Who was Saint Kabir ?
With so many amazing saints, sages and yogis coming from India, it's very easy for many of them to be somewhat obscured, and Saint Kabir is no exception. Even his origins are as mysterious and auspicious as the saint himself. Kabir was born in 1398, but it was not a typical birth. He was discovered - apparently abandoned or miraculously - near the Lahartara pond by a childless, Muslim couple. The motherly instinct of the wife Nima kicked in, and she convinced Niru that they should take the child home. He was given the Arabic name 'Kabir' which means "Great one" or "Saint God". Kabir's parents came from a modest caste of fabric weavers called the Julaha. As a child, Kabir learned the art of weaving and studied Quran, but he had many questions. Due to his caste, he had no master nor teacher to answer these burning questions, so he resolved to visit a famous Hindu swami in Varanasi during that time - Swami Ramanand. Once again, he was refused, but this would not deter him. The young Kabir knew that Swami Ramanand rushed down the steps of the Panchganga Ghat every morning before sunrise to take a ritual bath in the holy Ganges river. There, Kabir lay down on the steps where the Swami nearly tripped and yelled out 'Ram !' - the Name of God in Hindu tradition. By making contact with Kabir and reciting the holy Name, Kabir took this as his mantra and initiation, a fact the famous swami could not deny. Therefore, Kabir became a very wise and functional spiritual hybrid of sorts, versed in Quran and the Vedas. As an adult and miracle-worker, Kabir would criticize many aspects of both religions, pointing out contradictions and falsehoods. Kabir advocated a new spirituality for that era and ages to come - liberated from pundits and mullahs, available to everyone regardless of caste or creed.
I discovered Saint Kabir by doing a seva (unpaid service to God) at the Guru Ram Das Ashram here in Los Angeles. The Akhand Path seva is essentially an unbroken, continuous reading of the Sikh holy scriptures (SGGS). Kabir is so highly regarded in these scriptures that 481 of his written works were included, and Sikhs respectfully refer to him as Bhagat Kabir Saheb Ji. Although works of many Hindu and Muslim saints are found in the SGGS, it was always the words of Kabir which really stood out to me, usually concluding with the line "Kabir says..." to verify who he was and concluding powerful, spiritual truths. In the words of Kabir, I found a sarcastic, humorous and painfully sincere challenge to falsehood and hypocrisy. Even through English translation, Kabir doesn't mince words, but uses powerful and clever analogies to make his point. The genius of his words forces one to contemplate their ignorant habits, and question their motives. For this reason, Kabir also made many enemies in Varanasi, to the extent that he left there as a fragile old man to die (merge with the Infinite) in Gorakhpur, also challenging the long-held belief that a death in Varanasi ensures salvation to the soul (where is the karmic justice in that ?) As Hindus and Muslims argued over which religion had rights to the saint's body, they entered the cave only to find a pile of flowers - auspicious in not only birth, but death as well. In the Muslim tradition, half of these flowers were buried, and in the Hindu tradition half were burned to ashes. A portion of these ashes are enshrined at the Kabirchaura in Varanasi, which I had the immense honor and pleasure of visiting for the new year of 2020 - my auspicious year. As if the story and works of Kabir from the SGGS were not enough, he was also a brilliant poet ! Kabir composed many songs using an instrument called an Ektar, gaining many ears and devout followers in ancient Varanasi. Today, devotees of Kabir are known as 'Kabir-panth" and are located around the world. I was so inspired by my pilgrimage to Kabirchaura in Varanasi that I am in the process of planning a future yatra (sacred journey) for small groups of 5 - 10 people, with the help of my friend and brother devotee Umesh, who has lived at Kabirchaura for 20 years, studying and proclaiming our master. My journey is now a short, documentary film called SATGURU KABIR - THE SECRET SOUND (see below). Yes, I am honored to accept and advocate the teachings and darshan of Satguru Kabir !