The Dog’s Tail

The previous post touched upon the use of idioms (ਮੁਹਾਵਰੇ) in the Gurbani.

When the Truth that has not been personally experienced, one can not grasp it directly. However, 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 Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) with a definite purpose and intention. They should neither be taken literally, nor their significance stretched beyond the Gurbani’s intention.

An another idiom/proverb used in the Gurbani is that of a dog’s tail (“ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ”). The purpose of such illustration is to drive the Gurbani’s Divine Message into the spiritually immature minds.

It’s important to remember that the Gurbani’s Giaan or Wisdom is not for the dog or it’s tail to take. Instead, the Wisdom of the SGGS is for the human mind that acts crooked like the tail of a dog.

It is said that one can keep a dog’s tail in a straight tube and hold it there for as long as the dog lives. But it will instantly curl as soon as you take it out of the tube and let it go! At one or other time in our lives, most of us probably heard this expression either from our parents, school teachers, etc. Someone may argue that a dog’s tail can be straighten out by, for example, plastic surgery. But, as previously indicated, these expressions should neither be taken literally, nor their significance stretched beyond the Gurbani’s intention.

This phenomenal world (Mayaic Sansaar) of names-forms-shapes is also liken to a dog’s tail: Its nature is to curve or curl!

The mind attached to this phenomenal world (Maya) also behaves crooked like the curved tail of a dog or animals.

Due to the Spiritual ignorance (Durmat or corrupt intellect, doubts (Bharam), delusion, false ego-sense (Haumai), duality, etc.), the mind acts crooked, stubborn, and fanatic. As such, we take unreal to be real, ephemeral to be eternal, falsehood to be Truth, material consciousness to be Spiritual Consciousness, and so on. Like a dog’s tail, this conditioning of our Mayaic mind keeps us crooked (false “bent”), and does not let us change by engaging in Shabad-Vichaar (Aatam Giaan, Naam, Hukam… ), and living a Divine Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle).

  • ਪੰਡਿਤ ਸੰਗਿ ਵਸਹਿ ਜਨ ਮੂਰਖ ਆਗਮ ਸਾਸ ਸੁਨੇ ॥ ਅਪਨਾ ਆਪੁ ਤੂ ਕਬਹੁ ਨ ਛੋਡਸਿ ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛਿ ਜਿਉ ਰੇ ॥੪॥: Foolish people live in the company of Pandit (religious scholars), they also hear scriptures (Shaastra) from them (but they remain fools, they do not give up their foolish nature). [Similarly, O frog (here the hint is towards our ignorant and crooked mind)] You can never escape your own inner tendencies, like the tail of the dog (that always remains crooked). ||4|| (sggs 990).
  • ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਭਇਓ ਨ ਸੂਧਉ ਬਹੁਤੁ ਜਤਨੁ ਮੈ ਕੀਨਉ ॥: (My greedy mind that disregards Naam: Wisdom/Virtues…) does not straighten out like a dog’s tail; (similarly this greedy mind will not straighten out) despite my innumerable efforts (i.e. remains unrepentant towards temporal indulgence). (sggs 633).
  • ਸਾਕਤ ਸੁਆਨ ਕਹੀਅਹਿ ਬਹੁ ਲੋਭੀ ਬਹੁ ਦੁਰਮਤਿ ਮੈਲੁ ਭਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਆਪਨ ਸੁਆਇ ਕਰਹਿ ਬਹੁ ਬਾਤਾ ਤਿਨਾ ਕਾ ਵਿਸਾਹੁ ਕਿਆ ਕੀਜੈ ॥੬॥: Saakat (those separated from God…) are said to be very greedy like dogs; they are full of too much filth of wicked intellect. One who talks excessively but to suit ones own interests; how can such a person be trusted? ||6|| (sggs 1326).

To the unwise (Manmukh, Saakat, Mayadhaaree, etc.), the Divine Knowledge (Spiritual Wisdom, Aatam-Giaan) is a burden. If we want to straighten our mind out, then the Gurbani asks us to mend our ways. That is, we need to change our crooked habits and tendencies. Shabad-Vichaar will strike our crookedness (dog’s tail) and drive it out.

  • ਸੁਆਨ ਪੂਛ ਜਿਉ ਹੋਇ ਨ ਸੂਧੋ ਕਹਿਓ ਨ ਕਾਨ ਧਰੈ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਭਜੁ ਰਾਮ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਤ ਜਾ ਤੇ ਕਾਜੁ ਸਰੈ ॥੨॥੧॥: Like a dog’s tail, this (greedy mind) does not become straight (i.e. remains unrepentant towards temporal indulgence); it does not attend to (any Advice, Teaching, ਸਿੱਖਿਆ…). Says Nanak, forever meditate on the Naam and your affairs (the ultimate purpose of life, etc.) will get resolved. ||2||1|| (sggs 536).

In nutshell, the wheel of Maya can be brought to standstill by the earnest Shabad-Vichaar. With such sincere self-effort, the mind becomes Pure, Peaceful, stable, or free from Bikaar (lust, anger, greed, etc.). When the mind is so stilled (free from Maya’s wanderings), the Maya’s wheel ceases: the dog’s tail becomes straight, never to curl again!

  • ਗੁਰ ਕੈ ਸਬਦਿ ਬਨਾਵਹੁ ਇਹੁ ਮਨੁ ॥: Through the Gur-Shabad, prepare (reshape, reconstruct, change, mend, ਨਵੇਂ ਸਿਰੇ ਘੜੋ…) this mind (sggs 377).
  • ਬਿਨੁ ਸਿਮਰਨ ਕੂਕਰ ਹਰਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਸਾਕਤ ਲੋਭੀ ਬੰਧੁ ਨ ਪਾਇਆ ॥੬॥: Without remembrance (Wisdom, Virtues..), one is like a mad dog. The greedy, Saakat (one separated from the Truth) falls into entanglements ||6|| (sggs 239).
  • ਫਰੀਦਾ ਬੇ ਨਿਵਾਜਾ ਕੁਤਿਆ ਏਹ ਨ ਭਲੀ ਰੀਤਿ ॥: O Farid! (Those devoid of Bhagti are like a dog; this is not a Way of living.  (sggs 1381).


  1. DO we have learned katha wachaks ? ans is NO JAN KA HIRDEY SHUDH HAI,KHOJ SABAD MEN LE ? Now to reach that state GURU TEG BAHADUR JI SAYS


  2. May i humbly request you to go into indepth meaning what GURU SAHIB wanted to convey to SANGAT.

    WAHE GURU BLESS YOU billoo bhai

  3. A devout learner in any situation or place always learn something productive and helpful. Yes, those who do not make efforts to learn the ‘Truth’ on their own accord, often fail and precious life is wasted. Inner development requires strenuous efforts, dedication and determination to succeed.

  4. Are we truly given the understanding of the messages from SGGS ji in Gurdwaras.?
    I dont feel getting so.

  5. Bhai Sahib jio
    Whatever is spoken by the dedicated and committed spiritualists often reflects the truth, it comes out from their inner mind and the mind is a virtuous source of purity. Yes, guidance is required in order to prepare ourselves; in my opinion accompanied by the Sadh Sangat in Gurudwaras, listening to Gurbani/Kirtan and understanding the message is the ultimate source of wisdom that paves a way forward for our inner development of the mind. Let us not forget just to submit to Sri Guru Granth Sahib ji, but none others in personage.

  6. Very true ones life is own journey.One should be fully prepared for this journey .But one certainly needs a guidance even for knowing about the preparations of this journey.And for this preparations our GuROO is giving calls every moment and one should listen to this call
    the earlier one listens ,the better preparations can be made for the journey.

  7. Thank you Bhai Sahib Jio for sharing such a beautiful Vichaar!

    One has to study Gurbani, understand and practise; no body else can be substituted for ourselves to help us achieve salvation…

    Thank you Brother!

    It reminds me of a spiritually inclined person who long time ago told me you cannot “substitute” anybody for yourself in these situations (he gave me three examples as follows):
    – He said if you are hungry, you cannot “substitute” anybody for yourself: You must eat yourself.
    – He said if you want to get married, you cannot “substitute” anybody for yourself to take “Phere” in your place: You must take “Phere” yourself.
    – Similarly, he said if you want to realize your True Self, you cannot “substitute” anybody for yourself: You must realize yourself.

  8. Idiomatic depictions in Gurbani are there, in a sense of advocacy to make people realise how their characteristics remain camouflaged to real state of animal conformity. These are the direct hits to awaken the human mind, which becomes dilapidated. One has to study Gurbani, understand and practise; no body else can be substituted for ourselves to help us achieve salvation. Academically, one has to work for himself in order to achieve success, which is restrictive, but development of one’s mind is ever lasting fruit whose fragrance flares for the benefit of others as well.

  9. The Guru Granth hymns frequently employ metaphors, apostrophe, personification, idioms, similes, euphemism, hyperboles, litotes, metonymy, and symbolic expressions to deliver its universally relevant message. While translating the same, the scholar must ensure that their meanings transmit Gurumat and phenomena that are eternal and are explicated with universal applications.
    It will bbe a good service if you give an example of each one of them in your future articles to spread Guru’s message.

  10. The example of DOG”S TAIL is about the characteristc which is inherent in dogs.The similar characterisic can be observed about the personal thinking of all human beings.So the personal thinking has been equated like DOGS TAIL.It is about listening and acceptance of Gurmati.
    Every one do listen to Gurmati but having listened still goes with his own personal thinking.
    This shows how strong one makes his personal thinking which is based on all borrowed views of wordly people only. So one should always be listening to gurmati views to take care of ones
    effect of DOG”s TAIL characteistic.

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