The Songs of Kabîr


"Kabir the poet broke the barriers  between Hinduism and Islam by going to the heart of religion. As Jesus says: "The kingdom of God is within you", so Kabir sings about an intoxicated state; where the is one with the "beloved", with God. God can be experienced; as heaven is a state of mind, not a place. "
(Rajender Krishan)   

"Kabir was the most celebrated revolutionary saint of the Bhakti movement. He condemned social and religious abuses and emphasized the fundamental equality and fraternity of all mankind. Kabir was born to a widowed Brahmin on Jaeth Sudi 15 sunmat 1455. However, his mother left the new born baby next to a water pool near Banaras. Ali (Niru), a local weaver found the baby. Ali and his wife Nima together brought up this child as their own son. Child was named Kabir in accordance with the Muslim traditions of the time. Further, Kabir was educated in Islam studies. Kabir married Lohi and a son, Kamaal, was born. Brought up in a weaver's family of Banaras, Kabir joined the Bhakti fold under Swami Ramanand's Influence. Thinking that being a low-caste he might not be considered fit to receive initiation, he lay prostrate one day, early in the morning, in the path which Ramanand used to follow while going to his bath. When the Swami's feet touched Kabir's body, he uttered the words 'Ram, Ram'. The saint affectionately lifted him and made him his disciple. Thereafter, Kabir got so deeply absorbed in meditation that he began to dwell habitually in the realms of the spirit. Kabir has so blended with God. That none can distinguish him from his Lord. A staunch believer in the worth of constructive human endeavour, Kabir was opposed alike to ritualism and asceticism. He sought to enlighten the benighted humanity. In those days the Indian society was rife with communal dissensions. Undaunted by opposition, Kabir fought against all the vicious influences. He pulled up the Pundits, the Kazis and the Mullas and inveighed against the Jogis and Sadhus. This act enraged the Muslim Mullanas who had him arrested, in sunmat 1547, by complaining to the King Sikandar Lodi that Kabir had been preaching what ran counter to the Islamic canon. Once an attempt was made to drown him in the Ganges; and, on another occasion, he was thrown before a drunken elephant to be crushed to death, nevertheless, Kabir remained unperturbed even in the face of this great calamity. Eventually, he became the leader of the Bhakti Movement. While expounding his life's aim, he declared that he was a worshipper of the godly and an enemy of the wicked and that it was his desire to spend all his time in communion with God: The passion of his life was to enjoy a spell of unbroken intercourse with the Lord. 'KabirPanthis.' or the followers of Kabir, with their headquarters at Kanshi, constitute an important sect. Their holy book Kabir Bijak is well known. Kabir's contribution to the Adi Granth, comprising 541 different verses arranged under 17 different ragas, exceeds that of any other bhakt. And in the absence of any other reliable manuscript, it remains the most authentic and precious part of his work.
(Ref. "Guru Granth Ratnavali," (pp. 109) by Dr. D.S. Mani, Sardar Bakhshish Singh, and Dr. Gurdit Singh)

Kabir, I am the worst of all. Everyone else is good. Whoever understands this is a friend of mine«

 There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule:
Where the Terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom,
And the fragrant scent "He is I" is borne on the wind.
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed,
And desires no other joy.

 He has no form or dimension, no body or earthliness.
In the middle of heaven's mandala He stays, the Incorporeal Person.
He is my Lord, the One and One only, without a second.
Anyone who says He is more than one is of no good family.
Says Kabir: I worship God-With-Attributes, I have gnosis of God-Without-Attributes
But beyond Attributes and Non-Attributes there I fix my attention!



 Have Come to Know the Illusory Power to be a Great Thug
Her Hands Sway Holding a Web-like Trap. She Speaks in a Sweet Voice
For Kesava, the Sustainer, She is Seated as the Embodiment of Abundance
For Shiva, the God of Dissolution, She is the Empress of the Worlds
For the Priest She is Seated as the Idol of Worship and in Places of Pilgrimage She Manifests as the Holy Water
For Yogis She is Seated as the Spiritual Partner. In the King's Palace She is the Queen
For Some She is Seated as a Priceless Diamond. For Some She is a Mere Penny.
For Devotees She is Seated in the Object of Devotion. For Brahma She is His Consort
Says Kabir: "Listen Oh Practicing Aspirant, all this is an Untold Story" ²  

 The night you passed in sleep and the day in visiting your false friends; Alas! Thus have you wasted the diamond of your life on naught.
You will die one day, perhaps tomorrow; Grass will grow on your tomb, And your friends will forget you.
Therefore know your soul soon.
Whom will the son of a harlot call his father?
Worship God in your being and do not waste your life.
Your body is like a jar of unbaked clay; it may break to pieces any moment and all will be over, nowhere is there delight except in God.
This world is a house made of wood, and, lo! it is burning furiously; he who stays in it dies.
The Yogi withdraws from it in meditation and he is saved.
Thy birth as man is a ripe fruit which is seen only once; make the most of the practice of devotion and compassion and the acquisition of true Knowledge.
O Kabir, there is a way out of this illusory world: Know the soul at any cost. 

 Don't open your diamonds in a vegetable market. 
Tie them in bundle and keep them in your heart, and go your own way.

 A diamond was laying in the street covered with dirt. 
Many fools passed by. Someone who knew diamonds picked it up.

There is a land where no doubt nor sorrow have rule: Where the Terror of Death is no more.
There the woods of spring are a-bloom, and the fragrant scent "He is I" is borne on the wind.
There the bee of the heart is deeply immersed, and desires no other joy.

What to say of talks That lead to veiling of Truth 
Too much talk leads to chaos  Yet without talk how does one discuss 
If you must; then talk with saints  With devils it is better to stay mum 
Blessing it is to talk with the wise Talking with stupid is waste of time 
Says Kabir, Half full is forever swaying The fulfilled prefers staying calm ²

 What is seen is not the Truth, what is cannot be said
Trust comes not without seeing, nor understanding without words
The wise comprehends with knowledge, to the ignorant it is but a wonder
Some worship the formless God, some worship His various forms
In what way He is beyond these attributes only the Knower knows
That music cannot be written, how can then be the notes?
Says Kabir, awareness alone will overcome illusion ²

 I am looking at you, You at him,
Kabir asks, how to solve this puzzle -You, he, and I?

 It´s the kind of speech no eye can see.
Kabir says: Listen to the word spoken in every body.

 Within the heart a mirror but no face shows.
You´ll see the face when he heart´s doubleness goes.

 Make your own decision. See for yourself while you live.
Find your own place. Dead, what house will you have?
Creature, you don´t see your opportunity.
In the end no one belongs to you.
Kabir says: It´s difficult, this wheel of time

 It´s a heavy confusion. Veda, Koran, holiness, hell, woman, man, a clay shot with air and sperm....
When the pot falls apart, what do you call it? Numbskull! You missed the point.
It´s all one skin and bone, one piss and shit, one blood, one meat.
From one drop, a universe. Who´s Brahmin (priest)? Who´s Shudra (castless)?
Brahma rajas, Shiva tamas, Vishnu sattva...
Kabir says: "Plunge into Ram! There: No Hindu! No Turk!"

 Oh companion that abode is unmatched, where my complete beloved is.
In that place there is no happiness or unhappiness, no truth or untruth. Neither sin nor virtue.
There is no day or night, no moon or sun, there is radiance without light.
There is no knowledge or meditation, no repetition of mantra or austerities, neither speech coming from vedas or books.
Doing, not-doing, holding, leaving all these are all lost too in this place.
No home, no homeless, neither outside or inside, micro and macrocosm are non-existent.
Five elemental constituents and the trinity are both not there
Witnessing unstruck shabad sound is also not there.
No root or flower, neither branch or seed, without a tree fruits are adorning, primordial
Om sound, breath-synchronized soham, This and that - all are absent, the breath too unknown.
Where the beloved is there is utterly nothing.
Says Kabir: "I have come to realize.
Whoever sees my indicative sign will accomplish the goal of liberation."

 Who Is The Thug? Who Is Robbing The Town?.
A Small Cot Is Made Of Sandalwood, On Which The Bride Is Sleeping.
Get Up Beloved Companion, adorn Me With Bridal Makeup, the Groom Is Upset With Me.
Yamaraj, The Lord of Death, Is Sitting On The Bed, Eyes Are Filled With Tears.
Four People Pick Up The Cot, Sounds of The Flaring Flames Come From All Four Directions.
Says Kabir: "Listen, Oh Sadhu, The Relationship With The World Comes To An End."  

 Oh Sadhu! This is the Village of the Dead
The Saints Have Died, The God-Messengers Die
The Life-Filled Yogis Die Too
The Kings Die, The Subjects Die
The Healers and the Sick Die Too
The Moon Dies, The Sun Dies
The Earth and Sky Die Too
Even the Caretakers of the Fourteen Worlds Die
Why Hope For Any of These
The Nine Die, The Ten Die
The Eighty Eight Die Easily Too
The Thirty Three Crore Devatas Die
It's a Big Game of Time
The Un-Named Naam Lives Without Any End
There is No Other Truth
Says Kabir: "Listen Oh Sadhu,
Don't Get Lost and Die"

 Untainted Ram is Unmatched, Manifesting the Entire Tainted (Reality)
Tainted are the Womb (of Creation) and the Om, The Tainted Demands All Expansiveness
Tainted are Brahma, Shankra and Indra, Tainted is the Govinda along with his Gopis
Tainted are the Spoken Words and Listening, Tainted has Created Innumerable Distinctions
Tainted are Knowledge, the Daily Prayers and the Ancient Scriptures, Tainted is that Questioning and Reasoning Knowledge
Tainted is the Leaf and Tainted are the Enlightened Beings, Tainted is the Served and Tainted is the Servant
Tainted is the Singer and the Dancer, The Tainted Displays Endless Forms
Where is the Limit, up to Which Tainted has Taken Hold?
Even in Philanthropy, Purity, Austerities and Places of Pilgrimage, Tainted is Victorious
Says Kabir: "Only a Very Rare, Exceptional One Awakens,
Tainted has Left Endless Stains"  

 Oh Deer Graze With Knowledge and Discrimination
Graze in the First Forest, Graze in the Second Forest
But Don't Tread into the Third Forest
The Third Forest has Five Hunters
Don't Let them See You
Five Deer and Twenty Five Female Deer
None Among them is Sensible and Shrewd
Killing You They Will Sell Your Flesh
Your Skin will be Used as a Covering
Says Kabir: "Listen Oh Practicing Aspirant
Offer your Mind at the Feet of the Guru."

 Fearlessly I Will Sing the Attributes of the One without Attributes
Using the Base Lotus as the Steady Seat
I Will Make the Wind Rise in Reverse
Steadying the Mind's Attachments
I Will Unify the Five Elements
Ingila, Pingala and Sukhman are the Channels
I Will Bathe at the Confluence of the Three Rivers
The Five and Twenty Five I Will Master by my Wish
And String them Together by One Common Thread
At the Summit of Aloneness the Un-struck Anahad Sound Reverberates
I Will Play the Thirty-Six Different Symphonies
Says Kabir: "Listen, Oh Practicing Aspirant
I Will Wave the Flag of Victory."

 The Swan Will Fly Away All Alone, Spectacle of the World Will Be a Mere Fair
As the Leaf Falls from the Tree Is Difficult to Find
Who Knows Where it Will Fall, Once it is Struck with a Gust Of Wind
When Life Span is Complete then Listening to Orders, Following Others, Will Be Over
The Messengers of Yama are Very Strong It's an Entanglement with the Yama
Servant Kabir Praises the Attributes of the Lord, He Finds the Lord Soon
Guru Will Go According to His Doings. The Disciple According to His.  

 Concealed Beyond the Sky is the Target
On the Right is the Sun, Moon is on the Left
Bisecting them it has to be Hidden
Body is the Bow, Visualization is the Roll of String
Unstruck Sound is the Arrow - Erect and Ready to Take Off
The Arrow is Released Leaving the Body-Instrument Behind
It's the Messenger of the True-Guru
Despite Shooting the Arrow there is no Injury Mark on the Body
Only those who are Struck Experience it
Says Kabir: "Listen Oh Practicing Aspirant
Those who Experience Know it."

 What can I give in return, so great is the Name of Ram? 
What gift of mine could please the Guru? 
The wish remains [unfulfilled] in my heart . 
There is no relative closer than the Satguru, no bounty equal to spiritual awakening, 
There is no greater Benefactor than Hari, no community equal to that of Hari's devotees.
If the Guru be blind the disciple is born blind: When the blind lead the blind both fall into well! 
I was drowning but I was saved when the Guru's wave rose up; I saw the vessel fall to pieces and I myself jumped clear! 
To find the Guru is a great boon: without Him, you are lost, As the moth attracted by the lamp's flame falls into it in full knowledge! 
Maya is the Lamp, man is the moth, circling arround [the flame], he falls: 
Says Kabir: "Thanks to the Guru's wisdom, a few are saved." 

  I have done nothing and nothing can I do, this body is capable of nothing: 
Whatever is done is the work of Hari, It is He who made Kabir `Kabir'!
If I made the seven seas my ink and the trees of the forest my pen, if the whole expanse of earth were my paper, still I could not write greatness of Ram! 
Kabir, what good deed can you do, if Ram comes not to your aid? 
Since every branch you step upon yields and gives way! 
Nothing is [really] done [by you], what has been done is not yours, for if you had done anything, there would be another creator. 

 The wretched people slander, for they have not found wisdom 
But those who are drunk with the Liquor of Ram have taste of nothing else! 
Seeing the defects of others, they just keep laughing and making fun: 
They do not see their own faults have neither beginning nor end! 
Keep the slanderer near you, build him a hut in your courtyard -- For, without soap or water, He will scurb your character clean! 
Do not keep the slanderer away, treat him with affection and honour:
Body and soul, he scours all clean, babbling about this and that. 
Do not praise yourself not slander others: There are still many days to go and any thing could happen! 

  When I was, Hari was not, now Hari is and I am no more: 
All darkness vanished, When I saw the Lamp within my heart. 
The effulgance of the supreme Being is beyond the imagination: 
Ineffable is His beauty, to see it is the only `proof'. 
It was a good thing the hail fell to ground, for it lost its own selfhood:
Melting, it turned into water and rolled down to the pond. 
Him whom I went out to seek, I found just where I was: 
He now has become myself whom before I called 'Another'! 

 This union with the Guru, O Kabir, sets me free; like salt mingled with flour, I am no more I!
Now I have no caste, no creed, I am no more what I am!
O dear brother! By what name would you call me?

 The little chador is woven very thin, very delicate.
Of what is the warp, of what is the weft?
With whose thread is the chador woven?
idâ is the warp and pingalâ is the weft. 
With the thread of suShumna the chador is woven.
The eight-petaled lotus is the spinning wheel.
The chador is made of the five elements and the three qualities (gunas).
For ten months the Lord keeps making it.
Tamping it down well, He weaves the chador.
That chador covers deities, men, and sages.
When they've wrapped it round, they make the chador dirty.
Das Kabir has carefully covered himself.
He took good care of his chador and is giving it back as good as new. 

 Your chador has gotten very old.
Now think and understand, O proud one.
A wondrous weaver wove this chador,
with the thread of karma as the warp,
Memory and attachment as the weft.
Then it looked agreeable to everyone.
But the dirty stains of sins get on it.
Touching anything will leave a smudge.
Bring the soap of gnosis to wash it
in the water of righteous company of the saints. 
You haven't washed it.
Brother, it's become all ruined now.
You've gotten it mixed up with greed and folly.
With covering like this, your life is wasted.
You don't know what's good and what's bad.
Understand your fears and live your own soul.
This is a thing that's hard to find.
Says Kabir: "Hold it very carefully.
It won't come into your grasp again".

 Neither am I righteous nor non-righteous
Neither am I an ascetic nor a sensualist
Neither do I speak nor do I listen
Neither am I a servant nor a master
Neither am I constrained nor Liberated
Neither am I sad nor jubilant
Neither am I distinctly isolated from anything
Nor am I Identified completely with anything
Neither do I go to the world of hell
Nor do I proceed to the world of heaven
All actions are really my actions
But yet I am distinct from the actions
This truth only a rare exceptional one realizes
Such a person sits in quiescence
Oh Kabir don't bring forth any creation
And don't efface anything either.

 With mind immersed in Love, why should I talk?
Having the diamond knotted safe, why again I open the knot? 
Empty scales at initiation are full, why measure again?
Rationality became intoxicated, by drinking without measures
Swan reaching the lake, need wander in ponds and puddles?
Your Lord is your inner Self, why seek him outwardly
Says Kabir: "Listen my folks, I realized the Lord within -
like oil contained in the seed." ² 

 Oh unattached being. I am a yogi from many a eons
I don't come or go nor do I get erased
I relish and enjoy the unstruck Anahat Shabad
In every direction I see only a collection and carnival of me
I am in everybody and everybody is in me.
I am utterly alone
I am the Siddha, I am the Samadhi
I am the one who remains silent, I am the one who speaks
The form is my own form manifesting the formless
I am the one who plays with himself
Kabir says: "Listen oh Sadhu, there is no desire anymore
I am floating in myself in my own little hut playing effortlessly by own desire." ² 

 A dreamer wakes from sleep, opens his eyes and sees the creatures are looting eachother and nothing is lost or gained.
Seeing the gardener approaching, the buds cried out:
"Today the blossoms have been picked, Tomorrow will be our turn."
As the woodcutter advanced, the trees sighed and said:
"It matters nothing that we are to be cut down, But, alas, the birds will lose their homes."
As the potter was kneading the wet clay, it said: "Today, O friend, thou art kneading me,
But tomorrow thou wilt have to make a bed in my lap."
Kabir saw a mill grinding the wheat and cried:
"Alas, no grain remains between the grinding stones, Yet those who cling to the pivot are not destroyed." 

 Lord! A fire is raging without fuel. No one can put it out.
I know it spreads from you, enflaming the whole world.
Even in water the flames sprout.
Not one but nine streams are burning.
No one knows any device.
As the city blazes, the watchman sleeps happily, thinking "My house is secure,
Let the town burn, as long as my things are saved."
Ram, how your colours flicker!
In a hunchbacks arms can a man´s desires be fulfilled?
Even as you think of this, you disappear from birth to birth,
your body forever unsatisfied.
No one is so stupid as one who knows this and pretends he doesn´t.
Kabir asks: "What´s the way out for such a fool.

 Penalty of embodiment, transpires to all
Learned deals with knowledge, ignorant with moans
Says Kabir: "I would then fear, if it happened only to me
Death, old age and perils, is a must for all
O man, why do you act, why regret the done deed
Having sown Babool, Mango, how can you eat". ²

 What should I ask when nothing is stable
Before my eyes the universe is in flames
With a hundred thousand children and grandchildren to boot
None in the end to show Ravan the path with a Lamp
His kingdom Lanka secured by the sea
Yet none in the end could trace Ravan
None came along none accompanied departure
What happened to the elephants at the door?
Says Kabir: "In the end Departure is but with empty hands Like a looser gambler." ²


 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.

O Lord, how can I be with You?
If You do not give me Yourself, then I shall beg until I get You.  

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.

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.

 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.

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.  

The sixty-eight places of pilgrimage remain with one, whose heart is filled with the Lord.  

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?

 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.

You have misled the world so deeply in doubt.
How can people understand You, when they are entranced by Maya?  

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.

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.

In this association, there is no death.
Recognizing the Hukam of His Command, you shall meet with your Lord and Master. Second  

 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.

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.  

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.

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?

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.

 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.  

To subdue their minds, some go off into the forests;
but that Water is not found without the Lord God.

That fire has consumed angels and mortal beings,
but the Water of the Lord's Name saves His humble servants from burning.

In the terrifying world-ocean, there is an ocean of peace.
I continue to drink it in, but this Water is never exhausted.

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.

 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.  

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.

You are the cage, and I am Your parrot.
So what can the cat of death do to me?

You are the tree, and I am the bird.
I am so unfortunate - I cannot see the Blessed Vision of Your Darshan!

You are the True Guru, and I am Your new disciple.
Says Kabeer, O Lord, please meet me - this is my very last chance!

 When I realize that there is One, and only One Lord,
why then should the people be upset?

I am dishonored; I have lost my honor.
No one should follow in my footsteps.  

I am bad, and bad in my mind as well.
I have no partnership with anyone.

I have no shame about honor or dishonor.
But you shall know, when your own false covering is laid bare.

Says Kabeer, honor is that which is accepted by the Lord.
Give up everything - meditate, vibrate upon the Lord alone.

 If Yoga could be obtained by wandering around naked,
then all the deer of the forest would be liberated.

What does it matter whether someone goes naked, or wears a deer skin,
if he does not remember the Lord within his soul?  

If the spiritual perfection of the Siddhas could be obtained by shaving the head,
then why haven't sheep found liberation?

If someone could save himself by celibacy, O Siblings of Destiny,
why then haven't eunuchs obtained the state of supreme dignity?

Says Kabeer, listen, O men, O Siblings of Destiny:
without the Lord's Name, who has ever found salvation?  

 Those who take their ritual baths in the evening and the morning
are like the frogs in the water.

When people do not love the Lord's Name,
they must all go to the Righteous Judge of Dharma.  

Those who love their bodies and try different looks,
do not feel compassion, even in dreams.

The wise men call them four-footed creatures;
the Holy find peace in this ocean of pain.

Says Kabeer, why do you perform so many rituals?
Renounce everything, and drink in the supreme essence of the Lord.  

 What use is chanting, and what use is penance, fasting or devotional worship,
to one whose heart is filled with the love of duality?

O humble people, link your mind to the Lord.
Through cleverness, the four-armed Lord is not obtained.  

Set aside your greed and worldly ways.
Set aside sexual desire, anger and egotism.

Ritual practices bind people in egotism;
meeting together, they worship stones.

Says Kabeer, He is obtained only by devotional worship.
Through innocent love, the Lord is met.  

 In the dwelling of the womb, there is no ancestry or social status.
All have originated from the Seed of God.

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.  

If you are indeed a Brahmin, born of a Brahmin mother,
then why didn't you come by some other way?

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?

Says Kabeer, one who contemplates God,
is said to be a Brahmin among us.  

 In the darkness, no one can sleep in peace.
The king and the pauper both weep and cry.

As long as the tongue does not chant the Lord's Name,
the person continues coming and going in reincarnation, crying out in pain.  

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?
It is like the music contained in the instrument;
how can anyone know the secret of the dead?

Like the swan on the lake, death hovers over the body.
Drink in the Lord's sweet elixir, Kabeer.  

 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.

Where is that home, which is said to be free of fear?
There, fear is dispelled and one lives without fear.  

On the banks of sacred rivers, the mind is not appeased.
People remain entangled in good and bad deeds.

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.

Kabeer: O worthless mortal, do not lose the Naam, the Name of the Lord.
Keep this mind of yours involved in this involvement.  

 He claims to know the Lord, who is beyond measure and beyond thought;
by mere words, he plans to enter heaven.

I do not know where heaven is.
Everyone claims that he plans to go there.  

By mere talk, the mind is not appeased.
The mind is only appeased, when egotism is conquered.

As long as the mind is filled with the desire for heaven,
he does not dwell at the Lord's Feet.

Says Kabeer, unto whom should I tell this?
The Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, is heaven.

 We are born, and we grow, and having grown, we pass away.
Before our very eyes, this world is passing away.

How can you not die of shame, claiming, "This world is mine"?
At the very last moment, nothing is yours.  

Trying various methods, you cherish your body,
but at the time of death, it is burned in the fire.

You apply sandalwood oil to your limbs,
but that body is burned with the firewood.

Says Kabeer, listen, O virtuous people:
your beauty shall vanish, as the whole world watches.  

 Why do you cry and mourn, when another person dies?
Do so only if you yourself are to live.

I shall not die as the rest of the world dies,
for now I have met the life-giving Lord.  

People anoint their bodies with fragrant oils,
and in that pleasure, they forget the supreme bliss.

There is one well, and five water-carriers.
Even though the rope is broken, the fools continue trying to draw water.
Says Kabeer, through contemplation, I have obtained this one understanding.
There is no well, and no water-carrier.  

 The mobile and immobile creatures, insects and moths
- in numerous lifetimes, I have passed through those many forms.

I lived in many such homes, O Lord,
before I came into the womb this time.  

I was a Yogi, a celibate, a penitent, and a Brahmchaaree, with strict self-discipline.
Sometimes I was a king, sitting on the throne, and sometimes I was a beggar.

The faithless cynics shall die, while the Saints shall all survive.
They drink in the Lord's Ambrosial Essence with their tongues.

Says Kabeer, O God, have mercy on me.
I am so tired; now, please bless me with Your perfection.  

 Kabeer has seen such wonders!
Mistaking it for cream, the people are churning water.  

The donkey grazes upon the green grass;
arising each day, he laughs and brays, and then dies.

The bull is intoxicated, and runs around wildly.
He romps and eats and then falls into hell.

Says Kabeer, a strange sport has become manifest:
the sheep is sucking the milk of her lamb.

Chanting the Lord's Name, my intellect is enlightened.
Says Kabeer, the Guru has blessed me with this understanding.

 I am like a fish out of water,
because in my previous life, I did not practice penance and intense meditation.

Now tell me, Lord, what will my condition be?
I left Benares - I had little common sense.  

I wasted my whole life in the city of Shiva;
at the time of my death, I moved to Magahar.

For many years, I practiced penance and intense meditation at Kaashi;
now that my time to die has come, I have come to dwell at Magahar!

Kaashi and Magahar - I consider them the same.
With inadequate devotion, how can anyone swim across?  

Says Kabeer, the Guru and Ganaysha and Shiva all know
that Kabeer died chanting the Lord's Name.  

 You may anoint your limbs with sandalwood oil,
but in the end, that body will be burned with the firewood.

Why should anyone take pride in this body or wealth?
They shall end up lying on the ground; they shall not go along with you to the world beyond.  

They sleep by night and work during the day,
but they do not chant the Lord's Name, even for an instant.

They hold the string of the kite in their hands, and chew betel leaves in their mouths,
but at the time of death, they shall be tied up tight, like thieves.

Through the Guru's Teachings, and immersed in His Love, sing the Glorious Praises of the Lord.
Chant the Name of the Lord, Raam, Raam, and find peace.  

In His Mercy, He implants the Naam within us;
inhale deeply the sweet aroma and fragrance of the Lord, Har, Har.  

Says Kabeer, remember Him, you blind fool!
The Lord is True; all worldly affairs are false.

 I have turned away from death and turned to the Lord.
Pain has been eliminated, and I dwell in peace and comfort.
My enemies have been transformed into friends.
The faithless cynics have been transformed into good-hearted people.

Now, I feel that everything brings me peace.
Peace and tranquility have come, since I realized the Lord of the Universe.  

My body was afflicted with millions of diseases.
They have been transformed into the peaceful, tranquil concentration of Samaadhi.
When someone understands his own self,
he no longer suffers from illness and the three fevers.

My mind has now been restored to its original purity.
When I became dead while yet alive, only then did I come to know the Lord.
Says Kabeer, I am now immersed in intuitive peace and poise.
I do not fear anyone, and I do not strike fear into anyone else.

 When the body dies, where does the soul go?
It is absorbed into the untouched, unstruck melody of the Word of the Shabad.
Only one who knows the Lord realizes Him.
The mind is satisfied and satiated, like the mute who eats the sugar candy and just smiles, without speaking.

Such is the spiritual wisdom which the Lord has imparted.
O mind, hold your breath steady within the central channel of the Sushmanaa.  

Adopt such a Guru, that you shall not have to adopt another again.
Dwell in such a state, that you shall never have to dwell in any other.
Embrace such a meditation, that you shall never have to embrace any other.
Die in such a way, that you shall never have to die again.

Turn your breath away from the left channel, and away from the right channel, and unite them in the central channel of the Sushmanaa.
At their confluence within your mind, take your bath there without water.
To look upon all with an impartial eye - let this be your daily occupation.
Contemplate this essence of reality - what else is there to contemplate?

Water, fire, wind, earth and ether
- adopt such a way of life and you shall be close to the Lord.
Says Kabeer, meditate on the Immaculate Lord.
Go to that home, which you shall never have to leave.

 He cannot be obtained by offering your weight in gold.
But I have bought the Lord by giving my mind to Him.

Now I recognize that He is my Lord.
My mind is intuitively pleased with Him.  
Brahma spoke of Him continually, but could not find His limit.
Because of my devotion to the Lord, He has come to sit within the home of my inner being.

Says Kabeer, I have renounced my restless intellect.
It is my destiny to worship the Lord alone.

 That death which terrifies the entire world
- the nature of that death has been revealed to me, through the Word of the Guru's Shabad.

Now, how shall I die? My mind has already accepted death.
Those who do not know the Lord, die over and over again, and then depart.  

Everyone says, "I will die, I will die."
But he alone becomes immortal, who dies with intuitive understanding.

Says Kabeer, my mind is filled with bliss;
my doubts have been eliminated, and I am in ecstasy.

 There is no special place where the soul aches; where should I apply the ointment?
I have searched the body, but I have not found such a place.

He alone knows it, who feels the pain of such love;
the arrows of the Lord's devotional worship are so sharp!  

I look upon all His soul-brides with an impartial eye;
how can I know which ones are dear to the Husband Lord?

Says Kabeer, one who has such destiny inscribed upon her forehead
- her Husband Lord turns all others away, and meets with her.

 One who has the Lord as his Master, O Siblings of Destiny
- countless liberations knock at his door.

If I say now that my trust is in You alone, Lord,
then what obligation do I have to anyone else?  

He bears the burden of the three worlds;
why should He not cherish you also?

Says Kabeer, through contemplation, I have obtained this one understanding.
If the mother poisons her own child, what can anyone do?

 Without Truth, how can the woman be a true satee - a widow who burns herself on her husband's funeral pyre?
O Pandit, O religious scholar, see this and contemplate it within your heart.

Without love, how can one's affection increase?
As long as there is attachment to pleasure, there can be no spiritual love.  

One who, in his own soul, believes the Queen Maya to be true,
does not meet the Lord, even in dreams.

One who surrenders her body, mind, wealth, home and self
- she is the true soul-bride, says Kabeer.

 The whole world is engrossed in corruption.
This corruption has drowned entire families.

O man, why have you wrecked your boat and sunk it?
You have broken with the Lord, and joined hands with corruption.  

Angels and human beings alike are burning in the raging fire.
The water is near at hand, but the beast does not drink it in.

By constant contemplation and awareness, the water is brought forth.
That water is immaculate and pure, says Kabeer.

 That family, whose son has no spiritual wisdom or contemplation
- why didn't his mother just become a widow?

That man who has not practiced devotional worship of the Lord
- why didn't such a sinful man die at birth?  

So many pregnancies end in miscarriage - why was this one spared?
He lives his life in this world like a deformed amputee.

Says Kabeer, without the Naam, the Name of the Lord, beautiful and handsome people are just ugly hunch-backs.

 I am forever a sacrifice to those humble beings who take the Name of their Lord and Master.

Those who sing the Glorious Praises of the Pure Lord are pure.
They are my Siblings of Destiny, so dear to my heart.  

I am the dust of the lotus feet of those whose hearts are filled with the All-pervading Lord.

I am a weaver by birth, and patient of mind.
Slowly, steadily, Kabeer chants the Glories of God.

 From the Sky of the Tenth Gate, the nectar trickles down, distilled from my furnace.
I have gathered in this most sublime essence, making my body into firewood.

He alone is called intoxicated with intuitive peace and poise,
who drinks in the juice of the Lord's essence, contemplating spiritual wisdom.  

Intuitive poise is the bar-maid who comes to serve it.
I pass my nights and days in ecstasy.

Through conscious meditation, I linked my consciousness with the Immaculate Lord.
Says Kabeer, then I obtained the Fearless Lord.

 The natural tendency of the mind is to chase the mind.
Who has established himself as a Siddha, a being of miraculous spiritual powers, by killing his mind?

Who is that silent sage, who has killed his mind?
By killing the mind, tell me, who is saved?  

Everyone speaks through the mind.
Without killing the mind, devotional worship is not performed.

Says Kabeer, one who knows the secret of this mystery,
beholds within his own mind the Lord of the three worlds.

 The stars which are seen in the sky
- who is the painter who painted them?

Tell me, O Pandit, what is the sky attached to?
Very fortunate is the knower who knows this.  

The sun and the moon give their light;
God's creative extension extends everywhere.

Says Kabeer, he alone knows this,
whose heart is filled with the Lord, and whose mouth is also filled with the Lord.

 The Simritee is the daughter of the Vedas, O Siblings of Destiny.
She has brought a chain and a rope.

She has imprisoned the people in her own city.
She has tightened the noose of emotional attachment and shot the arrow of death.  

By cutting, she cannot be cut, and she cannot be broken.
She has become a serpent, and she is eating the world.

Before my very eyes, she has plundered the entire world.
Says Kabeer, chanting the Lord's Name, I have escaped her.

 I have grasped the reins and attached the bridle; abandoning everything, I now ride through the skies.
I made self-reflection my mount, and in the stirrups of intuitive poise, I placed my feet.  

Come, and let me ride you to heaven.
If you hold back, then I shall strike you with the whip of spiritual love.

Says Kabeer, those who remain detached from the Vedas, the Koran and the Bible are the best riders.


The poems are taken from KABIR [introduction and translation from Hindi and notes by Vaudeville Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1974]. (also available in Rutgers University, Alexander Library).
² Translation from Hindi by  Rajender Krishan, 
Books:: Isaac A. Ezekiel, KABIR, THE GREAT MYSTIC 
Songs of Kabir, translated by R. Tagore, 1917 edition. (Cosmo Pub, 24-B, Ansari Rd., New Delhi110002, 1985).

 Saint Kabir was born in 1398 AD in Banaras city. His father Neeru was a Muslim and weaver by profession. Banaras being a Hindu place of pilgrimage was always thronged by Sadhus. Those Sadhus had a profound effect on the life of Kabir. While playing with companions in childhood, he would often call "Ram Ram' or 'Hari Hari'. Hindu children playing with him did not like, a son of sinful Muslim chanting names of their gods and Muslim children were stopping him from uttering names of gods of infidels. He would reply in turn, "Infidels are those who kill the innocent and steal."

When Kabir's parents noticed his tilt towards Hinduism, they decided to circumcise him in keeping with Muslim custom. Kabir said to the Qazi who was to perform his circumcision, "If my circumcision is to be done for the love of woman, I am not ready to accept this condition. If God wishes to make me a Muslim, He will circumcise me Himself. If one becomes a Muslim by circumcision, what should we do about a woman? The better-half cannot be left out, so, it is better that I remain a Hindu."

When Kabir was in the initial stage of meditation, he used to rise early in the morning and bring a pitcher of water with which he would clean his place of meditation. After that he used to take his rosary and start reciting the Name of the Lord. Seeing this, his mother, Neema told everybody, "Form the day Kabir has taken up the rosary, our peace is gone. He has left his profession of weaving. Tell his mother, "My master has given me the Name of the Lord which is the treasure of all joy. I have been saved since I have been blessed by His Name." On this type of answers, his parents asked him to live on his own.

Mendicants continued coming to Kabir as before in his new house. Kamaal's wife came to the house after his marriage. Kabir said, when he saw her with a veil on her face, "This veil will have no value at the time of reckoning. Your veil will only be real when you give up this modesty and go about your work dancing and singing the praises of God." One day Kamaali was drawing water at the well. A Brahmin took water from her and asked, "Whose daughter are you?" The Brahmin, regretted very much, having taken water at the hands of a weaver girl. Kamaali replied, "O, Brahmin! the water was impure even before I touched it because millions of living beings thrive in water. The clothes you are wearing have also been woven by a weaver." The Brahmin had no answer.

Encounter with Brahmins

Those were the days of ritualism, religious hypocrisy, casteism and untouchability and falsehood prevailed supreme. One day, in order to remove the illusion of high caste from the minds of Brahmins, Kabir put saffron mark on his forehead and wore a cotton thread like the sacred thread worn by Brahmins, round his neck. Thus, in the guise of a Brahmin, he started walking towards river Ganges chanting Narayan! Narayan! He met a Brahmin named Mukand on the way. He was very much annoyed on seeing Kabir wearing a sacred thread and with the saffron mark. He said, "You are a weaver of low caste. You have no right to wear symbols of high caste Brahmins." Kabir replied, "You have only one cotton thread round your neck while we have a pile of cotton thread in our home. I weave cloth daily out of that. You only recite Gayatri and Vedas with your lips but the Lord Himself abides on my tongue, in my eyes and in my heart. O, Mukand! What answer will you give when angel of death asks you about your deeds? We are your cows and you the herdsmen. You Brahmins were to show us the way to liberation but you have not done that. What kind of guardians are you? You Brahmins beg at the doors of landlords and kings. Though I am a weaver of Kashi, yet my mind is always engrossed in the Lord who sustains everyone. Learn this from me. Be engrossed in His contemplation."

Mukand went and told other Brahmins, the talk he had with Kabir. One day, they said to Kabir, "Kabir, you should follow the teachings of Brahmins because they were created out of the mouth of Brahma and Shudras out of his feet." Kabir answered, "In the womb caste does not exist. All beings are the essence of Brahma. O' learned ones! tell me when did you become Brahmins. Do not waste your life to a Brahmin woman, why were you not born in a different way? Then how is it that you are a Brahmin and I a Shudra? Does milk flow through your veins and blood in mine? In my view, only he who contemplates the Supreme Being is Brahmin."

The Brahmins were enraged to hear the bitter truth from Kabir. One day, they tied Kabir and threw him into the river Ganges. Kabir came out of the river without any trouble and said, "The Ganges is a goddess deep and profound. I was bound with chains and thrown in it. My mind remained absorbed in contemplation of the Lord. The waves of the Ganges broke my fetters and seated me on a deer skin. The One who is the Preserver on land was the Saviour in water."
The Brahmins were astonished to see Kabir come out of the river alive. In order to defeat Kabir in argument, they called Pandit Sarbajit who was a great scholar. That haughty one said to Kabir, "You are only a weaver. What knowledge can you have of the Lord?" Kabir replied, "God too is a weaver whose secret no one has realized. If you Brahmins listen to the Vedas and Puranas, you will also realize. The earth and the sky are the carding comb of the Lord. The sun and the moon are his two shuttles. I have realized the Lord." Hearing this, Sarbajit became quiet.

Encounter with Qazi

The teachings of Kabir rose above the barriers of caste, creed and religion. He had the same respect for Hindu religion as he had for Islam. While he asked Brahmins to shun hypocrisy, he also advised Muslim Qazis to follow the righteous path. Seeing a Mullah giving a call before worship, he said, "God, whom you are calling at the top of your voice from the top of a minaret is not deaf. He abides in you. Contemplate Him deep inside yourself."

Hearing this, the Mullah started quarrelling with Kabir. Kabir said to him, "I, a humble man, love God while you like to govern. God is the fountainhead of all the faiths. He does not ordain cruelty on anybody. Words of mouth do not lead anyone anywhere. Paradise cannot be attained by observing fasts, performing prayers or accepting Islam as faith. If one realizes truth, one can visualize Mecca within oneself. True prayer is contemplation of Justice and true acceptance of faith is realization of God through the mind's eye. Spreading of carpet for prayer is the conquest of five evils. Drive away egoism from your heart and fill your mind with compassion. Anyone who realizes God in this way and guides others to realization deserves paradise."

Seeing a Qazi giving animal sacrifice, Kabir said, "You oblige Allah by observing fast and slaughter animals for the taste of your tongue. You care more for your pleasures and have no thought for the life of living creatures. Listen, O' Qazi! God is the sole Lord of all. He also abides in you. You do not contemplate Him by thought and reason. You are wasting your life by being a fanatic after religion."

One day, someone heard Kabir say, "Kabir become identical with Thou by uttering Your Name and his ego is gone. When thoughts of self and others are effaced, I contemplate Thee everywhere." He went and told the Qazi, "Kabir thinks himself to be God." The words of Kabir were opposed to the tenets of Islam. 'There is only one God and He has no equal.' The Qazi decreed Kabir to be bound and thrown before an elephant for this plain speaking. Kabir tells that he was bound and thrown in front of an elephant. When the elephant was violently hit in the head to move forward, he ran back trumpeting as if to ay, "I offer myself as sacrifice to this figure." After that the Qazi said to the elephant driver, "Move the elephant forward by beating him, otherwise I shall cut you to pieces." The elephant was not moving. He was immersed in meditation of God. He bowed to me in salutation thrice but the ignorant Qazi did not realize that God Himself is the Saviour of the saints and in Him rest their lives. The Lord saved me from the Qazi also."

In order to remove the false notion from the minds of Brahmins that he one who dies at Mag-har is reincarnated as an ass, Kabir went there from Banaras in his last days where he breathed his last in 1494 AD.

Hymns of Kabir are incorporated in holy Guru Granth Sahib.  


Santokh Singh Jagdev  

volker doormann