Kabir – Indian poet and mystic
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.
Bathe in the truth, know the true Guru, have faith in the true Name!
Kabîr says: “It is the Spirit of the quest which helps;
I am the slave of this Spirit of the quest.”
Kabir Das was a 15th-century Indian mystic. His writings where influenced by the Quran and Hindu Scriptures both. He influenced the Bhakti movement of the Hindus and the Sikh’s scripture Guru Granth Sahib. He lived as a simple weaver, but he was revered as a saint by Hindus and Muslims alike and respectively claimed as a Sûfî or a Brâhman saint.
The poet Kabîr is one of the most interesting personalities in the history of Indian mysticism. Born in or near Benares, of Mohammedan parents, and probably about the year 1440, he became in early life a disciple of the celebrated Hindu ascetic Râmânanda. Râmânanda had brought to Northern India the religious revival which Râmânuja, the great twelfth-century reformer of Brâhmanism, had initiated in the South. This revival was in part a reaction against the increasing formalism of the orthodox cult, in part an assertion of the demands of the heart as against the intense intellectualism of the Vedânta philosophy, the exaggerated monism which that philosophy proclaimed. It took in Râmânuja’s preaching the form of an ardent personal devotion to the God Vishnu, as representing the personal aspect of the Divine Nature: that mystical “religion of love” which everywhere makes its appearance at a certain level of spiritual culture, and which creeds and philosophies are powerless to kill.
Though such a devotion is indigenous in Hinduism, and finds expression in many passages of the Bhagavad Gîtâ, there was in its mediæval revival a large element of syncretism. Râmânanda, through whom its spirit is said to have reached Kabîr, appears to have been a man of wide religious culture, and full of missionary enthusiasm. Living at the moment in which the impassioned poetry and deep philosophy of the great Persian mystics, Attâr, Sâdî, Jalâlu’ddîn Rûmî, and Hâfiz, were exercising a powerful influence on the religious thought of India, he dreamed of reconciling this intense and personal Mohammedan mysticism with the traditional theology of Brâhmanism. We may safely assert, however, that in their teachings, two– perhaps three–apparently antagonistic streams of intense spiritual culture met, as Jewish and Hellenistic thought met in the early Christian Church: and it is one of the outstanding characteristics of Kabîr’s genius that he was able in his poems to fuse them into one.
(Excerpts from the introduction of “The Songs Of Kabir”)
A selection of one hundred poems was compiled in 1915 in a book titled “The Songs of Kabir”. Here is the complete book (English translation by Rabindranath Tagore): The Songs of Kabir