Shabd 28

(bhai re) gaiya ek biranchi diyo hai, gaiya bhar abhar bhow bhari,
now nari ko pani piyatu hai, trisha taiyo na bujhai,
kotha bahatari ow lau lawai, bajra kewar lagai,
khunta gadi dawari dridh bandheu, taiyon tor parai,
chari briksh chhow shakha vako, patra athara bhai,
etik lai gam kihisi gaiya, gaiya ati (re) harhai,
i satown owron hain satown, now ow chowdaha bhai,
etik le gaiya khai badhayo, gaiya taiyon na aghai,
purta men rati hai gaiya, set singi hai bhai,
avaran varan kichhau nahin vake, khadad akhadadahi khai,
brahma vishnu khoji kai aye, shiv sankadik bhai,
sidh anant vake khoj pare hai, gaiya kinahu na pai,
kahahin kabir suno ho santo,  jo yaha pad arthawe,
jo yaha pad ko gai vichare, age hoi nirvahai

Meaning

Oh brother! Brahma (creator) has produced a cow; her immense weight is unbearable; She drinks the water of nine streams (worships), but still her thirst is not quenched; She has seventy-two rooms (nerve divisions) at her disposal, and all with strong doors; She is tied to a peg with a strong rope, but even then she breaks loose and runs away; She has four trees (Vedas), six branches (philosophies), and eighteen leaves (Puranas); She has eaten up all these, but remains dissatisfied and wanders everywhere She has these seven (hells) and seven others (heavens) along with nine and fourteen other parts (nine body portals and fourteen body parts); This cow has eaten up everything, even then she remains unsatisfied; She is engaged in fulfillment and she has horns of no colour; She is neither with caste nor is she casteless; she eats the inedible and the edible; Brahma and Vishnu have searched for her, so did Shiva and the sons of Brahma; Countless adepts have searched for her, but none of them has found this cow; Kabir says, listen dear devotees, who can explain this poem? He who sings this and ponders its meaning will obtain Nirvana.

Commentary

This shabd is one of Guru Kabir’s allegorical poems in which he explains certain mystical teachings using other symbolic images. Brahma is thought to be the creator of the world, and the cow he produced is maya. It is the power of maya that has enabled all phenomena in the universe to become differentiated from the primordial undifferentiated Universal Being. Maya thus has the power of ‘veiling’ under the guise of the apparent, that which is not apparent. For this reason maya can be said to be, figuratively, very heavy and unbearable, because it lures the world by illusion. The nine streams are the nine types of worships explained in the scriptures. The seventy-two rooms are the seventy-two nerve divisions said to be contained in the body. The strong door is the mind. The peg is also the mind, and the strong rope is the will. But all of these prove to be useless before the power of maya.

Maya also is the source of the four trees (Vedas) and the six branches or six philosophies of India. The eighteen leaves are the eighteen Puranas which are also scriptures of India. Through her power, maya has swallowed all of these, but she remains unsatisfied, and wanders. People have mastered all the scriptures, but because of maya they are still restless, for they have not found the precious gem for which they are looking.

The sevens spoken of are the seven ‘netherworlds’ and seven ‘heavens’ according to mythology. The nine represents the nine portals of the body, and the fourteen are the five organs of senses, five organs of speech, the mind, intellect, consciousness, and ego. maya has, figuratively, eaten up all of these, but remains unsatisfied. All of these are under control of maya for they are products of maya. However, maya is still engaged in fulfillment of all desires. This is the state of affairs for humanity. Maya is said to have horns of no colour which is, figuratively, the fact that maya has no colour, caste, clan etc. The ”edible’ and ‘inedible’ which maya eats represent the fact that maya does not discriminate between what is right and lawful, and what is wrong and unlawful. Because of the power of maya, people are engaged in all types of activities, whether negative or positive.

Guru Kabir says that the three Gods-Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva- along with the sons of Brahma, all have searched for the secret of maya but they have not been able to fathom her. This is because they themselves are products of maya, therefore they cannot fathom the cause of their own being. Similarly, countless adepts have searched for the secret of maya but they have not been able to find them. Guru Kabir is saying that one should try to understand the meaning of this shabd and, in addition, to contemplate on it, and to sing it. If one understands this shabd and its inner meaning, then he is on his way to Nirvana.

This shabd bears out the name of this book THE BIJAK – which is a map of instructions to reach a hidden treasure. The hidden treasure here is to obtain Self-knowledge. The map is contained in the various symbolic use of objects to lead one to that hidden treasure.