TUNNEL LIGHTS

The thoughts, reflections, rants, raves, on my life; The life of a Christian, black, gay, male.

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I knew I had to purchase this book when I saw it sitting on two shelves at my former Borders bookstore. The first shelf was in religion: right after the books on Rumi and wedged in between the end of the Qu’rans perched a shelf above various versions of The Bhagavad Gita and The Upanishads. In reflection, I see how a more proper placement could not have been found except for its other home in the poetry section. However now I would argue against its flippant placement on the various poetry shelf. I am a bit backlogged in my reading so it to me a while to get to this, but the wonders that awaited me when I opened this clandestine masterpiece and unfurled its pages I was awe-inspired to say the least.

From the extensive introduction, we gather that the man that is accredited with these poems, songs, and sayings was alleged to have lived anywhere from 120 years to 700 years today; most scholars say he lived to about 50. He was a weaver by trade and found god in it and jubilantly sang it aloud as a bard traveling and selling his textiles. He is said to have not been able to read or write so all of his wisdom has been transmitted orally until recorded centuries ago. History has also accredited him with being one of the spiritual founding fathers of Sikhism but also one of the first recorded and documented poets of the Hindu language.

Storm

My good brothers,
Knowledge swept through
Like a hurricane.
            It completely blew away
The reed-curtain
            Of confusion and error
It didn’t let Māyā
            Stay tied down.

It toppled the twin poles
            Of vacillation,
It broke the beam
            Of everyday love.
It tossed down
            The thatch of craving
From the top of the roof,
            It shattered the pot
Of foolishness

The rain that fell
            In the wake of the storm
Soaked Your men to the skin
            Kabir says, when I saw
The sun come out
            My mind was filled with radiance

On the surface this song/poem is a plain as it is brilliant. Knowledge, being the thing that untied Māyā(illusion). Māyā (illusion) being the world around us that we have created within our minds and have imposed upon the natural world around us. Knowledge blowing away confusion and shattering the pot of foolishness exclaims of a master poet and hints at the mind of this great thinker. This great thinker was not from a high standing family or from one of the casts of great prestige, but was an everyday person like you and I with the equivalent of an everyday job and trade. Historically he was also one of many weavers of his time and in his city. His mother and father were not only weavers by trade but weaving was a family tradition and all the families that lived in area were weavers so again, what should have made him one of many made him stand out even further.

Ant

Beware of the world,
            Brothers,
            Be alert—
You’re being robbed
            While wide awake
Beware of the Vedas,
            Brothers
            Be vigilant—
Death will carry you away
While the guard
            Looks on.

The neem tree
Becomes the mango tree,
            The mango tree becomes
            The neem,
The banana plant
Spreads into a bush—
            The fruit on the coconut palm
Ripens into a berry
Right under your noses
            You dumb and foolish
            Rustics

Hair becomes sugar
            And scatters Himself
            In the sand
No elephant can sift
The crystals from the grains
            Kabir says, renounce
            All family, cast, and clan
Turn into an ant,
            Instead—
Pick the sugar from the sand
            And eat.

Ant is one of my favorites. Here Kabir warns us of the dangers (I believe) of not discerning doctrine and dogma and letting either play the major role in our relationship in with god instead of God. I also believe he is saying instead of seeking to inflate ourselves with titles, ranks, and importance, we should be humbling ourselves in our search for self, for god, and oneness. If we believe ourselves, or allow others to place us in a demi-god position we not only fall for the tricks of our own pride but also the tricks and manipulations of the ones that seek to hinder our journey and we miss out on the very thing we are seeking.

The simple State

Listen,
You saints—
I see that the world
Is crazy.

When I tell the truth,
People run
To beat me up—
When I tell lies,
They believe me.

Ive seen
The pious ones,
The rtual mongers—
They bathe at dawn.
They kill the true Self
And worship rocks—
They know nothing

Ive seen
Many masters and teachers
They read their Book,
Their Qur’an

They teach many students
Their business tricks—
That’s all they know.

They sit at home
In pretentious poses—
Their minds are full
Of vanity

They begin to worship
Brass and stone—
They’re so proud
Of their pilgrimages
They forget the real thing.

They wear caps and beads,
They paint their brows
With cosmetics
Of holiness

They forget the true words
And songs of witness
The moment they’ve sung them—
They haven’t heard
The news of Self.

The Hindu says
Rāma’s dear to him
The Muslim says its Rahīm.

They go to war and kill each other—
No one knows
The secret of things

They do their rounds
From door to door
Selling their magical formulas—
They’re vain
About their reputations

All the students
Will drown with their teachers—
At the last moment
They’ll repent

Kabir says,
Listen,
You saintly men,
Forget all this vanity

Ive said it so many times
But nobody listens—
You must merge into the simple state
Simply

This is another one of my favorites. Here, Kabir speaks again of being religious without any connection to the self and God. He speaks of how the religious Hindu and the religious Muslim have voided any connection with their god or gods and have turned religion into nothing more than business tool. This poem has a lot of historical context that still plays into tensions in the region today. Hindu’s preferring to do business exclusively with other Hindu’s and Muslim with Muslim along with a whole tome of other issues I won’t get into here as not to detract from Kabir. The majority of us in the 21’st century west have, or had no idea that for nearly 1000 years the Hindus and Muslims did not get along and the constant warring of the two religious groups led to the creation of a place that came to be called Pakistan. Kabir points out the people that only use religion as access to people inner sanctums of their heart and minds but not for the purpose of spiritual growth but a nefarious monetary gain.

In Ant he touches on what he perceives to be the fallacy of the phony Hindu and the dangers of strict and ritualistic adherence to the Vedas. In the simple state he points out what he believes to be contradictions with those claiming Islam and holding up the Qu’ran as law yet acting opposite. He calls for everyone to come to a simplistic and humble state where truth and knowledge are the gateways to self, oneness, and god.

The last part of the book is composed of various sayings attributed to Kabir  

#6
Kabir, a fire raging on every side
            Consumed the house built of wood:
Paṇḍit after paṇḍit perished in the blaze,
            While every idiot got away

I'm not fluent in Hindi or Sanskrit so I looked up the word Paṇḍit. Thankfully the this editions glossary is very handy. With new understanding of the word, (A paṇḍit (Hindi; Devanagari: पण्डित; Bengali: পন্ডিত, Sanskrit: paṇḍita) is a scholar, a teacher, particularly one skilled in Sanskrit language, mastered vedic scriptures in the four vedas, Hindu rituals and Hindu law, religion, music or philosophy under a Guru in a Gurukul or tutored under the vedic ancient Guru Shishya tradition of learning. The English loan word pundit is derived from it http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandit) how true is it that the world, as the house built of wood, were to be burning down the scholarly learned one would parish while those called simple, dumb, and idiots would be the ones to get away.

#32
The one who stays within the limits assigned to him is a man.
            The one whom roams beyond those limits is a saint.

To reject both limits and their absence:
            That’s a thought with immeasurable depths.

This is one of my favorites and needs no explanation

Kabir’s: The weaver’s song is a masterful contribution to the world of poetry, song, prose, and philosophy. The man sat at the spiritual intersection of Islam and Hinduism, at times rejected them both, and at others praised them both at a time with saying anything about either was certain death in the wrong company. Today being a moderate of anything in America is seen as some sort of ambivalence. Today one not only must shout for an extreme view left or right but it is also one’s duty to sway everyone they come in contact with to the side they reside on. It is tragic in my eyes because, as is shown in American politics, with no one willing to reside and see truth in the middle no one will take steps to meet there.

The only modern equivalent I can think of what today’s version of what Kabir would look like would be someone marrying evangelical Christianity with Kabbalah. If said person were around today, would said thought last for almost six centuries as it did with Kabir? Would said poetry and prose be quoted on the streets by the everyday man and woman as it was in his time? Would we even remember said mystic to first shed light on the new thought as Kabir shed light on the weaver’s song? Pick up this book and ask yourself the questions, read the words, and hear the centuries old songs sung in your mind and let the thought behind them sink into your soul and meditate.


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I offer my own unique voice, my own vision. I think the saying goes that writers write because no one else can say what they have to say quite the way they have to say it. That is why I write, that is what I offer.

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