The mortal who stirs the water and churns the water, wishing to
obtain butter, is blind (ਅਕਲੋਂ, mentally blind) ignorant. (sggs 229).

Churning water means living in egocentric or unenlightened existence (the Manmukh or Mayaic lifestyle). What is egocentric or unenlightened existence? In simple terms, when the Infinite Mool with (Source, origin, Jot...) gets identified with the gross vehicle of the body-mind-intellect apparatus, there is the expression of the false ego (Haumai). By its very characteristic, false ego is always in the state of restlessness and discontentment. In such agitated and disturbed mindset, an egocentric person (the Manmukh, Saakat...) always ends up serving Maya (bewitching worldliness) instead of the Mool within. This is called "churning water" that produces no butter — that is, no Mool Realization!

  • ਅੰਧੇ ਅਕਲੀ ਬਾਹਰੇ ਕਿਆ ਤਿਨ ਸਿਉ ਕਹੀਐ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਗੁਰ ਪੰਥੁ ਨ ਸੂਝਈ ਕਿਤੁ ਬਿਧਿ ਨਿਰਬਹੀਐ ॥੨॥ ਖੋਟੇ ਕਉ ਖਰਾ ਕਹੈ ਖਰੇ ਸਾਰ ਨ ਜਾਣੈ ॥ ਅੰਧੇ ਕਾ ਨਾਉ ਪਾਰਖੂ ਕਲੀ ਕਾਲ ਵਿਡਾਣੈ ॥੩॥ ਸੂਤੇ ਕਉ ਜਾਗਤੁ ਕਹੈ ਜਾਗਤ ਕਉ ਸੂਤਾ ॥ ਜੀਵਤ ਕਉ ਮੂਆ ਕਹੈ ਮੂਏ ਨਹੀ ਰੋਤਾ ॥੪॥ ਆਵਤ ਕਉ ਜਾਤਾ ਕਹੈ ਜਾਤੇ ਕਉ ਆਇਆ ॥ ਪਰ ਕੀ ਕਉ ਅਪੁਨੀ ਕਹੈ ਅਪੁਨੋ ਨਹੀ ਭਾਇਆ ॥੫॥ ਮੀਠੇ ਕਉ ਕਉੜਾ ਕਹੈ ਕੜੂਏ ਕਉ ਮੀਠਾ ॥ ਰਾਤੇ ਕੀ ਨਿੰਦਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਐਸਾ ਕਲਿ ਮਹਿ ਡੀਠਾ ॥੬॥ ਚੇਰੀ ਕੀ ਸੇਵਾ ਕਰਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਦੀਸੈ ॥ ਪੋਖਰੁ ਨੀਰੁ ਵਿਰੋਲੀਐ ਮਾਖਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਰੀਸੈ ॥੭॥ ਇਸੁ ਪਦ ਜੋ ਅਰਥਾਇ ਲੇਇ ਸੋ ਗੁਰੂ ਹਮਾਰਾ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਚੀਨੈ ਆਪ ਕਉ ਸੋ ਅਪਰ ਅਪਾਰਾ ॥੮॥: Andhe akalee baahare kiaa tin siou kaheeai ...:  What can you say, to one who is blind (ignorant) and without wisdom (i.e., one cannot make them understand)? Without the Guru, the Path (the True Way of living - ਜੀਵਨ ਦਾ ਸਹੀ ਰਸਤਾ) cannot be seen (by them). How can anyone (who is walking on the right Path) accompany them (those who are mentally blind and and unwise)? ||2|| He calls the counterfeit (that which has no value on the Path) genuine, and does not know the value of the genuine (Naam or Name, etc.). The blind (mentally blind-ignorant) man is known as an appraiser; strange is this dark-state of the mind (mind or thinking that is corrupt, full of Bikaar, trouble, stress, affliction...)! ||3|| The sleeper (sleeping to Maya) is said to be awake, and those who are awake (spiritually) are said to be sleepers. The living (spiritual Life - ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) are said to be dead, and no one mourns for those who have died (of spiritual Life - ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤੇ ਮਰੇ ਹੋਏ ਨੂੰ). ||4|| One who is coming (spiritual Path - ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ) is said to be going (useless, ਗਿਆ-ਗੁਜਰਿਆ, etc.), and one who is gone is said to have come (successful in the world, ਸਫਲ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਾਲਾ, etc). That which belongs to others (Mayaic), he calls his own, but he has no liking for that which is his (ਨਾਮ-ਧਨ). ||5|| That which is sweet (ਨਾਮ-ਰਸ, the Lord's Name) is said to be bitter, and the bitter (enjoyment of the sense-objects, ਵਿਛਿਆਂ ਦਾ ਰਸ, which proves to be bitter in the end) is said to be sweet. One who is imbued with the Lord's Love is slandered - this is what I have seen in this Dark Age of Kali Yuga. ||6||Man serves the maid (Maya), and does not see (Maya's Master - God). Churning the pond (ਛੱਪੜ), water, no butter is produced. ||7|| One who understands the meaning of this verse and adopts it is my Guroo. O Nanak, one who knows his real Self (ਆਪਣੇ ਅਸਲੇ ਨੂੰ ਪਛਾਣ ਲੈਂਣਾਂ, ਆਪਾ ਪਛਾਣਨ ਦਾ ਆਤਮਕ ਦਰਜਾ, etc.), becomes Infinite and Incomparable (i.e., he becomes God-like) ||8|| (sggs 229).
  • ਜਲੁ ਬਿਲੋਵੈ ਜਲੁ ਮਥੈ ਤਤੁ ਲੋੜੈ ਅੰਧੁ ਅਗਿਆਨਾ ॥ ਗੁਰਮਤੀ ਦਧਿ ਮਥੀਐ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪਾਈਐ ਨਾਮੁ ਨਿਧਾਨਾ ॥ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਤਤੁ ਨ ਜਾਣਨੀ ਪਸੂ ਮਾਹਿ ਸਮਾਨਾ ॥੩॥ : Jalu bilovai jalu mathai tatu lorrai andhu agiaanaa ...: The mortal who stirs the water, and (always) churns the water in hope to obtain butter, is blind (mentally blind), and ignorant. (If we) churn the cream (butter is obtained, similarly) following the Gurmat (i.e., following the Gurbani's Teaching, the Butter of), the Treasure of the Amrit-Naam is obtained. The Manmukhs do not understand (this) Essence (Truth...), they remain centered in animal-consciousness (ਪਸੂ-ਬ੍ਰਿਤੀ). ||3||(sggs 1009).
Very few and rare ones churn the real "Cream": Divine Name (or Shabad-Vichaar). Rest of us (over 99.99 percent) just churn "water" (falsehood), day in and day out! The life of those churning water is like the donkey who grazes upon the green grass; arising each day, he laughs and brays, and then dies. Or, like the intoxicated bull who runs around wildly, romps, eats and then falls into hellish existence.
  • ਐਸੋ ਅਚਰਜੁ ਦੇਖਿਓ ਕਬੀਰ ॥ ਦਧਿ ਕੈ ਭੋਲੈ ਬਿਰੋਲੈ ਨੀਰੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Eso acharaj dekhio Kabeer. Dadh kai bholai birolai neer ||1||Rahaaou||: Kabeer has seen such wonder! Mistaking it for cream, the people are churning water ||1||Pause|| (sggs 326).
All rituals are fetters. Hence they are likened to "churning water". The Mool, the All-pervading Consciousness is to be understood as distinct from, and beyond the body-mind-intellect apparatus. As rituals, beliefs, religious robes, etc., are the play of the body-mind-intellect personality (Maya), the Mool is beyond their reach or apprehension.

Why is it so? The body can't comprehend the Reality because He is not the object of senses or perception; the mind can't either because the Mool is not the object of emotions; and the intellect can't comprehend as well because the Mool is not the object of cognition.

Rituals make people atheist. They give rise to blind faith and superstitions. Consequently, such acts result only in increasing the fire of false ego or ignorance of the real the Mool within. Accordingly, all such mental activities have been rejected by the Gurbani (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, SGGS) as God can not be approached by them.

  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਦਹੀ ਵਿਲੋਈਐ ਭਾਈ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਤਥੁ ॥ ਜਲੁ ਮਥੀਐ ਜਲੁ ਦੇਖੀਐ ਭਾਈ ਇਹੁ ਜਗੁ ਏਹਾ ਵਥੁ ॥: Pandit dahee viroleeai bhaaee vichahu niklai tath. Jal mathheeai jal dekhheeai bhaayee ih jag ehaa vath: O Pandit, by churning cream, butter is produced. O brother, by churning water, you will only see water; this world is like that (sggs 635).
  • ਸਗਲੇ ਕਰਮ ਧਰਮ ਜੁਗ ਸੋਧੇ ॥ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਨ ਪ੍ਰਬੋਧੇ ॥: Sagle karam dharam jug sodhe. Bin naavai ih man na parbodhe: I have studied treligions and rituals of all the ages. Without the Name, this mind is not awakened (from the slumber of Maya) (sggs 913).
  • ਕਾਹੂ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਕਿਤੈ ਨ ਪਾਈਐ ਧਰਮਿ ॥: Kahoo jugati kitai n paaeeai Dharma (Naam) cannot be obtained by any devices (cleverness, contrivance, ਹੋਰ ਕਿਸੇ ਢੰਗ ਨਾਲ, etc.), and any religious rituals (ਧਾਰਮਿਕ ਰਸਮ ਰਿਵਾਜ, etc.) (sggs 274).

Reading of the Gurbani without attaining Intuitive Understanding (Aatm Giaan, Spiritual Wisdom) is also likened to "churning water". The Gurbani asks: what is the use of reading and listening scriptures if intuitive understanding and Spiritual Realization is not attained? In the darkness of ignorance, we need a lamp to find the incomprehensible thing. Similarly, to find the Self (God or True Guru) within, we need engaging our mind in undivided Shabad-Vichaar. Once this incomprehensible thing is experienced within; the mind becomes Illuminated and Enlightened (with the Aatm Giaan, Divine Knowledge).

  • ਸਲੋਕੁ ਮਃ ੧ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀ ਲਦੀਅਹਿ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਭਰੀਅਹਿ ਸਾਥ ॥ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਬੇੜੀ ਪਾਈਐ ਪੜਿ ਪੜਿ ਗਡੀਅਹਿ ਖਾਤ ॥ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਬਰਸ ਬਰਸ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਮਾਸ ॥ ਪੜੀਐ ਜੇਤੀ ਆਰਜਾ ਪੜੀਅਹਿ ਜੇਤੇ ਸਾਸ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਲੇਖੈ ਇਕ ਗਲ ਹੋਰੁ ਹਉਮੈ ਝਖਣਾ ਝਾਖ ॥੧॥: Slok M: 1 || Parri parri gaddee laddeeahi parri parri bhareeahi saath ...: Slok M: 1. You may read and read loads of books; you may read and study vast multitudes of books. You may read and read boat-loads of books; you may read and read and fill pits with them (ਕਈ ਖਾਤੇ ਪੂਰੇ ਜਾ ਸਕਣ). You may read them year after year; you may read them as many months are there. You may read them all your life; you may read them with every breath. O Nanak, only one thing is of any account (the Truth, etc.), everything else is useless babbling and idle talk in ego ||1|| (sggs 467).

As indicated in the Gurbani, with our evil mind and thievish bodies, we visit and bathe at the pilgrim places. By doing so, the outer part of our body filth does get washed off , but we end up accumulating twice as much of inner or mental "filth". A godly Being is blessed, even without such bathing, while a thief remains a thief, no matter how much he bathes. As the gourd does not shed its bitterness by bathing at the shrines of pilgrimage, similarly, the mental filth can not be washed off by bathing at such places. This is the reason such nonsense is rejected in the Gurbani; because such activities are no more than "churning water"! If someone thinks otherwise, obviously he as no clear concept of God.

  • ਹ੍ਰਿਦੈ ਕਪਟੁ ਮੁਖ ਗਿਆਨੀ ॥ ਝੂਠੇ ਕਹਾ ਬਿਲੋਵਸਿ ਪਾਨੀ ॥੧॥ ਕਾਂਇਆ ਮਾਂਜਸਿ ਕਉਨ ਗੁਨਾਂ ॥ ਜਉ ਘਟ ਭੀਤਰਿ ਹੈ ਮਲਨਾਂ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਲਉਕੀ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਈ ॥ ਕਉਰਾਪਨੁ ਤਊ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੨॥: Hirdai kapat mukh giyaani. Jhoothai kahaa bilovas paanee. ||1|| Kaaiaa maanjas kaou gunaa. Jaou ghat bheetar hai malnaa. ||1||Rahaaou|| Laoukee athsath teerth nhaaee. Kaouraapan taooo n jaaee ||2||: (O hypocrite man) in your heart there is deception, and yet in your mouth are words of wisdom. ||1|| (O deceptive man) you are false — why are you churning (this) water; why do you bother to wash your body (i.e. you look clean on the outside, but inside you are "filthy")? (For) Your heart is full of filth. ||1||Pause|| (Remember) the gourd may be washed at the sixty-eight sacred shrines, but even then, its bitterness is not removed (from inside) ||2|| (sggs 656).
First, ego and the feelings of selfhood delude man's intelligence. Then, man's response to this delusion on his intelligence results in doubts. Under the influence of doubts, man loses his ability to realize the ultimate purpose of this life. Hence false ego is the mother of doubts and mental delusion (Bharam).

Thus, the mind deluded by doubts wastes away "churning water". Doubts can be defined as follows: "What we deem a thing to be, in reality, it is not like that". For example, a deer incessantly chases mirage in desert taking it as a source of water. However, owing to his delusion, he never gets water out of mirage and suffers. Also, although the musk is stored within a deer's body, but, due to guiled by his own delusion, he searches for it in the bushes. Thus, mind deluded in doubts becomes unfit for realizing its Mool (Source....) within.

  • ਘਰ ਮਹਿ ਠਾਕੁਰੁ ਨਦਰਿ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਗਲ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਹਣੁ ਲੈ ਲਟਕਾਵੈ ॥੧॥ ਭਰਮੇ ਭੂਲਾ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਫਿਰਤਾ ॥ ਨੀਰੁ ਬਿਰੋਲੈ ਖਪਿ ਖਪਿ ਮਰਤਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Ghar mahi thaakur nadar n aavai. Gal mahi paahaan lai latkaavai. ||1|| Bharmai bhoolaa saakat phirtaa. Neer birolai khap khap martaa ||1||Rahaaou||: Within the home (of his body), he does not even come to see his Lord. And yet, around his neck, he hangs a stone-god (idle). ||1|| The Saakat (the one separated from the Truth) wanders around, deluded by doubt. He churns water (idle worship, ਮੂਰਤੀ ਪੂਜਾ, etc.), and (this way) after wasting his life away he dies (ਆਤਮਕ ਮੌਤ, death of spiritual life, etc.) ||1||Pause|| (sggs 739).
  • ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Maadhve kiya kaheeyai bhram aisaa. Jaisaa maaneeyai hoi na taisaa ||1||Rahaaou||: 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).
Also called Doojaa Bhaav, duality is our mental conditioning which veils the Mool from us. As a result, one thinks himself "other" than the Mool. He thinks himself separate from the Mool. This is the notion of two-ness. According to the Gurbani, thus, the duality is nothing but the love (Bhaav) of two-ness (Doojaa). To put it otherwise, by associating with the duality one loses Divine Understanding (Aatm Giaan). This loosening of Divine Understanding gives rise to ignorance of the Mool so much talked about in the Gurbani . It is Maya with her dualistic principle of delusion or the law of opposites that deludes us. A Manmukh (material being) churns nothing but "water" or duality.
  • ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਮੋਹੁ ਗੁਬਾਰੁ ਹੈ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਬੋਲੈ ॥ ਦੂਜੈ ਭਾਇ ਸਦਾ ਦੁਖੁ ਹੈ ਨਿਤ ਨੀਰੁ ਵਿਰੋਲੈ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਧਿਆਈਐ ਮਥਿ ਤਤੁ ਕਢੋਲੈ ॥: Manmukh moh gubaar hai doojai bhaai bolai. Doojai bhaai sadaa dukh hai nit neer virolai. Gurmukh naam dhiaaeeai mathi tatt kadholai: The Manmukh (materialistic, self-willed, etc.) is trapped in the darkness of emotional attachment; he speaks in the love of duality (attachment to Maya). The love of duality brings pain forever; (it's like he) churns the water endlessly. The Gurmukh meditates on the Naam; he churns the Naam, and (through this churning) obtains the Essence of Reality (sggs 955).
According to the Gurbani, the Manmukh is a beast. Just as the deer is unaware of the presence of musk within his body, the Manmukh also does not know the essence of the Reality that is contained within himself. In egoism and self-conceit, he suffers repeated pain and delusion. Thus, those who spend life "churning water" ends up on the wrong side of the Divine Hukam.
  • ਪਾਪੀ ਕਰਮ ਕਮਾਵਦੇ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਾਏ ਹਾਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿਉ ਮਥਨਿ ਮਾਧਾਣੀਆ ਤਿਉ ਮਥੇ ਧ੍ਰਮ ਰਾਇ ॥੯॥: Paapee karma kamaavde karde haai haai. Nanak jiou mathan madhaaneeaa tiou mathe Dharma Raai ||9||: The sinners keep doing bad karma. O Nanak, just as the churning stick churns the butter, Righteous Judge of Dharma (constantly) churn them (i.e., make them suffer the consequences of their misdeeds) ||9|| (sggs 1425).

One may literally churn water until he is sore, but he will not attain butter! For example, the land may be prepared in every way, but nothing sprouts without being planted. Just so, without the Divine Name (Aatam Giaan or Divine Knowledge), no one is liberated, nor is egotistical pride eradicated. Without the Divine Name, we walk in the ways of the world, trying to please people. But so long our Heart is not Enlightened (with Aatam Giaan or Divine Knowledge), we remain stuck in the pitch darkness of ignorance.

When one dies in Shabad-Surti (God-consciousness, Aatam Giaan...) then he does not die ever again. By practicing the Gur-Shabad or Naam (Aatam Giaan or Divine Knowledge), he redeems not only himself but many more. Hence, the Naam is the true object, the true commodity, and the only true profit in this world. To reap this True Profit, the Gurbani urges us to wash our mind in the pool of Truth. And then let it be the vessel of the Pure Spirit and our offering to the Mool within. Such humble beings who dedicates and offers his life and serves the Divine within in this way, remains absorbed in the Mool within.

  • ਭਾਂਡਾ ਧੋਇ ਬੈਸਿ ਧੂਪੁ ਦੇਵਹੁ ਤਉ ਦੂਧੈ ਕਉ ਜਾਵਹੁ ॥ ਦੂਧੁ ਕਰਮ ਫੁਨਿ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਸਮਾਇਣੁ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਰਾਸ ਜਮਾਵਹੁ ॥੧॥: Bhaandaa dhoyi bais dhoop devahu taou doodhai kaou jaavahu. Doodh karam phun surti samaain hoi niraas jamaavahu: (In order to obtain the butter, you first) wash the vessel, sit down and anoint it with fragrance; then (you), go out and get the milk. (and then you add the rennet to curdle the milk, and then you churn it to obtain the butter. Similarly, If we want to obtain the butter of the Amrit-Naam, then we need to) add the rennet of clear consciousness (ਹਿਰਦੇ/ ਮਨ ਨੂੰ ਪਵਿਤ੍ਰ ਕਰ ਕੇ, ਜੁੜੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਨਾਲ) to the milk of good deeds (ਕਿਰਤ-ਕਾਰ), and then, (ਜੁੜੀ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਦੀ ਬਰਕਤਿ ਨਾਲ) by becoming free of desire, let (this milk) curdle (sggs 728).
The Gurbani concludes that Shabad-Vichaar is the only churning of milk. All else — religious rituals, religious garbs, empty ceremonies, Karamkaand (worldly entanglements), superficial (external) Kirtan or chanting, reciting or singing of the Gurbani in the pretext of making money, worship of physical objects, worship of embodied beings (Aadam-prastee) or so called Gurus and saints, worship of religious texts, bathing in so called holy ponds or rivers, going on pilgrimage, mechanical and parrot-like reading of the scriptures, list goes on and on — is nothing but "churning of water". In other words, Jap or Naam-Simran (Understanding of the Aatam Giaan of the Gur-Shabad...) is the "Milk", and the Realization of the Immortality or Amrit (the Mool within) is the "Butter".
  • ਜਪਹੁ ਤ ਏਕੋ ਨਾਮਾ ॥ ਅਵਰਿ ਨਿਰਾਫਲ ਕਾਮਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ਈਟੀ ਹਾਥਿ ਕਰਹੁ ਫੁਨਿ ਨੇਤ੍ਰਉ ਨੀਦ ਨ ਆਵੈ ॥ ਰਸਨਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਪਹੁ ਤਬ ਮਥੀਐ ਇਨ ਬਿਧਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਪਾਵਹੁ ॥੨॥: Japahu taa eko Naamaa. ||1||Rahaaou|| Avar niraphal kaamaa. Ih mann eetee haath karahu phun netrayu need na aavai. Rasnaa Naam japo tab matheeyai in bidhi Amrit paavahu ||2||: Remember only the Name of the One Lord. All other actions are fruitless. ||1||Pause|| Let your mind be the handles, and then churn it, without sleeping. If you chant the Naam, the Name of the Lord, with your tongue, then the curd will be churned. In this way, the Ambrosial Nectar is obtained ||2|| (sggs 728).

— T. Singh