DELHI, October 18, 2012 - The problem with writing about religion is that most people presume that you are a fanatic.
Ever since I have started writing this column, I have been scared of being accused of just that. That is the tragedy of the present times.
I feel disgusted with myself when I have such fears in my mind. I tell myself not to bother about what others are thinking, but if I am expecting them to read my writings, then I better also worry about their thoughts, reactions and counter-reactions. I am not attempting to mold people’s thinking or belief systems, I am just sharing whatever little I have learned.
I have very fondly read the old and the new testaments of the Bible, I have read several interpretations of the holy Quran, and have also read dozens of Hindu scripts, and I say with much pride that all religions have the same teachings and same messages of love, oneness and peace.
This article is dedicated to all the opponents, the skeptics and the confidants of any form of writing related to any religion. I think such pieces should be welcomed with an open mind.
I want to share the life history of legendary Indian poet Sant Kabir to make a point. Just make a point, not prove one!
Kabir was a poet in 15th century India. He is called ‘Sant Kabir’ as Sant means ‘Saint’, and that he was. He excelled beyond the boundaries of caste, creed, religion and everything that compartmentalizes us and our society.
It is believed that Kabir was born to a Hindu mother and father, who abandoned him after birth. There are no reasons known for their abandonment. A Muslim couple found the abandoned boy and decided to adopt him. He was taught by a religious Hindu guru. He is known to be a contemporary of a Sikh Guru, and it is claimed that many Sikh writings are inspired by Kabir. He is now followed as a guru himself by a group called ‘kabir panthis’ or the ‘followers of Kabir’.
One man rolling up Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism and a sect of his own into himself! I am sure that if Christianity would have entered India during his time, even Christians would have claimed some bit of Kabir simply because no one can escape being inspired by his teachings and thoughts.
When he was alive, there was a constant controversy about his religious affiliations. And he continued to detach himself from any. He also wrote extensively criticizing superstitious practices of all religions. He promoted religious brotherhood through his poetry, which continues to inspire people. Kabir was also known for his sarcasm in banishing religious practices.
He also created a unique bonding between religions, though unintentionally. If you ever notice, ‘Kabir’ is a rare example of a name used by Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims equally. That is because, one, all have an equal claim on him, and more importantly, because, all relate to him and want him to be theirs.
Kabir was truly a spiritual person who believed in universality and oneness.
Kabir was illiterate. But he ended up giving to India, and to the world, some of the best poems on social issues, religion and spirituality. It is believed that he used to sing his verses randomly, sometimes not with the perfect grammar due to his lack of literacy, and his disciples wrote those down.
These verses have now become strong texts of research, and have been translated the world over. They are used as songs by many. One of his punchlines ‘kahat kabir suno bhai sadho’ meaning, ‘listen to what I say, says Kabir’ has been used by others to promote their poetry as that of Kabir.
And amid all these claims and controversies, Kabir continues to stand above in his spiritual, immortal avatar.
These are just a few samples of the thousands of verses he wrote.
On Hindu-Muslim dichotomy
Hindu kahat hai Ram hamara, Musalmaan Rahmana
Aapas mein dau ladau marart hai, maram koi na jaana
Hindu says Ram is supreme, Muslim says Rahman is supreme
Both are out to kill each other, without knowing the meaning of the supreme himself
Hindu ki daya, mahar turkan ki, dono ghar se bhaagi
Wo kare jibah, wo jhatka maare, aag dau ghar laagi
The concept of clemency is lacking in both religions
Hindus kill in one go, Muslims do halal, and houses of both burn
On worldy issues
Kabira khada bazaar mein, sabki maange khair
Naa kisi se dosti, naa kisi se bair
Kabir stands in the middle of the road, praying for the wellbeing of all
He is neither friends with anyone, nor has an enemy
Chalti chakki dekh ke, diya Kabira roye
Do patan ke beech mein, sabut bacha na koye
Referring to traditional style grinding machines, (which have one heavy slab of stone on top and one at the bottom. Pulses or wheat is put through a hole between the slabs. A handle on top is used to rotate the slab above the pulses to grind them), Kabir says that he cries to see that between the grinding slabs of sky and the earth, everyone is a mortal being, everything dies one day!
Saanch barabar tap nahin, jhooth barabar paap
Jake hriday saanch hai, take hriday aap
No meditation is bigger than the truth, and no vice is bigger than a lie
The one who has truth in his mind, owns you (the divine) in his heart
On the search of the lord
Paani beech meen pyasi
Mohi suni suni avat haansi
Atam gyaan bina sab soona
Kya Mathura kya Kaasi
Mrigh ki naabhi maahi kasturi
Ban ban phirat udaasi
Kahat Kabir suno bhai sadhu
Sahaj mile avinasi
Drawing an analogy to a fish thirsty in water as something that makes Kabir laugh, he says, a deer keeps running through the forest in search of the fragrance that is, in fact, hidden in its own body. Kabir says, without the knowledge of the spiritual, going to religious pilgrimages is worthless. We need to search for the divine within our own self, and then finding him will be very simple and easy.
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