Sandalwood Mind

Blind faith (ਅੰਨੀ ਸਰਧਾ) is foolishness. To the contrary, Bibek (discriminating intellect, ਤਰਕ) is Wisdom!

Hence, a blind faith can easily be broken or lost. But if it is strengthened by real Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ, Wisdom), then it can never be shaken or lost.

To build up our real Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ, Wisdom), practical and intriguing examples have been used throughout the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS). In the ultimate issue, such teaching is commonsense and self apparent to the Wise (i.e., Gurmukhs).

However, it’s not so in the case of the unthoughtful persons (i. e., Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree…). And the principles behind the examples and stories do seem to soak in; resulting in strengthening of our Understanding.

The example of sandalwood (Chandan-ਚੰਦਨ) has been repeatedly used in the SGGS.

However, the Gurmat (Giaan, Wisdom, Upadesh or Way of the SGGS…) is not meant for deer or other animals! Neither are the Gurdwara congregations (or any other religious congregation for that matter) meant for deer or other animals!

It’s for the human mind for learning and mends!

However, what we see in Sikh community today, most people are struck with examples instead of the Wisdom (Giaan, Bibek…) given in a particular Shabad to make us understand the deep sense of the Gurbani.

It’s like holding on to a finger that points to fruit on a tree. If you want to taste the fruit, then you must let the finger go!

Sandalwood is known for its lovely fragrance. This fragrant nature of the sandalwood is symbolic of our Mool within (i.e., our True Nature or Jot Saroop, Wisdom, Bibek…). As the fragrance is within the sandalwood, similarly, the One, Universal Energy (Hukam or Law of Nature…) is the Inner Essence of all, animate and inanimate.

Nonetheless, it may come as surprise to many that the same sandalwood can also emit a very obnoxious odor when left submerged in water! This is symbolic of man’s submergence in the worldliness (Maya, Bhav Saagar…), Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc).

This post will attempt to reflect at it’s both aspects as well as their significance.

Sandalwood’s fragrance

The value of sandalwood lies in its lovely fragrance. This aspect of the sandalwood represents the Wisdom, Bibek, Virtues found in pious people (Gurmukhs).

The smell of sandalwood is so sublime that its fragrance spreads out far and wide. As a result, the lowly trees growing near the sandalwood tree also become fragrant.

Thus, whatever comes into contact with the sandalwood is uplifted. For example, when the soothing fragrance emanating from the sandalwood tree attaches to other ordinary trees of the forest, they also get scented with fragrance. In addition to sandalwood’s aroma, it’s also considered an Ayurvedic medicinal herb.

  • ਭਾਰ ਅਠਾਰਹ ਮਹਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਊਤਮ ਚੰਦਨ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਸਭ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹੁਈਆ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਕੂੜੇ ਊਭ ਸੁਕ ਹੂਏ ਮਨਿ ਅਭਿਮਾਨੁ ਵਿਛੁੜਿ ਦੂਰਿ ਗਈਆ ॥੨॥: Of all plants, the sandalwood tree is the most sublime. Everything near the sandalwood tree becomes (scented) like sandalwood. The stubborn, false Saakat are dried up (those separated from Wisdom, Virtues); false-ego-sense dwells in (their) mind, (consequently they) remain separated and far away (from their Jot Saroop, True Nature, Wisdom…) ||2|| (sggs 834).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਇ ਲਹਹੁ ਘਰੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਘਸਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਘਸੀਐ ॥੨॥: (O my mind!) by becoming the Gurmukh, go within and find your Home (i.e., Jot Saroop, Tru Nature); anoint yourself with the sandalwood ( of Wisdom, Virtues, Giaan…). ||2|| (sggs 170).

The Gurbani compares Association of Sat (Truth) with that of the fragrant sandalwood. As indicated in the Gurbani, by remaining in the Company of Sat (Truth, Mool) within and outside (the Gurmukh Lifestyle), a lowly conditioned mind is transformed into a Wise mind (Gurmukh)!

  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਸੰਗੇਣ ਨਿੰਮੁ ਬਿਰਖ ਸਿ ਚੰਦਨਹ ॥ ਨਿਕਟਿ ਬਸੰਤੋ ਬਾਂਸੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਅਹੰ ਬੁਧਿ ਨ ਬੋਹਤੇ ॥੫॥: The lowly Nimm tree, growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes (scented) like the sandalwood. But the (tall and proud) bamboo tree, also growing near it, does not pick up its fragrance; (because) it is too arrogant (ਆਕੜ) ||5|| (sggs 1360).
  • ਮਿਲਿ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਮੈ ਹਿਰਡ ਪਲਾਸ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਰਿ ਬੁਹੀਆ ॥: Joining the Sat (Truth), I have obtained the supreme status. With Wisdom (Bibek, Virtues, Naam, I), who was like the castor-oil plant has become sweetly scented. (sggs 834).

The function of an ax is to cut and destroy. However, the blade of an ax that cuts the Sandalwood also becomes fragrant!

Similarly, if someone hurts or inflicts miseries unto Gurmukhs, they show compassion and love toward that person (i.e., they don’t change their Nature) just as the sandalwood imparts fragrance to the ax that cuts it!

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਸੰਤੁ ਨ ਛਾਡੈ ਸੰਤਈ ਜਉ ਕੋਟਿਕ ਮਿਲਹਿ ਅਸੰਤ ॥ ਮਲਿਆਗਰੁ ਭੁਯੰਗਮ ਬੇਢਿਓ ਤ ਸੀਤਲਤਾ ਨ ਤਜੰਤ ॥੧੭੪॥: O Kabeer! A pious person does not forsake pious nature, even though he meets millions of impious persons. (Similar as) when sandal tree is surrounded by snakes, it does not give up its coolness (fragrance). ||174|| (sggs 1373).

Also, it is said that the sandalwood trees remain encircled by the poisonous snakes! However, the sandalwood does not change its nature — it does not become poisonous like the snakes. To the contrary, it accommodates and tolerates the poison and remains fragrant at the same time!

  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਬੇਰ੍ਹੇ ਹੈ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਾ ॥ ਬਿਖੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਬਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਸੰਗਾ ॥੨॥: The snakes encircle the sandalwood trees. Poison and nectar dwell there together ||2|| (sggs 525).

The Naam (Wisdom Virtues…) is likened to the sandalwood. As the sandalwood is cooling and soothing, so is the Naam. The Gurbani urges us becoming scented with the perfume of this Naam. Its fragrance spreads gloriously far and wide.

Whosoever willingly sit close to those imbued in Naam also get uplifted; just as the bitter Nimm tree growing near the sandalwood tree becomes permeated with the fragrance of the sandalwood.

  • ਸਰਬੇ ਆਦਿ ਪਰਮਲਾਦਿ ਕਾਸਟ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥੨॥ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਚੇ ਪਾਰਸੁ ਹਮ ਚੇ ਲੋਹਾ ਸੰਗੇ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥: The Primal Source of everything, is like the sandalwood tree; He transforms us woody trees into fragrant sandalwood. You (Primal Source), are the Philosopher’s Stone, and I am iron; associating with You, I am transformed into gold (sggs 1351).
  • ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੀਤਲ ਜਲੁ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਚੰਦਨ ਵਾਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧ ਗੰਧਈਆ ॥: Remember the cooling water of the Naam (Wisdom,Virtues, Truth…). Perfume yourself with the fragrant scent (of Naam). (sggs 833).

Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree feel puffed up in self-conceit. Such conditioned or deluded mind commits mistakes and get in trouble.

The first requirement for surrendering unto the Mool within is that one should be free from the adverse impact of pride and other Bikaar. Therefore, one with egotistical pride, etc., cannot even begin Bhagti (cultivation of Giaan or Wisdom); let alone Mool-abidance!

A person diseased by the false pride, etc., is compared with the bamboo tree. To the contrary, the pious beings (the Gurmukhs) are compared with the sandalwood tree. In nutshell, the sandalwood must remind us of our Jot Saroop, and that we must constantly imbibe in Wisdom.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਬੂਡਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਤ ਡੂਬਹੁ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟੇ ਬਸੈ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੧੨॥: O Kabeer! The (tall and proud) bamboo is drowned in false ego-sense; no one should drown like this. (because) Bamboo also dwells near the sandalwood tree, but it does not take up its fragrance!||12|| (sggs 1365).

Sandalwood’s obnoxious odor

If sandalwood is kept immersed in water for some time, it will start emanating an obnoxious odor from the rotting wood. Thus, even though the sandalwood has very cooling and soothing fragrance, but when it remains in water for a long time it becomes conditioned and loses its lovely fragrance and starts stinking. This aspect of the sandalwood represents the conditioned consciousness of Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree.

However, if the stinking sandalwood is removed from the water and rubbed against a stone, the beautiful fragrance slowly merges back. Now, let’s try to reflect on the significance of stinking “odor” and the “rubbing” against a stone.

The Gurbani tells that the True Nature of our mind is Jot Saroop (our Mool). However, when our Mool is confounded with the gross body-frame, the stinking odor of Vaasnaa (latent tendencies, undigested desires, fancy, propensities, etc.) come out at that time. And this rotten smell is none other than man’s sticking Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.).

As a result, one’s Virtues disappear — Truth (ਸਤ), honesty (ਇਮਾਨਦਾਰੀ), contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), humility (ਮਨ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ, ਬੁਧਿ ਗਰੀਬੀ), sweet speech (ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲੜਾ), and so on.

Since a fly is attracted to filth, it does not like to sit on fragrant sandalwood. Instead, it prefers to sit on stinking wood. Similarly, the man’s deluded mind enjoys “sitting” on evil instincts and pleasure seeking, as well as brooding over worldly entanglements.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਪਾਪੀ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਭਾਵਈ ਹਰਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਨ ਸੁਹਾਇ ॥ ਮਾਖੀ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਪਰਹਰੈ ਜਹ ਬਿਗੰਧ ਤਹ ਜਾਇ ॥੬੮॥: O Kabeer! The sinner does not like Bhagti (Wisdom; he does not appreciate worship . (Just as) a fly abandons the sandalwood tree, and goes after the rotten smell ||69|| (sggs 1369).

In order to rediscover the Original Nature of the mind (Jot Saroop…), we need to “rub” the Naam (Giaan, Wisdom, Bibek, Truth…) on the stone of our deluded mind (false ego-sense or Haumai, ignorance, impurities, Maya, doubts, etc.). By this “rubbing”, the filth and stinking odor of the ignorance born deluded mind will go away, and then one’s True Nature — Jot Saroop, Blissful Conscious Existence — will spontaneously shine forth.

  • ਤੇਰਾ ਨਾਮੁ ਕਰੀ ਚਨਣਾਠੀਆ ਜੇ ਮਨੁ ਉਰਸਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਕਰਣੀ ਕੁੰਗੂ ਜੇ ਰਲੈ ਘਟ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਪੂਜਾ ਹੋਇ ॥੧॥: I would make Your Naam the sandalwood, and my mind the stone to rub it on. I would mix in them my good deeds (ਉੱਚਾ ਆਚਰਨ) as saffron; thus I perform Pooja within my Heart. ||1|| (sggs 489).
  • ਚੰਦਨ ਬਾਸੁ ਭਏ ਮਨ ਬਾਸਨ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਘਟਿਓ ਅਭਿਮਾਨਾਨਾ ॥੨॥: (By giving up Bikaar, it’s as) the mind has become fragrant with the scent of sandalwood; mental pride is reduced (from within). ||2|| (sggs 339).
  • ਆਪੇ ਬਖਸੇ ਸਬਦਿ ਮਿਲਾਏ ਪਰਮਲ ਵਾਸੁ ਮਨਿ ਤਾਹਾ ਹੇ ॥੧੧॥: (Who persuade himself through self-efforts and) unites them with the Shabad (Gur-Upadesh, Wisdom, or Bibek, it’s as) the fragrance of sandalwood permeates his mind ||11|| (sggs 1057).

The Pure Awareness is compared with the sandalwood encircled by the poisonous snakes of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.). In order to get to the sandalwood of Wisdom (Virtues, Naam, Shabad…), one has to face these poisonous snakes (lust, anger, greed, etc.) and get rid of their adverse impact.

How can one strike these poisonous snakes out? The Gurbani says by drawing the Mighty Sword of the Wisdom (Giaan of the Gur-Shabad…), one can kill the deadly snakes of Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.).

  • ਚੰਦਨ ਵਾਸੁ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਮ ਵੇੜੀ ਕਿਵ ਮਿਲੀਐ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਲੀਜੈ ॥ ਕਾਢਿ ਖੜਗੁ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਕਰਾਰਾ ਬਿਖੁ ਛੇਦਿ ਛੇਦਿ ਰਸੁ ਪੀਜੈ ॥੩॥: The fragrant sandal tree is girdled by the snakes; how can anyone get to the sandalwood tree (i.e., the mind encircled by Bikaar cannot enjoy the Fragrance of the Wisdom, Virtues, Naam…)? Drawing out the Mighty Sword of the Gur-Wisdom, cut (ਵੱਢ ਵੱਢ ਕੇ) the poisonous (snake of Maya); and (thus) drink in the (Naam-) nectar (ਗਿਆਨ ਰਸ, Wisdom…). ||3|| (sggs 1324).

The important thing to remember here is that by rubbing the stinking sandalwood against a stone, we do not give anew fragrance to the sandalwood; for the fragrance is always present within it! Due to its conditioning or contamination caused by its coming into the contact with water, the fragrance was veiled; hence not available. That’s all!

Similarly, the mind’s Mool or True Nature of our(Truth-Knowledge-Bliss, Jot Saroop) is always present within; therefore, it is not something to be gained afresh. Once the veil of ignorance or doubts is removed by the Shabad or Wisdom, it naturally shines forth. That’s all!

  • ਬਲਤੋ ਜਲਤੋ ਤਉਕਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਸੀਤਲਾਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਧੇਰਾ ਮਿਟਿ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੀਪਾਇਓ ॥੨॥: (Mind) was burning in the fire (of Bikaar), and when Gur-Sandal (i.e., Shabad, Giaan, Wisdom) was poured on it, (then my mind) became cool (ਠੰਢਾ-ਠਾਰ). ||1|| (With) the shining of the lamp of the Gur-Wisdom (in my mind), the darkness of ignorance has been dispelled (from my mind) ||2|| (sggs 241).


  1. Thank you Bhai Sahib Ranjit Singh Ji for your thoughtful reply. Thank you for pointing out correction. Welcome to the Gurbani Blog.

  2. You have done a wonderful job shedding light on bibek etc. using references from Gurbani and explaining within the framework. Whenever aggyanis are confronted with logic, they are quick to label you as a manmukh and without shardha. Thanks for sharing.
    I noticed one minor issue with structure of one of the sentences. I believe it should be “within and outside” rather than “within and without”.

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