LIMITATION OF HUMAN LANGUAGE
Using a limited number of words, we describe
the Unlimited Truth (Parameshar...)!
The ignorant one is without Understanding (ਅਕਲ ਹੀਣ...).
Without the Gur-Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Aatam Giaan...),
Divine Understanding cannot happen (ਕਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਅਗਣਤ ਹੈ - that the Lord is Unlimited,
beyond words or description or counting, etc.). (sggs 934).
Timeless Consciousness alone is real and is free of any modification, disturbances
or agitation. Being beyond time, space, causation, logic and speculations, the
Timeless is beyond the mind and its language. Hence inexpressible. For the Timeless
knows the time and the space, but the time and the space does not know the Timeless!
But, unfortunately, the world Masters and the scriptures have to use man's finite
language to explain this undifferentiated and inexpressible Infinite Truth.
Therefore, they have to invent and use words like "God", "Self",
"Soul", "Super Soul", "Jeeva", "mind",
"ego", "Maya", "Light", "Joti-Svaroopa",
"Allah", "Raam", "lotus heart", "lotus feet",
"inner", "outer", "Infinite", and so on, just
for the sake of communication or instruction as aids to instructing the unawakened,
not to raise notions of one and two (duality or Doojaa Bhaav).
But, as we are "ignorant" and lack "Understanding", we run off with
words or terminology; creating mess within our own bosom and in the world. It
is our mind's preoccupations that do not allow us see beyond limitation of words.
The results are in front of us!
If the Absolute Realty could be known by means of words, then there would
be no need for the annihilation of the divided mind — Haume, "I-ness",
egocentric consciousness, individual or unenlightened existence, unawakened
state etc.! As indicated in the Gurbani, our words cannot even describe the
state of a God-conscious person, let alone treatising the Lord!
- ਬ੍ਰਹਮ ਗਿਆਨੀ ਕਾ ਕਥਿਆ ਨ ਜਾਇ ਅਧਾਖ੍ਹਰੁ ॥:
Braham giaanee kaa kathiaa na jaai adhaakhyar: The God-conscious being cannot
be described in words (sggs 273).
- ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਨਸਾ ਤ੍ਰਿਬਿਧਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਮੋਨੀ ਥਕੇ ਚਉਥੇ ਪਦ ਕੀ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਪਾਵਣਿਆ ॥੫:
Tribidhi manasaa tribidhi maya. Parhi parhi pandit monee
thakke chaouthe pad kee saar na paavaniaa ||5||: The mind's desires (ਮਨੋ ਕਾਮਨਾ) are bound by the
three dispositions—the three qualities of Maya. Reading and reciting, the Pandits, and the men of silence (ਸਮਾਧੀਆਂ ਲਾਣ ਵਾਲੇ) have grown weary, but they have
not found the Essence of the Chaouthaa Pada - the Fourth State (ਆਤਮਕ ਅਵਸਥਾ, which is beyond Maya). ||5|| (sggs 117).
Man's language is limited for it is a conscious-mind language. To put it otherwise,
in the forms of words, language is the mind. Therefore, the perspective of language
is structured only to make the conscious mind ("I-ness") and its objective
experiences look like the real or permanent thing. As a matter of fact, this
is how we are taught from the very childhood that the mind and the entire world
is real, and anything other than this real mind should be doubted. But the truth
is to the contrary. That is to say, our conscious mind is nothing but a bundle
of thoughts, and the manifestation of thoughts are words. Since the conscious
mind is nonentity (the false or impermanent knowledge of "I-ness"),
its manifestations such as words or languages are limited, mere symbols and
patterns related by habits to repeated experiences of the five senses. This
habit with time gets so strong that we dare deny the truth that the limited
language of the conditioned mind cannot verbalize the Absolute Reality — Unmanifested
cannot be represented by the manifested for the words are limited and the other
- ਜਹਾ ਬੋਲ ਤਹ ਅਛਰ ਆਵਾ ॥: Jahaa bol tah
ashar aavaa: Wherever there is speech, there are letters (sggs 340).
- ਤੋਲ ਅਤੋਲ ਨ ਤੋਲੀਐ ਤੁਲ ਨ ਤੁਲਾ ਧਾਰ ਤੋਲਾਯਾ ॥ ਲੇਖ ਅਲੇਖ ਨ ਲਿਖੀਐ ਅੰਗ ਨ ਅਖਰ ਲੇਖ ਲਖਾਯਾ ॥: Tol atol na toleeai tul na tulaa
dhaar tolaayaa. Lekh alekh na likheeai ang na akhar lekh lakhaayaa: God's
extension can in no way be measured. By no account it can be understood because
all numerals and letters come to an end for this (Vaars Bhai Gurdaas 16).
- ਅਲੇਖ ਹੈਂ ॥: Alekh hain: God is indescribable
(Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Jaap Sahib 30).
Simply put, that which can be verbalized is not Real. Only an object limited
in space and time can be described. Words are mere pretexts. Words, descriptions,
expressions, opinions, verbalization, etc., refer to the state of the outer
mind (Maya...), not to the Absolute Reality. Also, that which is applicable to one person
only cannot be Real; for the Reality is eternal and All-encompassing. But the
Timelessness Reality being beyond the reach of words — beyond
the rule of the physical senses and the mind — is inconceivable and cannot be
harnessed to purpose.
- ਕੇਤਾ ਆਖਣੁ ਆਖੀਐ ਆਖਣਿ ਤੋਟਿ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Kataa aakhan aakheeai aakhan toti na hoi: How can we describe
Him with words? There is no end to the descriptions of Him (sggs 18).
- ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੀ ਅਗਮ ਅਗਾਧਿ ਕਥਾ ॥ ਸੁਨੀਐ ਅਵਰ ਅਵਰ ਬਿਧਿ ਬੁਝੀਐ ਬਕਨ ਕਥਨ ਰਹਤਾ ॥: Parabh kee agam agaadh kathaa. Suneeai avar avar
bidh bujheeai bakan kathan rahtaa: God's sermon is profound and unfathomable.
It is heard to be one thing, but it is understood to be something else; because
it is beyond mundane description and explanation (sggs 498).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਕਾਗਦ ਲਖ ਮਣਾ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਕੀਚੈ ਭਾਉ ॥ ਮਸੂ ਤੋਟਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਲੇਖਣਿ ਪਉਣੁ ਚਲਾਉ ॥ ਭੀ ਤੇਰੀ ਕੀਮਤਿ ਨਾ ਪਵੈ ਹਉ ਕੇਵਡੁ ਆਖਾ ਨਾਉ ॥:
Nanak Kaagad lakh manaa parri parri keechai bhaaou...: O Nanak, if I had hundreds
of thousands of stacks of paper, and if I were to read and recite and embrace
love for God, and if ink were never to fail me, and if my pen were able to
move like the wind, even so, I could not estimate Your Value. How can I describe
the Greatness of Your Name? (sggs 14).
- ਦੇਵ ਭੇਵ ਨ ਜਾਨਈ ਜਿਹ ਬੇਦ ਅਉਰ ਕਤੇਬ ॥:
Dev bhev na jaanayee jih Beda or Kateb: The mystery of God is unknown to any
Deva (demigod) and it is also indescribable by any scripture (Guru Gobind Singh Jee, Jaap Sahib 82).
- ਐਸੋ ਬੇਢੀ ਬਰਨਿ ਨ ਸਾਕਉ ਸਭ ਅੰਤਰ ਸਭ ਠਾਂਈ ਹੋ ॥ ਗੂੰਗੈ ਮਹਾ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਰਸੁ ਚਾਖਿਆ ਪੂਛੇ ਕਹਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਹੋ ॥੩॥: Eso bedhee barani na saako sabh antar sabh thaaee he.
Goongai mahaa amrit ras chaakhiaa pooshe kahan na jaaee he ||3||: I cannot
describe such a Carpenter (God), who is in everything, everywhere. (If) a mute
tastes the most sweet thing (ਸੁਆਦਲਾ ਪਦਾਰਥ), but if you ask him to describe it,
he cannot (similarly, I cannot
describe the Divine Carpenter) ||3|| (sggs 657).
Therefore, since all world scriptures are revealed and recorded in human language,
it is imperative to understand its limitation. Spiritual Beings have discovered
and revealed to us that the words of human language can be employed only in
expressing four types of meaning; beyond these, man's words are just helpless
sounds. Specifically, the words can only describe the substance (Padaarath
or Vastu), the properties (Gunas), the activities (Kriya),
and the relationships that exist among the finite objects of the world (Sambandh).
These fourfold capacities of the words together constitute the entire world
of finite objects, beyond which human language cannot express anything at all.
However, the Absolute Conscious Principle being without Gunas, Kriya,
and Sambandh is not a finite Padaarath.
- ਬਾਵਨ ਅਛਰ ਲੋਕ ਤ੍ਰੈ ਸਭੁ ਕਛੁ ਇਨ ਹੀ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਏ ਅਖਰ ਖਿਰਿ ਜਾਹਿਗੇ ਓਇ ਅਖਰ ਇਨ ਮਹਿ ਨਾਹਿ ॥: Baavan ashhar lok trai sabh kashu
in hee maahi. Ae akhar khir jaahigae oue akhar in mahi naahi: Through these
fifty-two letters, the entire world and all things are described. (But) these letters will perish (ਨਾਸਵੰਤ); and That Unperishable (the One, Aatma...) is not in these letters (sggs 340).
Consequently, owing to its finitude, human language is available and capable
only for expressing man's experiences in the finite field. The theme of the
scriptures, however, is the Transcendental Truth, which is Eternal and Absolute.
Therefore, the Absolute Truth the scriptures or the Masters try to impart to
us cannot be fully expressed by gross finite words of any language in the world.
Beyond the purview of our unawakened state, it lies outside the perception of
the gross equipment of our body-mind-intellect. Thus, the language, words or
phrases of any sorts can never hope to express, define or report upon the Formless
- ਗਣਤ ਗਣਾਵੈ ਅਖਰੀ ਅਗਣਤੁ ਸਾਚਾ ਸੋਇ ॥
ਅਗਿਆਨੀ ਮਤਿਹੀਣੁ ਹੈ ਗੁਰ ਬਿਨੁ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥: Ganat
ganaavai akharee aganat saachaa soi...: Using a limited number of words, we describe
the Unlimited Truth (Parameshar...)! The ignorant one is without Understanding (ਅਕਲ ਹੀਣ...). Without the Gur-Giaan (Divine Knowledge, Aatam Giaan...), Divine Understanding cannot happen (ਕਿ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ ਅਗਣਤ ਹੈ - that the Lord is Unlimited, beyond words or description or counting, etc.). (sggs 934).
- ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕਵਣ ਕਹਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Kudrati kavan
kahaa veechaar: What capacity have I to describe Thee? (sggs 3).
- ਕਹਣਾ ਹੈ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਹਣੁ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kahnaa hai
kish kahan na jaae: (People) describe
God, but (He) cannot be described at all (sggs 151).
To look at it from an another angle, the worldly truth is based on relativity.
However, the Absolute Truth is self-existence.
But due to our body-consciousness, the majority of us can only appreciate relative
knowledge. On account of our relativist consciousness, the mind's all thinking
is in plurality (Doojaa Bhaav). Therefore, all thoughts, words, notions,
concepts, precepts, ideas, abstractions, etc., are limited in the framework
of time and space, hence unreal (transient). However, the Pure Awareness being
Unlimited, Formless, Undivided, without beginning and end is Unthinkable; therefore,
beyond all mundane thinking or experience of the physical senses. Baabaa Nanak
puts it as follows:
- ਜੇ ਹਉ ਜਾਣਾ ਆਖਾ ਨਾਹੀ ਕਹਣਾ ਕਥਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥:
Je haou jaanaa aakhaa naahee kahanaa kathan na jaaee: Even knowing God, I
cannot describe Him; He cannot be described in words (sggs 2).
- ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਹੈ ਕਰੈ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਰਤੇ ਕੈ ਕਰਣੈ ਨਾਹੀ ਸੁਮਾਰੁ ॥:
Je ko kahai karai veechaar. Karate kai karanai naahee sumaar: No matter how
much anyone tries to say and ponder, God's expanse is unlimited and cannot
be enumerated (sggs 3).
- ਲੇਖਾ ਹੋਇ ਤ ਲਿਖੀਐ ਲੇਖੈ ਹੋਇ ਵਿਣਾਸੁ ॥:
Lekhaa hoi ta likheeai lekhai hoi vinaas: If you try to write an account of
this, you will surely finish yourself before you finish writing it (sggs 5).
Perhaps we can appreciate now as to how Absolute cannot be limited to the hollowness
of the gross finite words of any language in the world. But to change this impossibility
into possibility, the Spiritual Masters have employed the suggestiveness of
the word used and not because of the literal word meanings of the language employed!
What it means is that a language which is generally used to express the finite
experiences, is employed in the scriptures with a difference - it is reinforced
with suggestions. That is to say, in addition to direct literal meaning, every
word has an indirect pregnant suggestion, which helps go beyond the limitation
of the human language. This is why when any scripture is studied with a mere
dictionary meaning, our study dumps us in a morass of confusions, misunderstanding,
and chaos. In addition to employing suggestiveness, the Masters also invent
and use different methods including various analogies, similes, allegories,
metaphors, figurative and mystic representations etc., which are meant for most
of us who can only appreciate the relative knowledge.
- ਬਾਵਨ ਅਖਰ ਸੋਧਿ ਕੈ ਹਰਿ ਚਰਨੀ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇ ॥੧੭੩॥: Baavan akhar sodi kai hari charanee chitu laai ||173||: Searching the fifty-two letters of the alphabet (i.e., through the Spiritual Inquiry into what's written), focus your consciousness on Hari (Mool). ||173|| (sggs 1373).
- ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਤ ਸਮੁੰਦਹਿ ਮਸੁ ਕਰਉ ਕਲਮ ਕਰਉ ਬਨਰਾਇ ॥ ਬਸੁਧਾ ਕਾਗਦੁ ਜਉ ਕਰਉ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਲਿਖਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kabeer,
if I could change the seven seas into ink and make all the vegetation my
pen, and the earth my paper, even then, I could not write God's Praises
- ਦੇਹੀ ਕਾਚੀ ਕਾਗਦ ਮਿਕਦਾਰਾ ॥ ਬੂੰਦ ਪਵੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਢਹਤ ਨ ਲਾਗੈ ਬਾਰਾ ॥: The body is frail and perishable; the
paper is limited. When the drop of water falls upon it, the paper crumbles
and dissolves instantaneously (sggs 1048).
- ਕਾਗਦਿ ਕਲਮ ਨ ਲਿਖਣਹਾਰੁ ॥:
No paper, no pen, no scribe can record the state of the faithful (sggs 3).
- ਕੁਦਰਤਿ ਕਵਣ ਕਹਾ ਵੀਚਾਰੁ ॥: Kudrati kavan kahaa veechaar: How can (God's) Creative Potency be described? (sggs 3).
Accordingly, the Gurbani urges us not to run off with the
words or terminology. That is to say, we should not take everything stated
in the scriptures literally. If we do, it would be suicidal. Therefore, instead
of mechanical reading of the scriptures, over and over again, we must allow
the scriptures to read us and go through us! To put it otherwise, in addition
to listening and reading, one must realize intrinsic meaning to get to the
Spiritual essence of the scriptural words, without which one will end up further
polluting his head. What's needed is cool headedness, open mindedness, and
inner simplicity. But, on account of inner "garbage" of false ego
- lust, greed, selfishness etc. - such commonsense is not common
The state of higher awareness which the scriptures aspire us to attain is
beyond words - the state where one identifies with Inner Purity and Peace.
As stated in the Gurbani, there is no intuitive wisdom without realization
of one's real Self within. With the rise of Spiritual Wisdom sets the sun
of duality; then the mundane mind (thoughts-stuff) disappears leaving behind
the state of thoughtlessness ("Sunn Samaadhi") where there
is nothing left to be described by limited words of any language. To say it
otherwise, when false ego is desuprimeposed, no instinctive mind survives.
There one's speech expands without words!
- ਕਥਨੀ ਬਦਨੀ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਹਉਮੈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: Kathanee badanee na paaeeai houmai vichahu jaai: God
is not obtained by mouthing mere words, but by rooting out ego from within
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ॥: Antar
tatu giaan houmai maare: Subdue your ego, and find the essence of wisdom,
deep within your being (sggs 128).
Thus, the description of God-experience is not in words of any
language for it can only be experienced within by transcending all limitations.
One has to "Be" (Sahaj Avasthaa). In other words, to know the
Truth, one must pass through his own experience within by shifting attention
from the flowery words to Inner Essence and Purity. This is why it is repeatedly
emphasized in the Gurbani that the one who has Realized the True Nature of our
Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) cannot convey it to the other person like an empirical knowledge, or give
it to the other person like a gift. Because by speaking and describing, the
Absolute cannot be understood - only one who intuitively experiences Him
Realizes Him. Therefore, as indicated in the Gurbani, by becoming a true Spiritual
Being (Gurmukh), we must transcend limitations of the human languages
and realize the Spiritual meaning of the scriptural words.
- ਕਿਆ ਪੜੀਐ ਕਿਆ ਗੁਨੀਐ ॥ ਕਿਆ ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨਾਂ ਸੁਨੀਐ ॥ ਪੜੇ ਸੁਨੇ ਕਿਆ ਹੋਈ॥ਜਉ ਸਹਜ ਨ ਮਿਲਿਓ ਸੋਈ ॥: What use
is it to read, and what use is it to study? What use is it to listen to
the Vedas and Kateb (Bible, Quraan, etc.)? What use is reading and listening,
if naturally or spontaneously (Sahaj) the Self is not realized? (sggs 655).
- ਹਰਿ ਗੁਨ ਕਹਤੇ ਕਹਨੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਗੂੰਗੇ ਕੀ ਮਿਠਿਆਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Hari gun kahate kahan na jaaee. Jaise goonge kee
mithiaaee ||1|Rahaaou||: (The taste of) God's Glorious Praises cannot be spoken by speaking. It's like the sweet candies given to a mute (who cannot describe the taste of the candies) ||1||Pause|| (sggs 659).
- ਆਖਣੁ ਵੇਖਣੁ ਬੋਲਣਾ ਸਬਦੇ ਰਹਿਆ ਸਮਾਇ ॥:
Aakhan vekhan bolanaa sabade rahiaa samaai: In speaking, in seeing and in
words, remain immersed in the Shabad (sggs 35).
- ਜਿਨਿ ਰਾਮੁ ਜਾਨਿਆ ਤਿਨਹਿ ਪਛਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਗੂੰਗੇ ਸਾਕਰ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੧॥: Jini Raam jaaniaa tinahi pashaaniaa. Jiou Goonge
saakar mann maaniaa ||1||: Only one who knows God (within) realizes Him. (That person's mind
is satisfied and satiated, but he cannot descrobe his experience to others) like the mind of the mute feels satisfied and satiated after eating the sugar candy (but he cannot describe the taste of the candy to others) ||1|| (sggs 327).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਤਤੁ ਹੈ ਬੀਚਾਰਾ ॥: Gurmukh tatu
hai beechaaraa: The Gurmukhs contemplate the essence of reality (sggs 119).
- ਬੇਦ ਕਤੇਬ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸਭਿ ਸਾਸਤ ਇਨ੍ ਪੜਿਆ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਏਕੁ ਅਖਰੁ ਜੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਪੈ ਤਿਸ ਕੀ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਸੋਈ ॥: Bed kateb simirat sabh...: One may read all the books of
the Vedas and Kateb (Quraan, etc.), the Simritees and the Shaastras,
but they will not bring liberation. By bcoming the Gurmukh, who understans the One Imperishable Lord (ਅਬਿਨਾਸੀ ਪ੍ਰਭੂ), acquires a pure glory
(ਪਵਿਤ੍ਰ ਸੋਭਾ). (sggs 747).
- ਏਨਾ ਅਖਰਾ ਮਹਿ ਜੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਿਰਿ ਲੇਖੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥੨॥: Enaa akharaa mahi jo gurmukhi boojhai tisu siri lekhu n hoee ||2||: By becoming the Gurmukh, who understands (the Mool-ਮੂਲ, Aatm-Giaan...) through these letters, no accounting (of Bikaars...) is due from him. ||2|| (sggs 432).
— T. Singh
Tuesday, March 19, 2013 2:37 PM