Kabir: Breath Inside The Breath

The 37th Name of Allah

Friend, hope for the Guest while you are alive. Jump into experience while you are alive! Think… and think… while you are alive. What you call “salvation” belongs to the time before death.

If you don’t break your rope while you are alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?

The idea that the soul will join with the ecstatic just because the body is rotten — that is all fantasy. What is found now is found then. If you find nothing now, you will simply end up with an apartment in the City of Death. If you make love with the Divine now, in the next life you will have the face of satisfied desire.

So plunge into the truth, find out who the Teacher is, believe in the Great Sound! (Bly)

The marvelous work of Kabir was introduced into my life this past summer while I was reading a book of assorted poems. While I was an extreme fan of Kabir’s masterpieces, I wanted to know more about how he came to be the poet I am so fond of. As a poet, I know that to best understand a writer’s poetry, you must understand the writer. While poetry has been one of the highlights in class, I decided it would be beneficial to explore a specific poet in the time of the Bhakti movement (Argis). I believe the knowledge gained from the learning adventure of Kabir’s mystic life, will give a better understanding of our recent study of the Islamic World. Kabir offers deep but simple philosophies about life and the Divine. After recognizing the life of Kabir, I appreciated his work even more and feel as though I have been enlightened twice from each poem I read. While I discuss Kabir’s life from a few different sources, I will be making connections to the current study of the Islamic World and quite possibly ancient Asian poetry from class.

To begin, some say he was the son of a Brahman widow and others that he was of virgin birth. The only known fact is that he was brought up in a family of Muslim weavers in India, which is the main source of his reference as “Poet, Saint, and Weaver of Medieval India” (Life Story). Immediately, one is shrouded with mystery of his birth. From the beginning of his life we can make connections to an idea that he may have been as great and saintly as Jesus, having been giving birth by a virgin. It is also possible that I have read the saying that, the whole of Indian philosophy is reflected in the warp and weft of the loom, because of Kabir. “But early in his life Kabir became a disciple of the Hindu Bhakti saint Ramananda. It was unusual for a Hindu teacher to accept a Muslim student, but tradition says the young Kabir found a creative way to overcome all objections” (Granger). Growing up Kabir was referred to as the servant of humanity and thus a servant of divinity (Colors of India). I deem this reference as one that may be used to label Kabir a prophet of the combination of the divine and humanity. This concept makes me think of the Confucius term of Ren. “He was a man of principles and practiced what he preached” (Colors of India). Kabir acknowledged and celebrated the Divine everywhere and focused on bringing the truth to all. This is an example of a connection that could be made here to Confucius. Confucius focused on bringing the truth to all of his followers and the cities he travelled to. Kabir gives this a twist and involves God into the truth. In addition, just as Confucius did not write anything down, Kabir was almost completely illiterate (Kabir). Throughout his life Kabir preached and worked as a weaver in the neighborhood of Benares (Argis).

Before long, Kabir played the role of a teacher and social reformer by the medium of his writings, which mainly consisted of the two line verses called Dohas (Colors of India). A beauty of Kabir’s poetry is that he picks up situations that surround our daily lives. It represents a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim concepts. “From Hinduism he accepts the concept of reincarnation and the law of Karma. From Islam he takes the affirmation of the single god and the rejection of caste system and idolatry” (Life Story). He also had a strong belief in Vedanta, Sufism, Vaishnavism and Nath sampradaya traditions (Colors of India). So unlike other great thinkers, Kabir has experience in many different cultures and religions. According to Kabir, all life is an interaction of two spiritual values. “One is the personal soul (Jivatma) and the other is God (Paramatma). It is Kabir’s view that salvation is the process of bringing into union these two divine principles” (Life Story). Thus, even today, Kabir’s poetry is relevant and helpful in guiding and regulating our lives, in both social and spiritual context (Krishan). He had a strong faith in the concept of oneness of God and this was expressed through his basic idea that whether you chant the name of Hindu God or Muslim God, the fact is that there is only one God who is the creator of this beautiful world (Colors of India). This idea has been expressed in class when we noted that Allah and God are the same. The major three religions are all worshiping the same God. While it is clear from Kabir’s background that Hinduism, Islam, and even some Christianity are mixed into his teachings, I cannot help but notice a hint of Buddhism. In fact, it is common knowledge that Buddhism originated in India where Kabir grew up. Through reading some of Kabir’s poetry, the eight elements of the Eight-Fold Path can be noticed. Kabir always offers an enlightening idea about right action, effort, livelihood, meditation, mindfulness, motives, speech, and understanding. Kabir touches the soul, the conscience, the sense of awareness and the vitality of existence in a manner that is unequalled in both simplicity and style (Life Style

Lastly, the belief that six hundred years ago Kabir was born in India in 1398 AD is questionable. He lived for 120 years and is said to have relinquished his body in 1518 (Argis). He died at Maghar and immediately dispute arose about the rights to his remains by Hindus and Mohammedans. “While they argued, Kabir himself appeared and made them raise the cloth which covered his corpse and the body had vanished and left a heap of flowers to occupy its place. Half of these were burnt after the Hindu custom at a spot now known as kablr Chaura in Benares, and the rest were buried at Maghar” (Argis). A person can understand that Kabir had a special spiritual power just by learning about his birth and death. While in his life, “Kabir openly criticized all sects and gave a new direction to the Indian philosophy due to his straight forward approach that has a universal appeal. It is for this reason that Kabir is held in high esteem all over the world” (Krishan). It is clear that to label Kabir a worldwide Guru is not an over exaggeration. The followers of Kabir, known as Kabir panthis, are estimated to be around 9,600,000 worldwide (Kabir). Kabir’s name is actually the 37th name of Allah: Al-Kabir, meaning The Greatness (Al-Halveti). We learn from Kabir as we learned early in class that poetry is not a luxury. Kabir uses poetry as his voice, giving language and structure to everyone’s experiences, offering them the power to decline ignorant beliefs or hold close divine values. In response to the opening lines of this paper, Kabir says “When the Guest is being searched for, it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest that does all the work. Look at me, and you will see a slave of that intensity” (Bly)

– Garth E. Beyer

Works Cited

Al-Halveti, Tosun Bayrak Al-Jerrahi. “The Most Beautiful Names of Allah.” The Threshold Society & The Mevlevi Order. 1985. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.sufism.org/society/asma/>.

Argis, Ali. “Kabir Presented in Philosophy Section.” Newsfinder E-magazine: A Literary Favour   to World Culture. 24 May 2003. Web. 09 May 2011.     <http://www.newsfinder.org/site/more/kabir/>.

Bly, Robert. “The Heart of the Matter: A Six Pack of Kabir.” Creativity, Innovation, Team            Building, Leadership, Brainstorming, Idea Champions. 19 Nov. 2009. Web. 09 May             2011.             <http://www.ideachampions.com/heart/archives/2009/11/a_six_pack_of_k_1.shtml>.

Granger, Ivan M. “Kabir : Poems and Biography.” Poetry Chaikhana – Sacred Poetry from            Around the World: Sufi Poetry, Zen Poetry, Hindu Poetry, Buddhist Poetry, Christian   Poetry, Yoga Poetry. 2002. Web. 09 May 2011. <http://www.poetry-   chaikhana.com/K/Kabir/>.

“Kabir.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 24 Apr. 2011. Web. 09 May 2011.             <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kabir>.

“Kabir – Kabir Biography – Sant Kabir Life History – Story of Kabir Das – Facts about Saint          Kabirdas.” Colors of India – All Aspects of Indian Culture People & Civilization. Colors           of India. Web. 09 May 2011. <http://www.thecolorsofindia.com/kabir/index.html>.

Krishan, Rajender. “The Mystic Poet.” Boloji.com – A Study in Diversity – News, Views, Analysis, Literature, Poetry, Features – Express Yourself. Sept. 1999. Web. 09 May 2011.           <http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content>.

“The Biography of Kabir – Life Story.” PoemHunter.Com – Thousands of Poems and Poets..         Poetry Search Engine. PoemHunter, 18 Aug. 2009. Web. 09 May 2011.     <http://www.poemhunter.com/kabir/biography/>.

Garth Beyer

Garth Beyer is a Madison-based writer and Public Relations Strategist focused on telling stories, running through trend-making PR strategies and trying new things in life.

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