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Alex is a scholar of religions. He studies comparative religions, religious texts, world cultures, religions, and religious practices.

saint-kabir

Introduction to Kabir

When I was a teenager, Sant Kabir was one of the earliest Eastern saints that I became acquainted with. I was recommended the amazing work "Songs of Kabir" to read, when I had the chance. [Thinking back to that magical time, the same friend was familiar with Alan Watts.] This was during the earliest days of the spiritual journey I made as a young man. I would later find Kabir again, as some of his poetry made it into the "Guru Granth Sahib" - the holiest scripture of the Sikh religion. Sikhism was so appealing to me, because of its heavy similarity to bhakti yoga. This is not surprising, considering that Kabir was among the influencers of the bhakti movement. (Invis Multimedia Pvt. Ltd.)

saint-kabir

A Saint For All Peoples

Kabir is interesting to so many diverse peoples, in part, because he is a saint adored by Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. (Invis Multimedia Pvt. Ltd.) Many of the Muslims who follow Kabir's teachings may be Sufis, a branch of Islam that often lends more to a unique interpretation of the religion. In song 69 of "The Songs of Kabir", we are faced with the following meditation; "Hari is in the East: Allah is in the West. Look within your heart, for there you will find both Karim and Ram..." (Kabir 113) "Hari" and "Ram" are Hindu names of God, whereas "Allah" and "Karim" are Islamic names for the Almighty. Thus, it is clear from Kabir's poetry why there are significant followings of the saint from diverse religious backgrounds. And, the Islamic and Hindu symbolism is present in the poems which are attributed to Kabir. This prior portion of Kabir's poetry may explain why some Muslims and Hindus love the saint, but why the Sikhs? Sikhs hold some of Kabir's verses as holy scripture. And, why don't more Christians hold Kabir in a higher status? The reality simply is that many Christians are unaware of who Kabir is. Hopefully, my Christian readers will take some time to contemplate Kabir's words.

Hari is in the East: Allah is in the West. Look within your heart, for there you will find both Karim and Ram...

— Saint Kabir

The Life Of Kabir

The saint Kabir was born in the year 1398 ACE, "on the full moon". (Hindustan Times) Kabir was able to gather followers from both the Muslims and the Hindus (Hindustan Times). Kabir later reportedly left this world in 1518 ACE. (Hindustan Times) If this tale is true, Kabir Saheb would have lived 120 years! This reminds me of a verse from the book of "Genesis". "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3) There exist a number of stories associated with Kabir, and we can merely speculate as to which stories are true. However, Kabir is unquestionably a man who has peaked our curiosities.

Was Kabir God?

This question may surprise the Western audience, but this kind of question is much more common in certain Eastern circles. One source makes the bold proclamation; "This has been proved in all the holy scriptures... that Kabir is God." (Kabir Parmeshwar Bhakti Trust (Regd)) It is not surprising that a figure, such as "Kabir Das", would be considered a manifestation of God. "Kabir Saheb" produced some of the most valuable poetry in the world. Even though many individuals and groups would find the notion that Kabir could be God as very offensive, others would find this idea as comforting and sweet to the mind's eye. The "I am" statements from Kabir may help to explain where the thinking of Kabir as someone divine may come from, in part. However, these statements are, at times, followed by a negation. Thus, it is difficult to determine whether these statements were intended as claims to oneness with God, or if they were the exact opposite. Some of these statements may have simply been there, without this idea in mind at all. Consider this quote, attributed to Kabir; "I shall go neither to hell nor to heaven. I do all works; yet I am apart from all works." (Kabir 126) This poetry could be translated to mean so many different things, but it should not be surprising why some would apply it as evidence for Kabir as a manifestation of the Almighty. I, personally, believe that we all should be very careful how we interpret such verses, but I keep an open mind towards those who believe in Kabir as God.

O Lord Increate, who will serve Thee? Every votary offers his worship to the God of his own creation: each day he receives service--None seek Him, the Perfect: Brahma, the Indivisible Lord.

— Saint Kabir

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Sant Kabir Biography - Life Story of a Saint

Sathya Sai Baba On Kabir

The question that many people familiar with India may ask is; what did Sathya Sai Baba have to say about Sant Kabir? In one discourse, we find that "... Kabir was always engaged in remembrance of God..." (Baba) Within the same discourse, it is stated that "Kabir is an example of..." a "godly man..." (Baba) It would appear rather clear that Sathya Sai Baba felt that Kabir was something of a righteous saint.

Conclusion

Kabir was an incredibly influential, interesting, and important figure in our histories. The stories we cling to may also tell us more about ourselves, than our technologies and physical accomplishments can. As we go on to live our own stories, we should not forget those narratives that have been handed down to us.

Resources

Baba, S. S. (n.d.). 4. Mastery Of The Senses. Sai Speaks. Retrieved January 16, 2022, from https://saispeaks.sathyasai.org/discourse/mastery-senses/?keyword=kabir%2Bwas%2Balways%2Bengaged%2Bin%2Bremembrance%2Bof%2Bgod

Hindustan Times. (2021, June 25). All you need to know about Kabir Saheb Prakat (Appearance) Diwas. Hindustan Times. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.hindustantimes.com/brand-post/all-you-need-to-know-about-kabir-saheb-prakat-appearance-diwas-101624627561477.html

Invis Multimedia Pvt. Ltd. (n.d.). The Bhakti tradition. indiavideo: Visual Gateway to India. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.indiavideo.org/text/bhakti-tradition-music-1557.php

Kabir, & Mohan, K. (1915). The Songs of Kabir. (R. Tagore, Trans.). The Macmillan Company.

Kabir Parmeshwar Bhakti Trust (Regd). (n.d.). Supreme God Kabir Sahib: The Father of All Souls. JAGAT GURU RAMPAL JI. Retrieved January 15, 2022, from https://www.jagatgururampalji.org/en/kabir/

King James. (1611). The Holy Bible.

© 2022 Alexander James Guckenberger

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