by Ashwini Mokashi, Ph.D.
Saint Kabir’s poetry has a way of touching upon many aspects of life. On the one hand, he provides spiritual messages through his writing, and on the other hand, he also touches on mundane matters and guides us about how to understand the world.
The following poem has many themes, such as lack of difference in various forms leading to the principle of oneness. For example, water is a substance in the ocean as well as the wave. The substance in various forms of water is the same. Likewise, the world is a form of the Brahman, and we are all a part of the whole, which is the Brahman. This is a principle from the Upanishads. It is also known as the Ultimate Reality.
Saint Kabir’s poem is as follows:
दरियाव की लहर दरियाव है जी, दरिया और लहर में भिन्न न कोयम ।
उठे तो नीर है , बैठे तो नीर है, कहो जी दूसरा किस तरह होयम,
उसी का फेर के नाम लहर धरा, लहर के कहे क्या नीर गोयम ।
जगत ही के फेर सब, जगत परब्रह्म में, ज्ञान कर देखो कबीर गोयम ॥
The translation by Nobel Laureate Ravindranath Tagore is as follows:
The river and its waves are one surf, where is the difference between the river and its waves?
When the wave rises, it is the water and when it falls, it is the same water again.
Tell me Sir, where is the distinction?
Because it has been named as wave, shall it no longer be considered as water?
Within the Supreme Brahma, the worlds are being told like beads:
Look upon the rosary with the eyes of wisdom.
Our life takes different shapes and forms, just like the water of the ocean and the waves of the ocean. The substance in them is water all the same. Hence there is no difference between what we call the ocean and what we call the wave. When the wave rises, it is water, and when it falls, it is again water. How can it be anything else? Since the wave has been named as such, shall we say to the wave that there is no water? Since these are all the ways of the world, the world is a part of the Supreme Brahma. Please see how Kabir is a part of the Brahman as well.
Here, Saint Kabir focuses on two points: One is how to understand that the world’s substance or essence is the same, which is Brahman. The second is how we are all a part of the whole – a part of the Brahman. Saint Kabir is at a stage where this line of sight is clear to him. So, he is asking us to come and find out that this universe has an order, things in the universe have an order, there is no difference in the substance and different forms, and we all share that substance, which is why we are a part of this whole.
In another poem, Saint Kabir says about the form of Brahman (or God) that ALL things are created by the Om. The love-form is His body. He is without form, without quality, without decay: Seek thou union with Him. But that formless God takes a thousand forms in the eyes of His creatures: He is pure and indestructible, His form is infinite and fathomless, He dances in rapture, and waves of form arise from His dance. The body and the mind cannot contain themselves when they are touched by His great joy. He is immersed in all consciousness, all joys, and all sorrows; He has no beginning and no end; He holds all within His bliss.
On a spiritual side, he is encouraging people to find out the Brahman for themselves. On the practical side, he advises people that men and women are the same, God by any name is the same. The soul in all the people has the same substance, and therefore, we all are made up the same way. We have many fractions in society. When we understand that demarcation is superficial and deep down, we share the same ideologies, principles, and substance. Then the superficial differences among people does not seem necessary or bothersome. The differences may be a result of gender, race, religion, financial circumstances or what have you. They remain on the surface and have little to do with our Being, our existence, and our spiritual oneness. Likewise, once we understand the principle of the oneness, then the whole world makes sense to us.