The Relevance of Kabir

INTERPRETING ANEW THE RADICAL 15th CENTURY PHILOSOPHER-POET

Category: excerpts

Todd Vickers publishing at Vivriti.org

“Who do you know who does not place a boundary around his love? We are afraid others will use us and that our desire for love makes us foolish. In deference to this fear, we try to be smart and use others in the name of love for our own ends. We become what we fear and keep things hidden from our mates, especially the secrets that…”  Read more at Vivriti.org

Drowning in a house of eye shadow

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Disco_Ball3.jpgKabir honers the person who goes into the house of eye-shadow, if they can also leave. If we cannot get out, we will drown. We all go in but we don’t all come out. Quieting the mind (meditation) is a way out.

“[Kabir’s]… advice is to move both in and out of the illusions we create. Our thoughts offer more temptations than the most ornate bordello. If we fear to go into the mind, then we become ineffective to others and ourselves. We must remember that the fire that warms the hearth on a cold night can burn down the house and even the neighborhood.”

Excerpt: The Relevance of Kabir

The mind is a marvelous tool shed. Do not let it become a prison. The mind exists to serve life, not the other way around. 

“…Kabir says: “listen to me, brother!

The nest of fear is broken.

Not for a moment have you come face

To face with the world:

You are weaving your bondage of

falsehood, your words are full of

deception:

With a load of desires which you hold

on your head, how can you be

light?

Kabir says: “keep within you truth,

detachment, and love.”

 

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image

Feelings From Fictions

Frogs“When our dream is love, we feel passions like sexual desire. When our dreams become nightmares, the fear engulfs us. We may forget the same mind that dreams at night is active while awake in a different way. While awake, our consciousness includes the sensations of the world and the affective power of our mind to induce feelings just as in dreams. We can experience the same intensity of emotion anytime as we do while dreaming, but, when awake, we would be wise to discern between publicly observable facts, and the interpretations, distortions and falsehoods that can be found only in our minds. Such clarity is less common than we might think.

We jump like frogs flicking their tongues at flies [or worms] on a… video; the poor creatures mistake the screen… for their dinner. We spend much time struggling with reflections in our minds. These cerebral enchantments lay hidden in our habits of thinking.”

Book Excerpt – The Relevance of Kabir

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Excerpt from The Relevance of Kabir

“Belief, right or wrong, affects our behaviours.

For example, my father returned late from work after being gone for several days. It was hot despite being quite late. My mother slept why my father disrobed and prepared for bed. He thought to open the sliding glass door opposite the bed to let in some air. As he slid the door open, he heard the faintest noise, in spite of the fact that he was hard of hearing. Being familiar with the sound of a hammer being pulled back on a 357 magnum, he said, “Honey, it’s me.” Then, my mother, who had been silent until this point, and had almost shot her husband, commenced to give him a piece of her mind in a rant that he did not contest. Take my word for it, my father was as close to dying as one can be and still live. You see, my mom mistook him for an intruder, and a naked one at that. All she saw was the silhouette of a naked man. What we believe matters a lot, especially when it is wrong.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have access to facts that controvert flawed beliefs. Still, when events threaten our viewpoints, we may excuse contrary facts as an exception to the rule and the beliefs stand as strong as before. The more serious the disillusionment, the more difficult it becomes to explain away contradictions. When events of our lives surpass our capacities to rationalize, then our confidence will shatter, particularly regarding beliefs about ourselves. Kabir’s poems take the place of disillusioning events to quicken our understanding about life. When we let go of prejudices, we gain access to alternative ways of responding.”

There is nothing but water at the

holy bathing places; and I know

that they are useless, for I have

bathed in them.

The images [gods] are all lifeless, they cannot

speak; I know, for I have cried

aloud to them.

The Purana and the Koran are mere

words; lifting up the curtain, I

have seen.

Kabîr gives utterance to the words of

experience; and he knows very

well that all other things are un-true.

Kabir,

Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

Fear of Alternatives

Prometheus_Bonaventura_Genelli_1850“It is…  an unseen habit to fear any alternative to what we have become accustomed, what we call normal. Our habits combined with a fear of the unknown literally consist of less matter than a silken thread. Still something of less substance than a strand of silk can bind us, if we believe it. The strength of our own imagination is the real binding force when the chains consist of nothing else.”

Excerpt: The Relevance of Kabir

 

How We Understand Karma

Monkey

What is Karma?

Let’s look at Karma in a new light.

“One way a hunter can trap a monkey is to secure a gourd to a tree and then place
something sweet or shiny in the gourd while a monkey watches, then the hunter leaves. The poor monkey just cannot stand not possessing the bait and will reach into the gourd and grasp it, but as his fist closes around the bait it becomes too big to remove it from the opening of the gourd and he is trapped. The monkey could have his freedom if he would let go but he will not. When the hunter comes, the monkey will freak out and screech but still he will not let go. Thus, the slaughter of the monkey.

…The hunter is karma, the gourd is like the events of life, the monkey is the mind, the grasped object is ‘identity’ and the grasping is desire. When we identify [ourselves] with events, experiences, and thought then we are no different than this monkey.”

Excerpts: The Relevance of Kabir

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Hyderabad

Kabir Scrutinizes Religion

ToddThere is nothing but water at the holy bathing places; and I know that they are useless, for I have  bathed in them.

The images [gods] are all lifeless, they cannot speak; I know, for I have cried aloud to them.

The Purana and the Koran are mere words; lifting up the curtain, I have seen.

Kabîr gives utterance to the words of experience; and he knows very well that all other things are un- true.

“Many people would call the above verse intolerant, but Kabir neither persecuted nor limits anyone’s choices. Do not confuse criticism with oppression. To challenge a belief by demonstrating a reason to think it false shows concern for others. Controversy is a difficult matter when one is in an extreme minority. Kabir expended the effort to help others in spite of the fact that the exertion did not raise him financially. His prose invites observation in judging beliefs. We can misunderstand facts, but, if we wish to challenge our ideas beyond verbal scrutiny, then experience will show us what is untrue through trial and error.

We have a sacred tool called experimentation and this long dead poet dares us to test our ideas. Furthermore, Kabir spoke this statement approximately three centuries before David Hume insisted experience was a formidable challenge to beliefs. Hume had the advantage of education; he learned the best scientific and logical methods of his time. Similar learning was not available to a poor weaver in 15th century India. Kabir grasped the argument he used intuitively. To cultivate such reason, almost completely alone, and against the popular ideas of his day tells us a lot about the integrity and capacity of this poet.”

Book CoverExcerpt: The Relevance of Kabir Available as FREE download (for now!)

Poem Translation, Rabindranath Tagore, [Public Domain]

A chapter In the book, Scrutinizing Religion,  I devoted solely  to the poems of Kabir that fault religion. Some people only meet a ‘whitewashed’ Kabir. After his death, the religions he criticised appropriated his words. I felt surprise when the largest supporter of this book, Chandra Kotaru, learned of Kabir as a school boy but did NOT know of the more daring poems.  If we only hear of Kabir as a ‘saint,’ then to meet his criticism of saints is a shock. This is one reason I took four translations and collated sceptical examples in one chapter. If we dilute our wisest benefactors from the past, we rob living generations of the inheritance these brave souls left as treasure for us all! Kabir is not the only poet to suffer this fate.  Greeting cards and calendars quote the beloved Rumi  but his poems involving sex seem curiously and often absent. To castrate the most intelligent is a vulgar crime that usually goes unpunished. The wonderful book Delicious Laughter by Coleman Barks is one of the books that corrects the lie of omission often done to Jelaluddin Rumi.


निषिद्ध षििय – Forbidden Subjects – Hindi Translation

Screenshot from 2015-08-11 13:03:44Excerpt from the introduction to

The Relevance of Kabir

 

 

Download PDF Hindi translation – Forbidden Subjects

कफीय की प्रासॊगगकता (The Relevance of Kabir) के ऩरयचम से लरए गए कुछ अॊश – टॉड विकसस द्िाया

 

 

 

A Book About Spirituality and Religious Skepticism

Book CoverWe conjure our tomorrows as if the future is bound to our concepts. We may say “no person knows everything,” but, still, we coddle our hubris by measuring all things by what we know. This arrogance is why entirely new things can seem familiar. By ignoring facts and reasons contrary to our beliefs, we invite life experiences to rip faulty beliefs from our terrified grasp when we could have let those beliefs go, just as we do with dreams in the morning.

If you do not expect the unexpected, you will not find it;

for it is hard to be sought out…”  vii Heraclitus

Presuming to know is different from trial and error. Generalizing is not bad, but we tend to treat our schemes as facts. In any group of people, unfounded beliefs pose great peril when the popularity of an idea takes the place of proof. For example, the delusional thinking of Americans imagining an imminent threat brought about a preemptive war and a river of bloodshed.

Excerpt: The Relevance of Kabir

We make judgments daily. It’s best to improve when we can because we not only pay a price when we suffer. Beautiful things this world truly offers may elude us as we linger in the graveyard of our preconceived ideas.

 

vii John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy (London: A. and C. Black, 1892), 134.

A Book About Relationships

Todd VickersThe Relevance of Kabir is also book about relationships. It takes many examples from real life relationships to point out the misery causing habits of mind. Here is an excerpt.

“He [Kabir] does  not  say  that  spiritual  seekers  or  ascetics  will  comprehend his  meaning,  but  notes  that lovers  will.  Our  poet  wants  us  to have the experience  of  being in love  as  a step toward greater liberation.  Lovers  mistake the dissolving of  the  ego in  orgasm  to be only  part  of  orgasm  when  it results  from  arresting habits  of  mind.  If  we  can’t  let  go  of  our  self,  orgasm  becomes  difficult.  In the ecstasy  of  love,  the  mental  specter  of  our  self  becomes  unsustainable.  We live  without  a story  for a few  moments.  If  we need  others  to see beyond  our  ideas  of  ourselves,  then  possessiveness haunts  us.  We become a burden to others  and limit  our  choices  by  reducing  people into nothing more than a means.  When  we  use people,  we probably  destroy  or  limit  our  affections  in the process. Emancipate others from being just a prop in a cerebral autobiography.”

More risqué examples in the book.