Tuesday 10 July 2007
Kamal, Son of Saint Kabir
KABIR WAS INTENSELY devoted to Sri Rama, and he never failed to feed those who sang the praise of the Lord with devotion. On one occasion, however, it so happened that he had not the wherewithal to provide food for a large gathering of devotees. For him, however, there could be no alternative except that he must somehow make every necessary arrangement before the next morning. So he and his son set out at night to secure the required provisions.
The story goes that after the father and son had removed the provisions from a merchant’s house through a hole they made in the wall, the son went in again just to wake up the household and tell them, as a matter of principle, that their house had been burgled. When, having roused the household, the boy tried to make good his escape through the hole and join his father on the other side, his body got stuck in the aperture. To avoid being identified by the pursuing household (because, if detected, there would be no feeding at all of the devotees the next day), he called out to his father and told him to sever his head and take it away with him. That done, Kabir made good his escape with the stolen provisions and his son’s head, which on reaching home was hidden away from possible detection.
The next day Kabir gave a feast to the bhaktas, quite unmindful of what had happened the previous night. “If it is Rama’s Will,” said Kabir to himself, “that my son should die, may it prevail!” In the evening after the feast, Kabir set out with his party as usual in procession into the town with bhajana, etc. Meanwhile, the burgled householder reported to the king, producing the truncated body of Kamal, which gave them no clue. In order to secure its identification, the king had the body tied up prominently on the highway so that whoever claimed it or took it away (for no dead body is forsaken without the last rites being given to it by the kith and kin) might be interrogated or arrested by the police, who were posted secretly for the purpose. Kabir and his party came along the highway with the bhajana in full swing when, to the astonishment of all, Kamal’s truncated body (which was considered dead as a door-nail) began to clap its hands, marking time to the tune sung by the bhajana party.
This story disproves the suggestion that the head or the place between the eyebrows is the seat of the Self. It may also be noted that when in the battlefield the head of a soldier in action is severed from the body by a sudden and powerful stroke of the sword, the body continues to run or move its limbs as in a mock fight, just for a while, before it finally falls down dead.
A devotee protested: “But Kamal’s body was dead hours before.” Bhagavan replied: “What you call death is really no extraordinary experience for Kamal. Here is the story of what happened when he was younger still.”
As a boy Kamal had a friend of equal age with whom he used to play games of marbles etc. A general rule they observed between themselves was that if one of them owed the other a game or two, the same should be redeemed the next day. One evening they parted with a game to the credit of Kamal. Next day, in order to claim “the return of the game”, Kamal went to the boy’s house, where he saw the boy laid on the verandah, while his relatives were weeping beside him. “What is the matter?” Kamal asked them. “He played with me last evening and also owes me a game.” The relatives wept all the more saying that the boy was dead. “No,” said Kamal, “he is not dead but merely pretends to be so, just to evade redeeming the game he owes me.” The relatives protested, asking Kamal to see for himself that the boy was really dead, that the body was cold and stiff. “But all this is a mere pretension of the boy, I know. What if the body be stiff and cold? I too can become like that.” So saying Kamal laid himself down and in the twinkling of an eye was dead.
The poor relatives who were weeping till then for the death of their own boy, were distressed and dismayed, and now began to weep for Kamal’s death also. But up rose Kamal on his back, declaring, “Do you see it now? I was as you would say dead, but I am up again, alive and kicking. This is how he wants to deceive me, but he cannot elude me like this with his pretensions.” In the end, the story goes, Kamal’s inherent saintliness gave life to the dead boy, and Kamal got back that was due to him. The moral is that the death of the body is not the extinction of the Self. The Self is not limited by birth and death, and its place in the physical body is not circumscribed by one’s experience felt at a particular place, as for instance between the eyebrows, due to practice of dhyana made on that centre. The supreme State of Self-awareness is never absent; it transcends the three states of the mind as well as life and death.