By Savitree Kaur
Japji, also known as the Song of the Soul, is the love of my life. After about three months of daily chanting, one Sunday morning I felt bliss—a feeling that was already somewhat familiar to me in that I had felt it several times before after a solid yoga or chanting session.
The kind of bliss that makes you realize that all is well and always will be, like a message from God wrapped up in a physical, cellular experience of heaven.
The difference this time was that it didn’t just last an hour or two. It lasted the entire day. And into the next day. And into the next. At one point, I felt “normal” again, but it wasn’t because the elevation went away. It just became my new normal.
Japji can be challenging to learn as it can take 20 minutes or so to recite, and it rarely repeats, unlike most mantras we might have practiced in the past. There are different ways to approach learning it. I’ve seen students attempt to read the transliteration of the mantras and almost immediately read through the English translation to try and understand what they are chanting.
The English translation itself is often a difficult one to grasp and can make it even more challenging to get back to Japji on a regular basis. It depends on where you are in your spiritual process and how you receive the words you think you understand.
When asked how to approach Japji, my recommendation has been to focus on the transliteration, and to chant it with a recording (for the pronunciation). Wait on the English translation and experience Japji in its original language first.
This process asks you to let go of the head that wants to analyze the script and to filter it through your current mindset. It asks you to let Japji do its work at a more intuitive level. Over time, it translates itself from within.
This physical, cellular experience of Japji lends itself towards better understanding of the English translation when at last it is read, allowing the beauty and true power of it to emerge. The English translation holds different meaning at this point as compared with trying to understand it before Japji is experienced.
Guru Raj’s Japji: Song of the Soul is an excellent one to chant to. This album comes with recitations of Japji at different speeds: fast, moderate, and slow (musical); and it also includes a tantric and English version.
A good version to begin with is the tantric version, where Guru Raj alternates each line of Japji with a male counterpart. Choose either the male or female voice to follow, and practice those lines until you feel comfortable with them, and then switch over to the other voice.
The pauses taken between alternating lines make it easier to get through the entire song, and before long, you are reciting the entire prayer.
How to Learn the Pronunciation:
Listen and repeat regularly. In time it comes.
How to Use Japji as a Remedy:
Each pauree (stanza or step) has specific effects. If you would like to work on abundance, for instance, then chant the fourth pauree eleven times a day. Here is a list of the effects for each pauree. Chanting Japji in its entirety on a daily basis covers them all.
How to Keep Your Daily Recitation Going:
Japji can be approached like a new date that you believe is the one, and seriously want to get to know. You dance an unfamiliar dance until you know it well enough to know what may happen next, akin to finishing each other’s sentences. As you become more familiar and intimate with Japji, the experience reaches far beyond the mathematical ‘one plus one equals two’.
In the beginning, you give the benefit of the doubt, a desire to go through the awkward parts and see the better side of the other. As you continue to listen and engage, you become fluent in each other. It just happens. There will be times when you get frustrated or feel that you will never understand her language. As with all relationships, you will have ample opportunity to decide which way to take this one.
Savitree Kaur, E-RYT 200 and KRI certified, is co-founder of Urban Yoga Chicago, a Kundalini Yoga, meditation and wellness center in South Evanston, IL. She offers small group classes, private sessions and meditation courses for adults and children. Her strength is in helping individuals customize their meditation practice to serve their highest goals. She is also mom to two beautiful teenaged children. For more on Savitree, seeSavitreeKaur.com. For more on the work that she does, see UrbanYogaChicago.org and BlissfulAreWe.com.