Sant Kabir Dasji (c. 1398/1440 – 1518 CE) is undoubtedly one of the greatest Vedantic poets of all time. There are many references to Kabir Dasji in the Gospel and the Complete Works. The following is a humble attempt to render some of Kabir Dasji’s couplets into English. The original couplets are given within “/* */”. The poetic depth and the enchanting play of words of Kabir Dasji’s couplets are hard to translate. These are best appreciated in his original inimitable words.
1. /* Kabira va din yaad kar, pug oopar tal sheesh
Mirta lokme aayeke bishar gaya Jagdeesh
Kabir, remember the day of your birth,
When you came to this sorrowful earth,
Head first and feet last,
Forgetting the Lord and your past!
[cf. Gita 4.5 and 9.33]
2. /* Raat gavaya soye ke, divas gavaya khae,
Hira janaam amol tha kauri badle jae
3. /* Dhan yovan sab yehi rehega, ant samaye chale rita
kahe Kabir kalan khaiyan he mrig ko jese chita
Listen my friend dear,
Health, wealth and all that you feel so dear,
Will for sure be left here,
When empty handed you have to go there!
Says Kabir, as the cheetah sucks out a deer’s life,
So is Time sucking out man’s life.
[cf. Gita 13.9]
4. /* Mala phirat joog bhaya, phira na man ka pher,
Karta man ka chor ke, manka manka pher
You have counted your beads for ages,
But the mind is still lost in Maya’s mazes.
Now, listen to what say the sages,
Take the ego off the mind,
And let the mind run the mind.
[cf. 3.27 and 13.30]
5. /* Swash swash se naam le birtha swash na khoye
Na jane jo jawan vo aawan hoe na hoe
With every breath take Her name, do not slack!
Who knows, the next breath may not come back!
[cf. Gita 6.25, 6.26, 9.33 and 9.34]
6. /* Nind nishani mot ki ooth Kabira jaag
Or rasayan chari ke naam rasayan laag
Sleep symbolizes death, so Kabira arise and be awake!
Nothing else but Her name may your tongue take.
7. /* Eshi baani boliye manka aapa khoye
Oron ko shital kare, aapo shital hoe
Say such words that tame the little self,
Words that soothe others as well as oneself.
[cf. Gita 17.15]
8. /* Sai itna dijiye jame kootumb samaye
Me bhi bhooka na rahun, sadhu na bhooka jaye
O Lord, give me enough to feed my family,
Neither I nor the Sadhu should go hungry.
9. /* Kabira khara baazar me mange sub ki kher
Na kahoose dosti na kahoose ber
In the world’s busy mall,
Praying for all,
There Kabira goes,
Without any friends or foes!
[cf. Gita 6.9 and 12.18]
10. /* Nirgun mera pita, Sagun matohari,
Kako nindo kako bando, dono pallo bhari
Nriguna is my Father, Saguna, my Mother.
Whom to criticize, whom to praise, both are very dear!
[cf. 7.19, 8.9 and 13.31]
11. /* Ghate pani sab bhare, oghat bhare na koi,
Oghat ghat Kabir ka, jo bhare so nirmal hoi
All draw “water” from this world of senses,
But few, from the one beyond senses.
One who draws from the “One” beyond senses,
His thirst indeed quenches!
[cf. Gita 2.69, 6.21 and 6.22]
12. /* Pothi par par jag mooa, pandit bhaya na koi
Dhai akshar prem ka pare so pandit hoi
The whole world reads books, but who has become learned?
Just two and a half letters of love, one who reads indeed becomes learned!
[Prem (love) is written using two and a half letters in Devanagari (Sanskrit script)]
[cf. Gita 2.42 to 2.46]
13. /* Das Kabir kahe samjhai, unt samaye tera kon sahai
Chala akela, sung na koi, kiya upna hi pai
Says Das Kabir, “Listen my friend
Who will go with you in the end?
Alone, without any companion or friend,
Carrying your karma you have to go in the end.”
[cf. Gita 15.8]
14. /* Ram bolava bhejia, diya Kabira roye
Jo sukh sadhu sang me veh vaikunth na hoe
When the call came at the end of the day,
To quit and leave this play,
Kabira had no fears,
But was still moved to tears.
The joy of holy company here
Is greater than even the joys up there!
[cf. Gita 10.9]
15. /* Kahena tha jo kuh diya, ub kachoo kaha na jaye
Ek raha dooja gaya, dariya leher samaye
Only this much I could say,
The rest, I can no more say.
The “One” remains, the “Other” goes,
The ocean subsumes the waves!