Now, this is a story; what it symbolizes must be understood. First, unless you lose yourself completely, until you die, you cannot hope to meet God. Whether you lose yourself in a river or on a mountain top is of little consequence; but you must die. Your annihilation becomes his being. As long as you are, he cannot be. You are the obstacle, the wall that separates you. This is the symbolic meaning of drowning in the river.
You too will have to lose yourself; you too will have to drown. Death is only completed after three days, because the ego does not give up easily. The three days in Nanak’s story represent the time required for his ego to dissolve completely. Since the people could only see the ego and not the soul, they thought Nanak was dead.
Whenever a person becomes a sannyasin and sets out on the quest for God, the family members understand and give him up for dead. Now he is no longer the same person; the old links are broken, the past is no more, and the new has dawned. Between the old and the new is a vast gap; hence this symbol of three days before Nanak’s reappearance.
The one who is lost invariably returns, but he returns as new. He who treads the path most certainly returns. While he was on the path he was thirsty, but when he returns he is a benefactor; he has left a beggar, he returns a king. Whoever follows the path carries his begging bowl; when he comes back he possesses infinite treasures.
The Japuji is the first gift from Nanak to the world.
To appear before God, to attain the beloved, are purely symbolic terms and not to be taken literally. There is no God sitting somewhere on high before whom you appear. But to speak of it, how else can it be expressed? When the ego is eradicated, when you disappear, whatever is before your eyes, is God himself. God is not a person – God is an energy beyond form.
To stand before this formless energy means to see him wherever you look, whatever you see. When the eyes open, everything is he. It only requires that you should cease to be and that your eyes be opened. Ego is like the mote in your eye; the minute it is removed, God stands revealed before you. And no sooner does God manifest, than you also become God, because there is nothing besides him.
Nanak returned, but the Nanak who returned was also God himself. Then each word uttered became so invaluable as to be beyond price, each word equal to the words of the Vedas.
Now let us try to understand the Japuji:
Ek Omkar Satnam
He is one. He is Omkar, the supreme truth.
He is the creator, beyond fear, beyond rancor.
His is the timeless form.
Never born, self-creating.
He is attained by the guru’s grace.
He is one: Ek Omkar Satnam.