Behold — the world is a mirage; nothing here is permanent. (sggs 461).

A lonely traveler in a parched and hot desert, nearly dying of thirst, sees a broad stream of water. Seen in deserts, this mirage is a strange phenomenon of illusion — a trick of our vision. Upon seeing the mirage on the hot sand, an interesting thing happens: the mind's misapprehensions multiply, and it begins to see the waters of the 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 in that direction, lured on and on, but finds nothing at all. The traveler dies in protracted agony.

To see water-pools in the mirage is delusion of the ignorant mind; for the mirage is nothing but rising hot air which gives the seer an illusion of real sheet of water. Just as the mirage appears to be a real stream of water, similarly, this mirage-like world creation also appears to be real to a deluded mind. In other words, the materiality of the creation is like the mirage or pie in the sky; an illusory projection of one's deluded mind. To hammer this truth into our head, the parable of mirage has repeatedly been used in the scriptures and in the teachings of the Spiritual Teachers.

  • ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥ ਸਭ ਕਿਛੁ ਜੀਵਤ ਕੋ ਬਿਵਹਾਰ ॥ ਮਾਤ ਪਿਤਾ ਭਾਈ ਸੁਤ ਬੰਧਪ ਅਰੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਕੀ ਨਾਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਤਨ ਤੇ ਪ੍ਰਾਨ ਹੋਤ ਜਬ ਨਿਆਰੇ ਟੇਰਤ ਪ੍ਰੇਤਿ ਪੁਕਾਰਿ ॥ ਆਧ ਘਰੀ ਕੋਊ ਨਹਿ ਰਾਖੈ ਘਰ ਤੇ ਦੇਤ ਨਿਕਾਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਜਿਉ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਯਹ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬਿਚਾਰਿ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਤ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਹੋਤ ਉਧਾਰ ॥੨॥੨॥: Devgandhaaree Mahalaa 9. All things are mere diversions of life: mother, father, siblings, children, relatives and the wife of your home.||1||Pause|| When the Soul is separated from the body, then they will cry out, calling you a ghost. No one will let you stay, for even half an hour; they drive you out of the house.||1|| Reflect in your Heart and see that this world creation (Maya) is like a deer's illusion, a mirage. Says Nanak, vibrate forever on God's Name, which will deliver you ||2||2|| (sggs 536).
  • ਸੁਤੜੇ ਅਸੰਖ ਮਾਇਆ ਝੂਠੀ ਕਾਰਣੇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੇ ਜਾਗੰਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਿ ਜਿ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਉਚਾਰਣੇ ॥੧੩॥ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤਿਸਨਾ ਪੇਖਿ ਭੁਲਣੇ ਵੁਠੇ ਨਗਰ ਗੰਧ੍ਰਬ ॥: Countless are asleep, in the false illusion of Maya. O Nanak, they alone are Awake (from the slumber of Moha, attachment, love of Maya. etc.), who chant the Naam with their tongues.||13|| Seeing the mirage, the optical illusion, the people are confused and deluded (sggs 1425).
Also called "Marig Triashnaa", "Harichandauree", "Thagg Neeraa" and "Gandharba Nagree" in the Gurbani (sggs), specifically this mirage-analogy is intended to make us understand the following points: (a) the pleasures of this world are like a mirage, hence false; and (b) the mirage like world-appearance cannot exist independent of the Infinite Consciousness, Waheguru, who is free from all modifications and thereby unaffected by them.

To put it otherwise, in the language of our parable, the mirage rejects Reality which shows us the Truth, and deceives us with falsehood. We are like the traveler illusioned by a mirage. The Truth which we rejects is always within us; however, in ignorance, we accept the mirage-like appearance of the world as Reality, and then keeps chasing it to our destruction!

Pure Consciousness cannot be conditioned; because it's infinite and subtler than the subtlest, therefore beyond the influence of material contamination. As revealed in the declarations of the scriptures, the Soul is made in the true Image of this Pure Consciousness. This leads to the following question: then, why and how does it end up seeing unreal as real? In other words: How does the Infinite become finite and limited? The deluded mind (Maya, ignorance, false ego, illusion or conditionings) is like a mirage. When the mind rests in false ego-sense, the consciousness becomes conditioned and reflects through the senses, from which arises the illusion of self-limitation of the consciousness. When thus repeatedly experienced and thought of, the ego-sense and the illusion of self-limitation acquire a false validity.

Therefore, egoism is but an idea based on a false association of the Soul with the physical elements. Hence, it does not exist any more than water exists in the mirage! It only exists is our imperfect vision which is not based on fact.

In the sway of our own ignorance, thus, we become deluded by our own faulty vision or ideas. Consequently, being attached to the delusion (Maya), we become unable to apprehend the Reality and mistake impermanent to be permanent, perishable to be imperishable, fleeting to be stable, fake to be real, false to be truth, endfull to be endless, unlimited to be limited, infinite to be finite, sorrows to be joy, material pleasures to be Bliss (Anand), and so on.

  • ਪੇਖੁ ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੜੀ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਨਾਹੀ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਰੰਗ ਜੇਤੇ ਸੇ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਜਾਹੀ ॥: Behold — the world is an illusory castle in the air; nothing here is permanent. The pleasures of Maya, which are many in number, will not go with you (sggs 461).
This is why the scriptures call vanishing pleasures of this material world to be but a mirage because what gives joy becomes a source of sorrow later. In other words, the worldly joys are not the source of Eternal Bliss (Anand). Thereby, all our emotional attachment to worldly objects  — children, wife, mother, father, siblings, relatives, youth, homes, titles, fame, caste, wealth, comforts, all other possessions, and so on  — is also said to be but a mirage, hence false.
  • ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਤੂੰ ਅਸਥਿਰੁ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਨਹਿ ਤੇ ਪਾਹੁਨ ਦੋ ਦਾਹਾ ॥ ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਸਗਲ ਸਮਗ੍ਰੀ ਸਭ ਮਿਥਿਆ ਅਸਨਾਹਾ ॥੧॥ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਕਿਆ ਕਰਹਿ ਹੈ ਹਾ ਹਾ ॥ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਦੇਖੁ ਜੈਸੇ ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਇਕੁ ਰਾਮ ਭਜਨੁ ਲੈ ਲਾਹਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜੈਸੇ ਬਸਤਰ ਦੇਹ ਓਢਾਨੇ ਦਿਨ ਦੋਇ ਚਾਰਿ ਭੋਰਾਹਾ ॥ ਭੀਤਿ ਊਪਰੇ ਕੇਤਕੁ ਧਾਈਐ ਅੰਤਿ ਓਰਕੋ ਆਹਾ ॥੨॥: That which you believe to be permanent, is a guest here for only a few days. Children, wives, homes, and all possessions — attachment to all of these is false.||1|| O mind, why do you burst out laughing? See with your eyes, that these things are only mirages. So earn the profit of meditation on the One Lord.||1||Pause|| It is like the clothes which you wear on your body — they wear off in a few days. How long can you run upon a wall? Ultimately, you come to its end ||2|| (sggs 401-402).
  • 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).
The mirage like world-appearance is also compared with the the transitory shade of a tree or delusion of the scent-crazed deer searching for musk in the bushes. Chasing such temporary world is like walking on a wall, which will come to its end sooner one thinks! Accordingly, the scriptures call the pleasures of worldly objects as "cheaters", for they hallucinate us and cheat us of our Freedom, Fearlessness and our Real Nature (Pure Being).
  • ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਚਿਤ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਸਖੀਏ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਦ੍ਰੁਮ ਛਾਇਆ ॥ ਚੰਚਲਿ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਚਾਲਤੀ ਸਖੀਏ ਅੰਤਿ ਤਜਿ ਜਾਵਤ ਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਰਸਿ ਭੋਗਣ ਅਤਿ ਰੂਪ ਰਸ ਮਾਤੇ ਇਨ ਸੰਗਿ ਸੂਖੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ॥ ਧੰਨਿ ਧੰਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਸਾਧ ਜਨ ਸਖੀਏ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਨੀ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਇਆ ॥੨॥: Maya is a mirage, which deludes the mind, O my companion, like the scent-crazed deer, or the transitory shade of a tree. Maya is fickle, and does not go with you, O my companion; in the end, it will leave you. He may enjoy pleasures and sensual delights with supremely beautiful women, but no one finds peace in this way. Nanak Says: O my companion, blessed are the humble Saadhus; they meditate on the Naam ||2|| (sggs 803).
  • ਠਗਾ ਨੀਹੁ ਮਤ੍ਰੋੜਿ ਜਾਣੁ ਗੰਧ੍ਰਬਾ ਨਗਰੀ ॥ ਸੁਖ ਘਟਾਊ ਡੂਇ ਇਸੁ ਪੰਧਾਣੂ ਘਰ ਘਣੇ ॥:  Break off your love with the cheaters; realize that it is a mirage. Your pleasure lasts for only two moments; this traveller wanders through countless homes (sggs 1098).
Thus, as emphasized in the scriptures, desire to find true happiness in worldly objects is only a mirage; all relations are only a mirage; clinging to the notion of the reality of "I, me, mine, you" is only a mirage; and sensual pleasures are only a mirage for they are full of sorrows and diseases. In nutshell, we in this world are all blindfolded with the veil of mirage (Maya, ignorance or ego-sense).
  • ਝੂਠੈ ਰੰਗਿ ਖੁਆਰੁ ਕਹਾਂ ਲਗੁ ਖੇਵੀਐ ॥ ਹਰਿਚੰਦਉਰੀ ਪੇਖਿ ਕਾਹੇ ਸੁਖੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥: The mortal wastes away in false pleasures. (O mortal) why do you take such pleasure, looking at (the fleeting objects which are like) an illusory castle in the air? (sggs 1363).
  • ਧਨੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਸੰਪੈ ਸੁਖ ਭੋੁਗਵੈ ਸੰਗਿ ਨ ਨਿਬਹਤ ਮਾਤ ॥ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਦੇਖਿ ਰਚਿਓ ਬਾਵਰ ਦ੍ਰੁਮ ਛਾਇਆ ਰੰਗਿ ਰਾਤ ॥੧॥ ਮਾਨ ਮੋਹ ਮਹਾ ਮਦ ਮੋਹਤ ਕਾਮ ਕ੍ਰੋਧ ਕੈ ਖਾਤ ॥ ਕਰੁ ਗਹਿ ਲੇਹੁ ਦਾਸ ਨਾਨਕ ਕਉ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਜੀਉ ਹੋਇ ਸਹਾਤ ॥੨॥੫॥੭॥: The pleasures of wealth, youth, property and comforts will not stay with you, O mother. Seeing the mirage, the madman is entangled in it; he is imbued with pleasures that pass away, like the shade of a tree ||2||5||7|| (sggs 1120).
  • ਦੇਵਗੰਧਾਰੀ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥ ਜਗਤ ਮੈ ਝੂਠੀ ਦੇਖੀ ਪ੍ਰੀਤਿ ॥ ਅਪਨੇ ਹੀ ਸੁਖ ਸਿਉ ਸਭ ਲਾਗੇ ਕਿਆ ਦਾਰਾ ਕਿਆ ਮੀਤ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਮੇਰਉ ਮੇਰਉ ਸਭੈ ਕਹਤ ਹੈ ਹਿਤ ਸਿਉ ਬਾਧਿਓ ਚੀਤ ॥ ਅੰਤਿ ਕਾਲਿ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਹ ਕੋਊ ਇਹ ਅਚਰਜ ਹੈ ਰੀਤਿ ॥੧॥ ਮਨ ਮੂਰਖ ਅਜਹੂ ਨਹ ਸਮਝਤ ਸਿਖ ਦੈ ਹਾਰਿਓ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਪਾਰਿ ਪਰੈ ਜਉ ਗਾਵੈ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਕੇ ਗੀਤ ॥੨॥੩॥੬॥੩੮॥੪੭॥: Devgandhaaree Mahalaa 9 || Jagat mai jhoothee dekhee preet. Apane hee sukh siou sabh laage kiaa daaraa kiaa meet. ||1|| rehaao || Mero mero sabhai kahat hai hit siou baadhiou cheet. Ant kaal sangee nah kouoo ih acharaj hai reet ||1|| Mann moorakh ajahoo nah samajhat sikh dai haariou neet. Nanak bhoujal paar parai jo gaavai prabh kae geet ||2||3||6||38||47||: Devgandhaaree Mahalaa 9. In this world, I have seen love to be false. Whether they are spouses or friends, all are concerned only with their own happiness. ||1||Pause|| All say, ""Mine, mine"", and attach their consciousness to you with love. But at the very last moment, none will go along with you. How strange are the ways of the world! ||1|| The foolish mind has not yet reformed itself, although I have grown weary of continually instructing it. O Nanak, one crosses over the terrifying world-ocean, singing the Songs of God ||2||3||6||38||47|| (sggs 536).
The second aspect of the mirage analogy is to make us aware that Infinite Consciousness is the Substratum (Adhaar) of everything, without which nothing will exist. 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 waters 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 Infinite Consciousness, the Substratum. Its existence is like the mirage which is unreal; but the world of duality can never affect or contaminate the Infinite Consciousness 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)
  • ਆਪਹਿ ਰਸ ਭੋਗਨ ਨਿਰਜੋਗ ॥: He Himself enjoys pleasures, and yet He is unaffected and untouched (sggs 292).
To look at it from an another angle, the creation exists in Pure Awareness just as the tree exist in seed, liquidity in water, sweetness in sugar, and pungency in capsicum; but due to the veil of ignorance it appears to be different from and independent of the Reality. To put it otherwise: just as the waters in the mirage is and is not simultaneously, even so is plurality in relation to Infinite Consciousness. Thus, the One Reality has become all. Even as the fire in the painting does not destroy the canvass it's painted on, the Reality is unaffected by world-appearance.
  • ਕਉਣੁ ਕਹੈ ਕਿਣਿ ਬੂਝੀਐ ਰਮਈਆ ਆਕੁਲੁ ਰੀ ਬਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਆਕਾਸੈ ਪੰਖੀਅਲੋ ਖੋਜੁ ਨਿਰਖਿਓ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜਿਉ ਜਲ ਮਾਝੈ ਮਾਛਲੋ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਪੇਖਣੋ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੨॥ ਜਿਉ ਆਕਾਸੈ ਘੜੂਅਲੋ ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਭਰਿਆ ॥ ਨਾਮੇ ਚੇ ਸੁਆਮੀ ਬੀਠਲੋ ਜਿਨਿ ਤੀਨੈ ਜਰਿਆ ॥੩॥੨॥: Goojaree Mahalaa 1.  Who can describe Him? Who can understand Him? The all-pervading God has no ancestors, O Siblings of Destiny.||1||Pause|| As the path of a bird’s flight across the sky cannot be seen. As the path of a fish through the water cannot be seen. ||2|| As the mirage leads one to mistake the sky for a pitcher filled with water ( more we move towards the mirage-water, we never find its limit or end)— so is God, says Naam Dev, who fits these three comparisons (i.e., He cannot be completely described; He is Infinite - His Limits cannot be found; etc.) ||3||2|| (sggs 525).
They who know the Infinite Consciousness as the nameless, formless, and shapeless substratum of the universe, gain victory over deluded mind and its mirage like projections; for the ego-mind (Haume) does not exist any more than water exists in the mirage!

Therefore, the Holy Word urges us to end the illusion which gives us the wrong notion that the names and shapes are real. With the end of this illusion comes the end of perception of the diversity and various defects caused by it in our deluded mind.

  •  ਠਠਾ ਇਹੈ ਦੂਰਿ ਠਗ ਨੀਰਾ ॥ ਨੀਠਿ ਨੀਠਿ ਮਨੁ ਕੀਆ ਧੀਰਾ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਠਗਿ ਠਗਿਆ ਸਗਲ ਜਗੁ ਖਾਵਾ ॥ ਸੋ ਠਗੁ ਠਗਿਆ ਠਉਰ ਮਨੁ ਆਵਾ ॥: Thathaa (a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet): This (Maya) is like mirage (hot sand which appears to be water from far away). Understanding (this Maya) through disinclination (i.e., through Bibek Budh of the Gurbani, I have) rendered the mind steady. That cheater (i.e., Maya), which has cheated and devoured the whole world — (I have) cheated that cheater, and (my) mind is now stable (sggs 341).

— T. Singh