Dear Gursikh Friend,
Here is the English rendering of the message of Var Asa Mehla 1 for the modern youth, who cannot read Gurbani. It is not a line by line translation, which makes it difficult to make a continuous reading. Gurbani, as any other poetry, does not detail all the related information. The helpful information has been included to explain the message. Further, to state the core of the message some details were not considered necessary to be given.
The translation suffers from this shortcoming, the language is simple and easily understandable. To make it conceptually comprehensive, religious jargon has been avoided as far as possible.
Keeping this objective in mind, please examine this translation and help the youth by making suggestions to improve the interpretation and the language. Only first 12 pauris are being sent to you, others will be made available to you as soon as finalized. You may send your comments without waiting for the rest of the translation.
Feeling indebted to you for this advise.
Gurbakhsh Singh U.S.A.
P.S. This is intended to be included in the revised publication of the book The Message of Japji published by Hemkunt Publications. The book already contains the translation of Japji, Sodar, and So Purkh, Sohila, and Anand Sahib.
By the Grace of the Lord, Ik Oangkar, the One Everlasting Reality, the Creator, without apprehensions, without hostility, beyond time and space, not-born, self-evolved (without father or mother).
ASA MEHLA 1, VAR
The hymn authored by Guru Nanak is popularly called Asa di (Kee) Var. A var is a narration of deeds of a brave hero, usually related to a war/battle, which he had won (or in which he had become a martyr). It comprises of pauris (stanzas) which are sung in a special musical measure to touch the emotions of the listeners. Generally slokas are recited before the pauri to explain the contents of the pauri.
Var Asa contains 24 pauris, each pauri is headed by two salokas (some with more salokas, even upto five), 44 salokas were revealed to Guru Nanak Dev and 15 to Guru Angad Dev.
There is a note, which directs that the Var is to be sung in the same musical measures as that of the var of the King Us-raj. He was the legal heir to the kingdom of his father. However, the queen, his step-mother ordered his killing to let her sons become the rulers. The minister cut the arm of Us-raj and left him in a jungle. From there Us-raj ended up in another kingdom. People supported him and Us-raj fought a war with his step-brothers. He won the war and got his kingdom back of which he was the legal heir. The moral is that in the end the Truth defeats the Vice.
The Var Asa has the same lesson. It tells that birth right of a man (human being) is to love God. He has to face many vices, which ruin his life. Those who listen to the advice of Satguru overcome vices, love God and follow truth. They succeed in realizing the mission of human life and are honored in his court.
The Message of the Var
God revealed His virtues (Naam) through this creation (visible and invisible). He alone, not the gods as assumed by the ancient sages, is responsible for our birth, nursing and death; He conducts this play as it pleases Him. We will be judged according to the deeds done by us. Those who practice virtue enjoy peace and pleasure while those who love worldly pleasure and commit sins are punished in His court. (1, 2, 3)
We continue to undergo life cycles. Those who are graced meet satguru and listen to him. He removes their ego and leads them to Truth. Such devotees remain humble, do good deeds and therefore, do not suffer in hell (4-5). Without Satguru nobody can realize the Lord who reveals Himself through Satguru. Guidance provided by him helps people to get rid of the attachment and thus end the cycle of birth and death. (6)
The seekers love God and do not seek pleasure from material wealth. Graced by Him, the seekers meditate on His virtues and realize the Lord. The unfortunate egotists ignore Him and waste their lives (7-8).
Graced by Him, the humble devotees give up their desire for worldly wealth and meditate on Him. They are rewarded, others waste their lives. (10) We are helpless creatures. People blessed by the Lord, love Him, others get lost. (11) We are judged not by our worldly knowledge, but by the deeds we do. Egotists suffer in His court. (12)
We should be obliged to the satguru who teaches us Truth and guides us to love the Lord. Those who ignore Him (and love worldly wealth) are destined to be doomed. The Guru (the safe boat) helps us to overcome the vices (cross the sea). (13) In the end, worldly wealth shall have to be left and the sinful people will appear bare (without good deeds) in His court and repent. (14) People graced by Him, observe His will and realize the Lord. (15)
God takes care of every person and directs their lives as He wills. He may make a person a king and may make him a beggar again. (16) Every life will come to an end, we should not waste it in pursuit of transient worldly pleasures. (17)
We should respect satguru, who possesses great virtues. People blessed by the Lord meet Satguru and their vices vanish. (18) Many people suffer from their desire for worldly possession. Why take pleasure in owning them, when we know we are to leave them here. Learned people do not talk ill of other people, they keep away from bad guys. (19)
God Himself is conducting and watching this drama (creation). We have to leave this world, we should, therefore, meditate on Him as long as we breath. (20) We reap what we sow. Hence, we should love the Lord to enjoy peace. One should not hurt the feelings of anyone, God is displeased with such actions. (21) Those who obey their Master and respect His will are honored by Him. Those who disregard Him suffer. We should be obliged to Him for His blessings; we cannot demand favors from Him, we can only pray to him for His blessings. (22).
Virtues of God are un-limited. He alone creates and destroys. Some people are put in prison (suffer) while others ride horses (enjoy their lives).All happens according to His will (23). God is the sole director of this world. There is no one else to depend upon. We do whatever He wills. (24)
The above lesson of the Var may be summarized as below:
The world has been created by God and He alone (not any assumed god) cares for us all; He judges us not by our worldly knowledge, but by the deeds we do. The seekers blessed by Him meet satguru (spiritual guide). He removes their ego, teaches them virtues, leads them to love God and realize the mission of human life. Those who love worldly possessions suffer from vices and waste their life. Anyway, all the possessions are going to be left here. We cannot demand anything from the Lord, we can pray to Him for His blessings. God is the sole Master of this play, (the people acting on the world stage) whatever He wills happens. Accepting His will is the path of a devotee.
Salok and Pauri wise meanings are give below:
Salok M:I (Mehla first)My Guru is great who converted ordinary human being into enlightened holy people in no time. I am fascinated and grateful to him for his grace.
M:2 (Mehla second) Even if there are hundreds of moons and thousands of suns, their combined light will not be able to remove the darkness (spiritual ignorance) in the minds of the people.
M:1 The egotists, who ignore their Guru are like diseased plants of sesamum which grow and bear fruit but are filled with smut. Egotists, like diseased plants, are not owned by the owner (God). Hence they are taken over by others (the vices).
First God revealed Himself and His Naam (glory, virtues). Then he made this creation. God is graceful, He nurses the whole universe and cares for everyone. He bestows life and also takes it away. Being immanent (in-dweller), He watches this whole play. (P.1)
God! Your creation, regions and worlds, are real (they exist; they are not a dream as assumed by ancient sages). Your deeds and thoughts are true, Your court and Your orders are true, Your blessing are everlasting. Millions and Millions who sing Your praises are also true; true is also their capacity and strength to sing your virtues. Your attributes and qualities are true. Those who meditate on You are also true. However, those who suffer repeated cycles of birth and death are false (unreal).
M:1 God is great because His virtues are great and He always delivers justice. He is great because He functions forever, and because He understands the prayers and inner feeling of everyone. He is great because He gives on His own without consulting anyone else. His functions cannot be described, He created whatever He willed.
M:2 God, in immanent form, dwells in the world. As willed by Him, some are saved while others get ignored. According to His will, some get mislead by maya (illusions) while others get saved from it. No one can know who will be saved by Him. His will can be understood through a God-attuned person to whom God reveals Himself.
After creating the human beings. God also set a court to judge their deeds. Full justice is delivered there and the sinners get identified. The deceivers get no refuge there, they are lead to the Hell with blackened faces (dis-honored). Those who love the Lord become the winners; the cheats lose in the court of the Judge (God). (P2)
Marvelous are many kinds of sounds of Gian (branches of divine knowledge). Marvelous are the living beings with many variations, their forms and hues and some moving about with naked bodies.
Marvelous are the functions performed by water, wind and fire. Marvelous is the earth with many kinds of lives; marvelous are the people with many kinds of tastes. Marvelous is getting together and then getting separated of the people. Marvelous are their cravings and their gratification.
Marvelous are His Virtues and His praises; the fact that some get lost and some adopting His path is also marvelous. It is marvelous that some find Him near, some find Him far away while some behold Him just with them.
One is wonderstruck to observe so many marvels. Only the blessed people understand this mystery.
M:1 Whatever is happening and observed is according to His will (Nature). The prevailing fears and joys are caused by Nature. Nature rules the whole universe, including Heaven and nether region. Nature is the source of all the divine knowledge including that in the Vedas-Puranas and the Semitic books. Nature is the cause of all life activities, eating, drinking, dressing and the feelings of love.
Various kinds of distinctions, race, color, forms are the expression of Nature. The prevailing good and evil including ego are because of Nature. Earth’s dust, water, air, fire, etc., are the work of Nature. God! You are the cause of all this Nature, your virtues are most sacred. The whole universe obeys God’s will and He prevails everywhere.
When the life ends, the body becomes a heap of ash (dust) and the soul moves ahead. The person who wasted his life in worldly pleasures (without good deeds) is ‘arrested’ and produced in His court where his deeds are judged. When chastized, he repents but to no avail. Ignorant fellow wasted the valuable chance of human life.
The winds blow and the rivers flow under His discipline (All respect laws of Nature). The fire serves as ordained by Him. As planned by Him, the earth bears the un-limited load (of living and non-living). Under His discipline Inder (assumed god of rain, clouds) moves about upside-down. Dharam Raj (assumed judge for the soul) observes His discipline. To obey His discipline, sun and moon travel forever over a vast distance with no end to their journey.
Sidhas, Buddhas, gods, Nathas, obey Him. Birds fly in the sky as ordained by Him. Great heroes and bravemen follow Your discipline. Millions come (are born) and millions go (die) as willed by Him. Everyone is destined to carry out His orders. Only the Lord, Nirankar (without physical form) is everlasting and with no one to listen to.
In short, the hymn tells that God is the Lord of the universe and everything in it is controlled or directed by Him.
M:1 The formless Lord is without a boss (to obey, fear); all others including the holy ones, that is Ram and Krishan and Vedic lore are of no significance. To understand the Lord, many dance like circus stars (actors). Some perform drama acts in the streets (to impress people) and tell stories of kings and queens in meaningless words. They wear valuable necklaces and earrings, but even their bodies become ash in the end. (Their actions are fake and have no spiritual value.)
One cannot obtain enlightenment just by talking, it is an extremely hard job. One can be divine when blessed by Him and not by acting smart which all is futile.
People undergo cycles of birth and death. Those blessed by the Lord, meet Satguru (genuine spiritual teacher). Satguru explains to the people the holy word (message of the Lord) and saves them. No person is as gracious as Satguru. By meeting him, people get rid of their ego and realize Truth. Satguru leads people to Truth. (P4)
Referring to the fake actors who play the drama of the lives of Avtars (Rama and Krishna) for their livelihood, Guru Nanak draws our attention to the real drama played by nature to enjoy the wonders of the Lord.
In this play, the pahars (a three hour unit of time) are the Krishan and herdsmen, gharis (one eighth of a pahar) are the gopis (milkmaids, who loved Krishan and enjoyed romantic plays with him) and the sun and moon are the gods. Air, fire, and water are like ornaments to decorate the actors. The earth with all things on it provides the stage and the materials to perform the play.
Indifferent to this drama played by nature, ignorant people, however, get involved in the material pleasures of the world and waste their human life.
M:1 The disciples play on the instruments while their teachers dance and sing to play the drama. They swing their heads and move their feet raising a lot of dust which falls on them. Spectators watching this drama smile and go home (without learning any spiritual lesson, though actors claim the drama to be a religious act). They swing and act for merely earning their living (not for praising God). They dress and act as milk-maids, Krishan, Sita and Ram, the Avtar kings. They mistakenly believe it to be the worship of the Lord.
The fearless Lord, however, is without specific form (He cannot be copied and acted) He created the whole universe. Only the blessed people worship Him, it makes their lives pleasant and peaceful. Those blessed by Him follow His advice and cross the ‘sea’ ups and downs of the world (overcome their ego and other vices).
One cannot overcome vices by acting, dancing and swinging around. Innumerable things rotate and swing. Oil extractors, spinning wheel, grinding stones, potters wheel, whirl-wind etc. all rotate. Tops, churns, grain threshers, birds and butterflies continue to move round and round. Many things are rotated about a pivot. Some persons get rotated being attached to maya (worldly attractions, illusions). Every person is acting the way as willed by God. Those who dance and act for making their living leave the world repentant (they did not obtain any spiritual gains)j.
In fact, dancing is merely a fun for relaxing mind. Those who sincerely respect and regard Him enjoy the love of God.
Those who love the Lord, the Formless (His virtues) they are saved from the Hell (suffering from birth and death). The body and soul belong to Him, it is futile to count His blessings because we cannot mention all what He gives to us.
If you seek your good act rightly and remain humble. No one is competent (has in his power) to avoid old age (death), it does take over all of us. Every person has to leave this world when his time here is over. (P5)
Guru Nanak mentions the beliefs of other faiths before giving his own opinion.
Muslims love their Shariat, they recite and contemplate over it. They believe that those who follow the code of Shariat to realize God are the true believers. Hindus praise Him by reciting Shastras and worship His idols. They perform pilgrimage, make offerings and light incenses.
Yogis meditate for controlling their mind (by fixing it on void, thoughtlessness) and love God as Alakh (beyond description, incomprehensible). They believe God is transcendent (subtle, beyond physical senses) and the universe is His body. The munificent feel pleased when they contemplate giving charity. The world appreciates it but they ask for many times more money from God.
Thieves, liars, evil people and bad persons lose whatever (wealth of merits) they had with them. Of what use were their lives? There are innumerable lives in water on the earth, on other lands, on abodes of assumed gods (Puris) etc. God takes care of everyone and He knows whatever they ask from Him.
The devotees of the Lord are desirous of singing His virtues and they love Him. They always meditate on Him and they beg for the dust of the feet of (respect) the virtuous people.
M:1 The Guru tells that no method of disposal of the dead body has any spiritual advantage to the soul. The Muslims bury their dead. The body becomes dust after lapse of certain time. When such a soil (clay) is made into earthenware and bricks, they are burnt in fire. The purpose of saving the body from the fire could not be achieved by burying the body. Only God knows the truth of life after death.
No one can understand Him without Satguru (spiritual guide), God reveals Himself through satguru. Meeting him helps devotees to obtain liberation (freedom from vices; birth and death) because he removes your ego. The best path (the wise act) is to live in devotion to God and that is the way to realize Him, Universal Cause of life. (P6)
That ego is a curtain which separates the creations (human beings) and the Creator. The Guru explains.
Ego is the cause of coming into and departing from this world.
Bound in ego, one takes birth and dies.
Bound in ego, one gives away or receives.
Bound in ego, one gains or loses.
Bound in ego, one is truthful or a liar.
Bound in ego, one thinks of vices and virtues.
Bound in ego, one goes to Heaven or to Hell.
Bound in ego, one is pleased or repents.
Bound in ego, one gets dirty or cleanses himself of the sins.
Bound in ego, one thinks of his caste and suffers.
Bound in ego, one is an idiot or a wise person.
Bound in ego, one does not understand liberation.
Bound in ego, one suffers from (maya) illusions and their effects.
When one realizes that he is suffering from ego, he gets on the path of the Lord. Otherwise, without this knowledge, one burns himself by merely talking about it (but not understanding it). Whatever way one views the world, he becomes of the same view. However, it is the divine writ that directs everybody.
M:2 An egotist is identified because he performs all his actions influenced by ego. Bound by ego, one suffers undergoing the life cycles.
How does ego arise and how can one get rid of it?
Ego is there because of His will and we act under the influence of ego. Ego is a serious malady but there is also a treatment for it. Blessed by God, one obeys the Will of the Lord; by this way one can eliminate the pain of ego.
Those people serve God, who are contented and devoted to Truth. They refrain from evil acts, they practice virtuous deeds. They break away from the worldly bonds, they live a temperate life.
God, you are the great benefactor and you give more and more everyday. Through laud is the Lord realized. (P7)
In this hymn, the Guru explains that the Creator has created unlimited number of worlds and many different kinds of lives; He manages and cares for this whole universe.
There are innumerable human beings, vegetations, sacred places, coasts, clouds and fields. There are earths, continents, regions, oceans, and galaxies. There are many sources of lives, eggs, wombs and soil. Only He knows their extent Who created them.
After creating the creatures, He continues to care for them; the Creator is concerned for all the creation made by Him. The Founder is mindful of the world founded by Him. Let us hail Him, bow to Him, whose court is eternal. Without sincere love for such a Lord religious rituals have no meaning.
M:1 In this hymn, the Guru tells that hollow rituals and actions performed by the people with the hope of spiritual benefits are all in vain.
One may do millions of good/holy deeds, one may practice millions of approved religious rituals, one may perform charities at sacred places and practice yoga in the forest (undisturbed), one may exhibit millions of brave deeds and die in the battlefield fighting, one may meditate in million ways and have millions of dialogues regarding Gian (spiritual knowledge) and may study religious books, they all are useless. The only way to be accepted in His court is the Grace of God according to Whose will people come and go (take birth and die).
God, you are the only true Lord who dispenses Truth. Whosoever is graced realizes Truth and they practice Truth. Those who contact satguru realize Truth. The idiots cannot understand Truth. Such egotists waste their chance (do not make any spiritual gains) of human life. What for did they take birth? (P8)
The hymn stresses that one may study as much as one can; without the love of God, all study is of little use.
One may study cart-loads of books,
One may study heaps of books,
One may study boat-loads of books,
One may study books which can fill the cellars,
One may study books month after month,
One may study books year after year,
One may study books with every breath,
One may study books for the whole of his life.
The only thing which counts towards peace is the love of the Lord, rest all study is of little use rather it may increase one’s ego.
M:1 More a person studies, greater the ego he develops and more he is bothered by it. More pilgrimage one performs, more he boasts about it. Further, to pretend to be holy, one may adopt different garbs and undergo penances, they are self-inflicted pains (without any spiritual benefits). One may abstain from food and clothes, it is merely hurting one’s body (and mind) because of dual faith (divided love both for God and for worldly wealth).
Adopting silence is misguiding oneself. How can one be enlightened without listening to Guru’s advice? To claim to be a holy person by walking barefoot is merely undergoing suffering. Eating filthy foods and smearing body with ash is fooling oneself and losing respect. Without love for the Lord, such rituals have no value. One many live in grave-yards or wilderness, such ignorant persons gain nothing but only regrets.
By obtaining guidance from the satguru, one can realize the virtues of God. Freedom from ego, anxiety, and hopes (desires) is possible only through the grace of God.
God is pleased with His devotees, they sing His virtues and they try to be virtuous. The unfortunate find no refuge in His court, hence they wander about. Some egotists do not think of their reality, the cause of their existence (God).
The Guru says I am a mere singer of His virtues and considered a low-caste whereas others are proud of their high caste (because of which they ignore God). I urge the company of those who love the Lord. (P9)
The hymn tells that everything in the world is continuously changing; all physical attractions are; illusory hence their love is futile. Creator is the only Truth whom we should befriend and love. The king, the subjects, the whole world, palaces, houses and those living in them are mere illusions, they are transient.
Gold and silver along with those who wear them, their clothes and their matchless beauties will all change. The relationship of husband and wife and their indulgence are in vain. People attracted to these illusions ignore the Creator.
Whom can one befriend, the whole world is changing? Illusions being pleasant, people get attracted towards them, they ruin their lives. Nanak tells humbly that without Him everything in the world is a mere illusion.
M:1 The second hymn explains how the everlasting God, the Truth, can be realized and the mind cleansed of all the sins.
One can understand Truth only when one’s mind is committed to the Lord. It removes the dirt of ignorance and cleanses the mind. One can understand Truth, if one loves the Lord; one gets liberated, when one is pleased to listen to His Naam (virtues). One can understand Truth, when one understands the technique (correct way) to love the Lord. One should prepare the ‘field’, cleanse his body (mind) of the vices, and ‘plant’ Naam (love of the Lord) in it.
One can understand Truth, when he gets the correct guidance; he feels sympathy for the helpless, serves them and does good deeds. One can understand Truth, when one performs pilgrimage to his soul (reflects in his own mind) after getting guidance from satguru. The mind of such a person rests in peace (instead of running about for illusory pleasures). Nanak humbly submits that those who understand Truth, get their minds cleansed of all the sins, because Truth acts as a panacea for such maladies.
In this pauri, the Guru values the association of holy persons, who love God.
The dust of the feet of the holy persons is the most valuable gift for me, if I can get it, I will apply it to my forehead (I respect and beg for the association of holy persons). One should give up the greed for false worldly possessions and devote his mind to the incomprehensible Lord. We reap what we sow. We can get the company of the holy persons, if the Lord has so ordained, otherwise, because of our ignorance, our efforts go waste and we fail to realize the mission of our life. (P10)
The hymn stresses the need of an un-divided (loyal) love for the Lord by quoting a common example of a pulse seed, which if split does not grow.
Truth being absent, darkness of false-hood is prevailing all over in our lives, and we behave like goblins. Those who planted the whole seed of Naam, they loved God sincerely, (their love was not divided between God and worldly pleasures) won honors. How could the split seed grow (How could those with divided love realize their goal)?
Not only the seed should be whole, but environment should also be favourable for it to grow. Look! A starched cloth cannot be dyed unless it is cleansed with mordant. The fear of God, that is, sincere regards for God (the relationship a child has for his parents) and active desire to meet Him (as environment) are needed to achieve the goal.
Those who are dyed in Truth, the love of the Lord, ignorance (darkness) keeps away from them.
M:1 In this hymn, the guru reminds people of their degraded life, urges them to give it up and follow the right path.
Society is being ruled by the ‘greed’, the king, and ‘sinful actions’ as his ministers; ‘lies’ are the administrators; ‘Lust’ , the vices, are the councillors to plead the cases in the ‘false’ court. Ignorant public, without the knowledge of truth, helplessly suffer from vices. The religious teachers sing tunes and perform dance (Merely perform hollow rituals in the name of religion). They decorate themselves for acting and tell aloud the episodes of the lives of the heroes and brave fighters.
Having become fools, the Brahmans are busy in amassing wealth through hook or crook. The religious teachers wish for liberation, but they waste their efforts by performing mere rituals. The Jati, the celibates, (who claim being un-married to be a great holy deed) do not know the path of the Lord. They mistakenly believe that giving up family life is becoming a holy person. Everyone claims himself to be a perfect person without any short-coming. However, one is judged truly when his deeds are valued in His court.
M:1 God is supervising us all; whatever is manifested is destined by Him. Every person is doing his best to reach his target, but whatever He does only that takes place.
In His court, we have to deal with different kinds of persons; they do not value high caste or any physical powers. Good persons are only those who receive honors there (not those who make their fake claims based on their caste, authority or power in this world).
Those who are blessed by the Lord remember Him. God, You have created this multicoloured (different kinds) world, we are helpless creatures. Some may and others may not be approved by You in Your court. Only they realize You, who are graced by You and they do so without their special effort. (P11)
The hymn guides the seekers to respect the will of God without judging it to be good or bad.
Sufferings may work as a cure to make us healthy while our comforts may become the cause of our sufferings. (When in trouble, we think of God for peace and hence we follow the right path of life to get out of trouble. Involved in pleasures, we forget Him and land in problems and pains.) However, those who receive his bliss, are saved from the pain.
How wonderful it is that God is permeating in Nature, His limitless creation. (Pause.)
God dwells in the whole universe and is reflected in every soul. He is the True Master, whosoever praises Him, he crosses the sea of problems (achieves the goal of human life). God performs whatever He wishes (Nobody can counsel Him).
M:2 The hymn rejects the Brahmanical belief of dividing people into castes by birth and assigning separate duties to each caste. According to the Guru the sacred duty of every person is to love God.
The duty of a Yogi is to meditate and realize Gian (knowledge); Brahmans are to study Vedas; Khatris have to become heroes (to fight); duty of Sudras is to do menial jobs to serve the high caste. Actually all persons are equal and the duty of every person is the same and it is to love God.
The Guru states that anyone who understands his real duty (practices it) is a holy person and the Guru submits to (respects) that person.
M:2 The One Supreme Lord is reflected through the soul of all gods and human beings. Anyone who understands this fact is a holy person and the Guru respects that person.
M:1 The way a pitcher holds water, devotion to God holds the mind in peace. As water is needed to make a pitcher, Guru is needed for the realisation of God.
If a learned person is found to be sinful, another person, without any learning, is not punished instead. Men are known (rated) by the deeds they do (not by their learning). One should not commit such acts which make one liable to be punished in His court.; there it makes no difference whether one is a learned person or not. Those who follow their own will (Do not respect the will of God) and commit sins are punished in His court. (P12)