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 or suggestions, numerous idioms can be found in SGGS.
Since the entirety of the Gurbani is for 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!
First off, it must be recognized that the Gurbani addresses the human mind.
However, when Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly.
For the development of our confused minds or to build up deeper understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ, Wisdom), practical and intriguing examples have been used throughout the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (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!
Idioms or expressions like — fish climbs up a tree, etc. — are used to indicate, for example (1) the confused or doubt-ridden mind searching Rabb 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:
- Dog’s tail,
- Toe to Top,
- Wring Hands,
- Paap Punn,
- Fish Climbs a Tree,
- Ladles do not know the Taste Of Food They Cruise In,
- Chewing iron with the teeth of wax,
- Uphill climb,
- The wife gives birth to her husband,
- The son leads his father in play,
- Without breasts the mother nurses her baby,
- Son marries his mother,
- Without feet the mortal jumps,
- Without a mouth he bursts into laughter,
- Without feeling sleepy he lays down and sleeps,
- Without a churn the milk is churned,
- Without udders the cow gives milk,
- Without traveling a long journey is made,
- Destruction of wall,
- Son born before his mother,
- The guru falls at the feet of the disciple,
- Fish of the water gives birth upon a tree,
- Saw a cat carrying away a dog,
- Branches are below, and the roots are above,
- Trunk of tree bears fruits and flowers.
- Riding a horse, the buffalo goes out to graze,
- Bull is away, while the bull’s load (cart) has come home,
- Lion herds cows,
- Donkey grazes upon green grass,
- Gur Charan Kamal, Gur Charan Dhoorh, Gur Moorat,
- Walking along a double-edged sword,
- Cripple crossing over the mountain, and so on.
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 (Rabb) is near, and others say (Rabb) is far away. (However, to come to a conclusion by such futile arguments is as impossible as) an aquatic fish (exits water and) climbs up a date tree! ||1|| (O Pandit) why do you talk nonsense? (It’s nonsense to say that the person) who has realized Rabb hides. ||1||Pause|| (O Pandit, for pompous show) why do you keep arguing in vain about these futile matters? While foolish (me – Bhagat Naam Dev) only recognizes the omnipresent Raam. (sggs 718).
Since — according to the Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS — Rabb is within, Bhagat Naam Dev Ji in the foregoing verses says that to debate whether the omnipresent Rabb is near or far away or to search him 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, many of us travel a long distance and visits the so called Teerath etc. As a result, our Surti (consciousness, memory, recollection, mind…) further gets tied up to the triple-qualitied Maya instead of our Mool or True Nature as Jot Saroop, within.
Bhagat Naam Dev Ji in the foregoing verses also hints that those who have realized the omnipresent Rabb 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.
Not easy to conquer the confused mind! Their is a reason the SGGS calls the mind ‘Ajit-ਅਜਿਤੁ’ (‘unconquerable’ stubborn, adamant, unwise, etc.).
Only that which is finite and bound in time and space can be caught in the near or far physicality.
Since the One Rabb – 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 the hearts of 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 death.
- ਸਭ ਕੈ ਸੰਗੀ ਨਾਹੀ ਦੂਰਿ ॥ ਕਰਨ ਕਰਾਵਨ ਹਾਜਰਾ ਹਜੂਰਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Rabb) is with all; not far away (from anybody). (Rabb) 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 (Rabb) both hidden and manifest in each and every heart. (One Rabb) permeates all. ||2||(sggs 1042).
The Gurbani urges to stay where you are!
- ਊਹਾਂ ਤਉ ਜਾਈਐ ਜਉ ਈਹਾਂ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥: (Bhagat Rama Nand Ji proclaims:) I would need go there (i.e., pilgrim places) only if the Divine (Rabb) were not here (within me). ||2|| (sggs 1195).
Since Truth is ‘here and now’ — Haajraa Hajoor — it is our unconditioned Nature (Jot Saroop, Mool… ). Wherever we go, we will find it everywhere. Wisdom is the comprehension of this Truth at this very moment. But, as repeatedly indicated in the Gurbani, this will not happen until we gain insights into the disorder our tainted mind has created.
- ਸਚਾ ਸਾਹਿਬੁ ਮਨਿ ਵਸੈ ਵਸਿਆ ਮਨਿ ਸੋਈ ॥: The True Saahib (Rabb) dwells within the mind; the mind that realizes this blends into (Rabb). (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.
Our Jot Saroop or True Nature 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, (2) chewing iron with the ‘teeth of wax’ or (3) walking along a ‘double-edged sword’, (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 (-Giaan, Wisdom, 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, Jot Saroop, True Nature, Wisdom, Virtues, Bibek, Truth…)!
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 time and practically useless.