Kabir (1440 - 1518) (also known as Kabira) was
an Indian mystic who preached an ideal of seeing all of humanity
as one. He was known to be a weaver and later became famed for scorning
religious affiliation, seen as a threat to the elite. His philosophies
and ideas of loving devotion to God are expressed in metaphor and
language from both the Hindu Vedanta and Bhakti streams and Muslim
Sufi ideals. Kabir is also considered one of the early northern
India Sants. He was initiated by Ramananda
A weaver by profession, Kabir ranks among the
world's greatest poets. Back home in India, he is perhaps the most
quoted author. The Holy Guru Granth Sahib contains over 500 verses
by Kabir. The Sikh community in particular and others who follow
the Holy Granth, hold Kabir in the same reverence as the other ten
Kabir openly criticized all sects and gave a new direction to the
Indian philosophy. This is due to his straight forward approach
that has a universal appeal. It is for this reason that Kabir is
held in high esteem all over the world. To call Kabir a universal
Guru is not an over exaggeration. To me personally, the very name
Kabir means Guru's Grace.
His greatest work is the Bijak, or Seedling, an idea of the fundamental
one. This collection of poems demonstrates Kabir's own universal
view of spirituality. His vocabulary is constantly full of ideas
regarding Brahman and Hindu ideas of karma and reincarnation, and
yet he also espouses ideas that are clearly Sufi as well as Hindu
Bhakti understandings of God. His Hindi was a very vernacular, straightforward
kind, much like his philosophies. He often advocated leaving aside
the Qur'an and Vedas and to simply follow Sahaj path, or the Simple/Natural
Way to oneness in God. He believed in the Vedantic concepts of atman
and yet spurned the orthodox Hindu societal caste system and worship
of statues, thus showing clear belief in both bhakti and sufi ideas.
The major part of Kabir's work as a Sikh Bhagat was collected by
the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak, and is published in the holy Sikh
book "Guru Granth Sahib".
While many ideas reign as to who his living influences were, the
only Guru of whom he ever spoke was Ramananda, a Vaishnav saint
whom Kabir claimed to have taken initiation from in the form of
the "Rama" mantra.
His poems resonate with praise for the true guru who reveals the
divine through direct experience, and denounced more usual ways
of attempting god-union such as chanting, austerities etc. His verses,
which being illiterate he never expressed in writing, often began
with some strongly worded insult to get the attention of passers-by.
Kabir has enjoyed a revival of popularity over the past half century
as arguably the most acceptable and understandable of the medieval
Indian 'sants', with an especial influence over spiritual traditions
such as that of Sant Mat and Radha Soami. Prem Rawat ('Maharaji')
also refers frequently to Kabir's songs and poems as the embodiment
of deep wisdom.