Kabir: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Al-Kabir ("the Great") is also one of the 99 names of God in Islam. For a complete disambiguation page, see Kabir (disambiguation)
Satguru Kabir

A painting of Kabir
Born 1440
Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India
Occupation weaver

Kabīr (also Kabīra) (Hindi: कबीर, Punjabi: ਕਬੀਰ, Urdu: کبير‎) (1440—1518)[1] was a mystic poet and saint of India, whose writings have greatly influenced the Bhakti movement.[2]. The name Kabir comes from Arabic Al-Kabīr which means 'The Great' - the 37th Name of God in the Qur'an.

Apart from having an important influence on Sikhism (he is considered one of the 15 Sikh Bhagats and his work included in the Guru Granth Sahib), Kabir's legacy is today carried forward by the Kabir Panth ("Path of Kabir"), a religious community that recognizes him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members, known as Kabir panthis, are estimated to be around 9,600,000. They are spread over north and central India, as well as dispersed with the Indian diaspora across the world[3], up from 843,171 in the 1901 census[4].


Early life and background

The story is told that on one particular day of the year, anyone can become a disciple by having a master speak the name of God over him. It is common for those who live near the Ganges to take their morning bath there in the sacred waters. The bhakti saint Ramananda was in the habit of arising before dawn to take his bath. On this special day too, he awoke before dawn and found his way down to the steps of the Ganges. As he was walking down the steps to the waters, a little hand reached out and grabbed the saint's big toe. Ramananda was taken by surprise, and he involuntarily called out the name of God. Looking down, he saw in the early morning light the hand of the young Kabir. After his bath, he noticed that on the back of the little one's hand was written in Arabic the name Kabir. He adopted him as son and disciple and brought him back to his ashrama, much to the consternation of his Hindu students, some of whom left in protest.

It is said that what really made this meeting special is that it was only after Kabir's enlightenment that Ramananda, his teacher, became enlightened.

Not much is known about what sort of spiritual training Kabir may have received. He did not become a sadhu, nor did he ever abandon worldly life. Kabir chose instead to live the balanced life of a householder and mystic, a tradesman and contemplative.


Kabir was influenced by the prevailing religious mood of his times, such as old Brahmanic Hinduism, Hindu and Buddhist Tantrism, the teachings of Nath yogis and the personal devotionalism of South India mixed with the imageless God of Islam.[5] The influence of these various doctrines is clearly evident in Kabir's verses. Eminent historians like R.C. Majumdar, P.N. Chopra, B.N. Puri and M.N. Das have held that Kabir is the first Indian saint to have harmonised Hinduism and Islam by preaching a universal path which both Hindus and Muslims could tread together.[6] But there are a few critics who contest such claims.[5]

The basic religious principles he espoused are simple. According to Kabir, all life is an interplay of two spiritual principles. One is the personal soul (Jivatma) and the other is God (Paramatma). It is Kabir's view that salvation is the process of bringing into union these two divine principles. The incorporation of much of his verse in Sikh scripture, and the fact that Kabir was a predecessor of Guru Nanak, have led some western scholars to mistakenly describe him as a forerunner of Sikhism.[7]

His greatest work is the Bijak (the "Seedling"), an idea of the fundamental one. This collection of poems demonstrates Kabir's own universal view of spirituality. His vocabulary is replete with ideas regarding Brahman and Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation. His Hindi was a vernacular, straightforward kind, much like his philosophies. He often advocated leaving aside the Qur'an and Vedas and simply following Sahaja path, or the Simple/Natural Way to oneness in God. He believed in the Vedantic concept of atman, but unlike earlier orthodox Vedantins, he followed this philosophy to its logical end by spurning the Hindu societal caste system and worship of murti, showing clear belief in both bhakti and Sufi ideas. The major part of Kabir's work as a bhagat was collected by the fifth Sikh guru, Guru Arjan Dev, and forms a part of the Sikh scripture Guru Granth Sahib.

While many ideas reign as to who his living influences were, the only Guru of whom he ever spoke was Satguru. Hence one does not find any mention of human gurus in his verses.

Poetry career

His poems resonate with praise for the true guru who reveals the divine through direct experience, and denounce more usual ways of attempting god-union such as chanting, austerities, etc. His verses, which being illiterate he never expressed in writing and were spoken in vernacular Hindi, often began with some strongly worded insult to get the attention of passers-by. Kabir has enjoyed a revival of popularity over the past half century as arguably the most accessible and understandable of the Indian saints, with a special influence over spiritual traditions such as those of Sant Mat, Garib Das and Radha Soami.


See also

Further reading

  • Kabir Sahib - कबीर साहिब - The Real & Complete biography of kabir Sahib
  • An Introduction to Sri Guru Granth Sahib by Sarup Singh Alag.Distributed Free.
  • Songs of Kabir, tr. by Rabindranath Tagore, 1985 ed., Forgotten Books. ISBN 1605066435.
  • Songs of Kabir from the Adi Granth, tr. by Nirmal Dass. SUNY Press, 1991. ISBN 0791405605.
  • A Weaver Named Kabir: Selected Verses with a Detailed Biographical and Historical Introduction, new ed., by Charlotte Vaudeville, New York, 1998, Oxford U. Press. ISBN 0195639332.
  • Kabir: Ecstatic Poems, tr. by Robert Bly. Beacon Press, 2004. ISBN 0807063843.

.* Kabir ke dohey all of Kabir's dohas - document created by Anant Upadhyayula

External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time.

Kabir (14401518) was an Indian poet, mystic and philosopher, and one of the Nothern India Sants.




Quotes from various translations of the Bijak [Seedling], an early compilation of Kabir's poetry.

  • I've burned my own house down, the torch is in my hand.
    Now I'll burn down the house of anyone who wants to follow me.
    • The Bijak of Kabir (1983;2002) as translated by Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh.
  • Admire the diamond that can bear the hits of a hammer. Many deceptive preachers, when critically examined, turn out to be false.
    • Sakhi, 168; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.
  • Don't open your diamonds in a vegetable market. Tie them in bundle and keep them in your heart, and go your own way.
    • Sakhi, 170; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.
  • A diamond was laying in the street covered with dirt. Many fools passed by. Someone who knew diamonds picked it up.
    • Sakhi, 171; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.

Songs of Kabîr (1915)

Translations of Kabir's poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, with alternate translations of some passages also provided.


  • O servant, where dost thou seek Me?
    Lo! I am beside thee.

    I am neither in temple nor in mosque: I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash:
    Neither am I in rites and ceremonies, nor in Yoga and renunciation.
    If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time.
    • Variant translation: Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
      My shoulder is against yours.

      you will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine
      rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
      not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
      around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but
      When you really look for me, you will see me
      instantly —
      you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
      • As translated by Robert Bly in The Kabir Book (1977) Jai RAM!!
  • Kabîr says, "O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath.
    • Variant translation: Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
      He is the breath inside the breath
      • As translated by Stephen Mitchell in The Enlightened Heart (1993)


  • It is needless to ask of a saint the caste to which he belongs;
    For the priest, the warrior. the tradesman, and all the thirty-six castes, alike are seeking for God.

    It is but folly to ask what the caste of a saint may be;
    The barber has sought God, the washerwoman, and the carpenter —
    Even Raidas was a seeker after God.
  • Hindus and Moslems alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.


  • O friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.
    If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
    It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him because it has passed from the body:
    If He is found now, He is found then,
    If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
    If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.


File:Lotus 31 by dlee.jpg
In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.
  • Do not go to the garden of flowers!
    O Friend! go not there;
    In your body is the garden of flowers.
    Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.


  • Open your eyes of love, and see Him who pervades this world! consider it well, and know that this is your own country.
  • When you meet the true Guru, He will awaken your heart;
    He will tell you the secret of love and detachment, and then you will know indeed that He transcends this universe.
  • He is the Ultimate Rest unbounded: He has spread His form of love throughout all the world.
    From that Ray which is Truth, streams of new forms are perpetually springing: and He pervades those forms.
  • There the Unstruck Music eddies around the Infinite One;
    There in the midst the Throne of the Unheld is shining, whereon the great Being sits —
    Millions of suns are shamed by the radiance of a single hair of His body.
  • On the harp of the road what true melodies are being sounded! and its notes pierce the heart:
    There the Eternal Fountain is playing its endless life-streams of birth and death.
  • They call Him Emptiness who is the Truth of truths, in Whom all truths are stored!
    There within Him creation goes forward, which is beyond all philosophy; for philosophy cannot attain to Him: There is an endless world, O my Brother! and there is the Nameless Being, of whom naught can be said.
    Only he knows it who has reached that region: it is other than all that is heard and said.
    No form, no body, no length, no breadth is seen there: how can I tell you that which it is?
  • He comes to the Path of the Infinite on whom the grace of the Lord descends: he is freed from births and deaths who attains to Him.
    Kabîr says: "It cannot be told by the words of the mouth, it cannot be written on paper: It is like a dumb person who tastes a sweet thing — how shall it be explained?"

Azfar Hussain translations

Poems of Kabir, as translated by Azfar Hussain, in Reading About the World, Vol. 2 ISBN 0-8281-0849-8

  • I do not quote from the scriptures;
    I simply see what I see.
  • When the bride is one
    with her lover,
    who cares about
    the wedding party?
  • I am not a Hindu,
    Nor a Muslim am I!
    I am this body, a play
    Of five elements; a drama
    Of the spirit dancing
    With joy and sorrow.
  • A drop
    Melting into the sea,
    Everyone can see.
    But the sea
    In a drop —
    A rare one
    can follow!
  • I am looking at you,
    You at him,
    Kabir asks, how to solve
    This puzzle —
    You, he, and I?

Quotes about Kabir

  • While there is evidence that both Hindus and Muslims were ready to assault Kabir physically during his lifetime, they have since his death been ready to assault each other over the privilege of claiming him as their own. ... Some modern commentators have tried to present Kabir as a synthesizer of Hinduism and Islam; but the picture is a false one. While drawing on various traditions as he saw fit, Kabir emphatically declared his independence from both the major religions of his countrymen, vigorously attacked the follies of both, and tried to kindle the fire of similar autonomy and courage in those who claimed to be his disciples.
    • Linda Hess in the Introduction to The Bijak of Kabir (1983;2002)

This quote of Kabir is mistranslated:

When you were born in this world Everyone laughed while you cried Conduct not yourself in manner such That they laugh when you are gone.

Correct translation: O Kabir, when you were born, you cried while others laughed. Perform such deeds that when dying, you laugh while others cry.

External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

Simple English

Kabir (1440?-1518?) was one of the important saints of Hinduism. Both Hindus and Muslims respected Kabir. He was a disciple of Ramananda.


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