Kabir – Biography
“Listen to me, brothers. He understands who loves.” – Kabir
View: Kabir Poetry
Kabir (1440? – 1518) was an Indian Mystic who was much admired and loved by both Hindu, Sikh and Muslims. Kabir preached the underlying unity of humanity, he was a strong believer that God could not be constrained by sectarian and religious divides. Kabir said of himself he was. ” at once the child of Allah and Ram.” Kabir’s philosophy was an amalgamation of Hindu philosophy on reincarnation and a Muslim belief in One God and a rejection of the caste system.
Kabir was born into the holy Indian city of Varanasi. Although a Muslim, Kabir wished to become a disciple of Ramananda who was one of the leading Hindu Saints of the time. Knowing it would be difficult to become a disciple of a Hindu. Kabir lay in waiting by the bathing ghat where Ramananda took his daily bath. As Ramananda came down he tripped over Kabir. This caused Ramananda to utter the words ‘Ram’ ‘Ram’. Kabir took this as his initiation.
However Kabir did not take the life of a monk. He maintained an ordinary family life and earnt a living as a weaver. However although Kabir was illiterate he composed many soulful songs, which expressed his ideas of loving devotion to the Supreme. His innate spirituality attracted many followers from both Hindu and Muslim sections of the population. However his universal philosophy didn’t endear him to the prevailing authorities. Kabir was distrusted by then they felt threatened by his popular appeal and rejection of othodoxy. He was charged with religious heresy and at the age of 60 was banished from the Kingdom. Henceforth Kabir lived the life of a wandering mendicant.
There are many legends surrounding the life and death of Kabir. One legend says he was born following a visit by his mother to a Hindu temple; Kabir was then put up for adoption. Another legend says that after his death there was disagreement amongst his followers about where to put his ashes. His Hindu followers wanted to cremate him. His Muslim followers wanted to bury him. Kabir is said to have appeared and with a bunch of flowers that were to be divided between the different groups.
Kabir is still widely read in India. Rabindranath Tagore helped to popularise him in the West with a translation of his songs. His poems are characterised by a sharp wit and a direct and uncluttered approach. He could also be quite mocking of those who were pious without genuine spirituality
Chandrakantha.com – Kabir
Songs of Kabir byRabindranath Tagore
Poem by Kabir
“If your bonds be not broken, whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
“It is 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 go to dwell in the city of Death.”