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Ho Sadho! Yeh Tan Thaath Tamboore Ka.
  • kabir
  • poetry
  • spirituality
  • psychology
  • mysticism
  • sufism
  • hindi
Monday, 30th March 2020

हो साधो! यह तन ठाठ तम्बूरे का। हो साधो!

ऐंचत तार मरोड़त खूँटी।
निकसत राग हज़ूरे का।

टूटा तार बिखर गयी खूँटी।
हो गया धूर मधूरे का।

या देहि का गर्व न कीजे।
उड़ गया हंस तम्बूरे का।

कहे कबीर सुनो भई साधो।
अगम पंथ इक सुरे का।

संत कबीर दस।
____ § ____
हो साधो! यह तन ठाठ तम्बूरे का। हो साधो!
Ho Sadho! Yeh tan thaath tamboore ka, ho sadho!

Meaning: O sage! This body is a splendid tamboora (musical instrument).

Commentary: The tamboora is a musical instrument used traditionally in rural India during bhajan sessions. Bhajan is a Hindi word which means a devotional song sung to express a devotee’s love for God. The literal meaning of the line is that this human body is a marvellous tamboora. Since a tamboora is meant for bhajans, that is, for the purpose of singing the glory of the Lord and expressing love for God, the line implies that this body is given to us for the sole purpose of contemplating on and loving God.

The scriptures declare that it is a great boon to have attained the life of a human being.

It is only this form of life that can self-reflect. A human knows about his existence, has some degree of awareness about him or herself, and can ask questions such as, “Why did I do that? Did I do the right thing? Why did I over-eat? Do I need more?” Can observe feedback to his actions from his environment, can imagine a future, can make choices between courses of action, and can make decisions. Arguably, a plant, a cow or a pigeon, for instance, cannot do these things.

This self-referential capacity of the human mind to observe and reflect is a great boon because within it lies dormant, in seed form, the secret key to man’s freedom from sorrow. When one decidedly takes over the thinking mechanism, being guided by his inner conscience, and further guiding the thinking activity properly in accordance with his intellect, constantly reflecting on his own actions and the effects thereof on his fellow earthlings, he accidentally but inevitably and surely stumbles upon the philosopher’s stone, simply the touch of which removes all misery from his life. This is Nature’s recompense to such a man for his effort in using the power of thought in the way it was meant to be used.

This man is referred to as “the sage, the sagely one” or “the seeker,” for he seeks for that which ought to be sought after.

Failing this, when we lie ignorant to the hidden power of reflective thought, we fall prey to the natural tendency of the mind to go outward toward sense objects. In simpler words, the sole focus of our attention is the obtainment of some order of pleasure, whether small or big, from something outside, be it eating a nice thing or watching a movie, or a big decision such as marrying someone or leaving a job to start a business or to take up another job. What we’re expecting as the end-result is some kind of pleasure or happiness.

Unfortunately, but for the short flashes of satisfaction that result for only a very limited time upon procurement of the sense-object, this approach does not give us the happiness we are after. Instead, if one were to be an honest analyst of affairs, this method of living drags one down to deeper depths of misery, to run away from which, one pursues even more sense-objects more aggressively to get some more pleasure to combat the newly received pain. This becomes a never ending cycle of growing misery.

Following this pattern of life, we lead unconscious lives in which the powerful faculties inherent in the human mind are wielded by a tyrannical psyche that throws us into pits of despondency and despair over the pleasures enjoyed in a nostalgic past, various kinds of fears, lust for sensual pleasures, hatreds for wounds and injuries borne, self-pity over misfortunes and bereavements, anxieties and worries about the future, and renders us a timid, helpless victim who is subject to the variety of reactions produced as effects in response to the vicissitudes of a life over which one has absolutely no control.

ऐंचत तार मरोड़त खूँटी।
निकसत राग हज़ूरे का।
Einchat taar, marodat khoonti
Nikasat raag hazoore kaa.

Meaning: Fasten its strings and tighten its pegs, and it will sound the song of the Lord.

Commentary: When the mind is thus directed, pulled back from its natural tendency to go after sense-objects, and is made to reflect on one’s own actions and motives instead, then over time, one develops a subtler intellect and the capacity for deeper introspection into the workings of one’s mind itself. Upon a constant practice of reflecting over one’s own mental make-up, there comes a point in time when one’s mind, as if by no effort of one’s own self, is guided to revelations about the workings of the universe itself. One comes to observe the automatism that is engineered into the universe which takes care of everything all by itself. This is one’s first perception of the cosmic intelligence behind the operation of this universe. One might refer to this principle as God.

Coming face-to-face with this hitherto unknown Supreme Intelligence that runs the whole show, one’s ego is sublimated and he sings the praises of the Lord in joy all the time.

Thus, a well-directed mind is automatically brought to the perception of the Divine, and revels in contemplating the glory of the Divine all the time.

टूटा तार बिखर गयी खूँटी।
हो गया धूर मधूरे का।
Toota taar, bikhar gayi khoonti
Ho gaya dhoor madhure kaa.

Meaning: Lo, the strings snap open, the pegs lie scattered. The sweetness turns into dust.

Commentary: When you die, you won't be able to continue your onward journey until and unless you get another human body. And who knows which body you will get? Death is imminent, my dear fellow, remind yourself over and over again, your death is for sure coming and coming anytime now. Now it comes, or and then now and here it comes! Be mindful of your death. Embrace it. Live in full mindfulness of it and thus conduct yourself in this world.

The sum and substance that you are continues to exist after the death of the physical body. However, when the soul leaves the body, it is deprived of the experience of this empirical reality. Consequently, it cannot also have the experience of bewilderment and wondrous contemplation over this Cosmic Intelligence at that time.

The contemplation of the Cosmic Intelligence is also not the final goal of life. It is penultimate to the real purpose to which all existence is headed. The final culmination of all existence is the realization of its own identity. Thus it follows that the individual soul, too, cannot realize its purpose until and unless it gets another human body once more so as to continue its “learning” that was temporarily parked at the acknowledgement of a Supreme Power that runs this universe.

Therefore, this human body is absolutely necessary for further evolution. So, Kabir reminds us of the paucity of time. The Inevitable Event of Death, albeit of this physical body, looms large. Death is certain. And death will happen anytime. And when it does, there’s no telling which body the soul will get for its next life.

So, do not waste this time.

या देहि का गर्व न कीजे।
उड़ गया हंस तम्बूरे का।
Ya dekhi ka garv na keeje
Ud gaya hans tamboore ka.

Meaning: Do not pride yourself over this body. Lo, the swan of the tamboora flies away.

Commentary: Do not pride yourself over the beautiful body you have been given. It’s not yours. It is given to you.

It is constantly changing. You have no say in its change. It will get old without asking you, and will look really, really ugly without asking you.

And what it is, if you were to look inside it, is filth.

And that which lends it all that which makes it beautiful will leave it anytime, at a completely unsuspecting moment that comes unannounced, with no prior notice, a moment not any more or less ordinary than another.

And when it dies, it will become very heavy.

When a person dies, their skin starts to degrade; it loses lustre immediately, becomes hard, dry and cold, and gradually starts to decompose. The body becomes very heavy immediately upon death.

Therefore, that which lends the body its buoyancy, lustre and beauty is that thing which shall depart upon the death of the physical body. So, give not much importance to, and nay definitely not pride over it.

कहे कबीर सुनो भई साधो।
अगम पंथ इक सुरे का।
Kahe Kabir suno bhai sadho
Agam panth ik sure ka

Meaning: O hark, sagely one! Thus says Kabir: the path of the one who strives to live in atunement is the untravelled path.

Commentary: “Sur” means “a musical note.” So, a “sura” is one who strives for atunment: to atune his will to that of the Divine, to atune his thought, word and deed, to atune his mind and action. He lives in accord.

Conversely, there are those who live in discord, and thus undergo the neurotic suffering of life. That’s most of us.

But he who is on the spiritual path is striving for an alignment. So, Kabir calls him the “sura.”

“Agam” means the path not yet travelled. The pathless path, or the “no path at all path.”

There’s no user manual for the path of Self-realization. There’s no template or cookie-cutter advice to go by.

So, O sagely one, I know your path is not laid out before you and there is no help in sight; I see your blood and your wounds; your trials I know of. The effort you put forth every day and that force of will that you exercise in this fight against the natural instincts is laudable. You are rightly the bravest among the brave, O seeker of the Truth. You have set your aim on the Highest. Glory to you, my friend.

Rugged and uncharted as your path is, so you should keep on, my beloved friend, keep walking.

Thus Kabir, the poet offers encouragement and consolation to the weary traveller on the path of search for the Truth.

  1. Vin Boleya Sab Kish Janda English translation and commentary on the Punjabi/Gurmukhi shabad 'Vin Boleya Sab Kish Janda'.
  2. Samadhi Movie Daniel Schmidt's films about his own Samadhi experiences.