Home Sikhism Sikhi Articles FLORA AND FAUNA IN GURBANI

FLORA AND FAUNA IN GURBANI  

Prof ( Dr ) Surjit Singh Bhatti

All Gurus, saints and sages have been fascinated by the beauty and diversity of nature and have written plethora of lessons that can be assimilated if we pay heed to the creatures around us. The “Ten Commandments” talk of the earth being crammed with the heaven and every bush afire with God. Moses then says only he who sees this mesmerizing charisma of nature, puts off his shoes ( in reverence ). The Sikh Gurus look at nature not only as the pristine glory of God’s Creation, they even consider the diverse flora and fauna as our guides and mentors. To them trees are the poems that the earth writes upon the sky, the birds sing the celestial songs and the animals serve a divine purpose. Gurbani repeatedly invokes swans ( hans ), peacocks, hawks ( baaz ), black bees, honey bees, cuckoos ( koels), papiha, partridges, larks ( chatriks ) ducks, frogs, cranes ( bagula ), pigeons, parrots, moths, butterflies, crows and sparrows, among others. In Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( SGGS ), the Gurus, the Bhagats, the bards and others either directly address these birds or bring out their characteristic qualities and relate these to human life. Trees like mango, simbal, neem, sandalwood, flame of the forest ( dhak, plash, tesu ) and flowering plants like grapevines, kesar, creepers and lotus find abundant mention. Likewise, Gurbani is replete with references to animals such as cows, horses, elephants, camels, lions, deer and dogs. Fish are frequently talked about in the context of their intense love of water.

 

Kabir reminds us that human life is transient like the ( short ) stay of birds on the trees.

ਬਿਰਖ ਬਸੇਰੋ ਪੰਖਿ ਕੋ ਤੈਸੋ ਇਹ ਸੰਸਾਰ ( SGGS – 337 )

 

The Guru says that we should live in this world in detachment like the lotus flowers that remain above the water and the ducks that do not let their wings get wet while swimming.

ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਮਹਿ ਕਮਲ ਨਿਰਾਲਮ ਮੁਰਗਾਈ ਨੈ ਸਾਣੈ ( SGGS - 938 )

 

Sheikh Farid warns us not to plant wild trees with thorns if we desire sweet grapes in life.

ਫਰੀਦਾ ਲੋੜੈ ਦਾਖ਼ ਬਿਜਉਰੀਆਂ ਕਿੱਕਰ ਬੀਜੈ ਜਟੁ ( SGGS – 1379 )

 

The Guru says sweet nature and humility are the essence of all good qualities. The proud and tall simbal tree has neither good flowers nor sweet fruits. Also, its leaves do not provide shade and disappoint the weary who come to it with hope.

ਸਿੰਮਲ ਰੁੱਖ ਸਰਾਇਰਾ ਅਤਿ ਦੀਰਘ ਅਤਿ ਮੁੱਚ । ਉਇ ਜਿ ਆਵਹਿ ਆਸ ਕਰਿ ਜਾਹਿ ਨਿਰਾਸੇ ਕਿਤੁ ॥
ਫਲ ਫਿੱਕੇ ਫੁੱਲ ਬਕ ਬਕੇ ਕੰਮ ਨ ਆਵਹਿ ਪਤ । ਮਿੱਠਤੁ ਨੀਵੀ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਗੁਣ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆਂ ਤੱਤ ॥
( SGGS – 470 )

 

The ablutions in rivers ( on so-called auspicious days ) cannot bring any benefit to the human beings any more than the repeated daily baths taken by frogs do.

ਜਲ ਕੈ ਮਜਨਿ ਜੇ ਗਤਿ ਹੋਵੈ ਨਿਤ ਨਿਤ ਮੇਂਡੁਕ ਨਾਵਹਿ । ( SGGS – 484 )

 

Guru Nanak says that those human beings who have no good qualities but are proud and full of ego, are the real animals ( like donkeys ).

ਨਾਨਕ ਸੇ ਨਰ ਅਸਲਿ ਖਰ ਜਿ ਬਿਨ ਗੁਣ ਗਰਬੁ ਕਰੰਤਿ । ( SGGS – 1245 )

 

To teach the value of honest earning, Guru Sahib warns that money obtained by usurping the right of somebody else is like the ( flesh of a ) pig to a Muslim and cow to a Hindu.

ਹਕੁ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੂਅਰ ਉਸੁ ਗਾਇ । ( SGGS – 141 )

 

Just as an elephant is trapped when he falls a prey to his weakness for lust, Gurbani says, a man gets the same fate by his attachment to his family.

ਜਿਉ ਮੈਗਲ ਇੰਦ੍ਰੀ ਰਸਿ ਪ੍ਰੇਰਿਓ ਤੂੰ ਲਾਗਿ ਪਰਿਓ ਕੁਟੰਬਾਇਲੇ । ( SGGS – 862 )

 

The Gurus compare an ordinary person to a wild tree and God to the sandalwood tree and assure that this good company transforms the lowly human to a high pedestal in life.

ਤੁਮ ਚੰਦਨ ਹਮ ਇਰੰਡ ਬਾਪੁਰੇ ਸੰਗਿ ਤੁਮਾਰੇ ਬਾਸਾ ।
ਨੀਚ ਰੂਖ ਤੇ ਊਚ ਭਏ ਹੈ ਗੰਧ ਸੁਗੰਧਿ ਨਿਵਾਸਾ ॥
( SGGS – 486 )

 

The faithfulness of a dog to his master is well-known. The dog never leaves the house of the master ( under any circumstances ). Guru Sahib uses this to illustrate the way a human being should remember God with single-minded devotion.

ਸੁਆਮੀ ਕੋ ਗ੍ਰਿਹ ਜਿਉ ਸਦਾ ਸੁਆਨ ਤਜਤ ਨਹੀ ਨਿਤ ।
ਨਾਨਕ ਇਹ ਬਿਧਿ ਹਰਿ ਭਜਉ ਇਕ ਮਨਿ ਹੋਇ ਇਕ ਚਿਤਿ ॥
( SGGS -1428 )

 

Gurbani says animals are better than humans as the former eat grass and give nectar ( in the form of milk ) while the latter are ungrateful. The lives of those human beings who do not remember God ( who gives them so much ) are accursed.

ਪਸੂ ਮਿਲਹਿ ਚੰਗਿਆਈਆਂ ਖੜ੍ਹ ਖਾਵਹਿ ਅੰਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਦੇਹਿ ।
ਨਾਮ ਵਿਹੂਣੇ ਆਦਮੀ ਧ੍ਰਿਗ ਜੀਵਣ ਕਰਮ ਕਰੇਹਿ ॥
( SGGS-489 )

 

Sheikh Farid, in his inimitable vocabulary, says he is sacrifice to the birds who live in jungles, on rough ground , and eat coarse grain but do not forget or leave the company of God.

ਫੁਰੀਦਾ ਹਉ ਬਲਿਹਾਰੀ ਤਿਨ ਪੰਖੀਆਂ ਜੰਗਲਿ ਜਿਨ੍ਹਾਂ ਵਾਸੁ ।
ਕਕਰੁ ਚੁਗਨਿ ਥਲਿ ਵਸਨਿ ਰਬ ਨ ਛੋਡਨਿ ਪਾਸ ॥
( SGGS -1383 )

 

Through these visuals Gurbani brings out the sublime lessons we humans should learn from the rich flora and fauna around us. Scientists have confirmed ( reported in National Geographic, April 2013 ), the existence of 8.4 million ( 84 lakh ) species of living beings, revealed already by Gurbani. They also tell us to treat nature as an integrated living system with shared legacy and varying common genes ( Scientific American, July 2013 ), essential for our survival. The Gurbani enshrined in Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( SGGS ) seems to persuade all human beings to find time to “stand and stare” at this bio-diversity and respect the divine nature, even if their humdrum life is “full of care”.

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 Dasvandh or Dasaundh, literally means a "tenth part" and refers to the practice among Sikhs of contributing in the name of the Guru one-tenth of their earnings towards the common resources of the community. This is also referred to in Punjabi as "Daan" literally "giving" or "contributing" in charity. This is a Sikh's religious obligation — a religious requirement or duty; a form of seva or humble service which is highly valued in the Sikh system. The concept of dasvandh was implicit in Guru Nanak’s own Gurbani in the line: "ਘਾਲਿ ਖਾਇ ਕਿਛੁ ਹਥਹੁ ਦੇਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਰਾਹੁ ਪਛਾਣਹਿ ਸੇਇ ॥੧॥ One who works for what he eats, and gives some of what he has - O Nanak, he knows the Path (1)" (SGGS p 1245) The idea of sharing and giving is symbolised by the institutions of langar (community kitchen) for the sangat (holy assembly) that the Guru has established.
(http://www.sikhiwiki.org/index.php/Dasvandh)

A Hukamnama refers to a hymn from the Guru Granth Sahib which is given as an order to Sikhs or a historical order given by one of the Guru's of Sikhism.
The Hukamnama also refers to a hymn randomly selected from the Guru Granth Sahib on a daily basis. This is seen as the order of God for that particular day.

Hukamnama - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia