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Kabir Introduction - Peter Malakoff

A few words of Introduction before the MOVIE:



The Poet, Saint and Weaver of Medieval India.

It has been said that the whole of Indian philosophy

is reflected in the warp and weft of the loom.


In Medieval India,

there was born a humble weaver and great saint

whose teaching words and verses

have become the best known and oft-recited

throughout all that fabled land.


In the west, we know him primarily for his poetry,

in India, he is a great saint and mystic

to the Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus.


Known as Kabir, he was illiterate and brilliant.

In his poetry and teachings, he celebrated the Divine

which he saw everywhere

and criticized the hypocrisy, pride and ignorant beliefs

that kept people from that experience of Truth.


He did so in the common language of the poor

and he did so at risk to his life

from the orthodox Hindu Brahmins and the Muslim rulers of his day.


During the winter of 2004, I lived on the Ganges River in Benaras.

While there I remembered that Kabir

was born and taught in that ancient city.


When I inquired where he had lived or of any temples he was associated with,

I was directed to the Muslim weaving community

in an area of the city set back from the river.


I explored and photographed this fascinating world

and found it like Benaras itself,

to greatly enrich and give visual image and ground

to the many archetypes and metaphors

expressed in the poems of Kabir.


Upon my return to America

I was asked to give a presentation in Sebastopol, Ca.

to a community of weavers

about the textile practices and communities of Benaras,

an area famous for the woven arts for over a thousand years.


As I reflected on the fact that Kabir was himself a weaver,

my preparation and research for this talk

led to a mutual fertilization of his poems and images

and the world of the weaver in which he lived.

It was this warp and woof of consideration

that gave rise to the cloth of this movie.


The story of Kabir

like so much in the ancient culture of India

goes far beyond the walls of our Western assumptions

of what is or could be true.

While many of the details of Kabir’s story

may be debated by this or that scholar or school,

a mere taste and vision of this great saint and poet

is all that I hope to achieve here

and perhaps to stir the memory in each of us

of what it is he was talking about.


Many of the translations I have used here of Kabir’s poems

are taken from Robert Bly’s excellent book- Kabir.

It was Bly’s sense of ‘taste’

and what is important in life

that must of led him to translate Kabir in the first place

and thus bring this great Indian poet/saint to the attention of my generation.

I thank him for giving me an introduction to the feel and poetry

of that great being

whose poems have touched

my heart.




























Kabir Movie

Raam Naam Bhaju

(Repeat the Mantra of God’s Name)


Recite God’s name (“Raam naam bhaju”)


O man! Recite God’s name. Look deeply into your mind and be aware.


You have collected a great deal of wealth and have safely buried (secured) it.

But you will leave the world empty-handed.

Your grandfather, great-grandfather, and great great grandfather possessed land and pots.

Why did they leave these and go? Are you not aware, or are your inner eyes blind?

The world is engaged in a futile business. In the end no one stands by you, and you depart alone.

Birth and death are transient and take no time. They are like the shadows of passing clouds.

What is there to boast about relatives, lineage, clan and family when all are transient?

Kabir says that without devotion to God’s name,


all of your cleverness is drowned.


- Kabir

The Song of the Clay


Clay says to the potter:


"Who are you to knead me?


There will be a day when I will knead you


Everyone who is born will die someday


Be it a king or a poor man


One sits on a throne, another in a prison"

- Kabir

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