Tag Archives: Kabir

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Kabir

They call Him Emptiness who is the Truth of truths,
in Whom all truths are stored!
There within Him creation goes forward,
which is beyond all philosophy;
for philosophy cannot attain to Him:
There is an endless world,
O my Brother! and there is the Nameless Being,
of whom naught can be said.
Only he knows it who has reached that region:
it is other than all that is heard and said.
No form, no body, no length, no breadth is seen there:
how can I tell you that which it is?

— Kabir – Songs of Kabir – LXXVI  (transl. Rabindranath Tagore)

(image source: poemhunter.com)

They call Him Emptiness

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Allãh-Rãma,
I live by Your Name:
show me Your mercy,
my Lord.

If Allãh resides
inside a mosque,
then whose is the rest of the land?
Hindus claim His Name
inhabits an idol:
but God can’t be found
in either place.

The southern country
is Hari’s home,
the west is Allãh’s camping ground.
Search your heart,
your heart of hearts:
that’s His abode,
that’s His camp.

The brahmin fasts
once a fortnight,
the qãzĩ fasts for Ramadãn.
Each devotes
eleven months to himself,
then looks for rewards
in a month of fasts.

Why go off to Orissa
for ritual immersions?
Why bow your head in a mosque?
You’re a crook at heart,
you pretend to pray:
why go all the way
on a hajj to the Ka’aba?

These men and women,
The whole lot of them,
are nothing but Your forms.
I’m a child
of Allãh-and-Rãma,
everyone’s my guru-and-pĩr.

Kabir says, listen,
O men and women:
seek shelter with the One and Only.
Repeat His singular Name,
you creatures: for only then
will you be able
to cross life’s ocean.

Note from the translator:

The poem opens by compounding ‘Allãh’ and ‘Rãma’ into a single name, and addressing that compound God directly as a unified divinity. This pada attacks the ‘externalized’ rituals and institutions of both Hinduism and Islam. Its main strategy is to question the reasonableness of central Hindu and Muslim beliefs as well as practices; to point to the unacceptable contradictions within the two religions; to highlight the pretension and hypocrisy embedded in their actual practices; and to expose the absurdity of their practices in relation to their professed principles. The poem then rejects the actuality of Hinduism and Islam by proposing an alternative to both, which claims that God ‘exists’ in the human heart of Self; that all human beings therefore are ‘forms’ of God; that any human is hence God’s ‘child’; that we should therefore seek shelter with that one and only true God; and that we should repeat His divine Name as the sole mantra of mukti. ‘Allãh-Rãma’ is an instance of the ‘theological secularism’ characteristic of the Kabir poets.

— Kabir – Allãh-Rãma – The Weaver’s Songs (transl. Vinay Dharwadker)

Allãh-Rãma by Kabir the Weaver

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Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale.
From what land do you come, O Swan? to what shore will you fly?
Where would you take your rest, O Swan, and what do you seek?

Even this morning, O Swan, awake, arise, follow me!
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.

— Kabir – One Hundred Poems of Kabir (XII – Translated by Rabindranath Tagore)

Tell me, O Swan, your ancient tale

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Like a wild dog
In a palace of mirrors
Barks himself to death,
Like a lion dives into the well
When it sees its own reflection,
Or an elephant breaks its neck
Against shining rocks,
The greedy monkey
Grabs a trap and then has
To dance to the master’s tune.
And you, slave of Illusion,
Who has captured you!

— Kabir – Illusion

Illusion

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Lamps burn in every house, O blind
one! and you cannot see them.
One day your eyes shall suddenly be
opened, and you shall see: and
the fetters of death will fall from
you.
There is nothing to say or to hear,
there is nothing to do : it is he who
is living, yet dead, who shall never
die again.

Because he lives in solitude, therefore
the Yogi says that his home is far
away.
Your Lord is near : yet you are climb-
ing the palm-tree to seek Him.
The Brahman priest goes from house
to house and initiates people into
faith:
Alas! the true fountain of life is
beside you, and you have set up a
stone to worship.
Kabir says: “I may never express
how sweet my Lord is. Yoga and
the telling of beads, virtue and
vice – these are naught to Him.”

— Kabir – One Hundred Poems of Kabir (translated by Rabindranath Tagore) – XXI

Lamps burn in every house

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The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.

So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, his works are as naught:
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.
For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
When that comes, then work is put away.

The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower withers.
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it wanders in quest of grass.

— Kabir – The moon shines in my body – One Hundred Poems of Kabir: Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

The moon shines in my body

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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.

— Kabir – What is seen is not the Truth

Illusion and Reality