Mysticism stands for the efforts of man to attain God or Salvation. Kabir places faith of man in God as the most meritorious effort to attain Him. God has declared this openly as the first song selection here-saying: "I am in your faith alone" (Song No.1).
Love-devotion to God is given an equally high place in the efforts of man to attain God. Ritualistic forms of worship are of little or no merit, Kabir declares and affirms that bearing love for God in heart will ensure His blessing (vide Song No. 56).
Kabir has affirmed that by taking shelter in the Lord, as did devotees like Dhruva, Prahlad and Bibhisan, God's blessings are earned by man to merit salvation (vide Song No. 84).
On the, other hand, maintaining pure character entitles man to earn the blessings of God. Discarding influence of sense enemies such as lust, ire, greed, attachment and envy to others and also discarding mundane desires ensure the blessings of God for man (vide Song No. 98).
It has also been affirmed by Kabir that loving all Beings of earth and banishing pride from mind will ensure God's blessings and kindness for man (vide Song No. 65).
About the Author
The author, Shri Gananath Das, 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 AD.
On Kabir his works include Life and Philosophy of the Saint Poet in Oriya, and translation of five hundred of his couplets in English Verse, 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 Banarasi Das 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 of 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 1994 he published his Essays on Kabir published by the Writers Workshop of Calcutta consisting of in depth studies of the Saint Poet's Sayings on as many as 22 topics.
In the meantime he has completed his "Readings 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.
Bhakta Kabir, the harbinger of Bhakti Movement along with Nanak, Namdev and other saints of the medieval period, is also described as a mystic, a Sufi. There is a wafer-thin difference between a Bhakta and a Sufi (mystic). It is the difference of the degree of emotional pitch at which the seeker comes to stay. This stage can vary from devout to devout in shade. Bulleh Shah, a renowned Sufi of the seventeenth century in the Punjab, is classed with Kabir and is said to belong to the Bhakti tradition of the Sufis. Therefore, if Kabir is known as Bhakta by the advocates of Bhakti Movement, no wonder that the mystics adore him as a great mystic of his time. And both of them find him reflected in his work. Shri G.N. Das, an ardent devotee of Kabir, at times, finds in him a Bhakta given to loving devotion of God and collects his love songs, while at others he sees in him a mystic and has come out with the present volume of his mystic compositions.
The mystics or Sufis are close to the saints of Bhakti Movement. While Sufis laid emphasis on love, the saints emphasised devotion.Some of the spiritual stages of the Sufis (mystics) have parallels in the saints of Bhakti Movement. Aboodiat of the Sufis is 'Sewa Bhav' of the saints, meaning selfless service, similarly, Zuhd is 'Tapassiya', meaning asceticism, Tassawar is 'dhyan', meaning meditation, Habs-i-dam is 'Pranayam', meaning Yoga on breathing exercise, Zikr is 'Simran', meaning repetition of Name, Wisal is 'Milap', meaning union, and Fannah is 'Abhedta', meaning merger with the Divine.
Kabir, at times, says what a protagonist of Bhakti Movement would say but his manner is different. It is that of a mystic. He is bold as a Sufi:
Says Kabir, both Pundit and Mulla blunder
None has realised the Lord,
One permits killing of goat for eating
The other cow for the same purpose.
Both quarrel over the manner of killing and remain apart.(62)
Again, like Bhaktas he lays stress on the unity of God and brotherhood of man and in doing so in the typical manner of the mystics, he gives no quarter to the temple and mosque as seats of divinity. It is the faith alone that matters with him:
I stay neither in temple nor in mosque;
Neither in Kaaba nor Kailash ...
Says Kabir, O Sadhu! listen with care,
Where your faith is, I stay there. (1)
Fearless he attacks the ritualism in Islam despite the fact that he belongs to the period when Islamic fundamentalism was a nightmare both for the Hindus and Muslims:
If 'Sunnat' for a Turk is must,
What about the female sex? (51)
And Bhakta Kabir, the pacifist, is utterly wanting in the note of revolt so prominent in his compositions written in the ecstatic abandon of a mystic:
Like the tree remaining in the seed
So unseen remains the Lord,
In every being on earth,
Shed your arrogance and look inside
You will find Him tbere for certain. (17)
The slanderer is a friend I own,
He helps me keep my mind
Fixed on Lord Rama alone ...
He is of great help in life,
Carries my load free of price.
I am all praise for the slanderer,
He sinks in sin and saves all others. (32)
Shri G.N. Das is not mere a translator engaged in rendering Kabir from the original into English. He is deeply devoted to the subject and the fact of his devotion has brought to the reader in English some highly poetic pieces:
Clay says to the potter, listen
Why do you dig and smother me?
Beware one day you shall lie
In my bowels where I shall smother thee.(94)
It is indeed a great privilege associating myself with the present projection of Kabir whom I have always considered as one of the greatest poets of all times.
In one of my earlier books on Kabir entitled "Love Songs of Kabir", published in the year 1991, I brought together one hundred and one songs of the saint-poet on the love (Love Game) between the Supreme Soul (Paramatma) and Soul (Jivatma) of man for the ultimate union of both.
An equally large number of Kabir's songs are known as his "mystic songs" dealing with the mystic relationship of God, man and the Universe. The term mysticism is applied to the effort of man to attain God by various ways indicated by saints, devotees and learned persons depending on their life experiences and attainments. Saint-poet Kabir has indicated in his songs some of these ways in a heart-touching manner.
To start with a significant couplet of Kabir comes to mind bearing on this very issue:
बूंद पड़े जो समंद में, ताहि जानै सब कोय!
समंद समाय बूंद में, बिरला बूझै कोय! !
What Kabir has implied in this couplet is, when a rain drop falls into the sea everyone who sees that knows about the fusion of the drop with the body of sea water. But, says Kabir, when the sea enters the drop of water, which is the reverse way of fusion, no one either sees or comprehends it. The former is a simple phenomenon which is easily comprehended by anybody who happens to notice it. But the latter in the case of man includes movement of the soul of man (Jivatma) on his death when the soul migrates to another body which process is called "metempsychosis". We have to remember too that the soul of man (Jivatma) is taken as a part of the Supreme Soul or Paramatma. In other words, Paramatma or Supreme Soul and Soul of man (Jivatma) on union become one and the same entity which happens in the same manner as in the case of metempsychosis or migration of Soul to a new body. While the fusion of the drop with sea happens in the open that of the Jivatma's entry into the new body happens unseen and unknown to any except to the Soul concerned and the Supreme Soul.
In the songs of Kabir selected to demonstrate the 'Saint-poet's delineation of the interrelation of God, man and Universe will be noticed how God created the Universe when He was all alone and then created man in His own image to be able to live a span of life to attain his salvation or union with the Supreme Soul, not being drawn to the whirl of life and death again.
As a student of Kabir one is reminded of the following significant couplet at his stage:
कबीरा मन निर्मल भया, जैसे गंगा नीर!
तो पीछे हरी फिरै, कहत कबीर कबीर!!
A simple English verse translation of this couplet by me is as follows:
Says Kabir, my mind has become pure,
As pure as Ganges water
God now runs after me, I find,
Calling "Kabir, O Kabir!"
Kabir implies here that when mind becomes absolutely pure, free from all mundane desires and attachments, instead of the man imploring God for his redemption, God of Himself offers man all boons including that of salvation. So, in this case, God is seen offering the highest bliss to man to earn his salvation for having purified his mind in life. This is a case of
समंद समाय बूंद में, बिरला, बूझै कोय!
When God suo moto offers salvation to man for the merit of absolute purity of his mind, the Supreme Soul causes His fusion with the concerned human soul (Jivatma) in the process of metempsychosis attained by him for absolute purity of his mind or some other equally or more meritorious attainment. In popular parlance the process is known as transmigration of soul.
Let us now glance over some of the selected songs to notice how far the mystic relationship inter se God, man and creation is reflected in them.
In the opening song starting with मोको कहां ढूंढेरे बंदे, मै तो तेरे पास में, Kabir hints a case of metempsychosis where God offers the opportunity of fusion of Supreme Soul on the one hand and Jivatma or human soul on the other. And indicates Kabir-If man seeks God with sincere yearning खोजी होय like the child yearning for the mother, He will appear of Himself तुरत मिल जाऊ एक पल की तलास में by a moment's yearning:
"I tell you man, if you seek me in eamest;
I am by your side in a trice."
To cite an instance-from lores, as young Prahlad found Him for the mere asking inside a pillar! Young Prahlad's child-like simple conviction or faith is found ringing in the last line of above song of Kabir मै तो हूं बिस्वास में "I remain in your faith alone".
The mystic relationship is clearly discernible in the poem where God or Supreme Soul offers Himself for union with soul of man in the process of metempsychosis. The fusion in this case of Supreme Soul and Soul of man or Jivatma is based on ''faith alone" as indicated by Kabir.
This is followed by song No.2 राम रहीम एकै है रे, काहे करो लराई e.g There cannot be more than one Sovereign Power or Supreme Godhead of the Universe corresponding to the religious beliefs or paths followed by men on earth. Men being made of same elements and living together on earth, cannot be taken as different from one another just for following different religious beliefs or practices. Though due to their misconceptions they quarrel and fight among themselves at times, if the two Gods Rama and Rahim fought with each other like men, the Universe would go to pieces in no time. Men should disabuse themselves of the misconceptions and stop fighting among themselves following the Gods whom they worship.
The strain of mystic relationship between God and man is discernible here too. Here this is based on love-devotion of man for God Rama in the case of man professing Hinduism and in the case of professing Mohamedanism for Rahim or Allah!, basically the same God.
Taking a random jump to No. 28, it is noticed that the saint-poet is delineating the transitory and uncertain status of the world with which man has to be cautious of the situation. In No. 34 the saint-poet juxtaposes it to the Eternal Land whence man has come to the world. He indicates that man's aim should be that land where he would be going after death, not treating the world as his true home. In No. 38, he points out how with the help of his preceptor he should try to know the love of God which will lead him on to the blessed land.
Taking another random and a long jump to No. 86, we find the saint-poet pointing out how illusions of the world with their agents viz. sense enemies of lust, ire, greed, etc. beset man with problems and try to mislead him. Man should remember the examples of devotees of God such as Dhruva, Prahlad, Bibhisan, etc. and try to take steadfast shelter in the Lord to dispel the agents of illusion and steer clear of their nets.
And in No. 99, the saint-poet delineates the qualities of the true devotee of the Lord. He is free from mundane desires which prompt man to acquire wealth and power, he is always truthful, cool and collected. He looks on all Beings as equal. He never reviles anyone, on the reverse, tolerates harsh words of others. We have noticed that in No. 86, Kabir has called upon the devotees to be firm never to yield to lust and other agents of illusion like exemplary devotees such as Dhruva, Prahlad, Bibhisan, etc. They took firm shelter in the Lord which enabled them to dispel illusion and gain salvation. It is this that the saint-poet pinpoints as the panacea for attaining God-His shelter and singing His praise.
In some of the other songs the saint-poet has emphasised the significance of bearing deep love-devotion in mind for the Lord discarding the ritualistic way of worship such as sacrifice and austerities which are totally in fructuous exercises, says Kabir. We should bear in mind his line:
जस कासी तस मगहर उसर हिरदे राम सति होइ!
In English rendering it reads:
Both Kashi and Magahar,
Are fruitless efforts
Love-devotion to God in mind
Will gain God's blessing, be sure.
Kabir emphasises that devotion is like walking on razor's edge. If man succeeds in this difficult task he will be able to dispel illusion and thereby gain knowledge of Brahma or attain God (vide No. 88). And that will bring him salvation.
In song 93, the saint-poet advocates leading a simple and poor life as opposed to the rich Emir's life. While the former develops humility, the latter pride in man. The former helps man to attain God whereas pride keeps God far away.
Kabir emphasises that by bearing noble character and kindness to all people, banishing pride and untruth and love for mundane pleasures from mind man will gain blessings and kindness of God which will help attain Him (vide Nos. 98 & 99).
In the concluding song (No. 101) the saint-poet gives a pen- picture of the Supreme Soul or Almighty Lord of the Universe. He is the ultimate Supreme Lord who has created the entire Universe and all Beings and things of the three worlds with the help of His agents consisting of crores of Krishnas, Vishnus, Brahmas, Maheswars and countless Gods, Goddesses, learned saints, and others. This gives a clear picture of how the Universe is sustained and run with millions and millions of creatures dwelling in it (vide Nos. 82 & 101).
All these instances as explained above go to show how man by his efforts is in a position to attain God and gain his salvation. And as such they would justify classification as mystic songs.
In the end I would draw the attention of the reader to the last two lines of song No. 27 where Kabir talks about the Embodied and Body-less state of God and concludes saying:
"Says Kabir, I worship the Embodied
I know of the Bodyless One
But beyond both the Embodied and Bodyless
There I fix my attention!"
We may get a glimpse of what Kabir thought about God-man relation from this.
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