My Portrait as Painted by Guru Ji

Imagine that during one of his long journeys Guru Nanak Dev Ji passed by a beautiful pond, lush green, life giving, loaded with Fish, attracting birds and insects through the vegetation around it. The pond was nurturing lotuses in it, the surroundings were full of flowers and fruit bearing trees, attracting birds and insects with food and nectar. 

There is no proper English word to describe it, so I will stick to Punjabi word ‘Ramneek’. 

However, something tragic happened to the pond, the water became fetid and murky, and all the vegetation died, even the fish in the pond did not survive. There were no flowers or fruit left on the trees. Even the bumble bees searching for nectar amongst the lotuses moved away, and silence where one heard chirping of the birds.

A total transformation, the attractive and a beautiful site had lost its allure, ambience has been reduced making it extremely desolate. Guru Ji happened to be there again, noticing the tragic plight of the pond inquired with the pond about its transformation.

Guru Ji has used the simile of the lotus, but actually he is talking about us.

He is trying to tell us that we were designed and destined to glow, be cheerful, full of aliveness, blissful, content, and epitome of divine virtues. What he encountered was a completely different picture – sullen, unhappy, miserable, complaining, and always wanting more. Faded looks, gloomy faces, with a total lack of aliveness. In order to understand the dismal picture as painted by Guru Ji, let us try to understand Guru Ji’s words.

Guru Ji’s Words Picture 


Pabar too(n) hareeaavalaa kavalaa ka(n)chan va(n)n. 
Kai dhokhaRai saRioh kaalee hoieeaa dhehuree naanak mai tan bha(n)g. 
Jaanaa paanee naa lahaa(n) jai setee meraa sa(n)g. 
Jit ddiThai tan parafuRai chaRai chavagan va(n)n. 30.
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 1412)

O pond! Your leaves (lotus + surroundings) were (lush) green,
and your (lotus) blossoms were gold (hued).
What pain has burnt you, and made your (beautiful) body black?
(Pond’s response) O Nanak, my body is battered.
(As) I have not received that (fresh) water which I love
(and was my constant companion).
Seeing it, my body blossomed forth, and I was blessed
with a deep and four-fold beautiful color. ||30||

Key Words from First Line:

Gurbani Word
Pabar Pond full of lotuses Glowing, nurturing
Hareeaavalaa Green Aliveness
Kavalaa Lotus Beauty, rising above the mud
Kanchan Golden Golden Divine Virtues/Qualities of Naam
Va(n)n Colored Glow

Guru Ji’s Question

Guru Ji used the simile of pond, which was full of golden hued lotuses and lush green vegetation within and around it. Wondering about the transformation of a pond, Guru Ji asked the pond what happened to it? Earlier you were green (meaning full of zest) with aliveness, radiating divine virtues. Even your body which had a golden glow like with the golden virtues is looking pale and faded. What tragedy has caused you to become so rotten, and your body blackened? Let us see what the pond’s reply was.

Pond’s Response:

The pond replied back saying that I know the cause. The freshwater inflow, which was my companion, my life, I have not received. I have been cut-off from that inflow. Just the sight of that water used to make my body blossom forth four-fold. Now without the freshwater inflow my body has become pale, and my beauty diminished.

Guru Ji was talking about us in this conversation. We were designed to blossom with divine virtues. We were to be helpful in nurturing towards others including species, instead we have become a spent force. The life’s focus is I and me, my needs and identity. That is my ego, which defines me as the sum total of what I have, what I do, and my social status. Attachment with possessions and disconnection from the Source causes this energy deficit. The transformation that had taken place in the body has been explained by Guru Ji Amardas as:

Kaiaa kamal hai kumalaanaa.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 1051)

The lotus like human body is withering away.

The Naam, Amrit is within the body, but as we do not have any connection with it, withering away of the body was an expected natural phenomenon. Naam was going to charge our bodies to make them glow, glitter like gold and make us fully alive like plant greenery and we could be tasting Amrit within. But it is not happening, as we misread our inner quest. We are trying to fill the quest with material possessions, but the empty feeling persists. If the influence on the self is missing, how could we expect to have an influence over others? This is what Guru Ji has termed as the charred body. Our inner being realizes that something is amiss, and it is constantly searching for fulfillment. Guru Ji has described that yearning in these words:

Maadhau jal kee piaas na jaai.
Jal meh agan uThee adhikai. 1. Rahaau.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 323)

O Lord, my thirst for the water of Your Naam will not go away.
The fire of my thirst burns even more brightly in the water. 1. Pause.

Our thirst is for Naam, but unknowingly we chase the material world, in hopes of quenching that thirst. When the thirst is for water, it cannot be quenched with anything else – wealth, possessions, achievements etc. The net result is we feel empty, spent, depleted, and devoid of energy. In this conversation which Guru Ji has penned, the pond is symbolic of the human body and the lotuses in it symbolizes divine virtues within. The water of the pond is symbolic of Amrit, the ambrosial nectar. When the fresh inflow or connection was blocked, deterioration was bound to take place. Amrit of the Creator is in us, but it is being fully consumed by our five sense organs. When we fail to connect with it, outcomes are body weakness, feeling tiredness, exhaustion. The frustrations of unfulfilled desires, hopes, aspirations only multiply further adding frustrations, making us short tempered and angry. Guru Ji has identified the cause of this tragic state in these words:

“Munmukh andhar na bhaalanee muThe aha(n)matae.

Chaare kunddaa(n) bhav thake a(n)dhar tikhh tatae.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 1093)

The self-willed munmukhs do not search within their own selves;
they are deluded by their egotistical pride.
Burning with (unfulfilled) desires within
they are wandering in (all) four directions, they grow weary.

The thirst and burning fire for unfulfilled desires keeps us wondering all over in order to become somebody. The birth of a desire is always complemented with the birth of anxiety, and doubt about its fulfillment. Guru Ji has shared the relationship in these words:

Jab assa anndesa ṯub hee kio kar ek kahai.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 877)

As long as there is hope, there is anxiety; so how can anyone speak of the One Lord?

Guru Ji is pointing to the root cause of tragedy, the outwards search. We are chasing the material world in hopes that it will provide not just us for our needs but also fulfillment, security, fame, and status. But fulfillment is ever uncertain, however when successful it only adds multiple layers of pride in us. The very nature of the material world is to merely fuel more desires instead of providing satisfaction. Acquisition of material wealth only pumps up the ego, making us short tempered, simultaneously the anger also grows within. It is for this reason the term ‘deluded’ has been used by Guru Ji. It makes the person becomes more egocentric, who lacks patience and who cannot take no for an answer. Guru Ji has clarified that all the desires of only very few are ever fulfilled:

Tirasanaa birale hee kee bujhee he. 1. Rahaau.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 213)

The thirst of (desires) only a few is quenched. ||1||Pause||

Just as the lotus was alive and nurtured in a pond with freshwater circulation, same way the human being will be alive and glowing with Amrit when we connect with Naam on the daily basis. Where is the disconnection? It is in only being interested in the worldly possessions with no interest in the Amrit or the Naam. We are not in the element that we were designed for. That is where Guru Ji wants us to change our approach. Guru Ji wants to transform us from the desolation of empty feelings to a feeling of fulfillment, abundance and success. Guru Ji says you came to the world to drink the nectar in these words:

Jis jal nidh kaaran tum jug aae so amrit gur paahee jeeau."
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 598)

The treasure of the Naam, for which you have come into the world - that Ambrosial Nectar is with the Guru.

With that Naam, the golden glow along with green of aliveness will be reflected in our lives. The human body like the water body of pond will be charged, glowing, glittering, serving from the powerful connection. Guru Ji wants us to make that connection, which will make us alive on drinking the ambrosia. It is only with grace that this can happen, then words coming out of the mouth will be:

Meraa ghar baniaa bun taal buniaa prabh parase har raiaa raam.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 781)

My (body) home is made, (replete with) the (dense) forest (full of greenery) and pond are made, when I touched the feet of Sovereign Lord God.

The feet here represent the Amrit Naam. Let us also try to construct a home within our body, which is as serene as per Guru Ji’s description. Guru Ji has portrayed a picture of our lives to point out unsatisfying qualities of the material world and how they wreak havoc in our lives. The Creator’s intrinsic design for us is to be alive and glowing in divine virtues. Guru Ji is trying to tell us to overcome that unsatisfying nature of the material world, and instead get inspired to see and connect with something worthwhile and everlasting. Let us make this journey and make our lives blossom forth. Guru Ji has provided us with the guidance through the role models in these words to inspire us:

Jin ddiThiaa mun rahaseeaai kiau paieeaai tin(h) su(n)g jeeau.
Sant sajjan mun mitr sae laain prabh siau ru(n)g jeeau.”
– (SGGS, Pg. No. 760)

Gazing upon them, my mind is enraptured.
How can I join them and be with them?
They are Saints and friends, good friends of my mind,
who inspire me and help me tune in to God's Love.
May we be inspired, get connected within and blossom forth.


Images (c)

Artworks (c) Kavita Tarneja


More by :  Bhupinder Singh

Top | Sikhism

Views: 332      Comments: 2

Comment Dr. Harbans Lal,

Boloji website doe not have access to Gurmukhi fonts so I have to use Hindi fonts.
But this way other readers who cannot read Gurmukhi can also benefit from it.

Bhupinder Singh
15-Mar-2024 11:05 AM

Comment Thank you for sharing a dharma thought. My only complaint is that you used some font to cite gurbani that I could not read. What happened to gurmukhi or Roman?

Harbans Lal
14-Mar-2024 11:42 AM

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