Kabir of the Four Yugas
One of India's Greatest Poet-mystics
By James Bean
Copyright March 2004
Kabir lived during the fifteenth century, born near Banaras, India of Muslim parents. He grew in the impassioned poetry and deep philosophy of the Persian mystics like Jalaludin Rumi. He is, as he
says in his hymns, "at once the child of Allah and of Ram". He achieved a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim belief and freely used symbols from both religions. He was a weaver, a simple and unlettered man, who earned his leaving at the loom. It is out of the heart of the common life that he sings his rapturous lyrics of divine love.
"Kabir" is an Islamic name popular in the Muslim world - it's one of the "Ninety-Nine Names of Allah" found in the Koran, meaning, "The Greatest". Kabir was indeed a great soul, a kind of "Christ" of northern India, believed by some to be one of the most advanced souls to ever incarnate into the world. Today, Kabir has over twenty-five million devotees in various Kabir Panth and Sant lineages, and is universally loved by Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims alike. Kabir's hymns are still sung in the satsangs (spiritual gatherings) of various spiritual Paths all over India and the world.
Kabir is Everyone's Universal Saint
- a Master or Sat Guru of Surat Shabda Yoga and Sant Mat mysticism;
- musician and poet of Nirguna Bhakti (love and devotion for the One Formless God);
- a great teacher of eastern mysticism and gnosticism;
- peace maker between Hindus and Muslims;
- a social reformer in India who denounced the caste system;
- considered by many in Islam to be a Sufi Master or Murshid;
- considered by Hindus to be one of India's greatest poet-mystics and Vaishnava devotees in the history of India;
- considered a Bhagat by the Sikhs -- many of his hymns are included in the Adi Granth (Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh bible);
- was greatly influenced by Goraknath and the Nath Yogis, and the Nath
Yogis of northern India were, in turn, influenced by Tantric Buddhism;
- And some Christian missionaries at first thought Kabir might have been a Christian mystic due to his use of the mystic term "Word" or "Shabda" - Celestial Music, which reminded them of the Gospel of John, chapter one: "In the beginning was the Word..."
Kabir freely used both Hindu and Islamic names for God. He attempted to make peace between Hindus and Muslims by pointing out that there is not a separate God for the East and West, but one Spirit Supreme.
The Hindu says Ram is supreme
the Muslim, Rahim
both die fighting each other
neither knowing the Truth.
The south is Hari's abode; Allah's camp
is in the west. Look inside your own heart -
inside your heart of hearts - there is His abode, His camp.
If Hari is merciful
He will place love in your heart,
and you shall obtain
the fruit of His name.
Allah, Ram, I live by Your name.
Kabir views humanity as being caught up in illusion, searching for Ultimate Reality in all the wrong places, always seeking It outside of ourselves in various rituals, temples, forests and mountaintops, not realizing That for which we seek is already hidden within us.
Your God dwells within you
like fragrance in the flower;
Musk lies within the Musk-deer
yet seeks it afar.
For Kabir, God, called "Allah" in the west and "Hari" in the east, can be experienced directly in a rapturous meditative state of Love, Bliss, visions of Light, Heavenly Sound - a total oneness of
soul and Oversoul in the Ocean of Love.
Kabir's spirituality is a blend of Prem-Bhakti: love and devotion for the Beloved, and Shabda Yoga: mystical or soul travel experiences of a visionary or auditory nature.
This is my all-time favorite poem of Kabir, and it illustrates Kabir's approach to God as that of a lover for the Beloved.
How could the love between Thee and me sever?
As the leaf of the water abides on the water:
so Thou art my Lord, and I am Thy servant.
As the night-bird Chakor gazes all night at the moon:
so Thou art my lord and I am Thy servant.
From the beginning until the ending of time,
there is love between Thee and me;
and how shall such love be extinguished?
Kabir says: "As the river enters into the ocean,
so my heart touches Thee."
That's from the book Songs of Kabir by Rabindrath Tagore. From that same translation here are verses where Kabir described some of his own mystical experiences.
What a wonderful lotus it is, that
blooms at the heart of the spinning
wheel of the universe! Only a few
pure souls know of its true delight.
Music is all around it, and there the
heart partakes of the joy of the
Rapture wells forth, and all space is
radiant with light.
There the Unstruck Music is sounded;
It is the music of the
There the whole sky is filled with
sound, and there that music is
made without fingers and without
The effulgence of the Supreme Being
is beyond the imagination:
Ineffable is His beauty,
to see it is the only proof.
Below is a list of recommended key translations of Kabir in English. In addition to those, I also want call attention to a book called, The Anurag Sagar, (Kabir's Ocean of Love),
published by Sant Bani Books, Sanbornton, New Hampshire, USA 03269.
The Anurag Sagar is an epic reminiscent of the Ghat Ramayana of Tulsi Das and the Bhagavad Gita of the Mahabharata. In India this text serves as a kind of "Genesis", "Gospel", and "Book of Revelation" all in one, a kind of gospel of Kabir, if you will. It summarizes the teachings of Kabir about the creation of the universe and higher planes, the origin of evil and suffering in the world, the Path to freedom from transmigration and reincarnation, and about Kabir's past lives. It is believed that Kabir incarnated during each of the Four Yugas or epochs of time to establish lineages of spiritual Masters in the world in order to enlighten humanity. This Ocean of Love or Anurag Sagar is also a valuable manuel for learning about meditation practice.
Recommend Books On Kabir:
- Songs of Kabir, Rabindranath Tagore, Samuel Weiser Books;
- The Bijak of Guru Kabir, Dr. Jagessar Das,Published by The Kabir Association # 208 - 14770 64th Avenue, Surry, B.C. CANADA V3S 1X7
- Lord Kabir, Sharan Mahotra, SK Publications, 4S 175 Naperville
Rd, Naperville, IL 60563;
- A Weaver Named Kabir, Charlotte Vaudeville, Oxford University
- The Kabir Book, Robert Bly, Beacon Press, Boston;
- Praises to a Formless God, David Lorenzen, SUNY Press, NY
- Kabir - The Weaver of God's Name, Radha Soami Books;