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 2021) 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
Fighting, Screaming, Shouting: Ritika Thope
Fighting, Screaming, Shouting
The One who says we must be peaceful?
The One who says we must love each other?
The One who maintains peace?
A temple, where one puts their hands together for Krishna
A mosque, where one kneels to worship Allah
A church, where one sings in the home of Christ
A synagogue, where one gathers to pray to the Almighty
Is there a difference?
Remove the four walls that surround them
And look into their hearts
And it is all one, the same
Drunk with power: Ren Willis
Drunk with power
They lead the people like blind sheep
Preaching false truths and fear-mongering
You are led to the cliffs of self-destruction.
Truth has been lost in concrete walls and screens.
Tell me, why do you consume so blindly?
Having lost touch with our true nature,
Humanity walks willingly toward the abyss.
Lives taken and souls forgotten,
False prophets speak of a golden age
While turning the many against each other
And missing the point entirely.
Divided we forget our humanity
Pointing fingers at one another
When the men who play God are the ones to blame.
Humanity walks willingly toward the abyss.
We have forgotten our true nature living inside four walls.
Feel the dirt beneath your feet
See the stars above your head
Breathe deeply and come back to the center.
Unplug from the chaos and fear tactics of the government and media.
You will notice your mind slowly clear
Free from the strings of the puppet masters
You are no longer blind.
Do not walk willingly into the abyss.
Do you strip an orange for its peel?: Nathan Perdue
Do you strip an orange for its peel?
Do you slice a melon for its rind?
Do you flay potatoes for their skin?
You are an ocean without salt
You are the sun without heat
You are people without souls
You birds who always fly for spring
You roaches who skitter at a sound
don't you know nothing grows on wind
where Earth grows all
What brings you here?: Bradley Friedman
What brings you here?
You still do not seem to know where you should be
Your gods proscribed you freedom and life and you sit ascetic to it, caught in indecision.
Perhaps then you are a sainted qadi?
But no, you are not virtuous enough.
And yet you are proud of the ignorance
The wise suffer in silence in acknowledgement of their failures.
On and on the cycle rolls on, carrying with it starry-eyed fools
And you are at the front, creative fire-energy breathed into your mind.
What self-reflection is there without realism?
What purpose is there without consideration?
Are you here to serve the gods or to serve yourself?
You act as if it is both.
To waste the energy of creation like this is sinful
To deny it is within you would offend Ram
Though blameless he is for your stupidity
In the end, the first question must be answered for him.
Carry on in a blissful life of sin
And you will never find a greater peace
Whether you look to an imam or to a yogi
While your purpose to Ram is still so lacking.
Their homes are filled: Lyle Spitz
Their homes are filled
With items never used
They try to fit in
With people they don’t like
Stressed about problems
Manufactured in their minds
Their acceptance means so much
And yet it does so little
If they were to choose not to worry
Would their stress simply disappear?
Lying in the dark: Shomik Goshal
Lying in the dark
Too dark to see my hands next to me
Too dark to see my toes below me
Too dark to see the colors of the sheets I sit on
Too dark to see my nose in front of me.
Not listening to the hum of the air
Not listening to words from the street
Not listening to the hum of a phone
Not listening to the cars from the road.
Listening to the ringing in my ears
For the first time I focus on what has always been there
But its been too loud for me to listen
to the ringing in my ears.
I don't want to listen to you talk
I don't want to listen to her sing
I don't want to listen to him scream
I want to listen to the ringing in my ears.
you may critique: Lizzie Kerman
you may critique
You may blame
but looking at man and beast one will see the same
one to prance in costume
yet beg food for the table
yogi tell us what did you really have to do for those robes
betrayal of Ram at the hands of disciples
your pretentious outfit will not save you
from your own ego
Yogi how can you be so blind?
the formalities to which you cling
are the rope that holds you back
How can you claim that a woman is evil
when from her womb bursts the child
Or is it truly that you fear
you withhold your seed because you know
that woman is divine and you are only man
false tales: Lizzie Kerman
told by false poets
yet you block your ears
to avoid the enlightenment Kabir delivers
look beyond and see Ram
I beg you brother
follow and see
the intangible is the important thing
so then why to status do you still cling
brahman and Shudra
all mean nothing
You create the shackles that you live inside
to free yourself
need only broaden your mind
and look into your body for the truth
We strive for acceptance and fame: Ben Schwartz
We strive for acceptance and fame
But what begins in the mind terminates in the head.
One's perception of acceptance is internal
And therefore can only come from oneself.
The praise and admiration of others is useless
As is their criticism and hate.
If one were to insult the power of the ocean
Does that make the ocean any less powerful?
Does such consumption satisfy?: Mia Houdek
Does such consumption satisfy?
Does it fulfill your hunger like milk in an infant’s belly?
Or does it leave your ego rumbling for more?
Nothing appeases the desires you’ve created
You are entertained by this selfish world
Enjoying the delight the sugar brings to your tongue
Prideful in the satisfaction of your wealth
Pompous with your greed
You forget your soul is hollow
No God can nourish back the starved spirit you’ve created
No creator can approve of what you’ve become
With the endless greed
The neglect of our Earth
And the blindness to the One
You’ve abandoned your foundation
Your own Ram
And now you watch your life
Become ravaged by the desires
Not only of your own, but of everyone
online dating: April Sage
swiping left or right.
judging only on looks,
not caring for who they are.
only to feel instant gratification,
most likely to become nothing more.
God is all knowing: April Sage
God is all knowing.
creating a path for all followers.
each willing to follow,
because they know
everything happens for a reason.
Devotion has become an illusion: Ava Edwards
Devotion has become an illusion
No one devotes themselves to the great Ram
They worship themselves and figures with no sustenance
That beautiful face of yours will rot one day
As you become one with the earth
But your Self will suffer, as you remain too enamored with your ego
You stray so far from Ram that they may not reach you now
Where is your connection to him?
Your river has run dry
He can no longer fill it
So you lose faith in Ram
But it is your doing, that severed connection
Your soul will remain a fish with no water
A camera with no lens
A lamp with no light
You remain in the cycle
As the powerful Ram would have it
Writhing around as a worm
Until you gain that chance to be human once again
And once more
The righteous Ram will give you a chance
Will you take that chance?
Or will you choose yourself again
And the false idol you have become
What do we gain: Olivia Koenig
What do we gain,
When we chase after riches,
And approval from others
Through screens in our palms?
Says Kabir: Does our God exist on our screens?
Are we chasing after a mirage,
As we lose sight of our purpose
To chase the fantasy?
How many wealthy elite
Turn their nose up at giving away
Pieces of their fortune,
Then ask our God to extend charity onto them?
Says Kabir: Our earthly riches are fleeting.
If extreme wealth was what our Creator had in mind
Why are there children still hungry and thirsty,
Sleeping on the streets?
A man with full pockets, and no God
Is like a key without a lock,
A car without gas,
A phone without battery.
The religious “all-knowers”
Who preach to others
Are celebrities with mass followings
Speaking with no authority.
Admired by many,
But out of step with his Creator
He serves only himself
To fulfill his greed.
Why must you spend your time chasing?: Kenzi Fergus
Why must you spend your time chasing?
You’re a lion chasing after its prey
You run until your hunger is finally quenched
But this hunger will never sleep
It will only drive you back to the chase
A chase in which there is no finish
You follow the rules of the game
Blindly and without hesitation
You read the book and abide by its teachings
Why do you believe that your rule book is superior?
You do not see the circles you are running
Another may be running in squares
But you are all the same
You will forever return to the start of the chase
Will your hunger ever be satisfied?
No amount of food will ever suffice
Too much will eventually spoil
and decompose into the soil
Just as you will too
The object is mindfulness: Teddy Chunias
The object is mindfulness,
its channel: a digital application.
The seller is a profit seeker,
who claims good intentions.
What they sell is a comfortable distraction,
obscuring the divine.
Renounce the world some say: Teddy Chunias
Renounce the world some say;
embrace the sensual pleasures
Ignore the learned fools;
listen to the heart’s beat
and the lung’s breath.
The people turn their devotion to the screen of glass: Emma Bury
The people turn their devotion to the screen of glass
They have mistaken its glow for the halo of their God
Says I: "Give up your false attachments
The God you seek is not the one you have found"
Some have decided to abandon this life
This world is already ruined, they say
They seek the milk and honey that lies beyond
Poor unfortunate ones
Milk and honey are mere items of this world
Only dirt and dust await
Will this fame fulfill you?: Marjan Naji
Will this fame fulfill you?
Do these people disguised as gods
complete your yearning?
For only Ram himself can do this
Greed, notoriety, recognition
Why must these matter?
If you never talk of Ram
So, you are born like this?
Worth is only defined
What is an easel with no artist?: Hannah Khan
What is an easel with no artist?
A blank slate? A new beginning?
Full of potential, yet no one to harness it
What a shame
People clash like waves upon the sand: Hannah Khan
People clash like waves upon the sand
The connection of the waves upon the sand creates energy
This energy makes the world go round
And connects us with God
They miss the purpose of waves and sand
Many think themselves heroes: Jordan Hooker
Many think themselves heroes,
They claim to be Good
Yet do nothing heroic
While so many in the world starve
So many are thirsty, cold, or lonely
Lost, trapped, ensnared by harsh reality
It could go away if love were inherent
and we are conscious and can make it so
Is it arrogance? Ignorance?
Or something much deeper?
A place within all of us where
peace and happiness can flow outward
Something inside us that makes us aware
that we can treat our world with compassion
not just our neighbors, both distant and close
but also the trees, the ocean, the soil, the whole
What the hell is wrong
with so many people
who cannot truly see
that we will all die
Awareness of this fact alone
means that we are all the same
That we should love, and smile, and share
That there is more than one path to salvation
on this pale blue dot
suspended in a sunbeam
I hear a choir which sings: Nicholas Elsberg
I hear a choir, which sings
To an empty audience
As men fight outside over paper
Against the backdrop of a great fire
A flame that burns
While all the water pails remain empty
And are melted into bullets
From dirt we arise: Nicholas Elsberg
From dirt we arise
And to dirt we return
Is that why we’re so content to wallow in the filth of greed?
How ironic that man
Trapped on a tiny rock
in an inky blackness of which he knows nothing
Thinks himself king of the universe
A world torn by hatred: Dolly Lebow
A world torn by hatred,
Ignorance against others,
Resentment for the world,
We find solace, peace, and calming,
Overcoming our instincts pushing us apart,
Hypocrites, Heretics, and Betrayers.
No one understands each other,
We find that we all come together,
Away from our own delusions,
Once we realize that our minds deceive us.
As you drift: Tyler Milliken
As you drift
Along that endless river
Disregarding that call,
You turn your back on the moon
Devoured by water,
Suffering from the fire within
Still you drift,
Along that endless river
Shadows that lurk: Tyler Milliken
Shadows that lurk
Within the heart
Clawing their way out
So too does the
Rotten barrel leak water
The rotten heart,
Can yet be mended
Just accept that kind embrace
Does a leaf regret falling?: Trevor Davis
Does a leaf regret falling?
We live cold lives,
Like leaves falling from winter's forests
Only Ram can provide warmth,
a way to escape the ice
that seeks to freeze us
Who is he?
is he a leader or a puppet?
When he speaks does anyone listen?
Shame on me for listening
Like a dog in the streets
He is alone and ignored
Alone he wanders into the void,
A painful realization
he continues to move forward
falling endlessly into suffering,
He ignores all warnings
destroying his own mind
He forsakes Ram,
therefore he has no savior
The things they call love: Adam Guerin
The things they call love
Remain a mystery to me.
The sport like nature,
Of boxes and roses,
Blindfolds and matchmakers,
All unfolding for our entertainment.
The love they attach to words,
Labels that they have created,
And they have divided themselves with.
Words, thoughts, and distinctions,
All of them are ready to die for.
Ready to kill for.
Love for a God called by any name,
A love sustained by scriptures they can quote,
But not understand,
And morals they speak of,
But not follow.
An overconfident righteousness,
That they wish to impress upon everyone.
What is this love they speak of?
A love so impure,
It speaks no truth.
There is no love based
In anger, hatred, and division.
Only blind confusion.
Speak of open truth,
Kindness and compassion,
Speak with no labels or biases attached,
Then and only then,
Can there be
The thing they call love.
Puffed up by ritual: Emma Jackson
Puffed up by ritual
Without knowing its meaning
The congregation attempts to soothe their guilt
By participating in empty motions
With no understanding of grace
The fall from perfection
Hits harder when deeds compete
With an ocean of mercy
The spirit we claim to follow
Is often so absent
In daily interaction
Where did we lose Him?
From the fire we are created: Triya Ganguly
From the fire we are created
From the fire we die
To the men who live through their greed
Profiting off the oil that keeps engines running
What is the point of that greed?
If it defames the earth in such a way
That we can no longer inhabit it peacefully
You focus on your profits with no regard to the environment
But how are you to survive if the earth is rejecting you?
The fire that once created us is raging on our earth
Thanks to the fumes your companies ignite
You kill the earth that feeds you
On the basis of your financial “purpose”
But what value does money have
When it serves to undo the world we inhabit?
Through all Ram's found: Max Klein
Through all Ram’s found;
When seas are polluted
And forests uprooted,
Only the outside shines
And quickly rusts away.
In good action
The inside shines
Why do you constantly desire?: Aravindan Balaguru
Why do you constantly desire?
When you were young you craved for sweets
And with time you began to crave for friends
And then success in academics
And then success in your work
And then you sought a romantic relationship
And then you craved for a family
And you kept desiring for something
Your life has been full of desire and and thens
With only brief moments of satisfaction after obtaining your desires
Before that satisfaction ceases to exist
And you desire something new again
So why do you constantly desire?
What end goal do you seek to achieve?
You kill the true Self with your desire
And only seek to satisfy the self and your vanity
People get lost looking for truth: Kaylin Brown
People get lost looking for truth
They spend their time reading books of empty pages
They waste their energy on empty rituals
Truth comes from within
Stop searching outwardly
Ram is within
Where is the Lord?: Kaylin Brown
Where is the Lord?
Where is the divine?
You search and search
When will you realize
You are a fool
Instead of taking one step inside
You may think draping your body with the name of designers puts you above those in unassuming clothes: Annika Giese
You may think draping your body with the name of designers puts you above those in unassuming clothes
Yet they are cut from the same fabric
You claim a charitable image on your virtual platform but ignore those who reside on the street
Yet you breath the same air
You assume your weekly prayer will right your daily wrongs and shame those who do not follow the same
Yet you were created by the same Creator
You are blind to your contradictions
Your Creator is blind to your intentions
Unchain yourself from your ego