Saturday, February 17, 2007

Japjis I have known

I've been trying to make a regular practice of reading and meditating on Japji this year. It's just a way of trying to make time daily to give myself space to think about Sikhi. It's amazing how much this seems easier said than done. It's also become a way for me to reflect on my own journey and bring together the pieces of experiences and resources that I've picked up along the way.

Piece #1: I first got exposed to Japji (without quite knowing what it was) 2 years ago, when I attended Prof. Arvind Mandair's Sikhism class in Hofstra. As part of the syllabus he included his own translations of Japji Sahib as well as many other sacred nitnem and verse from Guru Granth Sahib. I read through these translations on and off for over a year, not sure quite what to make of them and what they had to do with my project, but certain that they had some value that would eventually make itself known to me.

Piece #2: Meher, my inten from last summer, gave me her book of nitnem, as translated by a Rajinder Singh Vidyarthi, printed in Malaysia(!). It was her nitnem from when she was a kid - in fact it is covered in a Baby Gap suede book covering!

Piece #3: When visiting the Sikh community in Seattle last June to do filming for the Sikh Coalition, I spent an afternoon with Parminder Singh and his family. At the end of evening prayers, Parminder offered me a Nitnem from his own home, translation by Prof. Gurbachan Singh M.A., published by B. Chattar Singh Jiwan Singh in Bazar Mai Sewan, Amritsar Punjab.

Pieces #4, #5 and #6: While attending the Toronto Film Festival last September, I hung out with Kulvir Singh Gill and he took me to the Sacha Sauda Gurmat Prachar Society, the largest Sikh bookstore in North America. There we went on a bit of a shopping spree, and I walked out with armfuls of books and recordings - including three versions of Japji.

One in print, which I've seen rather often, is translated by Harbans Singh Doabia in Chandigarh.

The second version of Japji is on a 2-Disc CD - no info on the translator is provided, but it's distributed by an outfit called Kirat.

And finally - an English language translation titled "The Name of My Beloved" by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh, religion professor at Colby College.

So there I have it - no less than six versions of Japji to choose from. What's interesting is that in having so many versions, I've become more sensitive to the meaning of the texts, trying to get a real sense of the nuances. I'll try to say more about this in another post.

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