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Santh Kabir
by Dr. Nandini Sahu

Dear Children, do you sing the Kabir Dohas? Do your parents and teachers quote Kabir Dohas for you? Do you know Santh Kabir?

Kabir was the great spiritual educator of the fifteenth century. There was a divergence between two enormous religions – Hinduism and Islam. Kabir endeavored to convey both of them closer to each other by condemning the futile custom and traditions of both and by sermonizing the definitive objectives of both religions mutually as one and indistinguishable. He was not a follower of Rama who, according to him, is an embodiment of Vishnu. His ‘Rama’ was not diverse from the ‘Rahim’ of the Muslims.

His more realistic teachings strain the austere ethical demeanor and disprove illogical values. In his love and allegiance towards Rama, his idiom is sweet and composed but in the subject of societal change it becomes very tough and stimulating. Nanak and the other great Sikh Gurus had a very high admiration for him. He intensely disapproved of the caste system of the Hindus. He spoke stalwartly in opposition to idol-worship, faith in incarnation of God, philosophy of getting bliss in the other world by dipping in sacred rivers, child marriage, burying of the widow, etc. He likewise criticized the Muslims for their conformist obedience to only mosques, concert of Sunnat, practices of Ajan, Namaz and Roza and ignoring the basic of humanity, the love for the creation.

Kabir is a poet per excellence. We all are well acquainted with Kabir Dohas. What makes Kabir’s poetry immensely emotional is the intensity of his delicate spiritual knowledge and seemliness of contemplation which he wants to transmit in exceptionally simple idiom and a non-conventional way. He is highly antagonistic when attacking the futility dogmas but marvelously free from any kind of animosity. He is at his superlative when he is in a disposition of celestial love with the Unlimited .In a moment of bliss he sings the most beauteous lines which can be translated thus :

“Listen to me, friend. He understands who loves. If you feel not love’s longing for your Beloved one, it is vain to adorn your body, vain to put unguent on your eyelids”.

“The pain of separation from God is like a serpent, which sits in this body and cannot be cast out by any magic spell; he who is separated from Rama cannot exist and if he does, he goes mad.”

This sort of commencement of passionate love towards the supreme lover has resemblance with the love disseminated by the Sufis. From the Nathan Yogis, Kabir emulated a sense of condemnation of the ritualistic performances and false notions, but he could not appreciate even the Yogis themselves. He felt that these Yogis also were benevolent towards ritualistic features of Hatha-Yoga, disregarding the Bhakti or devotional love. He pleaded for ‘Sahaja Samadhi’ which literally means the simple union with God. His devotional songs sing of complete dedication:

I shut not my eyes, I close not my ears
I do not mortify my body;
I see with eyes open and smile,
And behold His beauty everywhere
.”

Absolute surrender of all egotistic weaknesses is a clause to his design of blissful love. About the accomplishment of sacred peace he says: “This is not the house of one’s maternal aunt where anything can be achieved by shedding tears, here only those can enter who shed their tears first.” Kabir put forth great authority on the time and literature of medieval India. In Hindi the magnitude of his celebrity can be of symmetry only with Tulasidas, another Bhakti poet.

Kabir is generally assumed to have been the devotee of Ramanand whose date of birth was sometime in 1298. Some critics view that Kabir was born in 1398. About Kabir’s parents and his social background, too, there are more than a few versions. Declaration of the sensational tales that he was born of celestial light, or found on a full-blooming lotus in the Lahartara, can be connected to a realistic story that he was a redundant child born of a Brahmin widow – the father being unknown – who was picked up by the Muslim weaver-couple, Niru and Nima .

There is a ritual that after the death of Kabir his Hindu and Muslim disciples disputed over the last rites – the Hindus wanting to cremate him and the Muslims to bury him .After that the myth says that the body was turned into flowers which were shared between the two. The thesis that he had two gurus, Ramanand and Shekh Taqqi, provides an optimism that he was not prone to any one orthodox set of beliefs. Kabir could disparage the obstinacy of both religions and think in transcendental terms of an absolute novel God was because he had adequate motivation to be a free spirit.

About his education too, there are several assumptions. He was not educated in the sense that he did not attend any formal school or undertake a regular education in language or philosophy or even in the industrial proficiency of weaving is commonly acknowledged. Kabir had never been honored in his life span. In fact, he was not only unnoticed because of his birth in a low caste, but was looked down upon for conferring a preacher’s role upon himself. As to the issue of whether Kabir was a Sufi, there is still debate and dialogue among the elite.

While conversing about Kabir’s works one has to solve the puzzle of determining which of them are actually his own. A great deal of imitation matter has been available in his name by fervent disciples and the lack of a classic edition makes the task of identifying the genuine from the counterfeit not an easy job. Similarly in his writings it is easier said than done to conclude where poetry ends and theology begins, because both are intermingled in the hands of a very nimble-fingered weaver. Kabir did not preach anything in inscription, he only reverberated divine love and gave expression to his spontaneous dream, which became household dictum for the progeny to come. If verse could reach the loftiness of an enchantment, it was possible in his hands. His soul rained heavily his in condensed, aphoristic Dohas, each one an embodiment of his understanding.    

4-May-2008
 
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