Kabir - The Mystic Poet
Saint Kabir Das (kabir, Arabic for "great", dasa, Sanskrit for "slave" or "servant"), is widely acknowledged as one of the great personality of the Bhakti movement in North India. He was, as is widely acknowledged, born in Year 1398 A.D.(71 years before Guru Nanak). Kabirpanthis (followers of Kabir) say that he lived upto the age of 120 years and give date of his death as 1518, but relying on the research of Hazari Prasad Trivedi, a British Scholar Charlotte Vaudenville is inclined to lend credence to these dates and has proven that 1448 is probably the correct date of Saint Kabir's demise.
He is one of the medieval Indian saints of Bhakti and Sufi movement whose compositions figure in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. From among all of them, Kabir's contribution is the largest, 227 Padas in 17 ragas and 237 slokas. Under each raga or musical mode marking a section of the Holy Book, Kabir's hymns appear at the head of Bhagat Bani, a generic name for the works of contributors other than the Gurus. The presence of a substantial amount of Kabir's verse in the Sikh Scripture and chronologically he being the predecessor of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, led some Western scholars to describe him as the forerunner of Sikhism. Some have even called him the preceptor of Guru Nanak There is, however, ample evidence to prove that Guru Nanak and Kabir had ever met their periods of time in fact do not coincide.
Kabir lived in the fifteenth century after Christ, which was a time of great political upheaval in India. As is true of many contemporary religious teachers, very little reliable information concerning Kabir's life is available, though there is no dearth of legend gathering around him. Kabir's life was centred around Kashi, also called Banaras (Varanasi).
Legend has it that he was actually the son of a Brahmin widow who abandoned him and that he was found by a Muslim weaver named Niru, who adopted the boy and taught him the weaver's trade.
It is not clear whether he ever married, but tradition gives him a wife named Loi and two children. His caste was that of Julaha and from his sayings his caste's hereditary occupation of weaving. On the basis of modern research, it seems probable that Kabir belonged to a family of non-celibate yogis converted, not long before and to a considerable degree superficially to Islam. From the writings of Kabir it seems that his knowledge of Islam was slight, rather in his poetical utterances (Bani) a wealth of Hathayoga terminology and a thought structure which bears obvious resemblance to Nath Yogis. Nath Yogis in addition to the yogic conception that all truth is experimental, i.e. to be realized within the body with the aid of psycho-physical practices, concentration, control of breathing and thus making the body incorruptible and the yogis immortal.
Says Kabir, "When I was born (I cried),
All laughed in happiness,
Let me do such deeds that I will laugh,
and others cry in distress."
When a son is born all laugh in happiness on the birth of the son. Kabir says that he should do such deeds on earth that all will praise and be happy. And, when he departs on death others will be sorry to have lost such a good and helpful soul but he will be happy, as he did not harm anybody.
Noble man is like the shield
Comes forward in distress
Remains quite far behind
In peace and happiness.
The noble man acts like the shield by coming forward to help the neighbour in times of disaster and remaining quietly at home in times of peace, for then he has no work to perform.
You forget the Lord in happiness
In sorrow you remember
Says Kabir, who will listen to
The insistent man's prayer.
The man who behaves differently in different circumstances cannot be called a man of consistent character. The word of inconsistent man cannot be believed by anybody. It is no wonder that such a man's prayer will not be heard by God Almighty. Man should be consistent in his character and conduct, implies Kabir.
Nothing mine belongs to me
All that is yours
To bequeath all that to You
What's there for my remorse?
Kabir affirms that all things of man belong to the Almighty Father as His grant of grace to man. As such, why should there be any hesitation on the part of man to bequeath all that to God the Giver?
The best is not to beg at all
- Twenty Questions
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