RELG 213: Introduction to Hinduism
Kabir was a 15th/16th century devotional poet and social critic from northern India. The songs of Kabir are known and passionately performed far and wide in India today. Beloved for his rough rhetoric and irony, his bold, blunt language, and fearless attitude, Kabir criticized both Hindus and Muslims, promoting a religion of the heart in which priestly mediations, ritual practices, doctrinal commitments had no significant place. Whether through paradox, playful wit, or cutting satire, Kabir sought to expose the hypocrisy and pretension of so much “organized religion” while emphasizing the preciousness of life, the power of selfless devotion, and the presence of Ram (his favorite name for the inconceivable Divine) within each of us.
The poems below were each written in the style and spirit of Kabir. Some address themes and topics that Kabir himself engaged, while others take on aspects of our modern world and experience from an intentionally “Kabirian” perspective. All of these poems were written by students in Professor Patton Burchett’s “Hinduism” course (Fall 2017) at William & Mary.
Here is a link to some of Kabir’s own poetry: http://www.poemhunter.com/kabir/poems/
Here is a link to The Kabir Project, which produced four documentary films and ten audio CDs and poetry books exploring how Kabir’s poetry intersects with ideas of cultural identity, secularism, nationalism, and religion in South Asia today: http://www.kabirproject.org
You pledge allegiance to a flag: Leia MoranYou pledge allegiance to a flag
like an army of mindless robots.
The daily promises you make
are as empty as the pockets of your neighbors.
A nation indivisible with liberty and justice for all?
The mindless pledge ceases
You take a seat in an informally segregated classroom
Brother, you tell me, is a nation indivisible when its institutions are divided?
After school you’ll visit a hired tutor while your peer at the next table over
struggles to complete assignments
with no one at home but the siblings he must care for.
Brother, you tell me, as you stand at the Valedictorian podium, is that justice for all?
When tragedy strikes overseas you’ll pledge your support to yet another flag
while you turn your head away from the violence in your own backyard.
You wear the guise of a pious man, but didn’t God say to love thy neighbor as thyself?
Brother, you tell me, is this one nation under God when you turn your back on those in need?
Kabir says: What makes any neighbor so different from yourself?
What makes each flag so different from the one waving on your pole?
After all, won’t we all will end up indivisible
When all that remains of us is 10 feet underground?
In temples of stone: Parker Toro
In temples of stone
Satisfy the Hunger: Khaile Forbes
Each day offers a new opportunity,
Foolish Pundit: Tim Terlizzi
Blind to the truth you replace idolatry with idolatry,
You call yourself Christian: Kayleigh WebsterYou call yourself Christian.
You say this means you treat everyone
how you want to be treated.
You say this means all sins are equal.
And yet, everyone hears you scream
Hateful slurs at two men
Holding hands in the street.
You say they will burn in Hell for it.
And yet, we all hear you speak
About the woman in the short skirt,
Exclaiming her supposed impurity.
You say she will burn in Hell for it.
Tell me, brother, what do you care?
Why do you treat them as if they are lower than dirt?
You said all sins are equal.
Aren’t insulting people and spreading slander sins?
How you must hate yourself
if this is how you want to be treated.
All sins are equal, Christian.
If they go to Hell, so do you.
And flames burn the same temperature for all.
Cross necklaces of gold: Laila DruryCross necklaces of gold
And ornate, antique, woven
The necks of they who
Selflessness, and compassion;
Yet just bus rides away
Children cry, mothers
A backdrop for their entire existence;
They pray, and
But, Kabir asks,
How can they pray to
The same God?
Pundit, why are you so blind?: Peter Bean
Pundit, why are you so blind?
My friend, why do you waste your time?: Zach FerryMy friend, why do you waste your time?
You spend it half-heartedly with others of the same.
I hear the drinking songs you sing, but your songs mean nothing.
You will not find yourself at the bottom of your drink.
Take comfort in your faith, let it guide you.
Worldly possessions do not follow you to your next life.
Kabir says: time is the most precious thing, spend it wisely. With the right people, focusing on the important things.
Brothers and sisters, we must listen to one another: Devon McCannBrothers and sisters, we must listen to one another.
Remember, we must be taught what we do not know and teach others.
Muslims, Hindus… to know oneself is to know another.
Why sit in silence and ignore God’s calling?
Listen to the music of another man’s heart.
The wise call devotion to the Great One by many names: Thomeka WatkinsThe wise call devotion to the Great One by many names;
Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Christian, Muslim, they are all one in the same.
Caste, rank, wealth, ritual– none of these earthly things are key to attaining liberation;
nor does it matter if you bury your loved ones or you prefer cremation.
Anyone and everyone who holds true devotion to the Great One in their soul,
can become one with the Great One and truly become whole....
Rituals - are they good or bad?: Monica OuelletRituals - are they good or bad?
They create a community
But also lead to a hierarchy
Why sacrifice an animal
When it doesn't contribute to liberation
Why spend hours praying in a temple
When it doesn't bring you any closer to the truth
Your time on Earth is limited
Why spend your days on your knees?
Instead, look within yourself
And only then will you find the salvation you need
There is a light within yourself
That leads you on your way
Follow me down this path
And you will never stray
No Qur'an, nor Upanishads
Will make it any more clear
These scriptures don't convey verity
That you need only listen to yourself to hear.
Following in the path of scriptures: Marriya SchwarzFollowing in the path of scriptures –
no questions asked
Even when Ram points to another trail
This “devout” crowd speaks of knowledge
But there’s blindness in their eyes
Time ticks down in the hourglass
Age is made tangible
through aching backs from crouching over books
Although eternal, Ram will not wait forever
Seek him out through more than letters on a page
Why do we put such an emphasis on all of our differences?: Abby Shukan
Why do we put such an emphasis on all of our differences?
How terribly we combat and injure:
Castes are burdensome: Jonathan HarperCastes are burdensome.
They are earthly creations, designed to divide,
multiplying life’s challenges in every circumstance.
Therefore, says Kabir:
Live in Ram to be liberated from man’s schemes
Love Ram to find boundless joy in life.
What is the purpose?
Is money, power, prowess, fame,
all for which humanity should strive?
Is there more?
Seek not the superficial distinctions of the world,
but seek Ram endlessly.
Thus, Kabir teaches:
Ram is all-satisfying and pleasing
Detach from the world and be surrounded by divine knowledge
Only then will you be fulfilled.
At the end of your days: Moira McDermottAt the end of your days,
To the clay you will return,
And your dharma has been followed,
Sacrifices made yet rebirth on the horizon?
Did you follow a god,
or a principle of action?
What’s the meaning of practice,
When practice becomes the meaning?
When the intentions of man get buried in translations,
Do we find sacredness in practice or is just man’s way of fitting in?