When the Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly. However, with the help of analogies, similes, allegories, metaphors, idioms, euphemism, symbolic expressions, apostrophe, personification, hyperboles, litotes, metonymy, figurative or mystic representations and illustrations, etc., the Truth becomes relatively easier to grasp. Hymns of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) often employ them to deliver the universally relevant message.
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.
The purpose of employing this tool is to drive the Wisdom (Giaan) into heads of the immature learners (i.e., Sikhs, ਸਿਖਿਆਰਥੀ).
The Gurus and Bhagats frequently employ such statements as a teaching tool to help seekers of Truth (ਸਚ) break free from the chains of fear, ignorance, doubts (ਭਰਮ), Bikaar (lust, anger, greed…), etc., and thus Enlighten us in the process.
Since all human languages are dynamic, the current form of these idioms may not be exactly the same as they appear in the SGGS.
Consider the following Shabad (NOTE: the accompanied English translation is from a readily available online Teekaa, which is merely literal or dictionary meanings, thus NOT much useful. However, later, we will go over each verse separately and try to understand its deeper Message):
- ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੂਤੁ ਪਿਛੈਰੀ ਮਾਈ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਚੇਲੇ ਕੀ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਏਕੁ ਅਚੰਭਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਸਿੰਘੁ ਚਰਾਵਤ ਗਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਲ ਕੀ ਮਛੁਲੀ ਤਰਵਰਿ ਬਿਆਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਕੁਤਰਾ ਲੈ ਗਈ ਬਿਲਾਈ ॥੨॥ ਤਲੈ ਰੇ ਬੈਸਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੂਲਾ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਪੇਡਿ ਲਗੇ ਫਲ ਫੂਲਾ ॥੩॥ ਘੋਰੈ ਚਰਿ ਭੈਸ ਚਰਾਵਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਬੈਲੁ ਗੋਨਿ ਘਰਿ ਆਈ ॥੪॥ ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਜੁ ਇਸ ਪਦ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਮਤ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ॥੫॥੯॥੨੨॥: First, the son was born, and then, his mother. The guru falls at the feet of the disciple ||1|| Listen to this strange thing, O Siblings of Destiny! I saw the lion herding the cows. ||1||Pause|| The fish of the water gives birth upon a tree. I saw a cat carrying away a dog ||2||. The branches are below, and the roots are above. The trunk of that tree bears fruits and flowers ||3||. Riding a horse, the buffalo takes him out to graze. The bull is away, while his load (cart) has come home ||4||. Says Kabeer, one who understands this hymn, and chants the Lord’s Name, comes to understand everything ||5||9||22|| (sggs 481).
Here in the foregoing Shabad we have some more seemingly strange expressions — Son born before his mother, etc.
How can a child be born first, and then his or her mother later?
Seems not only illogical, but also unnatural. The Gurbani does not support unnatural birth. Then what is it the Gurbani is talking about here?
The majority of us conduct ourselves through broken or conditioned consciousness that is no more Intact ( i.e., no more Total, Original, Holistic or ‘Saabat’). In the aforementioned Shabad — which is impregnated with spiritual suggestions — Bhagat Kabeer Jee talks about many other ‘strange’ things. He draws our attention to them and also challenges us to understand their purport.
The following is our attempt understanding this Shabad’s deeper Message. What’s your? Please share.
ਪਹਿਲਾ ਪੂਤੁ ਪਿਛੈਰੀ ਮਾਈ ॥ ਗੁਰੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਚੇਲੇ ਕੀ ਪਾਈ ॥੧॥: Pahilaa poot(u) pishairee maaee. Guru laago chele kee paaee. ||1||: Initially, the mind was Intact (‘Poot’-mind) — Total or Holistic Consciousness (‘Saabat Soorat’). But later, due to the lure of senses, mind becomes illusioned, divided, and the ‘puppet’ of Maya or ‘Maaee’ (‘Maaee-ਮਾਈ’ = mother — mind adopts Durmat, wicked or Mayaic consciousness its mother). Maya essentially is the corruption of one’s conditioned consciousness (Haumai or false ego-sense).
- ਇਉ ਕਹੈ ਨਾਨਕੁ ਮਨ ਤੂੰ ਜੋਤਿ ਸਰੂਪੁ ਹੈ ਅਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ ॥੫॥: Thus says Nanak – O mind! Your ‘Saroop’ (your own, True State) is ‘Joti’ (Divine Light)! Recognize your Mool (Source, Origin, Reality…) ||5|| (sggs 441).
Thus, the Jeeva being essentially part (Ans-ਅੰਸ) of the divine heritage (‘Gurmat’, Wisdom, Mool, Jot Saroop…), surrenders to the deluded mind (‘Chele-ਚੇਲੇ’ – or becomes follower of the Mayaic mind), and thus has become the disciple of his deluded consciousness (ਅੰਤਰ ਆਤਮਾਂ ਦੀ ਆਵਾਜ ਮੰਨ ਪਿਛੇ ਲਗ ਗਈ.,ਮੱਤ ਮਨ ਦੇ ਪਿਛੇ ਲਗ ਗਈ…).
In fact the state of ‘purity’ (Undivided Consciousness) is none other than our True Nature as Jot Saroop we all were born with as infants. We are That Truth-Awareness-Bliss. This state of Ultimate Truth was not only born with us, but It never left us! This leads to the following question:
If It never left us then how did we lose track of It?
- ਅੰਤਰਿ ਅਲਖੁ ਨ ਜਾਈ ਲਖਿਆ ਵਿਚਿ ਪੜਦਾ ਹਉਮੈ ਪਾਈ ॥ ਮਾਇਆ ਮੋਹਿ ਸਭੋ ਜਗੁ ਸੋਇਆ ਇਹੁ ਭਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਿਉ ਜਾਈ ॥੧॥: Within (the Jeeva – an individual being) dwells the Invisible Rabb, but (the Jeeva) cannot comprehend this because (within the Jeeva) lies the veil of false ego-sense (Haumai). In attachment to Maya, all the world is asleep. Tell me, how can this doubt (of the Jeeva) be dispelled? ||1|| (sggs 205).
- ਇਹੁ ਸਰੀਰੁ ਮਾਇਆ ਕਾ ਪੁਤਲਾ ਵਿਚਿ ਹਉਮੈ ਦੁਸਟੀ ਪਾਈ ॥: This body is the puppet of Maya. The evil of egoism is within it (sggs 31).
This false ego-sense is nothing but disturbance on the surface of the Infinite Pool of the Undivided or Intact Consciousness (Saabat-ਸਾਬਤ); resulting in relativist consciousness or subject-object relationship (Maya’s dualistic principle) where the world of differences, names, shapes, cause, effect, time and space is seen.
Simply put: our mind becomes impure or tainted when it’s impacted with the negative impact of false ego-sense (Haumai) or the sense of worldly objects, otherwise it’s of the Pure Nature or Jot Saroop. The Gurbani wants us to recognize this ‘Mool’ of our mind.
ਏਕੁ ਅਚੰਭਉ ਸੁਨਹੁ ਤੁਮ੍ਹ੍ਹ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਸਿੰਘੁ ਚਰਾਵਤ ਗਾਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: Ek achanbhou sunahu tumh bhaaee. Dekhat singh(u) charaavat gaaee ||1|| Rahaaou ||: The mind in its True Nature is fearless, untainted or Jot Saroop. But due to its forgetfulness of its own mighty divine status (Jot Saroop), it’s engaged in gratifying the defiled senses instead (ਮਨੋ-ਕਾਮਨਾਵਾਂ, ). This is like ‘the lion herding the cows’!
- ਕੂੜੈ ਕੀ ਪਾਲਿ ਵਿਚਹੁ ਨਿਕਲੈ ਸਚੁ ਵਸੈ ਮਨਿ ਆਇ ॥: (When) the wall of falsehood is torn down from within, Truth comes to dwell in the mind. (sggs 591).
The Gurmat Wisdom of the SGGS urges us to tear down the partition (wall, veil or curtain) of the false ego-sense (Haumai), doubt, Bikaar (lust, anger, greed…), etc. that separates us from our Mool, and inhibits us from experiencing ‘Anand’!
ਜਲ ਕੀ ਮਛੁਲੀ ਤਰਵਰਿ ਬਿਆਈ ॥ ਦੇਖਤ ਕੁਤਰਾ ਲੈ ਗਈ ਬਿਲਾਈ ॥੨॥: Jal kee mashulee tarvari biaaee. Dekhath kutaraa lai gaee bilaaee ||2||: Water is the support of the fish. It cannot survive without it. The Fish of the mind whose support was the water of Naam (‘Raam Udak’, Hukam, Shabad, Wisdom…) has settled on the tree of Bikaar (i.e, lust anger, greed, etc…).
- ਪੰਚ ਬਿਕਾਰ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਬਸੇ ਰਾਚੇ ਮਾਇਆ ਸੰਗਿ ॥: The five Bikaar (i.e., lust, anger, greed etc.) dwell in the mind of one who is engrossed in Maya (sggs 297).
ਤਲੈ ਰੇ ਬੈਸਾ ਊਪਰਿ ਸੂਲਾ ॥ ਤਿਸ ਕੈ ਪੇਡਿ ਲਗੇ ਫਲ ਫੂਲਾ ॥੩॥: Talai re baisaa oopari soolaa. Tis kai ped lage fal foolaa ||3||: The picture of the inverted tree painted in words and unveiled here serves as a beautiful allegory of the Jeeva’s separation from Truth. Tree with its roots above and the branches below signifies branches of Bikaar have become Jeeva’s base or roots instead of Truth. Obviously, such tree is going to bear similar fruits of Bikaar.
- ਮਨਮੁਖੁ ਊਧਾ ਕਉਲੁ ਹੈ ਨਾ ਤਿਸੁ ਭਗਤਿ ਨ ਨਾਉ ॥ ਸਕਤੀ ਅੰਦਰਿ ਵਰਤਦਾ ਕੂੜੁ ਤਿਸ ਕਾ ਹੈ ਉਪਾਉ ॥: The Manmukh is like the inverted lotus; he has neither Bhagti nor Naam. He deals in Maya; (thus) his efforts are false. (sggs 511).
ਘੋਰੈ ਚਰਿ ਭੈਸ ਚਰਾਵਨ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਬੈਲੁ ਗੋਨਿ ਘਰਿ ਆਈ ॥੪॥: Ghorai chari bhais charaavan jaaee. Baahari bail(u) goni ghari aaee ||4||: Man’s desires and fears are the ‘buffalo’. His deluded mind soaked with desires and fears is the ‘horse’. Manmat (‘buffalo’ – ਮਨਮਤ, self-will, baser desires, fears…) ride on the negative and defiled mind (‘horse’, or the body of defiled senses…), making the mind wander wildly in egoity in all directions.
- ਮਾਤਾ ਭੈਸਾ ਅੰਮੁਹਾ ਜਾਇ ॥ ਕੁਦਿ ਕੁਦਿ ਚਰੈ ਰਸਾਤਲਿ ਪਾਇ ॥੨॥: The intoxicated bull (of the deluded and Bikaaree mind) wanders around wildly. It romps (in false ego-sense) and eats (the crop of Bikaar, Maya …) and then is ruined completely (live a hellish existence or low life…). ||2|| (sggs 326).
Bull is known for his patience (Dheeraj). Because of man’s slavery to sense-pleasures, his patience (‘bull’) has left him, instead, leeches of worldly cravings have found home in him (‘gon ghar aaee-ਗੋਨਿ ਘਰਿ ਆਈ ‘). To say it otherwise: the ‘bull’ of the mind wander around, while he has left the bag (‘Gon’) home, in which he was supposed to collect the Naam.
- ਮਨੁ ਕਰਿ ਬੈਲੁ ਸੁਰਤਿ ਕਰਿ ਪੈਡਾ ਗਿਆਨ ਗੋਨਿ ਭਰਿ ਡਾਰੀ ॥ : I have made my mind an ox, and my consciousness walking the path (of life as told by the Guru), and I have filled my sack with Wisdom and have loaded it on the (ox of the mind). (sggs 1123).
Thus, the man has accepted the false, mirage-like deceptive world-appearance (Maya) as Reality and driven the Truth out of his life. Uncontrolled dsire is the sign of an agitated or defiled mind still caught in the throes of materialistic pursuits.
A man of Wisdom, on the other hand, is blissful because he is poised in his Jot Saroop and hence his happiness is unconditional, which constitutes total freedom. The Naam is indicated in the Gurbani to be an antidote to ills of human mind. The pyre burns a dead body, but the Gurbani says that desire burns an alive body!
ਕਹਤ ਕਬੀਰ ਜੁ ਇਸ ਪਦ ਬੂਝੈ ॥ ਰਾਮ ਰਮਤ ਤਿਸੁ ਸਭੁ ਕਿਛੁ ਸੂਝੈ ॥੫॥੯॥੨੨॥: Kahaat Kabeer ju is pad boojhai. Raam ramat tis(u) sabh(u) kish(u) soojhai ||5||9||22||: Here Bhagat Kabeer Jee says that whosoever comprehends the purport of this hymn, and by dwelling in the Naam, he attains holistic understanding or awareness of life and the physical body. Freeing himself from bondage, he realizes his Jot Saroop, within.
The Gurbani puts tremendous emphasis on proper understanding. It deepens or unfolds within with churning the Gurbani through Shabad-Vichaar. Control (of the body-mind-intellect apparatus) is at its best when we change through proper understanding and not through reactions, fear or anger.
Just as all counting has to begin with the number one, right understanding of life has to start with the NOW, not some other time or place. With proper understanding born of concentration, attention and alertness, desires and fears don’t take root in the mind.