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Mysticism : Deciphering Sant Kabir

 

“Listen, my friend. He who loves understands.”

Before we begin talking about one of the original mystics, Kabir, let’s understand Mysticism.

Mysticism is popularly known as becoming one with God or the Absolute, but may refer to any kind of ecstasy or altered state of consciousness which is given a religious or spiritual meaning. It may also refer to the attainment of insight in ultimate or hidden truths, and to human transformation supported by various practices and experiences.

Derived from the Greek word μυω, meaning “to conceal”, mysticism referred to the biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity. During the early modern period, the definition of mysticism grew to include a broad range of beliefs and ideologies related to “extraordinary experiences and states of mind”.

In modern times, “mysticism” has acquired a limited definition, with broad applications, as meaning the aim at the “union with the Absolute, the Infinite, or God”. This limited definition has been applied to a wide range of religious traditions and practices, valuing “mystical experience” as a key element of mysticism.

“The Lord is in me, the Lord is in you, as life is in every seed, put false pride away and seek the Lord within..”
― Kabir

Kabir was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint, whose writings influenced Hinduism’s Bhakti movement and his verses are found in Sikhism’s scripture Adi Granth. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu bhakti leader Ramananda.

Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating that the former was misguided by the Vedas and the latter by the Quran, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively. During his lifetime, he was threatened by both Hindus and Muslims for his views. When he died, both Hindus and Muslims he had inspired claimed him as theirs.

“Listen to the secret sound, the real sound, which is inside you. The one no one talks of speaks the secret sound to himself, and he is the one who has made it all.”

Kabir suggested that True God is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considered all creatures on earth as his own self, and who is passively detached from the affairs of the world. To know God, suggested Kabir, meditate with the mantra Rāma, Rāma.

Kabir’s legacy survives and continues through the Kabir panth (“Path of Kabir”), a religious community that recognizes him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabir panthis.

Some scholars state that Kabir’s parents may have been recent converts to Islam, they and Kabir were likely unaware of Islamic orthodox tradition, and are likely to have been following the Nath (Shaiva Yogi) school of Hinduism. This view, while contested by other scholars, has been summarized by Charlotte Vaudeville as follows:

Circumcised or not, Kabir was officially a musalman, though it appears likely that some form of Nathism was his ancestral tradition. This alone would explain his relative ignorance of Islamic tenets, his remarkable acquaintance with Tantric-yoga practices and his lavish use of its esoteric jargon [in his poems]. He appears far more conversant with Nath-panthi basic attitudes and philosophy than with the Islamic orthodox tradition.

— Charlotte Vaudeville on Kabir (1974), 

Some commentators suggest Kabir’s philosophy to be a syncretic synthesis of Hinduism and Islam, but scholars widely state that this is false and a misunderstanding of Kabir. He adopted their terminology and concepts, but vigorously criticized them both. He questioned the need for any holy book, as stated in Kabir Granthavali as follows:

Reading book after book the whole world died,
and none ever became learned!

— Kabir Granthavali, XXXIII.3, Translated by Charlotte Vaudeville

Many scholars interpret Kabir’s philosophy to be questioning the need for religion, rather than attempting to propose either Hindu-Muslim unity or an independent synthesis of a new religious tradition. Kabir rejected the hypocrisy and misguided rituals evident in various religious practices of his day, including those in Islam and Hinduism.

Saints I’ve seen both ways.
Hindus and Muslims don’t want discipline, they want tasty food.
The Hindu keeps the eleventh-day fast, eating chestnuts and milk.
He curbs his grain but not his brain, and breaks his fast with meat.
The Turk [Muslim] prays daily, fasts once a year, and crows “God!, God!” like a cock.
What heaven is reserved for people who kill chickens in the dark?
Instead of kindness and compassion, they’ve cast out all desire.
One kills with a chop, one lets the blood drop, in both houses burns the same fire.
Turks and Hindus have one way, the guru’s made it clear.
Don’t say Ram, don’t say Khuda [Allah], so says Kabir.

— Kabir, Śabda 10, Translated by Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh

In Bijak, Kabir mocks the practice of praying to avatars such as Buddha of Buddhism, by asserting “don’t call the master Buddha, he didn’t put down devils”. Kabir urged people to look within and consider all human beings as manifestation of God’s living forms:

If God be within the mosque, then to whom does this world belong?
If Ram be within the image which you find upon your pilgrimage,
then who is there to know what happens without?
Hari is in the East, Allah is in the West.
Look within your heart, for there you will find both Karim and Ram;
All the men and women of the world are His living forms.
Kabir is the child of Allah and of Ram: He is my Guru, He is my Pir.

— Kabir, III.2, Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

Charlotte Vaudeville states that the philosophy of Kabir and other sants of the Bhakti movement is the seeking of the Absolute. The notion of this Absolute is nirguna which, writes Vaudeville, is same as “the Upanishadic concept of the Brahman-Atman and the monistic Advaita interpretation of the Vedantic tradition, which denies any distinction between the soul [within a human being] and God, and urges man to recognize within himself his true divine nature”. Vaudeville notes that this philosophy of Kabir and other Bhakti sants is self-contradictory, because if God is within, then that would be a call to abolish all external bhakti. This inconsistency in Kabir’s teaching may have been differentiating “union with God” from the concept of “merging into God, or Oneness in all beings”. Alternatively, states Vaudeville, the saguna prema-bhakti (tender devotion) may have been prepositioned as the journey towards self-realization of the nirguna Brahman, a universality beyond monotheism.

Kabir has been criticised for his depiction of women. Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh states, “Kabir’s opinion of women is contemptuous and derogatory”. Wendy Doniger concludes Kabir had a misogynist bias. For Kabir, states Schomer, woman is “Kali nagini (a black cobra), kunda naraka ka (the pit of hell), juthani jagata ki (the refuse of the world)”. According to Kabir, a woman prevents man’s spiritual progress.

Woman ruins everything when she comes near man;
Devotion, liberation, and divine knowledge no longer enter his soul.

— Kabir, Translated by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh

Singh states that this outlook of Kabir about women and their role in human quest for spirituality was not shared with Nanak who founded Sikhism. Surjit Singh Gandhi also agrees with this.

In contrast to Singh’s interpretation of Kabir’s gender views, Dass interprets Rag Asa section of Adi Granth as Kabir asking a young married woman to stop veiling her face, and not to adopt such social habits. Dass adds that Kabir’s poetry can be interpreted in two ways, one literally where the woman refers to human female, another allegorically where woman is symbolism for his own soul and Rama is the Lord-husband.

 

I guess the above stated material serves the need of hate propaganda for all the religions. So that’s why, Let’s go to Riot. Let’s take out axes and pitchforks and kill each other in the name of religion. I hope God would save you. You are essential. This entire planet thrives because of you and your closest advisor called GREED. Or let’s understand this quote and pray to the ALMIGHTY.

“बुरा जो देखण मैं चला, बुरा ना मिलया कोए
जो मन खोजा अपना, तो मुझसे बुरा ना कोए”

When I went looking for evil, I found it lurking inside, In my soul!

Translated by Nishant

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