Kabir: the Bhakti Poet

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In the India of Kabir's day the Moslem influence was predominantly in the form of Siifism, and the poetry and philosophy of the Persian mystics such as 'Attir, Rinmi, Sidi, and Hifiz inspired Kabir. •From the Hindu side, Kabir was a product of the bhakti movement of devotional theism which represented a reaction against a decadent Buddhism and the intellectualism of the Advaitist Vedinta philosophy. •This move-ment had its philosophical expression in the eleventh century in the theistic Vaisnavism of Riminuja, who also made great strides toward the liberaliza- tion of the social and religious life of India. In the fifteenth century R~mi- nanda carried this tendency further. incarnation. Riminanda, however, re- moved virtually all caste distinctions and further relaxed rules of worship which had been retained by Rim.inuja.3 Kabir, building upon this founda- tion, carried the rejection of ritual and formalism so far that in this respect his protest has been compared to that of the Quakers.4 For Kabir, one thing alone is needful-to look beyond oneself to the ground of all Being, in union with which lies perfect bliss. •As the bhakti movement liberalized Hinduism, so the Sfifis liberalized Islam, and by one of the fortunate accidents of history the full development of each movement occurred in fifteenth-century India. These two streams of thought met in Kabir •In the use of the metaphors of love, the bhaktas were in almost direct opposition to much of traditional Hinduism, which as late as the time of the Bhagavad-gita was teaching that the realization of God could be accomplished only through the abolition of all sense-desires. •The image of Krishna was thus appropriated in the divine love play, the raas lila. Sufism used dance and song to reach god, the ecstacy provided by wine to be found intoxicated in religion. •Men of vidya, or vision, say what lan- guage and logic were not invented to say."8 The symbols of language are inevitably naturalistic, having...
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