ਚੰਦਨ - CHANDAN - SANDALWOOD

Associating with the sandalwood tree, the tree nearby is changed;
that tree begins to smell just like the sandalwood tree. Coming into
contact with the philosophers’ stone, copper is transformed;
that
copper is transformed into gold. In the Company of Sant,
Kabeer is transformed;
that Kabeer is transformed into Raam (sggs 1158).
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The Spiritually Wise (Giaanee, the Gurmukh) assert that simple faith can be broken, but if it is strengthened by real Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ), then it can never be shaken or lost. In order to build up our faith per the Divine Teachings of the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS), practical and intriguing examples have been used throughout the Gurbani. In the ultimate issue these Tteachings are common sense and self apparent to the Spiritually Wise (Gurmukhs or divine beings). However, it's not so in the case of the unthoughtful person (Manmukh: material or demoniac being). And the principles behind the examples and stories do seem to soak in; resulting in strengthening of our Understanding upon which we can build an unshakable faith.

The example of Chandan (sandalwood) has been repeatedly used in the Gurbani. Perhaps many know that, ordinarily, sandalwood has very nice fragrance. This fragrant nature of the sandalwood is symbolic of the of the Mool ("Joti-Svaroopa"), which is within the body as the Infinite Bliss (Anand). As the fragrance is within the sandalwood, similarly, the Supreme Being is the Inner Essence of all, animate and inanimate.

It may not be known to many that the same sandalwood can also emit a very obnoxious odor when left submerged in water! This is symbolic of man's submergence in the worldliness (maya). This Gurbani Reflection will attempt to reflect at it's both aspects as well as their significance.

Sandalwood - Fragrance

The value of sandalwood lies in its lovely fragrance. This aspect of the sandalwood represents the Divine Virtues found in godly people (the Gurmukhs). The smell of sandalwood is so sublime that its fragrance spreads out far and wide. As a result, the lowly trees growing near the sandalwood tree also become fragrant. Thus, whatever comes into contact with the sandalwood is uplifted. For example, when the soothing fragrance emanating from the sandalwood tree attaches to the other ordinary trees of the forest, they also begin to smell just as the sandalwood. In addition to sandalwood's aroma, it's also considered an Ayurvedic medicinal herb.

The Gurbani compares the Nature as well as the Association of Sat (Truth) with that of the sandalwood. As indicated in the Gurbani, by remaining in the Company of Sat (Truth) within (Mool) and without (the Gurmukhs), a lowly conditioned being is transformed into Divine Consciousness! The function of an ax is to cut and destroy. However, the blade of an ax that cuts the Sandalwood also becomes fragrant! Similarly, if someone hurts or inflicts miseries unto godly beings (the Gurmukhs), they show compassion and love toward that person (i.e., they don't change their Nature) just as the sandalwood imparts fragrance to the ax that cuts it! It is said that the sandalwood trees remain encircled by the poisonous snakes! However, the sandalwood does not change its nature —  it does not become poisonous like the sankes. To the contrary, it accommodates and tolerates the poison and remains fragrant at the same time! The Divine Name (Aatam Giaan, Divine Knowledge...) is likened to the sandalwood. As the sandalwood is cooling and soothing, so is the Divine Name. The Gurbani asks us for becoming scented with the perfume of this Name. Its fragrance spreads gloriously far and wide. Whosoever sit close to those imbued in It also get uplifted; just as the bitter Nimm tree growing near the sandalwood tree becomes permeated with the fragrance of the sandalwood. Mental delusion is caused by egotistical pride. Manmukhs (material beings...) think that they control the material nature and thus feel puffed up in self-conceit. As a result, such conditioned beings commit mistakes and get in trouble. The first requirement for surrendering unto the Mool within (Source...) is that one should be free from pride and other Bikaar. Therefore, one with egotistical pride cannot even begin devotion (Bhagti: cultivation of Gurmat-Aatam Giaan); let alone Mool-realization! A person diseased by the false pride is compared with the bamboo tree. To the contrary, God's humble beings (the Gurmukhs) are compared with the sandalwood tree. In nutshell, the sandalwood should remind us of our "Joti-Svaroopa", and that we are to constantly remember the Divine Name. Sandalwood's Obnoxious Odor

If sandalwood is kept immersed in water for some time, it will start emanating an obnoxious odor from the rotting wood. Thus, even though the sandalwood has very cooling and soothing fragrance, but when it remains in water for a long time it becomes conditioned and loses its divine fragrance and starts stinking. This aspect of the sandalwood represents Manmukh's (demoniac being) conditioned consciousness or evil-mindedness.

However, if the stinking sandalwood is removed from the water and rubbed against a stone, the beautiful fragrance slowly merges back. Now, let's try to reflect on the Spiritual significance of stinking "odor" and the "rubbing" against a stone.

The Gurbani declares that all of us, including the Manmukh Jeev (unenlightened being), are made in the true Image of Divine Light (Joti-Svaroop). However, when this our Mool is confounded with the body, senses, mind, and intellect, the stinking odor of Vaasnaa (latent tendencies, undigested desires...) comes out at that time. And this rotten smell is none other than man's sticking Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, delusion, self-conceit, stubborn mindedness, and enviousness; and their numerous variations). As a result, all Divine Qualities — truth, contentment, Divine Knowledge (Aatam-Giaan), compassion, love, and so on — disappear from the heart.

Fly is attracted to filth. Hence the fly does not like to sit on fragrant sandalwood. Instead, it prefers to sit on stinking wood. Similarly, the man's deluded mind enjoys "sitting" on evil instincts and pleasure seeking, as well as brooding over worldly entanglements.

In order to rediscover the Original Nature of the Mool (Source...), we need to "rub" the Divine Name (Aatam Giaan, Shabad-Awareness, Spiritual Wisdom...) on the stone of our deluded mind (ego-sense or Haume, ignorance, impurities, Maya, etc.). By this "rubbing", the filth (Malla) and stinking odor of the ignorance born ego-sense will go away, and then one's True Nature — Blissful Conscious Existence — will spontaneously shine forth. The Pure Awareness is compared with the sandalwood encircled by the deadly snakes of evil passions. In order to get to the sandalwood of Divinity, one has to face these poisonous snakes. How can one strike them out? By drawing the Mighty Sword of the Spiritual Wisdom (Aatam Giaan of the Gur-Shabad...); says the Gurbani. The Shabad-Giaan (divine knowledge contained in the Gurbani) is the Mighty Sword of Spiritual Wisdom that can kill the deadly snakes of evil instincts. The important thing to remember here is that by rubbing the stinking sandalwood against a stone, we do not give anew fragrance to the sandalwood; for the fragrance is always present within it! Due to its conditioning or contamination caused by its coming into the contact with the water, the fragrance was veiled; hence not available. That's all! Similarly, the True Nature of our Mool (Truth-Knowledge-Bliss) is always present within; therefore, it is not something to be gained afresh. Once the veil of ignorance or doubts (ego or Haume) is removed by the Shabad-Giaan, it naturally shines forth. That's all!

— T. Singh
www.gurbani.org


Updated on Friday, May 16, 2014 6:32 PM (PST)

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