Fish Climbs a Tree!

The Gurus and Bhagats were not only God-Connected Within, they were also excellent communicators, poets, writers, and presenters. They effectively used idioms / metaphors to explain very complex spiritual Messages. Hence, impregnated with spiritual Wisdom and suggestions, numerous idioms can be found in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS).

Since the entirety of the Gurbani in SGGS adresses the Mind, idioms / metaphors etc. express the subtlety of the spiritual experiences of the Gurus and Bhagats, draw the reader’s attention, awaken senses, amplify the Message, capture subtle nuances of spirituality, they create imagery in the mind and make the reader see things in a new way, improve understanding, and so on.

Do fish live or grow on trees? How is it possible for fish to climb a tree? Not just any tree but ‘Khajoor‘ (palmyra palm, date tree), which is relatively a difficult climb even for humans!

Since the Gurbani addresses the human mind, the mind must properly reflect upon it, thoroughly understand it, and then lovingly live its Wisdom in daily life.

However, when Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly. That’s where practical and intriguing idioms etc. help, and they have been used throughout the SGGS.

With the help of idioms, analogies, similes, allegories, metaphors, figurative or mystic representations and illustrations, the Truth becomes relatively easier to grasp.

Such methods have extensively been used in the SGGS with a definite purpose and intention.

They should neither be taken literally, nor their significance stretched beyond the Gurbani’s intended usage of them. The purpose of such illustration is to drive the Gurbani’s Wisdom into the confused minds.

In short, this is a way to explain (ਸਮਝਾਉਣ ਦਾ ਤਰੀਕਾ) something cryptically which is unexplainable otherwise!

In the ultimate issue, however, such teaching is commonsense and self apparent to the Enlightened one (i.e. the Gurmukh).

Idioms or expressions like — fish climbs up a tree etc. — are used to indicate, for example (1) the confused or doubt-ridden mind searching the Omnipresent God outside, from place to place, hither and thither, (2) consciousness stuck in ‘Trikuti’, the sphere of Maya, (3) futile arguments and debates, nonsense talks or claim, (4) achieving or accomplishing what seems to the rest of the world ‘the impossible’ — such as gaining ‘Fateh’ or victory over one’s own deluded mind, and so on.

There are multiple similar expressions. For example:

Let’s consider the following verses of Bhagat Naam Dev Ji:

  • ਕੋਈ ਬੋਲੈ ਨਿਰਵਾ ਕੋਈ ਬੋਲੈ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਜਲ ਕੀ ਮਾਛੁਲੀ ਚਰੈ ਖਜੂਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਕਾਂਇ ਰੇ ਬਕਬਾਦੁ ਲਾਇਓ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਹਰਿ ਪਾਇਓ ਤਿਨਹਿ ਛਪਾਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਪੰਡਿਤੁ ਹੋਇ ਕੈ ਬੇਦੁ ਬਖਾਨੈ ॥ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਨਾਮਦੇਉ ਰਾਮਹਿ ਜਾਨੈ ॥੨॥੧॥ : Some say God is near, and others say He is far away. (However, to reach any conclusion about God by such futile arguments is as impossible as) a fish climbing a palm tree! ||1|| (O Pandit, Pujaaree etc.) why do you engage in such nonsense talk about God? One who has realized God keeps quiet about it. ||1||Pause|| By acquiring worldly knowledge, (Pandit, Pujaaree etc.) may discourse in Vedas. But foolish Namdev recognizes the Omnipresent God only. (sggs 718).

Since — according to the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS — God is within, Bhagat Naam Dev Ji in the foregoing verses says that to debate whether the Omnipresent God is near or far away or to search God here and there, place to place, is as nonsensical as stating a fish tries to climb up a date tree!

Yet many of us waste our energy and time by engaging in such nonsensical matters. For example, on account of delusion, fear and greed many of us travel a long distance and visits the so called Teerath locations etc. As a result, our Surt (Conscience) further gets tied up to the triple-qualitied Maya instead of God, within.

Bhagat Naam Dev Ji in the foregoing verses also hints that those who have realized the Omnipresent God don’t go around engaging in nonsense arguments and debates.

Instead, they share their Wisdom and experiences with others for the development and prosperity of the entire humanity.

Furthermore, Bhagat Naam Dev Ji calls himself ‘Moorakh‘ (fool, silly, ignorant…) who has realized the All-pervading Raam (ਰਮਿਆ ਹੋਇਆ ਰਾਮ, God-Universal Energy).

Realization of God within or realization of one’s Original Nature (Jot Saroop) within requires conquering or victory (‘Fateh‘) upon one’s own confused mind.

Not easy to conquer the confused mind! Their is a reason the SGGS calls the mind ‘Ajit-ਅਜਿਤੁ’ (‘unconquerable’ etc.).

Only that which is finite and bound in time and space can be caught in the near or far physicality.

Since the the Omnipresent God – the Universal Energy – is not so bound in time and space, the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS indicates this Reality to be Limitless, Formless, All-pervading, ever Present, Omnipresence, Omnipotence, Omniscience, etc.

In other words, near and far is the notion of duality. If one says Reality to be near, than the question arises: how near?

On the other hand, if one says Reality to be far, than the question arises: how far? Where?

It would also imply that the Reality is Separate from us, which goes totally against the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS.

The One Indivisible Factor is the All-embracing Reality, the ever-present Cosmic Energy that pervades within all beings. The SGGS declares that this Infinite Reality is Here and Now — ‘Haajraa Hajoor‘! There is no other time, other place, there yonder, or after physical death.

  • ਸਭ ਕੈ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਕਰਨ ਕਰਾਵਨ ਹਾਜਰਾ ਹਜੂਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : God is within all; not far away (from anybody). God is the Cause of causes, ever-present here and now — Haajraa Hajoor ||1||Pause|| (sggs 987).
  • ਗੁਪਤ ਪ੍ਰਗਟ ਹਰਿ ਘਟਿ ਘਟਿ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਵਰਤੈ ਤਾਕੁ ਸਬਾਇਆ ॥੨॥: Behold God both hidden and manifest in each and every heart. He permeates all. ||2||(sggs 1042).

The Gurbani urges to stay where you are!

  • ਬੇਦ ਪੁਰਾਨ ਸਭ ਦੇਖੇ ਜੋਇ ॥ ਊਹਾਂ ਤਉ ਜਾਈਐ ਜਉ ਈਹਾਂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥ ਸਤਿਗੁਰ ਮੈ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਤੋਰ ॥ ਜਿਨਿ ਸਕਲ ਬਿਕਲ ਭ੍ਰਮ ਕਾਟੇ ਮੋਰ ॥ : (Bhagat Rama Nand says) I have studied and looked through all Vedas and Puranas. (My conclusion is) I would need go there (i.e. so called pilgrim or holy locations) only if God were NOT present here within me. ||2|| O Satguru, I am dedicated to you (i.e. Enlightening Message of the Shabad); who has removed all my bewildering doubts. (sggs 1195).

Since Truth is ‘here and now’ — Haajraa Hajoor — it is our Original Nature (Jot Saroop). Wherever we go, we will find it everywhere. Wisdom is the comprehension of this Truth at this very moment. But, as repeatedly mentioned in the SGGS, this will not happen until we gain insights into the disorder our conditioned mind has created.

  • ਸਚਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਵਸਿਆ ਮਨਿ ਸੋਈ ॥ : One who realizes God in the mind; that mind beholds God permeating everywhere. (sggs 420).

However, it’s the confusion resulting from our psychological conditionings (false ego-sense or Haumai) that makes us go far away from Truth. Everything is only subsequent to this modification of the Consciousness.

The Creator/Hukam was present before the birth of the body, is also present here and now, and will be there after the body is gone.

To realize this simple Truth for a confused mind is akin to (1) fish climbing a date tree or (2) chewing iron with the ‘teeth of wax’ or (3) walking along a ‘double-edged sword’ or (4) the cripple crossing over the mountain, and so on!

  • ਮੈਣ ਕੇ ਦੰਤ ਕਿਉ ਖਾਈਐ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: How does one undertake Genuine spirituality without Enlightenment? (Idiomatically / Metaphorically speaking: its akin to chewing iron with teeth of wax!). (sggs 943).
  • ਮਾਨ ਮੋਹ ਮੇਰ ਤੇਰ ਬਿਬਰਜਿਤ ਏਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਖੰਡੇ ਧਾਰ ॥: To forsake pride, emotional attachment, and the sense of ‘mine and yours’ (false ego-sense), is the path of the double-edged sword (sggs 534).

Baabaa Nanak tells us how we can chew iron with the teeth of wax, and how our crippled mind (ignorant…) can become Wise (i.e, Gurmukh), Awake, Aware, etc.:

  • ਜਗੁ ਕਰੜਾ ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਗਾਵਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਬਦੁ ਕਮਾਈਐ ਖਾਈਐ ਸਾਰੁ ॥: Spiritual Life is impossible in a self-willed and unenlightened state. To undertake genuine spirituality is to Become the Shabad (by Internalizing the Shabad, one can chew genuine spirituality which is difficult or hard like iron). (sggs 943).
  • ਪਿੰਗੁਲ ਪਰਬਤ ਪਾਰਿ ਪਰੇ ਖਲ ਚਤੁਰ ਬਕੀਤਾ ॥ ਅੰਧੁਲੇ ਤ੍ਰਿਭਵਣ ਸੂਝਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਭੇਟਿ ਪੁਨੀਤਾ ॥੧॥: (With the Gur-Giaan-Widom, Bibek, Virtues, Truth…), people with crippled minds (minds that are unwise, unvirtuous, Bikaaree, etc.) cross the mountains (i.e., become Wise, Bibeki, Virtuous, realize the purpose of life, etc.), and people with the blind minds (foolish, egoistic, etc.) become Wise. Meeting with the Gur (-GiaanWisdom, Bibek, Virtues…) a mentally blind man gets the ontological vision or clear perception of the Universe. ||1|| (sggs 809).

In nutshell, if one is successful changing his own mind, consider that as a wonderful miracle – uproot it from Mayaic consciousness and root it back to its Mool within (Source, Origin, Jot)!

On the other hand, conscious display of all other Karaamat (miracles…) is condemned by the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS for they are of no value whatsoever and thus waste of human life.

  • ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਏਹਾ ਸਿਧਿ ਏਹਾ ਕਰਮਾਤਿ ॥੨॥: O Nanak! By becoming the Gurmukh, the Divine Naam (Truth, Wisdom, Virtues…) abides in the mind; this is Sidhi and Karaamaat. ||2|| (sggs 650).


  1. Excellent T Singh Ji !

    It’s like, why argue about the filling and taste of a cake? Just cut it, eat it, enjoy and there is no discussion.

    Likewise don’t discuss or debate questions about the beloved, spend that time and effort in realising him, then the questions are not relevant.

  2. Transcending mind , staying as consciousness in the consciousness beyond the concept of staying is what Beloved Guru meant.

    Thank you Roop Ji for your thoughtful reply, and sharing your thoughts.

  3. Transcending mind , staying as consciousness in the consciousness beyond the concept of staying is what Beloved Guru meant. Fish climbing the tree exactly means transcending the mind not by strenuous efforts or playing spiritual gymnastics but by recognising our true nature and staying as that . This post of yours points to Atam Gyan. A pointing to awaken the beings . Such a beauty T Singh Ji. ❤️

  4. First off, welcome to the Gurbani Blog brother Ramjit Singh Mann Ji!

    Second, thank you for your thoughtful reply, and sharing your thoughts.

  5. An excellent write up on the subject, thanks for sharing your thoughts. However I would like to share what I learnt few years back from my dear friend Joginder Singh Dhami the different meaning of ਚਰੈ ਖਜੂਰਿ, meaning to eat khajoor. He pointed out that ਚੜ੍ਹੇ mean to climb. He described this in detail in his book Kahat Namdeo iho Beechar 2011, page 90. In this shabd Bhagat ji tried to teach Brahman and Muslim priests against their rituals eg reading giatry mantras and fasting to achieve God. Khajoor is considered sacred fruit in Islam, they eat khajoors at time to start fast and at time to finish the fast . So fish living in water trying to show eating khajoors for her fasting ritual.
    Please be advised I am not trying to correct you, just sharing what I learnt. I know it does not make any difference to the meaning of the shabd under discussion but in reality seems proper translation.
    Ramjit Singh Mann

  6. Sat Sri Akaal.
    like to say to Bahi Ji T. Singh thank you for the blessing teaching on Gurbani.
    may Waheguru Ji bless you and family.
    Dr. Sabbar Singh Khalsa.

  7. Sat Sri Akaal.
    thank you for the teaching of Gurbani. i’am a brother Sikh from Spain. Sabbar Singh Khalsa. 74 years of age. in Canada.

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