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Why is singing of great importance in spirituality? || Acharya Prashant, on Guru Kabir (2018)

Author Acharya Prashant

Acharya Prashant

8 min
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Questioner (Q): What is the best way to approach the beautiful poetry of Kabir? There are so many of them and they often contain language and idioms that are not easy to understand. Yet something within responds to them even if the mind doesn’t comprehend them fully. How to get the most out of them?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Sing with a Kabir, or sing Kabir with yourself. That’s the best thing. The best thing is to sing. But we have become very, very unmusical. Our instruments have lost their tuning. We have forgotten to sing. We have lost all verse. So, the fallout of that is that your Acharya Ji has to laboriously speak in prose, and therefore he has to speak so much. Otherwise, two lines of a Kabir are much more than sufficient. And even after speaking so much, do I even come close to what he said? I don’t.

Sing. There is no alternative to that.

Q: Without knowing the meaning?

AP: Know the meaning and sing. He definitely wanted you to know the meaning and sing, and that’s why he sang in the language of the people. Had he just wanted you to croon anything unintelligible, then why would he compose in the very language of the ordinary people? Why did he do that? Because he wanted you to also know the literal meaning of his words. If I can help you know the literal meaning of his words, good; to that extent, use me. But do sing.

Q: Kabir says, “ Man ko maaroon patak ke, took took hoi jaaye; vish ki kyaari boyi ke, ab kaahe pachtaaye (I will beat the mind to the ground so hard that it breaks into pieces; after sowing the seeds of poison, why is it repenting now)?”

Why do the saints curse the mind so much, even though the same mind brings me to the Guru?

AP: Then Kabir Sahib has a different śloka for you:

Kabira man nirmal bhaya, jaise Ganga neer; pachhe pachhe Hari phirey, kahat Kabir Kabir (Kabir's mind has become clear like the water of the Ganges; now Hari runs after him saying ‘Kabir Kabir’).”

Not all verses about man or mind are applicable to all states of the mind.

Pehle to man kaaga thaa, karta aatamghaat; ab manwa hansa bhaya, moti chug chug khaat (Previously the mind was like a crow who used to do self-harm; now the mind has become a swan who picks up only the pearls and eats them).”

So, it is not as if the saints have just cursed the mind incessantly; they have also praised the mind. If the mind brings you to the Guru, then glory to the mind. If the mind takes you towards destruction─ man ko maaro patak ke (beat the mind to the ground). Depends on the direction the mind is taking. If you will go to the Upanishads, they will say there is no greater friend than the mind and neither is there an enemy bigger than the mind. The mind is both the best friend and the biggest enemy.

Your friend and your enemy are at war with each other. Who will win? You are the referee. You don’t even have to choose; you just have to declare. Keep declaring the right result.

Q: Facing reality is often very hurtful; one feels like having been badly bashed. How should one cope with such situations?

AP: You have to remember what I just said. Irrespective of how one behaves or what one says, deeply and ultimately all want Truth. So, irrespective of what your impulsive reaction is, you must also remember that nobody does anything for self-harm. Even when a person commits suicide, he is actually trying to minimise self-harm.

Doesn’t matter whether the world is ignorant or arrogant. It doesn’t matter what qualities or characteristics are being displayed. Are they being displayed so that the one displaying them gets harmed? You might be ignorant and you are walking towards a hole, but is it self-harm that you want? You are just ignorant. And if you are ignorant, do I curse you or do I help you? The prakṛtik instinct would be to only curse. Wisdom would be to helpfully curse. So, when you curse, curse in a way that helps.

What is Kabir Sahib saying here? Man ko maroo patak ke . Obviously, he is cursing the mind, but look at the love. What is he scolding the mind for? He is saying, “You are the one who sowed all the poisonous seeds— vish ki kyaari boyi ke, ab kaahe pachtaaye —now you are repenting?” He is actually teaching the mind something. What is he teaching the mind? “Do not sow seeds of poison.” Like the benevolent grandfather who scolds you but nevertheless helps you. And he scolds you so that the need to be helped reduces.

Saints have scolded a lot. In fact, even Buddha who is commonly considered the epitome of poise and compassion has been very, very harsh in his scolding. He has used the choicest words. Sometimes he has called you an ass, sometimes a pig. It is for the sake of compassion, and it is because those who run from the center of fear sometimes require fear even to be helped.

Suppose there is a patient, a diseased one in the spiritual sense. And what is his disease? His disease is that he works only through fear. His disease is that he knows only fear. Nothing can make him move or work except fear. Now, you want to take this person to a doctor of spirituality. This fellow is a sick man in the spiritual sense, and you want to take him to a doctor who would cure him, and this man knows only one motivation, and the motivation is fear. How do you take this man to the doctor? Making him fearful. Therefore, the saints scold.

Q: I think one needs some honesty to be afraid.

AP: No, no, honesty is not needed. Honesty is needed to be fearless. Honesty is not needed to be fearful; it is needed to be fearless. The ones who live by the center of fear always live in the imagination of assumed outcomes, and that is why they live in fear. So, all that the teacher then needs is a certain worldly power, using which he should be able to induce fear in the other person. The teacher must have a certain worldly authority as well, using which he should be able to induce fear.

But when we are talking about the ability and the intent of the teacher to induce fear in someone, let it not go too far. We are only talking of as much fear as is required to bring this patient to the doctor; nothing more than that. We are not talking of fear becoming a way of life. We are not talking of fear as the preferred instrument of the teacher. We are not glorifying fear, please. The aim is fearlessness.

But sometimes our love for fearlessness can get so very shrouded beneath all kinds of rubbish that we just lose that charm. The teacher may come and say, “You know what, you live in fear. Come with me; I will take you to fearlessness.” And the fellow will say, “Fearlessness? I do not want that. I don’t want that!” He wants that and yet does not know that he wants. That’s the situation of man. So, then the teacher has no option but to temporarily use fear. So, that power has to be very, very discreetly applied.

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