ABOUT KABIR

Kabir is one of the most revered saints in India. Kabir was born a Shudra (lowest caste) and therefore never had access to Sanskrit and was most probably an illiterate. He was also born at a time when Hinduism and Muslim religion had been degraded to superstitions and mere rituals. As has been the tradition of Hinduism, whenever the religion looses its significance, great saints are born to put back the religion in the perspective. Infact Sikh religion was also founded at roughly this time.

To Hindus Kabir was a Vaisnava -- bhakta, to Muslims a pir, to Sikhs a bhagat and to the followers of Kabir ( kabir panthis) an avatar of the supreme Being.

His ideas are in the form of small poems which are still popular and sung in India. The best thing about the poems is the simplicity. Many of his poems are purely devotional and teach humility. Thus person with little knowledge of Hinduism should be able to understand it.

Here in America, one tends to be too much analytical even for religious discussions. I think it is important to be analytical to proceed (or choose) in a right direction. However it is the faith which will lead us, to be humble, compassionate and lead to Nirvana or enlightment. His poems emphasizes devotional aspect and hopefully many of you will like it.

The poems are taken from KABIR [introduction and translation from Hindi and notes by Vaudeville Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1974]. The translation is absolutely wonderful as it preserves the essence of the original. (also available in Rutgers University, Alexander Library)


On the Guru's greatness

What can I give in return,
so great is the Name of Ram?
What gift of mine could please the Guru?
The wish remains [unfulfilled] in my heart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (1)
There is no relative closer than the Satguru,
no bounty equal to spiritual awakening,
There is no greater Benefactor than Hari,
no community equal to that of Hari's devotees. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2)
If the Guru be blind
the disciple is born blind:
When the blind lead the blind
both fall into well! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (3)
I was drowning but I was saved
when the Guru's wave rose up;
I saw the vessel fall to pieces
and I myself jumped clear! . . . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . . . . . (4)
To find the Guru is a great boon:
without Him, you are lost,
As the moth attracted by the lamp's flame
falls into it in full knowledge! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (5)
Maya is the Lamp, man is the moth,
circling arround [the flame], he falls:
Says Kabir, thanks to the Guru's wisdom,
a few are saved. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (6)

On [God's] omnipotence

I have done nothing and nothing can I do,
this body is capable of nothing:
Whatever is done is the work of Hari,
It is He who made Kabir `Kabir'! . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . . (7)
If I made the seven seas my ink
and the trees of the forest my pen,
If the whole expanse of earth were my paper,
still I could not write greatness of Ram! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (8)
Kabir, what good deed can you do,
if Ram comes not to your aid?
Since every branch you step upon
yields and gives way! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (9)
Nothing is [really] done [by you],
what has been done is not yours,
For if you had done anything,
there would be another creator. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (10)

On Death

Kabir, the lute is silent
for all its strings are broken:
What can the poor instrument do,
When the Player has departed? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (11)
Scorched by the forest fire,
standing, the tree cries aloud:
Let me not fall into the Blacksmith's hands,
lest he burn me second time! . . . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . . . (12)
Kabir, the dear is lean,
despite the greenery round this pond:
For a single living being, there are many thousands of hunters,
how many times will he escape the arrows? . . [clarification] . . (13)
Man is but a doll made from five elements,
to whom a human's name is given ...
We are but guest of four days,
yet we take up so much room! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (14)

On The Living Death

Death after death, the world dies,
but no one knows how to die:
The servant Kabir has died such a death,
that he will never have to die again! . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . (15)
When the saint dies, why do you cry?
he is going home ...
Weep over the wretched Sakta,
who is sold from market to market! . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . (16)
I yearn for death, but if I die,
may it be at Ram's door!
And may Hari not ask: `Who is he
who has fallen at my door?' . . . . . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . . (17)

On Slander

The wretched people slander,
for they have not found wisdom
But those who are drunk with the Liquor of Ram
have taste of nothing else! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (18)
Seeing the defects of others,
they just keep laughing and making fun:
They do not see their own faults
have neither begenning nor end! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (19)
Keep the slanderer near you,
build him a hut in your courtyard --
For, without soap or water,
He will scurb your character clean! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (20)
Do not keep the slanderer away,
treat him with affection and honour:
Body and soul, he scours all clean,
babbling about this and that. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (21)
Do not praise yourself
not slander others:
There are still many days to go
and any thing could happen! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (22)

On The Experience

When I was, Hari was not,
now Hari is and I am no more:
All darkness vanished,
When I saw the Lamp within my heart. . . . . [clarification] . . . (23)
The effulgance of the supreme Being
is beyond the imagination:
Ineffable is His beauty,
to see it is the only `proof'. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (24)
It was a good thing the hail fell to ground,
for it lost its own selfhood:
Melting, it turned into water
and rolled down to the pond. . . . . . . . . . [clarification] . . . . . . . (25)
Him whom I went out to seek,
I found just where I was:
He now has become myself
whom before I called `Another'! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (26)

My Home Page | poems page | Prof. Yaswant's Hindi Poet's page


MEANINGS AND CLARIFICATION

Ram -- One of the most revered god in India. In this context it means God. [ back ]

Satguru = true+guru, synonym of Hari or God [back ]

Clarification of (4): wave is also a sudden desire, This sudden flashing of the Guru's wave suggests the sudden, unexpected illumination of the disciple soul though the Guru's grace. vessel, The ramshackle boat is the human body, may also mean ego. [back ]

Maya -- not real, illusion, here related to sensual pleasure. [back ]

Clarification of (7) : there is a pun on the name of Kabir, which means `great' in Arabic and is also epithet of Allah [back ]

lute -- the musical instrument symbolizes human body [back ]

Clarification of (12) : The blacksmith is Kal or Death, who will use the scorched tree as charcoal for his own fire. `forest fire' symbolizes the suffering of wordly existence, which besiege man on every side. [back ]

Clarification of (13) : -- The deer is the human life, living amongst wordly pleasures, yet constantly on the run. Its Hunter is `Kal' or Death, here multiplied into countless bowmen, representing the innumerable dangers which threatens the deer's fragile life. [back ]

Clarification of (15) -- Not all poems are written by him, his followers have also contributed! [back ]

Clarification of (16) -- Sakta means slave. Market symbolises human life, which has to undergo countless rebirths in the unending cycle of the world. [back ]

Clarification of (17) -- i.e., may He recognize me as His own. [back ]

Clarification of (23) -- here `I' is refered to ego. Hari means God [back ]

Clarification of (25) -- Hail, to which soul here is compared is nothing but water (i.e. the One Reality, God); once it has fallen on the ground, i.e. once soul was incarnate in human body, through the Experience, it lost the consciousness of its own falsely assumed identity and was reabsorbed into the One. [back ]


First Display: Aug,1995 | Visitors: 1995:Nov->24,Dec->8


your comments are always welcome at myadav@physics.rutgers.edu