A 15th Century Sufi Literary Classic
Kabir, a 15th century Indian mystic and poet, is revered by people from all faiths. Kabir was raised within a Muslim family and strongly influenced by his early teacher, the Hindu devotional poet Ramananda. During his own life Kabir was known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, for which he received much persecution. However, when he died both Hindus and Muslims claimed him as one of theirs. Kabir, in his life and his poetry, transcended all barriers of dogma, religion, and nationality. The God that Kabir speaks of is both immanent and transcendent, and beyond even these terms. In his personal life Kabir was a simple man, a weaver by trade, who lived by the work of his hands. Yet his heart was elsewhere, a servant to the Beloved. In essence, Kabir’s poetry is a call for passionate union with the Beloved, beyond all false precepts. For this reason, he is generally seen as being within the Sufi lineage.
Kabir composed poems in a succinct and earthy style, fused with imagery. His poems were in vernacular Hindi, borrowing from various local dialects. Kabir spoke for the people of his day, as he also speaks to the people of today. The Songs of Kabir is as relevant and fresh today as when it was first written – and as important.
Rabindranath Tagore, who translated these poems, is a much loved and respected Indian poet and Nobel Prize winner for literature. He translated and first published the Songs of Kabir in 1915.
- mo ko kahan dhunro bande
O SERVANT, where dost thou seek Me?
Lo! I am beside thee.
I am neither in temple nor in mosque: I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash:
Neither am I in rites and ceremonies, nor in Yoga and renunciation.
If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time.
Kabir says, “O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath.”