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.

  • ਭਾਰ ਅਠਾਰਹ ਮਹਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਊਤਮ ਚੰਦਨ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਸਭ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹੁਈਆ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਕੂੜੇ ਊਭ ਸੁਕ ਹੂਏ ਮਨਿ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ਵਿਛੁੜਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਗਈਆ ॥੨॥: Bhaar athaarah mahi chandan ootam chnadan nikat sabh chandan hueeaa. Saakat koorre oobh suk hooe mani abhimaan vichhurr doori gaeeaa ||2||: Of all plants, the sandalwood tree is the most sublime. Everything near the sandalwood tree becomes fragrant like sandalwood. The stubborn, false faithless cynics are dried up; their egotistical pride separates them far from the Lord ||2|| (sggs 834).
  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਸੰਗੇਣ ਨਿੰਮੁ ਬਿਰਖ ਸਿ ਚੰਦਨਹ ॥ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਬਸੰਤੋ ਬਾਂਸੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਹੰ ਬੁਧਿ ਨ ਬੋਹਤੇ ॥੫॥: Melaagar sangen nimm birakh si chandnah. Nikat basanto baanso Nanak ahambudh na bohte ||5||: The lowly nim tree, growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes just like the sandalwood tree. But the bamboo tree, also growing near it, does not pick up its fragrance; it is too tall and proud ||5|| (sggs 1360).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਇ ਲਹਹੁ ਘਰੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਘਸਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਘਸੀਐ ॥੨॥: Gurmukh jaai lahahu ghar apanaa ghas chandan har jas ghaseeai ||2||: As Gurmukh, go and enter within your own Home within; anoint yourself with the sandalwood oil of the Lord’s Praises ||2|| (sggs 170).
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!
  • ਜਿਉ ਚੰਦਨ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਵਸੈ ਹਿਰਡੁ ਬਪੁੜਾ ਤਿਉ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਮਿਲਿ ਪਤਿਤ ਪਰਵਾਣੁ ॥੩॥: Jiou chandan nikit vasai hirad bapuraa tiou satsangat mil patit paravaan ||3||: The poor castor oil plant, growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes fragrant; in the same way, the sinner, associating with the Sat (Truth), becomes acceptable and approved ||3|| (861).
  • ਮਿਲਿ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਮੈ ਹਿਰਡ ਪਲਾਸ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਰਿ ਬੁਹੀਆ ॥: Mil satasangat param pad paaiaa mai hirad palaas sangi har buheeaa: Joining the Sat (Truth), I have obtained the supreme status. I am just a castor-oil tree, made fragrant by their association (sggs 834).
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!
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਸੰਤੁ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਸੰਤਈ ਜਉ ਕੋਟਿਕ ਮਿਲਹਿ ਅਸੰਤ ॥ ਮਲਿਆਗਰੁ ਭੁਯੰਗਮ ਬੇਢਿਓ ਤ ਸੀਤਲਤਾ ਨ ਤਜੰਤ ॥੧੭੪॥: Kabeer sant na chhadai santayee jayu kotic milai asant. Maliaagar bhuyangam bedhiyo ta seetaltaa na tajant: Kabeer, the Sant does not forsake his saintly nature, even though he meets with millions of evil-doers. Even when sandalwood is surrounded by snakes, it does not give up its cooling fragrance (sggs 1373).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਚੰਦਨ ਕਾ ਬਿਰਵਾ ਭਲਾ ਬੇੜ੍ਹ੍ਹਿਓ ਢਾਕ ਪਲਾਸ ॥ ਓਇ ਭੀ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹੋਇ ਰਹੇ ਬਸੇ ਜੁ ਚੰਦਨ ਪਾਸਿ ॥੧੧॥: Kabeer chandan ka biravaa bhalaa berrio dhaak plaas. Oi bhee chandan hoi rahe base ju chnadan paas ||11||: Kabeer, the sandalwood tree is good, even though it is surrounded by weeds. Those who dwell near the sandalwood tree, become just like the sandalwood tree ||11|| (sggs 1365).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਬੂਡਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਤ ਡੂਬਹੁ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟੇ ਬਸੈ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੧੨॥: Kabeer baans badaaee boodiaa iou matt doobahu koi. Chandan kai nikate basai baans sugandh na hoi ||12||: Kabeer, the bamboo is drowned in its egotistical pride. No one should drown like this. Bamboo also dwells near the sandalwood tree, but it does not take up its fragrance ||12|| (sggs 1365).
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!
  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਬੇਰ੍ਹੇ ਹੈ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਾ ॥ ਬਿਖੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਬਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਸੰਗਾ ॥੨॥: Mailaagar berreh hai bhuiangaa. Bikh amrit basahi ik sangaa ||2||: The snakes encircle the sandalwood trees. Poison and nectar dwell there together ||2|| (sggs 525).
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.
  • ਸਰਬੇ ਆਦਿ ਪਰਮਲਾਦਿ ਕਾਸਟ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥੨॥ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਚੇ ਪਾਰਸੁ ਹਮ ਚੇ ਲੋਹਾ ਸੰਗੇ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥: Sarbe aadi paramlaadi kaasat chandan bhailaa. Tumh che paaras hamche lohaa sange kanchan bhaiilaa: God, the Primal Source of everything, is like the sandalwood tree; He transforms us woody trees into fragrant sandalwood. You (O Lord), are the Philosopher’s Stone, and I am iron; associating with You, I am transformed into gold (sggs 1351).
  • ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੀਤਲ ਜਲੁ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਚੰਦਨ ਵਾਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧ ਗੰਧਈਆ ॥: Har har naam seetal jal dhiyavahu har chandan vaas sugandh gandhayeeyaa: Meditate on the cool water of the God's Name. Perfume yourself with the fragrant scent of God, the sandalwood tree (sggs 833).
  • ਨਲ੍ਯ੍ਯ ਕਵਿ ਪਾਰਸ ਪਰਸ ਕਚ ਕੰਚਨਾ ਹੁਇ ਚੰਦਨਾ ਸੁਬਾਸੁ ਜਾਸੁ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਅਨ ਤਰ ॥ Naly kavi paaras paras kach kanchanaa hui chandanaa subaas jaas simarat an tara: So speaks Nall the poet: touching the Philosopher’s Stone, glass is transformed into gold, and the sandalwood tree imparts its fragrance to other trees; similarly, meditating on God, I am transformed (sggs 1399).
  • ਤਾ ਤੇ ਸੰਗਤਿ ਸਘਨ ਭਾਇ ਭਉ ਮਾਨਹਿ ਤੁਮ ਮਲੀਆਗਰ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਸੁਬਾਸੁ ॥ ਧ੍ਰੂ ਪ੍ਰਹਲਾਦ ਕਬੀਰ ਤਿਲੋਚਨ ਨਾਮੁ ਲੈਤ ਉਪਜ੍ਯ੍ਯੋ ਜੁ ਪ੍ਰਗਾਸੁ ॥ Taa te sangat saghan bhaayi bhayu maanahi tum maliyaagar pragat subaas. Dhroo Prahlaad Kabeer Tilochan naam lat upajyo ju prgaas: And so, the entire Sangat loves, fears and respects You, O God. You are the sandalwood tree; Your fragrance spreads gloriously far and wide. Dhroo, Prahlaad, Kabeer and Trilochan uttered the Name of the Lord, and His Illumination radiantly shines forth (sggs 1406).
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.
  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਸੰਗੇਣ ਨਿੰਮੁ ਬਿਰਖ ਸਿ ਚੰਦਨਹ ॥ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਬਸੰਤੋ ਬਾਂਸੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਹੰ ਬੁਧਿ ਨ ਬੋਹਤੇ ॥੫॥: Melaagar sangen nimm birakh si chandnah. Nikat basanto baanso Nanak ahambudh na bohte ||5||: The lowly nim tree, growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes just like the sandalwood tree. But the bamboo tree, also growing near it, does not pick up its fragrance; it is too tall and proud ||5|| (sggs 1360).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਬੂਡਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਤ ਡੂਬਹੁ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟੇ ਬਸੈ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੧੨॥: Kabeer baans badaaee boodiaa iou matt doobahu koi. Chandan kai nikate basai baans sugandh na hoi ||12||: Kabeer, the bamboo is drowned in its egotistical pride. No one should drown like this. Bamboo also dwells near the sandalwood tree, but it does not take up its fragrance ||12|| (sggs 1365).
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.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਪਾਪੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਨ ਸੁਹਾਇ ॥ ਮਾਖੀ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਪਰਹਰੈ ਜਹ ਬਿਗੰਧ ਤਹ ਜਾਇ ॥੬੮॥: kabeer paapee bhagati n bhaavee hari poojaa n suhaai || Maakhee chnadan paraharai jah bigandh tah jaai ||69||: Kabeer, the sinner does not like Bhagti; he does not appreciate worship. (Just as) A fly abandons the sandalwood tree, and goes after the rotten smell ||69|| (sggs 1369).
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.
  • ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰੀ ਚਨਣਾਠੀਆ ਜੇ ਮਨੁ ਉਰਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੁੰਗੂ ਜੇ ਰਲੈ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੧॥: Teraa Naam karee chananaatheeaa je mann ursaa hoi. Karanee kungoo je ralai ghat antar poojaa hoi: I would make Your Name the sandalwood, and my mind the stone to rub it on. For saffron, I would offer good deeds; thus, I perform worship and adoration within my Heart (sggs 489).
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.
  • ਚੰਦਨ ਵਾਸੁ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਮ ਵੇੜੀ ਕਿਵ ਮਿਲੀਐ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਲੀਜੈ ॥ ਕਾਢਿ ਖੜਗੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕਰਾਰਾ ਬਿਖੁ ਛੇਦਿ ਛੇਦਿ ਰਸੁ ਪੀਜੈ ॥੩॥: Chandhan vaas bhuiangam verree kiv mileeai chandhan leejai || Kaadhi kharrag gur giaan karaaraa bikh shedi shedi rasu peejai ||3||: The fragrant sandal tree is girdled by the snakes; how can anyone get to the sandal tree (i.e., the man is encircled by Bikaars and thus he cannot enjoy the Fraggrance of the Realization of the the Spiritual Essence)? Drawing out the Mighty Sword of the (ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨ) Gur's Spiritual Wisdom, cut (ਵੱਢ ਵੱਢ ਕੇ) the poisonous (snake of Maya); and (thus one can) drink in the (Spiritual) Essence (ਆਤਮ ਰਸ, ਨਾਮ ਰਸ, ਗਿਆਨ ਰਸ ...). ||3|| (sggs 1324).
  • ਬਲਤੋ ਜਲਤੋ ਤਉਕਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਸੀਤਲਾਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਧੇਰਾ ਮਿਟਿ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੀਪਾਇਓ ॥੨॥: Balato jalato taoukiaa gur chandan seetalaaio ||1||. Agiaan andheraa mit gaiaa gur giaan deepaaio ||2||:  I was burning, on fire (of Bikaars, evil passions, etc.), and the Guru poured or scattered (Shabad-) Chandan on me; (Then my mind) became cooled and soothed. ||1|| (With) the shining of the lamp of the Gur-Wisdom (in my mind), the darkness of ignorance has been dispelled (from my mind) ||2|| (sggs 241).
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
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