The Dohas of Sufi Kabir
by James Khan
Hindi/Urdu Verse, Translation and Meaning
Dohas are two line poems in Hindi. The translation presented here is a literal translation of the Hindi verses where this is possible, rather then a poetic re-phrasing of the original verses in English.
With this approach, in most cases, the meaning of the verse is conveyed to the reader, which is the most important part, though sadly, much is lost, including the taste and aspects of the meaning. I have, however, added text to further explain the meaning as best I can.
In my view, it is better to learn Kabir’s verse in Hindi, and know its additional meaning from the use and sound of the original words, otherwise the meaning that Kabir wanted to convey is lost. Hndi/Urdu is considered the idal language for Poetry, but it often does not have equivalent expressions in English, simply because the experience that those expressions contain don’t exist in the English culture, where different experiences exist.
There is power in Kabir’s choice of words, the sounds convey the power and it is well worth learning the sound and meaning of the Hindi words. The same as for example, the verses of Shakespeare, you would need to learn English to start to understand Shakespeare.
A true poetic translation of Kabir into English that keeps the meaning, tone, meter, rhyme and maintains the vocal and psychological power of the words is not possible. You would need a true genius like Shakespeare to do that. Lesser Poets like Tagore have tried, but the end result is way, way short of the original.
Rabindranath Tagore’s work, One Hundred Poems of Kabir, for example, does not even convey the simple, basic meaning of the original, never mind the subtler, spiritual meaning. In addition, his English is lofty, high English, which conveys little to the average English reader, who would not be much impressed by it.
Tagore’s language is not the simple, down to earth language used by the ordinary, generally poor person as Kabir’s use of Hindi was. This is because Tagore’s command of common, native, everyday English was poor, because he never lived in the slums of east London for example. Also even Tagore, who is considered a mystical genius, did not have the required spiritual awareness to understand Kabir fully.
Kabir tended to use simple, common, slang words, rather then the high minded Sanskrit words. Kabir was familiar with Sanskrit, but he wanted to reach the ordinary person on the streets, so he used Hindi. Many of Kabir’s words are not in use today in modern Hindi, which makes understanding him more difficult.
For example, ‘Punyah’ would not be understood in today’s Hindi, Urdu or Punjabi. Punyah is an expression used in Pahati, my native Kashmiri tongue, which contains Hindi, Punjabi and Sanskrit terms. It means ‘under’ as in ‘under the feet’, or ‘floor’ as in ‘sit on the floor’.. In modern Hindi/Urdu, it would be ‘Nicheh’, in Punjabi it would be ‘Thelah’, but these do not convey the sense of Punyah:
Kall pereh punya letna, uper gemsi ghass!
(tomorrow you’ll be laying under feet, on top will grow grass!).
This literally, in simple words explains what Kabir wanted to convey – that tomorrow you will be laying in your grave, on top the grass will grow. There is humour, as well as meaning about the impermenance of life, in Kabir’s simple original, which is conveyed here.
Most Kabir translations available in English (like Kabir: Ecstatic Poems by Robert Bly), are based on Tagore – they improve on Tagore’s English only. Other English translations are no better then Tagore’s for the same reasons.
Here at least the English reader will have a truer understanding of the meaning of Kabir’s poem/verse.
The tradition of Hindi Spiritual songs in India, rather then Sanskrit Bhajans, derives from the songs and dohas of Kabir. They are still sung in India today. Scholars say that Kabir’s influence on the development of the modern Hindi/Urdu language was the same as Shakespeare’s influence on the development of the English language.
The Moving Stone Mill
Chalti Chakki Dekh Kar, Diya Kabira Roye
Do Paatan Ke Beech Mein,Sabit Bacha Na Koye
Watching the grinding stones, the lamp Kabir Cries
Inside the Two Stones, no one survives
Kabir sees the two grinding mill stones as the duality that we live in. Heaven and earth, Good and Bad, Male and Female, High and Low – all around is duality. This play of opposites, this Chalti Chakki, this moving mill, this moving cosmos, it destroys everyone, no one is save from in it’s powerful grip and grinding action.
Whoever enters this duality is crushed. No one survives, which brings Kabit to tears. Kabir cries because rarely, if ever, does one see the oneness, the divinity, behind the duality.
|Chalti Chakki||Moving Mill|
|Dekh Ker||On Seeing|
|Do Paatan||Two Stones|
|Sabit Bacha||Saved / Left Intact|
|Na Koye||No One|
Searching for Evil
Bura Jo Dekhan Me Chala, Bura Naa Milya Koye
Jo Munn Khoja Apnaa, To Mujhse Bura Naa Koye
I went on the search for the bad guy, bad buy I couldn’t find
When I searched my mind, then no one is as bad as me
This doha is about observing ones own mind. Kabir says that he searched the world for the bad guy, the real evil person reponsile for all the pain and suffering in the worrld, But he couldn’t find the evil person no matter where he looked.
Then he looked at and critically examined his own mind, his own thinking process.
There he found the real evil thing that lived hidden inside, and grew unchecked. All evil is caused by thinking, which is the action of the unobserved mind.
When we accuse and condemn another, it is our mind that is doing the finger pointing, the other person is probably innocent or the victim of his circumstances. Were we to inhabit the condemned persons body, live his life, have his life conditioning, then we too would behave and act the same.
|Me Chella||I went|
|Na Milya||Not found|
|Jo Mann Khoja Apna||When searched my own mind|
|To mujh se bura no loye||No One is as bad as me|
Kabir Washes Clean His Mind
Kabir Man Nirmal Bhaya, Jaise Ganga Neer
Pache Pache Har Phire, Kahat Kabir Kabir
Kabir Washed His Mind Clean, Like The Holy Ganges River
Everyone follows behind, Saying Kabir, Kabir
Kabir washed and cleaned his own mind, like the holy Ganges. That is, he removed all impurities from his mind, from his thinking process, this letting the true light of divinity to shine forth.
Then everyone follows him whereever he goes, calling his name: Kabir, Kabir from behind him.
For more on cleaning your mind see Mind-Detox
Tomorrow’s Work do Today
Kaal Kare So Aaj Kar, Aaj Kare So Ub
Pal Mein Pralaya Hoyegi, Bahuri Karoge Kub
Tomorrows work do today, today’s work now
If the moment is lost, how will the work be done?
Do the work that needs to be done now. There is no other time then now.
Speak such Speach
Aisee Vani Boliye, Mun Ka Aapa Khoye
Apna Tan Sheetal Kare, Auran Ko Sukh Hoye
Speak such words, you lose the minds Ego
Body remains composed, Others Find Peace
In speech use such words that your ego is eliminated. Don’t brag, don’t gloat, don’t make yourself out to be big, important, rich or anything else that the ego attaches to. Building the Ego takes energy from the body, takes away the bodies composure. If ego is lost in ones speech, the listener finds peace from listening to it.
|Aisee Vani Boliye||Speak such speach|
|Mun Ka Aapa Khoye||The mind loses its Ego|
|Apna Tan Sheetal Kare||Ons own bdy is at peace, composed|
|Auran Ko Sukh Hoye||Others are benefited, get relief|
Be Slow O Mind
Dheere Dheere Re Mana, Dheere Sub Kutch Hoye
Mali Seenche So Ghara, Ritu Aaye Phal Hoye
Be Slow O mind, Slowly everything happens
Gardner may water garden a hundred times, When the Season comes, there is fruit
Kabir tells his mind to slow down, everything in life happens slowly, in its own time. The fruit only comes when the season comes, so will the fruit of life come in its own time.
God Grant Such Wealth
Sayeen Itna Deejiye, Ja Mein Kutumb Samaye
Main Bhi Bhookha Na Rahun, Sadhu Na Bhookha Jaye
God, give me so, so much wealth, that my community is fed
I don’t remain hungry, the Sadhu does not go hungry
In this doha, Kabir asks God for wealth in abundance – that his community is fed, he does not starve and the visiting Sadhu (holy man) does not go hungry. For him, true wealth is in these simple things, the gift of life, aily sustenence for the community and that the sadhu does not go hungry.
Kabir does not ask for a mansion, a Mercedes benz, a colour TV or millions in a swiss bank account, what real use are they to him?
If Your Big So What?
Bada Hua To Kya Hua, Jaise Ped Khajoor
Panthi Ko Chaya Nahin, Phal Laage Atidoor
If You are Big so what? Just like a date tree
No shade for travelers, fruit is hard to reach
Being bid, important, powerful, wealthy is of no consequence.
Kabir likens this to a tall date tree whose fruit is out reach, and which does not give shade to the traveller.
As Oil is in the Seed
Jaise Til Mein Tel Hai, Jyon Chakmak Mein Aag
Tera Sayeen Tujh Mein Hai, Tu Jaag Sake To Jaag
Like the Oil is inside the Seed, Just as the Fire is Inside the Flint Stone
Your God is Inside You, If you have the Power to Wake Up, then Wake Up
God is within, like the oil inside the seed, and the flint stones have the potential for fire inside them.
If you can realize this, then awaken and arise. It is said as challenge – if you have the power to wake up.
Begging is like Dying
Mangan Maran Saman Hai, Mat Koi Mange Beekh
Mangan Se Marna Bhala, Yeh Satguru Ki Seekh
Begging is like dying, Let no one Beg
It is better to die than beg, this is the SatGuru’s Message
Don’t beg – give that you may receive. Give time, give some service, give friendship, give love – don’t beg.
Maya Mari na Mun Mara
Maya Mari Na Mun Mara, Mar Mar Gaye Shareer
Asha Trishna Na Mari, Keh Gaye Das Kabir
Neither Maya Died, Nor the Mind Died, Die and die again People/Bodies
Hope and delusion have not died, so said Das Kabir and left
One of Kabir most meaningful doha’s for me. Kabir observes the world from within, and sees the world as Maya – illusion. It is projected by Mun, the mind, the collective mind. Shareer refers to the living body or living person. Shareer’s die and die again.
There is hope that this will end, that there will be the emergence of a new Shareer that will wake up, and then Maya and Mun will instead die.
Kabira Stands in the Market Place
Kabira Khara Bazaar Mein, Mange Sabki Khair
Na Kahu Se Dosti, Na Kahu Se Bair
Kabira Stands in the market place, Asks for everyone’s prosperity
Neither special friendship nor enmity for anyone
In the market place, Kabor wishes goodwill to all.
Studying Books the World has Died
Pothi Padh Padh Kar Jag Mua, Pandit Bhayo Na Koye
Dhai Aakhar Prem Ke, Jo Padhe so Pandit Hoye
Reading Books and Scriptures everyone died, No one became Pandit
Two and Half Words of Love, Who ever reads, Pandit he becomes
Forget about book learning, no mater how many books you read, you won’t become wise, you won’t became the true Pundit. Just a few words of love and you’ll become Pundit. Try it.
In Sorrow all Pray
Dukh Mein Simran Sab Kare, Sukh Mein Kare Na Koye
Jo Sukh Mein Simran Kare, Tau Dukh Kahe Ko Hoye
While Suffering everyone Prays and Remembers Him, in joy no one does
If one prays and remembers Him in happiness, why would sorrow come?
The suffering you experience in the world is designed to wake you up. You wake up when you realize God. If you did that during your happy times, then you will not experience suffering because there woud be no need for it.
Guru the Wash Man
Gur Dhobi Sikh Kapda, Saboo Sirjan Har
Surti Sila Pur Dhoiye, Nikse Jyoti Apaar
Guru is the wash man, Sikh is the cloth , God the soap
Wash the mind thoroughly clean, Out Comes The Glow of Truth
Life is process of cleansing – hence this site, which is about Mind and Body Cleansing.
Alive one Sees
Jeevat Samjhe Jeevat Bujhe, Jeevat He Karo Aas
Jeevat Karam Ki Fansi Na Kaati, Mue Mukti Ki Aas
Alive one sees, alive one knows, find your liberation while alive
If Alive you do not cut the noose of your attachments , how will there be liberation with death?
You need to wake up while you are alive, it is your only chance. You need to drop the ties of attachments to illusory things that bind you in illusion. This can only be done while alive, death is not a liberator.
The Story of Love
Akath Kahani Prem Ki, Kutch Kahi Na Jaye
Goonge Keri Sarkara, Baithe Muskae
Inexpressible is the story of Love , It goes without Saying
Like the dumb guy who eat sweet Sarkara, he only Smiles
The story of love is to be experienced, it can not be expressed, it can be known and felt – but not by the five senses.
Worry will Destroy you
Chinta Aisee Dakini, Kat Kaleja Khaye
Vaid Bichara Kya Kare, Kahan Tak Dawa Lagaye
Worry is such a Thief, it eats one’s heart
What can the poor doctor do, How far will his medicine reach?
Don’t worry, be happy.
Kabir, Don’t Be Proud
Kabira Garv Na Keejiye, Uncha Dekh Aavaas
Kaal Paron Punyah Letna, Ouper Jamsi Ghaas
Kabir , Don’t be so proud and vain, Looking at your high mansion
Tomorow you’ll lie under feet, On top will grow Grass
Don’t be proud and vain, tomorrow you’ll be lying six foot under feet, on top will grow grass that goats and sheep will eat!
Dont be Proud
Kabira Garv Na Keejiye, Kaal Gahe Kar Kes
Na Jaane Kit Mare Hai, Kya Des Kya Pardesh
Kabir , Don’t be so proud and vain, The clutches of Time are dark
Who knows where it will kill , Whether at home or abroad
Again don’t be proud and vain, who knows when or where time will kill.
Nothing is Kabir’s Doing
Kabira Kiya Kutch Na Hote Hai, Ankiya Sab Hoye
Jo Kiya Kutch Hote Hai, Karta Aur Koye
On Kabir’s saying nothing happens , What I don’t do does come to pass
If anything happens as if my doing, It is done by someone else
All things happen as per Gods wish, it just seems that we are doing them.
Like the Pupil in the Eye
Jyon Naino Mein Putli, Tyon Maalik Ghat Mahin
Moorakh Log Na Janhin, Baahar Dhudhan Jahin
Like the pupil is in the eyes , Your God lives inside you,
The ignorant don’t know this, they search Him on the outside
God is within, the ignorant look for Him on the outside.
When You Came to the World
Jab Tun Aaya Jagat Mein, Log Hanse Tu Roye
Aise Karni Na Kari, Pache Hanse Sab Koye
When you came in to this world , Everyone laughed while you cried
Don’t do such work, That they laugh when you are gone
Do good work.
The Pain of Separation
Pehle Agan Birha Ki, Pachhe Prem Ki Pyas
Kahe Kabir Tub Janiye, Naam Milan Ki Aaas
First the pain of separation, then the thirst for Love
Says Kabir, only then will you know Joy of the Union.
First the pain of separation, then the thirst for love. Only from the pain of separation do we feel the pangs of love. There is then hope of union. This is the story of life – the lovers meeting, separating, the pangs of love and the urge for union and the eventual union. In Sufi tradition it is a reflection of man and God – realization of the separation from God, the pangs of love and urge for union with God, and the eventual joy of union.
The Fire in the Ocean
Aag Jo Lagi Samand Mein, Dhuan Na Pargat Hoye
So Jane Jo Jarmua, Jaki Lagi Hoye
The Ocean is on Fire, The Smoke is not Visible
He Knows Who Has Been there and been Burnt
Experience teaches, the one who has felt the fire knows it – when you know, you know.
Save the Wealth in this Moment
Kabir So Dhan Sanchiye, Jo Aage Ko Hoye
Sees Charaye Potli, Le Jaat Na Dekhya Koye
Kabir, save the wealth that remains in this Moment
Departing with a bag of material wealth, no one has yet been seen.
Enjoy the present moment. Accumulating wealth for tomorrow is a waste because tomorrow you will die. This is a certainty. No one has been seen that managed to take his material wealth with him.
<h2? Hope Lives, the World Dies
Aasa Jive Jag Marey, Log Marey Mar Jayee
Soyee Sube Dhan Sanchate, So Ubrey Jey Khayee
Hope yet lives, the world dies, people die and die again
Perish yet hoarding wealth, spend and freedom attain
Hope is that people will wake up, drop their attachments and hoardings and be free from the clutches of illusion.
If I say One
Ek Kahun To Hai Nahin, Do Kahun To Gaari
Hai Jaisa Taisa Rahe, Kahe Kabir Bichari
If I say one, It is not; If I say two, it will be a violation
Let ‘It’ be whatever ‘It’ is, so says Kabir contemplating
There is a oneness behind the apparent diversity. But oneness is not seen. Yet if I accept duality, it would be a violation, a false acceptance. Let it be, whatever it is – I’ll drop the analyzing.
This is the House of Love
Kabir Yeh Ghar Prem Ka, Khala Ka Ghar Nahin
Sees Utaare Hath Kar, So Pasey Ghar Mahin
Kabir, this is the House of Love , Not the house of your Aunt
Who has dropped his barriers, He can pass in to the House
You are born to Love, not sit around as if at your Aunts place. Love is not a process of seeking, but a process of dropping ones own mental barriers to love.
The Rosary bead
Maala To Kar Mein Phire, Jeebh Phire Mukh Mahin
Manua To Chahun Dish Phire, Yeh To Simran Nahin
The rosary rotating by the hand, the tongue twisting in the mouth,
With the mind wandering everywhere, this isn’t meditation
(Counting the Rosary, Repeating Mantras, If the Mind is Traveling – this is not meditation)
Control the mind, not the beads or the words.
The Rosary Bead of Wood
Kabir Maala Kaath Kee, Kahi Samjhave Tohi
Man Na Firave Aapna, Kaha Firave Mohi
Kabir, the rosary made of wooden beads, what can it teach you?
If you don’t control your minds motion, why control the beads motion?
Control the mind, not the beads.
When I Was
Jab Mein Tha Tab Hari Nahin, ab Hari Hai Mein Nahin
Sab Andhiyara Mit Gaya, Jab Deepak Dekhya Mahin
When I was, then Hari (God) was not, Now Hari is and I am not
All the darkness dissolved, When I saw the light within.
When we see ourselves as individuals, there is the concept of “I”. This is in duality – that is, there is me, you, him, this computer, that sofa, this hand, that chair. When we see beyond the duality, where “I” no longer exists, then only God exists, and I don’t.
The word Hari comes from the Hindi Her, meaning every (everyone, everything), and is a reference to God. The mantra Hari Ohm, literally means God, God, or everywhere God.
So, before duality, God was and I was not. Now in duality, I am, and God is not seen. This darkness dissolves when I see that God is within me. Then I realize that “I” don’t exist as my mind would have me believe that I do.
For more on this, read: Water and the Tao
Moonde Saw Bar
Keson Kaha Bigadia, Je Moonde Sau Baar
Man Ko Kahe Na Moondiye, Jaamein Vishey Vikaar
What harm have the hair done, you shave them hundred times
Why not shave the mind, there grow unchecked countless poisonous thoughts
There is a tradition of monks having their hair shaved. They do this again and again. Kabir asks: what has the hair done that yo cut it hundreds of times? Why don’t you cut the mind, where are born the Vishey Vikaar?
Vishey means nasty, poisonous things. Vikars are:serious faults or major weaknesses that we have. Serious vikars include:
Kama – Lust
Krodh – Rage or uncontrolled anger
Lobh – Greed
Moh – Attachment or emotional attachment
Ahankar – Eego
We need to cut these vikars, that is purify or clean the Mind. For more information, see Mind Detox
Shaving the Days have gone
Moond Munddavat Din Gaye, Ajhun Na Miliya Raam
Raam Naam Kahu Kya Karey, Je Man Ke Aurey Kaam
Shaving the head Ages have passed, yet no union with God
Recitation of Gods Name is futile, when the mind is doing something else
Being a monk, shaving the head, praying and observing for years, all the days have passed, but have not united with God. Why recite Gods name, when the mind is doing some other work?
Kabir is saying that the mind needs to be controlled, the thoughts need to be controlled and focussed on the divine, focussed on what is real, not on things made from duality.
Kabir, Why Sleep
Kabir Soota Kya Kare, Koore Kaaj Niwaar
Jis Panthu Tu Chaalna, Soyee Panth Samwaar
Kabir, why do you sleep? Leave the useless tasks
Be focused on the path which you were meant to tread
Self explanatory verse. Focus on the thing that you really love to do, don’t be distracted, don’t sleep.
The path you were meant to follow, take up that path.
Kabir, Your Hut
Kabira Teri Jhompri Gal Katiyan Ke Paas
Jo Karenge So Bharenge Tu Kyon Bhayo Udaas
Kabir, Your Hut Is Next to the Butchers
Who does, he will face the consequnces, Why are you sad?
Don’t concern your self too much with other peoples actions – they will have to face the consequences, not for you to be sad.
Kabir, he alone is the Warrior
Kabir Soyee Soorma, Man Soon Maande Jhoojh
Panch Pyada Paari Le, Door Kare Sab Dooj
Kabir, He alone is the Warrior , who takes on the mind head-on
Crushing the sensual five, all duality gone
The real fighter, the real warrior is the one who takes on his own mind.
The Mind controls the ‘sensual five’, the five senses of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste
These five senses and the mind that interprets the vibrations that the senses deliver to the brain, they all tell us lies. The mind and the five sesnses tell us that duality exists, though in truth it does not. Like a dream, everything around us does not exist – only God exists, everything else is part of duality.
For more about this, read: Water and the Tao