Shabd 40

pandit bād bade so jhūthā.
rām kahai jagat gati pāwai, khānd kahai mukh mīthā.
pāwak kahai pāwn jo dāhai, jal kahai trishā bujhāī.
bhojan kahai bhūkh jo bhājai, toh duniyā tari jāī.
nar ke sangh suwā hari bole, hari pratāp na jānai.
jo kabahūn udi jāi jangal mein, toh hari surati na ānai.
binu dekhe binu ars-pars binu, nām liye kyā hoī.
dhan ke kahai dhanik jo howai, nirdhan rahai na koī.
sānchī prīti vishai māyā so, hari bhaktan kī phānsī.
kahahin kabīr ek rām bhaje binu, bāndhe yampur jāsī.

Meaning

O Pandit! All your rhetoric is false.  If by saying Ram the world gets liberation, then repeating ‘sugar, sugar’ will make the mouth sweet.  If by saying fire your feet get burned, then by saying water your thirst should be quenched.  If by saying food your hunger is satisfied, then the whole world will become free of hunger. The parrot, in the company of man, may chant the name of God, but it does not understand God’s glory.  If perchance it flies into the jungle, then it will not have any recollection of God. Without realizing God, what can one obtain by empty repetition of His name?  If the repetition of wealth will make one wealthy, then no one will remain poor.  Such people have profound love for passions and Maya, and they hang the true devotees of God.  Kabir says that without realization of God, people go in a bound state to the abode of death.

Commentary

It is fashionable among religious people to say that the repetition (sumiran) of the name of God gives salvation. Many people actually make this their life’s goal in order to obtain liberation. But the truth lies in the fact that people must realize God in order to obtain true liberation. Guru Kabir gives many examples to show that the mere repetition of a name does not give the realization of what is named. By repeating the word sugar no one tastes sugar, or by repetition of fire no one gets his foot burned, and by saying water no one gets his thirst quenched. Similarly, repeating the word food does not remove hunger. If they really did, then the mere repetition of the name of God will also give salvation.

Guru Kabir gives the example of the parrot that can be taught to repeat the name of God, but it has no conception of what it is saying. If that same parrot flies into the jungle, it will soon forget to say God. It will be like every other parrot without any knowledge of God. Just so, there are people who repeat the name of God without knowing God. Such repetition does not give people liberation.

Guru Kabir asks the question that if you do not realize God, or see Him with your spiritual eyes, then what will you gain by mere repetition of His name. He goes on to say that if the repetition of the word wealth will make people wealthy, then there will be no one poor in the world. He observes that people who partake in this type of practice, really have passions, are still full of cravings, and are deluded by Maya. They do not understand the true devotees of God, and will often persecute and even kill them. He further states that if one does not realize God within his own heart, then he will go bound to the abode of death. This means that he will not obtain liberation, and will be subject to the cycle of birth and death (samsara) according to his karmas.

In very simple and logical language, Guru Kabir explains the importance of an intuitive realization of God before salvation can be obtained. The mere repetition of His name without concomitant development of spiritual awakening and the destruction of ignorance, one cannot obtain salvation.