ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਭਇਓ ਨ ਸੂਧਉ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਜਤਨੁ ਮੈ ਕੀਨਉ ॥:
Suaan poosh jiou bhayo na soodhaou bahutu jatanu mai keenaou:
Like the dog’s tail, which does not straighten out, (Similarly) dispite
many efforts on my part (this mind will not straighten out, change,
mend itself, and engage in Naam, Shabad...). (sggs 633).

When the Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly. However, with the help of analogies, similes, allegories, metaphors, figurative or mystic representations and illustrations, the Truth becomes relatively easier to grasp. Such methods have extensively been used in the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) with a definite purpose and intention. They should neither be taken literally, nor their significance should be stretched beyond the Gurbani's intention. The scriptures help to understand the real nature of the Self and this material world when they are studied diligently keeping the purpose and intention of their examples and statements in mind.

One of the examples used in the Gurbani is that of a dog's tail. The only purpose of such illustration is to drive the Divine Message into our heads. By using "dog's tail" as an example, the Gurbani helps us understand very important points such as:

  • The nature of this material world (Jagat)
  • The nature of man and his mind
  • Need for mending our ways

It is said that one can keep a dog's tail in a straight tube and hold it there for as long as the dog lives. But it will curl as soon as you take it out of the tube! At one or other time in our lives, most of us probably heard this expression either from our parents, school teachers, or others. This phenomenal world of names and forms is also liken to a dog's tail: its nature is to curl!

The man attached to this world (Maya) also behaves crooked like the tail of a dog. Due to Spiritual ignorance (illusion, mental delusion, false ego, wrong identity, etc.), we have become stubborn and fanatic. As such, we take unreal to be real, ephemeral to be eternal, falsehood to be Truth, material consciousness to be Spiritual Consciousness, and so on. Like a dog's tail, this conditioning of our Mayaic mind keeps us crooked and does not let us change or mend our ways and engage in Shabad-Vichaar, Naam (Aatam Giaant)...

  • ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਭਇਓ ਨ ਸੂਧਉ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਜਤਨੁ ਮੈ ਕੀਨਉ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਲਾਜ ਬਿਰਦ ਕੀ ਰਾਖਹੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਤੁਹਾਰਉ ਲੀਨਉ ॥੩॥੯॥: Suaan poosh jiou bhayo na soodhaou bahutu jatanu mai keenaou. Nanak laaj burad kee raakhahu naamu tuhaarou leenaou ||3||9||: Like the dog’s tail, which does not straighten out, (Similarly) dispite many efforts on my part (this mind will not straighten out, change, mend itself, and engage in Naam, Shabad...). O Nanak! (O Lord) uphold the honor of Your disciple (i.e., help me Lord, so that I may) utter Your Name (i.e., I may Understand the Giaan or Wisdom of the Gurbani...). ||3||9|| (sggs 633).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਭਏ ਕੂਕਰ ਕਾਮ ॥: Bin simran bheae kookar kaam: Without (Naam-) Simran, one becomes like a dog (sggs 239).
The Gurbani repeatedly indicates that: (1) the human form is the rarest of all; (2) it is very difficult to attain; (3) one is blessed with this human form after passing through countless cycles of death and birth; (4) Bhagti (Understaing the Gurmat-Aatam Giaan...) is possible only in this human form; and (5) the only purpose of this human form is to love the All-pervading Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) within and attain Spiritual Realization, "here" and "now".

In this world there are many living species. Among all these species of living beings, human beings are most fit to be instructed about the nature of the Truth (Mool...). However, even among the human beings, those who behave crooked like a dog's tail (obsessed with Maya and false ego: lust, greed, anger, bondage, pride, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, and so on) are unfit to be instructed into the nature of the Truth. As the Gurbani says, no matter how many things are tried, they will behave like a dog's tail, without mending or changing their ways.

  • ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਸੂਧੋ ਕਹਿਓ ਨ ਕਾਨ ਧਰੈ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਤ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਰੈ ॥੨॥੧॥: Suaan poosh jiyu hoi na soodho kahio na kaan dharai. Kahu Nanak bhaj Raam naam nit jaa te kaaj sarai ||2||1||: Like a dog’s tail, this (mind) cannot be straightened; it will not listen to what (anybody) says (any Advice, Instructions,Teaching, etc. - ਕਿਸੇ ਦੀ ਭੀ ਦਿੱਤੀ ਹੋਈ ਸਿੱਖਿਆ). Says Nanak, forever meditate on the Lord's Name and your affairs (the ultimate purpose life, etc.) will get resolved (i.e., ਨਾਮ ਦੀ ਬਰਕਤਿ ਨਾਲ ਤੇਰਾ ਜਨਮ-ਮਨੋਰਥ ਹੱਲ ਹੋ ਜਾਏ) ||2||1|| (sggs 536).
  • ਮਾਣਸ ਮੂਰਤਿ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਨਾਮੁ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੁਤਾ ਦਰਿ ਫੁਰਮਾਨੁ ॥: Maanas moorati Nanak naam. Karanee kuttaa dari phurmaan: O Nanak, man looks human beings in form and name only; but in his deeds or conduct he behaves like a dog - who sits at (his master's) door and follows his commands for food only (sggs 350).
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਮਨ ਅੰਧੇ ਕੁਤੇ ਕੂੜਿਆਰ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਬੋਲੇ ਬੂਝੀਐ ਸਚਿਆਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Suni man andhe kute koorriaar. Binu bole bujheeai sachiaar. ||1||Rahaaou||: Listen, O mind, you blind (i.e., ignorant...), false (i.e., ਝੂਠਾ...) dog (i.e., greedy...)! (A truthful person-ਸੱਚਾ ਮਨੁੱਖ) is known or recgnized without him (even) speaking. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 662).
Man's mind occupied with the diverse affairs in this world (Mayaic efforts) in pursuit of sensual pleasure and corrupt power do not desire to know the Absolute Truth. Obviously, such unwise (the Manmukh) do not see the world the way Gurbani does. Those who are Spiritually Wise (the Gurmukh) understand the nature of this world and the Soul. Hence, they can see the Truth and illusion of this Sansaar (the place of repeated birth and death). To put it in other words, the Manmukh is likened to a dog's tail who will never change himself, and a Gurmukh is he who has straightened himself out by applying God's Teaching (Gurmat or Shabad-Giaan).

One who behaves like a dog's tail is naturally immersed in Bikaars (Haume or ego's faults: lust anger greed, attachment, and pride; and their countless variations like slander, enviousness, stubborn mindedness, etc.), empty rituals, unmeaning rites, slander, outwardly superficial show of religion and Spirituality, and so on. Why? Because his mind is preoccupied with wrong identity or false concepts; for he has taken the Self as the physical body. As a consequent of this, he has taken the sense pleasures as the source of real happiness. Furthermore, he has taken the material wealth as the source of real security in life.

  • ਸਾਕਤ ਸੁਆਨ ਕਹੀਅਹਿ ਬਹੁ ਲੋਭੀ ਬਹੁ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਆਪਨ ਸੁਆਇ ਕਰਹਿ ਬਹੁ ਬਾਤਾ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਵਿਸਾਹੁ ਕਿਆ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੬॥: Saakat suaan kaheeahi bahu lobhee bahu durmati mail bhareejai. aapan suaae karehi bahu baathaa thinaa kaa visaahu kiaa keejai ||6||: The Saakat (Manmukh, one separated from his Mool...) is said to be very greedy - he is like a dog. He overflows with the wicked intellect. He talks excessively about his own interests; but he cannot be trusted. ||6|| (sggs 1326).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਵਿਗੁਤਾ ॥ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਲੋਭੁ ਭਉਕੈ ਜਿਸੁ ਕੁਤਾ ॥ ਜਮਕਾਲੁ ਤਿਸੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਛੋਡੈ ਅੰਤਿ ਗਇਆ ਪਛੁਤਾਈ ਹੇ ॥੮॥: Manmukh nindaa kar kar vigutaa || Antar lobh bhoukai jis kuttaa || Jamakaal tis kade n shodai ant gaiaa pashutaaee hae ||8||: The self-willed manmukh indulges in slander, and is ruined. The dog of greed barks within him. The Messenger of Death never leaves him (i.e., the fear of death), and in the end, he leaves, regretting and repenting. ||8|| (sggs 1046).

The reason we most of us behave like a dog's tail is Maya, the cosmic illusion. The nature of this Maya is disequilibrium. The deluded mind is the hub around which this vicious wheel of Maya revolves with a tremendous force. As such, it leads the unwary mind into endless difficulties. Now the question is: can this wheel be stopped? If it can be stopped, then how can we go about doing it? The Gurbani reminds us we are capable of stopping this wheel of illusion, "here" and "now".

To the unwise, the Divine knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) is burden. If we want to straighten ourselves out, then we need to mend our ways. We need to change our crooked habits and tendencies. We need to engage in Shabad-Vichaar (Reflecting on the Gurbani) with keen earnestness, faith, sincerity, and willingness. We need to maintain Company of the Sat (Truth) within and without. In turn, the Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan) will strike our crookedness (dog's tail) and drive it out.

  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਬਦੈ ਹਉਮੈ ਕਿਨਿ ਮਾਰੀ ॥: Bin Shabdai hayumai kin maaree: Without the Shabad, no one can kill (still, annihilate...) his ego (sggs 1046).
  • ਬਿਮਲ ਮਝਾਰਿ ਬਸਸਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜਲ ਪਦਮਨਿ ਜਾਵਲ ਰੇ ॥ ਪਦਮਨਿ ਜਾਵਲ ਜਲ ਰਸ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਸੰਗਿ ਦੋਖ ਨਹੀ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਦਾਦਰ ਤੂ ਕਬਹਿ ਨ ਜਾਨਸਿ ਰੇ ॥ ਭਖਸਿ ਸਿਬਾਲੁ ਬਸਸਿ ਨਿਰਮਲ ਜਲ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਨ ਲਖਸਿ ਰੇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਬਸੁ ਜਲ ਨਿਤ ਨ ਵਸਤ ਅਲੀਅਲ ਮੇਰ ਚਚਾ ਗੁਨ ਰੇ ॥ ਚੰਦ ਕੁਮੁਦਨੀ ਦੂਰਹੁ ਨਿਵਸਸਿ ਅਨਭਉ ਕਾਰਨਿ ਰੇ ॥੨॥ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਖੰਡੁ ਦੂਧਿ ਮਧੁ ਸੰਚਸਿ ਤੂ ਬਨ ਚਾਤੁਰ ਰੇ ॥ ਅਪਨਾ ਆਪੁ ਤੂ ਕਬਹੁ ਨ ਛੋਡਸਿ ਪਿਸਨ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ਜਿਉ ਰੇ ॥੩॥ ਪੰਡਿਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਵਸਹਿ ਜਨ ਮੂਰਖ ਆਗਮ ਸਾਸ ਸੁਨੇ ॥ ਅਪਨਾ ਆਪੁ ਤੂ ਕਬਹੁ ਨ ਛੋਡਸਿ ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛਿ ਜਿਉ ਰੇ ॥੪॥ ਇਕਿ ਪਾਖੰਡੀ ਨਾਮਿ ਨ ਰਾਚਹਿ ਇਕਿ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਚਰਣੀ ਰੇ ॥ ਪੂਰਬਿ ਲਿਖਿਆ ਪਾਵਸਿ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਿ ਰੇ ॥੫॥੪॥: In a pond's (Sarovar, etc.) clean water, both the lotus and the slimy scum (pellicle like stuff that grows in the water) are found. (Although) the lotus flower lives with the slimy scum and the water, but, in their association, it remains untouched (i.e., ਉਸ ਨੂੰ ਕੋਈ ਦਾਗ਼ ਨਹੀਂ ਲੱਗਦਾ). ||1|| O frog (-mind)! You can never understand. (O fog like mind!) While you dwell in the clean water (pure spiritual knowledge or Amrit-Giaan), but you do not appreciate it. (Instead) you eat the slimy scum (of Bikaar in that clean water of the Amrit-Giaan). ||1||Pause||... (sggs 990).
In nutshell, this vicious wheel of Maya can be brought to standstill by intense and keen self-effort (Shabad-Vichaar). With such endeavor, the mind becomes Pure or Peaceful. When the mind is stilled (egoless), the Maya's wheel ceases: the dog's tail becomes straight, never to curl again!

— T. Singh