Kabir's Poems

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Spoken By Supreme Master Ching Hai, Laiyi Center, Formosa January 13, 1993 (Originally In Chinese)

 This is a book of East Indian poems that have been translated into English. Kabir is a well-known writer in India. He was an enlightened master who lived some five to six hundred years ago. He was not rich and earned his living as a cobbler. Though he had very little money, he was very generous. Very often when he had guests, he would ask his wife to borrow money or to get some food on credit in order to entertain them.

 Now I will read one or two of his poems to you. Poems or literature about spiritual practice, especially those concerning the Quan Yin Method, are easier to understand; either from ancient or contemporary times, they are the same. Kabir's poems are very popular among the people, and he remains a well-known name today. Every East Indian person knows his name. His poetic creations are marked by sarcasm and his spiritual verses are beautifully written. I remember a short poem of his, which is truly sarcastic. In the poem, he derided those false monks who were lousy spiritual practitioners and who fainted upon earing his words. Perhaps he had a sharp "beak" like this. (Laughter) He left behind a large collection of lectures, poems and articles, but not a single photograph, so people have no idea what he looked like. I have no doubt, however, that he had a sharp tongue! (Master laughs)

 One of his remarks was about spiritual practitioners who only dyed their robes and not their hearts. Spiritual practitioners in India wore red or saffron robes, which were a symbol of compassion and universal love. Kabir noted that they had only dyed their clothing, but their hearts had not been dyed in the color of love. They walked out on God and went to worship stones. In India people loved to worship stones because they were too lazy to carve them! (Master and everyone laugh) They grew long hair which they kept unkempt, and they had long beards like goats. (Master and everyone laugh) "Mare...." (Master imitates the goat.) They forsook their loved ones and their families, and turned themselves into eunuchs. (Master and everyone laugh)

 This is how he ridiculed them. Both the original poem in Hindi and the English translation sound very amusing. My Chinese translation may not be very good, but you are already screaming in laughter. If we were to read the original, most probably we would be rolling on the floor by now. (Laughter) The doctor would have to give us gastric pills quickly.

Image Intro  Such was his character. Kabir loved to write such sarcastic words, and the spiritual practitioners of his time dreaded him. In spite of his poverty, he did not accept offerings and people had high respect for him. When so-called spiritual practitioners visited him, of course he entertained them hospitably. He even sold his wife to do so. Moved by his actions, his neighbor gave him food without demanding payment or taking his wife.

Look Inwardly

 In Kabir's anthology of poems, there are many beautiful ones about the Quan Yin Method. Let me read one to you; it is entitled "Look Inwardly".

   The musk deer searches through the forest trees
   For the fragrance that will enchant and please.
   But all the while it searches, never knowing
   From its own nature, the musk is blowing.

   So too the Lord is within every being but outside we 
   seek Him.
   We seek Him and live without seeing.
   The limitless is not limited to any space,
   His presence pervades in every place.
   For those who know the Lord, He's near at hand,
   Close to those He will always stand.

   For those who insist far away the Lord must be,
   No doubt very distant from those is He.
   The Lord is far away, my old thoughts had begun,
   But now I know the Lord abides in everyone.

   For those who know not who they truly are,
   Although the Lord is close by,
   For them He is quite far.
   Leaving their fields
   where they have been plowing,
   Men gather at temples for ritual bowing.

   But the Lord does dwell within your heart,
   Enter His temple and never depart.

 In this poem, Kabir talked about a musk deer searching the mountains and forests for the source of the pleasant aroma. It was drawn by the fragrance but was unaware that it came from its own body. Likewise, the Lord is within us, within every sentient being. Yet, we often look outwardly, so we cannot find Hirm. This limitless love cannot be confined within a limited space; it is omnipresent. For those who know, the Lord is close by. We can always know Hirm, see Hirm, and feel Hiers presence. For those who insist that the Lord is far, high and unreachable, the Lord will not go near them. Then, of course, they are far away from the Lord. Since they do not understand in the first place, it would be futile for the Lord to go near them.

Image Intro  As Kabir conceded, he used to think the Lord is very far away, but later he realized that Hes abides in the heart of everyone. For those who do not know who they are, they are far away from the Lord, though Hes is very near. People leave their villages, abandon their work, and go to temples to worship God and perform rituals. They do not realize that God dwells in their hearts. We should each enter into our own inner temple and stay there. Kabir meant that the temple within is the only one of any use. You should be able to understand! (Applause) I found several poems in this book that discuss the Light and the Sound, but people who do not practice the Quan Yin Method would not understand.

Light And Sound

 Here is another poem entitled "The Word". The "Word" means the Sound. As mentioned in the Bible: In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God.

   Within yourself music plays without pause,
   Vibrating strings are not the cause.
   This music comes from the Word, says Kabir.
   It pervades subtly for all to hear.
   This sound divine makes the seeker free,
   Then in Maya's grasp he shall no more be.

   The Word is more than a simple word so plain,
   Through power of the Word
   No bondage will remain.
   The Word is soothing, melting all desires,
   It douses the flames of earthly fires.

   But all the words provide only pain,
   No peace or truth can they help you attain.
   The value of the Word no treasure comes near,
   Only the true disciple knows this truth, says Kabir.

   Rubies and sapphires can easily be sought,
   But the name of the Lord can not be bought.
   For this suffering world you find me crying,
   For the pathetic world you find me sighing.

   But the one who knows the Word will be the only 
   one who will cry with me.
   The Word is so powerful,
   It can inspire even the kings
   To renounce and retire.

   One who has stopped and thought carefully to see
   The meaning of the Word, very fortunate is he.

   Pitch darkness persists without the Word,
   Where can you go if you haven't heard.
   Until one finds the Word's door,
   He is aimlessly wandering forever more.

   Over the world doubt has control,
   One having mastered it is a rare soul.
   There is a way out of doubt's rut,
   Learning the Word is the only path.

   The Master has built a beautiful mansion,
   Especially designed for spiritual expansion.
   For a glimpse of the beloved in this castle so high,
   A ray of His light the Lord did supply.

   The dark mysteries of night go away,
   When the sun rises to start the day.
   Just as when light enters your heart,
   Then doubt and delusion all depart.


 Here Kabir was writing a eulogy to the inner Sound. The Music plays non-stop within us, he said, but it is not produced by instruments. We all know this very well! (Everyone laughs knowingly) Then he went on to say that this Music is created by the Word. The Sound -- the Vibration -- is very subtle, and is for everyone to hear. Once a spiritual practitioner has heard this Sound, he is beyond the grasp of the Maya King, and is free and liberated.

Image Intro   People of the ancient times also spoke affirmatively of the Quan Yin Method. The Word that Kabir mentioned is identical to the Name in Lao Tze's statement concerning "The Name That Cannot Be Named". It also means the Sound, as mentioned in the Bible. Therefore, Kabir pointed out that this is not an ordinary word or an ordinary sound. With the power of this Sound, any chain of bondage that shackles us to the cycle of birth and death will be severed. All worldly desires, all earthly fires of greed and emotions, will be kaput when they meet the Word or the Sound. They will just drop dead! (Laughter)

This does not apply to worldly sounds or languages, which can only bring us pain. Therefore, Kabir wanted us to distinguish this Sound from the ordinary sound, music and language. He found it difficult to explain it, which was why he babbled so much. (Master laughs) He was concerned that we might not understand him, so he gave us a lengthy explanation. (Master laughs) We can understand, can't we? (Audience: Yes.) One or two sentences would be enough. There is no need to be so long winded. (Applause) It is very difficult to elaborate on this, so Kabir went on and on to clarify that this is no ordinary sound or word. By listening to the worldly sounds or the so-called words or names, he said, we can never find inner peace or serenity.

As he said, no treasure could compare to the invaluable Word. Only genuine spiritual practitioners understand this fact. Other people would wonder: "It is only a word or a sound. Why is it more valuable than wealth?" So Kabir said: Only true spiritual practitioners understand the real meaning. Rubies, sapphires and other precious stones are easily available, but the true Name of God is difficult to find or buy anywhere.

For this miserable world, you will see me shed tears of sympathy. For this depraved world, you will see me feeling upset. However, only those who have known this Word or Sound would cry with me. The whole world is very happy, (Master laughs) and we are the only ones crying. They do not know why we are crying! Only the Quan Yin practitioners know and cry for the same reason.

This Word, or Sound, is so powerful that even a king would renounce his empire and go into retirement. (Laughter) Do we have a king here somewhere? (Laughter) We are kings in our own palaces, (laughter) in our own homes. If there is nothing except boars in the mountain, then I am the "mountain king". (Laughter)

Anyone who can find peace of mind and this Word or Sound is indeed the most fortunate and blessed man in this world. Should you never hear this Word or Sound, wherever you go, the world is pitch darkness around you. People who have not found the gateway to the Sound -- that is, the Quan Yin Method -- must remain in transmigration without a home to rest. Doubt and instability have enveloped and taken control over the world. Few souls can rise above such an ambiance of this world, which means that few can set themselves free. Only a handful of spiritual practitioners live freely and at ease in this world.

Practicing the Quan Yin Method is the only way to transcend the chaotic and tumultuous worldly atmosphere. What Kabir meant was that the only solution is to find the path that practices listening to the Sound; and this is the only path to liberation. Here in his poem, he wrote "the only path". Some people still do not believe that the Quan Yin Method is the only way. (Master and everyone laugh) They must be incarnations of the Maya's subordinates. (Laughter) They are speaking Maya's words. (Master laughs) All scriptures discuss the same thing. Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism and Catholicism, all mention this Word, this Name, this Sound. Once we become enlightened by practicing the Quan Yin Method, it all becomes very clear to us!

We can also easily understand the Zen stories. A monk was plowing in the fields. Suddenly he heard bells chiming. He was so filled with joy that he stopped plowing. (Master and everyone laugh) Another saying goes: Souls in hell would be liberated if they heard the chiming of bells. When the deceased hears the chiming or jingling of bells, they will definitely be liberated. That is why the monks keep ringing the bells (laughter) above the heads of the deceased -- to liberate them. (Master laughs) Unfortunately, they tie a "drag knot" (sounds like liberation in Chinese) instead. They tie a knot and then drag along. (Master and everyone laugh.) Too heavy to move, they have to drag themselves from one place to another, from Earth to hell, and from hell to the cycle of transmigration. This is a "drag knot" and not liberation!

Kabir also said in his poem that the enlightened master has built a heaven -- a mansion -- especially for the spiritual practitioners. Should we want to take a look at this spiritual dimension, God has given us the Light within, which can light up the way for us. Yes! Here we have Light! Just now we had only Sound, now there is Light! God has also given us Light, just like a flashlight, said Kabir, so we can look upward. (Master laughs) Since it is far away, we need a bigger flashlight to shine from here to there, just like the rising sun dispersing the darkness of the night. Similarly, when the Light enters our souls, all doubts and delusions would vanish! This is what Kabir meant. (Applause) He deserves our applause. His words are really beautiful!

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