Shabd 3

santo ghar me jhagra bhari;
rati-diwas mili uthi uthi lage, panch dhota ek nari;
nyaro-nyaro bhojan chahain, panchon adhik sawadi;
koi kahu ka hata na manai, apuhin apu muradi;
durmati ker dohagin metai, dhotahi champ chapere;
kahahi kabir soi jan mera, jo ghar ki rari nibere.

Meaning

O saints! There is great turmoil in the house. Night and day the five young men (senses) get up and start to quarrel with one woman (intellect); Each one desires its separate type of food and, in their tastes, they are exceedingly fond (connoisseurs) None of them listens to the others, and each one wishes to fulfill his own desires; The one who controls the evil thinking and the young men is a real devotee; Kabir says that he is my devotee who abolishes the quarrel in the house.

Commentary

In this allegorical shabd Guru Kabir is comparing the body to a house. People of different temperaments and desires may live in a house, and constantly bicker and quarrel with each other, because they have their own needs, and do not care about the others. Similarly, the five senses of the body are like five young men, and each one has its separate type of “food” which satisfies it. Broadly speaking, the eyes need color; the ears, sound; the nose, smell; the skin, touch; and the tongue, taste. The eyes cannot deal with sound, nor an the ears with smell, etc. Thus they each need their separate type of “food”, and none cares about the needs of the others. Each one is a connoisseur in the food it wants. The one woman is the intellect which needs to exercise control over all the senses. We can also say that the woman is the mind. If the five senses are not controlled, then the person is dragged hither and thither to try to satisfy the cravings of all the senses. This creates a great deal of suffering and disharmony in the mind. The intellect then needs to exercise control, because it can use its power of discrimination to decide which is right and which is wrong, and which needs to be cultivated, and which not. The soul is a witness to all of this quarrel that goes on, day and night, in the individual. Guru Kabir is stating that the five senses must be brought under control for a person to be a devotee.

He thus observes that such a person is a true devotee to him. One of the great obstacles in spiritual life are desires for satisfaction of the various senses. These need to be controlled by constant vigilance and discipline. Only then can one progress on a spiritual path.