Translated by Rabindranath Tagore

Introduction by Evelyn Underhill

New York, The Macmillan Company



The poet Kabir, a selection from whose songs is here for the
first time offered to English readers, is one of the most
interesting personalities in the history of Indian mysticism.
Born in or near Benares, of Mohammedan parents, and probably
about the year 1440, be became in early life a disciple of the
celebrated Hindu ascetic R‚m‚nanda. R‚m‚nanda had brought to
Northern India the religious revival which R‚m‚nuja, the great
twelfth-century reformer of Br‚hmanism, had initiated in the
South. This revival was in part a reaction against the
increasing formalism of the orthodox cult, in part an assertion
of the demands of the heart as against the intense
intellectualism of the Ved‚nta philosophy, the exaggerated monism
which that philosophy proclaimed. It took in R‚m‚nuja's
preaching the form of an ardent personal devotion to the God
Vishnu, as representing the personal aspect of the Divine Nature:
that mystical "religion of love" which everywhere makes its
appearance at a certain level of spiritual culture, and which
creeds and philosophies are powerless to kill.

Though such a devotion is indigenous in Hinduism, and finds
expression in many passages of the Bhagavad GÓt‚, there was in
its mediÊval revival a large element of syncretism. R‚m‚nanda,
through whom its spirit is said to have reached KabÓr, appears to
have been a man of wide religious culture, and full of missionary
enthusiasm. Living at the moment in which the impassioned poetry
and deep philosophy of the great Persian mystics, Att‚r, S‚dÓ,
Jal‚lu'ddÓn R˚mÓ, and H‚fiz, were exercising a powerful influence
on the religious thought of India, he dreamed of reconciling this
intense and personal Mohammedan mysticism with the traditional
theology of Br‚hmanism. Some have regarded both these great
religious leaders as influenced also by Christian thought and
life: but as this is a point upon which competent authorities
hold widely divergent views, its discussion is not attempted here.
We may safely assert, however, that in their teachings, two--
perhaps three--apparently antagonistic streams of intense
spiritual culture met, as Jewish and Hellenistic thought met in
the early Christian Church: and it is one of the outstanding
characteristics of KabÓr's genius that he was able in his poems
to fuse them into one.

A great religious reformer, the founder of a sect to which nearly
a million northern Hindus still belong, it is yet supremely as a
mystical poet that KabÓr lives for us. His fate has been that of
many revealers of Reality. A hater of religious exclusivism, and
seeking above all things to initiate men into the liberty of the
children of God, his followers have honoured his memory by
re-erecting in a new place the barriers which he laboured to cast
down. But his wonderful songs survive, the spontaneous
expressions of his vision and his love; and it is by these, not
by the didactic teachings associated with his name, that he makes
his immortal appeal to the heart. In these poems a wide range of
mystical emotion is brought into play: from the loftiest
abstractions, the most otherworldly passion for the Infinite, to
the most intimate and personal realization of God, expressed in
homely metaphors and religious symbols drawn indifferently from
Hindu and Mohammedan belief. It is impossible to say of their
author that he was Br‚hman or S˚fÓ, Ved‚ntist or Vaishnavite.
He is, as he says himself, "at once the child of Allah and of R‚m."
That Supreme Spirit Whom he knew and adored, and to Whose joyous
friendship he sought to induct the souls of other men, transcended
whilst He included all metaphysical categories, all credal
definitions; yet each contributed something to the description of
that Infinite and Simple Totality Who revealed Himself, according
to their measure, to the faithful lovers of all creeds.

KabÓr's story is surrounded by contradictory legends, on none of
which reliance can be placed. Some of these emanate from a Hindu,
some from a Mohammedan source, and claim him by turns as a S˚fÓ
and a Br‚hman saint. His name, however, is practically a
conclusive proof of Moslem ancestry: and the most probable tale is
that which represents him as the actual or adopted child of a
Mohammedan weaver of Benares, the city in which the chief events
of his life took place.

In fifteenth-century Benares the syncretistic tendencies of
Bhakti religion had reached full development. S˚fÓs and Br‚hmans
appear to have met in disputation: the most spiritual members of
both creeds frequenting the teachings of R‚m‚nanda, whose
reputation was then at its height. The boy KabÓr, in whom the
religious passion was innate, saw in R‚m‚nanda his destined
teacher; but knew how slight were the chances that a Hindu guru
would accept a Mohammedan as disciple. He therefore hid upon the
steps of the river Ganges, where R‚m‚nanda was accustomed to
bathe; with the result that the master, coming down to the water,
trod upon his body unexpectedly, and exclaimed in his
astonishment, "Ram! Ram!"--the name of the incarnation under
which he worshipped God. KabÓr then declared that he had
received the mantra of initiation from R‚m‚nanda's lips, and was
by it admitted to discipleship. In spite of the protests of
orthodox Br‚hmans and Mohammedans, both equally annoyed by this
contempt of theological landmarks, he persisted in his claim;
thus exhibiting in action that very principle of religious
synthesis which R‚m‚nanda had sought to establish in thought.
R‚m‚nanda appears to have accepted him, and though Mohammedan
legends speak of the famous S˚fÓ PÓr, TakkÓ of JhansÓ, as KabÓr's
master in later life, the Hindu saint is the only human teacher
to whom in his songs he acknowledges indebtedness.

The little that we know of KabÓr's life contradicts many current
ideas concerning the Oriental mystic. Of the stages of
discipline through which he passed, the manner in which his
spiritual genius developed, we are completely ignorant. He seems
to have remained for years the disciple of R‚m‚nanda, joining in
the theological and philosophical arguments which his master held
with all the great Mullahs and Br‚hmans of his day; and to this
source we may perhaps trace his acquaintance with the terms of
Hindu and S˚fÓ philosophy. He may or may not have submitted to
the traditional education of the Hindu or the S˚fÓ contemplative:
it is clear, at any rate, that he never adopted the life of the
professional ascetic, or retired from the world in order to
devote himself to bodily mortifications and the exclusive pursuit
of the contemplative life. Side by side with his interior life
of adoration, its artistic expression in music and words--for he
was a skilled musician as well as a poet--he lived the sane and
diligent life of the Oriental craftsman. All the legends agree
on this point: that KabÓr was a weaver, a simple and unlettered
man, who earned his living at the loom. Like Paul the tentmaker,
Boehme the cobbler, Bunyan the tinker, Tersteegen the
ribbon-maker, he knew how to combine vision and industry; the
work of his hands helped rather than hindered the impassioned
meditation of his heart. Hating mere bodily austerities, he was
no ascetic, but a married man, the father of a family--a
circumstance which Hindu legends of the monastic type vainly
attempt to conceal or explain--and it was from out of the heart
of the common life that he sang his rapturous lyrics of divine
love. Here his works corroborate the traditional story of his
life. Again and again he extols the life of home, the value and
reality of diurnal existence, with its opportunities for love and
renunciation; pouring contempt--upon the professional sanctity of
the Yogi, who "has a great beard and matted locks, and looks like
a goat," and on all who think it necessary to flee a world
pervaded by love, joy, and beauty--the proper theatre of man's
quest--in order to find that One Reality Who has "spread His form
of love throughout all the world." [Footnote: Cf. Poems Nos. XXI,

It does not need much experience of ascetic literature to
recognize the boldness and originality of this attitude in such a
time and place. From the point of view of orthodox sanctity,
whether Hindu or Mohammedan, KabÓr was plainly a heretic; and his
frank dislike of all institutional religion, all external
observance--which was as thorough and as intense as that of the
Quakers themselves--completed, so far as ecclesiastical opinion
was concerned, his reputation as a dangerous man. The "simple
union" with Divine Reality which he perpetually extolled, as alike
the duty and the joy of every soul, was independent both of ritual
and of bodily austerities; the God whom he proclaimed was "neither
in Kaaba nor in Kail‚sh." Those who sought Him needed not to go
far; for He awaited discovery everywhere, more accessible to "the
washerwoman and the carpenter" than to the self--righteous holy man.
[Footnote: Poems I, II, XLI.] Therefore the whole apparatus of
piety, Hindu and Moslem alike--the temple and mosque, idol and holy
water, scriptures and priests--were denounced by this inconveniently
clear-sighted poet as mere substitutes for reality; dead things
intervening between the soul and its love--

The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak:
I know, for I have cried aloud to them.
The Pur‚na and the Koran are mere words:
lifting up the curtain, I have seen.
[Footnote: Poems XLII, LXV, LXVII.]

This sort of thing cannot be tolerated by any organized church;
and it is not surprising that KabÓr, having his head-quarters in
Benares, the very centre of priestly influence, was subjected to
considerable persecution. The well-known legend of the beautiful
courtesan sent by Br‚hmans to tempt his virtue, and converted,
like the Magdalen, by her sudden encounter with the initiate of a
higher love, pre serves the memory of the fear and dislike with
which he was regarded by the ecclesiastical powers. Once at
least, after the performance of a supposed miracle of healing, he
was brought before the Emperor Sikandar Lodi, and charged with
claiming the possession of divine powers. But Sikandar Lodi, a
ruler of considerable culture, was tolerant of the eccentricities
of saintly persons belonging to his own faith. KabÓr, being of
Mohammedan birth, was outside the authority of the Br‚hmans, and
technically classed with the S˚fÓs, to whom great theological
latitude was allowed. Therefore, though he was banished in the
interests of peace from Benares, his life was spared. This seems
to have happened in 1495, when he was nearly sixty years of age;
it is the last event in his career of which we have definite
knowledge. Thenceforth he appears to have moved about amongst
various cities of northern India, the centre of a group of
disciples; continuing in exile that life of apostle and poet of
love to which, as he declares in one of his songs, he was destined
"from the beginning of time." In 1518, an old man, broken in
health, and with hands so feeble that he could no longer make the
music which he loved, he died at Maghar near Gorakhpur.

A beautiful legend tells us that after his death his
Mohammedan and Hindu disciples disputed the possession of his
body; which the Mohammedans wished to bury, the Hindus to burn.
As they argued together, KabÓr appeared before them, and told
them to lift the shroud and look at that which lay beneath. They
did so, and found in the place of the corpse a heap of flowers;
half of which were buried by the Mohammedans at Maghar, and half
carried by the Hindus to the holy city of Benares to be burned--
fitting conclusion to a life which had made fragrant the most
beautiful doctrines of two great creeds.


The poetry of mysticism might be defined on the one hand as a
temperamental reaction to the vision of Reality: on the other, as
a form of prophecy. As it is the special vocation of the
mystical consciousness to mediate between two orders, going out
in loving adoration towards God and coming home to tell the
secrets of Eternity to other men; so the artistic self-expression
of this consciousness has also a double character. It is love-
poetry, but love-poetry which is often written with a missionary

KabÓr's songs are of this kind: out-births at once of rapture and
of charity. Written in the popular Hindi, not in the literary
tongue, they were deliberately addressed--like the vernacular
poetry of Jacopone da TodÏ and Richard Rolle--to the people rather
than to the professionally religious class; and all must be struck
by the constant employment in them of imagery drawn from the
common life, the universal experience. It is by the simplest
metaphors, by constant appeals to needs, passions, relations which
all men understand--the bridegroom and bride, the guru and
disciple, the pilgrim, the farmer, the migrant bird-- that he
drives home his intense conviction of the reality of the soul's
intercourse with the Transcendent. There are in his universe no
fences between the "natural" and "supernatural" worlds; everything
is a part of the creative Play of God, and therefore--even in its
humblest details--capable of revealing the Player's mind.

This willing acceptance of the here-and-now as a means of
representing supernal realities is a trait common to the greatest
mystics. For them, when they have achieved at last the true
theopathetic state, all aspects of the universe possess equal
authority as sacramental declarations of the Presence of God; and
their fearless employment of homely and physical symbols--often
startling and even revolting to the unaccustomed taste--is in
direct proportion to the exaltation of their spiritual life. The
works of the great S˚fÓs, and amongst the Christians of Jacopone
da TodÏ, Ruysbroeck, Boehme, abound in illustrations of this law.
Therefore we must not be surprised to find in KabÓr's songs--his
desperate attempts to communicate his ecstasy and persuade other
men to share it--a constant juxtaposition of concrete and
metaphysical language; swift alternations between the most
intensely anthropomorphic, the most subtly philosophical, ways of
apprehending man's communion with the Divine. The need for this
alternation, and its entire naturalness for the mind which
employs it, is rooted in his concept, or vision, of the Nature of
God; and unless we make some attempt to grasp this, we shall not
go far in our understanding of his poems.

KabÓr belongs to that small group of supreme mystics--amongst
whom St. Augustine, Ruysbroeck, and the S˚fÓ poet Jal‚lu'ddÓn
R˚mÓ are perhaps the chief--who have achieved that which we might
call the synthetic vision of God. These have resolved the
perpetual opposition between the personal and impersonal, the
transcendent and immanent, static and dynamic aspects of the
Divine Nature; between the Absolute of philosophy and the "sure
true Friend" of devotional religion. They have done this, not by
taking these apparently incompatible concepts one after the
other; but by ascending to a height of spiritual intuition at
which they are, as Ruysbroeck said, "melted and merged in the
Unity," and perceived as the completing opposites of a perfect
Whole. This proceeding entails for them--and both KabÓr and
Ruysbroeck expressly acknowledge it--a universe of three orders:
Becoming, Being, and that which is "More than Being," i.e., God.
[Footnote: Nos. VII and XLIX.] God is here felt to be not the
final abstraction, but the one actuality. He inspires, supports,
indeed inhabits, both the durational, conditioned, finite world
of Becoming and the unconditioned, non-successional, infinite
world of Being; yet utterly transcends them both. He is the
omnipresent Reality, the "All-pervading" within Whom "the worlds
are being told like beads." In His personal aspect He is the
"beloved Fakir," teaching and companioning each soul. Considered
as Immanent Spirit, He is "the Mind within the mind." But all
these are at best partial aspects of His nature, mutually
corrective: as the Persons in the Christian doctrine of the
Trinity--to which this theological diagram bears a striking
resemblance--represent different and compensating experiences of
the Divine Unity within which they are resumed. As Ruysbroeck
discerned a plane of reality upon which "we can speak no more of
Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only of One Being, the very
substance of the Divine Persons"; so KabÓr says that "beyond both
the limited and the limitless is He, the Pure Being." [Footnote:
No. VII.]

Brahma, then, is the Ineffable Fact compared with which "the
distinction of the Conditioned from the Unconditioned is but a
word": at once the utterly transcendent One of Absolutist
philosophy, and the personal Lover of the individual soul--
"common to all and special to each," as one Christian mystic has
it. The need felt by KabÓr for both these ways of describing
Reality is a proof of the richness and balance of his spiritual
experience; which neither cosmic nor anthropomorphic symbols,
taken alone, could express. More absolute than the Absolute,
more personal than the human mind, Brahma therefore exceeds
whilst He includes all the concepts of philosophy, all the
passionate intuitions of the heart. He is the Great Affirmation,
the font of energy, the source of life and love, the unique
satisfaction of desire. His creative word is the Om or
"Everlasting Yea." The negative philosophy which strips from the
Divine Nature all Its attributes and defining Him only by that
which He is not--reduces Him to an "Emptiness," is abhorrent to
this most vital of poets.--Brahma, he says, "may never be found
in abstractions." He is the One Love who Pervades the world.,
discerned in His fullness only by the eyes of love; and those who
know Him thus share, though they may never tell, the joyous and
ineffable secret of the universe. [Footnote: Nos. VII, XXVI,

Now KabÓr, achieving this synthesis between the personal and
cosmic aspects of the Divine Nature, eludes the three great
dangers which threaten mystical religion.

First, he escapes the excessive emotionalism, the tendency to
an exclusively anthropomorphic devotion, which results from an
unrestricted cult of Divine Personality, especially under an
incarnational form; seen in India in the exaggerations of
Krishna worship, in Europe in the sentimental extravagances of
certain Christian saints.

Next, he is protected from the soul-destroying conclusions of
pure monism, inevitable if its logical implications are pressed
home: that is, the identity of substance between God and the
soul, with its corollary of the total absorption of that soul in
the Being of God as the goal of the spiritual life. For the
thorough-going monist the soul, in so far as it is real, is
substantially identical with God; and the true object of
existence is the making patent of this latent identity, the
realization which finds expression in the Ved‚ntist formula "That
art thou." But KabÓr says that Brahma and the creature are "ever
distinct, yet ever united"; that the wise man knows the spiritual
as well as the material world to "be no more than His footstool."
[Footnote: Nos. VII and IX.] The soul's union with Him is a love
union, a mutual inhabitation; that essentially dualistic relation
which all mystical religion expresses, not a self-mergence which
leaves no place for personality. This eternal distinction, the
mysterious union-in-separateness of God and the soul, is a
necessary doctrine of all sane mysticism; for no scheme which
fails to find a place for it can represent more than a fragment of
that soul's intercourse with the spiritual world. Its affirmation
was one of the distinguishing features of the Vaishnavite
reformation preached by R‚m‚nuja; the principle of which had
descended through R‚m‚nanda to KabÓr.

Last, the warmly human and direct apprehension of God as the
supreme Object of love, the soul's comrade, teacher, and
bridegroom, which is so passionately and frequently expressed in
KabÓr's poems, balances and controls those abstract tendencies
which are inherent in the metaphysical side of his vision of
Reality: and prevents it from degenerating into that sterile
worship of intellectual formulÊ which became the curse of the
Ved‚ntist school. For the mere intellectualist, as for the mere
pietist, he has little approbation. [Footnote: Cf. especially
Nos. LIX, LXVII, LXXV, XC, XCI.] Love is throughout his
"absolute sole Lord": the unique source of the more abundant life
which he enjoys, and the common factor which unites the finite
and infinite worlds. All is soaked in love: that love which he
described in almost Johannine language as the "Form of God."
The whole of creation is the Play of the Eternal Lover; the
living, changing, growing expression of Brahma's love and joy.
As these twin passions preside over the generation of human life,
so "beyond the mists of pleasure and pain" KabÓr finds them
governing the creative acts of God. His manifestation is love;
His activity is joy. Creation springs from one glad act of
affirmation: the Everlasting Yea, perpetually uttered within the
depths of the Divine Nature. [Footnote: Nos. XVII, XXVI, LXXVI,
LXXXII.] In accordance with this concept of the universe as a
Love-Game which eternally goes forward, a progressive
manifestation of Brahma--one of the many notions which he adopted
from the common stock of Hindu religious ideas, and illuminated
by his poetic genius--movement, rhythm, perpetual change, forms
an integral part of KabÓr's vision of Reality. Though the
Eternal and Absolute is ever present to his consciousness, yet
his concept of the Divine Nature is essentially dynamic. It is
by the symbols of motion that he most often tries to convey it to
us: as in his constant reference to dancing, or the strangely
modern picture of that Eternal Swing of the Universe which is
"held by the cords of love." [Footnote: No. XVI.]

It is a marked characteristic of mystical literature that the
great contemplatives, in their effort to convey to us the nature
of their communion with the supersensuous, are inevitably driven
to employ some form of sensuous imagery: coarse and inaccurate as
they know such imagery to be, even at the best. Our normal human
consciousness is so completely committed to dependence on the
senses, that the fruits of intuition itself are instinctively
referred to them. In that intuition it seems to the mystics that
all the dim cravings and partial apprehensions of sense find
perfect fulfilment. Hence their constant declaration that they
see the uncreated light, they hear the celestial
melody, they taste the sweetness of the Lord, they know an
ineffable fragrance, they feel the very contact of love. "Him
verily seeing and fully feeling, Him spiritually hearing and Him
delectably smelling and sweetly swallowing," as Julian of Norwich
has it. In those amongst them who develop psycho-sensorial
automatisms, these parallels between sense and spirit may present
themselves to consciousness in the form of hallucinations: as the
light seen by Suso, the music heard by Rolle, the celestial
perfumes which filled St. Catherine of Siena's cell, the physical
wounds felt by St. Francis and St. Teresa. These are excessive
dramatizations of the symbolism under which the mystic tends
instinctively to represent his spiritual intuition to the surface
consciousness. Here, in the special sense-perception which he
feels to be most expressive of Reality, his peculiar
idiosyncrasies come out.

Now KabÓr, as we might expect in one whose reactions to the
spiritual order were so wide and various, uses by turn all the
symbols of sense. He tells us that he has "seen without sight"
the effulgence of Brahma, tasted the divine nectar, felt the
ecstatic contact of Reality, smelt the fragrance of the heavenly
flowers. But he was essentially a poet and musician: rhythm and
harmony were to him the garments of beauty and truth. Hence in
his lyrics he shows himself to be, like Richard Rolle, above all
things a musical mystic. Creation, he says again and again, is
full of music: it is music. At the heart of the Universe
"white music is blossoming": love weaves the melody, whilst
renunciation beats the time. It can be heard in the home as well
as in the heavens; discerned by the ears of common men as well as
by the trained senses of the ascetic. Moreover, the body of
every man is a lyre on which Brahma, "the source of all music,"
plays. Everywhere KabÓr discerns the "Unstruck Music of the
Infinite"--that celestial melody which the angel played to St.
Francis, that ghostly symphony which filled the soul of Rolle
with ecstatic joy. [Footnote: Nos. XVII, XVIII, XXXIX, XLI, LIV,
LXXVI, LXXXIII, LXXXIX, XCVII.] The one figure which he adopts
from the Hindu Pantheon and constantly uses, is that of Krishna
the Divine Flute Player. [Footnote: Nos. L, LIII, LXVIII.] He
sees the supernal music, too, in its visual embodiment, as
rhythmical movement: that mysterious dance of the universe before
the face of Brahma, which is at once an act of worship and an
expression of the infinite rapture of the Immanent God.'

Yet in this wide and rapturous vision of the universe KabÓr
never loses touch with diurnal existence, never forgets the
common life. His feet are firmly planted upon earth; his lofty
and passionate apprehensions are perpetually controlled by the
activity of a sane and vigorous intellect, by the alert
commonsense so often found in persons of real mystical genius.
The constant insistence on simplicity and directness, the hatred
of all abstractions and philosophizings,[Footnote: Nos. XXVI,
XXXII, LXXVI] the ruthless criticism of external religion: these
are amongst his most marked characteristics. God is the Root
whence all manifestations, "material" and "spiritual," alike
proceed; [Footnote: Nos. LXXV, LXXVIII, LXXX, XC.] and God is
the only need of man--"happiness shall be yours when you come to
the Root." [Footnote: No. LXXX.] Hence to those who keep their
eye on the "one thing needful," denominations, creeds, ceremonies,
the conclusions of philosophy, the disciplines of asceticism, are
matters of comparative indifference. They represent merely the
different angles from which the soul may approach that simple
union with Brahma which is its goal; and are useful only in so
faras they contribute to this consummation. So thorough-going is
KabÓr's eclecticism, that he seems by turns Ved‚ntist and
Vaishnavite, Pantheist and Transcendentalist, Br‚hman and S˚fÓ.
In the effort to tell the truth about that ineffable apprehension,
so vast and yet so near, which controls his life, he seizes and
twines together--as he might have woven together contrasting
threads upon his loom--symbols and ideas drawn from the most
violent and conflicting philosophies and faiths. All are needed,
if he is ever to suggest the character of that One whom the
Upanishad called "the Sun-coloured Being who is beyond this
Darkness": as all the colours of the spectrum are needed if we
would demonstrate the simple richness of white light. In thus
adapting traditional materials to his own use he follows a method
common amongst the mystics; who seldom exhibit any special love
for originality of form. They will pour their wine into almost
any vessel that comes to hand: generally using by preference--and
lifting to new levels of beauty and significance--the religious or
philosophic formulÊ current in their own day. Thus we find that
some of KabÓr's finest poems have as their subjects the
commonplaces of Hindu philosophy and religion: the LÓl‚ or Sport of
God, the Ocean of Bliss, the Bird of the Soul, M‚y‚, the Hundred-
petalled Lotus, and the "Formless Form." Many, again, are soaked
in S˚fÓ imagery and feeling. Others use as their material the
ordinary surroundings and incidents of Indian life: the temple bells,
the ceremony of the lamps, marriage, suttee, pilgrimage, the
characters of the seasons; all felt by him in their mystical aspect,
as sacraments of the soul's relation with Brahma. In many of these
a particularly beautiful and intimate feeling for Nature is shown.

In the collection of songs here translated there will be found
examples which illustrate nearly every aspect of KabÓr's thought,
and all the fluctuations of the mystic's emotion: the ecstasy,
the despair, the still beatitude, the eager self-devotion, the
flashes of wide illumination, the moments of intimate love. His
wide and deep vision of the universe, the "Eternal Sport" of
creation (LXXXII), the worlds being "told like beads" within the
Being of God (XIV, XVI, XVII, LXXVI), is here seen balanced by
his lovely and delicate sense of intimate communion with the
Divine Friend, Lover, Teacher of the soul (X, XI, XXIII, XXXV, LI,
LXXXV, LXXXVI, LXXXVIII, XCII, XCIII; above all, the beautiful
poem XXXIV). As these apparently paradoxical views of Reality
are resolved in Br‚hma, so all other opposites are reconciled in
Him: bondage and liberty, love and renunciation, pleasure and pain
(XVII, XXV, XL, LXXIX). Union with Him is the one thing that
matters to the soul, its destiny and its need (LI, I, II, LIV, LXX,
LXXIV, XCIII, XCVI); and this union, this discovery of God, is the
simplest and most natural of all things, if we would but grasp it
(XLI, XLVI, LVI, LXXII, LXXVI, LXXVIII, XCVII). The union, however,
is brought about by love, not by knowledge or ceremonial observances
(XXXVIII, LIV, LV, LIX, XCI); and the apprehension which that union
confers is ineffable--"neither This nor That," as Ruysbroeck has it
(IX, XLVI, LXXVI). Real worship and communion is in Spirit and in
Truth (XL, XLI, LVI, LXIII, LXV, LXX), therefore idolatry is an
insult to the Divine Lover (XLII, LXIX) and the devices of
professional sanctity are useless apart from charity and purity
of soul (LIV, LXV, LXVI). Since all things, and especially the
heart of man, are God-inhabited, God-possessed (XXVI, LVI, LXXVI,
LXXXIX, XCVII), He may best be found in the here-and-now: in the
normal. human, bodily existence, the "mud" of material life (III,
IV, VI, XXI, XXXIX, XL, XLIII, XLVIII, LXXII). "We can reach the
goal without crossing the road" (LXXVI)--not the cloister but the
home is the proper theatre of man's efforts: and if he cannot find
God there, he need not hope for success by going farther afield.
"In the home is reality." There love and detachment, bondage and
freedom, joy and pain play by turns upon the soul; and it is from
their conflict that the Unstruck Music of the Infinite proceeds.
KabÓr says: "None but Brahma can evoke its melodies."

"This version of KabÓr's songs is chiefly the work of
Mr. RabÓndran‚th Tagore, the trend of whose mystical genius makes
him--as all who read these poems will see--a peculiarly
sympathetic interpreter of KabÓr's vision and thought. It has
been based upon the printed HindÓ text with Bengali translation
of Mr. Kshiti Mohan Sen; who has gathered from many sources--
sometimes from books and manuscripts, sometimes from the lips of
wandering ascetics and minstrels--a large collection of poems
and hymns to which KabÓr's name is attached, and carefully
sifted the authentic songs from the many spurious works now
attributed to him. These painstaking labours alone have made
the present undertaking possible.

We have also had before us a manuscript English translation of
116 songs made by Mr. Ajit Kum‚r Chakravarty from Mr. Kshiti
Mohan Sen's text, and a prose essay upon KabÓr from the same
hand. From these we have derived great assistance. A
considerable number of readings from the translation have been
adopted by us; whilst several of the facts mentioned in the essay
have been incorporated into this introduction. Our most grateful
thanks are due to Mr. Ajit Kumar Chakravarty for the extremely
generous and unselfish manner in which he has placed his work at
our disposal.

E. U.

The reference of the headlines of the poems is to:

S‚ntiniketana; KabÓr by SrÓ Kshitimohan Sen, 4 parts,
Brahmachary‚srama, Bolpur, 1910-1911.

For some assistance in normalizing the transliteration we are
indebted to Professor J. F. Blumhardt.