Shabd 17

ramahi gawai owrahin samjhawai, hari jane binu bikal phire;
jehi mukh ved gayatri uchare, jake bachan sansar tare;
jake panw jagat uthi lage, so brahman jiw badh kare;
apan unch nich ghar bhojan, ghin karm hathi bodra bhare;
grahan amawas dhuki dhuki mange, kar dipak liye kup pare;
ekadashi vrat nahi jane, bhut pret hathi hridai dhare,
taji kapur ganthi vish bandhe; gyan gawanwe mugdh phire,
chhijai sahu chor pratipale; sant jana ki kuti kare,
kahahin kabir jibhya ke lampat; yehi bidhi prane nark pare.

Meaning

There are some violent brahmins who sing of Ram and explain him to others, but without knowing God they wander restlessly; They recite the Vedas and the Gayatri, and the ignorant people think that with those words they will obtain liberation; The brahmins at whose feet the people bow down, those same brahmins kill living creatures; They think themselves high but eat at the closed places of the low caste, and they fill their bellies by doing evil actions; When there is an eclipse and the night is dark, they go house to house begging; with light (Vedas) in their hands they fall into the well (ignorance); They do not know the secret of the Ekadasi fast, and their minds are filled with the stories of demons and ghosts; They give up camphor (truth) and accept a knot of poison (ignorance); wasting knowledge they wander foolishly; They destroy nobility and nurture thieves; they even tease the saints; Kabir says that these people are lustful of taste, and they become victims of hell.

Commentary

There are many false teachers of religion in the world who are themselves bound up with evils and passions. The brahmins think of themselves as belonging to the high caste, and others of lower castes than themselves. But they do not realize the truth that the soul in all people are the same. They do not know the secret of God, so they wander around with a restless mind. They recite the Vedas and the Gayatri, and the ignorant people who follow them, feel that they will obtain liberation by listening to the words of these unenlightened preachers.

Because people have accepted the brahmins as belonging to a high caste, they will often bow down at their feet and do devotion to them. But these same brahmins often kill animals in sacrifice, having no real compassion in their hearts towards innocent creatures. When it comes to filling their bellies, they will eat at the home of a low caste person, and at other times they will hypocritically say they do not want to be touched by the ‘untouchables’. Yet they deceptively, in the dark nights, go from house to house begging, which is in itself a lowly action for a high caste person. They have the light (Vedas-scriptures) in their hands, but they fall into the well of ignorance. They observe the fast of Ekadasi i.e. the eleventh day of each forthnight, but they do not know the real secrets of the fasting. Instead, their minds are full of stories of spirits, ghosts, demons and devils.

These people give up the camphor of true knowledge and tie up instead a knot of ignorance in their hearts, and they wander foolishly from place to place. They think of themselves highly, but their actions betray that they are not noble. Instead, they nurture thieves of lust, anger, greed, attachments and ego. They are scornful of the true saints of God. Guru Kabir is saying that these preachers are lustful for the tastes of the tongue, as many are meat eaters or drink intoxicating beverages. Such people are laying their path to hell.

Guru Kabir is telling us that there are many hypocritical priests who pretend to have the knowledge of God, and try to instruct people. In turn, people accept them, believe their teachings, and worship them. In such situations, both the teachers and the students fall into the ‘well’, as both are ignorant of the knowledge of God.