“Pavan guru paani pitaa, maataa dharat mahat.” So the Salok of Japji begins, with a sweet song to all creation. “Air the guru; Water, the father; and Earth, the great mother.” Honor all of life, Naanak reminds us, for life honors us with its gifts. Yogi Bhajan said that the Salok brings us self-satisfaction, elevation, acknowledgement and respect.
The Salok of Japji is like a sweet parting gift at the end of Japji. There is tremendous wisdom here. The idea that air is the teacher, the pathway from darkness to light, reminds us to reconnect with our breath which is our only link to the present moment. Our minds flutter between past and present or a reaction to the moment that has just passed us (which passes often, for the present). But thoughts are inherently reactions. By shifting our awareness to the breath, we linger in the present moment. All consciousness lies in the present moment. “Pavan guru”, Nanak reminds us, the breath is your teacher, in a way that is echoed hundreds of years later by such modern day thinkers as Eckhart Tolle’s in “The Power of Now”. Nanak continues, “paani pitaa maataa dharat mahat“, in words of such earthly sweetness that you don’t often see outside of nature-based religions. The water is our father and the earth is our mother. Respect them. Honor them. Learn from them. By respecting nature, we respect our creator and we respect ourselves. (After all, Japji begins with the line “Ek ong kar”, the creator and the creation are one.)
The salok ends with the words “Jini Naam dhiaaiaa, gae masakat ghaal./Naanak te mukh ujle, keti chhuti naal.” To me, these words mean that when you vibrate the naam, the sound current, then when you pass out of this life you will go with a brilliant face, full of radiance, and you will raise the vibration of the planet for having been here. For me they are marching orders that I choose to bring into my life: meditate, chant the words that make my heart sing, raise the vibration of the planet, respect myself and respect all Life. It’s nothing to do with dogma. It has everything to do with putting into action the gentle whispers my heart has told me all along. Japji is the Song of the Soul, and I heard my soul singing these words to me long before I ever knew what Japji was. This is the wisdom of the ages; it has been sung to us in many languages for thousands of years. Will you listen?
Pavan guru paani pitaa, maataa dharat mahat.
Divas raat doe daai daaiaa, khelai sagal jagat.
Changiaaiaa buriaaiaa, vaachai dharam hadur.
Karmi aapo aapni, ke nerai ke dur.
Jini Naam dhiaaiaa, gae masakat ghaal.
Naanak te mukh ujle, keti chhuti naal.
(Editor’s Note: Snatam Kaur takes the first line of the Salok very seriously. She is tremendously committed to environmental causes and is releasing a song on her new album “Ras” called Earth Prayer, which combines the line “pavan guru paani pitaa, maataa dharat mahat” with a beautiful English poem she has written honoring the planet. Look for it next week!)
Listen to the Salok these versions: