by Harnaak Singh


In part 01, we have been exposed to some important concepts.  The concepts of THOUGHT, PICTURES, 5 EVILS, 5 VIRTUES and INNER-SELF (which controls the ORGANS through which we interact with the creation).

Gurbani is written in poetic style and uses metaphors abundantly.  Why?  We relate easily to metaphors since metaphors describe what we observe and perceive around us.  Thus Metaphors make it easier for us to understand the concepts presented in Gurbani which are related to our mind.  Today we are going to look at metaphors using verses Gurbani to illustrate the use of metaphors.

(Note:  These posts present UNIVERSAL THOUGHT based on Gurbani – writings of the Sikh Gurus, Hindu and Muslim Saints and other contributors to the Sikh Scriptures.  The Gurmukhi text is useful for those who read Gurmukhi and also to present quotes from Gurbani – Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, abbreviated SGGS henceforth, and other reference literature.  The English reader can skip the Gurmukhi part without loss in understanding. English translation of quotes is by Sant Singh Khalsa.  Page numbers in the SGGS will be referred to as follows e.g. page 1412 in SGGS – SGGS 1412).

We will illustrate the use of metaphors using verses from two Shabads from Gurbani (SGGS 1412 and SGGS 1164) in the following.

FIRST SHABAD  SGGS 1412 – Verses

ਜਉ ਤਉ ਪ੍ਰੇਮ ਖੇਲਣ ਕਾ ਚਾਉ॥ ॥ਸਿਰੁ ਧਰਿ ਤਲੀ ਗਲੀ ਮੇਰੀ ਆਉ ॥

If you desire to play this game of love with Me, then step onto My Path with your head in hand.

ਇਤੁ ਮਾਰਿਗ ਪੈਰੁ ਧਰੀਜੈ ॥ ਸਿਰੁ ਦੀਜੈ ਕਾਣਿ ਨ ਕੀਜੈ ॥

When you place your feet on this Path, give Me your head, and do not pay any attention to public opinion. ||20||

Gurbani is saying that “to play the game of love with God, we have to GIVE OUR HEAD”.  Give our head?  This is not meant in the physical sense.  This is where METAPHORS come in.  Gurbani is written in poetic style and uses METAPHORS.  Here “head” means THOUGHTS and “path” means TEACHINGS (of Gurbani) and “not pay any attention to public opinion” means NOT WAIVER FROM YOUR DECISION (to follow the teachings of Gurbani) so Gurbani is saying.

“Those who enjoy playing the game of love (with God) surrender your THOUGHTS to the TEACHINGS (of Gurbani).  Then do not waiver from that decision”

Note that the above interpretation is meant for ordinary people like us.  We should not use this to question the inexplicable actions or inexplicable known events experienced by our Gurus or Great Martyrs who were spiritually elevated souls.  We are not in a position to rationalise SCIENTIFICALLY OR LOGICALLY REASON what happened.  Miracles do and will happen, if we believe in God.

The creation of the world is a big miracle.

Great scientists like Einstein and Stephen Hawkings who tried to  understand the beginning of the universe ended up stating “the universe had a beginning and the laws of science break down at this point” meaning that they cannot scientifically explain the beginning of the universe.

Therefore God’s intervention did and can occur in events and miracles did and can occur and we are not in a position to understand this using science, reason and/or logic.

SECOND SHABAD  SGGS 1164 –  – Verses

ਘਰ ਕੀ ਨਾਰਿ, ਤਿਆਗੈ ਅੰਧਾ ॥ ਪਰ ਨਾਰੀ, ਸਿਉ ਘਾਲੈ ਧੰਧਾ ॥

The blind fool, abandons the wife, of his own home, and, has an affair, with another woman.

ਜੈਸੇ ਸਿੰਬਲੁ, ਦੇਖਿ ਸੂਆ ਬਿਗਸਾਨਾ ॥ ਅੰਤ ਕੀ ਬਾਰ, ਮੂਆ ਲਪਟਾਨਾ ॥੧॥

He is like the parrot, who is pleased to see the simbal tree; but in the end, he dies, stuck to it. ||1||

ਪਾਪੀ ਕਾ ਘਰੁ, ਅਗਨੇ ਮਾਹਿ ॥ ਜਲਤ ਰਹੈ, ਮਿਟਵੈ ਕਬ ਨਾਹਿ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥

The home of the sinner, is on fire.  It keeps burning, and the fire cannot be extinguished. ||1||Pause||

Gurbani, in these verses is using PARROT – COTTON TREE / HOUSE – FIRE relationship metaphorically to illustrate what happens when a MAN SUCCUMBS TO LUST ਕਾਮ, one of the 5 EVILS.  In the verses Gurbani first identifies the action then the consequence of this action in the Rahao verse.  The action is identified in the first stanza.  Engulfed in lust, the man abandons his wife and obtains sexual gratification from another woman. This is akin to a parrot pleased to be in the cotton tree but gets entangled in the cotton. Gurbani used the PARROT- COTTON TREE metaphorically to illustrate the lustful act of the man and that he gets entangled in this act.

The consequence of this activity is given in the Rahao stanza again using a metaphor.  The sinner’s home is on fire the fire will keep burning and will never be extinguished.  The house on fire is metaphorically used to depict the man’s lustful desire.  The fire cannot be extinguished is used to show that the man can never be satisfied in his lustful endeavour which eventually devours him meaning leads to his ruin meaning he completely loses any virtuous standing.


We have seen the use of metaphors in verses from two shabads in Gurbani.  Metaphors  make it easier for us to understand the concepts taught in Gurbani.

Another important point, though not directly related to metaphors, we have learnt, is that the teaching of Gurbani is meant for us.  We should not question events that we cannot explain especially those that occurred in Sikh history with our Gurus and Martyrs.

… to be continued.



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