Errors of Cognition
ਮੂੜ ਰੂੜ ਪੀਟਤ ਨ ਗੂੜਤਾ ਕੌ ਭੇਦ ਪਾਵੈ ਪੂਜਤ ਨ ਤਾਹਿ ਜਾ ਕੇ ਰਾਖੇ ਰਹੀਅਤੁ ਹੈ ॥੪॥੭੪॥
In darkness the fools beat the rope [thinking it is a snake], they have not understood the secret, the difference [between what is True and False], and thus they do not worship the One who protects our life.
- Akal Ustat, verse 74
The beautiful imagery alluded to by Guru Gobind Singh in his Akal Ustat speaks to the classic well known Vedanta theory of erroneous cognition [khyati vada]. This error of cognition, mistakenly fearing a rope in darkness as a snake, is analogous to one's erroneous cognition of the world as dangerous and frightening, which it is not. When the individual correctly perceives the absence of a snake and only a rope, then the fear vanishes. This error of cognition is said to be what binds us in our inability to see the One in all.
Traditionally, texts such like the Vichar Sagar were taught in Nirmala, Udasi and Taksal's curriculum to expound upon these principles. Indian schools of thought house myriad explanations and theories in regard to erroneous cognition but for the Vichar Sagar and alike texts used in Sikh studies, the theory of anirvacaniya khyati vada theory holds paramount.
In this theory, the entire world is not considered false [asat] because they do possess a form, and are relatively real until the time they are recognized as false [through liberating knowledge]. Furthermore, the world cannot be considered True [sat] either, as with the springing forth of knowledge it becomes negated. Truth [satya] can only be true if is remains true through all three aspects of time, as Guru Nanak wrote:
ਆਦਿ ਸਚੁ ਜੁਗਾਦਿ ਸਚੁ ॥ ਹੈ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਹੋਸੀ ਭੀ ਸਚੁ ॥੧॥
To read more on anirvacaniya khyati vada, the Vichar Sagar provides an extensive account in the fourth chapter, beginning at verse 50.