The Kabir Panth
[ I just came across this from an old issue of the Kabir Voice, March 1986, of the Kabir Association of Canada. I was the editor of the Kabir Voice. This reader had an interesting observation. My response then is given here.]
With every issue of the `Kabir Voice’ my knowledge about Kabir Saheb increases. From what I have read so far, his path is for all mankind to follow if they are searching for spiritual realization. I wonder, however, why is it that so little is known about Kabir, when compared with other Eastern philosophies/spiritual teachers? There are numerous persons whom I have met that are ignorant of his teachings, or have not even heard of the name of this 15th century mystic Saint of India.
You have raised an important point about Guru Kabir and his teachings. He is regarded as the father of Hindi poetry. He gave spiritual teachings in the spoken Hindi so that the average person could understand them. Previously, they were available only in Sanskrit to the priests. He was the first in the line of Modern Gurus such as Ravidas, Surdas, Guru Nanak, Tulsi Saheb, Dadu Saheb etc., and they were all influenced by his teachings.
The reason why he is not well known outside of India is because:
- Spiritual teachers of the Kabir Panth have not been travelling abroad to spread his philosophy.
- His teachings are in Hindi and most have not been translated into other languages. Recently, a few books are available in English but they are either not comprehensive, or have shortcomings in interpreting Guru Kabir’s philosophy.
- His teachings are against all forms of hypocrisy, caste distinctions, holy pilgrimages for the removal of sins, and idolatry in religion, and the priestly class cannot accommodate his teachings into their practices.
- He taught absolute non-violence to all living beings and thus he made vegetarianism most important. He stated: “Just as we feel pain in ourselves, we must understand that all living beings feel pain similarly.” Mahatma Gandhi got his teaching of non-violence from that of Guru Kabir because his mother was a devout follower of Kabir. Not many people are willing to give up their lust for the taste of flesh to follow his teachings. He stated: “My path is like the edge of a sword; whoever can walk on it will obtain liberation.”
- Only very few people in the world are truly interested in the essence of spiritual teaching – in the deep, mystical realization of one-ness with God. They are satisfied with superficial religion. It requires very little commitment and effort from them, and they are free to indulge themselves as they please. Guru Kabir himself said: “This world is full of crows but only a rare swan (soul) which belongs to me.”
As you can see, there are many reasons why Guru Kabir and his teachings are not well known in many places or to many people outside India. As you pointed out, though, his teachings are for all mankind. The President of India, Mr. Zail Singh, recognizing the significance of Guru Kabir’s teachings, stated in July, 1984, that Kabir’s teachings should be translated into all languages and be made available to all the people of the world.
Dr. Jagessar Das