Monday, 15 October 2007

Kabir: the weaver of mystic



Where do you seek me O devout?
I reside neither in the temple or in the mosque
neither Kashi or in Kaba
Neither in rites or in ceremonies
Neither in Yoga or in renunciation......
the true seeker shall find me in a moments realisation

for I reside in the very breath of your being....

(translated from the ‘Bijak’ collection of Kabir sayings)

Sometime in the 15th century lived a julaha – a ‘low caste’ muslim weaver, who preached the oneness of all men and all beliefs, the futility of all religions and rituals and the eventual passing away of all that is of flesh or of material in this phenomenal world. His name was Kabir.

He claimed no sainthood or a personal philosophy. He taught the religion of love, in a language that could be understood by all – the twilight language of the mystic poets, bhakti saints and sufi poets. Kabir was the first, the first to imbibe a pluralistic tradition in his teachings and poetry, the first to transcend both Hinduism and Islam. Many were to follow in his foot steps….Akbar, Dara Shikoh, Amir Khusro…., but Kabir was the first to win the hearts and souls of the people who mattered – the common people of this land.

An illiterate, he spoke of the highest esoteric truths in a simple language. A simplicity that the ‘learned’ pundits and maulvis are incapable of. One can see the synretistic reflections of Advaita theology and intense and personal passion of Islamic mysticism in his spontaneous compositions.Indian sufis in Delhi, Agra and Kashmir were reading his poetry during the rule of Jehangir and Shah Jahan. He was a predecessor of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikh religion and the sacred Guru Granth Sahib contains a substantial number of Kabir's verses.

Kabir is believed to have been born around 1398 and died around 1448. Most of his life was spent in the Banaras-Magahar region of present Uttar Pradesh . He was a family man and did not retire from the world to pursue a life of contemplation. He lived the simple life of a Julaha and died like one, earning his living at the loom and spurning the company of the 'learned' and royality alike. He beleived that the simple and hardworking life of an ordinary man was the world in which the quest for Higher Reality could be fullfilled.

According to Kabir, every individual has to find his own Path and seek liberation from this illusory world of Maya. This, he says, can be achieved through unwavering love for the Higher Reality or God and compassion for fellow humans. He compares the individual soul or atman to the Hansa or swan, who will leave the cage of this body and fly away into the vastness of the limitless sky:


Ud Jayega Huns Akela,

Jug Darshan Ka Mela

Jaise Paat Gire Taruvar Se,

Milna Bahut Duhela

Naa Jane Kidhar Girega,

Lageya Pawan Ka Rela

Jub Howe Umur Puri,

Jab Chute Ga Hukum Huzuri

Jum Ke Doot Bade Mazboot,

Jum Se Pada Jhamela

Das Kabir Har Ke Gun Gawe,

Wah Har Ko Paran Pawe

Guru Ki Karni Guru Jayega,

Chele Ki Karni Chela



this can be loosely translated as :



Alone you shall fly O Swan

This world is a brief fanfare

Like a leaf that falls from a tree

where to it will fall,

where to the wind will carry it

no one can tell

once your life is over

servitude and slavery is over

the omens of Yam (Death) are strong

it is Yam (Death)you will encounter

Kabir had immersed himself in the praise of God

and God he will attain

the Guru will reap his karmas

and the desciple his.




Kabir's another composition addresses the Swan thus :




O Swan let us talk of ancient tales

where from have you come

and what dark shores do you seek ?

wake ! arise!

the morning is upon us

follow me

and I will take you to a land

where there is no sorrow

no fear of death

where the wind blows

with the fragrance of

"I am thou''

in Whose nectar the bee of the heart

is deeply immersed

and yearns for no other joy...





Ironically, after his death, by building a Hindu samadhi and a Muslim shrine in his honour , his Hindu and Muslim followers re-created the very barriers that Kabir sought to destroy in his life time.

4 comments:

irving said...

Just lovely :) And he echoes Rumi and ibn al-Arabi is his poem. May Allah bless his soul among the first ranks of His beloveds.

Ya Haqq!

Tariq Rasheed said...

O God! Grant me life long commitment (ishq), I should turn away from all else. I should know One, regard One and need One.

Sufi Poet: Mian Muhammad Bakhsh

jaredpage said...

Interesting post. I linked to you here.

Max Babi said...

Very interesting information, very succinctly put. Will be searching for more words from your crystal-clear writing...
Warmth

Max