Kabir: Vision for Human Awakening (my television lecture 1984)
Satguru Kabir is widely known as one of the foremost mystic saints of India. He taught that God dwells within you as the Soul, and the only place that you can find God is within yourself. He said, “Search in your heart and there you will find God whether you call Him Ram or Rahim.” He taught that nobody was ever able to find God by searching elsewhere. He also stressed impartially said, “I, Kabir, stand in the public marketplace and wish the welfare of all. I see no one either as a friend or as an enemy.” When he was asked whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim, he said, “If I say that I am a Hindu, I am not; if I say that I am a Muslim again I am not. What am I? I am this body made of the five gross elements and the great mysterious power of God dwells in me.”
In India, at his time, there were great turmoil and misunderstandings within two major world religions – Hinduism and Islam – and he observed that each one fought in its own way to preserve its identity, and to uphold certain religious beliefs, traditions and rituals. He observed that the Hindu say that to him Lord Ram is very dear; and the Muslims say that it is Rahim, or Allah, but they fight and kill one another, and neither of them fathoms the mystery of God dwelling in the hearts of both of them. He told them both, “O my dear brothers, from where have you found two gods? Don’t you know that you worship the same God?” In his teachings he further stated, “You and I are of the same blood, and the same life force manifests in all of us. The same God produced all of us. By what type of cunning intellect have you separated yourselves?” He taught that all people, no matter to what race, culture or religion they belonged, ultimately worship the same God, and the same God is equally accessible to all people, regardless to their castes, creeds, traditions, and cultures.
Both Hindus and Muslims came to understand the truth that Kabir was preaching. The great scholar, Professor Charlotte Vaudeville, a French writer, stated, “Kabir is one of the best known and most revered name in Indian tradition. From the Punjab to Bengal and from the Himalayan frontiers to South India, he has long been hailed by Hindus and Muslims alike as a great mystic and bold religious reformer. His name has travelled far and wide in the Indian sub-continent and, thanks to the admiration of Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore, he is not completely unknown even in the west today. In the literary field too, Kabir ranked very high. He is often hailed as the father of Hindi literature and even some times placed on par with the greatest Hindi poet Tulsidas, the author of the great epic – Ramayana. In Indian religious history Kabir is unique; to the Hindus he is Vaishnava Bhakta, to the Muslims a Pir, to the Sikhs, a bhagat, to the sectarian Kabir Panthis he is an avatar of the Supreme Being, to modern patriots, Kabir is a champion of Hindu/Muslim unity, to neo-Vedantins a promoter of the modern religion i.e. the religion of man, in modern progressive circles today, Kabir is held in high esteem as a social reformer, a bold enemy of Brahmanical pride and caste distinctions, a revolutionary whose scathing attacks on caste prejudices, the principles of untouchability and all forms of social discriminations are forever famous and comforting to the enlightened Indian mind, like a breeze of fresh air. To modern India Kabir appears as a symbol of non-conformity, of all that is free, noble and challenging in the Indian tradition.” (A Weaver Named Kabir by Charlotte Vaudeville)
I would like to quote another writer, Ezekiel, in the book entitled Kabir: The Great Mystic, “Within the range of reason, Kabir is a most uncompromising rationalist. In the intellectual field he is the most clear brained intellectual. Among the learned he is the most learned, though he is ignorant of the alphabets. He quotes the Shastras, the Puranas and the Vedas with an authority before which the learned shiver and the betrayers of holy lore call for the hangman’s rope. Kabir’s songs seek nobody’s approbation, they seek no sanction, ask for no approval, search for no popularity, invite no commendation, crave no compliment. They stand independent of these considerations, and they constitute the most uninhibited literature, the freest of free writing ever produced by a saint. They are the most fearless of hymns, for they launch assault on the very foundations of institutional religion and the self-appointed custom officers of the gates of heaven.”
Charlotte Vaudeville again observed that there is hardly an ethical or spiritual truth in northern India that has not taken the form of a sakhi ascribed to Kabir. The biographer Nabha Das, who has written on the life of many saints, states in his book “The rosary of the saints”: “He held that religion without devotion was no religion at all. And that asceticism, fasting and alms giving had no value if not accompanied by adoration.” Satguru Kabir is often called the Indian Luther, for he tried to change the hypocrisy and the false piety that was being practiced in the name of religion.
Another writer J.S., a British scholar, wrote, “His best utterances are probably the loftiest work in the Hindi language. And hundreds of his couplets have laid hold of the common heart of Hinduism.” Another researcher and writer on Indian saints named Dwivedi, thinking of Kabir’s genius, said, “Tender as a flower, hard as a diamond, his poems are embodied with diamond-like quality, the transparency, multifaceted brilliance and mysterious flow of the pure diamond. They also have the piercing quality of the diamond pointed arrow.” In S.S. Das’s words, “They pierce the hearts of the listeners and remain there. Kabir was undoubtedly a great poet, one of the greatest in India. As a mystical poet he has probably never been surpassed.”
Dwivedi further stated, “Kabir was a dictator of language. Language trembled before him. Another writer W.G. Orr stated, “For share vigor of thought and rugged terseness of style, no later bhakti writer can be brought into comparison with him.”
We see from these foregoing quotations that Satguru Kabir held a very high place in spiritual circles, in literally circles, and in devotional literature. When the former President of India, Shri Zail Singh visited Kabir Chaura in Varanasi, he said that the teachings of Satguru Kabir was of such great value for uniting humanity in love and brotherhood, that he wished that his works could be translated into all languages and be made available to all the people.
Really, what Satguru Kabir wanted to teach people was to find God, for God is the source. God is your inner being. God speaks intuitively within you, and there is no point in your wasting your time, effort and money in trying to find God anywhere outside of you. He said that if you were truly searching for God, you would find Him in a moment, as He is in the breath of your breath, and he is the source of your consciousness and life. He taught to love one another. He said that people speak of love, but they do not truly understand love their hearts. It’s merely words. But those who are truly immersed in God twenty-four hours a day are the knowers of love.
When people were being pedantic and argumentative about their book learning, he said, “O my brother! You are quoting to me what you have read in the books, and what I am telling you are the facts I have seen with my own eyes.” He further stated that people have read thousands of books, but they have not become truly learned. If they learned the one word “Love”, they would be truly learned. On humility he taught, “O Kabir! I am just like the dog in the hands of God. His leash is around by neck. Wherever He pulls, I willingly go.” He further stated that water never stays in the high places, but goes to lowest. If you are thirsty and you stoop very low you can quench your thirst. But if you stand tall and proud, you would remain thirsty. On devotion he said, “The person whose mind is full of lust, anger, greed and attachment, cannot do devotion to God. Only the brave one who can free his heart from caste distinctions and lineages can really do devotion to God.” Essentially, Satguru Kabir taught non-violence, and it is comforting to know that Mahatma Gandhi, whose mother was a Kabir Panthi, is said to have sucked in non-violence from his mother’s milk, and that is why he was so famous in India for his non-violent methods, in trying to liberate India from the British rule. Further the poet laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, also recognized Satguru Kabir as a great teacher. The late Martin Luther King Jr., USA, an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, practiced the same principles of non-violence taught by Satguru Kabir. The father of the Indian Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar was born a Kabir Panthi and he fought strenuously to free the oppressed masses from ostracism and suppression practiced by the high castes. He taught that they all have God within them, and caste before God is non-existent, for God created them all. God is their father, and we are all His children, and as His children we owe allegiance to Him and to one another. He taught us to perform service, to feed the hungry, to clothe them and not to be condescending but loving towards them.
Satguru Kabir’s teachings hold a very important place in our lives, and his teachings will be well followed if people all over the world would take the time to learn about the teachings of this great spiritual master of India, Satguru Kabir.