Kabir – On Work and the Ego

“The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it:
The moon is within me, and so is the sun.
The unstruck drum of Eternity is sounded within me; but my deaf ears cannot hear it.”

Kabir speaks about our inner nature – and how we are constantly looking outside of ourselves, in search of divinity. He suggests that what we see outside – the Moon, and the Sun – are indeed within us. However, we are too busy, engaged with our external senses, to see what is within. In fact, our external hearing, the noise and sounds of the world, have so overwhelmed us, that we are unable to hear the “unstruck drum of Eternity” – our silence within.

“So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine,
his works are as naught:
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then
the work of the Lord is done.
For work has no other aim than the getting of knowledge:
When that comes, then work is put away.”

Kabir now talks about the ego, and the attachment of “I and Mine” that are cultivated because of our identification with ego. Could it be that it is our love of the “I and Mine” that engulfs us in Maya? Perhaps, when we see what is truly within us, that we can die to the “I and Mine”, connect with our true divinity. And the attainment of that knowledge is the purpose of our work, our struggle, our actions, our spiritual practice.

“The flower blooms for the fruit: when the fruit comes, the flower
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within itself: it
wanders in quest of grass.”

In order to further explain the connection between work and knowledge, Kabir uses the analogy of the flower and the fruit. The entire purpose of the flower (work) is to bring forth the fruit – bring us to knowledge. And once knowledge is attained, the flower (work) can wither, our ‘work’ can stop. So, let us not be like the musk deer, who searches the grass for musk – when, all this time, the musk is within the musk deer…

candâ jhalkai yahi ghat mâhîn – चंदा झलकी यहीं घट माहीं
Let us seek within – in silence, in meditation. That is the path to overcome ego attachment. Let us do work, so that we may attain the light of inner, divine knowledge. That is the purpose of work.

Please share your thoughts on these passages. What kind of work can lead us to knowledge? What is the connection between prayer and meditation? Namaste.

Excerpt From: 1440-1518 Kabir. “Songs of Kabir.” Translated by Rabindranath Tagore.