Shabd 38

hari binu bharm bigurchani gandā.
jahān jahān gayo apanpow khoyo, tehi phande bahu phandā.
yogī kahai yog hai nīkā, dutiyā owr na bhāī.
chundit mundit mouni jatādhar, tinahun kahān sidhi pāī.
gyānī gunī sur kavi dātā, ī jo kahanhi bad hamahīn.
jahān se upje tahān samāne, chhūti gaye sab tabahīn.
bāyen dahine tajū bikārā, niju kai haripad gahiyā.
kahain kabīr gunge gur khāyā, pūchhe so kyā kahiyā.

Meaning

O evil man! Without God, doubts have created many difficulties for you.  Wherever you go you lose your self, since doubts have trapped you in its traps.  The yogi says yoga is the best, and there is none to equal it.  The one who plucks the hair, shaves the head, remains silent, or wears matted hair, tell me how are they going to get perfection?  The intellectual, the noble, the brave, the poet and the altruist, each says that he is the greatest.  Wherever they came from (birth) that is where they will go (death). In a moment they leave everything.  Give up the defects of the ‘left-handed’ and ‘right-handed’ paths, and obtain realization of God.  Kabir asks, “How can the dumb person, eating sugar, describe its taste?”

Commentary

In this shabda Guru Kabir starts by speaking of doubts which are causing difficulty for people all over the world. Unless a person is clear-sighted about his spiritual course, he is facing difficulties according to various traditions, dogmas, scriptures, rituals, etc. Spiritual life is a simple and straightforward path, free of all doubts. He thus says that people are losing themselves by going here and there, because doubts follow them and keep entrapping them.

Guru Kabir gives a few examples such that the yogi praises yoga and says that there is nothing greater than his path. Similarly, there are some people who pluck their hairs, shave their heads, practice silence, or wear matted hair. He asks how can such practices cause them to reach perfection? The external activities, when not accompanied by purity and discipline of the mind, cannot bring perfection. Similarly, he talks about people who are intellectuals, noble and brave, who are poets and altruists. These are the workings of their ego when they boast. Spiritual teaching is to do these things with humility. How many of such people are really humble?

Guru Kabir is saying that we need to realize that we have been born and we will die, and we leave everything here in an instant. These include all of our misguided activities, ego, possessions etc. He advises to give up the two paths which are the ‘left-hand’ path (vammarga) and the ‘right-handed’ path (dakshin marga). The former is the Epicurian ideal of indulging the passions, and in eating, drinking and making merry. The second is the Stoic path of self-discipline, and following a religious tradition. The true spiritual path is actually separate from these, for it is an inner growth and realization of the Divinity within. He illustrates this by the example of the dumb person eating sugar and enjoying the taste, but not able to explain it to you. Just so the person who realizes God enjoys immense bliss, but he is not able to explain it to others. It is for this reason that realized saints remain silent or speak very little. Often they speak in parables because there is no language to explain the infinite experience, that is entirely subjective and indescribable.

Guru Kabir is saying to give up all doubts and to follow the true spiritual path that is devoid of all external show and ego. Only then can you reach the abode of God.