Story of birth of Japji Sahib
Japji contains the very first words uttered by Guru Nanak after Self-realisation. Guru Nanak sat on the bank of a river in total darkness with his friend and follower, Mardana. Suddenly, he removed his clothes and walked into the river. Mardana called after him, “Where are you going? The night is so dark and cold!” Guru Nanak went further and further, he plunged into the depths of the river. Mardana waited… but Nanak did not return…
Mardana ran back to the village and woke up everyone. It was midnight, but a crowd collected at the riverside because everyone loved Guru Nanak… They ran back and forth, covering the whole length of the river bank, but to no avail.Three days passed. By now it was certain that Guru Nanak had drowned. People imagined that his body must have been carried away by the swift current. The village was in mourning. On the third night, Nanak appeared from the river. The first words he spoke became the Japuji. So goes the story – and a story means that which is true and yet not true. It is true because it gives the essential truth; it is yet not true in the sense that it is only symbolic. And it is evident that the more profound the subject matter, the greater the need for symbols.
When Guru Nanak disappeared in the river, the story goes that he stood before the gates of God. He experienced God… God spoke to him, ‘Now go back and give unto others what I have given unto you’. The Japuji is Guru Nanak’s first offering after his God-experience.
Unless you lose yourself completely, until you die, you cannot hope to meet God. Your annihilation becomes his being. As long as you are, he cannot be. This is the symbolic meaning of drowning in the river. You too will have to lose yourself; you too will have to drown. Death is only completed after three days, because the ego does not give up easily. The three days in Guru Nanak’s story represent the time required for his ego to dissolve completely.
The one who is lost, invariably returns, but he returns as new. He who treads the path most certainly returns. While he was on the path he was thirsty, but when he returns he is a benefactor; he left as a beggar, he returns as a king. Whoever follows the path carries his begging bowl; when he comes back he possesses infinite treasures.
To appear before God and to attain the beloved, are purely symbolic terms that are not to be taken literally. There is no God sitting somewhere on high before whom you appear. But, how else can it be expressed? When the ego is eradicated, when you disappear, whatever is before your eyes is God – an energy beyond form.
To stand before this formless energy means to see infinite energy wherever you look, whatever you see. When the eyes open, everything is He. Ego is like the mote in your eye; the minute it is removed, God stands revealed before you. And no sooner does God manifest, than you also become God, because there is nothing besides Him.
Guru Nanak returned, but the Guru Nanak who returned was also God himself. Then each word uttered became so invaluable as to be beyond price, each word equal to the words of the Vedas.