432.The Man in Blue – Pauri 20 Japji Sahib

Bharíai hath pair tan déh. Paní dhotai utras khéh.
When hands, feet and body are dirty,
Washing with water diminishes the dirt.
Mút palítí kapar hoé. Dé sábún laíai oh dhé.
When clothes are soiled by urine,
Soap will wash them clean.
Bharíai mat pápá kai sang. Oh dhopai návai kai rang.
When the intellect is polluted by sin,
That is washed by bathing in colour.
Punní pápí ákhan náhi. Kar, kar karná likh lai jáhu.
Virtue or sin do not come by speech,
actions repeated, over and over again, get written.
Ápé bíj ápé hí kháhu. Nának hukmí ávahu jáhu.
We ourselves sow, we ourselves indeed eat.
O Nanak, in Hukam we come and go. ||20||

‘Jap’ is the first Sabad in the Guru Granth Sahib. It is a rich source of teaching and an inspiration to go on the way to Sach Khand, to union with The One. It consists of an opening and closing Salok, both numbered (1), and 38 paurias (verses or steps).

Unlike Sukhmani Sahib or Anand Sahib the verses do not have standard formats. The above 20th pauri is not too complicated, but it is very meaningful.   

Lines 1 to 4 are straightforward. If your hands are dirty wash them with water, if your clothes are dirty wash them with soap. No mention of this strange pollution that many Indians believe in, no cleansing rituals, just water and soap. In my dictionary both ‘tan’ and ‘déh’ (line 1) are translated as ‘body’.

Line 5 and 6 are also easy to understand. How does your mind get polluted ? By bad and useless thoughts and bad and useless deeds. How do you turn that round ? Have positive good thoughts and positive good deeds. Here we hit a minor translation difficulty. I have given the literal meaning of line 6 as I understand it. Oh dhopai návai kai rang = that wash bathe of colour, translated word by word. To understand the line we should add ‘colour of Rám’, or ‘colour of Nám’.

In my mohalla in Amritsar was a man who would ‘bathe’ your old clothes in colour. I think that this is what Guru was thinking about when he used this image.   

To me line 7 and 8 are the key to the Sabad. Neither virtue nor sin comes about by just talking about it. Kar, kar karná likh lai jáhu = do, do, actions write get go. Repeating a verb like ‘kar’ translates here as doing again and again. The meaning of the sentence is clear, if you keep doing bad and useless things that forms your personality, you become what you do. But I do not know how to fit in the word ‘jáhu’ or ‘go’. Line 9 is again straightforward, as is line 10 : All we do is in God’s Hukam, in God’s Will.

With God’s grace you can change your actions to good and useful ones, and by writing these actions on your personality you will become a good and useful person. This is the first, the dharam khand step on the way to sach khand, and step by step you will gain on that way. And at the end the Bridegroom is waiting for you.

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