Sunday, July 1, 2012

Santh Kabir navigating the waters.

The mystic poet Kabir (15th Century) navigates the waters that flow between different Faith traditions. He is neither a Muslim, nor a Hindu; and yet he draws insights from both these great spiritual ways. His vessel is like a seed, which goes between the different worlds or religious language.

The Soul carrier

The Hamsa carries the soul across the waters. The bird is itself like a seed, in which the human being is enclosed, ready to be born into another world.

The Call of the Bird

The Bird of the Spirit is also the Word. It is like the letter AUM. The call of the bird is the cosmic cry which echoes through the whole of creation.

Bird crossing boundaries

Kabir often speaks of the migrant bird which crosses all earthly boundaries. This is the Hamsa, the mythical bird that flieis over the Himalayas, to visit the plains of India.  But this white bird calls all creatures to another land where there are no divisions, no light as opposed to darkness.


The Bird represents an aspect of the migrant self. In the Upanishads we hear of two birds that are found in the tree: one bird is active, feeding on the fruit of the tree, while the other bird is contemplative, remaining as a witness of what is happening in the world of phenomena. 

The Bird of the Spirit

Mythical birds are an important aspect of folk mythology. The bird is related to the vegetation, and is found in the tree of life.


The Hamsa is a mythical bird which is supposed to cry "Ham-sa-ham-sa" as it crosses the high peaks of the Himalayas. This cry of the migrant swan is an affirmation "I am that", and is a manifestation of the Word, which is also the mystic sound AUM, that echoes in the heart of the cave which is within the mountain.

The mystic bird who is often referred to by Kabir as the Hamsa, is a symbol of the spirit or the soul of the searcher. This bird crosses over all boundaries, flying from this world which we experience with our senses, to another world or desh, which is an inner landscape. The bird is itself like a seed that takes wing, and finally takes root in another land of the spirit.

The spiritual language of Santh Kabir is full of mysterious opposites. A bird which belongs to another world, like the Persian image of Phoenix, is coming from the land where there is no sun or moon. This bird of the heavens comes down to the earth, where it meets the serpent which also symbolizes the waters that lie hidden in the depths of the soil. In the songs of Kabir heaven and earth meet in what he often refers to as the "Gagan Mandala", the circle that embraces what is above and what is below in the fiery egg, or germ of life.

The image of the inverted tree which we find in the Upanishads, can also be related to an up-side-down language, used by mystics, that apparently seems to be illogical. The external tree which we observe with our senses, can be compared to a spring of life which comes up from the depths of the earth. The leaves of this tree are like fishes. 

Kabir in the Well

There are two aspects of Kabir the Poet. One is the active external self, which lowers Kabir the inner poet, to discover the source of inspiration within the depths of his own being. This inner Kabir is enclosed within a pot which is itself overflowing. From this inner space of the well, a tree of life is growing.

Kabir Dreaming

The image of Santh Kabir dreaming relates to an inner journey. Kabir is himself like a well. The image of the up-side-down tree is to be found in the Upanishads. Here this inverted tree is related to the concept of a plant that grows up from the depths, like a spring of water welling up from within Kabir's own dreaming body.