KABIR & BHAKTI: THE ECSTASY OF DEVOTION
A weaver by trade but a poet-singer by calling, Kabir lived in fifteenth century India. His philosophy incorporated various beliefs of both Muslims and Hindus and later became one of the major influences behind Sikhism. Like Rumi, further to the west and generations earlier, he followed a devotional and ecstatic path, and like Rumi he was a bridge builder between traditions. The poem below expresses the spirit in his spirituality.
Have you heard the music that no fingers enter into?
Far inside the house
Entangled music – what is the sense of leaving your house?
Suppose you scrub your ethical skin until it shines,
But inside there is no music,
Mohammed’s son pores over words, and points out this
But if his chest is not soaked with love,
The Yogi comes along in his famous orange.
But if inside he is colourless, then what?
Kabir says: Every instant that the sun us risen,
If I stand in the temple, or on a balcony,
In the hot fields, or in a walled garden,
My own Lord is making love with me.
Kabir Ecstatic poems Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 1992 (The English translations are free enough for Robert Bly to call them ‘versions by Robert Bly’. There is an earlier set of translations published by MacMillan in New York in 1915 by Rabindranath Tagore assisted by Evelyn Underhill under the title Songs of Kabir – now republished by in the BiblioBazaar Reproduction Series. Whilst I don’t follow Bly in calling the English of the earlier work “useless”, I do find that Bly’s interpretation has more passion and power. The Bly work includes an insightful afterword Kabir and the transcendental Bly by John Stratton Hawley).