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Archive for March, 2010

तिनका कबहुँ ना निंदिये, जो पांव तले होए
कबहुँ उड़ आँखो पड़े, पीर घनेरी होए

tinka kabhoon na nindiye, jo paanv tale hoye
kabhoon ud aankho pade, peer ghaneri hoye

This couplet definitely highlights the emphasis that Kabeer puts on humility, though the way that he chooses to convey it is through fear. It reminds me of a story we used to hear as kids where a mighty elephant was humbled by a lowly ant who slipped into the trunk of the elephant causing much grief and eventually leading to the elephant realizing that no creature is completely powerless.

But I wonder why we need to allude to the fear or retribution aspect at all. What if the ant had no way to get back at the elephant, or the tinka (twig) had no way to get into our eye and cause pain? Should the stronger entity then continue to trample on the weaker one with impunity? Where is the humility in doing something out of fear?

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All in good time

धीरे-धीरे रे मना, धीरे सब कुछ होए
माली सींचे सौ घड़ा, ऋतु आए फल होए

dheere dheere re mana, dheere sab kuch hoye
maali seenche sau ghada, ritu aaye phal hoy
e

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Trees in Washington D.C., a gift from Japan to United States as a gesture of goodwill, that bloom just two weeks in a year in the spring, during the Cherry Blossom Festival*. You can't rush them and you can't will them to stay.

Kabeer’s ability to crystallize a profound thought doesn’t cease to amaze me. He takes the most mundane and familiar of things, and uses them as guided missiles to get his message across.

I have felt the urge to skip through parts of my life numerous times. I am not sure how common that is, but for me, if I am working towards a goal, the stuff in between seems like a waste of time to me. I think that if only I could rush through the boring parts and get to the time where I get to actually realize the fruits of my efforts, wouldn’t that be great.

But of course that can not and does not happen. Even if a time machine existed, the stuff that needs to happen in between will not happen on its own. The idea of steady dedicated effort is something that we take a while to accept and internalize. Notice any young kid devouring his stack of goodies on Halloween rather than spreading the loot over a few days and you will understand that delayed gratification is not something that we are born with.

But Kabeer’s words, gently insistent, urge us to remember that things don’t happen in an instant, but rather in their own sweet time, and that is, in fact, their beauty and joy. And that not everything instant is great. Actually many people are now realizing that instant is most likely never great, which has led to this whole slow food movement (and to more tongue-in-cheek counterparts like the International Institute of Not Doing Much).

But to me, slow somehow doesn’t quite capture it. I would prefer to use a word like सहज (sahaj) that encompasses the state of being centered, natural, in sync with the earth. However you choose to refer to it though, seems like at least this is one of Kabeer’s teachings that is totally relevant today.

*Check out the Cherry Blossom Festival which is from March 27th through April 11th this year.

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चलती चक्की देख के, दिया कबीरा रोये
दुई पाटन के बीच में, साबित बचे ना कोए

Chalti chakki dekh ke, diya kabeera roye
Dui paatan ke beech mein, sabit bache na koye

A traditionally dressed woman using a chakki or a stone mill

A traditionally dressed woman using a chakki or a stone mill

In the days of supermarket aisles, frozen rotis, store-bought breads and pre-made pasta, it is difficult to imagine the time when a chakki (stone mill) was a good metaphor to get across the point that no matter who you are, life is a darn hard thing. Or as Kabeer says, that in the stone mill of life, no one comes out in ‘one piece’.

I wonder if this is relevant today. Are we still living through the stone mill, or with changes of lifestyle and technology, are we better off than Kabeer’s generation?

Actually, I feel blessed in so many ways that I can not remotely claim that my life is in any way close to a stone mill (and also my ego would never let me to say that I have allowed life to break me in some way). But I also think that, in a way, this attitude of Kabeer would be good to have. If you admit that life by definition means getting ground to powder, most problems would stop bothering you and even small positive things would make you happy 🙂

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