Ber Chalya Mera Bhai

O wise one, I was the first to be born
Then my elder brother
With great fanfare my father was born
In the end my mother

All things seem possible in the upside-down world of Kabir! I am born first and the mother is born last; an ant carries an elephant for her dowry; the baby in the womb speaks but not the child that is born. What does it all mean? We, who are ever seeking for meanings (and perhaps ever failing), are hopelessly baffled by the ‘ulatbaansi’ (upside-down verse) of Kabir. Perhaps it is we, not Kabir, who are looking at the world upside-down, the wrong way round. I heard this song from Mahesha Ram ji of Chhatangarh village in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan.

Ber chalya mera bhai
Magan hui, ber chalya mera bhai
Raam re naam ro gelo re pakdo
Chhodo ni moorkhaai
Raam re naam ro gelo re pakdo
Chhodo ni ghamandaai

Pehle toh guruji main janmya
Peechhe bada bhai
Dhoom dhaam sa pita re janmya
Sabse peechhe maai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Pehle toh guruji doodh jamaayo
Peechhe gaay ne doi
Bachhda unra rame pet mein
Ghrit bechva gayi
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Keedi chali saasre
Nau man surmo saath
Haathi unra haath mein
Oont lapetya jaai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Eenda hata bolta
Bachhiya bolya naai
Kahat Kabira suno bhai saadho
Moorakh samjhe naai
Ber chalya mera bhai…

Time is Slipping Away

Time is slipping away, my friend
Meditate – time is slipping away
Take the path of Raam’s name
Quit this silly pride

O wise one, I was the first to be born
Then my elder brother
With great fanfare my father was born
In the end my mother
Time is slipping away…

O wise one, first the yogurt was set
Then the cow got milked
While the cow was yet to deliver
The butter fetched a good price
Time is slipping away…

The ant goes to her husband’s home
Nine bags of kohl, her dowry
In one hand, she carries an elephant
Under the other arm, a camel
Time is slipping away…

The unborn child could speak
The newborn child says nothing
Says Kabir, listen seekers
Fools can go on guessing
Time is slipping away…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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Chala Chali Ka Khela

It’s all a game of come-and-go! Nothing stays; everything slips away. Fleeting, transient, impermanent. And, therefore, beautiful! In this poignant yet delightful song, the saint-poet Brahmanand speaks directly of this truth. I learnt this song through Mooralala Marwada. You can listen to his version on Ajab Shahar here.

Sab chala chali ka khela
Do din ka hai jug maan mela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Koi chala gaya, koi jaave
Koi gathhdi baandh sidhaave
Koi khada taiyaar akela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Kar paap kapat jaal maaya
Dhan laakh karod kamaaya
Sang chale nahin ek dhela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Ghar maat pita sab bhaai
Tere ant suha ek naai
Ud jaayega hans akela
Sab chala chali ka khela

Yeh nashvar sab sansaara
Kar bhajan prabhu ka pyaara
Brahmanand kahe sun chela
Sab chala chali ka khela

It’s all a game of come-and-go

It’s all a game of come-and-go
Our meetings in the world are fleeting
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Someone’s going, someone’s gone
Someone’s packing their bags to go
Another stands alone, ready for the road
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Plotting, scheming in the web of life
You amassed a billion in wealth
Couldn’t take a penny when you went
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Mother, father, siblings and friends
No one comes along at the end
The swan flies away alone
It’s all a game of come-and-go

The world’s in the throes of death
Meditate on the master, my friend
Brahmanand says, listen seeker
It’s all a game of come-and-go

Translation: Vipul Rikhi and Shabnam Virmani
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Lai Re Naam

Remember the Name, take the name – the name is what saves! This ‘Name’ is the breath, the inner sound, the energy, which keeps us alive! Why not remember it, stay connected with it, and find in it the ground of our being, as this song gently suggests?

I learnt this song through Velagana Bhil from Kutch. You can listen to his raw, powerful version here.

Lai re naam, lai re naam, naam se tire
Naam bhooli aatma, bhamti phire ji

Baahare ubho mrigalo khetar mein chare
Dhani aave dhore ubho bhajto phire ji
Lai re naam…

Aandhade ne maala deeni, phenkto phire
Moorakh haathde heero deeno, dharti dhare
Lai re naam…

Nugura na neema deeno, kehto phire
Pehere kastoori kapda, tel mein tare
Lai re naam…

Saadhuda na sang jaaye, sudharo phire
Dev Dungarpuri bolya, naam se tire
Lai re naam…

Remember the Name

Remember the Name
Chant the Name
The Name is what saves
One who forgets the Name
Wanders aimlessly

The deer grazes the crops in the field
When the keeper arrives, it turns and flees
 Remember the Name…

Pearls in a blind man’s hand don’t stay
A fool fritters his diamonds away
Remember the Name…

The fool thinks his inner cloth is for show
Smears with perfumes his musk-scented robe
Remember the Name…

Seek good company if you want to re-form
Dev Dungarpuri says, the Name transforms
Remember the Name…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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Jab Lag Sukhiyo Shareer

 

Indian philosophy is understood to propose four stages of life – childhood, youth, middle age and old age, with prescribed dharmas for each stage. This is usually understood in the culture to mean that inner work, meditation, spiritual search or satsang are literally a ‘last resort’, to be postponed diligently till old age while the duties and pleasures of the householder’s life hold sway in youth. Kabir turns this on its head. He says the best time to meditate is now, while your body is still young and willing. In old age, with no prior practice, neither body nor mind is going to buckle down to it! So do it now, while you’re well and the body is game! We learnt this song through Mahesha Ram ji of Rajasthan.

Hove re bhaag bhala re saadho
Satguru madiya, padiyo samand maan seer
Hansa re hove chug leejiye
Naam amolak heer

Peecche re yaad nahin aavse re piya
Pinjde mein vyaape peed
Hari ra gun gaay le re haan
Saadhu bhai, jab lag sukhiyo shareer

Hove re joban hata bhaj leejiye
Jej nahin karna beer
Vikal budhaapo tane aavse re piya
Manado nahin jhaale dheer
Hari ra gun…

Hove re pal pal kshan kshan aayu ghatat hai
Jyon anjali ko neer
Phir re hanso nahin aavse re piya
Maansarovariye ri seer
Hari ra gun…

Hove re sab devan ro dev Raamaiyo
Sab peeraan ro peer
Kehet Kabira bhaj leejiye
Sukhsaagariye ri seer
Hari ra gun…

While You are Well

Sing the praises of Hari, brother
While you’re well and the body is game
You won’t remember to do it later
When your frame is rattling with pain

Oh yes, my fortunes improved, the stream
Merged with the ocean, my true guru came
If you’re a swan, then seek
Only the precious jewel of the Name
Sing the praises…

Meditate while you still have youth
Don’t delay, brother, don’t wait till the end
A restless old age is creeping up on you
Your heart will lose all patience
Sing the praises…

Life slips out of our hands like water
Each moment, each instant, trickling away
The swan returns to the great mountain lake
It won’t pass anymore on this way
Sing the praises…

Oh yes, the god of all gods is Raam
The saint of all saints
Kabir says, meditate on that ocean
Of bliss, and become a part of it
Sing the praises…

Translation: Vipul Rikhi

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