In this salok, Sheikh Farid speaks beautifully about life’s uncertainty and the irrevocable command of IkOankar (the Divine). Through the symbol of the crane, it has been described that the being lives life totally unaware of death, distracted by the beauty of life and the gifts of nature. However, the lesson is that death can come at any moment, even in the best of times.
pharīdā darīāvai kann̖ai bagulā   baiṭhā kel kare.
kel karede hanjh no   acinte bāj pae.
bāj pae tisu rab de   kelāṁ visrīāṁ.
jo mani citi na cete sani   so gālī rab kīāṁ.99.
-Guru Granth Sahib 1383
Literal Translation
Interpretive Transcreation
Poetical Dimension
This salok is by Sheikh Farid, one of the revered bhagats (devoted beings) whose compositions are enshrined in the Guru Granth Sahib. ‘Farid’ is a title associated with esteemed figures in the Islamic tradition. The Farid who authored this salok is Fariduddin Ganj-i-shakar (Treasure of Sweetness), the founder of the Chishti Sufi order. Unlike an imperative communication style, he does not direct individuals on what to do. Even when addressing the hypocrisies of people, he refrains from mocking them. Instead, regardless of the disciplines one may be practicing, Sheikh Farid lovingly imparts guidance on cultivating a personal relationship with IkOankar (One Universal Integrative Force, 1Force, the One), the Divine. Renowned for his radical devotion, he approached religiosity with a unique perspective, earning popularity during the medieval period, particularly in the late 12th to 13th century, among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs alike.

 Using rich symbolic imagery, Sheikh Farid paints a vivid picture and says, O Farid! A carefree crane sitting on the bank of the river was playing and frolicking. Deep in reflection, he earnestly contemplates death and the Divine. His words are simple yet profound, effortlessly allowing us to visualize the scenario he depicts. We witness the crane, deluded into believing itself to be a swan, joyfully and heedlessly indulging in fish and frolics in the river. Similarly, we humans, captivated by the oceanic vastness and grandeur of the world, immerse ourselves in its playful mischief, oblivious to its transience as well. We are undisturbed by the passage of time, engrossed in worldly pursuits and revelry. The word ‘rab,’ commonly used for the Divine in Islamic tradition, is invoked by Sheikh Farid to imbue the conversation with intimacy, given its self-reflective tone. Expanding on the scene, Sheikh Farid elaborates on the fate of the heedless crane, which hawks abruptly seized. Similarly, death comes for us all – unannounced, unexpected, and swift. Just as the crane is plucked from its carefree existence, our worldly pursuits are abruptly halted by death’s arrival. Often shocked by its suddenness, we are seized by fear, unprepared for the unknown.

In the timeless wisdom of Sheikh Farid, we are gently reminded that while we may have some understanding of death, we often fail to grasp its profound inevitability. For us, death may arrive unexpectedly through illness or accident, finding us unprepared if we have not integrated this profound truth into our consciousness. Let us remain mindful of the inevitability of death. Like the careless crane, we often become engrossed in the pursuits of life, forgetting the looming specter of death. Hence, the lesson is to remain vigilant and remember the ultimate fate that awaits us all. Though the four rhythmic lines speak directly of death, they paradoxically offer insights into truly embracing life. While each of us harbors the potential to embody the grace and virtues of a swan, we frequently find ourselves trapped in the trappings of our mundane existence, like the cranes. Consequently, the sudden arrival of death brings with it inevitable pain and turmoil. However, if we transcend our earthly attachments and aspirations, ascending to a state of the serene swan, we may confront death with equanimity and preparedness, free from fear and regret. Our relentless pursuit of worldly pleasures often obscures our awareness, shrouding us in a cloak of ignorance and false invincibility. In our sense of entitlement, we treat the world as an endless banquet of delights while disregarding death as something that cannot touch us. Yet, if we were to imbue our consciousness with the stark reality of death’s inevitability, our approach to life would undergo a profound transformation. This heightened awareness may inspire us to savor each passing moment, cherishing the fleeting beauty of existence and treasuring the precious gifts bestowed upon us. Through four simple yet profound lines, Sheikh Farid invokes sentiments of gratitude, impermanence, and the supremacy of the Divine. As we contemplate the fragility of life and the certainty of death, we need to ask ourselves: When death has taken many we know and heard of, how are we any different? Do we perceive it as a distant, eventual event? If so, why? Can we choose how we face death? If we were told that today is our last day, what would our priorities be, and what actions would we take differently?