The Absolute Truth is explained and reinforced by the the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) for our understanding through different similes, allegories, metaphors, figurative or mystic representations, illustrations and analogies. One such analogy involvesa rope mistaken for a snake.
Having properly understood, such analogies enable the spiritual seekers remove mental distortions (Doojaa Bhaav or duality) and realize the One Reality that underlies the apparent diversity. For example, consider the following verses:
- 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).
Spiritual Knowledge alone destroys the ignorance as light destroys deep darkness. The purpose of analogy such as the ‘rope mistaken for a snake’ helps us remove the misunderstanding about our True Nature which is Jot Saroop. Once the misunderstanding is removed, our true Self (Pure Presence, Jot Saroop etc.) stands revealed, within.
‘Rope mistaken for a snake’! What is the story behind this mystic expression the Gurbani talks about here?
Ignorance is nothing but the non-apprehension of greater Reality. This non-apprehension of Reality causes the misapprehension in our life. For example, in darkness when we do not have the true knowledge of a rope, we may misunderstand it to be either a snake, or a piece of stick, or a streak of water, or a crack in the ground, and so on. Thus, due to initial non-apprehension of the rope, we could have misapprehensions of the various other objects superimposed on the rope.
Likewise, in ignorance our True Nature as Jot Saroop has been imagined as the false ego-sense (Haumai). Thus, being attached to the ignorance of our Essential Nature, we are fallen into deep sleep of illusion. Consequently, we are unable to apprehend the Reality. Because of such misunderstanding and consequent superimpositions, we suffer under the ignorance about the Truth of our real Self.
The true Self is one and the same before and after Its Realization. But due to our personality-shackles created by our distorted mind (Haumai – false ego-sense – etc.), we superimpose upon It certain conditioning. When the contamination caused by the false limitations is removed, the real Self is realized and rediscovered as the One Timeless Energy, which runs through All. Just as once the darkness is removed, the rope alone remains; the snake disappears. For we know that the rope alone is real, not the snake; however, it was our non-apprehension of the rope that gave rise to the misapprehension of the snake.
- 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).