Shabd 16

ramura jhijhi jantar bajai, kar charan bihuna nachai;
kar bihuna bajai sunai shravan binu, shravan shrota soi;
patan subas sabha binu awsar, bujhahu muni jan loi;
indra binu bhog svad jibhya binu, akshai pind bihuna;
jagat chor mandir tahan musai, khasam achhat ghar suna;
bij binu ankur ped binu tariwar, binu phule phal phariya;
banjh ki kokh putra avtariya, binu pag tariwar chadhiya;
masi binu davat kalam binu kagad, binu akshar sudhi hoi;
sudhi binu sahaj gyan binu gyata, kahahi kabir jan soi.

Meaning

O Soul! The musical instrument plays softly, and (the mind) dances without hands and feet; The music is played without hands, and is heard without ears; The listener and the listening merge into one; The mind is controlled, and listens to the divine melody always playing in the master’s court; O intelligent people! Try to understand this; In that state there is enjoyment without senses, and tasting without tongue; There is immortality without the body; The thieves (maya) plunder the temple (body) and though the master is immortal, the house is empty; In that state there is shoot without seed, and tree without stem; And fruit bears without flowers; In the barren womb (empty mind) a son (meditation) is born; And without feet it climbs the tree ( God realization) The ink pot is full without ink, and paper written without pen; Without any writing all is known; Without recollection there is intuitive knowledge in the soul, and it knows all without pursuing knowledge; Kabir says He is the real devotee who understands this.

Commentary

This shabd is full of incompatibilities when seen superficially. How can there be dancing without hands and feet, and enjoyment without any sense organ. What does it mean when the listener and the listening merge into one? What is the thief that plunders the house when the master is right there, and the house is empty? How can the shoot grow without seed, or a tree without stem; and fruit bearing when there are no flowers. In order to try to understand this shabd, it is important to realize that when the knowledge of God is obtained, all incompatibilities disappear; all dualities disappear.

The soft music is the divine melody which is heard when one is in meditation. There is no need for hands and feet that make the mind dance in ecstasy. There is no need for hands to play such music for the divine melody resounds eternally. In that exhalted state of unity, there is no listener or listening. In that state there is no need for any of the sense organs in order to enjoy the bliss that is obtained in God realization. The soul is immortal, and that immortality is realized knowing that the body itself is mortal.

Ordinarily, there is a thief which is called maya or illusion which plunders the temple of this body. It creates various desires and attachments, and robs the mind of its tranquility which is needed for meditation. The immortal soul resides there, but because of the illusive power of maya, the house or the body appears to be abandoned.

In that state of God realization, there is only a state of consciousness in which there is no direction such as up and down, front or back, good or bad, etc. In such an ’empty mind’ occupied in God realization, the state is called meditation. In meditation divine knowledge dawns into the consciousness, and divine knowledge encompasses every other type of knowledge available to man. Guru Kabir thus states the ink pot has ink and the paper is written, though no ink or pen are used. There is no language, yet all is known. Without learning and remembering anything, intuitive knowledge appears. This knowledge is supreme, and supersedes all other knowledge. Guru Kabir is stating that the person who understands this is a true devotee of God.