To instill the Spiritual Knowledge in us (Brahm-Giaan), the Gurbani compares the world appearance to a mirage, which appears to be real to a deluded mind (mirage of Maya, illusion, “that which is not”…).
For example, a lonely traveler or an animal in a parched and hot desert sees a mirage, which leads to an interesting strange phenomenon of illusion: the mind’s misapprehensions multiply — it begins to see the waters of mirage at a close distance, moving like a river, having waves, and even the sun reflecting on the water surface! The deluded mind then goes chasing it in that direction, lured on and on, but finds nothing at all. The thirsty traveler or the animal dies in protracted agony.
Hence, to see water-pools in mirage is delusion of the ignorant mind; for this mirage is nothing but rising hot air which gives the seer an illusion of real stream of water, etc. — a trick of our vision, an optical illusion.
This mirage analogy appears time and again in the Gurbani (“ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ”, “ਗੰਧਰਬ ਨਗਰੰ”, “ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ”, “ਠਗਾ ਨੀਹੁ”, “ਠਗ ਨੀਰਾ”…).
- ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: O Lord, what can I say about this illusion; what we deem a thing to be, in reality, it is not like that ||1||Pause|| (sggs 657).
- ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਯਹ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਿਚਾਰਿ ॥: Reflect in your Heart and see that this world creation (Maya) is like a deer’s illusion, a mirage (sggs 537).
- ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਗੰਧਰਬ ਨਗਰੰ ਦ੍ਰੁਮ ਛਾਯਾ ਰਚਿ ਦੁਰਮਤਿਹ ॥: Misled by the wicked intellect, (mortal) assumes an illusory image of a city, mirage, and the transitory shade of a tree to be real (sggs 1356).
First, this mirage analogy appears to make us understand that the pleasures of this world are like a mirage, hence false. As the Gurbani emphasized, desire to find true happiness in worldly objects is only a mirage. In nutshell, we in this world are all blindfolded with the veil of mirage (Maya, ignorance or ego-sense).
- ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਪੇਖਿ ਕਾਹੇ ਸੁਖੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥: (O mortal) why do you take such pleasure, looking at (the fleeting objects which are like) an illusory castle in the air? (sggs 1363).
Second, this mirage analogy seems to make us aware of the Reality — the Substratum (Aadhaar) of all forms, changes, matter, etc. In this regard, the point to note is that the mirage is not the desert and the desert is not the mirage, yet without the desert the mirage will not exist!
Thus, although the desert is the substratum of the mirage, but the mirage water can never wet even a grain of sand! Similarly, if we think that this world of names and shapes is real, we are mistaken, because this world of plurality cannot exist without the Substratum. Its existence is like the mirage which is unreal; but the world of duality can never affect or contaminate Reality as the mirage waters can never wet even a grain of sand! This is the whole crux of the matter.
- ਤਿਸਹਿ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਸਰਬ ਕੋ ਆਧਾਰੁ ॥: O my mind, meditate on the One who’s the substratum of all (sggs 51)
So the Gurbani asks us not to get attached and run after this mirage-like world appearance. Because, to run after it would be to deny the Timelessness. In other words, the Gurbani instructs us to “be in the world but not of the world!”
- ਠਠਾ ਇਹੈ ਦੂਰਿ ਠਗ ਨੀਰਾ ॥ Thathaa (a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet): This (Maya) is like mirage (hot sand which appears to be water from far away). (sggs 341).
- ਸਭ ਕੈ ਮਧਿ ਸਗਲ ਤੇ ਉਦਾਸ ॥: Remain in the midst of all, and yet detached from all (sggs 296).
Third, this mirage analogy seems to make us detached (Baiaraag) from body-consciousness or Maya (illusion). Detachment implies a state of mind that springs from one’s sense of discerning intellect (Bibek-Budh) – this subtle sense of discrimination helps one to know the difference between right and wrong (Gurmukh Lifestyle); real and unreal; fleeting and permanent; truth and falsehood; and so on.
- ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Without detachment, Maya cannot be gotten rid of. ||1|| (sggs 329).
- ਨਾਮਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਦਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ॥: Those who are attuned to the Naam, remain detached forever (sggs 230).
The delusion of the world-existence attains expansion by its repeated affirmation. The Gurbani wants us to understand the futility of chasing this mirage-like-world, which it declares to be “Mithiya“. The Gurbani says anything that appears will soon disappear. Whatever comes and goes is bound and limited by beginning, middle, and end. Therefore unreal — false, changing, temporary, impermanent, fleeting, perishable, illusion, or simply “Mithiya” (“ਮਿਥਿਆ”). Anything born must finish one day. For example, the physical body is born, and it is also continuously disappearing!
- ਮਿਥਿਆ ਭਰਮੁ ਅਰੁ ਸੁਪਨ ਮਨੋਰਥ ਸਤਿ ਪਦਾਰਥੁ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥: (Watching this Leelaa) the man believes worldly objects (ਪਦਾਰਥ) to be True (permanent, etc.), but they are like objects seen in the dream (i.e., untrue) — “ਮਿਥਿਆ ਭਰਮੁ ” (Mithiya Bharam). (sggs 485).
- ਪੇਖੁ ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੜੀ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ Behold — the world is an illusory castle in the air; nothing here is permanent (sggs 461).
In other words, the Gurbani wants us to snap out of illusory thinking. Delusional mindset is deceptive. As a mirage is not real, so is illusion which can never be a Reality.
For example, there are scenes floating on a cinema screen — scenes of fire, flood, gun-shots, etc. But the screen on which these scenes appear remains untouched. Similarly, reflections pass through a mirror; but the mirror itself remains unaffected by these reflections.
So the world-appearance is a phenomena on this One Reality, which remains unaffected, whatsoever.
So, the Gurbani wants us to snap out of illusion, here and now! If we don’t, it will only bring disappointment, frustration, helplessness, unhappiness, anxiety, worry, fear…
The Gurbani reminds that life is a balance between things one needs and things one needs to let go. So the Gurbani urges us to let go the illusory thinking! Sooner the better!
Illusion is itself illusory! Thus illusion is ignorance — ignorance of the Mool (Source, Jot Saroop, Reality…).
Deeming false to be real is the stubborn nature of the deluded mind. The Gurbani tells us that the illusion will not persist after the Mayaic mind’s imaginations are annihilated through the Divine Wisdom of the Satigur.
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰਿ ਭੇਟਿਐ ਸੋਝੀ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਪਰਪੰਚੁ ਚੂਕੈ ਸਚਿ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੧॥: Meeting with the Satigur, (Spiritual) understanding is obtained. Then, the “Parpanch” (the illusion of the material world, deception…) is shattered, and one merges in Truth. ||1|| (sggs 1173).