A mystic poet, Sufi and saint,Sant Kabir, is considered to be one of the greatest poets as well as mystics
ever born in India.He was born in an untouchable caste and raised by a Muslim family.As per the life
history of Saint Kabir, he was born in 1398 AD. It is said that he was found floating on a lotus leaf in a
tank in Benaras by a Muslim weaver. The weaver took the vulnerable child under his care and following
the traditional manner, gave him the name of ‘Kabir’, meaning ‘the great one’. Even at a young age,
Kabir displayed enormous spiritual talent.His writings influenced basic Indian spirituality,Global influence
and his verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib.Kabir is known for being critical of
Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, stating that the first two were misguided by the Vedas.Sant Kabir believed in
the Vedantic concepts of atman. He always advocated the Impersonal Aspect of God (Nirguna) and
therefore, was against idol worship. As per his view, all human beings are equal and the societal caste
system that is so widely prevalent in our country is fallacious. He said that true guru is the one who can
be attained through direct experience. The common ways of realizing God, like chanting, austerities, etc,
Kabir always wanted to become a disciple of Ramanand. However, since he was a Muslim, it was next to
impossible for him to get initiation from a Hindu. So, he took recourse to a trick. Ramanand daily went to
the bathing ghat for his pre-dawn ritual ablutions. Kabir lay on the steps of the ghat in such a way that
Ramanand stepped on him. Shocked at this incident, he chanted ‘Rama! Rama!’. Kabir said that since
he had received teachings from him, in the form of the words ‘Rama! Rama!’, he was Ramanand’s
disciple. Impressed with the intelligence of Kabir, Ramanand took him as his disciple.
Kabir’s poems were in vernacular Hindi, borrowing from various dialects including Avadhi, Braj.They
cover various aspects of life and call for a loving devotion for God. Kabir composed his verses with
simple Hindi words. Most of his work were concerned with devotion, mysticism and discipline.Kabir’s
poems were verbally composed in the 15th century and transmitted viva voce through the 17th century.
Kabir Bijak was compiled and written down for the first time in the 17th century. Rabindranath Tagore’s
English translation and compilation One Hundred Poems of Kabir was first published in 1915, and has
been a classic reprinted and widely circulated particularly in the West.
Kabir’s philosophy to be questioning the need for religion, rather than attempting to propose either Hindu-
Muslim unity or an independent synthesis of a new religious tradition. Kabir rejected the hypocrisy and misguided rituals evident in various religious practices of his day, including those in Islam and Hinduism.
“Saints I’ve seen both ways.
Hindus and Muslims don’t want discipline, they want tasty food.
The Hindu keeps the eleventh-day fast, eating chestnuts and milk.
He curbs his grain but not his brain, and breaks his fast with meat.
The Turk [Muslim] prays daily, fasts once a year, and crows “God!, God!” like a cock.
What heaven is reserved for people who kill chickens in the dark?
Instead of kindness and compassion, they’ve cast out all desire.
One kills with a chop, one lets the blood drop, in both houses burns the same fire.
Turks and Hindus have one way, the guru’s made it clear.
Don’t say Ram, don’t say Khuda [Allah], so says Kabir.
In Bijak, Kabir mocks the practice of praying to avatars such as Buddha of Buddhism, by asserting “don’t
call the master Buddha, he didn’t put down devils”. Kabir urged people to look within and consider all
human beings as manifestation of God’s living forms.
If God be within the mosque, then to whom does this world belong?
If Ram be within the image which you find upon your pilgrimage,
then who is there to know what happens without?
Hari is in the East, Allah is in the West.
Look within your heart, for there you will find both Karim and Ram;
All the men and women of the world are His living forms.
Kabir is the child of Allah and of Ram: He is my Guru, He is my Pir.
We have searched the turaki dharam (Turk’s religion, Islam), these teachers throw many thunderbolts,
Recklessly they display boundless pride, while explaining their own aims, they kill cows.
How can they kill the mother, whose milk they drink like that of a wet nurse?
The young and the old drink milk pudding, but these fools eat the cow’s body.
These morons know nothing, they wander about in ignorance,
Without looking into one’s heart, how can one reach paradise?
Saints I see the world is mad.
If I tell the truth they rush to beat me,
if I lie they trust me.
Keep the slanderer near you, build him a hut in your courtyard
For, without soap or water, he will scrub your character clean.
Kabir literature legacy was championed by two of his disciples, Bhāgodās and Dharmadās. Songs of
Kabir were collected by Kshitimohan Sen from mendicants across India, these were then translated to
English by Rabindranath Tagore.
New English translations of Songs of Kabir is done by Arvind Krishna Mehrotra .”It is Mehrotra who has
succeeded in capturing the ferocity and improvisational energy of Kabir’s poetry”.
Kabir’s legacy continues to be carried forward by the Kabir panth (“Path of Kabir”), a religious community
that recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. This community was founded
centuries after Kabir died, in various parts of India, over the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.Its
members, known as Kabir panthis, are estimated to be around 9.6 million.They are spread over north
and central India, as well as dispersed with the Indian diaspora across the world.
There are two temples dedicated to Kabir located in Benares. One of them is maintained by Hindus,
while the other by Muslims. Both the temples practise similar forms of worship where his songs are sung
daily. Other rituals of aarti and distributing prasad are similar to other Hindu temples. The followers of
Kabir are vegetarians and abstain from alcohol.
Famous Dohe of Sant Kabir
Bada hua toh kya hua
Jaide ped khajur,
Panthi ko chahiye nahi,
Phal lage ati dur.
Meaning: Being rich or big is of no use if you cannot do well with others. For instance, a Palm tree is very
tall, but it is of no use as a traveler can enjoy neither the shade nor the fruits as they hang far from reach.
Kabir khada bazaar main,
Maange sabki khair,
Na kahu se dosti,
Na kahu se bair.
Meaning: Standing in a marketplace, Kabir wishes all well.
Neither be over friendly with anyone nor hostile to anyone.
Kahe Kabir kaise nibahe,
Ker ber ko sang
Wah jhumat ras apni,
Uske fatat ang.
Meaning: Kabir says people of different nature cannot live together.
For instance, if banana and ber trees are planted together, ber tree will swing in the air, while the banana
tree will get its leaves torn by its thorns.
Saayi itna dijiye,
Ja main kutumb samaye,
Main bhi bhookha na rahoon,
Sadhu na bhookha jaye.
Meaning: May I have enough for my clan.
May I never starve and never have to turn away the hungry.
Pothi padh padh kar jag mua,
Pandit bhayo na koye,
Dhai akshar prem ke,
Jo padhe so pandit hoye.
Meaning: Scholars were never made by reading books.
But the ones who understand love is greater than any learned man.
Jab tu aya jagat main,
Log hanse tu roye,
Aisi karni na kari,
Pache hanse sab koye.
Meaning: When you came into this world everyone laughed while you cried.
Don’t live your life such that everyone laughs when you are gone.
Maya mari na mann mara,
Mar-mar gaye sharer,
Aasha, trishna na mari,
Keh gaye das Kabir.
Meaning: Kabir says, neither desire ends, nor heart is fulfilled.
It is only the body that dissolves.
Hope and longings have no bounds.
Maati kahe Kumbhar se,
Tu kyun rondhe moye,
Ek din aisa ayega,
Main rodhungi toye.
Meaning: The soil says to potter, ‘Why do you crush me?’
A day will come when I will crush you.
Chah miti, Chinta miti,
Jisko kuch nahi chahiye,
Meaning: Worries disappear with desire.
The mind is left free from troubles.
The one who doesn’t want anything is a true king.
Ghee ke toh darshan bhale,
Khana bhala na tel.
Dana to dushman bhala,
Murakh ka kya mel.
Meaning: It is better to have a bit of pure ghee than to have oil to eat.
Similarly, it is far better to have a smart enemy than to befriend a fool.
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