Satguru Kabir Saheb

Satguru Kabir Saheb (known by many as Sant Kabirdas) appeared in 15th century India, a time marked by deep religious tensions. He is believed to have appeared in the form of a baby on a lotus flower in the Lahartara pond of Varanasi (U.P., India) on the full moon of the month of Jyestha (May/June). Appearing during the Mughal era in India, when religious and cultural conflicts were highly prevalent amongst the different sects and religions of the time period, Kabir Saheb strived to restore balance and peace through his teachings. He taught to the feuding communities, namely the Hindu and Muslim communities, that their love and devotion to their respective deities should unite instead of divide them. Kabir Saheb believed that both the Hindu and Muslim communities, being lost in doubts, had deviated from the path of spiritual pursuit; spreading his teachings, he was able to restore faith unto the people. His teachings still live on in the form of his devotees who have well preserved them in various sacred texts including the Beejak, the Kabeer Granthawali, the Anuraag Saagar, the Kabeer Manshoor, and many other scriptures. Read more about the teachings of Kabir Saheb below, to learn about the life of Kabir Saheb, click here.

Having been one of the early poets of medieval India, Kabir Saheb’s works had a significant influence on the development and the course of other contemporary religious movements. His writings continue to have a tremendous impact on today’s modern social movements. Read about some of the major religious movements on which Kabir Saheb’s works have had a great impact and some of the fundamentals of his teachings below.

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Literary Style

Kabir Saheb was known to have used a very distinct poetic tone which greatly contrasted with the style of his contemporaries. Kabir Saheb’s literary works are composed in a wide variety of in vernacular languages ranging sometimes from sophisticated Urdu and Hindi dialects to (more commonly) regional dialects including Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Braj Bhasha (Khariboli dialects). This may owe to the fact that, being illiterate, Kabir Saheb’s compositions were preserved mainly through oral tradition, resulting in dialectal variations in his works. It is in fact for this very reason that his teachings were able to spread so far and wide across northern India after his death; because they had been preserved in a variety of different regional dialects. His poetry was also characterized by many revolutionary ideas which, despite being controversial for some, greatly appealed to the Indian people who, in a period of great distress, sought to reform Indian society.

In addition to very boldly expressing his controversial views, Kabir Saheb did so in a very poetically distinct manner; his poetry introduced a new literary style famously termed ‘Ulati Baanee.’ This Ulati Baanee (Hindi: Ulati, lit. reversed, inverse; Vaanee, lit. speech) or ‘reversed speech’ is known to have been a mark of Kabir Saheb’s works, giving rise to the famous expression:

“Kabeerdaas Ke Ulatee Baanee, Barasai Kambal Bheegai Paanee.”
Such is the reversed speech of Kabirdas; he says, “It rains blankets and the water is drenched.”

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

The paradoxical nature of this reversed speech gives rise to contemplation and encourages readers (or listeners) to deeply reflect on the philosophical questions or ideas raised in the poem.

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On Casteism and Social Status

Kabir Saheb firmly and openly expressed his disapproval for the caste system and other social systems which favoured those with higher social statuses. He was himself raised by Muslim weavers (julahas), a community which had low social standing as a result of low caste status. In many of his compositions, he explained to his disciples and devotees that the caste system and other such social systems are merely creations of man.


Janamate Maanush Hot Sab, Yah Jaanat Sansaar.
Banchak Sood Karaawahee, Kahai Kabeer Pukaar.
Kabir says: “Upon birth, everyone is human, this is the way of the world;
But still, they have made different groups (castes, religions etc...) to divide and separate from each other.

Pad Gauree

Garabh Vaas Mahi Kul Naheen Jaatee, Brahma Bindu Te Sab Utapaatee…
In the womb there is no family nor caste, all is begotten from the Seed of Creation.

Kahu Re Pandit Braahman Kab Ke Hoye, Braahman Kahi Kahi Janam Mat Khoye.(Chorus)
Tell me, Oh Pundit, since when did you become a Brahmin, do not waste your life in constantly calling yourself a Brahmin.

Jau Toon Braahman Braahmanee Jaayaa, To Aan Baat Kaahe Naheen Aayaa…
Being a Brahmin, you are still born from a (Brahmin) mother; why have you not come into this world through other means?

Tum Kat Braahman Ham Kat Sood, Ham Kat Lohoo Tum Kat Doodh…
How is it that you are a Brahmin and I am a Shudra, why is it said that I am made of blood and you are made of pure milk?

Kahu Kabeer Jo Brahma Bichaarai, So Braahman Kaheeath Hai Hamaarai…
Kabir says: “He who contemplates the Creator, only he can be called a Brahmin”.

(Sri Guru Granth Sahib, Raag Gauri, Ang 324)

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

Kabir Saheb believed that all human beings, be it of low or high caste, have an equal chance of attaining salvation and that affairs concerning spiritual and religious pursuits should not be reserved for only the priestly castes (Brahmins). In fact, Kabir Saheb is known to have openly criticized the conventions and rules established by corrupted Brahmins which he believed only favoured them. He took the stance that despite our differences (i.e. caste, religion, creed, race etc.) we are in fact all manifested from the One and the same God. For his struggle against the caste system, Kabir Saheb has been recognized by many as an early social reformer in India.

Oonchanee Chakahu Kaahi Johaaraa, Boodi Gaye Naheen Aapu Sambhaaraa.
Speaking of high and low caste, they (the ignorant) drowned (in delusion) and were not able to save themselves.

Unchanee Chaahai Madhyam Baanee, Ekai Pawan Ek Hai Paanee.
It is foolish to call one high or low caste when all of creation is begotten from the same air and water.

Ekai Matiyaa Ek Kumhaaraa, Ek Saban Kaa Sirajanahaaraa.
There is one earth and one potter; one who is the Creator of all.

Ek Chaak Bahu Chitra Banaayaa, Naad Bindu Ke Beej Samaayaa.
From one wheel, He has made many forms using the Celestial Seed of Creation.

Vyaape Ek Sakal Kee Jyotee, Naam Dhare Kyaa Kahiye Motee.
Within all, the light of One Lord shines; if named, it could be called a pearl. 


Hans Deh Taji Nyaaraa Hoee, Taakar Jaati Kahai Dhaun Koee.
When the soul leaves the body, it takes on a different form to which a caste cannot be assigned.

Syaahi Supet Ki Raataa Piyaaraa, Avaran Varan Ki Taataa Siyaaraa.
It it neither black (Shudra) nor White (Brahmin), neither Red (Kshatriya) nor yellow (Vaishya);
It is neither colourless nor coloured, neither hot nor cold. 

(Beejak, Vipramateesee 21-25, 27-28)

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

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On Idolatry and Ritualism

In the very conflicted and deluded 15th India, the people often sought solace and peace in performing rituals. Kabir Saheb, on the other hand, saw no need for ritualistic worship practices; he believed that more important than rituals and ceremonies is a devotee’s faith in their Lord. The problem then does not in fact lie in ritualistic worship methods but in a devotee’s faith and beliefs. A true devotee should have a firm faith in their Lord and in their prayers while also having an understanding of the significance of their worship methods rather than ignorantly performing rituals. Kabir Saheb did not criticize the ritualistic worship methods employed by Hindus and Muslims but instead criticized the worshipers who performed rituals with complete faith in their actions whilst remaining devoid of faith in the Lord.

Pad Gauree

Kaa Naange Kaa Baandhe Chaam, Jau Naheen Cheenhasi Aatam Raam. (Chorus)
Why does it matter whether one is naked or clad in deer skin when they cannot comprehend the knowledge of the Self.

Naange Phiren Jog Je Hoee, Ban Kaa Mrig Mukuti Gayaa Koee
If by wandering around naked (as an ascetic) one finds spiritual knowledge then why have the deer of the forest not attained salvation?

Moond Moodaayai Jau Sidhi Hoee, Svarg Hee Bhed Na Pahunchee Koee
If by shaving the hair one becomes a Saint then why have sheep not reached the heavens?

Byandh Raakhi Ja Tareeyai Bhaaee, Khusarai Kiu Na Param Gati Paaee
If by simply conserving the seed (practicing celibacy) one could be saved then why have eunuchs not attained the path of salvation?

Kahai Kabeer Sunahu Re Bhaaee, Raam Naam Bin Kini Sidhi Paaee
Kabir says: “Listen Oh Brother, without the Name of the Lord, who has attained the perfection of Saints?”

(Kabeer Granthaawalee, Pad Gauree 132)

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)
(See also: Sri Guru Granth Saahib, Raag Gauree Ang 324)

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Oneness and Unity

With the arrival of Muslims and Islamic rule in medieval India also came a period marked by deep religious tensions and political conflicts. The people (i.e. Hindus and Muslims) sought to distance themselves from each other by making distinctions between themselves rather than to embrace their similarities in order to avoid cultural and societal conflict. Kabir Saheb believed that in doing so, Indian society had become dysfunctional and that the people should instead unite as one and accept their similarities, this view is reflected in many of his poems which had become controversial for their time. In highlighting the similarities between both Hindus and Muslims, Kabir Saheb faced backlash from members of both religious groups who did not want to associate with each other; however, these writings were in fact key in changing the people’s attitudes towards each other and eventually reforming Indian society. Even today, in the face of religious conflict, the works of Kabir Saheb pertaining to this issue are still referenced to restore peace among the people.


Hamaare Raam Raheem Kareem Keshav, Allah Raam Sati Soee;
Bisamil Meti Bisambhar Ekai, Aur Na Doojaa Koee.(Chorus)
Ram, Rahim, Karim, Keshav, and Allah are all the One and the same;
Forget sacrificial rituals and become one with the Supreme Lord, there is none other than He.

Inake Kaajee Mulaan Peer Paigambar, Rojaa Pachhim Niwaaj;
Inakai Poorab Disaa Dev Dij Poojaa, Gyaarasi Gang Diwaajaa…
Muslims are faithful towards Qazis, Mullahs, Masters, and the Prophet, and perform ‘Roza’ (Muslim fast) and Namaaz’ facing the west;
Hindus, facing the east, pray to gods and honour Brahmins, bathing in the Ganges and performing Ekadashi’ (Hindu fast).

Turak Maseeti Dehurai Hindoo, Dehoonthaa Raam Khudaaee;
Jahaan Maseeti Dehuraa Naaheen, Tahaan Kaakee Thakuraaee…
The Muslim prays to ‘Khuda’ in the mosque and the Hindu to ‘Ram’ in the temple;
Where there is neither mosque nor temple, which Lord rules?

Hindoo Turak Dou Raah Tootee, Phootee Aru Kanaraaee;
Aradh Urath Dasahoon Dis Jit Tit, Poori Rahyo Raam Raaee
Hindus and Muslims have both deviated from the True Path;
Up, down, and in all directions the all-pervading Lord resides.

Kahai Kabeeraa Daas Phakeeraa, Apanee Rahi Chali Bhaaee;
Hindoo Turak Kaa Karataa Ekai, Taa Gati Lakhi Na Jaaee
Kabir, a Saint and servant of the Lord, says: “Oh Brother, forge your own path (renounce the path of the Hindus and Muslims);
The Creator of the Hindus and Muslims is One and the same, yet they are unable to comprehend this”.

(Kabeer Granthaawalee, Pad Gauree 58)

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

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Sahaj Samaadhi and Surati Shabd Yoga

Surati Shabd Yoga, also known as Sahaj Yoga or Sahaj Samaadhi refers to the spiritual meditative practice/discipline (Hindi: Yoga, lit. Discipline) through which to attain spiritual enlightenment prescribed by Kabir Saheb to his devotees. It is the mental fixation or focus (Hindi: Surati, lit focus, attention) on the ‘Shabd’ (Hindi: Shabd, lit. Word) revealed by the Sadguru. The ‘Shabd’ is the essence of creation and is the divine melody which resonates throughout the universe, becoming audible only to those to who, by the grace of the Sadguru, become self-realized and aware of its omniscient presence within themselves and throughout the whole of creation. Kabir Saheb prescribed this path to his devotees and referred to it as ‘Sahaj Samaadhi’; in contrast to the extreme practices undertaken by ascetics, the path of Surati Shabd Yoga is a simple means of union with the Lord (Hindi: Sahaj, lit. easy, simple; Hindi: Samaadhi, lit. tomb; refers to the state of union with the Lord). The means and measures which are to be taken to perform Surati Shabd Yoga are described in greater detail in texts such as the Brahma Nirupan and the Anurag Sagar. Surati Shabd Yoga is practiced by followers of many sects including the Kabir Panth, Sant Mat followers, and Radhasoami followers.


Satt Kaa Shabd Sun Bhaaee, Phakeeree Adala Baadshaahee;
Saadhoo Bandagee Deedaar, Sahaje Utare Saagar Paar.
Oh Brother, listen to the ‘True Shabd,’ on hearing it, the lowly ascetic becomes an emperor;
On receiving the vision of Saints and prostrating before them, one easily crosses the worldly ocean.

So’ham Shabd Son Kar Preet, Anubhav Akhand Ghar Ko Jeet;
Tan Men Khabar Kar Bhaaee, Jaame Naam Roshanaaee.
Become a lover of ‘Soham’ and you will victoriously experience the Eternal Plane;
Become aware of your body within which the Name of the Lord shines.

Suratee Nagar Men Basti Khooba, Behad Ulat Chal Mehabooba;
Suratee Nagar Men Karle Sela, Jaamen Aatmaa Ko Mela.
Let your residence be in the Plane of Surati (focus) and you will surely find your Beloved (the Lord);
Dwell in the Plane of Surati, wherein the soul will experience Divine Union.

Amaree Mool Saandhee Milaav, Taapar Raakho Baayaa Paanv;
Dahinaa Madhya Men Dharanaa, Aasan Amar Yon Karanaa.
Sit on the ‘Mool Chakra’ (Sacral Chakra) and place the left foot on it;
Rest the right foot on top, and remain in this posture.

Dwaadasha Pawan Bhar Peeje, Shashi Ghara Ulat Charh Leeje;
Tan Man Vaaranaa Keeje, Ulati Nij Naam Ras Peeje.
Inhale a breath of 12 counts and exhale through the left nostril (the Ida nadi, associated with the moon);
Offer the mind and body and partake of the Nectar of the Name of God.

Tan Man Sahit Raakho Shwaasa, Is Vidhi Karo Behad Vaasa;
Donon Nain Ke Kar Baan, Bhaunraa Ulati Kaiso Kamaan.
Control the breath with both the body and mind, in doing so, you will attain the limitless form of the heavens;
Make both eyes arrows and the eyebrows the bows.

Parvat Chheke Dariyaa Jaan, Kara Le Trikuti Snaan;
Sahaje Paras Pad Nirabaan, Teraa Mite Aavaajaana.
Pierce the mountain (the third eye) and let the river flow forth, bathe in this ‘Trikuti’ (the point at which the third eye and the two eyes meet often illustrated as the meeting point of three rivers, i.e. the point between the eyebrows);
In doing so, liberation can be attained easily and the constant coming and going (birth, death and rebirth) from and to this world will cease.

(Mool Sandhyaa Paath, Chetaawanee, 5-11)

Shabd Asaawari

Santo, Sahaj Samaadhi Bhalee Hai;
Guru Prataap Bhayo Jaa Din Se, Surati Na Ant Chalee Hai.(Chorus)
Oh Sants, ‘Sahaj Samaadhi’ (Simple Union) is graced;
Since the day I have received the blessing of the Guru, I have been fixated on Him only.

Jaahan Jaahan Jaaoo Soee Parikarmaa, Jo Kuchh Karu So Poojaa;
Grih Udhyaan Ek Sam Lekho, Bhaav Mitaaoo Doojaa…
Wherever I walk I perform His holy circumambulation and whatever I do is His worship;
I take a house and a field to be the same, my sense of duality has been destroyed.

Shabd Nirantar Manwaa Raache, Malin Vaasnaa Tyaagee;
Jaagat Sovat Uthat Baithat, Aisee Taaree Laagee…
My mind has become consistently amorous of the ‘Shabd,’ abandoning all worldly desires;
It is continuously attached to it whether awake, sleeping, or standing or sitting.

Aankh Na Moondo Kaan Na Soodho, Kaayaa Kasht Na Dhaaro;
Ughare Nain Se Saaheb Dekhoo, Sundar Roop Nihaaro…
I no longer need to close my eyes and restrict my senses, nor need to put my body through severe austerities (as ascetics do);
With open eyes, I see the Lord and witness His beautiful form.

Kahai Kabeer Yah Suksham Rahanee, So Prakat Kahee Gaaee;
Dukh Sukh Se Vah Pade Parampad, Soee Sadaa Sukhdaaee…
Kabir says: “This is a simple way of life, those who have experienced it can testify to it;
It is beyond happiness and sadness, it is, in itself, Eternal Bliss.”

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

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Maayaa and the Five Thieves

The concept of ‘Maya’ is a philosophical construct which predates Kabir Saheb; a concept deeply rooted in Indian (Eastern) philosophy. Kabir Saheb spoke in great lengths of the spiritual impediments which occur as a result of Maya. Maya (Hindi: Maayaa, lit. illusion, magic) refers to the illusionary and deceptive nature of the world in which we live. It represents the futility of material desires and the unquenchable thirst for more and more material possessions. It is often personified in the form of a temptress, representing desire, or sometimes in the form of a snake, representing the deceitful nature of our desires (which, on having attained, leave us dissatisfied instead of gratified). Kabir Saheb often identified Maya as being a ‘Thaganee’ (Hindi: Thag, lit cheat) who tricks us by having us take the falsities of the material world to be true. Maya is considered to be a hindrance to spiritual growth as it is believed that our desires keep us attached to the mundane world, thus obstructing the spiritual path towards liberation (detachment from the world).

Kabir Saheb urged his followers to resist the temptations of Maya and instead seek refuge in the shelter of the Lord. In doing so, he encouraged his followers to lead a minimalist (and sometimes celibate) lifestyle; we should fulfill only our basic needs (food, shelter, etc…) so that we can lead a healthy life. We should only acquire those things which are necessary for our sustenance. It is said that those who are within the reaches of Maya become spiritually impaired and in doing so, their intellect is ‘looted’ by the five metaphorical thieves; these are Kaam (desire), Krodh (anger), Mad (pride/ego, sometimes Ahankaar), Lobh (greed), and Moh (material attachment). In traditional Hindu philosophy, Matsar (envy) is added to this list. These five ‘thieves’ (or six arishadvargas) are the negative aspects of the mind which prevent us from attaining spiritual salvation and occur as a result of being consumed by Maya. Kabir Saheb instructed to his followers to free themselves from the grip of Maya in order to be  from these five thieves.

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The Importance of the Guru

Many of the teachings of Kabir Saheb focus on the importance of the Guru. In Kabir Panth tradition, the Guru is considered to be akin to the Lord Himself, as the Lord can only be revealed through the grace of the Guru.


Guru Govind Dou Khade, Kaake Laago Paay;
Balihaare Guru Aapake, Govind Diyaa Bataay.
The Guru and the Lord both stand before me, to whom should I bow down?;
I offer myself to the Guru, for He has shown me the Lord.

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

The Guru is said to be the one who leads us from darkness (i.e. ignorance) to light (i.e. spiritual enlightenment) by removing the obstacles (i.e. doubts) which block the spiritual path. In doing so, the all worldly bondage is broken and the soul is liberated.


Gu Andhiyaaree Jaaniye, Ru Kahiye Parkaas;
Mite Agyaan Tam Gyaan Te, Guru Naam Hai Taas.
‘Gu,’ represents darkness, and ‘Ru,’ light;
He who destroys ignorance (darkness) and replaces it with wisdom (light), He is called the ‘Guru’.

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

Kabir Saheb emphasized the importance of the Guru in the spiritual path. It is believed that without the guidance of a True Guru (Sadguru) all worship and devotion is fruitless; devotees should thus make an effort to seek guidance under a competent Guru. Kabir Saheb, however, advised devotees to be cautious and careful in choosing their Gurus so not to be guided by false Gurus who might lead them away from the path of liberation.

The Guru is given the highest honour and is invoked before all prayers and acts of devotion. Kabir Saheb has spoken volumes on the greatness of the Guru, outlining his merciful, forgiving, benevolent, and compassionate qualities. He highlighted the importance of the Guru in the spiritual journey and advised to devotees to follow the teachings of the Guru and thereby become ‘Gurumukhs’ (Hindi: mukh, lit, face, mouth; i.e. follows the dictates of the Guru).

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Nirgun Bhakti Movement

The Bhakti Movement (Hindi: Bhakti, lit. Devotion) is a religious movement which spread to northern India during the medieval era. This movement was key in reforming Indian society by establishing new mores and attitudes which were revolutionary while also redefining worship methods and practices. Supporters of this movement sought to eradicate social and cultural systems such as casteism (segregation, untouchability etc.…), ritualism, and blind faith; all of which were deemed unsuited and inappropriate in a well functioning society. The Bhakti movement also provided a means for Hindus and Muslims to reconcile and set aside their differences, the traces of which can still be found in modern Sufism. The Nirgun Bhakti movement (a sub-branch of the Bhakti movement) focuses on a Formless God and does not attempt to give characteristics to a deity (Hindi: Nirgun, lit. without attributes). Being in accordance with many of Kabir Saheb’s teachings, scholars of the Bhakti movement often refer to Kabir Saheb’s works and know him to be one of the major Saints which influenced this movement. Kabir Saheb was also recognized by later poets and Saints which became contemporaries of this movement.


Baanee Arabo Karva Hai, Granthan Koti Hajaar;
Karataa Purush Kabeer Hai, Naabha Kiyaa Vichaar.
There are millions of sayings and thousands of scriptures;
But still, Naabha reflects on the teachings of Kabir.

– Naabha Ji (Composer of the Bhakatmaal and follower of the tradition of Swami Ramanand Ji)

(For transliteration and pronunciation guide click here)

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Sant Mat Movement

‘Sant Mat’ can be interpreted as ‘the Teaching of Sants,’ a ‘Sant’ referring to one who has achieved spiritual perfection or spiritual enlightenment. The Sant Mat movement is a spiritual movement which began primarily in northern India before the arrival of the Bhakti movement (though the Bhakti movement dates back earlier). Adherents of this movement highlight the importance of the Sadguru in spiritual development and also advocate the path of Surati Shabd Yoga (Sahaj Yoga). Many of the teachings of this movement are derived from the works of Kabir Saheb; most notably, from the Anurag Sagar in which Kabir Saheb relates to Dharmadas teachings pertaining to the importance of the Guru and Sadguru, the story of creation, and outlines the path to spiritual enlightenment, and ultimately liberation. Kabir Saheb is known to have fostered this movement and his teachings continue to be influential in the development of this philosophical and spiritual movement.

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Kabir Saheb is regarded as one of the most influential figures of Sikhism. He is considered to have been a contemporary of Guru Nanak, the main founder of Sikhism, and also believed to have had a significant influence on his works. Many of Kabir Saheb’s compositions and poems have been preserved in the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, the authoritative text of the Sikhs; he has in fact contributed over 200 baanees (hymns) to the text, more than any other Bhagats (from Hindi: Bhakt, lit. devotee) of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib.

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