Sandalwood Mind

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

Devoid of Wisdom, 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 Guide us build our real Understanding (ਸੂਝ-ਬੂਝ), practical and intriguing examples and idioms 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. Gurmukh Mindset). The principles behind the examples and stories do seem to soak in; resulting in strengthening of our Understanding.

However, it’s not so in the case of the unthoughtful persons (i. e. Manmukh-Saakat-Mayadhaaree…).

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 the Guru’s Shabad to make us understand the deep sense of the Gurbani (SGGS).

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 well known for its lovely fragrance. This fragrant nature of the sandalwood is symbolic of our Mool within — mind’s Original Nature (Jot Saroop). As the fragrance is within the sandalwood, similarly, the One Creator (Universal Energy, Hukam) 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…), vices or Bikaar (i.e. 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 fragrance. This aspect of the sandalwood represents the Wisdom, Bibek, Virtues found in pious Mindsets (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 get scented with fragrance.

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 the 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॥: Out of the entire vegetation, the sandalwood tree is the most sublime; all that grows near a Sandalwood tree, becomes fragrant like Sandal. The ego in the minds of the Saakat keeps them away from the Creator, they are like plants which in spite of getting nourishment have dried up. ||2|| (sggs 834).
  • ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜਾਇ ਲਹਹੁ ਘਰੁ ਅਪਨਾ ਘਸਿ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਜਸੁ ਘਸੀਐ ॥੨॥: Becoming the Gurmukh (Mindset), go and reclaim your own heart (God’s abode). Just as the sandalwood becomes fragrant by repeatedly rubbing on the stone, similarly our spiritual life becomes blissful by living the divine Virtues. ||2|| (sggs 170).

The Gurbani compares Association of Sat-ਸੱਤ (Truth) with that of the fragrant sandalwood. As indicated in the Gurbani, by remaining in the Company of the Sat (Truth) within and outside (the Gurmukh Mindset), 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॥: Bitter Nimm tree growing near the sandalwood tree, becomes fragrant like sandalwood. Nanak, but a bamboo tree growing near a sandalwood tree does not become fragrant because of its stiffness, (similarly an egotistical person does not become humble even in the company of pious beings) ||5|| (sggs 1360).
  • ਮਿਲਿ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਪਰਮ ਪਦੁ ਪਾਇਆ ਮੈ ਹਿਰਡ ਪਲਾਸ ਸੰਗਿ ਹਰਿ ਬੁਹੀਆ ॥੧॥: I have received the supreme spiritual status by associating with seekers, similar to useless plants like Hirad and Plass becoming fragrant by growing near Sandalwood tree. ||1|| (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 Gurmukh beings, they show compassion and love toward that person just as the sandalwood imparts fragrance to the ax that cuts it (i.e. they don’t change their Nature)!

  • 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, sandalwood accommodates and tolerates the poison and remains fragrant at the same time!

  • ਮੈਲਾਗਰ ਬੇਰ੍ਹੇ ਹੈ ਭੁਇਅੰਗਾ ॥ ਬਿਖੁ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤੁ ਬਸਹਿ ਇਕ ਸੰਗਾ ॥੨॥: Snakes encircle the sandalwood trees. Poison and nectar exist together (in the the ocean). ||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.

  • ਬਾਵਨ ਬੀਖੂ ਬਾਨੈ ਬੀਖੇ ਬਾਸੁ ਤੇ ਸੁਖ ਲਾਗਿਲਾ ॥ ਸਰਬੇ ਆਦਿ ਪਰਮਲਾਦਿ ਕਾਸਟ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥੨॥ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਚੇ ਪਾਰਸੁ ਹਮ ਚੇ ਲੋਹਾ ਸੰਗੇ ਕੰਚਨੁ ਭੈਇਲਾ ॥: Just as the fragrance of a sandalwood tree in a forest gives joy to all (and the ordinary trees in its vicinity become like sandalwood tree), similarly in the company of God, the source of divine Virtues, ordinary people acquire these divine Virtues. ||2|| (O God) You are like the mythical philosopher’s stone and I am like iron, but in Your company I have become pure like gold. (sggs 1351).
  • ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਸੀਤਲ ਜਲੁ ਧਿਆਵਹੁ ਹਰਿ ਚੰਦਨ ਵਾਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧ ਗੰਧਈਆ ॥: Always remember God’s Naam which is soothing like cold water; God is like Sandalwood tree, whose fragrance makes all vegetation fragrant. (sggs 833).

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

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

A person diseased by the false pride etc. is compared with the bamboo tree. To the contrary, the pious or Gurmukh beings are compared with the sandalwood tree. In a nutshell, the sandalwood reminds us of our mind’s Jot Saroop, and that our minds must constantly imbibe in the divine Wisdom.

  • ਕਬੀਰ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਬਡਾਈ ਬੂਡਿਆ ਇਉ ਮਤ ਡੂਬਹੁ ਕੋਇ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਕੈ ਨਿਕਟੇ ਬਸੈ ਬਾਂਸੁ ਸੁਗੰਧੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥੧੨॥: Kabir, looks like as if a bamboo tree is immersed in egotistical pride for being so tall; no one should ever drown in egotistical pride like that of bamboo tree. (Because) even when the Bamboo tree dwells near a sandalwood plant, it fails to acquire fragrance from it. (egotistical people fail to acquire divine Virtues). ||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 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’s Original Nature as Jot Saroop. However, when the mind’s Mool is confounded with the gross body-frame, the stinking odor of Vaasnaa (latent tendencies, undigested desires, fancy, propensities, vices 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 divine 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॥: Kabeer, neither divine Bhagti nor Pooja is pleasing to the sinner. The sinner’s nature is like that of a fly that abandons the fragrant sandalwood, and goes wherever there is foul smell. ||68|| (sggs 1368).

In order to rediscover the Original Nature of the mind (i.e. 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 Original 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).
  • ਏਕ ਸੁਮਤਿ ਰਤਿ ਜਾਨਿ ਮਾਨਿ ਪ੍ਰਭ ਦੂਸਰ ਮਨਹਿ ਨ ਆਨਾਨਾ ॥ ਚੰਦਨ ਬਾਸੁ ਭਏ ਮਨ ਬਾਸਨ ਤਿਆਗਿ ਘਟਿਓ ਅਭਿਮਾਨਾਨਾ ॥੨॥: Imbued with the Message of the Shabad, I faithfully obey God’s command and do not let the thought about anybody else enter my mind. (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॥: (One who persuade himself through self-efforts and) Internalizes the Message of the Shabad; he becomes so immaculate as if the perfume of sandalwood abides in his mind. ||11|| (sggs 1057).

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

How can one strike the negative impact of these poisonous snakes out? The Gurbani says it can be accomplished by drawing the Mighty Sword of the Wisdom (of the Gur-Shabad), one can kill the deadly snakes of Bikaar.

  • 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? Similarly, one cannot become like a philosophers touch stone (Paaras) when one’s mind is surrounded by vices/Bikaars — such mind cannot enjoy the Fragrance of the Guru Shabad’s Wisdom, Virtues, Naam etc. We can drink the elixir of Naam only Drawing out the Mighty Sword of the Guru’s Wisdom and cutting out the poisonous (snake of worldly temptations and their corrupting influences). ||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 Original Nature (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 Internalizing the Message of the Shabad, it naturally shines forth. That’s all!

  • ਬਲਤੋ ਜਲਤੋ ਤਉਕਿਆ ਗੁਰ ਚੰਦਨੁ ਸੀਤਲਾਇਓ ॥੧॥ ਅਗਿਆਨ ਅੰਧੇਰਾ ਮਿਟਿ ਗਇਆ ਗੁਰ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਦੀਪਾਇਓ ॥੨॥: My mind was burning in the fire (of vices or Bikaar), Internalization of the Guru’s Shabad worked like the sandalwood paste and it became cool and calm. When the spiritual Message of the Guru’s Shabad illuminated my mind with the divine Giaan-Wisdom, the darkness of ignorance was removed. ||2|| (sggs 241).

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  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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