Bhagat Kabir and Sikh Gurus - Similarities in their Utterances

Bhagat Kabir and the numerous hymns & saloks had special importance in the eyes of the Gurus.

Bhagat Kabir (1398-1518), a torch- bearer of the Bhakti movement, was born at Banaras. As mystic, he is ranked among the top most well-known Bhagats of his era. He was also acknowledged a literary figure of north India. As written by Prof. Sahib Singh (Guru Granth Darpan Vol.5th page 756), Guru Nanak (1469- 1539) collected Bhagat Kabir's utterances when he visited Banaras during his first odyssey (1507-1515) as he liked them. This collection was preserved and handed it over to the successive Guru still Guru Arjan Dev included 227 padas in 17 musical measures and 237 Slokas by Bhagat Kabir in Aadi Granth. Mcauliffe writes that Guru Nanak and Bhagat Kabir met each other, but there is no evidence to prove it. Some historians think that Kabir died in 1448.

There are fifteen Bhagats whose compositions are included in Sri Guru Granth Sahib, but Bhagat Kabir has been given special importance. The number of his hymns and saloks (prologues) included in SGGS is larger than those of any other Bhagat. His hymns always come immediately just after those of the Gurus. He is one of the two persons whose compositions have been explained or clarified by the Sikh Gurus. This shows Bhagat Kabir has special importance in the eyes of the Gurus.

This may be due to the fact that there is a remarkable similarity of ideas and expression in the compositions of Bhagat Kabir and those of the Sikh Gurus. Sometimes, they have used the same metaphor or simile for expressing the same idea. Only a few examples of this similarity are being given in this article. These examples also reveal the philosophy of Bhagat Kabir.

God is the Creator of All:
Bhagat Kabir and Guru Nanak both believed that God is the Creator of all and His light pervades in His creation;He is both Transcendent and Immanent.Other Sikh Gurus also emphasized this point:

Avil Alh nUru aupwieAw kudriq ky sB bMdy ]
eyk nUr qy sBu jgu aupijAw kaun Bly ko mMdy ]
(Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:1349)"
First, Allah (God) created the Light; then, by His Creative Power, He made all mortal beings. From the One Light, the entire universe welled up. So who is good, and who is bad?"

sB mih joiq joiq hY soie ]
iqs dY cwnix sB mih cwnxu hoie ]
( Guru Nanak Dev.SGGS:13)"
Amongst all is the Light-You are that Light. By this Illumination, that Light is radiant within all."

Condemnation of Caste System:
Kabir boldly condemned the caste system among Hindus and challenged the Brahmans who according to him were the root cause of this prejudice.All the Sikh Gurus preached against this evil. The SikhGurus also condemned the caste system with equal boldness and advised those whobelieved in this system that many evils are born out of this system:

jO qUM bRwhmxu bRhmxI jwieAw ] qau Awn bwt kwhy nhI AwieAw ]
qum kq bRwhmx hm kq sUd ]hm kq lohU qum kq dUD ]
(Bhagat Kabir. SGGS:324) "
If you are indeed a Brahmin, born of a Brahmin mother, then why didn't you come by some other way? How is it that you are a Brahmin, and I am of a low social status? How is it that I am formed of blood, and you are made of milk?"

jwiq kw grbu n kir mUrK gvwrw ]
iesu grb qy clih bhuqu ivkwrw ]
(Guru Amar Daas.SGGS:1127)
Do not be proud of your social class and status, you ignorant fool! So much sin and corruption comes from this pride."

Relation between God and Human Soul:
Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus have often used the simile of bride and groom for human soul and the Lord respectively. Their union has been described as marriage of bridewith her groom:

gwau gwau rI dulhnI mMglcwrw ]
myry igRh Awey rwjw rwm Bqwrw ]
(Bhagat Kabir. SGGS:482)
Sing, sing, O wedded- mates, the marriage songs of the Lord. The Lord, my King, has come to my house as my Husband.

gwvhu gwvhu kwmxI ibbyk bIcwru ]
hmrY Gir AwieAw jgjIvnu Bqwru ]
(Guru Nanak..SGGS:351)
'So sing - yes, sing the songs of wisdom and reflection, O brides. My spouse, the Life of the world, has come into my home.'

Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus both believed in the theory of transmigration and according to them, it happens in God's Will:

Awvn jwnw hukmu iqsY kw hukmY buiJ smwvihgy ] (Bhagat Kabir. SGGS: 1103)'
Coming and going is by His Command; realizing His Command, I shall merge in Him.

jMmxu mrxw hukmu hY BwxY AwvY jwie ] (Guru Nanak..SGGS:472)'
Birth and death are subject to the Command of the Lord's Will; through His Will we come and go ,'

The Lord's Contemplation:
Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus preach that attainment of peace is possible through the contemplation of the Lord.. They consider it very important:

Ab moih srb kusl kir mwinAw ]
sWiq BeI jb goibdu jwinAw ]
(Bhagat Kabir. SGGS: 326)'
Now, I feel that everything brings me peace. Peace and tranquility have come, since I realized the Lord of the Universe.'

rsnw gux gopwl iniD gwiex ]
sWiq shju rhsu min aupijE sgly dUK plwiex ]
( Guru Arjan Dev. SGGS:713) '
My tongue sings the Praises of the Lord of the world, the ocean of virtue. Peace, tranquility, poise and delight wells up in my mind, and all sorrows run away.'

Effects of Lust and Wrath:
Bhagat Kabir as well as the Sikh Gurus have warned us against the ruinous effects of lust and wrath and advised us to control them:

kwm k®oD iqRsnw ky lIny giq nhI eykY jwnI ] (Bhagat Kabir. SGGS: 1123) ''
You are engrossed with unsatisfied sexual desire and unresolved anger; you do not know the State of the One Lord.'

kwm k®oiD mnu ihir lieAw mnmuK AMDw loie ] ( Guru Amar Daas/SGGS:1414) '
'The self-willed is blind in the world and his mind is lured away by sexual desire and anger.'

Purpose of Life:
According to Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus, the purpose of our life is to contemplate the Lord, to obey His command and to emulate His virtues:

iehI qyrw Aausru ieh qyrI bwr ]
Gt BIqir qU dyKu ibcwir ]
(Bhagat Kabir. SGGS: 1159)'
'This( life) is your chance, and this is your time. Look deep into your own heart, and reflect on this.'

goibMd imlx kI ieh qyrI brIAw ] ( Guru Arjan Dev. SGGS12) '
This (life) is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe.'

Idol Worship:
Kabir as well as Guru Nanak raised their forceful voice against the blind faith of worshipping idols. They told peoples how can an idol save someone from drowning in the ocean of Maya:

kabeer paahan paramaesur keeaa poojai sabh sa(n)saar ||
kbIr pwhnu prmysuru kIAw pUjY sBu sMswru ]
ies Brvwsy jo rhy bUfy kwlI Dwr ]
(Bhagat Kabir. SGGS:1371)
'Kabeer, someone sets up a stone idol and the whole world worships it as the Lord. They who hold to this belief will be drowned in the river of darkness.'

pwQru ly pUjih mugD gvwr ]
Eih jw Awip fuby qum khw qrxhwru ]
(Guru Nanak.SGGS:556)'
The ignorant fools pick up stones and worship them. But when those stones themselves sink, how will carry you across?'

Heaven and Hell:
Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus agree that a true seeker has no desire to attain to heaven; nor does he care for hell. All he cares is to keep contemplating God:

kbIr surg nrk qy mY rihE siqgur ky prswid ]
crn kml kI mauj mih rhau AMiq Aru Awid ]
(SGGS:Bhagat Kabir1370)
"Kabeer says, I have been spared from heaven and hell by the Grace of the True Guru. 'From beginning to end, I abide in the joy of the Lord's Lotus Feet.'

Dnu nhI bwCih surg n AwCih ]
Aiq ipRA pRIiq swD rj rwcih ]
(Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:251)
"They(true seekers) do not seek wealth, and they do not desire paradise. They are immersed in the deep love of their Beloved, and the dust of the feet of the Holy."

Bhagat Kabir and the Sikh Gurus condemn hypocrisy and believe that it cannot be washed away by taking dips at holy places. Only contemplation on God's name can wash its dirt away:

idl mih kptu invwj gujwrY ikAw hj kwbY jWeyN ] (Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:1349)
'If someone has deception in his heart, what good is it for him to utter prayers? And what good is it for him to go on pilgrimage to Mecca?'

krm Drm pwKMf jo dIsih iqn jmu jwgwqI lUtY ]
inrbwx kIrqnu gwvhu krqy kw inmK ismrq ijqu CUtY ]
(Guru Arjan Dev.SGGS:747)
'The religious rites, rituals and hypocrisies which are seen, are plundered by the Messenger of Death, the ultimate tax collector. Sing the Creator's Praises selflessly; contemplating, even for an instant, one is saved.'

Both Kabir and Guru Nanak believe that humility is a great virtue liked by God. Both say that they are worst of all.:

kbIr sB qy hm bury hm qij Blo sBu koie ] (Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:1364) '
'Kabeer, I am the worst of all. Everyone else is good.

hm nhI cMgy burw nhI koie ] (Guru Nanak.SGGS: 728)
I am not good; no one is as bad as I am.

Importance of Naam:
Bhagat Kabir as well as the Sikh Gurus attach great importance to Naam. They think that obeying the Lord's commands and imitating His virtues are more important than material wealth. According to them, only worldly wealth cannot make a person rich.For them, even the richest man in the eyes of the world is a pauper if he does not possess spiritual wealth:

kih kbIr inrDnu hY soeI ]
jw ky ihrdY nwmu n hoeI ]
(Bhagat Kabir.SGGS:1159)
'Kabeer, he alone is poor who does not have the Naam, the Name of the Lord, in his heart.'

nwnku inrDnu iqqu idin ijqu idin ivsrY nwau ] (Guru Nanak.SGGS: 1244)
'Nanak becomes poor on the day whenhe forgets the Lord's Name.'

It can be safely concluded that there is a remarkable similarity not only in the ideas, but also in the expression of Bhagat Kabir and those of the Sikh Gurus. We find that some hymns, words and phrases used by them are also common. Guru Nanak found that Bhagat Kabir's ideas were mostly the same that he preached, so he collected the hymns and prologues of Bhagat Kabir and wanted them to be preserved. There is little to suggest that Guru Nanak owed anything to Kabir's teachings.

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