Satguru Kabir also visited Balkh Bokhara in Afghanistan. There is a story that the king wanted to realize God, and he asked questions of many sadhus (holy people), if they could answer his questions and make him realize God. The sadhus, not being able to satisfy the king, were imprisoned, and he punished them by having them grind grain using the stone mills. Satguru Kabir heard of their plight and went to the king, who asked him the usual questions. Satguru Kabir deliberately did not answer the questions because he wanted to be put in the prison with the other sadhus. When he was imprisoned, he told all the other sadhus to stop grinding the grain. However, they told him that they had to do their duties or else they would be punished further. Satguru Kabir then took a kubri (stick) and touched one of the stone mills, and immediately all the mills began to work by themselves. Upon seeing this marvel, the king fell at Kabir‘s feet and became a disciple. He freed the prisoners. Because Satguru Kabir secured the release of all the prisoners, he began to be called Bandichhor (releaser from bondage). The released prisoners rejoiced at their freedom.
During our stay in Varanasi, Jagdish Saheb and I visited the Holy Buddhist Shrine, at Sarnath, which was just on the outskirts of Varanasi. There was a concrete temple housing the statue of Buddha. It was set in a large, park-like garden called the Deer Park. Many people visit the Sarnath Temple and enjoy a stroll through the spacious gardens, in which there were also a few exotic birds and animals. Lord Buddha preached his first sermon at Sarnath after he obtained illumination at Bodhgaya. His message consisted of the four noble truths. They are: 1. That life is characterized by suffering, 2. That suffering arises out of cravings or desires, 3. That desires can be controlled, and 4. There is a method of obtaining liberation by following the eight-fold path:
They are: 1. Right understanding, 2. Right thought, 3. Right speech, 4. Right bodily action, 5. Right livelihood, 6. Right moral effort, 7. Right mindfulness, and 8. Right concentration.
On the grounds of the temple there was a large stupa (pillar) and there were several excavations of ancient buildings constructed out of bricks. They date back to about the third century B.C.E, at the time when King Ashoka ruled India. There were also Ashoka Columns of stone polished to a glossy finish. These columns, although over two thousand years old, still maintained their glossy shine. Sarnath was under the care of the Indian government, as a religious monument, and was very well kept.
The following day, February 6th, Jagdish Saheb and I visited the holy river, Ganges. The streets leading to the ghats were very crowded with pilgrims and vendors of various kinds of offerings, including flowers, garlands and other ceremonial items. The main ghats were quite spacious, and consisted of many concrete steps leading down from the city level to the water below. There were many Brahmin priests sitting on the ghats under their umbrellas, offering prayers for the devotees at a price. In the water, people were occupied with bathing, washing clothes, brushing teeth, offering worship, etc. This is a holy place for devout Hindus, and it is believed that people who die in the city of Varanasi will go to heaven. It is also believed that those who bathe in the Ganges will have their sins washed away. In spite of the reverence shown towards this river, it is very dirty. There was also the dirty water from the city which poured from the drains into the river. There were also several cremations occurring on the riverbank, and unburnt remains were thrown in the river. Certain holy people, and very low caste people were not cremated, but were given a water burial. Some people drink this water because of its holiness. It is no wonder that Satguru Kabir denounced the superstitious beliefs of the people who felt that their sins could be washed away, and that they can reach heaven by immersing themselves in the Ganges. At one time he rebuked a sick Brahmin, who, after drinking the water of the Ganges, felt that he committed a terrible mistake, because a low caste girl offered the water, and that the water vessel (lota) was defiled. Kabir told him that if the water of the Ganges could not purify the water vessel, how could it be expected to remove his sins. Satguru Kabir was hundreds of years ahead of his time in recognizing the unsanitary conditions prevailing at the river for he stated: “How does water get polluted only when a non-Brahmin gives it to you? You must know what water is composed of when you drink it. Your holy books record that fifty-six crores (560 M) of Yadavas, and eighty-eight thousand others were killed in the war of Mahabharata, and their blood and bones were mixed in the water. Further, bodies buried here covered every inch of land, and their decayed flesh and blood was dissolved in the water. Millions of fish, tortoises, frogs and alligators are born in water, live in water, and procreate in water. The water that you drink is full of these impurities. The dead bodies of all animals are dissolved in it. Millions of insects live and die on land and in water, and also get dissolved in wells and rivers.”