Japji Sahib is the first sacred composition found in the main Sikh holy scripture called the Guru Granth Sahib. It is a famous and concise summary of Sikh philosophy which was compiled by the founder of Sikhism and the first spiritual guide of the Sikhs known worldwide as Guru Nanak.
The compilation consists of the Mool Mantar, an opening Salok or verse, a set of 38 Pauris or hymns and a final closing Salok. This Bani called Japji Sahib, appears at the very beginning of the Guru Granth Sahib from Page 1 to Page 8 in the Holy Book of the Sikhs Nay! of Humanity. It, the most important Bani or 'set of verses', and is lovingly recited by all Sikhs every morning. The word ‘Jap’ means to ‘recite’/‘to ‘chant’/'to stay focused onto'. ‘Ji’ is a word that is used to show respect as is the word ‘Sahib’.
This Bani was composed by the founder of the faith, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji who was the first of ten human Gurus of this faith. The Ten Gurus of Sikhism were responsible for the creation of this faith which took place over period 1469 to 1708 - a period of about 239 years.
At the point when the last of the Human Gurus departed this Earth, the Guruship was passed to the Holy Book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). The SGGS is treated as a living Guru and the respect shown for its Commandments is unique. This Bani (composition) encompasses the spirit and theme of whole of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.
The collections of hymns of Sikh daily prayer are often compiled separately in a small book form called Gutkas or "Nitnem" (meaning daily prayer) Gutkas. All Nitnem Gutkas start with Japji Sahib and contain other Banis (hymns) as well.
The description of Japji Sahib that follows is taken from "The Encyclopedia of Sikhism" by Harbans Singh (published in 1996 by the Punjabi University, Patiala):
...Japji is the most riveting Sikh Prayer recited by the devout early in the morning. The composition is not assigned to any particular raga or musical measure, as is the rest of the Scriptural text...
"Japji is universally accepted to be the composition of Guru Nanak, the founding prophet of Sikhism, although, unlike other scriptural hymns and compositions, it remains anonymous without being credited individually to any of the Gurus..."
"Preceded by what is called Mool Mantar, the basic statement of creed, the Japu comprises an introductory sloka and 38 stanzas traditionally called pauree (steps) and a concluding Salok attributed by some to Guru Angad. The initial Salok too appears again in the Scripture as a preamble to the 17th Astapadi of Guru Arjan's famous composition Sukhmani, the Psalm of Peace. The entire composition including the Mool Mantar, two saloks and the thirty eight pauris form the sacred morning prayer Japji Sahib or “Japu Nisanu”. It serves as a prologue to the Scripture and encapsulates Guru Nanak's creed and philosophy, as a whole..."
"The message of the “Japu” is abiding in nature and universal in application. It simply describes the nature of Ultimate Reality and the way to comprehend it, and is not tied to any particular religious system. In a word it simply defines Sikhism, the religious view of Guru Nanak..."
Miracle of Japji
The Japji, and in particular the Mool Mantar, is a compilation which has freed humanity from thousands of years of superstition that had gripped their psyche of many common people. It is humanity's declaration of independence from soothsayers, yogis, priests, traditions etc whose validity had never been questioned. It is a direct communication between the human and His master; it opens and established the communication path for this direct and close link of humanity with spirituality. It is magical compilation which the Sikhs believe has not been equalled elsewhere.
All the falsehood in the name of religion that hitherto had been accepted as "ultimate truths" was challenged in the stanzas of the Japji. All rituals, practices, empty recitations of meaningless mantras, etc. has been accurately and summarily denounced as worthless. The Japji, places Waheguru/God above the most powerful of the gods from other mythology domains. However, it goes further and explains the infinite characters of Waheguru and Nanak, himself admits to being unable to describe the indescribable Waheguru.
The Japji, is scientifically accurate:
Jo kich payee so ekaa vaar
whatever is stored, was put once for all, enough for ever - which is another way of saying, Matter can neither be created nor destroyed.
The Japji, claims the existence of other worlds and planets, a concept that had not been entertained in the World at the time of its writing.
The miracle of Japji, happens when one embraces its message and is thus enabled to experience heaven (oneness with Waheguru) while still on this planet.
document Japji Sahib (996 KB) - Microsoft Powerpoint
Japji Sahib - Recording, recited by Bhai Jarnail Singh