O Manmukh (material being...), devoid of the Divine Name, do
not be misled upon beholding the color of the safflower (i.e. Maya or
world-appearance). Its color lasts for only a few days; thus it is worthless!
The color of Divine Name, however, is permanent, like the dye
of the madder plant. So says Ravi Daas, the tanner (sggs 346)

Safflower is called "Kasumbhee" in Punjabi. Those who have had the chance of living in the villages of Punjab know precisely what the safflower is! They can appreciate its peculiar looks, characteristics, and qualities. In particular, the safflower is known for three things: deep attractive color, very painful thorn-bites, and fleeting existence of its enchanting but deceptive beauty.

Those who know these Gunas (qualities) of the safflower keep distance from it. Also, they know how to handle it if they must deal with it! However, it's the ignorant one who gets drawn to its beautiful color, and suffer the consequences of entangling with it. The moment you make the mistake to touch it, its thorns pierce through your skin imparting unbearable "burning" through your being!

In the Gurbani, this Sansaar — material world (Maya...), the place of repeated birth and death — is likened to the safflower. It's deceptively enchanting, full of repeated pain and suffering, and surely ephemeral. Only the Gurmukhs (Spiritual Beings...) know its true nature. Therefore, they are the only ones who know how to handle it, without getting entangled or hurt in the process! However, it's the ignorant one (the Manmukh, Saakat...) who gets fooled by its mirage-like deceptive appearance. He then becomes attached to it, and suffers the consequences of his mistake!

  • ਜੈਸਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਤੈਸਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥: Jaisaa rang kasunbh kaa taisaa ihu sansaar: This world is like the (pale, temporary...) color of the safflower (sggs 346).
  • ਕਚਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਥੋੜੜਿਆ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ਜੀਉ ॥ ਵਿਣੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਭੁਲੀਆ ਠਗਿ ਮੁਠੀ ਕੂੜਿਆਰਿ ਜੀਉੁ ॥: Kachaa rangu kasunbh kaa thorrarriaa din chaar jeeo. Bin naavai bhrami bhooleeaa thagi muthee koorriaari jeeu: The color of safflower (i.e., deceptive Maya or world-appearance) is transitory; it lasts for only a few days. (Attached to Maya) The Jeeva (being) becomes devoid of the Divine Name, and gets deluded by doubt and plundered by evil passions (sggs 751).
  • ਹਥੁ ਨ ਲਾਇ ਕਸੁੰਭੜੈ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਸੀ ਢੋਲਾ ॥: Hath na laae kasunbharrai jail jaasee dholaa: O friend! Do not touch the safflower (i.e., Maya); if you do, you will get "burnt" (i.e., your love for this deceptive Maya will lead you to sufferings) (sggs 794).
  • ਜਿਤਨੇ ਧਨਵੰਤ ਕੁਲਵੰਤ ਮਿਲਖਵੰਤ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਮਨ ਮੇਰੇ ਸਭਿ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਜਿਉ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਚਾਣੁ ॥: Jitane dhanavant kulavant milakhuvant deesahi mann mere sabh binas jaahi jio rangu kasunbh kachaan: All the wealthy, high class property owners which you see, O my mind, will vanish, like the fading color of the safflower (sggs 861).

Divine potencies (Shakti) are diverse as well as infinite. They can be lumped under two headings: Paraa Shakti or Spiritual energy, and Aparaa Shaktior material energies. The Spiritual potency is also known as Spirit or Transcendental energy. Similarly, the material energy is also known as Maya ormatter.

All that's visible is Maya's expanse. As defined in the Gurbani, the Maya is that Cosmic Illusion which makes us (1) forget the Self ("Hari Visrai"), (2) gives rise to emotional attachment or delusion ("Moh Upjai"), and (3) creates duality ("Bhaau Doojaa") where there is none. In other words, Maya is nothing but the corruption of man's own deluded consciousness, spiritual ignorance or false ego-sense which veils his Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...) from him.

In the Gurbani, the pluralistic principle of Maya (time-space phenomena) is equated with the nature of the safflower. Akin to safflower, Maya or its world-appearance is deceptively enchanting, poisonous, foul-smelling, bewitching and transitory. In other words, what we see through the prism of our deluded consciousness is unreal.

  • ਏਹੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਖਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਲਹਿ ਜਾਵਣਾ ॥: Ehu Maya rangu kasunbh khin mahi lahi jaavanaa: The pleasures of Maya are like the color of the safflower, which wears off in a moment (sggs 645)
  • ਜਿਉ ਨਲਨੀ ਸੂਅਟਾ ਗਹਿਓ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਮਾਯਾ ਇਹੁ ਬਿਉਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਮਨ ਬਉਰਾ ਰੇ ਤਿਉ ਪਸਰਿਓ ਪਾਸਾਰੁ ॥੩॥: Jiou nalanee sooataa gahio man baouraa re maya ih biouhaar ...: Like the parrot caught in the trap (by sitting on the Nalanee), O crazy mind, you are trapped by the affairs (ਵਰਤਾਰਾ, ਸਲੂਕ) of Maya. Like the weak dye of the safflower, O crazy mind, so is the expanse of this material world (i.e., temporary, fleeting, etc.). ||3|| (sggs 336).
  • ਹਥੁ ਨ ਲਾਇ ਕਸੁੰਭੜੈ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਸੀ ਢੋਲਾ ॥: Hath na laae kasunbharrai jail jaasee dholaa: Do not touch the safflower (i.e., deceptive Maya or world-appearance); if you do, you will get "burnt" (i.e., Maya will delude you and leave you to suffer) (sggs 794).
  • ਝੂਠੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਆਪੁ ਬੰਧਾਇਆ ਜਿਉ ਨਲਨੀ ਭ੍ਰਮਿ ਸੂਆ ॥: Jhoothee Maya aap bndhaaiaa jio nalanee bhram sooaa: You have entangled yourself in the false wealth of Maya, like the parrot caught in the trap (sggs 654).
  • ਝੂਠੀ ਮਾਇਆ ਦੇਖਿ ਕੈ ਭੂਲਾ ਰੇ ਮਨਾ ॥: Jhoothee maya dhekhi kai bhoolaa re manaa: Gazing upon the falseness of Maya, you have gone astray, O my mind (sggs 486).
  • ਮੁਖਿ ਬੇਰਾਵੈ ਅੰਤਿ ਠਗਾਵੈ ॥: Mukh beraavai anti thagaavai: In the beginning Maya seems to please, but in the end, she deceives (sggs 892).
  • : Eh Maya jit Hari visrai moh upjai bhaau dooja laya: This is Maya, by which the Lord is forgotten; emotional attachment and love of duality is born (sggs 921).

Those in material or Maya-consciousness are called Mayadhaaree or Manmukhs (material beings) in the Gurbani. Behaving as such, we have separated ourselves from our Mool (Source, Origin, Jot...). In this duality, we have mistakenly taken the gross objects of the material world to be real (permanent) source of unending happiness or Bliss. In ignorance, we thus try to dominate the material nature and, in the process, become subjected its adverse effects — lust, anger, greed, sense attachment, self-conceit, enviousness and stubborn mindedness (whose variations can be innumerable). Attached to the material consciousness, we are always concerned with worldly pursuits and sensory pleasures. Thus, selfishness or falsehood preoccupies our lifestyle.

  • ਮਨਮੁਖ ਨਾਮ ਵਿਹੂਣਿਆ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭਾ ਦੇਖਿ ਨ ਭੁਲੁ ॥ ਇਸ ਕਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਦਿਨ ਥੋੜਿਆ ਛੋਛਾ ਇਸ ਦਾ ਮੁਲੁ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਲਗੇ ਪਚਿ ਮੁਏ ਮੂਰਖ ਅੰਧ ਗਵਾਰ ॥ ਬਿਸਟਾ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਕੀਟ ਸੇ ਪਇ ਪਚਹਿ ਵਾਰੋ ਵਾਰ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਮ ਰਤੇ ਸੇ ਰੰਗੁਲੇ ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਹਜਿ ਸੁਭਾਇ ॥ ਭਗਤੀ ਰੰਗੁ ਨ ਉਤਰੈ ਸਹਜੇ ਰਹੈ ਸਮਾਇ ॥੨॥: Manmukh naam vihooniaa rangu kasunbhaa dekhi na bhulu. Is kaa rangu din thorriaa shoshhaa is daa mullu. Doojai lage pachi mue moorakh andh gavaar. Bisattaa andar keet se pa-i pachahi vaaro vaar. Nanak naam ratte se rangule gur kai sahaj subhaae. Bhagatee rangu na utarai sahaje rahai samaae ||2||: O Manmukh (material or ego-being), devoid of the Divine Name, do not be misled upon beholding the color of the safflower (i.e., Maya). Its color lasts for only a few days; thus it is worthless! Like worms living in manure, and in it, they die over and over again, similarly, attached to duality, the foolish, (spiritually) blind and stupid people (ਮਤਿ-ਹੀਣ ਜੀਵ) waste away and suffer, repeatedly. O Nanak, those who are attuned to the Guru, ਸਹਜਿ ਸੁਭਾਇ (i.e, take on the the Guru's Sahaj, Intuitive Wisdom, Nature, etc.), they are dyed in the color of the Lord's Name. The color of their Devotion (ਭਗਤੀ ਰੰਗੁ) does not fade away; for they remain Intuitively absorbed in the Sahaj Avasthaa (ਸਹਜ ਅਵਸਥਾ) within ||2|| (sggs 85).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭੁ ਹੈ ਕਚੂਆ ਜਿਉ ਕੁਸਮ ਚਾਰਿ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਗਾ ॥ ਖਿਨ ਮਹਿ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਜਾਇ ਪਰਤਾਪੈ ਡੰਡੁ ਧਰਮ ਰਾਇ ਕਾ ਲਾਗਾ ॥: Manmukh rangu kasunbh hai kachooaa jio kusam chaar din chaagaa. Khin mahi binasi jaai partaapai dand dharm raai kaa laagaa: The nature of Manmukhs (material beings) is like the false color of the safflower, which fades away; its color lasts for only a few days. His sense-plaesures fade away in an instant, he then suffers; the fear of death always hovers on his head (sggs 985).
  • ਰਾਚਿ ਰਹੇ ਬਨਿਤਾ ਬਿਨੋਦ ਕੁਸਮ ਰੰਗ ਬਿਖ ਸੋਰ ॥: Raachi rehe banitaa binod kusam rang bikh sor: Man remains engrossed in women and playful pleasures (i.e., all evil passions); the tumult of his passion is like the dye of the safflower, which fades away all too soon (sggs 251).

Through this beautiful example of the safflower and its deceptive nature, the Gurbani has tried explaining the real nature of the material world and its gross objects (Sansaar) or Maya, as well as the Manmukhs attached to it. We are warned by the Gurbani not to get emotionally attached to the Sansaar and its objects; for worldly attachment is the root cause of man's sorrows (Dukha). Accordingly, he who attaches to the safflower-like Maya or Sansaar is declared by the Gurbani to be a "mad man".

  • ਮਿਤ੍ਰੁ ਪਿਆਰਾ ਨਾਨਕ ਜੀ ਮੈ ਛਡਿ ਗਵਾਇਆ ਰੰਗਿ ਕਸੁੰਭੈ ਭੁਲੀ ॥: Mitru piaaraa Nanak jee mai shad gavaaiaa rangi kasunbhai bhulee: I abandoned and lost my Frioend, the Divine Beloved, O Nanak; I was fooled by the transitory color of the safflower-- deceptive Maya or world-appearance (sggs 963).
  • ਸੁਣਿ ਬਾਵਰੇ ਨੇਹੁ ਕੂੜਾ ਲਾਇਓ ਕੁਸੰਭ ਰੰਗਾਨਾ ॥: Sun baavare nehu koorraa laaio kusanbh rangaanaa: Listen, madman: you have been trapped by false love (of deceptive Maya), which is transitory, like the fading color of the safflower (sggs 777).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖਾ ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਮੁਏ ਮੇਰੀ ਕਰਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਰਾਮ ॥ ਖਿਨੁ ਆਵੈ ਖਿਨੁ ਜਾਵੈ ਦੁਰਗੰਧ ਮੜੈ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਇਆ ਰਾਮ ॥ ਲਾਇਆ ਦੁਰਗੰਧ ਮੜੈ ਚਿਤੁ ਲਾਗਾ ਜਿਉ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਦਿਖਾਇਆ ॥ ਖਿਨੁ ਪੂਰਬਿ ਖਿਨੁ ਪਛਮਿ ਛਾਏ ਜਿਉ ਚਕੁ ਕੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹਿਆਰਿ ਭਵਾਇਆ ॥ ਦੁਖੁ ਖਾਵਹਿ ਦੁਖੁ ਸੰਚਹਿ ਭੋਗਹਿ ਦੁਖ ਕੀ ਬਿਰਧਿ ਵਧਾਈ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਖਮੁ ਸੁਹੇਲਾ ਤਰੀਐ ਜਾ ਆਵੈ ਗੁਰ ਸਰਣਾਈ ॥੨॥: Manmukhaa manmukhi mue meree kari Maya Raam. Khin aavai khin jaavai durgandh marrai chit laaiaa Raam. Laaiaa duragandh marrai chit laagaa jio rangu kasunbh dikhaaiaa ...: The Manmukhs die in their material consciousness, declaring that the wealth of Maya is theirs. They attach their consciousness to the foul-smelling pile of filth of the body, which comes for a moment, and departs in an instant. Thus, the Manmukhs have their consciousness attached to the foul-smelling pile of filth of the body, which is transitory, like the fading color of the safflower. It's like the shade of an object which changes east to west (as the sun changes its position); they continue spinning around, like the potter's wheel. In sorrow, they eat, and in sorrow, they gather things and try to enjoy them, but they only increase their stores of sorrow. O Nanak, one easily crosses over the terrifying world-ocean, when he comes to the Sanctuary of the Divine ||2|| (sggs 442).
  • ਬਿਗਸਿਓ ਪੇਖਿ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕੋ ਪਰ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਜੋਹਨਿ ਜਾਇਓ ॥: Bigasio pekh rangu kasunbh ko par grih johani jaaio: He is excited, gazing on the transitory color of the safflower (i.e., deceptive Maya or world-appearance), and looking at other men's wives--i.e., evil passions(sggs 712).

As the Gurbani time and again reminds us, it is the wisdom born detachment from the Sansaar that leads to Divine-knowledge (Aatam-Giaan, Spiritual Wisdom). Thus, detachment is essential to retrace our steps back to our Soul Nature, which transcends Maya. As indicated in the scriptures, worldly attachments will fall away on their own accord when the mind attains the necessary detachment through the practice of Jap, Naam-Simran, Shabad-Vichaar...

  • ਹਥੁ ਨ ਲਾਇ ਕਸੁੰਭੜੈ ਜਲਿ ਜਾਸੀ ਢੋਲਾ ॥: Hath na laae kasunbharrai jail jaasee dholaa: Do not touch the safflower (i.e., Maya); if you do, you will get "burnt" (i.e., Maya will delude you and leave you to suffer) (sggs 794).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਬੈਰਾਗ ਨ ਛੂਟਸਿ ਮਾਇਆ ॥੧॥: Bin bairaag na shootas maya ||1||: Without detachment, Maya cannot be gotten rid of (cannot be liberated from Maya, etc.) ||1|| (sggs 329).
  • ਜੋ ਸਬਦਿ ਰਾਤੇ ਮਹਾ ਬੈਰਾਗੀ ਸੋ ਸਚੁ ਸਬਦੇ ਲਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥: Jo sabadi raatae mehaa bairaagee so sach sabade laahaa hae: Those who are imbued with the Shabad, are very detached. They earn the profit of the True Word of the Shabad, the Naam (sggs 1054).

As opposed to the safflower, The madder's (Majeeth) color is known to be fast and permanent. Hence the efficacy of Reflecting on the Divine Name is compared in the Gurbani with the madder. Because, contrary to the transitory color of the safflower (deceptive Maya or world-appearance), the color of the Divine Name is permanent like the color of the madder!

  • ਜੈਸਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਤੈਸਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰ ॥ ਮੇਰੇ ਰਮਈਏ ਰੰਗੁ ਮਜੀਠ ਕਾ ਕਹੁ ਰਵਿਦਾਸ ਚਮਾਰ ॥: Jaisaa rang kasunbh kaa taisaa ihu sansaar. Mere rameeeae rangu majeeth kaa kahu Ravidaas chamaar: Love of this material world is like the pale, temporary color of the safflower. The color of Divine Name, however, is permanent, like the dye of the madder plant. So says Ravi Daas, the tanner (sggs 346).
  • ਜਿਉ ਉਬਲੀ ਮਜੀਠੈ ਰੰਗੁ ਗਹਗਹਾ ਤਿਉ ਸਚੇ ਨੋ ਜੀਉ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਰੰਗਿ ਚਲੂਲੈ ਅਤਿ ਰਤੀ ਸਚੇ ਸਿਉ ਲਗਾ ਨੇਹੁ ॥: Jiou ubulee majeethai rang gahagahaa tiou sache no jeeyu deyi. Rangi chaloolai ati ratee sache siyu lagaa nehu: As the madder endures the pain of getting boiled, its color becomes deep crimson - such is the dye of the Love for the Divine Name which will color you, when you dedicate your soul to the True One (sggs 311).
  • ਰੰਗ ਮਜੀਠ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਦਾ ਕੱਚਾ ਪੱਕਾ ਕਿਤ ਵੀਚਾਰੇ ...: Rang majeeth kasunbh daa kachaa pakkaa kit veechaare ...: Why madder is the fast color and safflower temporary? The roots of madder spread in earth, it is first brought out and put into the pit and is pounded with wooden pestles. Then it is crushed into a heavy mill. It further suffers the pain of getting boiled and decorated in water and then only it adorns (with fast color) the clothes of the beloved. The safflower comes up from the upper portion of the thorny weed Carthamus tinctoria and yields its deep color. Adding tart in it, the clothes are dyed and they remain dyed only for a few days. The lowly born utimately wins and the so-called high up gets defeated (Vaar Bhai Gurdaas).
  • ਪੇਖਿ ਪੇਖਿ ਰੇ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕੀ ਲੀਲਾ ਰਾਚਿ ਮਾਚਿ ਤਿਨਹੂੰ ਲਉ ਹਸੂਆ ॥ ਛੀਜਤ ਡੋਰਿ ਦਿਨਸੁ ਅਰੁ ਰੈਨੀ ਜੀਅ ਕੋ ਕਾਜੁ ਨ ਕੀਨੋ ਕਛੂਆ ॥੨॥: Pekh pekh re kasumbh kee leelaa raach maach tinahoon laou hasooaa ... : Watching, watching the transitory (the Safflower like short-lived) world-drama (Leelaa, Maya's play, etc.), you are embroiled and enmeshed in them (worldly objects - ਪਦਾਰਥ), and you laugh with delight. The string of life is wearing thin, day and night, and you have done nothing for your Soul (ਤੂੰ ਆਪਣੀ ਜਿੰਦ ਦੇ ਕੰਮ ਆਉਣ ਵਾਲਾ ਕੋਈ ਭੀ ਕੰਮ ਨਹੀਂ ਕੀਤਾ). ||2|| (sggs 206).

— T. Singh