Passing Shadow

All things man-made or natural our eyes see must one day perish. So also it is with the human power, success, money, strength, youth, beauty, possessions, status, and so on. However, the pitfall is that all this make us humans arrogant and mentally blind. These externalities of one’s being are prop to his/her false ego-sense (Haumai), and make us proud.

Since these are short lived like shadow of a tree or a cloud, at best they can provide only temporary name, fame or satisfaction. They cannot help knowing one’s true self. They can not build one’s noble character. Also, they cannot pour into one’s head the Divine Virtues, GiyanWisdom, and so on. The Gurbani compares these with the passing or fleeting shadow of a tree or a cloud.

  • ਬਿਰਖ ਕੀ ਛਾਇਆ ਸਿਉ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਵੈ ॥ ਓਹ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਉਹੁ ਮਨਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਵੈ ॥ : A person falls in love with the shade of the tree, and when it disappears, he/she feels regret in his mind. (sggs 268).
  • ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਸਗਲ ਬਿਨਾਸੈ ਜਿਉ ਬਾਦਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਈ ॥ : Whatever is visible vanishes like the shadow of a cloud. (sggs 219).
  • ਰਾਜੁ ਮਾਲੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਸਭੁ ਛਾਂਵ ॥ ਰਥਿ ਫਿਰੰਦੈ ਦੀਸਹਿ ਥਾਵ ॥ ਦੇਹ ਨ ਨਾਉ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਜਾਤਿ ॥ ਓਥੈ ਦਿਹੁ ਐਥੈ ਸਭ ਰਾਤਿ ॥੨॥ : Power, wealth and youth are like short lived shadows, Just as the sun rises, the shadows disappear similarly when one is spiritually enlightened, one sees the reality of these worldly perishable things. Neither the body, nor the worldly glory, nor one’s caste carry any value in the state of God Realization. Because in the state of God Realization there is always Day (of Enlightenment) and here in this material world there is always night (of spiritual ignorance). ||2|| (sggs 1257).
  • ਰਾਜੰ ਰੰਗੰ ਰੂਪੰ ਮਾਲੰ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਤੇ ਜੂਆਰੀ ॥ ਹੁਕਮੀ ਬਾਧੇ ਪਾਸੈ ਖੇਲਹਿ ਚਉਪੜਿ ਏਕਾ ਸਾਰੀ ॥੪॥ : Those who remain obsessed with power, worldly pleasures, beauty, possessions, and youth alone, consider them like gamblers. Bound by the law of consequences (Hukam), they keep conducting their life like a chess-board with dice of worldly temptations. ||4|| (sggs 1015).
  • ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਮੰਦਰ ਸੰਪੈ ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਜਿਉ ਤਰਵਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਏ ॥੧॥ : All these mansions and worldly wealth which you see are temporary like the shade of a tree. ||1|| (sggs 212).
  • ਮਿਤ੍ਰ ਨ ਪੁਤ੍ਰ ਕਲਤ੍ਰ ਸਾਜਨ ਸਖ ਉਲਟਤ ਜਾਤ ਬਿਰਖ ਕੀ ਛਾਂਰਹੁ ॥ : The friends, children, spouse, dear companions, they leave like the shade of a tree (i.e. are not permanent). (sggs 1388).

The Gurbani included in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) teaches us a person’s intellect gets corrupted by his/her worldly pride (self-conceit, arrogance, haughtiness, Abhimaan-ਅਭਿਮਾਨ, Ahankaar-ਅਹੰਕਾਰ, Garab-ਗਰਬ etc.) of these. This arrogance comes from one’s own thoughts and perceptions — the base mindedness.

To awaken non-attachment to these, and to make us alert and aware, the Gurbani calls them robbers/cheaters/tricksters, ‘Mithiya-ਮਿਥਿਆ‘, and so on.

  • ਰਾਜੁ ਮਾਲੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਜਾਤਿ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਪੰਜੇ ਠਗ ॥ ਏਨੀ ਠਗੀਂ ਜਗੁ ਠਗਿਆ ਕਿਨੈ ਨ ਰਖੀ ਲਜ ॥ : Power, wealth, beauty, pride of caste or social status, and youth are the five robbers. These robbers have robbed the world; and anyone robbed (or tricked) by them does not preserve his/her honor. (sggs 1288).
  • ਮਿਥਿਆ ਰਾਜ ਜੋਬਨ ਧਨ ਮਾਲ ॥ : Rule (Power, kingdom etc.), youth, wealth, and property are all ‘Mithiya’. (sggs 268).

This word Mithiya’ is an interesting word and has no equal word in English. It essential indicates something neither real nor unreal! It’s generally seen translated as illusion, delusory, unreal etc. By calling them ‘Mithiya’ the Gurbani does NOT mean they are non-existent. If they were nonexistent then they would not have been experienced by us.

Then are they real? Yes, they are real since we experience them. However they are called ‘Mithiya in a sense that they are subject to constant change. Hence impermanent, perishable, fleeting, transitory, and so on. We think them to be permanent, but they are not. We think them to be nonperishable, but they are not. We think them to be changeless, but they are not; and so on.

Anything that cannot be described as real or unreal is called ‘Mithiya-ਮਿਥਿਆ’ in the Indian scriptures. If a person mistakes a rope for a snake (or a pole for a ghost) in the darkness of night, then would the snake or ghost vision be real? No, it will not real.

  • ਰਾਜ ਭੁਇਅੰਗ ਪ੍ਰਸੰਗ ਜੈਸੇ ਹਹਿ ਅਬ ਕਛੁ ਮਰਮੁ ਜਨਾਇਆ ॥ ਅਨਿਕ ਕਟਕ ਜੈਸੇ ਭੂਲਿ ਪਰੇ ਅਬ ਕਹਤੇ ਕਹਨੁ ਨ ਆਇਆ ॥੩॥ : As is the story of the rope and the snake (i.e., rope mistaken for a snake in darkness), some mystery has now been explained (to me). Like the many bracelets (made of gold), which were mistakenly thought (of separate or different from the gold); now, (I) do not say that. ||3|| (sggs 658).
  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਬਾਣਿ ਬਜਰ ਕਲ ਛੇਦੀ ਪ੍ਰਗਟਿਆ ਪਦੁ ਪਰਗਾਸਾ ॥ ਸਕਤਿ ਅਧੇਰ ਜੇਵੜੀ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਚੂਕਾ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਸਿਵ ਘਰਿ ਬਾਸਾ ॥ : The Gur-arrow (of Wisdom or Giaan) has pierced the dark state (of my mind -imaginations, ਫੁਰਨੇ…) and the state of illumination (light of Wisdom) has dawned upon me. In the darkness of Maya, I mistook the rope for the snake, but that is over, and now I dwell in the Home (within – state of ever Bliss, Jot Saroop…). (sggs 332).

Aptly, the Gurbani counseled us to consider this world ‘Mithiya‘. If we do not, then it will become the cause of our attachment and bondage to the world and its gross objects, followed by suffering that arises from it.

  • ਮਤ ਭੂਲਹੁ ਮਾਨੁਖ ਜਨ ਮਾਇਆ ਭਰਮਾਇਆ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਤਿਸੁ ਪਤਿ ਰਾਖਸੀ ਜੋ ਪ੍ਰਭਿ ਪਹਿਰਾਇਆ ॥੪॥੧੬॥੪੬॥ : O mortal beings! Don’t forget to fall into the delusion of Maya. Nanak, whosoever has perceived the Creator‘s Hukam, his dignity (of human birth) will be preserved. ॥4॥16॥46॥ (sggs 812).
  • ਕੂੜੁ ਰਾਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪਰਜਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਸਭੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੰਡਪ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾੜੀ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੈਸਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੁਪਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਪੈਨ੍‍ਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਾਇਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਕਪੜੁ ਕੂੜੁ ਰੂਪੁ ਅਪਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮੀਆ ਕੂੜੁ ਬੀਬੀ ਖਪਿ ਹੋਏ ਖਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜਿ ਕੂੜੈ ਨੇਹੁ ਲਗਾ ਵਿਸਰਿਆ ਕਰਤਾਰੁ ॥ ਕਿਸੁ ਨਾਲਿ ਕੀਚੈ ਦੋਸਤੀ ਸਭੁ ਜਗੁ ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਿਠਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਮਾਖਿਉ ਕੂੜੁ ਡੋਬੇ ਪੂਰੁ ॥ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਵਖਾਣੈ ਬੇਨਤੀ ਤੁਧੁ ਬਾਝੁ ਕੂੜੋ ਕੂੜੁ ॥੧॥ : The rulers are ‘Koorh‘ (false – transitory, short lived etc.), as are the subjects – and so is the relationship between them; the whole existence is perishable. The attractive mansions and houses are all transitory; their residents are also ‘Koorh‘ – transitory, perishable. Gold, silver, and those who wear them are all ‘Koorh‘. The body, clothes, and the incomparable good looks are all ‘Koorh‘. The husband and wife are ‘Koorh‘ and thus they get fed up in life (due to false conflicts death etc.). Thus ‘Koorh‘ or perishable one gets attached to another perishable one and forget the Creator. With whom should we become friends, when the entire world is transitory? To the mortals this illusory world seems sweet like honey, their transitory nature is not realized and as result this drowns multitudes of people. Nanak makes this supplication, O God, without Your Realization, everything is totally ‘Koorh‘. ॥1॥ (sggs 468).

To hammer this truth about the fleeting nature of the material world, the Gurbani has given numerous examples. A few are considered as follows.

For example, this material world is likened to the safflower. It’s deceptively enchanting, impermanent, momentary, ephemeral, or fleeting like the shade of a tree etc.

  • ਜੈਸਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਤੈਸਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥ : This world is like the (pale, temporary…) color of the safflower (sggs 346).

The Gurbani teaches us that the Creator has created this massive, world-picture very enchanting indeed. So the Gurbani cautions us as follows:

  • ਚਚਾ ਰਚਿਤ ਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਹੈ ਭਾਰੀ ॥ ਤਜਿ ਚਿਤ੍ਰੈ ਚੇਤਹੁ ਚਿਤਕਾਰੀ ॥ ਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਬਚਿਤ੍ਰ ਇਹੈ ਅਵਝੇਰਾ ॥ ਤਜਿ ਚਿਤ੍ਰੈ ਚਿਤੁ ਰਾਖਿ ਚਿਤੇਰਾ ॥੧੨॥ : CHACHA (a letter of the Gurmukhi alphabet): This universe created by the Creator is as it were a very huge painting. Forget this painting and remember the Painter (the One Creator). (Because) the problem is that this Painting is captivating to the mind. (So, to avoid the attachment to this captivating picture) forget this picture and focus your Conscience on the Painter (i.e. the Creator). ||12|| (sggs 340).
  • ਮਾਧਵੇ ਕਿਆ ਕਹੀਐ ਭ੍ਰਮੁ ਐਸਾ ॥ ਜੈਸਾ ਮਾਨੀਐ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਤੈਸਾ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ : O God, what can we say, we are so deluded by doubt, that what we believe, the reality is not like that. ||1||Pause|| (sggs 657).

Therefore, any beauty other than the ‘Beauty’ of one’s Essential Nature (Jot Saroop) is like adornment on a dead body; for one day it must perish like a fleeting shadow. The SGGS labors to make us understand the difference between the Real ‘Beauty’ and the fading beauty as follows:

  • ਧਨੁ ਜੋਬਨੁ ਅਰੁ ਫੁਲੜਾ ਨਾਠੀਅੜੇ ਦਿਨ ਚਾਰਿ ॥ : Wealth, youth and flower are guests for four days only (i.e. fleeting…). (sggs 23).
  • ਰਾਜ ਕਪਟੰ ਰੂਪ ਕਪਟੰ ਧਨ ਕਪਟੰ ਕੁਲ ਗਰਬਤਹ ॥ : Pride of power, beauty, wealth, and ancestry – are all fraudulent (sggs 708).

In order to Awaken us from this ‘dream’ like world, the Gurbani uses an another superb example of deer’s illusion or delusion (‘ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ’, mirage,), an illusory city in the sky and the passing shade of a tree.

  • ਮ੍ਰਿਗ ਤ੍ਰਿਸਨਾ ਗੰਧਰਬ ਨਗਰੰ ਦ੍ਰੁਮ ਛਾਯਾ ਰਚਿ ਦੁਰਮਤਿਹ ॥ : Misled by the wicked intellect, (mortal) assumes an illusory image of a city, mirage, and the transitory shade of a tree to be real. (sggs 1356).
  • ਨਾਨਕ ਜਨ ਕਹਿ ਪੁਕਾਰਿ ਸੁਪਨੈ ਜਿਉ ਜਗ ਪਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਸਿਮਰਤ ਨਹ ਕਿਉ ਮੁਰਾਰਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਜਾ ਕੀ ਚੇਰੀ ॥੨॥੩॥ : Nanak calls out (to my mind) to realize that the expanse of the world is like a dream (transitory, fleeting). Why not remember the Creator under whose control even Maya is (i.e. nothing is outside/beyond/exempt of the Divine Hukam) ? ||2||3|| (sggs 1362).

Ending Note

In a nutshell, the SGGS teaches us that whatever we see with our naked eyes is transitory – anything that appears will soon disappear. Even human birth is the proof of impending death. Simply put, what rises must set. What comes and goes is time-bound, thus unreal or temporary. So, we are urged by the Gurbani not to depend upon what’s fleeting! However, Maya is anything and everything which makes a person forget the Creator (and His Cosmic Law, ਨਿਯਮ or Hukam) by creating attachment to the corrupting influences of the worldly temptations.

  • ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥ : All that is seen is an illusion (sggs 1083).
  • ਤਿਸੁ ਸਿਉ ਨੇਹੁ ਨ ਕੀਜਈ ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਚਲਣਹਾਰੁ ॥ : Don’t carry affection for which is just fleeting (perishable). (sggs 21).
  • ਮਾਈ ਮਾਇਆ ਛਲੁ ॥ ਤ੍ਰਿਣ ਕੀ ਅਗਨਿ ਮੇਘ ਕੀ ਛਾਇਆ ਗੋਬਿਦ ਭਜਨ ਬਿਨੁ ਹੜ ਕਾ ਜਲੁ ॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: O mother! Maya is deceitful. Sans of God Realization within, it is short lived like straw on fire, or the shadow of a cloud, or the flood-waters. ||Pause|| (sggs 717).(sggs 717).
  • ਜੇਤੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਰੰਗ ਤੇਤ ਪਛਾਵਿਆ ॥ : All colors-spectacles or pleasures of Maya are like a short-lived shadow. (sggs 398).

One’s learning, knowledge, and intellect is useless if they only serve one’s false ego-sense (Haumai), and if he/she has given to arrogance. The Gurbani asserts it is only by realizing one’s True Nature (Jot Saroop) one becomes a true human being.

Some Related Posts:


  1. What does gurbani teach about life after death?

    Christianity teaches the Resurrection of the Dead: …….

Share Your Thoughts

Your email address will not be published. * = required fields. Comment Policy.