Poetry - A Road to Universal Brotherhood
Dr. Arti Kumari, M. A., M.
Ed, Phd. (English)
Higher Secondary Teacher, Govt. High School, Bramhpura,
Muzaffarpur (Bihar) - India
Ph. 8084505505, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Pothi Padhi padhi jag mua,
pandit bhaya na koi
Dhai akshar prem ka,
Padhe so pandit hoi.
Simple and plain words written by a person who was not schooled or
tutored but whatever he uttered or spoke; they turned out to be an
unceasing voice of the world. He is Kabir whose personality is an
amalgamation of so many virtues. His uttering has been coming down to us
and making our barren land fertile with wisdom. He appeared on the
screen just like a great saint who with his preaching showed us the way
piercing the pitch darkness of ignorance in which he found the men
groping. Kabir was really a great thinker, a profound philosopher, a
good preceptor, a great teacher, a radical reformer and what not. Kabir
I don't touch ink or paper
this hand never grasped a pen.
The greatness of four ages
Kabir tells with his mouth alone.
But whatever he communicated it can't be told by an erudite or a common
man who is easily caught up in the mesh of worldly problems, bounded by
urgency of pressing needs and troubled by convention.
Kabir was born at a time when there was instability in both political
and religious spheres of the country and religion was the greatest tool
at the hands of the hypocrites. The religion and belief of the people of
the country were splintered into several sects and cults, such as,
Buddhism, Jainism, Sufism, Nath sect, Adwait of Shankar and
Vishishtadwait of Ramanuj. Societies were splitting into segments due to
the caste status and creeds galvanized by Brahmanism. The people of the
privileged castes and Shudras were falling apart, as both harboured
prejudice against each other. When Kabir observed this great deal of
fraud and falsehood practiced in the name of religion, he spoke the
truth, which needed much courage.
Kabir did not set down anything in writing; he only sang and gave
utterances to his insight and prophetic vision, which became household
maxims for the generations to come. If poetry could reach the height of
a spell, it was here. He poured his soul in pithy aphoristic dohas, each
quintessence of his life-experience. His bhajans are so soothing,
pleasing and tunable that they work upon our mind and body. It injects a
new spirit into our veins and we feel rejuvenated.
Even Gandhiji appears brought under the profound impact of Kabir. He
mentioned that he felt delighted listening Kabir's bhajan "Jhini Jhini
bini chadariya" and included this poem in his daily prayer.
Kabir was a firm advocate of Truth and Non-violence. He says, "No act of
devotion can equal truth; No crime is so heinous as falsehood; in the
heart where truth abides, there is God's abode".
Westcott held him as a Mohammadan Sanit, P.C. Verma called him a Saviour
of Hinduism from Islam. Recent writers have presented him as a social
revolutionary comparable to Gandhi. William J. Dwyer sees him as a Bhakt,
but he was a saint poet and to think of the good of others and to
galvanize the mass with his poetic utterances was the mission of his
life. He worked for betterment to others at the cost of his own
comforts. He says-
"O Kabir, no matter if you are deceived but do not deceive others.
If you do so it will bring hell to you."
He lays emphasis on the purifications of mind rather than the
purification of body.
Nahay dhoa kya bhaya,
Jo man mail door na Jaye
Meen sada jal main rahe,
Dhoa baas na Jaye
The essence of Kabir's effort as a teacher may be stated plainly; he
wants to make people honest. He says, "What is the use of all these
ceremonial and rituals when men harbour dacoit within and practice fraud
under the name of holiness." If Kabir insisted on anything, it was on
the penetration of everything inessential, every layer of dishonesty and
delusion. He believes that complete honesty provides a realization of
complete truth--understanding of the nature of consciousness, the
relation of individual and universe, inside and outside, life and death.
The individual must find the truth in his own body and mind, so simple,
so direct, that the line between 'him' and 'it' disappears. There seems
to be a God at the heart of his enlightenment. One of the formulaic
phrases in Kabir's verses is "Ghat Ghat me", in every body, in every
vessel the truth is close--closer than close. All that he suggests to us
is to experience or realize that entity in our within.
"Search thy heart within the inner core"
Ram and Rahman live there.
Kabir may also legitimately be called a crusader in as much as he raised
his voice against everything that was meaningless. It is a social and
ethical reformer that Kabir claims the attention of modern radical in as
much as he like the Budha denounced the folly of social inequality and
the injustice perpetrated in the name of caste. Kabir shares a rare kind
of catholicity and humanism with Marathi poet Namdev, Punjabi Poet
Nanak, Telegu poet Vemana, Kannada poet Basaveshwar and Gujrati poet
Akho which broke all conventions of caste, creed or cult. He openly
criticized all sects and gave a new direction to the Indian philosophy.
Kabir is being re-evaluated as the first rebel poet and the earliest
modernist in Hindi criticism (Purbi Times, Kabir special Number, June
1966, articles by Yashpal, Sampurnanad, Amritlal Nagar, Ali Sardar Jafri
,Firaq Gorakhpuri and others). One young critic, Thakur Prasad Singh,
has in all seriousness gone to the extent of calling Kabir the
grandfather of Beat poetry in Hindi.
The impression left after reading Kabir is that of a person who is
transformed or touched to the core. This is due to his straightforward
approach that he is held in high esteem all over the world and to call
Kabir a universal Guru in not an exaggeration.
Kabir ridiculed the orthodoxy of both Hindus and Muslims and challenged
them like any later scientific rationalist, to justify their Sham and
It was here that Kabir was at war with his social situation;
"Muslim, he says, observe fast during day
And kill cows at night.
They shed blood and then pray to God.
How can they please God?"
He does not spare even the Hindus;
"Hindus appreciate themselves but do not allow other (people of low
caste) to touch their pots. But lo! they sleep under Harlot's feet."
He appears a stern realist like G.B. Shaw, an iconoclastic reformer, an
innovator of new ideas. Fiercely independent, Kabir has become an icon
of speaking truth to power. In a blunt and uncompromising style, he
exhorted his listener to say their delusion, pretensions, orthodoxies
and naive belief in favour of direct experience of Truth. He satirized
hypocrisy, greed and violence-especially among the religions. Belonging
to a social group widely considered low and unclean, he criticized caste
ideology and declared the equality of all human beings. "Neither the
Brahman is high- caste, nor is the Shudra low. Why hate one another?
Hatred is folly".
He preached simplicity and contentment and believed that everyone should
do physical labour and stick to his own profession; no one should steal
another person's property. He did not spare even royal greed and
political aggrandizement and asks the question;
'Gathering forces and besieging castles sowing off his prowess-is this
the only job of a Badshah (monarch)? When the emperor dies, what remains
of this game?'
He spoke out his mind fearlessly and never made it his object merely to
please his hearers. Sometimes he was extremely bitter and in being so he
is not unjustified because poetry is nothing if it is not an unafraid
utterance or an unlatched articulation. It makes a different norm of
truth, a different decree of intimacy and different order of appeal. It
is these verses of Kabir which communicate dissonance and prepare ground
for artistic maturity in his poetry through universal appeal. He
formulated a general principle to put an end to all formal precept and
inspired people to live in love with each other without making
discrimination between man and woman. The central theme of his teaching,
therefore, is the power of love.
In his opinion true religion teaches love and harmony. In the presence
of this all pervading love, all differences between high and low, rich
and poor, Hindus and Muslims, Turks and Christians vanish. Kabir felt in
trying to establish universal religion which could be in tune with the
needs of the age and could also be able to keep itself intact against
the vicious currents of different religions.
Kabir speaks to us in a direct and uninhibited tone that invariably
shakes us out of our slumber like existence. The instructions are simple
yet deep, obvious yet multi-layered, challenging yet caring, powerful
yet empowering irreverent, yet deeply devotional. Indeed, Kabir lived
what he preached, or more accurately preached what he lived.
Kabir's voice is a simple manifestation of his experience. Kabir despite
being in the world was above worldly desires and longings and this was
the kind of eternal massage he gave to human kind through his powerful
and nectarous voice. As a matter of fact, Kabir celebrates a genuine
insider rather than a studious outsider. These lines show a lyrical
charm and go deeper into our mind, make us aware of the real meaning of
Knowledge. But to attain the real knowledge Kabir emphasises on the
importance of Guru. Kabir doesn't consider that Guru is the man who
teaches in the classroom but Guru is one who guides us through
encircling gloom and provides self- knowledge which ultimately leads us
to the path of salvation. He expresses his gratitude to Satguru and
Guru Ko Keijai Dandavat,
Keet Na Jaane Bhringa Ko,
Guru Kar Le Aap Samaan.
David Courtney, Ph.D. has expressed that Kabir is a very important
figure in Indian history. He is unusual in that he is spiritually
significant to Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims alike. The social and
practical manifestation of Kabir's philosophy has rung through the ages.
It represented a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim concepts. From Hinduism
he accepts the concept of reincarnation and the law of Karma. From Islam
he takes the affirmation of the single God and the rejection of the
caste system and idolatry. Not only has Kabir influenced Muslims and
Hindus but he is one of the major inspirations behind Sikhism as well.
The basic religious principles he espouses are simple.
It is by the spontaneous expressions of Kabir's vision and his love, and
not by the didactic teachings associated with his name, that he makes
his immortal appeal to the heart. In his poems we find a wide range of
mystical emotion brought into play- from the loftiest abstractions, the
most otherworldly passion for the infinite to the most intimate and
personal realisation of God expressed in homely metaphors and religious
symbols that is drawn indifferently from Hindu and Mohammedan belief.
The words in the praise of God and the feelings that came out of Kabir's
tongue are not the feelings of one person named Kabir only and not that
it came for the first time through Kabir but this remained the feelings
of devotees at all the times in past and I believe that this will remain
the feelings of devotees in future too.
Kabir, in his age, was much worried on the degradation of human values
and through his words led emphasis on Love, Devotion, Caution,
Selfishness, Salvation, Deeds, Truth, Karma etc and tried to lift the
moral of the people. Kabir was really such a saint who worked as a torch
bearer and tried to pull the people out from the darkness. Kabir had
such transcendental and pious eyes that he could not find a person whom
he could call bad, as he himself says,
'Bura jo Dekhan main chalaa,
Bura na miliya koye
Jo dil khoja aapna,
Mujh sa bura na hoye
Kabir was not attributed any Title by the then rulers; no glory was
thrusted upon his head but he was born great and he achieved greatness
by his rare virtues. The greatest quality of Kabir's personality was his
originality and he was a man of independent outlook. According to Dr.
H.P. Dwivedi, he was a fakkar steadfast, humble before a devotee,
horrible for a hop, pure at heart, psychologically sane, soft from
within, rough in appearance, untouchable by birth and revered by action.
We sincerely feel that Kabir is alive even today. The universality of
Kabir, like Shakespeare is a truth in itself. He is not made up of mass,
he is an undying fragrance, ever pleasing, soothing, vibrating, and
stealing secretly into one's heart. He is relevant even today because he
spoke against hypocrites coaxed the fine of equality, brotherhood and
non-violence. The very texture of human sensibility was stirred up by
the hymns of Kabir. He tries to put his finger on the basic yearnings of
man, the eternal quest for internal peace, the 'angst' of a person
functioning in a 'maladjusted society.' Where religions turn into
hide-bound ritualistic codes, where philosophies turn into mere verbal
jugglery and linguistic labyrinths, where there is a crisis of
conscience and the leadership is lame,
Kabir's poetry serves as a great inspiration. At times, he seems to
shock us by ripping open the Shams and exposing the double-talk and
double-think of the so called respectable learned, yet there is no note
of despair. He has always hoped beyond. No doubt the springs of this
hope are spiritual and it may be argued that today in an age of 'no
values', all that sounds unreal. But Kabir has much left in his poetry,
even when one does not agree with his theism and so to enjoy Kaibr, one
need not be a Kabir-panthi. Here lies the secret of his ever continuing
greatness as a poet: he transcends time and place.
1. Das, Shyamsundar, ed, Kabir granthawali. Varanasi:
Naggri Pracharini Sabha, 1928
2. Dwivedi Hazari Prasad, Kabir 2nd enlarged edition, Hindi Grantha,
Ratnakar, Bombay 1960
3. Keay, F.E., Kabir and his Followers: Oxford University Press,
4. Westcott, G.H. Kabir and Kabirpanth, Reprint ed. Delhi, Bhartiya
Publishing House, 1974
5. Introduction and translation from Hindi and notes by Vaudeville
Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1974
6. Sarnam Singh Sharma, Kabir: Vyaktitma Krititwa Abam Sidhant,
Champalal Ranka and Co. Jaipur, p-37
7. Kabir Granthawali, Dr. Bhagwat Swarup Mishra,
8. Kabir granthavali, Dr.Parasnath Tiwari,
(Published in Kafla Intercontinental
- Jan-April 2013)