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Saints & Gurus
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As he was walking down the steps to the waters, a
little hand reached out in the predawn morning and grabbed the saint's
big toe. Ramananda was taken by surprise and he expressed his shock by
calling out the name of God. Looking down he saw in the early morning
light the hand of the young Kabir.
After his bath in the early light
he noticed that on the back of the little one's hand was written in
Arabic the name Kabir.? He adopted him as son and disciple and brought
him back to his ashrama, much to the disturbance of his Hindu
students, some of whom left in righteous protest.
Saint Kabir was born in Varanasi (Benares), India, probably around the
year 1440 (though other accounts place his birth as early as 1398), to
Muslim parents. But early in his life Kabir became a disciple of the
Hindu bhakti saint Ramananda.It was unusual for a Hindu teacher to
accept a Muslim student, but tradition says the young Kabir found a
creative way to overcome all objections.
The story is told that on one particular day of the year, anyone can
become a disciple by having a master speak the name of God over him.
It is common for those who live near the Ganges to take their morning
bath there in the sacred waters.The bhakti saint Ramananda took his
bath as he did every day, by arising before dawn. On this special day,
Ramananda awoke before dawn and found his customary way down to the
steps of the Ganges.
Nearing age 60,
he was denounced before the king but, because of his Muslim birth, he
was spared execution and, instead, banished from the region.
It is said that what really made this meeting the most special is that
in this case it, was only after Kabir's enlightenment that Ramananda,
his teacher, became enlightened.
Not much is known about what sort of spiritual training Kabir may have
received. He did not become a sadhu or rununciate. Kabir never
abandoned worldly life, choosing instead to live the balanced life of
a householder and mystic, tradesman and contemplative. Kabir was
married, had children, and lived the simple life of a weaver.
Although Kabir labored to bring the often clashing religious cultures
of Islam and Hinduism together, he was equally disdainful of
professional piety in any form. This earned him the hatred and
persecution of the religious authorities in Varanasi.
He subsequently lived a life of exile, traveling through northern
India with a group of disciples. In 1518, he died at Maghar near
One of the most loved legends associated with Kabir is told of his
funeral. Kabir's disciples disputed over his body, the Muslims wanting
to claim the body for burial, the Hindus wanting to cremate the body.
Kabir appeared to the arguing disciples and told them to lift the
burial shroud. When they did so, they found fragrant flowers where the
body had rested. The flowers were divided, and the Muslims buried the
flowers while the Hindus reverently committed them to fire.