Kabir Das, or ‘Sant’ Kabir was a poet-mystic who lived in Varanasi, India in the 15th century. For over 500 years after his death, his poetry – in the form of couplets and sonnets – have been part of the cultural ethos of North India. Kabir’s ‘dohas’ or couplets were composed in simple ‘khari boli’; the vernacular language allowed common folk to understand the abstract concepts they contained. His poetry resonates even today because it’s based on simple, everyday experiences of life.
Kabir encouraged his followers to embrace love and compassion as the true path to God.
One of his most famous couplets put it beautifully:
‘Pothi padh kar jag mua pandit bhayo na koye
Dhai akshar prem ke jo padhe so pandit hoye’
(Wisdom doesn’t come from reading books
If you understand love you will be a great scholar.)
Kabir’s words were revolutionary in the world he lived in. He faced social inequities, rigid traditions, feudal laws and orthodoxy. In response, he urged people to look inwards and find peace in spiritualism. His teachings promoted humanism as a creed above all else. The philosophy that Kabir promotes through his couplets goes beyond the barriers of religion and caste.
‘Chaahe Gita bachiye ya padhiye Quran
Tera mera pyaar hai har pustak ka gyan’
(It matters not if you read the Gita or the Quran
All holy texts preach love.)
Kabir recognised that love and tolerance were binding factors and worked ceaselessly to promote both. His vision of society was one that was based on love and inclusion. The presence of a single God was central to his narrative. That God resides in everyone, irrespective of religion, caste or creed.
Hatred had no place in Kabir’s philosophy. Before pointing fingers at others, he said, look within you.
‘Bura dekhan main chala, bura na milya koye
Jo mann khoya aapna toh mujhsa buran na koye’
(I set out to find bad men, but couldn’t find any
When l looked within myself, l found there was no one worse than me.)