This past Saturday, we finished our 40 days of seva and sadhana. Upon completion, those students who were interested, and didn’t have Cambridge exams on Monday, were offered the opportunity to travel to Goindwal to embark on a very special spiritual practice.
Goindwal is where the third guru, Guru Amar Das ji, lived for 33 years. He moved there at the request of the second guru, Guru Angad. Prior to settling there, he had already been in relation to that area as he carried water from there to where Guru Angad lived in Khadur daily. Upon settling in Goindwal, he continued to carry water from Goindwal to Khadur. Every day as he walked, he recited Japji Sahib.
When Amar Das became guru in 1552, he commenced the digging of a Baoli (a well) with 84 steps. This attracted pilgrims from far and wide. Today, many devotees, including us, travel to Goindwal to dip in the water and recite Japji on each of the 84 steps. It’s said that doing this will bring liberation from 84,000 cycles of birth and death.
We arrived in Goindwal around 1:30pm. After settling into our rooms, bowing in the Darbar and having langar, the students were free to start their practice. We would be leaving the next day at 12:30pm, giving them approximately twenty one and a half hours to complete this sadhana. This is no small task. Depending on one’s speed, it takes about eight minutes to fifteen minutes to read Japji quickly. On top of that, you have to walk down the stairs and dip in the water between recitations, sometimes navigating many people who are there to dip in the sacred water. For those who wanted to complete all 84 steps, this meant running down or the stairs and continuing to recite the bani while walking. For the experienced students who started right away and went straight through, they finished around 7am.
Not everyone had the goal of completing all 84 stairs. For those new to the school this year, reading Japji that fast is not yet possible and some decided on a different sadhana. For some, that meant reciting 11 Mul Mantras on each of the 84 steps. For others, they did as many Japji repetitions as possible and then moved to Mul Mantras for the remaining steps. There were many students on the steps right up until noon when it was time to leave.
The students faced many challenges during this practice, depending on the person. There’s tiredness and mental exhaustion, coldness from dipping in the water every ten to twenty minutes, your body gets sore from all the standing and walking up and down stairs, and for some people, the cleanliness of the water is concerning as you’re dipping in a communal bath. The challenge that surprised many people was how sore their feet got from standing and walking on the blue and green mats all day. They weren’t there in the evening on the first day but were put down in the morning and many people tried to move them out of the way while standing as over time, they began to hurt one’s feet.
All-in-all it was a wonderful opportunity with many people feeling quite inspired afterwards. Two of the boys I spoke to, Karam Singh and Amar Singh, told me that at some point during the practice, they felt that they could understand Japji Sahib. It was as if they were hearing the words in English, even though they were reading them in Gurmukhi.
For those students who were busy preparing for their Cambridge exams, they’ll get the opportunity to go in a few weeks when their exam schedule quiets down.
Arriving at Goindwal and Getting Ready