15th-century Indian mystic poet and saint

Kabir (14401518) was an Indian poet, mystic and philosopher, and one of the Northern India Sants.

Open your eyes of love, and see Him who pervades this world! consider it well, and know that this is your own country.

Quotes edit

  • I have come to save the devotees. I was sent here because the world was seen in misery.
    • Quoted in Tara Chand, Influence of Islam on Indian Culture, The Indian Press (Allahabad, 1946). pp.150-151. Quoted from K.S. Lal, Indian muslims, who are they, 1990.

Bijak edit

Quotes from various translations of the Bijak [Seedling], an early compilation of Kabir's poetry.
  • I've burned my own house down, the torch is in my hand.
    Now I'll burn down the house of anyone who wants to follow me.
    • The Bijak of Kabir (1983;2002) as translated by Linda Hess and Shukdeo Singh.
  • Admire the diamond that can bear the hits of a hammer. Many deceptive preachers, when critically examined, turn out to be false.
    • Sakhi, 168; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.
  • Don't open your diamonds in a vegetable market. Tie them in bundle and keep them in your heart, and go your own way.
    • Sakhi, 170; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.
  • A diamond was laying in the street covered with dirt. Many fools passed by. Someone who knew diamonds picked it up.
    • Sakhi, 171; translation by Yashwant K. Malaiya based on that of Puran Sahib.
  • When you were born, you cried while others laughed. Perform such deeds that when dying, you laugh while others cry.”
    • Quoted from Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012), Chapter: Humour in Hinduism

Songs of Kabîr (1915) edit

Hindus and Muslims alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.
Translations of Kabir's poetry by Rabindranath Tagore, with alternate translations of some passages also provided.


  • O servant, where dost thou seek Me?
    Lo! I am beside thee.

    I am neither in temple nor in mosque: I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash:
    Neither am I in rites and ceremonies, nor in Yoga and renunciation.
    If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time.
    • Variant translation: Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
      My shoulder is against yours.

      you will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine
      rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
      not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
      around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but
      When you really look for me, you will see me
      instantly —
      you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
      • As paraphrased by Robert Bly in The Kabir Book (1977)
  • Kabîr says, "O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath."
    • Variant translation: Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
      He is the breath inside the breath
      • As translated by Stephen Mitchell in The Enlightened Heart (1993)


  • It is needless to ask of a saint the caste to which he belongs;
    For the priest, the warrior. the tradesman, and all the thirty-six castes, alike are seeking for God.

    It is but folly to ask what the caste of a saint may be;
    The barber has sought God, the washerwoman, and the carpenter —
    Even Raidas was a seeker after God.
  • Hindus and Moslems alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.


  • O friend! hope for Him whilst you live, know whilst you live, understand whilst you live: for in life deliverance abides.
    If your bonds be not broken whilst living, what hope of deliverance in death?
    It is but an empty dream, that the soul shall have union with Him because it has passed from the body:
    If He is found now, He is found then,
    If not, we do but go to dwell in the City of Death.
    If you have union now, you shall have it hereafter.


  • 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.


  • Open your eyes of love, and see Him who pervades this world! consider it well, and know that this is your own country.
  • When you meet the true Guru, He will awaken your heart;
    He will tell you the secret of love and detachment, and then you will know indeed that He transcends this universe.
  • He is the Ultimate Rest unbounded: He has spread His form of love throughout all the world.
    From that Ray which is Truth, streams of new forms are perpetually springing: and He pervades those forms.
  • There the Unstruck Music eddies around the Infinite One;
    There in the midst the Throne of the Unheld is shining, whereon the great Being sits —
    Millions of suns are shamed by the radiance of a single hair of His body.
  • On the harp of the road what true melodies are being sounded! and its notes pierce the heart:
    There the Eternal Fountain is playing its endless life-streams of birth and death.
  • They call Him Emptiness who is the Truth of truths, in Whom all truths are stored!
    There within Him creation goes forward, which is beyond all philosophy; for philosophy cannot attain to Him: There is an endless world, O my Brother! and there is the Nameless Being, of whom naught can be said.
    Only he knows it who has reached that region: it is other than all that is heard and said.
    No form, no body, no length, no breadth is seen there: how can I tell you that which it is?
  • He comes to the Path of the Infinite on whom the grace of the Lord descends: he is freed from births and deaths who attains to Him.
    Kabîr says: "It cannot be told by the words of the mouth, it cannot be written on paper: It is like a dumb person who tastes a sweet thing — how shall it be explained?"

Azfar Hussain translations edit

Poems of Kabir, as translated by Azfar Hussain, in Reading About the World, Vol. 2 ISBN 0-8281-0849-8
  • When the bride is one
    with her lover,
    who cares about
    the wedding party?
  • A drop
    Melting into the sea,
    Everyone can see.
    But the sea
    In a drop —
    A rare one
    can follow!
  • I am looking at you,
    You at him,
    Kabir asks, how to solve
    This puzzle
    You, he, and I?

Quotes about Kabir edit

  • Poets like Jayasi, Rahim, and Raskhan are rare phenomena. So are saints like Kabir, Nanak and Gharib Das. They attempted a synthesis of the two cultural streams in the field of literature in their own way. But their endeavours were severly limited and short-lived. They failed to be popular amongst and influence the Muslims.
    • Harsh Narain, Myths of Composite Culture and Equality of Religions, 1990, p.27
  • I have it on good authority that Kabir's thought is Hindu through and through. The fable that Kabir brought a synthesis between Islam and Hinduism, does not survive a comparison between his works and the Quran. That Kabir was a simple weaver who produced lofty poetry just like that, is another fable for children of socialists : Kabir was well-read and knew his classics. There are hardly any Muslims in the Kabirpanth, and it is only the Hindus who venerate him. The simplest proof that his contribution to Indian culture was un-Islamic, is that he was persecuted for his Kafir ideas by the Muslim ruler Sikandar Lodi.
    • Koenraad Elst (1993). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society. New Delhi: Voice of India.
  • It is often said that the 15th-century poet Kabir was neither a Hindu nor a Muslim because he criticized and mocked both Hinduism and Islam, or rather, both Hindus and Muslims... Thus, Kabir’s rejection of Islamic animal sacrifice... does pit him against Islam as such. But Hinduism has far more fluid boundaries: most things Hindu have been rejected at one time or other by authoritative thinkers whose inclusion in the Hindu category is not in doubt... Kabir’s relative originality lies in his combination of devotion with the conception of the object of devotion as faceless (nirguna, “without quality”) rather than iconographically distinct, but that doesn’t place him outside the Hindu continuum... Scholars who place Kabir (or Sikhism founder Guru Nanak) as much outside Hinduism as outside Islam, may be suspected of projecting non-Hindu, mainly Christian categories of box-type religious divisions onto a civilization in which they don’t apply.
    • Koenraad Elst, The Argumentative Hindu (2012), Chapter: Humour in Hinduism
  • While there is evidence that both Hindus and Muslims were ready to assault Kabir physically during his lifetime, they have since his death been ready to assault each other over the privilege of claiming him as their own. … Some modern commentators have tried to present Kabir as a synthesizer of Hinduism and Islam; but the picture is a false one. While drawing on various traditions as he saw fit, Kabir emphatically declared his independence from both the major religions of his countrymen, vigorously attacked the follies of both, and tried to kindle the fire of similar autonomy and courage in those who claimed to be his disciples.
    • Linda Hess in the Introduction to The Bijak of Kabir (1983;2002)
  • The contrast of Kabir’s intimate Hindu thought, writings and ritual with the purely superficial knowledge of Moslem belief revealed in the Bijak is too striking to be ignored.
    • Ahmad Shah, Bijak of Kabir (Hamirpur, 1917), p.40. Quoted from K.S. Lal, Indian muslims, who are they, 1990.
  • Kabir belongs to that small group of supreme mystics amongst whom St. Augustine, Ruysbroeck, and the Sufi poet Jalalu'ddin Rumi are perhaps the chief who have achieved that which we might call the synthetic vision of God. These have resolved the perpetual opposition between the personal and impersonal, the transcendent and immanent, static and dynamic aspects of the Divine Nature; between the Absolute of philosophy and the "sure true Friend" of devotional religion. They have done this, not by taking these apparently incompatible concepts one after the other; but by ascending to a height of spiritual intuition at which they are, as Ruysbroeck said, "melted and merged in the Unity," and perceived as the completing opposites of a perfect Whole.
  • The whole background of Kabir’s thought is Hindu.
    • Westcott, G.H., Kabir and the Kabir Panth, p. 118. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6

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