“From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad?” Bhagat Kabir Ji was a revolutionary saint-poet of the Bhakti Movement. He emphasized the equality and fraternity of all mankind. Once Bhagat Kabir Ji was going to sell cloth he had made himself. He met some Sadhus (a […]

“From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad?”

Bhagat Kabir Ji was a revolutionary saint-poet of the Bhakti Movement. He emphasized the equality and fraternity of all mankind. Once Bhagat Kabir Ji was going to sell cloth he had made himself. He met some Sadhus (a renunciate spiritual devotee) on the way whom he gave the entire cloth free of cost.

Saint Kabir Das (Kabir, Arabic for “great”, dasa, Sanskrit for “slave” or “servant”), is widely acknowledged as one of the great personality of the Bhakti movement in North India. He was as is widely acknowledged born in Year 1398 A.D.(71 years before Guru Nanak). Kabir panthis (followers of Kabir) say that he lived up to the age of 120 years and give date of his death as 1518, but relying on the research of Hazari Prasad Trivedi, a British Scholar Charlotte Vaudeville is inclined to lend credence to these dates and has proven that 1448 is probably the correct date of Saint Kabir’s demise.

He is one of the medieval Indian saints of Bhakti and Sufi movement whose compositions figure in Sikh Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib. From among all of them, Kabir’s contribution is the largest, 227 Padas in 17 ragas and 237 shlokas. Under each raga or musical mode marking a section of the Holy Book, Kabir’s hymns appear at the head of Bhagat Bani, a generic name for the works of contributors other than the Gurus.

The presence of a substantial amount of Kabir’s verse in the Sikh Scripture Guru Granth Sahib and chronologically he being the predecessor of Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh faith, led some Western scholars to describe him as the forerunner of Sikhism. Some have even called him the preceptor of Guru Nanak

Kabir’s compositions do figure in what are known as Goindval Pothis, anthologies of the hymns of the Gurus along with those of some of the Bhaktas prepared in the time of Guru Amar Das, Guru Nanak. They were included in the Guru Granth Sahib as well. But this happened much later when Guru Arjan, fifth in spiritual line from the Founder, compiled the Holy Book. Besides his own works and those of his four predecessors, he entered the hymns of some saints and mystics, both Hindu and Muslim, of which Kabir was one of them.

Kabir lived in the fifteenth Century after Christ, which was a time of great political upheaval in India. As is true of many contemporary religious teachers, very little reliable information concerning Kabir’s life is available, though there is no dearth of legend gathering around him. Kabir’s life was centered around Kashi, also called Banaras (Varanasi) Legend has it that he was actually the son of a Brahmin widow who abandoned him and that he was found by a Muslim weaver named Niru, who adopted the boy and taught him the weaver’s trade. It is not clear whether he ever married, but tradition gives him a wife named Loi and two children. His caste was that of Julaha and from his sayings his caste’s hereditary occupation of weaving.

On the basis of modern research, it seems probable that Kabir belonged to a family of non-celibate yogis converted, not long before and to a considerable degree superficially to Islam. From the writings of Kabir it seems that his knowledge of Islam was slight, rather in his poetical utterances (Bani) a wealth of Hathayoga terminology and a thought structure which bears obvious resemblance to Nath Yogis. Nath Yogis in addition to the yogic conception that all truth is experimental, i.e. to be realized within the body with the aid of psycho-physical practices, concentration, control of breathing and thus making the body incorruptible and the yogis immortal.

Bhakti movement was started by Hindu saints while Sufi mysticism by Muslim saints in medieval India (1200-1700). Kabir immensely contributed to the Bhakti Movement and is considered a pioneer of Bhakti along with Ravidas, Farid, and Namdev. His concept of love as a path of suffering may possibly indicate, in some measure, a debt to the Sufis. These and other elements from Nath tradition, bhakti and Sufism, Kabir combined with his own mystical nature and produced synthesis which is the distinctive religion of Kabir. Tradition tells us that Swami Ramanand was his Guru (a teacher).

Kabir believed in sell-surrender and God’s bhakti. The Kabirpanthis follow a lite of singing the praises of God, prayers and a simple and pure life of devotion. Kabir recommends ceaseless singing of God’s praises. He virtually suggests withdrawal from the world. He is against all ritualistic and ascetic methods as means to salvation. It is true that Kabir refers to some yogic terms in describing the meditational and mystic methods of the yogis. But, there is no ground to suggest that he himself recommends the yogic path. In fact, far from recommending yoga, he is quite strong in condemning ascetic or yogic methods, and says that yogis, in their meditations, become prey to maya. The point will, however be considered further while comparing Radical bhakti with Nathism.

Bhagat Kabir ji is ranked 5th as regards the volume of Gurbani contributed to SGGS ji, and from the 15 bhagats, he contributed the maximum number of hymns. His total contribution is 541 hymns set to 18 different musical measures (Ragas). Kabir has been accepted as the most revolutionary of all the saints of the Bhagati movement. He was the prominent disciple of Ramanand, and didn’t hesitate to strike blows at futile religious observances & formalism. Ramanand once advised him to get up early in the morning & remember the Lord. This advice impressed him so much that he propagated this throughout is life, awakening masses from their daily slumber of ignorance and uniting them with the Lord.

Besides loving devotion which is the main and dominant theme of Kabir’s Bani as included in SGGS ji, his aim was to free a man from the evil tendencies of ego, deceit, etc. based as they are on superstitions and futility. He criticized caste system, idolatry, and empty ritualism. He had an undying urge to transform a person into a being who is noble and pious spiritually, socially and morally. To achieve his mission, Kabir openly denounced the false superstitions, rituals and practices, in all religions, that had no relevance with the upliftment of human soul with the help of convincing examples. In a hymn included at Ang 324 of SGGS ji, he ridicules the idea that mundan (ritual shaving off a Hindu child’s hair) can lead to God-realization. He says that had it been so, the sheep would have attained liberation several times in its life, since it undergoes the same ritual so often. Similarly, he counteracts the Brahmin’s boast of high caste.

If you are indeed a Brahmin, by thy birth from a Brahmin mother,
then why didn’t you come by some other way? ||2||
With the help of another example, he refused to accept the superior status of Brahmins:

How is it that you are a Brahmin, and I am of a low social status?
How is it that I am formed of blood, and you are made of milk? ||3||

Says Kabeer, one who contemplates God,
is said to be a Brahmin among us. ||4||7||

~ Source- SearchGurbani