Bitter as Nimm

Nimm (ਨਿੰਮ – Azadirachta indica, an Indian lilac tree) is known to be bitter by its very nature. Also called Neem, everything about this tree is bitter — its leaves, its twigs, and its fruit (olive-like drupe) are bitter!

Bhagat Kabeer Jee in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) compares the nature of a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) mind with the bitter nature of Nimm.

Bhagat Kabeer Jee says if one were to irrigate this Nimm tree again and again with sweet water or nectar, still its natural quality (i.e. bitterness) will not depart!

  • ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਲੈ ਲੈ ਨੀਮੁ ਸਿੰਚਾਈ ॥ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਉਆ ਕੋ ਸਹਜੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੫॥੭॥੨੦॥: Says Kabeer! If (you) repeatedly irrigate the Neem tree with Amrit (sweet water, nectar) still, its natural quality (i.e., bitter nature) will not depart. ||5||7||20|| (sggs 481).

A Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) person is separated from Truth. As a result, a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) mind is full of falsehood, ignorance, doubts, Haumai or false ego-sense, hunger for Maya, selfishness, Pakhand, negative impact of  Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, attachment and pride) etc. In other words, that person does not practice Wisdom and Virtues in daily life of.

As the Nimm tree does not give up its bitter nature, similarly Bhagat Kabeer Jee says a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) person cannot give up his or her innate nature either.

To illustrate, Bhagat Kabeer Jee gives us some examples.

For instance, it’s of no avail to read scriptures to a dog. Similarly, Bhagat Kabeer Sahib says it’s of no avail to praise or describe the Divine Virtues to a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) for he is not going to give up his innate nature!

  • ਕਹਾ ਸੁਆਨ ਕਉ ਸਿਮ੍ਰਿਤਿ ਸੁਨਾਏ ॥ ਕਹਾ ਸਾਕਤ ਪਹਿ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਨ ਗਾਏ ॥੧॥: (As) there is no benefit in reciting Simriti (i.e., scriptures) to a dog, (similarly) it is of no avail to sing ‘Hari Gun’ (to praise or describe divine Virtues) to a Saakat. ||1|| (sggs 481).
  • ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ਅਤਿ ਅੰਨਾ ਬੋਲਾ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਨ ਸੁਣਈ ਬਹੁ ਰੋਲ ਘਚੋਲਾ ॥: One who is attached to Maya is (spiritually) very much blind and deaf (to the Gur-Shabad…). (In such conditioned state), he is unable to listen (i.e., don’t pay attention…) to the Shabad; (but, in love or hunger of Maya) he makes much uproar and tumult (ਰੌਲਾ-ਗੌਲਾ, noise, chatter, etc.). (sggs 313).
  • ਸੇ ਮਨਮੁਖ ਜੋ ਸਬਦ ਨ ਪਛਾਨਹਿ ॥: They alone are Manmukhs who do not Realize the Shabad (sggs 1054).

In the next example, Bhagat Kabeer Sahib talks about a crow and a snake. It’s of no avail to feed camphor (Kapoor) to a crow. Because, a crow rather have its beak in filth (stench, ਗੰਦ ਖਾਣ ਦੀ ਆਦਤ) instead! Likewise, it’s of no avail to feed milk to a snake. Because, this will not make a snake give up its nature of biting with poisonous fangs!

  • ਕਊਆ ਕਹਾ ਕਪੂਰ ਚਰਾਏ ॥ ਕਹ ਬਿਸੀਅਰ ਕਉ ਦੂਧੁ ਪੀਆਏ ॥੨॥: Offering camphor (ਕਪੂਰ, a fragrant grass) to a crow is of no avail (because his habit of eating filth will not go away – ਕਾਂ ਦੀ ਗੰਦ/ਵਿਸਟਾ ਖਾਣ ਦੀ ਆਦਤ ਨਹੀਂ ਜਾ ਸਕਦੀ). (Similarly) feeding a snake on milk is of no avail (because he will not stop biting — his poison will only grow)? ||2|| (sggs 481).
  • ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਨਾਮੁ ਜਾਨੈ ਕਰਿ ਕਉਰਾ ॥: Naam (Giaan or Wisdom) is the Amrit, (Saakat-Sansaar) believes it to be bitter. (sggs 180).

Thus, Bhagat Kabeer Jee says a dog, a crow, a snake, and a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree) all alive by their conditioned nature,  not by Naam (Wisdom, Virtues…).

  • ਸਾਕਤੁ ਸੁਆਨੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਰੇ ਕਰਾਇਆ ॥: Whatever the dog and Saakat do, it is motivated by their nature. (sggs 481).

One can only change ownself. Nobody can change others unless they themselves want to change. Abidance in one’s Mool or Jot Saroop within can NOT be made to an order or given to somebody as a readymade package or gift!

  • ਸਾਕਤ ਬਧਿਕ ਮਾਇਆਧਾਰੀ ਤਿਨ ਜਮ ਜੋਹਨਿ ਲਾਗੇ ॥: People who make Maya the mainstay of their life break away from Truth, become ruthless, ‘Jamm‘ (Bikaar: lust, anger, greed etc.) stalks them. (sggs 172).
  • ਮਨਮੁਖਿ ਹਰਿ ਰਸੁ ਚਾਖਿਆ ਨ ਜਾਇ ॥: A Manmukh cannot taste the Naam. (sggs 733).

In short, Bhagat Kabeer Sahib alerts us from these selfish and crafty people, otherwise we stand plundered, cheated, and exploited!

  • ਦੁਨੀਆ ਹੁਸੀਆਰ ਬੇਦਾਰ ਜਾਗਤ ਮੁਸੀਅਤ ਹਉ ਰੇ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਨਿਗਮ ਹੁਸੀਆਰ ਪਹਰੂਆ ਦੇਖਤ ਜਮੁ ਲੇ ਜਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਨੀਬੁ ਭਇਓ ਆਂਬੁ ਆਂਬੁ ਭਇਓ ਨੀਬਾ ਕੇਲਾ ਪਾਕਾ ਝਾਰਿ ॥ ਨਾਲੀਏਰ ਫਲੁ ਸੇਬਰਿ ਪਾਕਾ ਮੂਰਖ ਮੁਗਧ ਗਵਾਰ ॥੧॥: O brother! O people of the world! Beware, be Alert, you are being robbed (by the paid clergy) while awake. Even in the guarding of the Shastras, (paid clergy) is saying or doing things under the impact of ‘Jam(u)’ — Bikaars: lust, anger, greed etc. ||1|| Pause || (Trapped in Bikaars and Karamkaand even in the guarding of the Shastras, they talk nonsense as) they think Nimm tree is a mango tree and a mango tree is a Nimm; and Ripe bananas look to them as they are on thorny bushes. And the Simbol tree seems to these foolish ignorant people to be the ripe coconut fruit. (sggs 972).

Such Bikaar-ridden person can visit and bath at all the places of pilgrimage, but his bitter nature or his mental filth will not leave him just as the gourd does not shed its bitterness even if you bathe it at all of the so-called holy waters! Bhagat Kabeer Jee says:

  • ਲਉਕੀ ਅਠਸਠਿ ਤੀਰਥ ਨ੍ਹ੍ਹਾਈ ॥ ਕਉਰਾਪਨੁ ਤਊ ਨ ਜਾਈ ॥੨॥: (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).
  • ਬਿਖੈ ਕਉੜਤਣਿ ਸਗਲ ਮਾਹਿ ਜਗਤਿ ਰਹੀ ਲਪਟਾਇ ॥: The bitter poison (Maya) is within all (Jeev); it clings to the entire world (sggs 304).

Therefore, Bhagat Kabeer Jee emphasizes on avoiding the company of a Saakat (-Manmukh-Mayadhaaree). Otherwise ignorance is bound to increase and the intellect is bound to dim and corrupt!

To illustrate this, Bhagat Kabeer Jee again gives us some practical examples: (1) If we touch a vessel stained with soot, some of the soot is bound to stick to us; (2) if we come in contact with garlic, we can not avoid its smell; and (3) a black blanket cannot be made white by simply washing it!

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਦੂਰਹਿ ਜਾਈਐ ਭਾਗਿ ॥ ਬਾਸਨੁ ਕਾਰੋ ਪਰਸੀਐ ਤਉ ਕਛੁ ਲਾਗੈ ਦਾਗੁ ॥੧੩੧॥: O Kabeer! Don’t do Saakat’s company; run far away (from Saakat). If you touch a vessel stained with soot, some of the soot is bound to stick (to you). ||131|| (sggs 1371).
  • ਕਬੀਰ ਸਾਕਤੁ ਐਸਾ ਹੈ ਜੈਸੀ ਲਸਨ ਕੀ ਖਾਨਿ ॥ ਕੋਨੇ ਬੈਠੇ ਖਾਈਐ ਪਰਗਟ ਹੋਇ ਨਿਦਾਨਿ ॥੧੭॥: O Kabeer! As is the closet of garlic, so is Saakat. Even if (garlic) is eaten sitting in a corner, it becomes obvious (to all due its odor)!||17|| (sggs 1365).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਕਾਰੀ ਕਾਂਬਰੀ ਧੋਏ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਸੇਤੁ ॥੧੦੦॥: The Saakat is like a black blanket, which does not become white by being washed ||100|| (sggs 1369).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਸੰਗੁ ਨ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਹੋਇ ਬਿਨਾਹੁ ॥੯੩॥: Don’t do Saakat’s company; it would bring ruin (of intellect, spiritual life…). ||93|| (sggs 1369).

The Gurbani (SGGS) further teaches us:

  • ਤੁਮੀ ਤੁਮਾ ਵਿਸੁ ਅਕੁ ਧਤੂਰਾ ਨਿਮੁ ਫਲੁ ॥ ਮਨਿ ਮੁਖਿ ਵਸਹਿ ਤਿਸੁ ਜਿਸੁ ਤੂੰ ਚਿਤਿ ਨ ਆਵਹੀ ॥: Bitter melon, swallow-wort, poison, thorn-apple and Nimm fruit (i.e. bitter stuff like these etc.) – resides in the mind and mouth of him in which (YOU) do not reside (sggs 147).

In short, such people can not be religious or Dhaarmic, regardless how much they pretend or show off to be!

  • ਹਉਮੈ ਕਰਤ ਭੇਖੀ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਨਿਆ ॥ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਭਗਤਿ ਵਿਰਲੇ ਮਨੁ ਮਾਨਿਆ ॥੧॥: Acting in egotism (Haumai), wearing religious robes, (Mool) is not known (i.e, Realized). Rare is (the person) whose mind, by becoming the Gurmukh, becomes accustomed to Bhagti ||1|| (sggs 226).

Although the love of or attachment to Maya is said to be ‘bitter’, however the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…) is said to be sweet (‘Mithaa-ਮਿਠਾ’). It brings sweetness in life! By constantly living the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS, the Gurbani says the poison of false ego-sense (Haumai), Maya, Bikaar, doubt etc. does not affect.

  • ਸਭੇ ਵਸਤੂ ਕਉੜੀਆ ਸਚੇ ਨਾਉ ਮਿਠਾ ॥ ਸਾਦੁ ਆਇਆ ਤਿਨ ਹਰਿ ਜਨਾਂ ਚਖਿ ਸਾਧੀ ਡਿਠਾ ॥ : All things (finally) become bitter (they keep one restless etc.); only the Naam of the True (Rabb always remains) sweet). This taste or experience (however) comes to those ‘Hari Jan‘ (seekers of Truth, Gumukh, Daas, Bhagat etc.), who comply and enjoy. (sggs 321).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਬਿਖੁ ਮਾਰੇ ॥: Through the (Wisdom or Giaan of the) Gur-Shabad, the poison of ‘Haumai‘ (ego) is conquered (sggs 1133).


  1. Sincere thanks Brother T. Singh ji, for this very incisive essay. It is crucial to realize that a saakat/manmukh/mayadhaaree person is “separated from Truth.” Such a person lives under a complete state of delusion which permeates and distorts all their thoughts and actions. However, they may outwardly appear to be a perfectly happy member of our everyday society. “Jag jhoothe kao saach jaan kai taa sio ruch upjaaee.” (I judge the false world to be true, and have fallen in love with it.) — SGGS 718. I found your earlier article “True Association — Saadh-Sangat” to be particularly illuminating to read in conjunction with this essay, in terms of possible solutions/antidotes to this state of Mool-disconnection and abject ignorance. Thanks again!

  2. Thank you Bhai Sahib Kirpal Singh Ji for taking the time reply! Thanks for quoting the verses. There are many many more verses in this context, however we cannot quote all of them here from a space point of view.

  3. Guru Nanak Sahib beautifully draws a contrast of awareness of Divine Sohji of Naam/Gur/Waheguru
    – ‘ਨਾਮ ਵਿਹੂਣੇ ਕਿਆ ਗਣੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਰ ਦਰਸੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ’
    – ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਕੂੜੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਸਚਿ ਰਤੇ ਸਚ ਭਾਇ II ਸਾਕਤ ਸਚੁ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਕੂੜੈ ਕੂੜੀ ਪਾਂਇ ॥ (Sri Raag M. 1, GGS. 22-6).
    The Gurmukhs do not like falsehood. They are imbued with Truth; they love only Truth.
    The shaaktas, the faithless cynics, do not like the Truth; false are the foundations of the false.

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