Connect

2005 Stokes Isle Apt. 896, Vacaville 10010, USA

[email protected]

mailāgar saṅgeṇ    nimmu birakh si candanah.
nikaṭi basanto bāṁso    nānak   ahaṅ budhi na bohate.5.
-Guru Granth Sahib 1360

mailāgar saṅgeṇ    nimmu birakh si candanah.

nikaṭi basanto bāṁso    nānak   ahaṅ budhi na bohate.5.

-Guru Granth Sahib 1360

In the fifth salok, Guru Arjan discusses what happens with people at large through familiar symbols of trees: the sandalwood, the neem, and the bamboo. The Guru says that in the company of the fragrant sandalwood tree, even a bitter neem tree becomes fragrant like sandalwood. But, a bamboo tree in the company of sandalwood does not become fragrant because of its hardness and height. Bamboo trees have a coating that functions as a hard shell, a form of protection that does not allow the fragrance to enter. Those who are like bamboo trees are stubborn and arrogant, closed off to the fragrance of the virtuous ones. Even when they are surrounded by the fragrance of the virtuous ones, sitting in their company, they will not be changed by that presence without doing the work to remove their hard shells — their pride and stubbornness. We cannot become fragrant until we imbibe humility in the way that the neem tree is humble and able to take on the quality of sandalwood despite its own bitter or unpleasant fragrance.  
 
We know from the first salok that there are many fragrances in the material world: camphor, flowers, and other things like sandalwood. We want to be fragrant, and so we cover ourselves in those external superficial fragrances that do not last very long. But the kind of fragrance the Guru talks about here, in the fifth salok, comes from within, that comes from the virtues we have cultivated through the company of those who are already fragrant in their thoughts and actions. The only way toward becoming fragrant is to become humble and open, remove our hard shells, and allow the company of the virtuous ones to change us from within. Will we remove that coating? Will we experience what it is like to be truly fragrant?

Even the bitter trees like neem grown near a sandalwood tree become fragrant by the fragrance of the sandalwood.
In this salok, by using the signature ‘Nanak,’ Guru Arjan states: But a bamboo tree, even if grown near a sandalwood tree, remains deprived of the fragrance because of the pride of its ‘height.’ The fragrance of virtues is absorbed in a humble mind, while an arrogant mind remains devoid of them.5.

In the company of sandalwood, (even) a neem tree (becomes) sandalwood.
Nanak (signature): Bamboo (tree) resides near (sandalwood, but) because of arrogant intellect does not become fragrant.5.

Allegory has been used beautifully in this salok. It has been stated: In the company of a sandalwood tree, even a neem tree becomes like sandalwood. But bamboo, despite growing nearby, does not become fragrant due to its arrogance. Through this statement, it is communicated that a corrupt person who is humble, turns good in the company of the virtuous beings, but the one who is arrogant cannot receive anything even in this company. The literal statement in this salok is different from the implied meaning that emerges from it. This linguistic technique is called allegory.

This salok contains two lines/four phrases. The meter of these lines is (11+11) and (12+14) respectively. This meter is similar to the verse form known as ‘gatha chand’ or ‘gaha chand’ (meter: 12+18 and 12+15) in Indic poetics.