Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt. (Hons)
In the year 2019, the followers of Guru Nanak everywhere in the world will be celebrating the coming of Guru to this world with his divinely inspired messages. As such, we are enthused to make this occasion as an opportunity to open our minds to the wisdom that Guru Nanak showered upon us and to share the same with our neighbors next door all over the world.
The composition of Jap Ji is among the masterpieces of the Guru’s compositions. Therefore, this composition may be attracting the most attention of our scholars today.
Jap Ji serves as a prologue to the Sikh scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), as the Jap Ji prefaces SGGS. As a result, Jap Ji is the most translated and rendered piece of Guru’s verses, the first one done right at the time of Guru Arjan (1563 – 1606). Similarly, every world language has been employed for its translation; the most recent translation gifted to me was done in Chinese.
Do we need all those translations? Yes, we need most of them as they communicate with different sectors of our neighbors. The present one that I recommend certainly deserves its place in the intellectual armamentarium.
First, I must salute the team of scholars and their helpers for completing their project under review. They constituted a team that had come to be known as AWAT or A Word A Thought. For, the Jap Ji translation project they picked up several key words and deliberated on each word in the context in which it was exploited in the Guru’s hymns. Further, they distributed their rendition to their sizeable mailing list for input. Then they finalize their work into the book under current review.
They were brief so that the signals may be brought out without noise.
Most of my friends and the readers of AWAT know well the contribution of this team. I did my part in bringing the project and their services to the attention of the readers of my blog and other writings. If you missed this information, please do visit http://www.awordathought.com to read it, reflect on it and share it with your friends if you are touched.
Then the AWAT team took the next step and selected 54 keywords from Jap Ji to complete this new book, I am writing about. They named the book, The Beauty of JAP JI SAHIB. From their website where they have been posting the keywords, you will realize that this project took years of labor.
What is different in this book on Jap Ji is the vernacular, style and organization of different thoughts expressed in Jap Ji. As we know Guru Nanak organized the Jap Ji composition into 38 stanzas that Guru did not elect to title except numbering each one of them. I cannot tell you why the most translators and publishers started calling them pauries or steps when Guru Nanak reserved that term for many other verses in SGGS and did not use in Jap Ji.
For the language of the composition, the authors chose to retain original Gurmukhi and added English transliteration for the new youth in the West not familiar with Gurmukhi enough to read the Gurbani text. Then they added etymology to signify the origin of each keyword. That does help the reader to further grasp the meaning of the terms prevalent in the Guru period.
I also like the format used for the etymology of each word. Here is one example.
Etymology: From Sanskrit satya (true, truth, promise) → Prakrit/Pali sachch → Sindhi sachu and Punjabi sach.
In The Beauty of JAP JI SAHIB book, the literal translation of the verses composing each stanza are followed by a couple of paragraphs outlining the message contained in that stanza. The stanzas which were part of a common theme were then combined in a section giving the summary and the central idea of the theme. I found the grouping of the thematic sections particularly helpful. For example, Guru Nanak’s description of five khands is discussed separately for each and then synthesized into the overview of the Khand’s theme.
You may read more about the book on the back cover of the book given on the top.
The authors also stayed loyal to traditional style and meaning that will look familiar to the readers who are acquainted with katha or exegesis formats popular in the Sikh congregations today. Here the meaning of a term is supported with other verses from SGGS.
I will recommend The Beauty of JAP JI SAHIB to members of Sikh congregations in the East and the West. I also recommend the book to other lovers of the world’s faiths, such as Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians. They would be attracted to the message of peace, love, good deeds, sharing, and spiritual uplift. Although the text is geared more towards a commoner rather than to scholars or a researcher, it will still be helpful to Sikh kathakaars in the Western world, and the priestly class in general for comparative religious studies.
You can purchase ‘The Beauty of Jap Ji Sahib’ and other books by AWAT (awordathought.com), from: https://awordathought.com/buy-book/
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Harbans Lal, Ph.D.; D.Litt (Hons)
Professor Emeritus & Chairman, Dept of Pharmacology & Neurosciences, University of North Texas Health Science Center.
Professor Emeritus, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, India.
President, Academy of Guru Granth Studies.