This auspicious occasion was celebrated by organizing various events on the life and works of this most well known mystic poet saint of the masses in India and abroad by his followers. One such celebration was organized by Dr. J. Das, President of Guru Kabir Association Of Canada, at his residence in Surrey. It was a small and beautiful gathering consisting of people from various faiths. In fact, it was a true replica of Satguru Kabir’s message and teachings on equality and brotherhood of mankind. Satguru’s message holds true even today. The importance of his message and teachings have increased for the present day society world-wide, which is in tatters on account of unfounded dogmas, rituals, orthodoxical ideologies and fundamentalism. Paying tribute to Sant Shiromani Kabir, Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi said, “Sant Kabir Das Ji was a path-breaking and progressive reformist. He dreamt of a just and equal society.”

Satguru Kabir lived from 1398 to 1518 A.D. According to legend, a brahmin widow abandoned her new born baby at the bank of a pond in Kashi, (now Varanasi) in the darkness of night. As the day dawned, Neema and Neeru, an issueless Muslim couple, spotted the child and adopted him taking it as a gift from God. The child was named Kabir. In Muslim faith, Al-Kabir is one of the 99 names of Allah. In Arabic, it means ‘great’. Being of a low caste and poor background, the couple could not afford schooling for Kabir. He took his parental profession of weaving. From his childhood Kabir was of poetic and spiritual inclination. Initially, Sant Ramanand, a Bhakti movement saint whose reputation was at its height at that time, refused to initiate him. Kabir had to devise a trick to get Ram Nam from Ramanand.

Medieval India (1200-1700 AD) is known for the flourishing of the Bhakti Movement. This Movement was to awaken the ignorant masses about the dogmatic, divisive, ritualistic and superstitious practices of Hinduism and Islam. Kabir Saheb, Ravi Das, Nanak Dev, Farid, Namdev and Chaitanya were the main exponents of this Movement. Among all the above sants, Kabir is considered as the “ Sant Shiromani” – a sant par excellence. 

His teachings are in the forms of Dohas, Bhajans, Shabdas and Sakhis. Kabir’s main works are: Bijak, Granthavali, Shabdavali and Anurag Sagar. The substance of his teaching is fearlessness in spiritual life, purity in thought, word and deed, universal unconditional love for all people, including all living beings in the universe. He taught people the true religion of the heart instead of rituals and austerities. He was a crusader in his religious approach. He was against all hypocrisy and caste distinctions. He believed in the theory of Karma and affinity for all, and hatred and malice towards none. He was against an ascetic way of life and advocated a life of a householder. Till his last day, he kept himself engaged in his weaving profession. He was not in favour of amassing material wealth. He needed material wealth to the bare minimum. He was a Trinity of Gyan Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Karma Yoga. At present he is revered equally by the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. He was a proponent of Nirgun Bhakti – a loving devotion to a formless Supreme Being. He taught surat shabad yoga or the yoga of attuning oneself to the inner divine melody – Peevat Ramrus lagi Khumari. 

In the introduction to her book “ A Weaver Named Kabir” Charlotte Vaudeville, a French scholar and writer stated, “Kabir is one of the best-known and most revered names in Indian tradition. From the Punjab to Bengal and from the Himalayan frontiers to South India, he has long been hailed by Hindus and Muslims alike as a great mystic and bold religious reformer…..In Indian religious history, Kabir is unique: to the Hindus, he is a Vaishnava bhakta, to Muslims a pir, to Sikhs a bhagat to the sectarian Kabir-panthis an avatar of the Supreme Being, to modern patriots, Kabir is the champion of Hindu-Muslim unity, to neo-vedantis a promoter of the Universal religion or the Religion of Man…”

There are more than 500 verses of Kabir in the Guru Granth Saheb, the holy scripture and the Guru forever of the Sikhs. Teachings of Satguru Kabir and that of Sikhism are akin. He met with strong opposition from Pandits and Maulivis alike. Sultan Sikandar Lodhi attempted to punish him by various means, but could not succeed. Lately, he was exiled from Kashi. The King of Kashi, Dharamdas, Mir Taqi, Ganaka, Pipa, Dhanna and Sadana were his renowned disciples and followers. 

Kabir breathed his last in 1518 at Magahar. In his memory the Hindus made a temple and the Muslims a tomb next to each other. 

In the wake of hatred all around on account of religious bigotry, lack of dialogue, and intolerance of others’ point of view, the following advice of Kabir Saheb is very relevant today: “Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye; Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.” (Keep your critic/opponent close to you; give him shelter in your courtyard. That way, you do not need soap and water to keep your character clean.” Very rarely do we get to know our faults from our friends – and never from sycophants. Only a critic, holding different opinions, can tell us our shortcomings. 

The intellectuals respect Kabir not because he was a Hindu or a Muslim but a human being who preached love and affection, and had the courage to speak against all extremist ideologies and inequality on the basis of caste and birth without any hesitation. 

By Zile Singh
Ambassador (Retd.) 

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