About the Book:
Kabir was illiterate by choice. He was of the firm view that if one relies the value of the two letters of he alphabet R and M which make the name of Shri Rama there was no need to bother about the rest of the fifty-four alphabets which night as well be washed down the river as being of no value.
But Kabir also emphasized that the true value of Shri Rama should be realized which will help man to realize the intrinsic value of God and ingrain true and deep love for the Lord. And Kabir acted accordingly as he has shown in his songs and maxims which flowed from his lips in thousands how deep was his understanding and realization.
We have received the songs and couples as penned down from the words of mouth of Kabir in shape of songs and couplets. And we have seen how broad and deep was Kabir's understanding and realization.
The maxims selected for this book though small in number being 160 in all show how deep and broad was his realization.
About the Author:
The author retired from the Indian Administrative Service in the year 1972, since then he has engaged himself in the study of various saint poets starting with the famous saint poet Kabir Das of the 15th century.
On Kabir his Works include Life and Philosophy of the Saint Poet in Oriya and translation of five hundred of his couplets in English Verses in three volumes: the first of one hundred published by the Bharatiya vidya Bhavan of Bombay in 1992, the second of three hundred published by Motilal Banarsidass of Delhi in 1991 and the third of one hundred published by Writers Workshop of Calcutta in 1992, followed by Sayings of Kabir published by the same publisher in 1993.
In 1992 he published his translation on one hundred songs of Guru Nanak Dev as Nanak Satak in Oriya and 100 Love Songs of Kabir in English Verse which was published by Abhinav Publications of New Delhi.
In 1994 he published his Oriya Verse translation of the entire Thiru Kural, the immortal work of the Tamil Saint Poet Thiru valluvar, consisting of 1330 couplets in 133 chapters.
In the meantime he has completed his Reading from Bhagabata, being English Verse translation of over 150 Sayings of the famous scripture originally composed by Vyasa Deva and translated into Oriya Verse by Saint Poet Jagannath Das of Pancha Sakh fame.
Here is yet another significant work by Sri Gananath Das whose effort, so far, has been to make the precious gems of the ancient wisdom of this country accessible to his contemporary readers, the world over, by rendering the original texts into English. In the long list of his works the last was 'The Maxims of Vidur' which is now followed by 'The Maxims of Kabir' while his refreshing flow continues.
Kabir is not a name but a movement Remembered with love and admiration by millions who still sing his immortal songs for aesthetic and spiritual fulfilment as much as for guidance in life here and hereafter. Kabir Das (1370-1448) goes down in history as a mystic and saint-poet Composed in Magadhi or Ardha-Magadhi dialect of the 14th century, the soft cadences of the Banis (lyrics) of Kabir are 'chemically pure' in their simplicity and transparency of the larger truths to touch and move any human heart worth the name. Ours is a great nation with a glorious heritage of spiritual attainment but, strangely, without sense of recorded history. No wonder, therefore, we have practically no information about the life of any great man of the past. The life of Kabir Das too is shrouded in mystery. Legends woven around him blur the time and place of his origin still further. Considerable research has however revealed that Kabir was born into a family of weavers who were originally Nath-panthis and followers of Gorakhnath. But they were converted to Islam a generation or two prior to the birth of Kabir. By social and occupational heritage, therefore, Kabir was a Nath-panthi Hindu but by birth in a converted family, he was a Muslim. "Kabir" is an Arabic word standing for an attributive name of the Divine. By this queer chance of his origin, he combines and yet transcends the barriers of both the religions to attain a spiritual height where distinctions are redundant.
Kabir had no guru but his initiation was spontaneous by the utterance of the name of Rama. His understanding of life and philosophy was profound and his utterances were both revealing and elevating. Literacy has never been a pre-condition for wisdom The poet, therefore, is not necessarily a scribe. Kabir sang and his innumerable followers sang with him to remember every word, that fell from his lips, by dedicated chanting. The compilation from memory later on is called Kabir Granthavali containing 192 slokas and 222 padas. Fortunately the third Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Amar Das, made a collection of the Banis of Kabir which- were incorporated into the Guru Granth as an integral part of it, by the fifth Guru, Arjun, in 1604. Interestingly it contains 36 slokas and 6 padas in addition to what has been compiled in Kabir Granthavali.
Kabir demolished the caste barriers and communal divisions as much as the distinctions between the qualified and non-qualified Brahman in the flood-waters of devotion. He was held dear and holy by the Hindus, the Muslims and the Sikhs alike. It is said that the Hindu and Muslim devotees staked their exclusive claims over the mortal remains of the saint after his demise and a quarrel ensued. But, when the shroud was removed they found, not a corpse, but a handful of flowers which they divided between them for rituals of the last rites according to their respective faiths.
Kabir is indeed a handful of divine flowers which are handed down to us in the form of his immortal 'Banis'. Sri Gananath Das captures some of the fragrance of these blossoms by his commendable effort of a verse-to-verse translation into English of the saintly utterances of Kabir. The prose commentaries serve as bonus to the readers and one has to admit that reading these verses is a richly rewarding experience.
In the world, some races are started by warriors and heroes and some by philosophers. Most of the nations in the world are put on their track by politicians. It is somewhat different in India. We are worshippers of saints, monks and rununciators. Kabir Das had been one such saint in the middle ages.
The rulers were oppressors at that time around five hundred years ago. Therefore, he had no heroes to worship, although Tulasi got one such in the person of Sri Rama of Ayodhya. Kabir, however, was not specific about the form and formalities of God. It was natural for him to follow the non-incarnated God.
Kabir had to live in a society which was uneducated, having a religion different from that of the rulers. In those days, politics was limited to very few and the rest of the people followed the norms prescribed by them. Economic attitude formulated by such "guides" was also tricky. Poverty was admired and subordination was glorified. Kabir Das was aware of all that He started a tirade against all that single handed. When he went to someone for guidance, he was ruthlessly refused any patronage. Nobody was ready to be his God-father. No financial help could be available from any comer of the society. Kabir's own courage and wisdom took him on the war path.
Kabir came out of innumerable adversities right from the beginning. He learnt his lessons without books, became a preacher without a teacher behind him and he stood boldly against any evil whatsoever, social, economic, religious, political or philosophical. He utilised his wit, unmatched in history, to fight all the dogmas or religious faiths. His ideas were so convincing that even today we have no words to challenge him.
When it was the question of social order, Kabir stoutly supported equality, irrespective of caste, creed, sex or religion. He believed in fellow-feeling of all human beings. Whether he was a neighbour or belonged to other caste or creed, he was son of God, both to the mother and father in a similar manner. So, all were one people. Kabir's belief in this was so strong that even Sri Chaitanya is believed to have gone to see him on his death-bed at Maghar near Benaras. He was equally challenged by both Hindus and Muslims, rich and poor, people belonging to upper and to other castes. Such a personality is rare in history.
His writings are supposed not to have been his own. It is said, his followers collected all that from different sources and so it is very difficult to get authoritative sources to the Maxims of Kabir. Every couplet may have some variation, for words are not so important for Kabir. On this count, Kabir speaks more of the underlying thought. This does not differ in any of the versions. The universality makes him great.
The Maxims of Kabir have some pieces from Kabir literature which implies that today, we are living in a society similar to what it was five centuries ago. The difference is in some scientific and technical developments. But it does not make much difference. He is equally relevant today as it was centuries ago. We need Kabir's eyes to see our society today. We need similar idioms to deal with today's circumstances.
I pray to God the writer, Sri C.N. Das, lived long to bring out such Maxims of other pioneers of our society. He deserves all the respect which I can offer to him.
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