The Spiritual Realms
An Excerpt from the Jap Ji of Guru Nanak
In the Jap Ji, Nanak gives a rapid survey of the various Spiritual Realms that the soul has to traverse in its Homeward journey.
They are five in number:
- Dharm Khand or the Realm of Action;
- Gyan Khand or the Realm of Knowledge;
- Sarm Khand or the Realm of Ecstasy;
- Karm Khand or the Realm of Grace;
- Sach Khand or the realm of Truth.
The first is the Realm of Dharm, which the soul must fully realise before it can rise to the next higher Spiritual Plane above it. This is the stage where the embodied souls must work fully cognisant that it is He who made the world phenomena with all the immutable laws which bind one and all. The law of cause and effect nobody can escape. What a man sows, he must reap. There is none outside His domain. Men’s actions go with them after their death and are weighed in the scales of God’s Justice. Those found wanting are sent for judgement according to their actions. The only thing acceptable at his Court is communion with and practice of the Divine Word. Those who adhere to it, are honoured.
Creating the day and the night, the months and the seasons, the fire, the wind, the water and the nether regions, amidst all these, He set up the earth as Dharm Khand or the arena of action. And He peopled it with creatures of many colours and many forms, creatures of whom there is no count. All are judged according to their deeds, for True is the Lord and immaculate His Law. Those acceptable to Him are honoured in His Court, and it is only through His Grace that one may gain that distinction. The imperfect are perfected there,1 oh Nanak! It is there that this mystery is revealed.
Nanak, in this stanza describes the immense expansion of the soul’s horizon when it enters Gyan Khand or the Realm of Knowledge. Here the devotee sees the manifold nature with all created things. Here he begins to hear the rapturous strains of Melodious Song resounding through the whole creation. Here he feels excessive joy at the conception of Nature with her immutable laws, her infinity of forms and phenomena, multifarious creations and manifold blessings, that he finds.
Thus much of the Realm of Dharma; and now Gyan Khand, the Realm of Knowledge:
Countless its elements, air, water and fire, and countless Krishnas and Shivas, and countless the Brahmas fashioning various creations of countless forms and countless hues. Countless the Fields of Action,2 countless the golden mountains,3 and countless the Dhrus4 meditating therein. Countless the Indras, countless the suns and moons, and countless the earthly and stellar regions; countless the Siddhas, the Buddhas, the Naths, and countless the gods and goddesses. Countless the Danus5 and the Sages, and countless the bejewelled oceans. Countless the sources of creation, countless the harmonies, countless those that listen unto them, and countless the devotees of the Word, endless and unending, oh Nanak! this Realm.
From the description of Gyan Khand or the Realm of Knowledge, Nanak proceeds to describe, Sarm Khand, or the Realm of Ecstasy.
Divine Knowledge illumines all in the Realm of Knowledge, while Divine symphonies play unending music, and Joy and Bliss reign supreme.
Next, the Realm of Ecstasy, where the Word is enrapturing. Everything created here is marvellously strange, and beyond description, whoever tries to describe the same, must repent his folly. Herein the mind, reason and understanding are etherealised, the self comes to its own, and develops the penetration of the gods and the sages.
In the Realm of Grace, man rises above the evanescent charms of the phenomenal world. He sees all nature standing submissively to serve at God’s Feet. His Word purifies the soul of its sins and awakens the latent energies in it. Matter no longer blinds the Inner Vision. For him, the Lord pervades everywhere and he is now fully conscious of Him. Here one comes face to face with the Word in Its pure substance. And he now knows himself and his true origin, for he sees himself as of the same substance as God.
Finally, the pilgrim soul reaches Sach Khand or the Abode of Truth. Here complete Oneness is realized and it sees all universes functioning according to His Will in devout awe and adoration. Even remembrance of such a vision is blissful, but the vision itself is such that no eye has ever seen, the heart cannot conceive and the tongue cannot describe.
Higher still stands Karm Khand, the Realm of Grace, here the Word is all in all, and nothing else prevails. Here dwell the bravest of the brave, the conquerors of the mind, filled with the love Divine, here dwell devotees with devotion, incomparable as Sita’s.6 Illumined with beauty ineffable, all hearts filled with God, they live beyond the reach of death and of delusion.7 Here dwell the Bhagats or Sages drawn from all regions, who rejoice in the True One and live in perpetual bliss.
Sach Khand or the Realm of Truth is the seat of the Formless One. Here He creates all creations, rejoicing in creating. Here are many regions, heavenly systems and universes, to count which were to count the countless, here, out of the Formless, the heavenly plateaux and all else come into form, all destined to move according to His Will. He who is blessed with this vision, rejoices in its contemplation. But, oh Nanak, such is its beauty that to try to describe it is to attempt the impossible.8
Explanation: 1) The last two lines – "Kach pakai uthe pa-aye, Nanak gia japey ja-aye" have been invariably interpreted by various translators, as stating that the true and the false are known there and can no longer deceive. But this does not appear to stand as it apparently ignores the fact that the lines follow on the reference to those honoured by God and the metaphor of "raw and ripe" suggests immaturity and maturity, rather than falsehood and Truth. 2) Karm Bhumi: A place where one is endowed with a free will, and reaps the fruits of his own actions. This world is termed as Karm Bhumi for here reigns the principle of action and reaction or cause and effect. 3) Sumer: The golden mountain seen in this Spiritual Plane by the devotees. 4) Dhru: A saint proverbial for his steadfast meditation. 5) Danu: Demigods. 6) Sita: The wife of Rama known for her great devotion. 7) The word delusion here refers to the delusion of maya or matter. 8) Karara Sar: Literally it means, hard as iron; metaphorically, impossible.