SON BORN BEFORE HIS MOTHER

ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੂਤੁ ਪਿਛੈਰੀ ਮਾਈ ॥
First, the son was born,
and then, his mother ...(sggs 481).
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How can a child be born first, and then his or her mother? Seems not only illogical, but also unnatural. The Gurbani does not indicate to give backing to unnatural birth. Then what is it the Gurbani is talking about here? The majority of us conduct ourselves through broken or conditioned consciousness that is no more Intact ( i.e., consciousness that is no more Total, Original, Holistic or "Saabat"). In the aforementioned Shabad — which is impregnated with spiritual suggestions — Baabaa Kabeer Sahib talks about many other "strange" things. He draws our attention to them and also challenges us to understand their purport. Following is the full text of this Shabad, first with just word-meaning in English (which is not its real gist), followed by an attempt to understand its purport.

  • ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੂਤੁ ਪਿਛੈਰੀ ਮਾਈ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਚੇਲੇ ਕੀ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਏਕੁ ਅਚੰਭਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਸਿੰਘੁ ਚਰਾਵਤ ਗਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਲ ਕੀ ਮਛੁਲੀ ਤਰਵਰਿ ਬਿਆਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਕੁਤਰਾ ਲੈ ਗਈ ਬਿਲਾਈ ॥੨॥ ਤਲੈ ਰੇ ਬੈਸਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੂਲਾ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਪੇਡਿ ਲਗੇ ਫਲ ਫੂਲਾ ॥੩॥ ਘੋਰੈ ਚਰਿ ਭੈਸ ਚਰਾਵਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਬੈਲੁ ਗੋਨਿ ਘਰਿ ਆਈ ॥੪॥ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਜੁ ਇਸ ਪਦ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਮਤ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ॥੫॥੯॥੨੨॥: Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee. Gur laago chele kee paaee. ||1|| Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee. Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee ||1|| Rahaaou || Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee ||2||. Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa. Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa ||3||. Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee. Baahar bail gon ghar aaee ||4||. Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai. Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai ||5||9||22||: First, the son was born, and then, his mother. The guru falls at the feet of the disciple ||1|| Listen to this strange thing, O Siblings of Destiny! I saw the lion herding the cows. ||1||Pause|| The fish of the water gives birth upon a tree. I saw a cat carrying away a dog ||2||. The branches are below, and the roots are above. The trunk of that tree bears fruits and flowers ||3||. Riding a horse, the buffalo takes him out to graze. The bull is away, while his load (cart) has come home ||4||. Says Kabeer, one who understands this hymn, and chants the Lord's Name, comes to understand everything ||5||9||22|| (sggs 481).

ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੂਤੁ ਪਿਛੈਰੀ ਮਾਈ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਚੇਲੇ ਕੀ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥: Pahilaa poot pishairee maaee. Gur laago chele kee paaee. ||1||: First, the son was born, and then, his mother. The guru falls at the feet of the disciple. ||1|| >>>>> Initially, the individual being (Jeeva) was pure ("Poot", Aatamaa...) — Intact, Total or Holistic Consciousness ("Saabat Soorat"). But later, due to the lure of his senses, he becomes illusioned, divided, and the "puppet" of Maya ("Maaee"; i.e.e, he makes Durmat, Mayaic consciousness, etc. his mother). Maya essentially is the corruption of one's conditioned consciousness (Haume or false ego-sense). Thus, the Jeeva being essentially part-and-parcel of the Lord and full of infinite knowledge and divine heritage ("Gur" - Chit, Mool...), surrenders himself to the ego-mind ("Chele"), and thus has become the disciple of his deluded consciousness (ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਆਵਾਜ ਮੰਨ ਪਿਛੇ ਲਗ ਗਈ...). In fact the state of "purity" (Undivided Consciousness) is none other than our True Nature ("Joti-Svaroopa") we all were born with as infants. We are That Truth-Awareness-Bliss. This state of Ultimate Truth was not only born with us, but It never left us! This leads to the following question: If It never left us then how did we lose track of It? Our false ego-sense (Haume) has intervened. That's all! This false ego-sense is nothing but disturbance on the surface of the Infinite Pool of the Undivided or Intact Consciousness (Saabat); resulting in relativist consciousness or subject-object relationship (Maya's dualistic principle) where the world of differences, names, shapes, cause, effect, time and space is seen. Simply put: our mind becomes impure when it takes in false ego or the sense of worldly objects, otherwise it's the Pure Nature ("Joti-Svaroopa"). The Gurbani wants us to know this "Mool" of ours.

  • ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੫॥: Iou kahai Nanaku man toon joti saroopu hai apanaa moolu pashaanu ||5||: Thus says Nanak - O mind! Your "Saroop" (your own, True State) is "Joti" (Divine Light)! Recognize your Mool (Source, Origin, Reality...) ||5|| (sggs 441).
  • ਨਾਪਾਕ ਪਾਕੁ ਕਰਿ ਹਦੂਰਿ ਹਦੀਸਾ ਸਾਬਤ ਸੂਰਤਿ ਦਸਤਾਰ ਸਿਰਾ ॥: Naapaak paak kari hudoori hudeesaa saabat soorat dastaar siraa: Purify what is impure, and let the Lord's Presence be your religious tradition. Let your Intact Consciousness ("Saabat Soorat") be the turban on your head (sggs 1084).
  • ਸਾਬਤੁ ਰਖਹਿ ਤ ਰਾਮ ਭਜੁ ਨਾਹਿ ਤ ਬਿਨਠੀ ਬਾਤ ॥: Saabat rakhahi taa raam bhaj naahi taa binathee baat: If you wish to keep your Consciousness Intact, then meditate on God; otherwise, It will break (sggs 1376).
  • ਏਹ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਿਤੁ ਹਰਿ ਵਿਸਰੈ ਮੋਹੁ ਉਪਜੈ ਭਾਉ ਦੂਜਾ ਲਾਇਆ ॥: Eh Maya jit Har visrai moh upjai bhaau dooja laya: This is Maya, by which the Lord is forgotten; emotional attachment and love of duality is born (sggs 921).
  • ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੁਤਲਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਦੁਸਟੀ ਪਾਈ ॥: Ihu sareer Maya kaa putalaa vich houmai dusattee paaee: This body is the puppet of Maya. The evil of egoism is within it (sggs 31).

ਏਕੁ ਅਚੰਭਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਸਿੰਘੁ ਚਰਾਵਤ ਗਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee. Dekhat singh charaavat gaaee ||1|| Rahaaou || : First, the son was born, and then, his mother. The guru falls at the feet of the disciple. ||1|| Listen to this strange thing, O Siblings of Destiny! I saw the lion herding the cows. ||1||Pause|| >>>>> The mind in its True Nature is the fearless Pure Self ("lion" - Gur, Mool... ). But due to its forgetfulness of its mighty godly status, it is engaged in gratifying the defiled senses instead (ਮਨੋ-ਕਾਮਨਾਵਾਂ, ). This is like "the lion herding the cows"!

ਜਲ ਕੀ ਮਛੁਲੀ ਤਰਵਰਿ ਬਿਆਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਕੁਤਰਾ ਲੈ ਗਈ ਬਿਲਾਈ ॥੨॥: Jal kee mashulee taravar biaaee.Dekhath kutaraa lai gee bilaaee ||2||: The fish of the water gives birth upon a tree. I saw a cat carrying away a dog ||2||>>>>> Water is the support of the fish. It cannot survive without it. The Fish of Aatmaa whose support was the water of Naam ("Raam Udak", Hukam, Shabad, Aatam Giaan, Divine Knowledge...) has settled on the tree of physical body (i.e, following the Mayaic mind, Aatmaa is busy pampering the body...). But his Manmat ("cat" - ਮਨਮਤ, self-will, baser desires, fears...) have captured his contented nature (dog - "Kutaraa" - is known for its contented nature).

  • ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹਰਿ ਭਜੁ ਮਨਾ ਜਿਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਜਲ ਕਉ ਮੀਨੁ ॥: Kahu Nanak har bhaj manaa jih bidh jal kou meen: Says Nanak, meditate upon the Lord; immerse your mind in Him, like the fish in the water (sggs 1426).
  • ਮਨਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਈਐ ਤਾ ਪਾਏ ਮੋਖ ਦੁਆਰੁ ॥: Man niramal naam dhiaaeeai taa paae mokh duaaru: Meditating on the Divine Name with a pure mind, the Door of Liberation is found (sggs 33).

ਤਲੈ ਰੇ ਬੈਸਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੂਲਾ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਪੇਡਿ ਲਗੇ ਫਲ ਫੂਲਾ ॥੩॥: Talai re baisaa oopar soolaa. Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa ||3|: The branches are below, and the roots are above. The trunk of that tree bears fruits and flowers ||3||>>>>The picture of the inverted tree painted in words and unveiled in the stanza here serves as a beautiful allegory of the spiritual concept of Maya, egocentric life (Jeeva's enlightened existence), or Sansaar (material world: the place of repeated birth and death). Kabeer Sahib describes the nature of the material existence by a figurative representation of this Tree in order to produce wisdom and dispassion in us, so that we may uproot this illusory Tree along with our bondage to it. This Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life has its roots up means it has sprung forth from the Highest Divine Consciousness (Hukam...). This Highest Consciousness is One-in-All and All-in-One. Thus, this One Infinite alone illumines and enlivens the body-mind-intellect apparatus by which it experiences its world of perception-emotion-thought. Naturally, therefore, the world of phenomenal existence is allegorically pictured in this stanza as the tree having it roots up - arising from and sustained by the Highest Reality, Waheguru. If we stand on the bank of a river, we can see the trees on the bank reflected upon the water with their roots up and the branches down. Similarly, the inverted Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life mentioned in the stanza is only a reflection of the real Tree of the Divine Reality. Maya's deception makes this illusion possible. This reflected Tree-of-Sansaar-or-life is situated on desires and fears (Vaasnaas etc.), just as a tree's reflection in the river is situated on water. In short, this verse of the stanza compares the manifold universe and the egocentric life to the reflected Tree with its roots above and the branches below signifying this world of bondage - subjection of the egocentric life to pleasure and pain or likes and dislikes (duality or Doojaa Bhaav) - which is the field for man's actions.

  • ਝੂਠਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ਕਿਨਿ ਸਮਝਾਈਐ ॥: Jhoothaa ihu sansaar kin samjhaaeeai: This world is false, but only a few understand this (sggs 147).

ਘੋਰੈ ਚਰਿ ਭੈਸ ਚਰਾਵਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਬੈਲੁ ਗੋਨਿ ਘਰਿ ਆਈ ॥੪॥: Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee. Baahar bail gon ghar aaee ||4||: Riding a horse, the buffalo takes him out to graze. The bull is away, while his load (cart) has come home ||4||>>>> Man's desires and fears are the "buffalo". His deluded mind soaked with desires and fears is the "horse". Manmat ("buffalo" - ਮਨਮਤ, self-will, baser desires, fears...) ride on the negative and defiled mind ("horse", or the body of defiled senses...), making the mind wander wildly in egoity in all directions. Bull is known for his patience (Dheeraj). Because of man's slavery to sense-pleasures or evil passions, his patience ("bull") has left him, instead, leeches like worldly cravings have found home in him ("gon ghar aaee"). To say it otherwise: the "bull" of the mind wander around, while he has left the bag ("Gon") home, in which he was supposed to collect the Naam.

Thus, the man has accepted the false, miraze-like world-appearance (Maya) as Reality and driven the Truth out of his life. Why is so much emphasis given to control of desires in spiritual life? Because desire for worldly objects is man's worst enemy. Desire is the sign of an agitated or defiled mind, which is still caught in the throes of materialistic pursuits. Sensory pursuits distract the spiritual seeker from his quest; and becomes the cause for his worldly bondage, and his repeated suffering. Thus, sprouting of desire in a person's mind is indicative of sense-slavery of his conditioned consciousness. A man of Wisdom, on the other hand, is blissful because he is poised in the Pure Self and hence his happiness is unconditional, which constitutes total freedom. The Divine Name is indicated in the Gurbani to be an antidote to ills of man's mind. The pyre burns a dead body, but the Gurbani says that desire burns an alive body!

  • ਅਗਿਆਨੁ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਇਸੁ ਤਨਹਿ ਜਲਾਏ ॥: Agiaan trisanaa is tanahi jalaaye: Spiritual ignorance and desire burn this human body (sggs 1067).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪੰਚ ਅਗਨਿ ਕਿਉ ਧੀਰਜੁ ਧੀਜੈ ॥: antari panch agani kio dhheeraju dheejai: The five fires (i.e., evil passions: lust, anger, greed, etc., and their countless variations) burns within; how can patience (composure, solace, tranquility, ਮਨ ਦਾ ਟਿਕਾਉ...) be held (kept or sustained in the mind so lond these fires of Bikaar are burning within)? (sggs 905).
  • ਮਾਤਾ ਭੈਸਾ ਅੰਮੁਹਾ ਜਾਇ ॥: Maataa bhaisaa anmuhaa jaae: The bull (of the deluded mind) is intoxicated, and runs around wildly (sggs 326).

ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਜੁ ਇਸ ਪਦ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਮਤ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ॥੫॥੯॥੨੨॥: Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai. Raam ramat tis sabh kish soojhai ||5||9||22||: Says Kabeer, one who understands this hymn, and chants the Lord's Name, comes to understand everything ||5||9||22||>>>>Here Kabeer Sahib says that whosoever comprehends the purport of this hymn, and by dwelling in the Naam, he attains holistic understanding or awareness of life and the physical body (freeing himself from bondage, he realizes his Mool within).

The Gurbani puts tremendous emphasis on proper understanding. Of course the practice of understanding begins at home — we must know where we are in consciousness all the times. It deepens or unfolds within with Shabad-Vichaar. Lack of mature understanding of life or physical body makes us live in anger and frustration, thus not progressing in spiritual life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle). Many a time, our understanding of the life's or physical body's purpose matters is shallow, but our reactions are emotionally strong. This leads to a lot of conflict within and without. Control (of the body-mind-intellect apparatus) is at its best when we change through proper understanding and not through reactions, fear or anger. Just as all counting has to begin with the number one, right understanding of life has to start with the Now, not some other time or place. Here we are told by the Gurbani about the need to conduct ourselves in life with much care and understanding. Time and again we will meet with delicate situations, which test our equanimity (balance of the head), alertness, and concentration. With proper understanding born of concentration, attention and alertness, desires and fears do not take root in the mind.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਸਭ ਭਏ ॥: Bin boojhe mithiaa sabh bhaye: Without understanding, all are false (sggs 269).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਤਨੁ ਮਨੁ ਫੀਕਾ ਹੋਇ ॥: Bin boojhe tanu manu feekaa hoi: Without understanding, the body and mind become tasteless and insipid (sggs 158).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੂਝੇ ਕੈਸੇ ਪਾਵਹਿ ਪਾਰੁ ॥: Bin boojhae kaisae paavehi paar: But without understanding, how can they cross over to the other side? (sggs 84).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਬੂਝੈ ਆਪੁ ਪਛਾਣੈ ਸਚੇ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਏ ॥: Gurmukh boojhai aap pashaanai sache sach samaaye: As Gurmukh, I have come to understand and realize the Self; I have merged in the Truest of the True (sggs 938).
  • ਗਿਆਨ ਰਤਨਿ ਸਭ ਸੋਝੀ ਹੋਇ ॥: Giaan ratan sabh sojhee hoi: With the jewel of spiritual wisdom, total understanding is obtained (sggs 364).
  • ਅੰਤਰਿ ਤਤੁ ਗਿਆਨਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਮਾਰੇ ॥ (sggs 128).

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org