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Without this, all is worthless || Acharya Prashant, on Guru Kabir (2019)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
5 min
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If you cannot win the love of the Lord, so what if you can lord over your neighbor? What is the good of dressing your hair and donning your feet with jingling jewelry? What is the value of all your makeup with kajal to your eyelids and vermilion to your forehead and all the efforts to deck yourself, if you are not loyal in your love? It is all a self-deception and does not touch the Lord at all. Says Kabir—if you can surrender your body, mind, and heart to the Lord and remain loyal in love to Him sans makeup and ornaments, you will win His favor in whatever state you be!

~ Kabir

Questioner: Could you please talk about the meaning of this poem?

Acharya Prashant: Full stop. Over. Why do you make me speak? Just recite this over and over, again and again.

Alright, let’s elaborate on this one. What is he saying? He is saying, “How do you manage to give yourself the right to celebrate?” Kabir is wondering, how does the ordinary man or woman—when I say man, I mean person; I have clarified that many times as a matter of habit. How does the ordinary man gather the guts, the dishonest audacity to pretend as if everything is alright? How do we manage to laugh out so loud? How do we manage to have such ravishing parties? How do we manage to sing and yell? How do we manage to say, “Thumbs up, all is well”? Wow, that rhymed! How do we manage to sing and yell, and how do we say thumbs up, all is well?

Kabir is astonished at our dishonesty. He is saying, “How do you tolerate yourself smiling? You have nothing! The only thing worth having in life is His companionship, nearness to Him; that you have lost. You didn’t invest your life in earning his nearness; you lost all that which was precious, because you were never determined to earn that. And now, loveless, sireless, see how shamelessly you rejoice. You have vermilion on your forehead, you have kājala , the eyeliner. So, you are using all these things as if the season is festive, as if some great achievement has happened, as if you are somebody. Instead of mourning, you are celebrating. What is this absurdity? That which is the essence of life you are separated from, and still you walk on, carry on as if nothing has happened. The sole purpose of life is getting defeated day by day; every passing day is a new defeat, time lost; and yet you keep saying, ‘All is well.’ Not a trace of melancholy, not an iota of regret!”

And then he says, “Had you not had any of these celebrations and happinesses but you had Him, then your life could be said to be fulfilled.” Kabir talks of the ‘I’-sense as the female, the woman searching for her beloved. He too talks of all mankind as female, because the ‘I’-sense is there in both man and woman. He says the ‘I’-sense is the female and she is looking for her beloved Lord and she is not finding him, and therefore she is restless.

So, at one point he says, “ Pativrata maili bhali (It doesn’t matter if a loyal wife is dirty). If you are aiming for Him and in the process your looks, your appearances become dusty and unattractive, that is okay. But if you have lost Him and still look attractive and young and market-ready, then you are just a vyabhichāriṇī (adulteress).” Who is a vyabhichāriṇī in Kabir’s jargon? The ‘I’-sense that has not only not attained the Beloved but is also not eager to attain the Beloved; she is lost in the world in miscellaneous pursuits.

So, Kabir says, “Do not bother about counting your worldly achievements. Assess yourself on just one parameter. Do not assess yourself on how much you have progressed in the worldly sense. Ask yourself just one question: do you have Him? If you have Him, you have everything; and if you do not have Him, then what is the point of having everything?”

So, he is taunting mankind, both men and women. He is saying, “You are flaunting your looks, you are brandishing your wears, you are giving yourself the right to hold festivities; but all that is just self-deception. You are so dishonest that you want to convince yourself that you are alright, when it is very well certain that things are not alright. In fact, the more you display your ornaments and makeup, the more it becomes ascertained that your laughter is all made-up.”

If you will go to Kabir Sahib, he will ask you just one question: do you have Him? There is nothing else to discuss. Point blank. One shot. What is the question? Do you have Him? If yes, no more questions. If no, no more questions.

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