Shabd 18

ram gun nyaro nyaro nyaro;
abujha log kahan lown bujhe, bujhanihar bicharo;
ketehi ramchandra tapsi se, jinh yaha jag bitmaya;
ketehi kanh bhaye murlidhar, tinh bhi ant na paya;
machh kachh varaha swarupi, vaman nam dhariya;
ketehi bowdh niklanki kahiye, tinh bhi ant na paya;
ketehi sidh sadhak sanyasi, jinh banbas basaya;
ketehi munijan gorakh kahiye, tinh bhi ant na paya;
jaki gati brahmai nahi jani, shiv sankadik hare;
take gun nar kaisek paihow, kahahi kabir pukare.

Meaning

The attributes of God are different from the three qualities of satogun, rajogun and tamogun (goodness, activity, inertia) How much can unthinking people understand of this; but knowledgeable people may understand it; Many great souls like Ramchandra, who did great austerities, have confused this world; Many like Krishna have come into this world, but they also could not fathom God’s mystery; They came in the form of fish, tortoise, boar, and were also given the name of the Dwarf; Many like Buddha and Kalki, who are said to be incarnations of Vishnu, did not fathom the mystery of God; How many perfection seekers and sanyasis came, and many dwelt in the forests; how many munis and yogis like Gorakhnath came, and they also did not fathom the mystery of God; He whose attributes even Brahma could not know, and Shiva and Sanak etc. became defeated in the search; His attributes how can the ordinary mortal find? asks Kabir of all people.

Commentary

In this shabd Guru Kabir is making it clear that God is beyond all qualities and limitations. He is beyond space, time, and causation. He cannot be categorized as either good or evil, nor as having form or no form. Whatever description we give of God, is of our own making, for God is beyond our thinking. We can only form our personal conceptions of what God is. Guru Kabir, however, states that God is that Mysterious Being beyond all qualities and limitations, Who dwells intimately in the hearts of all, and that He is universal. That is why God is said to be Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent. This is very difficult for the ordinary people to understand, but those who are deep thinkers on this type of subject, can form some opinion about what God is. God is not subject to perceptive knowledge, but only to a subjective intuitive experience. Guru Kabir lists many famous personalities of the past who are often worshipped as manifestations of God. These are Ramchandra of Ayodhya who did great austerities and lived in the jungle for fourteen years. He never claimed himself to be God, nor was he thought of as God initially. Later on, people made him an incarnation of God, and so Guru Kabir is saying that he has confused the world. Similarly, personalities like Krishna have come with the qualities of human beings, and subject to birth and death. Guru Kabir is saying that God is beyond these limitations. The mythology of India states that God even came in the form of a fish, a tortoise, a boar, and a dwarf to save the people from the various calamities which they were facing. Similarly, many great personalities like Lord Buddha, and Kalki who is to come, have not really fathomed the mystery of God. Actually Lord Buddha steered clear of any discussion about God, but he stressed goodness and seeking of personal liberation from the bondage of karmas. Many holy people called munis, and many yogis, like the famous Gorakhnath, have practiced their austerities and yoga, but they have not found the secret of God. Even Brahma who is supposed to be the creative aspect of God, and Shiva the destructive aspect of God, and the sons of Brahma, have all accepted defeat in not knowing the Eternal Being. Guru Kabir then asks the question that if such great personalities came and went without fathoming the secret of God, how can we who are mere mortals, understand the glory and the mystery of God.

We need to understand what Guru Kabir is telling us in this shabd. God is eternal, formless and Omnipresent. He is the embodiment of all knowledge and all power. He cannot be limited to a human body, even if that is called an incarnation of God. For God represents power, intelligence and consciousness, which are diffuse and pervasive throughout the whole universe. What qualities can we ascribe to such a power? In meditation we try to have some concept of what that Great Power is, but we cannot, through logical reasoning, arrive at any conclusion about this “Mysterious Being”.