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KABIR was a Hindu mystic of the fifteenth century. A selection of his poems, translated by a more modern Hindu poet, Tagore, is presented in this volume, with an introduction by Evelyn Underhill. His songs were written, she tells us in a popular dialect, not in the literary tongue and were addressed to the people. "All must be struck by the constant employment in them of imagery drawn from the common life, the universal experience. It is by the simple metaphors, by constant appeals to needs, passions, relations which all men understand . . . that he drives home his intense conviction of the reality of the soul's course with the Transcendent."
By trade, Kabir was a weaver, a simple Oriental craftsman, who combined vision and industry, "even as Paul the tentmaker, Boehme the cobbler, Bunyan the tinker, and Tersteegen the ribbon-maker." He was not an ascetic saint, but a man who lived a normal life as a married man, the father of a family. His birth is recorded as in or near Benares about the year 1440. He worked to unify the so-called doctrine of the heart, a religion of love, with the formalism and intellectualism of Hindu theology and the philosophy of the Persian mystics; and the sect he founded claims a million followers in Northern India.
Tagore has given his songs their melodic English translation and Evelyn Underhill's Introduction for the volume outlines the life and philosophy of "Kabir." A few quotations from his visions of the Infinite will reveal the quality of his genius:
"The flute of the Infinite is played without ceasing, and its sound is love.
When love renounces all limits, it reaches truth.
The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it.
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me but my deaf ears cannot hear it.
So long as man clamors for the "I" and the "Mine," his works are as naught.
When all the love of the "I" and the "Mine" is dead, then the work of the Lord is done.