Bhakta Kabir Das
maitha tab gurunahi ab guruhai hamnahi Premgali ati sankari tame dona
‘When I had ego, guru was not there. I attained a guru, ego vanished.
The path of love is narrow. It cannot accommodate both ego and God in
one place ! This is the doha of Kabir.
Kabir is like a flower to a tree. The tree is hard and rough. It bends
in summer and shivers in winter. It is in the receiving end. It receives
nutrients from land, life from water and pranic energy from sun rays.
On the other hand, the flower that is born to such a tree is soft and
delicate. It’s message is vast. It is a feast to the eyes, it spreads
a fragrance around. Though its life span is short, it lives for the sake
of others. It is at the giving end. It gives its sweet nectar to butterflies
and finds happiness in their happiness.
The same way in the hard hearted, selfish society around, rise saints
like Kabir. They spread universal love. They lead an ideal life.
A muslim weaver called ‘Neeru’ came across a baby floating
on a lotus leaf. He took the baby into his loving hands, named him Kabir
and brought him up. Kabir means Mahatma. Little did he know, when he named
him that he would really become a Mahatma.
Bhakti was born first and Kabir was born next. That’s why he had
been a devout person since his childhood. His bhakti was blended with
a quest for knowledge. He asked such probing questions that his teachers
were unable to answer.
The teachers got angry and drove him out of school. So he did not acquire
the degrees as per the norm of modern education but he was a store house
of knowledge. He turned out to be a poet, singer and a composer. Whatever
field he touched, they were in devotional path.
To attain a knowledge of self one requires gnana and vairagya. Gnana teaches
him ‘Brahma satyam, jagat midhya ! Vairagya detaches him from the
world when he learns this basic principle of life. Kabir had, in addition
to Bhakti, these two qualities. He learnt lessons of mortality from Nature
Mali avath dekhike kaliya kari pukar
Pooli pooli chunlayi khal hamari baar.
‘The buds grieved over their fate as they saw the gardener. They
felt just as he plucked the blossoms that day, he would pluck them up
too the next day. Death is inevitable.
His quest for knowledge was so much that he did not leave any religion
untouched. He listened to Hindu Sastras, Muslim Koran, Sufi masters lectures
Kabir’s father forced him to take up his weaver’s job. The
bhakti in him dominated over the craftsmanship in him. At times from the
man made noises, he was lost into the all pervading deep silence created
Once as he was walking across a house, he saw a woman grinding jowar.
He was moved to tears by the tragic fate of those jowar seeds. They conveyed
the impending death of man in similar fashion. He cried deeply like a
child. A sadhu who happened to pass that way asked him the reason for
his sorrow. He explained his feelings and asked whether there was no escape
The sadhu being touched by his vairagya, explained the philosophy of life
from the very same example. ‘Look my son, the jowar seeds do convey
the temporary nature of man. But look carefully. A few seeds that are
stuck to the rod are intact. They cannot be crushed. The same way whoever
is stuck to the rod of God though being grinded in the samsara, will not
be affected by Death.
Kabir was very much impressed by his teaching and devoted his time totally
to God. There is a song of love which means ‘I don’t feel
hungry or thirsty if I think of you, I can’t think of anything else
if you are with me If this is the case of human bondage, how much more
powerpul it will be with God!
Kabir was thus lost in his own sweet world. His father, realizing his
ecstatic state of mind left him alone. He carried on his weaving work
all by himself. But life is not a smooth sail. Kabir’s father passed
away and the burden of the family fell on Kabir’s shoulders. He
was forced to take up the weaving task, but half the time he was engrossed
in his love for God. God came to his rescue then and finished his task.
Ultimately, they were wonderfully woven. He took those clothes to the
exhibition to sell them there. No body dared to buy those clothes. Of
course it is true ! Who are we to decide a rate for the clothes specially
woven by God Himself.
Kabir was unmindful of the situation. A brahmin came begging for clothes.
Kabir gave a cloth generously away to him. Then a muslim phakir asked
for clothes. He gave the remaining cloth to the second person. He was
not worried about the family or the money he lost by his charity. On the
contrary he thought he was then free from the shackles of mundane business
and could concentrate on God undisturbedly. He could see God in both a
Hindu and a Muslim. It was indeed God who had come to test his bhakti.
God’s leela cannot be understood easily. God deprived him of his
business and went and complained to his mother of his generosity. The
mother came angrily to the exhibition. God in the wassant lost in his
meditation and the wounds were reflected on the brahmin beside and he
started yelling. When Kabir opened his eyes he saw ‘Sri Rama’
himself. Kabir was thrilled and his mother’s joy knew no bounds.
She embraced her son with tears of joy.
Her tears of joy were short lived. Her eyes were covered with maya. She
was scared that her son would be lost. So to bring him back to mundane
world, she performed his marriage with Loyee. Though Kabir was not inclined,
he had no other go. Sankaracharya proclaimed , ‘You need not be
a Sanyasi to ‘know thyself’. You should be very much in the
samsara but should not be attached to it. Kabir was a perfect example
for that. His quest for knowledge was unquenchable.
You need a guru to guide you in the right path. He, being a muslim, was
not accepted by Hindu gurus. He was also not accepted by muslim gurus
since his behaviour was against the norms of his religion.
Kabir was not confined to religion but it was not understood by great
people. With a broken heart he was loitering on the banks of river Ganga.
He lost all hopes of meeting a guru. He almost fainted and dozed off to
sleep there. The next morning, a guru by name Ramananda Swami, on his
way to Ganges happened to step over him. Then he uttered, ‘Ram’
Kabir woke to these utterings and accepted him as his Guru. The Guru too
had no objection to receive him as his disciple. He should not have any
objection since it was all designed by God. Ramananda Swami was a staunch
devotee of God. Goddess Lakshmi decided to test him and created a Rose
Garden on his path. He plucked one rose, but the Goddess almost snatched
it away from his hands and took it straight to Lord Vishnu. She said,
‘Look, your disciple is a thief’ God smiled at her and said.’
He plucked it only to offer it to me. You brought it all the way to me
personally.’ Lakshmi Devi was moved by his devotion and offered
to help him. The Lord explained, ‘He is not after riches or material
comforts. He wants to spread bhakti around him. He needs a right sishya
for that. So I will create a sishya out of the flower you brought here.
Speaking thus, he changed it into a baby and that baby was no other than
So, Kabir and Ramanand Swami made a good pair. He felt he had lost his
ego. Two incidents speak about his involvement with God. In these too,
he has risen above mundane level.
Once a few sant purush came to his house. Kabir welcomed them with open
arms and asked them to have dinner in their house. He entrusted the work
to his wife and was happily involved in conversation with them. The wife
was at a loss because there were no provisions at home and was no money
to buy them. The husband was in no mood to listen. She had to make her
own arrangements. Most of the shops were closed but one shopkeeper volunteered
to help provided she sold her character to him. She was torn between her
Hindu tradition of her chastity and between her Hindu custom of playing
the role of a good hostess to saints. Ultimately her duty dominated over
her personal chastity.
Loyee agreed on one condition. She could not serve her guests after losing
her morals. So she would come back afters he fulfilled her duty as a good
wife. The seth agreed and she served her guests with delicious dishes.
Kabir was happy. As he was about to share his happiness, he was surprised
to see his wife in a sad mood. When he enquired she came out with the
whole story. Kabir was moved by her sacrifice and accompanied her to the
Seth’s house. He felt serving the devotees is like serving God.
Nothing can supersede this act.
The sethji was surprised to see her late in the night, in a heavy down
pour of rain. He was all the more surprised to hear that her husband brought
her there. He was washed out of his evil thoughts when he heard Kabir’s
statement. ‘The Sethji is an incarnation of God because he has helped
you to serve his devotees!’ He fell prostrate before kabir and became
On another occasion, Kabir had to serve Gnanadev and Namadev along with
their disciples. By that time he had a son by name Kamaal. Kamaal was
greater than Kabir in his bhakti. He was lured to God’s name even
as a child Kamaal toured round many holy places to spread the name of
God. Spiritually rich people do not aspire for material bliss. So Kabir
was once again penniless. Kabir had no other go except to steal from somebody.
Kabir took his son to steal from a shop. Kamaal dug a hole to the wall
and through that went in Father instructed the son to bring only as much
as was required. The son was two steps ahead of his father. He was worried
somebody else would rob the sethji of his money, after they left. So he
woke up the owner and told him so. Why will an ordinary seth understand
the generous heart of a small boy ? As the boy was leaving out of the
hole, the owner caught hold of his feet.
Kamaal suggested a way out. ‘Father, there is no time to waste.
If all the people rush here, our theft will become an open secret and
our guests will take it as an insult. So you cut off my head and take
it away along with the provisions. The father was touched by his son’s
supreme sacrifice and acted accordingly.
It is a real great family ! The mother did not bang her husband but was
delighted to have such a son. She kept aside the face safely and carried
on her work. Kabir das praises love in his poetry because his entire family
devoted their lives for love.
‘Prema biknoot mai suna mathe sate hot
Boo jhut vilambana kijiye tatchina deejaikat’
‘If you hear that love is being sold in the market don’t delay.
Achieve love even at the loss of your head.’
Gnana dev and Nama dev were pleased at their hospitality. The next evening
the guru devs were walking past the market place. They came across the
body of Kamaal. The owner of the shop, unable to identify the body, hung
it there to a piller. The villagers too couldn’t identify it. When
the gurus came there, to their surprise, the headless body saluted them
with folded hands. The hands were moving in tune with the bhajan being
sung. Gnana dev and Nama dev were wonderstruck. They asked Kabir to explain.
Kabir filled with tears, said’. He is a devotee of Vishnu. He has
a wee bit of life in him, only to see you and hear you. Gnana dev at once
visualized that the boy was Kabir’s son. He praised the son and
sent for his head. He was brought back to life. The boy ran to their feet.
This shows there is no difference between God and his disciples.
Kabir das spread the greatness of God and lit the light of Bhakti in many
souls till his old age. One day amidst the crowd of devotees Kabir das
breathed his last, even as he was chanting Rama Nama.
There was a tug of war over his funeral rites. The muslims opined that
he must be buried as per their custom and the Hindus argued that he must
be burnt as per their tradition. The same old problem again. He was neither
a Hindu nor a muslim. Just then a Sadhu arrived there. He heard their
problem patiently and suggested a via media plan. He said, ‘You
cut the body into two and take your share and do the cremation accordingly.’
They agreed and the Sadhu lifted the cover over the dead body. Lo! There
was no dead body there but fresh rose flowers lay in the form of his body.
The sadhu gathered all the flowers and distributed them equally. The Hindus
burnt the flowers and the muslims buried them.
What a great message is imbibed in his life. He was born out of a flower.
He taught the law of death through bud’s angle. He spread the fragrance
of spiritual knowledge as long as he was alive. Finally he left fragrant
flowers in the place of his dead body. His message is thus
‘Lead a beautiful life like a flower
Remember life is temporary like a flower
Be helpful to others like a flower.’
Kabir’s teaching is a new style, Kabir advocated the Hindu principles
of ‘Karma Siddantam’. Rebirth, liberation of soul and renuntiation
of life. At the same time he opposed idol worship and caste feelings.
He didn’t preach sastras. He spoke from experience.
What is the true way of liberation ?
‘Pothee pad pad jagam aa pandita hu aana koye
Dayee akshar prem ka pade so panditahoye
‘Many people wasted their lives in research over God through, classics.
Only those who pronounced two and a half letters (Sri Ram) they were liberated
What is the true way of worship ?
Kabir has an answer for that too !
‘What’s the use of holy waters ?
I had a dip in them to find they were mere water
What’s the use of temples ?
They are mere statues, they did not speak
What’s the use of sastras ?
They are mere compilation of words.
Then I imagined to myself I had a darshan of God and had a knowledge of
God. I led a life in those lines. Then I had knowledge of the soul. Then
I heard the voice of God calling unto me ‘Oh Kabir! where are you
If we read these lines and attack him for the superficial meaning we are
no less than his contemporaries. It was not an attack on God, holy rivers,
sastras, but it was an attack on the people who misinterpret them or on
people who glorify one God.
His quest for knowledge and his advaita philosophy can be understood in
just this question.
‘Who is the meditator ? Ask the question first. There is no need
to meditate !’ These lines are raised by Ramana Maharshi and followed
by Kabir Das.