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FIVE KHANDS or Panj Khand literally means as follows: Panj = five and khands = regions or realms. These signify in the Sikh tradition the five stages of spiritual progress leading man to the Ultimate Truth. The supporting text is a fragment from Guru Nanak’s Japji Sahib, Pauris (Stanzas) 35 to 37 inclusive.

The Five Realms described in the Bani are:

The concept of the spiritual journey running into several stages is found in other religious traditions as well. The number of stages and the nomenclature may vary, but the broad features of the journey remain the same. The seven muqamat of the Sufis, the eight angas of Patanjal yoga, the five kosas of Vedanta and dash bhumis of Buddhism run on parallel lines though they are embedded each in a different cultural milieu.


The Panj Khands in the Japji Sahib delineate the different stages of spiritual ascent tracing the evolution of human consciousness on different planes involving man’s thought, emotions and action. Though Guru Nanak does not explicitly deal with these transformations and only touches upon the core characteristics of each stage (khand), yet the emphasis on one aspect does not exclude the others. In each stage, the status or position of the individual is set forth in a social setting. The seeker is not conceived of as a recluse or ascetic: social obligations and moral qualities form an essential core of the spiritual path. The empirical mind is first emancipated from the grip of desire and purified by a rigorous moral discipline. When it learns to stand still, it is brought to the Divine Portal which it can enter only with the divine grace. There it finds itself face to face with the Truth Eternal, i.e. God.


The delineation of the Panj Khands is preceded by two introductory remarks in the two preceding stanzas. First, there is the term pavarian, i.e. rungs of a ladder, denoting stages of the mystical ascent. Guru Nanak relates this ascent to the constant remembrance of God's Name. Then occurs another insight which implies that all the endeavours that the spiritual aspirant makes and all the means that he employs during these endeavours have their ultimate source in divine grace without which he may not even feel the initial impulse towards spiritual life.


The first stage is the dharam khand. “The earth exists for dharma to be practised.” The word dharam has been employed in the sense of duty. Duty is usually performed either out of a sense of social responsibility or through moral awareness. Guru Nanak links this sense of duty to man’s consciousness of divine justice. This is the stage in which a sense of inquisitiveness is aroused in the mind of the devotee who is now no longer a casual onlooker of the world around but can perceive the divine purpose behind the creation of this planet of ours, the earth, which is set in the cosmic cradle of time and space and is sustained by the vital elements. Man has been placed in this world to respond to the Creator’s purpose. In His court, he will be judged according to his moral response.


The next is gian khand. “In the realm of knowledge, knowledge is ignited, i.e. illumination dawns.” The seeker here becomes aware of the universe and the mystery of existence. Through the creation, he gains knowledge of the Creator from whom it emanates. Knowledge here is not merely intellectual or sensual; it is intuitive awareness, a spiritual consciousness which expands the vision of the seeker. His sense of wonder is born not merely of his awareness of the many forms of life or the ordered movement of numerous celestial spheres, but of his perception of God who is the sole force behind all. In front of this limitless variety of cosmic life, he feels humble. This simultaneous experience of expansion of vision and of the sense of humility leads to vismaya or vismad (wonder).

Saram Khand is the sphere of spiritual endeavour. Here man strives against the last remnants of his ego which still afflict him in spite of his experiencing strong emotions of humility in the gian khand. If the sense of awe and wonder is not accompanied or followed by discipline, the experience might become a mere emotion, something remembered with nostalgia but having no permanent worth. To become worthy of receiving the divine grace, one must chisel one’s surati (consciousness) which is a unifying thread for all human faculties. This chiselling of intellect and wisdom would erase even the subtlest layers of ego from one’s mind.


Karam Khand (the realm of grace) is the sphere where reigns the Divine grace. The process of liberation with grace initiated is now brought to completion. All sense of dualism ends. The devotee is one with the Lord and with those who have attained this state of bliss. One reaches here only after achieving a heroic victory over the evils. Yet he is not a passive devotee, but a man of awakened courage and great deeds.


The final stage of spiritual ascent, i.e. sach khand (the realm of the Truth), defies description. “Hard as steel is the story of this state to narrate.” Described as the abode of the Nirankar, the Formless One, sach khand is not a geographical spot, but the final state of the evolution of human consciousness. One can only experience it, but not describe it, for here words cease to have any meaning and no analogies can help in describing the Unique. Here in the Divine Court, the perfect ones rejoice in His presence. It is from here that His Will (hukam) goes out to the universe, and the liberated, grace-filled souls perform it joyously and effortlessly. The devotee becomes one with Him and realizes Him as a unifying force working through all objects of His creation. This way he attains to the non-spatial sach khand and to the Dweller therein, the Nirankar, who is nowhere outside his own heart.

Bani

This is the section from Pauri 35 to 37 inclusive in Japji Sahib which refers to the Five Khands:

Pauri 35

ਧਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਏਹੋ ਧਰਮੁ ॥ ਗਿਆਨ ਖੰਡ ਕਾ ਆਖਹੁ ਕਰਮੁ ॥
Ḏẖaram kẖand kā ėho ḏẖaram. Gi­ān kẖand kā ākẖhu karam.
This is righteous living in the realm of Dharma. And now we speak of the realm of spiritual wisdom.
ਕੇਤੇ ਪਵਣ ਪਾਣੀ ਵੈਸੰਤਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕਾਨ ਮਹੇਸ ॥ ਕੇਤੇ ਬਰਮੇ ਘਾੜਤਿ ਘੜੀਅਹਿ ਰੂਪ ਰੰਗ ਕੇ ਵੇਸ
Kėṯė pavaṇ pāṇī vaisanṯar kėṯė kān mahės. Kėṯė barmė gẖāṛaṯ gẖaṛī­ahi rūp rang kė vės.
So many winds, waters and fires; so many Krishnas and Shivas. So many Brahmas, fashioning forms of great beauty, adorned and dressed in many colors.
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਕਰਮ ਭੂਮੀ ਮੇਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਧੂ ਉਪਦੇਸ ॥ ਕੇਤੇ ਇੰਦ ਚੰਦ ਸੂਰ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਮੰਡਲ ਦੇਸ ॥
Kėṯī­ā karam bẖūmī mėr kėṯė kėṯė ḏẖū upḏės. Kėṯė inḏ cẖanḏ sūr kėṯė kėṯė mandal ḏės.
So many worlds and lands for working out karma. So very many lessons to be learned! So many Indras, so many moons and suns, so many worlds and lands.
ਕੇਤੇ ਸਿਧ ਬੁਧ ਨਾਥ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਦੇਵੀ ਵੇਸ ॥ ਕੇਤੇ ਦੇਵ ਦਾਨਵ ਮੁਨਿ ਕੇਤੇ ਕੇਤੇ ਰਤਨ ਸਮੁੰਦ ॥
Kėṯė siḏẖ buḏẖ nāth kėṯė kėṯė ḏėvī vės. Kėṯė ḏėv ḏānav mun kėṯė kėṯė raṯan samunḏ.
So many Siddhas and Buddhas, so many Yogic masters. So many goddesses of various kinds. So many demi-gods and demons, so many silent sages. So many oceans of jewels.
ਕੇਤੀਆ ਖਾਣੀ ਕੇਤੀਆ ਬਾਣੀ ਕੇਤੇ ਪਾਤ ਨਰਿੰਦ ॥ ਕੇਤੀਆ ਸੁਰਤੀ ਸੇਵਕ ਕੇਤੇ ਨਾਨਕ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਅੰਤੁ ॥੩੫॥
Kėṯī­ā kẖāṇī kėṯī­ā baṇī kėṯė pāṯ narinḏ. Kėṯī­ā surṯī sėvak kėṯė Nānak anṯ na anṯ. ॥35॥
So many ways of life, so many languages. So many dynasties of rulers. So many intuitive people, so many selfless servants. O Nanak, His limit has no limit! ॥35॥

Pauri 36

ਗਿਆਨ ਖੰਡ ਮਹਿ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਪਰਚੰਡੁ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਨਾਦ ਬਿਨੋਦ ਕੋਡ ਅਨੰਦੁ ॥
Gi­ān kẖand meh gi­ān parcẖand. Ŧithai nāḏ binoḏ kod anand.
In the realm of wisdom, spiritual wisdom reigns supreme. The Sound-current of the Naad vibrates there, amidst the sounds and the sights of bliss.
ਸਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਰੂਪੁ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਘਾੜਤਿ ਘੜੀਐ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਅਨੂਪੁ ॥
Saram kẖand kī baṇī rūp. Ŧithai gẖāṛaṯ gẖaṛī­ai bahuṯ anūp.
In the realm of humility, the Word is Beauty. Forms of incomparable beauty are fashioned there.
ਤਾ ਕੀਆ ਗਲਾ ਕਥੀਆ ਨਾ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਪਿਛੈ ਪਛੁਤਾਇ ॥
Ŧā kī­ā galā kathī­ā nā jāhi. Jė ko kahai picẖẖai pacẖẖuṯā­ė.
These things cannot be described. One who tries to speak of these shall regret the attempt.
ਤਿਥੈ ਘੜੀਐ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਮਤਿ ਮਨਿ ਬੁਧਿ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਘੜੀਐ ਸੁਰਾ ਸਿਧਾ ਕੀ ਸੁਧਿ ॥੩੬॥
Ŧithai gẖaṛī­ai suraṯ maṯ man buḏẖ. Ŧithai gẖaṛī­ai surā siḏẖā kī suḏẖ. ॥36॥
The intuitive consciousness, intellect and understanding of the mind are shaped there.The consciousness of the spiritual warriors and the Siddhas, the beings of spiritual perfection, are shaped there. ॥36॥

Pauri 37

ਕਰਮ ਖੰਡ ਕੀ ਬਾਣੀ ਜੋਰੁ ॥ ਤਿਥੈ ਹੋਰੁ ਨ ਕੋਈ ਹੋਰੁ ॥
Karam kẖand kī baṇī jor. Ŧithai hor na ko­ī hor.
In the realm of karma, the Word is Power. No one else dwells there,
ਤਿਥੈ ਜੋਧ ਮਹਾਬਲ ਸੂਰ ॥ ਤਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਰਹਿਆ ਭਰਪੂਰ ॥
Ŧithai joḏẖ mahābal sūr. Ŧin meh rām rahi­ā bẖarpūr.
except the warriors of great power, the spiritual heroes. They are totally fulfilled, imbued with the Lord's Essence.
ਤਿਥੈ ਸੀਤੋ ਸੀਤਾ ਮਹਿਮਾ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਤਾ ਕੇ ਰੂਪ ਨ ਕਥਨੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥
Ŧithai sīṯo sīṯā mahimā māhi. Ŧā kė rūp na kathnė jāhi.
Myriads of Sitas are there, cool and calm in their majestic glory. Their beauty cannot be described.
ਨਾ ਓਹਿ ਮਰਹਿ ਨ ਠਾਗੇ ਜਾਹਿ ॥ ਜਿਨ ਕੈ ਰਾਮੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨ ਮਾਹਿ ॥
Nā ohi mareh na ṯẖāgė jāhi. Jin kai rām vasai man māhi.
Neither death nor deception comes to those, within whose minds the Lord abides.
ਤਿਥੈ ਭਗਤ ਵਸਹਿ ਕੇ ਲੋਅ ॥ ਕਰਹਿ ਅਨੰਦੁ ਸਚਾ ਮਨਿ ਸੋਇ ॥
Ŧithai bẖagaṯ vaseh kė lo­a. Karahi anand sacẖā man so­ė.
The devotees of many worlds dwell there. They celebrate; their minds are imbued with the True Lord.
ਸਚ ਖੰਡਿ ਵਸੈ ਨਿਰੰਕਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵੇਖੈ ਨਦਰਿ ਨਿਹਾਲ ॥
Sacẖ kẖand vasai nirankār. Kar kar vėkẖai naḏar nihāl.
In the realm of Truth, the Formless Lord abides. Having created the creation, He watches over it. By His Glance of Grace, He bestows happiness.
ਤਿਥੈ ਖੰਡ ਮੰਡਲ ਵਰਭੰਡ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਥੈ ਤ ਅੰਤ ਨ ਅੰਤ ॥
Ŧithai kẖand mandal varbẖand. Jė ko kathai ṯa anṯ na anṯ.
There are planets, solar systems and galaxies. If one speaks of them, there is no limit, no end.
ਤਿਥੈ ਲੋਅ ਲੋਅ ਆਕਾਰ ॥ ਜਿਵ ਜਿਵ ਹੁਕਮੁ ਤਿਵੈ ਤਿਵ ਕਾਰ ॥
Ŧithai lo­a lo­a ākār. Jiv jiv hukam ṯivai ṯiv kār.
There are worlds upon worlds of His Creation. As He commands, so they exist.
ਵੇਖੈ ਵਿਗਸੈ ਕਰਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਥਨਾ ਕਰੜਾ ਸਾਰੁ ॥੩੭॥
vėkẖai vigsai kar vīcẖār. Nānak kathnā karṛā sār. ॥37॥
He watches over all, and contemplating the creation, He rejoices. O Nanak, to describe this is as hard as steel! ॥37॥
Five Khands

ಭಭ Dharam Khand ಭಭ Gian Khand ಭಭ Saram Khand ಭಭ Karam Khand ಭಭ Sach Khand ಭಭ

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • 1. Sabadarth Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Amritsar, 1964
  • 2. Jodh Singh, Bhai, Japuji Satik. Amritsar, 1950
  • 3. Ram Singh, Japji da Visha te Rup. Ludhiana, 1969
  • 4. Sohan Singh, The Seeker's Path. Calcutta, 1959
  • 5. McLeod, W. H., Guru Nanak and the Sikh Religion. London, 1968
  • 6. Talib, Gurbachan Singh, Japuji: The Immortal Prayer Chant. Delhi, 1977


Above adapted from article By Ram Singh


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