating the conduct of man’s life. In this endless expanse of regions and universes is established the earth, which may be taken as a holy inn for man to lead a life of righteous action for the achievement of his goal. All the regions, universes, air, water, fire and creatures are the creation of that God and act in obedience to His Will:
“(God created) night and day, seasons and occasions (lunar days and weekdays) wind, water, fire and nether-regions.
In the midst of these He established the earth, the place for righteous action.2
The establishment of the earth and the creation of multitudinous creatures took place in accordance with God’s Will or command and all of them act in obedience to His Ordinance.
The entire creation including man are functioning in obedience to the Divine Ordinance. He who acts in accordance with God’s Will or law is happy and peaceful; he who does not obey it, is unhappy himself and makes others also unhappy. The next principle of Dharam khand is:
Men are judged according to their deeds and actions.
The Lord Himself is true and true is His court.3
That is, the fate of man living on this earth is to be written and accounted for in accordance with his deeds or actions. As he sows, so does he reap. Every action’s reaction is taking place spontaneously. Every man is all the time active in thought, speech or action. It is the karmas (deeds of previous births) that build proclivities, and from proclivities is built one’s nature or temperament, under the influence of which man remains busy in performing good and bad deeds. This too is a part of God’s play or Divine Ordinance.
That is, the noble souls accepted and approved in His True Court are honoured there. The Lord’s elect having become worthy recipients of His grace, receive the mark of Divine grace. Man’s worship, the goodness and badness of his deeds are known, examined and judged in the True Court. It is only on reaching there that its mystery is revealed. The True Court has been mentioned in very clear and forceful words, which cannot be ignored. Those living within the bounds of intelligence or intellect, the so-called scholars lacking spiritual experience and living in the three dimensional empirical world of time and space cannot fathom the strange ways and doings of the Supreme Being, who is free from and above these bounds. How simple and easy it is to deny its existence! The description of the ‘True Court’ given by spiritually enlightened holy men like Bhai Vir Singh is nearer the truth. This description is available in ‘Rana Surat Singh’. The shape and character of the saints who are accepted and approved in this Court, has been described in the first 33 stanzas of the Jap Ji. Such Divine Name practitioners, after passing through the stages of first ‘hearing God’s Name, then believing in the Name, and finally loving the Name of God’ attain to the state of the saints and are blessed with acceptance or approval. In Gurbani, while describing dharma (justice and righteousness), this human carnation has been mentioned as the place or opportunity for moral living or righteous action
This body we have got to practice righteousness, to climb the steps of moral duty and righteous action through Divine Name recitation and meditation. Our entire surroundings and environs – air, water, fire, sun, moon, regions and universes – are functioning under Divine Ordinance; that is, they are all doing their assigned duties. Similarly, it is man’s duty to act in obedience to God’s will or command. Such knowledge and understanding is granted in the Dharam khand (realm of righteous action).
The next stage of the Lord’s elected saints approved in the realm of righteous action is Gyan khand (realm of enlightenment and spiritual knowledge). It is the region of God’s eternity and endlessness. The Dharam khand (realm of rigteous action) makes mention of earth’s air, water and fire. But Gyan khand (realm of knowledge) has several regions and there is reference to ‘good many winds, waters, and fires'. Our earth is a Karam bhoomi (realm of action). Within the range of the realm of knowledge are ‘many earths and mountains (fields of action) for doing virtuous deeds, countless Dhruvs and many the sermons delivered to them. ‘In Gyan khand (realm of knowledge), the panch (saint-elect) experience God’s greatness and infinitude. Here many Krishnas, many Shivas, many Brahmas and numberless Indras creating and executing their countless designs under God’s Ordinance, accomplished yogis, many enlightened ascetics and sages, and many oceans harbouring precious gems come within the experience of the saint-elect. He has a glimpse of God in the vastness of the His creation and marvels at it with loving devotion. He has a real and positive experience of ‘God abiding in His creation and wonders at it.’
Gyan Khand is the region of the light of knowledge where man is blessed with a real and clear glimpse of God’s vast creation and infinite expanse. Scientist’s telescopes too have proved to be useful in getting some such glimpse but the scientific research of hundreds and thousands of years has succeeded in knowing only a fraction of this vastness and immensity. But a spiritual devotee attaining to the position of the saint-elect spontaneously gets a real and true glimpse of this vastness, and experiences many other blissful spectacles and ecstatic unstruck Divine melodies.
This enlightenment is the knowledge of the vastness and animation of God’s creation, as well as of the strange miracles being wrought and blissful mystic melodies being played in the cosmos. It is an inner spiritual illumination which is attained due to proximity with God. It is owing to nearness to God that He reveals Himself to the devotee and bestows the knowledge of His creation on the corporeal being of the saint-elect.
Due to the endeavours of the practitioner in the Dharam khand (realm of Righteous action) does he gain entry to the Gyan khand (sphere of knowledge). When the Divine-Name practitioner attaining to the position of the saint-elect enjoys wondrous sights and spectacles of God’s vast creation, both within and without, then his longing for having a glimpse of Sach khand (realm of Truth or Eternity) becomes very strong and intense, and he gets prepared to undertake spiritual endeavours with all his might.
Saram khand (realm of spiritual endeavour) is the region of Divine Name quest, meditation and attainment in which the saint-elect endeavours to advance further with full devotion, diligence and preparedness. He is filled with an over-riding desire to achieve his goal. All this is dependent not on his ‘ego’ but on the ‘Guru’. Now no worldly attraction or attachment can prevent him from pursuing his goal. With the strength and firmness of his belief, he advances towards union with God through persistent spiritual endeavour. He gets ecstatic bliss from this endeavour. Beauty is the chief goal of this realm. Through Divine Name meditation is forged the seeker's extremely beautiful form. Those who reach here, their consciousness, wisdom, mind and understanding become clear, pure and beautiful in the holy mind. Serenity, tranquility and ecstasy come to abide in their mind. In this region are bestowed the discerning understanding and lofty consciousness of gods and mystics. It is very difficult to describe it.
From the purified mind and understanding is revealed the realization that the next journey to the Sach-khand (realm of eternity) is that of God’s grace alone. Begging for the Divine grace, he (saint-elect) becomes an image of ‘grace’ and enters the realm of the Lord’s grace. In this domain abide warriors and heroes, valorous and courageous in meditating on God’s Name.
In this realm, there is no room for the double-minded, wavering, immature and weak. This place is meant for those who have attained to God’s grace after rigorous and sedulous spiritual endeavours.
In the Karam khand (realm of grace) abide the heroes with such radiant faces in whose hearts is lodged the omnipresent God. These great heroes have known and realized the truth and have been tested as genuine on the touchstone prescribed in Gurbani – ‘True should be known such a one as in heart bears truth’. Their mind or heart is ever sewn with, that is, absorbed in singing God’s laudations; their beauty is indescribable. Such brave warriors, saints, holy men having the good fortune of receiving God’s grace are beyond the limits of time; they are neither born, nor do they die; they are never beguiled by cheap mammonic miracles; that is, they have crossed through the stage which can tempt them towards decline and fall.
The next view about this region is that here abide devotees assembled from various universes. In their heart is lodged the True Lord, and they enjoy the bliss of this union (with God) for ever. ‘Tithey bhagat wasey kay loa’ clearly means that in the cosmos there are many such universes, planets and earths, where there is life, where abide saints and sages absorbed in God’s devotional worship, who have attained to the lofty stages described in the Karam khand (realm of God’s grace).
The ‘realm of Grace’ is within us too, and there is possibility of the existence of such a region in the material world also, where souls in receipt of God’s grace abide.
‘Tithy bhagat wasey kay loa’ (the saints of various worlds dwell there) hints at the existence of such a world.
Only a spiritually accomplished holy man can decide it on the basis of his experience. But one could not deny the possibility of its existence. The life and conduct of the souls abiding here is different from that of the mortals inhabiting this earth.
The next region is the Sach-khand (realm of Eternity or Truth), which is the personal abode of God, the Formless One, from where He spies the cosmos after having created it, administers or directs His creation according to His will, preserves it, casts His glance of grace on it and finds joy in it. For doing all this, He does not have to make any special efforts, nor does He take any specified period of time. As per the Guru’s edict – ‘With one word Thou didst effect the world’s expansion’ – all this creation is the outcome of just one thought or note. With this thought or Word, countless realms, regions and universes are getting created which are beyond computation. In this infinite creation are included innumerable men, countries and countless creatures living there, which are very difficult to describe. All this creation is functioning under the Divine Ordinance. The Formless One sees the entire creation engaged in activity and feels delighted. Guru Sahib says that it is indeed very difficult to describe. All this creation is functioning under the Divine Ordinance. The Formless One sees the entire creation engaged in activity and feels delighted.
He is the Maker, the Creator. He creates. His role or form has not changed unlike milk, which on changing into curd ceases to exist; that is, milk ceases to be milk. This is not so in the case of God. After effecting creation, God sits and watches alone, and preserves and nurtures it. He is present in the creation as well as distinct. The universe has been created out of God; He Himself pervades it, but He is not creation alone. The creation is His wondrous play and sport. In fact, He Himself is everything.
1. sB mih joiq joiq hY soie ] iqs kY cwnix sB mih cwnxu hoie ] gur swKI joiq prgtu hoie ] Guru Granth Sahib, p 663
2. rwqI ruqI iQqI vwr ] pvx pwxI AgnI pwqwl ]
iqsu ivic DrqI Qwip rKI Drmswl ] Guru Granth Sahib, p 8
3. krmI krmI hoie vIcwru ] scw Awip scw drbwru ] Guru Granth Sahib, p 7
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2007, All
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