Kabir was a 15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint whose writings influenced the Bhakti movement. His verses are found in the Adi Granth the religious scripture of the Sikhs. His early life was in a Muslim family, but he was strongly influenced by his teacher, the Hindu Bhakti leader Ramananda.
Kabir is known for being critical of both Hinduism and Islam, stating that the former were misguided by the Vedas and the latter by the Quran, and questioning their meaningless rites of initiation such as the sacred thread and circumcision respectively. During his lifetime, he was threatened by both Hindus and Muslims for his views. When he died, both Hindus and Muslims had claimed him as theirs.
Kabir suggested that True God is with the person who is on the path of righteousness, considers all creatures on earth as his own self, and who is passively detached from the affairs of the world. To know God, suggested Kabir, meditate with the mantra Rama, Rama. Kabir's legacy survives and continues through the Kabirpanth (Path of Kabir), a religious community that recognises him as its founder and is one of the Sant Mat sects. Its members are known as Kabirpanthis.
Prabhakar Machwe (1917-1991) wrote both in Hindi and Marathi; has written poetry, essays, short stories, criticism, novels, travelogues, limericks and humorous sketches. His important works are Swapna Bhang, Tel Ki Pakorian (poetry), Galt Ke Mor Par (play), Ektara, Parantu, Dwabha (plays), etc. He is a recipient of the Soviet Land Nehru Award, Uttar Pradesh Hindi Sansthan Award and Hindi Academy Delhi Award. He was former Secretary, SahityaAkademi.
My FRIEND Dr P. Machwe has presented a very good account of Kabir, the great religious teacher of the fifteenth century, in this small book. There was a conflict between two great religions-Hinduism and Islam. Kabir tried to bring both of them nearer to each other by criticizing and attacking the meaningless rituals and customs of both and by preaching the ultimate goal of both as one and identical. He was a staunch devotee of Rama who, according to him, is neither an incarnation of Vishnu nor has any attributes or personal form. His 'Rama' was not at all different from the `Rahim' of the Muslims. His more practical teachings stress the strict moral conduct and refute superstitious beliefs. In the field of love and dedication towards Rama, his language is sweet and serene but in the sphere of social reform it becomes very strong and provocative. Nanak and the other great Sikh Gurus had a very high respect for him. He vehemently criti-cized the caste system of the Hindus. He spoke strongly against idol-worship, belief in incarnation of God, notions of gaining bliss in the other world by taking bath in sacred rivers and the like. He equally criticized the Muslims for their orthodox adherence to mosques, performance of Sunnat, practices of Ajan, Nainaz and Roza and the like.
What makes Kabir's poetry great is the depth of his personal spiritual experience and dignity of thought which he wants to convey in very simple language and non-conventional way. He is highly aggressive when attacking meaningless dogmas but remark-ably free from any kind of bitterness.. He is at his best when in a mood of divine love with the Absolute-`Listen to me, friend. He understands who loves. If you feel not love's longing for your Beloved one, it is vain to adorn your body, vain to put unguent on your eyelids'. 'The pain of separation from God is like a serpent, which sits in this body and cannot be cast out by any magic spell; he who is separated from Rama cannot exist and if he does, he goes mad.'
This kind of conception of intense love towards the supreme lover has affinity with the love propagated by the Sufis.
From the Natha Yogis Kabir inherited a strong sense of disapproval of the ritualistic practices and superstitions but he did not spare even the Yogis themselves. He felt that these Yogis also were giving unnecessary emphasis on ritualistic aspects of Hatha-Yoga, ignoring the Bhakti or devotional love altogether. He pleaded for `Sahaja Samadhi' or the simple union with God.
I shut not my eyes, I close not my ears, I do not mortify my body; I see with eyes open and smile, and behold His beauty everywhere.
Complete surrender of all egoistic tendencies is a prerequisite to his conception of divine love. He says: 'This is not the house of one's maternal aunt where anything can be achieved by shedding tears, here only those can enter who shed their heads first.' Kabir's conception of the divine nature', says E. Underhill, `is essentially dynamic. It is by the smybols of motions that he most often tries to convey it to us, as in his constant reference to dancing or the strangely modern pictures of that Eternal Swing of the Universe which is held by the cords of love.'
Kabir exerted great influence on the life and literature of medieval India. In Hindi the greatness of his personality can be compared only with Tulasidas, another Bhakta poet of another school of Bhakti.
This book by Dr Machwe gives a very good account of contribution of this saint-poet towards _religious tolerance, propagation of fraternity, social reform and literary depth. It will, no doubt, be welcomed by lovers of universal religion as well as of high class literature.
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