Blog Post by Dr. Ashwini Mokashi ©
Indian hagiographical literature is fascinating for students of Indian Philosophy. An undying literary art, it combines spiritual knowledge, poetry and music, thereby inducing bliss. We continue to read these writings century after century with awe and gratitude.
Saint Kabir Dasa was one such fifteenth century mystic poet from northern India who continues to fascinate, and till today Indian musicians take pride in singing his poems. One major translator of his Hindi/Urdu poetry into English was modern-day poet Rabindranath Tagore, a literary genius and Nobel prize winner who himself also wrote mystical poetry. His translation was entitled, ‘One Hundred Poems of Kabir’ and was first published in 1915.
Saint Kabir, an orphan, was adopted and raised by a Muslim family and later he became the disciple of a Hindu Guru. His spiritual poetry describes experiences which correspond to those of many other saints from all over India, while his poetry displays a unique synthesis of Hindu and Muslim spirituality, beautifully interwoven in the unique style with which his name is associated. Thus he has become a symbol for religious unity in 15th century India.
Here we will consider Saint Kabir’s poem ‘bago na ja re na ja’ in an attempt to bring out the beauty of that work for readers, either as re-lived joy or as an introduction to a fascinating world of mystical poetry.
Tagore’s translation is as follows:
Do not go to the garden of flowers!
O Friend! go not there;
In your body is the garden of flowers.
Take your seat on the thousand petals of the lotus, and there gaze on the Infinite Beauty.
Usually, Saints speak of God as dwelling within us, and here Saint Kabir Dasa also speaks of an inner ‘garden of flowers’, confirming that what we are searching for lies within. One may call it God, spiritual experience, or self-realization – and it is indeed an experience of unfathomable beauty. That beautiful inner garden can be experienced by anyone who has spent time in meditation.
Saint Kabir describes it as a thousand-petalled lotus – or the ‘Sahasrara’ of the tantric yoga tradition. It refers to the awakening of the crown chakra of pure consciousness. The Bhagavad-Gita describes a similar blissful experience, while the Buddha speaks of the same as ‘Nirvana.’
The Saints of India made this knowledge, couched in simple language, available to all through their poetry; they also gave hints about what to expect, its feasibility and how to experience it, thereby arousing the interest of their listeners. Their own joy and peace were so palpable that even ordinary people, who themselves might never have had such experiences, found themselves attracted and engaged in the practice of searching for that flower garden within themselves.
The garden of flowers is a symbol of Love, Happiness, and Peace, which lies potent in ourselves.
We will continue to explore mystical poetry in future posts.
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