Bhagat Kabir
(1398-1518 AD)

"From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad?"

Bhagat Kabir ji is ranked 5th as regards the volume of Bani contributed to SGGS ji, and from the 15 bhagats, he contributed the maximum number of hymns. His total contribution is 541 hymns set to 18 different musical measures (Ragas). Kabir has been accepted as the most revolutionary of all the saints of the Bhagati movement. He was the prominent disciple of Ramanand, and din't hesitate to strike blows at futile religious observances & formalism. Ramanand once advised him to get up early in the morning & remember the Lord. This advice impressed him so much that he propogated this throughout is life, awakening masses from their daily slumber of ignorance and uniting them with the Lord. One of his hymns says:

Kabeer, what are you doing sleeping? Wake up, and sit up.
Attach yourself to the One, from whom you have been separated. ||129||

The Brahmin lobby claim Kabir was born in Banaras to a Brahmin & was later brought up by a weaver couple-Ali Neeru and Neema- of Uttar Pradesh, who found the baby abandoned on the bank of Lahar Talan in the forest. This story seems to have been conocted by Pandits who often generally claim that scholars are born in their so-called high caste only. SGGS ji does not support these claims. SGGS ji on Panna 67, 328, 970 and 1364 amply clarify and leave no doubt whatsoever whom Kabir was:

You are a Brahmin, and I am only a weaver from Kashi. How can I compare to you?

As he came of age, he was married to a God-fearing maiden named Loi. She was the daughter of Neti, a noble-hearted weaver. Kabir and Loi had one son; Kamala and one daughter; Kamali. Kabir was attracted to Hinduism in his younger days. His couplets and slokas impress upon man to become a good human being and treat all other as his equal. They are very effective in leading a person on the path of righteousness. According to Kabir, all human beings are Divine in essence. Thus, they are all equal. None of them is either good or bad. The same Divine spirit is manifested in all of them, and all that happens here is under His will.

First, Allah created the Light; then, by His Creative Power, He made all mortal beings.
From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad? ||1||

He who has recognised this Truth is a noble person indeed, his life in the world will be meaningful. Few of his slokas are quoted below:

Kabeer, the world is afraid of death - that death fills my mind with bliss.
It is only by death that perfect, supreme bliss is obtained. ||22||
Kabeer, it is so difficult to obtain this human body; it does not just come over and over again.
It is like the ripe fruit on the tree; when it falls to the ground, it cannot be re-attached to the branch. ||30||
Kabeer, the world is dying - dying to death, but no one knows how to truly die.
Whoever dies, let him die such a death, that he does not have to die again. ||1||

Besides loving devotion which is the main and dominant theme of Kabir's Bani as included in SGGS ji, his aim was to free a man from the evil tendencies of ego, deceit, etc. based as they are on superstitions and futility. He criticises casteism, idolatary and empty ritualism. He had an undying urge to transform a person into a being who is noble and pious spiritually, socially and morally. To achieve his mission, Kabir openly denounced the false superstitions, rituals and practtices, in all religions, that had no relevance with the upliftment of human soul with the help of convincing examples. In a hymn included at Aang 324 of SGGS ji, he ridicules the idea that mundan (ritual shaving off a Hindu child's hair) can lead to God-realisation. He says that had it been so, the sheep would have attained liberation several times in its life, since it undergoes the same ritual so often. Similiarly, he counteracts the Brahmin's boast of high caste:

If you are indeed a Brahmin, by thy birth from a Brahmin mother,
then why didn't you come by some other way? ||2||
With the help of another example, he refused to accept the superior status of Brahmins:
How is it that you are a Brahmin, and I am of a low social status?
How is it that I am formed of blood, and you are made of milk? ||3||
Says Kabeer, one who contemplates God,
is said to be a Brahmin among us. ||4||7||

According to Bhagat Kabir, high family, high caste or high status are of no consequences on the path to God-realisation, rather they become hindrances. In a couplet, Kabir teaches mankind the vital message of reaching God, with the example from everyday life:

The Lord is like sugar, scattered in the sand; the elephant cannot pick it up.
Says Kabeer, the Guru has given me this sublime understanding: consume it by turning ant. ||238||

From this simple, but vital example, we learn that God-realisation requires 3 constituents:
· Guru
· Discarding of egotistical beastlty temperament of an elephant
· Inculcating the humility of an ant
Bhagat Kabir has been equally straightforward while criticising some rtuals of the Muslims. In a hymn he states; If a Muslim becomes deserving of heaven because of the sunnat (circumcision): what about their women folk?
According to a reference in S.L. Sondhi's book, Sant Kabir, Kabir relates an anecdote to make us aware of the purity of the water of the Ganges. Considering the Brahmin's claim that the water of the Ganga washes off all sins, Kabir hands over a bowl of such water to the Brahmins, but they refuse on the excuse that the bowl had become impure through the touch of a low caste man like Kabir. On this, Kabir satirises the Brahmins and says that if the water of the Ganga fails to keep the bowl pure, how can it purify our souls from all evils? The Brahmins have no answer to it.
Kabir ji was a dauntless mouthpiece of truth. His straight forwardness and truthful frankness resulted in both the Hindu Pandits & Muslim Quazis (priests of both religions) holding grudges against him. Consequently, at the time when Sikander Lodhi arrived in his town, Kabir had to suffer many a humliation at his hands because of the instigations given to him against Kabir, by the heads of both sects. But Kabir did not waiver, and bore all tortures and humiliations with calmness, accepting all these as His will. However, Kabir remained firm in his views. He has referred to this incident in his hymn included in the Scripture under Gaund measure. This hymn begins with the verse:

They tied my arms, bundled me up, and threw me before an elephant.

Many attempts were made to torture Kabir to the point of submisson, but Kabir ji was headstrong and took these tortures as His will. Ultimately, Sikander Lodhi was impressed by his personality, and out of respect to his wisdom and old age, acquitted him. Referring to Kabir's love for the Divine, deep faith and reverence for Him, Bhai Gurdas had said: "Brother! There is no difference between Lord Rama & Kabir (who has a oneness with Him, though his bodily vesture gives him a separate entity)".
The followers of Kabir have come to be known as Kabir panthis. They have their principle centre at Kashi. Two of his disciples, Dharam Das and Surat Gopal have completed his compositions under the title 'Kabir Bijak'. However, 541 slokas of Kabir that find a place in SGGS ji are considered important because of their genuineness. Since the entire text of the Scripture has ever been inviolable, the text of Kabir's hymns therein has also remained intact and unaltered.
Kabir ever strived to cultivate in mankind the feelings of love, compassion and co-operation with others. Like many other great beings, he stressed the importance of a householder's life because this teaches mankind to live together and unites man intimately. Therefore, he has no hesitation in submitting to the Lord the 'memorandum of demands' for a happy household life, included under Sorath measure:

I am so hungry, I cannot perform devotional worship service.
Here, Lord, take back Your mala.
I beg for the dust of the feet of the Saints.
I do not owe anyone anything. ||1||
O Lord, how can I be with You?
If You do not give me Yourself, then I shall beg until I get You. ||Pause||
I ask for two kilos of flour,
and half a pound of ghee, and salt.
I ask for a pound of beans,
which I shall eat twice a day. ||2||
I ask for a cot, with four legs,
and a pillow and mattress.
I ask for a quit to cover myself.
Your humble servant shall perform Your devotional worship service with love. ||3||

He then goes on to say that he doesn't ask for these out of greed, rather these are the bare essentials of his life and none can do without them. Through this hymn, Kabir ji has beautifully shown us the precept of 'hand on job and heart in God'.
Giani Gian Singh, Sikh chronicler, writes that Kabir ji & Guru Nanak Dev ji met in 1506AD in village Pusa; this may have occurred during the latter years of his life, but there is no apparent proof for this.
The hymns composed by Kabir ji, even during the last years of his life when he was well over 100 years old, reflect his revolutionary spirit. According to him, the place where God's name is recited is pious, and there is no other basis of piety. Before discarding his bodily vesture, Kabir ji shifted his residence to Maghar. At the time, people believed that he who dies at Maghar suffer hell, and those that die in Kashi, enter heaven. Kabir ji braved this revolutionary and courageous deed to prove he futility of such notions. Guru Amar Das ji has strongly supported Kabir ji's stand in a hymn on Aang 491 of SGGS ji, making it clear that visiting pilgrimages or breathing our last in any certain place carries no meaning as God resides in the mind. This is his hymn:

Wisdom is not produced in Kashi, nor is wisdom lost in Kashi.
Meeting the True Guru, wisdom is produced, and then, one obtains this understanding. ||1||
Listen to the sermon of the Lord, O mind, and enshrine the Shabad of His Word within your mind.
If your intellect remains stable and steady, then doubt shall depart from within you. ||1||Pause||
The sixty-eight places of pilgrimage remain with one, whose heart is filled with the Lord. ||4||
Bhagat Kabir ji, a deep devotee of the Absolute One, discarded his bodily vesture reciting:
Kabeer, nothing is mine within myself. Whatever there is, is Yours, O Lord.
If I surrender to You what is already Yours, what does it cost me? ||203||

The following are a few of Bhagat Kabir ji's hymns:

Siree Raag, Kabeer Jee: To Be Sung To The Tune Of "Ayk Su-Aan":
The mother thinks that her son is growing up; she does not understand that, day by day, his life is diminishing.
Calling him, "Mine, mine", she fondles him lovingly, while the Messenger of Death looks on and laughs. ||1||
You have misled the world so deeply in doubt.
How can people understand You, when they are entranced by Maya? ||1||Pause||
Says Kabeer, give up the pleasures of corruption, or else you will surely die of them.
Meditate on the Lord, O mortal being, through the Word of His Bani; you shall be blessed with eternal life. In this way, shall you cross over the terrifying world-ocean. ||2||
As it pleases Him, people embrace love for the Lord,
and doubt and delusion are dispelled from within.
Intuitive peace and poise well up within, and the intellect is awakened to spiritual wisdom.
By Guru's Grace, the inner being is touched by the Lord's Love. ||3||
In this association, there is no death.
Recognizing the Hukam of His Command, you shall meet with your Lord and Master. ||1||Second Pause||

Siree Raag, Devotee Kabeer Jee:
Listen, O religious scholar: the One Lord alone is Wondrous; no one can describe Him.
He fascinates the angels, the celestial singers and the heavenly musicians; he has strung the three worlds upon His Thread. ||1||
The Unstruck Melody of the Sovereign Lord's Harp vibrates;
by His Glance of Grace, we are lovingly attuned to the Sound-current of the Naad. ||1||Pause||
The Tenth Gate of my crown chakra is the distilling fire, and the channels of the Ida and Pingala are the funnels, to pour in and empty out the golden vat.
Into that vat, there trickles a gentle stream of the most sublime and pure essence of all distilled essences. ||2||
Something wonderful has happened-the breath has become the cup.
In all the three worlds, such a Yogi is unique. What king can compare to him? ||3||
This spiritual wisdom of God, the Supreme Soul, has illuminated my being. Says Kabeer, I am attuned to His Love.
All the rest of the world is deluded by doubt, while my mind is intoxicated with the Sublime Essence of the Lord. ||4||3||

Gauree Gwaarayree, Fourteen Chau-Padas Of Kabeer Jee:
I was on fire, but now I have found the Water of the Lord's Name.
This Water of the Lord's Name has cooled my burning body. ||1||Pause||
To subdue their minds, some go off into the forests;
but that Water is not found without the Lord God. ||1||
That fire has consumed angels and mortal beings,
but the Water of the Lord's Name saves His humble servants from burning. ||2||
In the terrifying world-ocean, there is an ocean of peace.
I continue to drink it in, but this Water is never exhausted. ||3||
Says Kabeer, meditate and vibrate upon the Lord, like the rainbird remembering the water.
The Water of the Lord's Name has quenched my thirst. ||4||1||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
O Lord, my thirst for the Water of Your Name will not go away.
The fire of my thirst burns even more brightly in that Water. ||1||Pause||
You are the Ocean of Water, and I am just a fish in that Water.
In that Water, I remain; without that Water, I would perish. ||1||
You are the cage, and I am Your parrot.
So what can the cat of death do to me? ||2||
You are the tree, and I am the bird.
I am so unfortunate - I cannot see the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan! ||3||
You are the True Guru, and I am Your new disciple.
Says Kabeer, O Lord, please meet me - this is my very last chance! ||4||2||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
When I realize that there is One, and only One Lord,
why then should the people be upset? ||1||
I am dishonored; I have lost my honor.
No one should follow in my footsteps. ||1||Pause||
I am bad, and bad in my mind as well.
I have no partnership with anyone. ||2||
I have no shame about honor or dishonor.
But you shall know, when your own false covering is laid bare. ||3||
Says Kabeer, honor is that which is accepted by the Lord.
Give up everything - meditate, vibrate upon the Lord alone. ||4||3||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
If Yoga could be obtained by wandering around naked,
then all the deer of the forest would be liberated. ||1||
What does it matter whether someone goes naked, or wears a deer skin,
if he does not remember the Lord within his soul? ||1||Pause||
If the spiritual perfection of the Siddhas could be obtained by shaving the head,
then why haven't sheep found liberation? ||2||
If someone could save himself by celibacy, O Siblings of Destiny,
why then haven't eunuchs obtained the state of supreme dignity? ||3||
Says Kabeer, listen, O men, O Siblings of Destiny:
without the Lord's Name, who has ever found salvation? ||4||4||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
Those who take their ritual baths in the evening and the morning
are like the frogs in the water. ||1||
When people do not love the Lord's Name,
they must all go to the Righteous Judge of Dharma. ||1||Pause||
Those who love their bodies and try different looks,
do not feel compassion, even in dreams. ||2||
The wise men call them four-footed creatures;
the Holy find peace in this ocean of pain. ||3||
Says Kabeer, why do you perform so many rituals?
Renounce everything, and drink in the supreme essence of the Lord. ||4||5||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
What use is chanting, and what use is penance, fasting or devotional worship,
to one whose heart is filled with the love of duality? ||1||
O humble people, link your mind to the Lord.
Through cleverness, the four-armed Lord is not obtained. ||Pause||
Set aside your greed and worldly ways.
Set aside sexual desire, anger and egotism. ||2||
Ritual practices bind people in egotism;
meeting together, they worship stones. ||3||
Says Kabeer, He is obtained only by devotional worship.
Through innocent love, the Lord is met. ||4||6||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
In the dwelling of the womb, there is no ancestry or social status.
All have originated from the Seed of God. ||1||
Tell me, O Pandit, O religious scholar: since when have you been a Brahmin?
Don't waste your life by continually claiming to be a Brahmin. ||1||Pause||
If you are indeed a Brahmin, born of a Brahmin mother,
then why didn't you come by some other way? ||2||
How is it that you are a Brahmin, and I am of a low social status?
How is it that I am formed of blood, and you are made of milk? ||3||
Says Kabeer, one who contemplates God,
is said to be a Brahmin among us. ||4||7||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
In the darkness, no one can sleep in peace.
The king and the pauper both weep and cry. ||1||
As long as the tongue does not chant the Lord's Name,
the person continues coming and going in reincarnation, crying out in pain. ||1||Pause||
It is like the shadow of a tree;
when the breath of life passes out of the mortal being, tell me, what becomes of his wealth? ||2||
It is like the music contained in the instrument;
how can anyone know the secret of the dead? ||3||
Like the swan on the lake, death hovers over the body.
Drink in the Lord's sweet elixir, Kabeer. ||4||8||

Gauree, Kabeer Jee:
The creation is born of the Light, and the Light is in the creation.
It bears two fruits: the false glass and the true pearl. ||1||
Where is that home, which is said to be free of fear?
There, fear is dispelled and one lives without fear. ||1||Pause||
On the banks of sacred rivers, the mind is not appeased.
People remain entangled in good and bad deeds. ||2||
Sin and virtue are both the same.
In the home of your own being, is the Philosopher's Stone; renounce your search for any other virtue. ||3||
Kabeer: O worthless mortal, do not lose the Naam, the Name of the Lord.
Keep this mind of yours involved in this involvement. ||4||9||


 

 

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