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. 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,
- Wring Hands,
- 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.
Bhagat Freed Sahib has used this idiom (ਮੁਹਾਵਰਾ) in one of the Shabads:
- ਤਪਿ ਤਪਿ ਲੁਹਿ ਲੁਹਿ ਹਾਥ ਮਰੋਰਉ ॥ ਬਾਵਲਿ ਹੋਈ ਸੋ ਸਹੁ ਲੋਰਉ ॥: Burning and burning (ਬਹੁਤ ਦੁਖੀ ਹੋ ਕੇ, ਖਪ ਖਪ ਕੇ), writhing in pain (ਬਹੁਤ ਤੜਫ ਤੜਫ ਕੇ, I), wring (my) hands. Being insane now I’m looking for my Husban (i.e., Rabb). (sggs 794).
In the foregoing verse, ‘ਹਾਥ ਮਰੋਰਉ’ (Haath mroraou) = To wring one’s hands, to rub hands (ਹੱਥ ਮਲਣਾਂ), etc., which simply means to regret (ਪਛੁਤਾਉਣਾਂ), to repent, to fret, or to chafe.
The Gurbani time and again urges us to become Spiritually inclined from the early age. If we don’t, then the Gurbani warns us that we will regret later. For, once the Life Force has departed from within the gross body (death), it will be too late!
- ਪਗਿ ਖਿਸਿਐ ਰਹਣਾ ਨਹੀ ਆਗੈ ਠਉਰੁ ਨ ਪਾਇ ॥ ਓਹ ਵੇਲਾ ਹਥਿ ਨ ਆਵਈ ਅੰਤਿ ਗਇਆ ਪਛੁਤਾਇ ॥: Upon falling of the body, (Jeeva) cannot stay here any longer and there is no place rest hear after. That opportunity (which is lost earlier) will not come again. In the end, (Jeeva) departs regretting (sggs 28).
The Gurbani reminds us that the human life is like that of a bubble that appears in water one moment, only to disappear the next. Just as we cannot avoid old age, in the same way, we cannot avoid death. Which can happen the next moment, carrying away all our material possessions instantly just as a river in spate wipes out everything in its course!
Hence the Gurbani asks us to pursue the Spiritual Life (the Gurmukh Lifestyle) along with our household life from an early age and not to wait for tomorrow, let alone the shriveled ugliness of the old age. Because habits that have not been cultivated in early age cannot be cultivated in old age when one’s body-mind-intellect apparatus is failing on him.
- ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਨੀਤ ॥ ਜਗ ਰਚਨਾ ਤੈਸੇ ਰਚੀ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਸੁਨਿ ਮੀਤ ॥੨੫॥ ਪ੍ਰਾਨੀ ਕਛੂ ਨ ਚੇਤਈ ਮਦਿ ਮਾਇਆ ਕੈ ਅੰਧੁ ॥ ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਹਰਿ ਭਜਨ ਪਰਤ ਤਾਹਿ ਜਮ ਫੰਧ ॥੨੬॥: As the bubble in water wells up and disappears again, so is the (play of the) universe is created. ||25|| But, blinded by the intoxication of Maya (blinded from spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਵਲੋਂ), the mortal does not think at all (about the spiritual Life – ਆਤਮਕ ਜੀਵਨ ਬਾਰੇ). Says Nanak – without the uniting with Mool, (such mortal) is caught by the noose of death. ||26|| (sggs 1427).
Moment by moment, day-by-day, by the force of the all-powerful Time, the body wears away, the length of life shortens, bodily strength and keenness decline, and old age (‘ਜਰਾ ਰੋਗੁ’) overpowers it. In this pitiable state of the body-mind-intellect apparatus, we will not be able to focus, understand or unite with our Mool within.
- ਜੋਬਨੁ ਘਟੈ ਜਰੂਆ ਜਿਣੈ ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ ਆਵ ਘਟੈ ਦਿਨੁ ਜਾਇ ॥: Youth wears itself out, and old age triumphs, O my merchant friend; as time passes, your days diminish. (sggs 75).
To whom does the Gurbani call ‘merchant friend’ (‘ਵਣਜਾਰਿਆ ਮਿਤ੍ਰਾ’) here? We are merchants or traders (ਵਣਜਾਰੇ) in this world – we are here to trade (ਵਣਜ) in Naam, Shabad, Hukam, Mool-abidance, Aatm-Giaan or Wisdom, Truth, Virtues…
- ਵਣਜਾਰੇ ਸਿਖ ਆਵਦੇ ਸਬਦਿ ਲਘਾਵਣਹਾਰੁ ॥: The trader Sikhs (who trade in the Gur-Shabad) come and through the Shabad, they are carried across (Bhavajal-Mayaic ocean…). (sggs 313).
- ਪ੍ਰਾਣੀ ਤੂੰ ਆਇਆ ਲਾਹਾ ਲੈਣਿ ॥: O mortal, you came to earn a (Spiritual) Profit. (sggs 43).
- ਯਾ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਏਕਹਿ ਕਉ ਆਇਆ ॥ ਜਨਮਤ ਮੋਹਿਓ ਮੋਹਨੀ ਮਾਇਆ ॥: (Man) is born in this life only to become ONE (with Prabh, Mool, etc. – through Naam…). (But) ever since (man’s) birth, (he) has been enticed and deceived by Maya. (sggs 251).
This human birth is the golden opportunity and time to realize ‘Laahaa‘! Therefore, the gurbani reminds us that everything in our life can wait, but not the search (ਖੋਜ) through the earnest Shabad-Vichaar.
- ਇਹੀ ਤੇਰਾ ਅਉਸਰੁ ਇਹ ਤੇਰੀ ਬਾਰ ॥: This is your chance, and this is your time (sggs 1159).
- ਮਨੁ ਤਨੁ ਜੀਤਿ ਸਬਦੁ ਲੈ ਲਾਹਾ ॥: Conquering mind body, earn the Profit of the Shabad (Gur-Giaan…). (sggs 699).
The Gurbani says ‘NOW’ (‘ਅਬ’) is the time! Otherwise, we are sure to regret and repent afterwards.
- ਭਜਹੁ ਗੋੁਬਿੰਦ ਭੂਲਿ ਮਤ ਜਾਹੁ ॥ ਮਾਨਸ ਜਨਮ ਕਾ ਏਹੀ ਲਾਹੁ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਜਰਾ ਰੋਗੁ ਨਹੀ ਆਇਆ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਕਾਲਿ ਗ੍ਰਸੀ ਨਹੀ ਕਾਇਆ ॥ ਜਬ ਲਗੁ ਬਿਕਲ ਭਈ ਨਹੀ ਬਾਨੀ ॥ ਭਜਿ ਲੇਹਿ ਰੇ ਮਨ ਸਾਰਿਗਪਾਨੀ ॥੨॥ ਅਬ ਨ ਭਜਸਿ ਭਜਸਿ ਕਬ ਭਾਈ ॥ ਆਵੈ ਅੰਤੁ ਨ ਭਜਿਆ ਜਾਈ ॥ ਜੋ ਕਿਛੁ ਕਰਹਿ ਸੋਈ ਅਬ ਸਾਰੁ ॥ ਫਿਰਿ ਪਛੁਤਾਹੁ ਨ ਪਾਵਹੁ ਪਾਰੁ ॥੩॥: Unite with Gobind (Mool, Source…) and don’t forget this. This is the profit of this human birth (ਮਨੁੱਖਾ-ਜਨਮ ਦੀ ਖੱਟੀ ਕਮਾਈ). ||1||Pause|| As long as the disease of old age has not come, and as long as Kaal (time, death…) has not seized Kaaiaa, as long as your voice has not become confused (cut into fragments…), (before that) O mind, unite (link with your Mool, become one, ਜੁੜ…) just as Saarig and water (i.e., as Saarig or rainbird chirps constantly for water). ||2|| O brother! If you do not unite now, when will you? When the end comes, you will not be able to unite. Whatever you have to do – now is the best (time) to do it. Otherwise (if you loose time), you will regret afterwards, and you will not be able to go across to the other side (i.e., cannot transcend Maya…) ||3|| (sggs 1159).
If the human body is used for any purpose other than what it’s meant for (Mool-abidance), then the following Salok of Bhagat Freed Sahib fits us!
- ਫਰੀਦਾ ਜਿ ਦਿਹਿ ਨਾਲਾ ਕਪਿਆ ਜੇ ਗਲੁ ਕਪਹਿ ਚੁਖ ॥ ਪਵਨਿ ਨ ਇਤੀ ਮਾਮਲੇ ਸਹਾਂ ਨ ਇਤੀ ਦੁਖ ॥੭੬॥: O Fareed! If on that day when my umbilical cord was cut, my throat had been cut instead, I would not have fallen into so many worldly affairs (turmoil, tumult, ado, etc.), or undergone so many sorrows (suffering, grief, etc.). ||76|| (sggs 1381).