Kabir’s Dead Body


“I am not a Hindu,
Nor a Muslim am I!
I am this body, a play
Of five elements; a drama
Of the spirit dancing
With joy and sorrow.”
— Kabir  (1440 – 1518)

Kabir was an Indian mystic composer of poems and music.   Kabir was claimed as a beloved saint by both Muslims and Hindus.  After his death they each demanded a proper handling of his dead body by their own traditions — Hindu cremation and Muslim burial. A fight actually took place over his coffin when it accidentaly was opened and Kabir’s body was missing.  In its place was a bunch of his favorite flowers and next to them was a small book in which the Hindus and Muslims wrote all his sayings that they could remember.  With this, the fighting resolved and both groups look at this miracle as an act of divine intervention.

I am curious of how a Christian would go about doubting this miracle story?  What criterion would they use?  These sorts of miracle stories and resurrection stories abound in India from days of old.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

46 responses to “Kabir’s Dead Body

  1. Temaskian

    And the miracle of Kabir’s missing body is even more recent compared to the missing body of Jesus. Thus all the more convincing?

  2. I know some liberal Christians who accept miracles of other faiths, they think God is bigger than any man-made system.
    Reminds me of this quote: “The idea that the truth of God can be bound in any human system, by any human creed, by any human book is almost beyond imagination for me.” — John Shelby Spong

    Of course most of my Christian friends would probably argue that it was either false or a counterfeit miracle from Satan.

  3. why doubt this story?! it’s beautiful!

  4. @ Luke
    Would you ever doubt the veracity of any beautiful story? If so, what criterion can you imagine allowing you to turn on your empirical doubt switch?

    I agree that beautiful stories are benign if useful and not doing other damage. But I have no trouble saying I totally doubt the varacity of this story but see its beautiful implications.

    But imagine people forming a cult around this man (they did) and excluding their daughters from marrying people outside this cult. And then imagine they use this “myth” as if it were true, to feed such exclusivity. It happens. Is it OK to turn on the skepticism then?

  5. @ Mike — yes, I too have heard the Satan’s Counterfit analysis many times. And I have heard its equivalent in several religions — it is just one of the many bulkheads for sequestered irrationality. Smile

  6. Stories like this give me hope, but then I see things like this:
    Greek Orthodox Priest Beaten

  7. affirm beauty where you find it, be skeptical of people’s motives and also of institutions that crop up around such stories. be at all times balanced.

  8. @ Luke
    So, my question: Would you discourage your child from marrying a devotee of Kabir? Would you discourage your child from marrying someone who does not believe in the resurrection stories of Jesus? Would you encourage your children to marry those who agree with the Christian stories? If so, why?

  9. I would encourage my child to marry whoever they love and who loves them back. as long as it is a mutual, egalitarian team-effort that is love driven, monogamous, and free of excess or exploitation, i’m cool with it. why would i stop it? would you discourage any of those things you ask?

  10. Boz

    Luke, you didn’t answer the question – whether you think this miracle/ressurection story is true.

  11. Boz,

    yes, the story is true. now whether it’s factual or not is a different question for me. i don’t equate truth as being the same thing as fact, although they are closely related. a story doesn’t have to be factual to be true.

  12. societyvs

    How many people actually follow Kabir and what did he teach?

  13. @ Luke
    Come on, though I think I may be sensitive to the various ways you use “truth”, you know what he means. I did a post on the debator’s golden rule, if you have time, could you look at it and see if you can apply it in answering the question for Boz? All it involves is fixing the question for him so you can give him an answer that meets some of his desires and/or more.

    Meanwhile, your exchange inspired me to do a long post of “Truth” coming up soon — I wager you will agree with 99% of what I write. Boz, however, may find some of what I will post not to his preferences. We shall see.

  14. @ society
    I think you’ll find that info on the Wiki article about Kabir. Good luck on your research. Did you ask for any particular reason?

  15. In a predominately Christian society, it’s easy for them to feel like they have a monopoly on miracles. The nice thing about it is that the exact same rationales are in place. There’s no accepting a Christian miracle and then denouncing one from another religion just because. The same critical thinking skills apply to either case.

    Either the supernatural exists and it’s unquestionable or there’s a rational explanation for everything. Mixing the two allows people to cherry pick any and every event to fit their predisposed belief.

  16. Sabio,

    I wasn’t exactly sure what Boz was asking. what does he mean by his question, “is the story true?” does he mean factual? i like what you write in the golden rule for debating and i feel like i followed it. i’m awaiting Boz’s reply to see if clarification is needed. i don’t think it was a cheap shot or a cop-out but an exploration on how we define truth and how we go about articulating it. as well as addressing boundary issues. i feel like y’all are working with the paradigm that if it ain’t chrisitan, christians can’t affirm it. that’s not one i’m working with. and since writing my post about the literal-metaphoric stance on the resurrection i have.. i’ve come to the conclusion that i’m largely metaphoric although i leave room for literal ones like ppl beating depression or marry’n again after a failed first one, etc. etc.

  17. Steve Wiggins

    Interesting question. In class last night we were discussing Zoroastrianism — several of the Hindu students noted how close it is to the Vedic traditions. My emphasis, however, was on how much it influenced western religions with ideas such as heaven/hell, apocalyptic ideas, and the concept of the divine prosecutor (the Satan). Christians are generally surprised that their religion did not come up with these ideas first, but at least in class they were civil about it.

  18. Steve,

    excellent point! I wrote once in a paper that Christianity gave us nothing new. Judaism was in place, Hellenistic mind-body-soul concept, Pagan resurrection stories, Zoroastrian dualism, Buddhist non-attachment. But presented in a new, topsy-turvy way with simple means of conveyance: bread, wine, and parable.

  19. Boz

    It seems that I was unclear.

    Luke, do you think that Kabir was ressurected?

    How certain are you of this opinion?
    For what reasons do you hold this opinion with this certainty?

  20. You know, a very good place to start doubting stories is when they use them to tell your children they are going to hell or you need to go to war. That is a good starting place, eh?

    Luke is a liberal Christian who is pluralistic and holds a post-modern stance toward truth. You boys need to agree on what you want to accomplish before you fire questions over each other’s heads. Just a suggestion.

  21. Sabio,

    I agree. i have my assumptions as to where Boz thinks he can take the conversation.


    what is your definition of truth? what are the prequisites before you declare something as true? how do you view this story?

  22. societyvs

    “Did you ask for any particular reason?” (Sabio)

    I just never heard of him before – sounds kind of interesting.

  23. Boz

    Luke, it’s a little bit annoying that you will not answer the question.

  24. Boz, it’s a little annoying you will not clarify and name where you’re coming from. i think i know what you want to hear, but those are my assumptions, not yours. that being said, i’ll bite:

    to answer this “Luke, do you think that Kabir was ressurected?”

    my answer is yes. Kabir was claimed as a beloved saint by both Muslims and Hindus and when they remembered him, they stopped fighting. now i don’t see evidence in the story for a bodily resurrection (it just said the casket had his fav. flowers in it, didn’t say anyone saw him running around) but a metaphorical one sure. how do you view this story?

  25. Boz

    Where I’m coming from: I generally agree with rationalism and empiricism. I am an atheist.

    My definition of truth: the same as in the dictionary. I haven’t thought enough about the difference between something that is true, and something that is factual, to disagree with the common definitions.

    I agree that there was not a bodily ressurection, and that the evidence available does not support that conclusion.

    I don’t know what a “metaphorical ressurection” is. Would you agree that aesop’s metaphorical tortoise defeated his metaphorical hare in that famous race? If so (or if not), I don’t even know what it means for such a story to be metaphoically true.

  26. Boz,

    thanks for naming your social location! i too think raionalism and empiricism are great tools.. however they are not my only ones.

    a “metaphorical resurrection” would be what this story lays out. dude was loved by hindu’s and muslims, prolly had both parties side by side when he taught and gave sermons and what not. so in death, the flowers and book reminded those fighting that Kabir wouldn’t have wanted this. so they stopped and honored him.

    or if that makes no sense, how about the junkie who turns his/her life around and lives clean, eventually making a big impact on their community. that is a resurrection.

    or when you discover the work of some long dead and obscure teacher, philosopher, or scientist. in a way, you are carrying on their work and entering into relation with how they thought. that is a resurrection in a sense.

    as for the “truth” of Aesop, yeah. that’s true. slow and steady does win the race many a time. like my father in-law who, when doing household projects, sets up things very slowly and methodically and when he fixes them, they stay fixed. where i just rush in and try to do the job as fast as possible which usually leads to return trips to the hardware store until i finally slow down and take my father in-law’s approach. 😉

  27. @ Luke

    In logic, there is a fallacy called the equivocation fallacy. It is a simple principle of using 2 or more definitions (or nuances or connotations) of a word and jumping between them to describe different things. For real effective dialogue, it is important to avoid this fallacy.

    Aesop’s fable is beneficially useful. That is what you mean when you say “metaphorically true” from what I can tell.

    I suggest you stop using the word “true” when discussing the usefulness of a story. Boz is obviously asking if you think something actually historically happened — if we had a video camera, we could have captured it. May I suggest you just stop dancing around and answer his question if you think the resurrection, kabir’s body evaporating or Aesop’s fable are historically true. You know what he means. I get what you are trying to say about the beauty of myth. But I think you are trying to have it both ways for the reasons I gave in earlier comments.

    See these link:
    1) Equivocation Fallacy
    Logical Fallacy Taxonomy — I love this diagram. And it is clickable !

  28. @ Boz
    Oh, that makes the question to you:
    Do you think Jesus’ resurrection can be an effective useful or beneficial myth? In the same sense, what do you think of Aesop’s story or Kabir’s story? We already know what you think of them historically.
    Thanks boz.

  29. “May I suggest you just stop dancing around and answer his question if you think the resurrection, kabir’s body evaporating or Aesop’s fable are historically true. You know what he means. ”

    i asked and no one laid it out. i don’t assume to know what others think but ask and let them fill it out. no dancing required and no, i didn’t know what he meant until he typed it just today at 7:51 a.m.. and in my def. of truth, something doesn’t have to have factually happened to be true.

    as for an equivocation fallacy, you’ve made me a tad angry and frustrated Sabio. i feel i have been MORE than forthright in my definition that i’m using and haven’t once budged from it. yet it was you and Boz that were waiting in the wings to jump on any inconsistency without having to make any claims yourself. not once have you wrestled with the question, “Can something be true and not factual” which i asked twice on 11-12. i’ve asked for clarification and received none. then you think you can try to lecture me? please. come off down off your high horse and let’s discuss. just click away on your diagram, which i love btw, and check out “Loaded Question” as well as “black or white fallacy” because both have been used in abundance here.

  30. Boz

    Sabio, I think it’s pretty obvious that Jesus’ and Kabir’s ressurection stories, and aesop’s fables can be useful/beneficial. We merely need to find one account of a better outcome because of the message in these three stories. Such accounts are easy to find.

    I can’t think of any examples of something that is not factual and also true. Unless we use the non-normal definition of true that you are supporting in this discussion.

    Luke, if you say “It is true that kabir was ressurected” , the audience thinks “kabir was dead, and then became alive again”. However, what you actually mean (afaik) is “The story of kabir’s ressurection, while not literally true, can be benificial when we consider the moral of the story”.

    It looks like we have a miscommunication with the word true.

  31. “I can’t think of any examples of something that is not factual and also true. ”

    art and optical illusions. Picasso said “art is the lie that shows you the truth.”

    in fact writing language and any representations (concepts, images, symbols, language in general) would be truth without fact. the word APPLE isn’t factually an apple but only the agree upon representation. we mistake our symbols for the world itself.

    and what is the “normal” definition of true. you assume i know it, but I’ve asked you both to define it for a while now. we’re having a miscommunication because you’re not doing the work to define truth.

    here’s what I’m working with, a post from a good friend of mine: Fact and Truth (@ “The Dark Age”)

  32. @Luke

    (1) Do you think the report of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is factually/historically true?

  33. Boz

    I don’t know how art and optical illusions, are true but not factual. Do you want to explain this further, with specific examples?

    As for the definition of true, I said earlier that I use the dictionary definition. Here are some definitions from a few different sources:

    1.(of a statement) concurring with a given set of facts; factually correct.
    1.Consistent with fact or reality; not false or erroneous.
    1.being in accordance with the actual state of affairs
    1.in accordance with fact; that agrees with reality; not false

    of course there are other definitions, but in our context, “It is true that kabir was ressurected”, this is the implied definition.

  34. So here are some of the unnecessary semantic causes of disagreement:

    Equivocation – a) both people use different definitions of the same word and try to compare. b) same person uses different definitions of same word and then equates.

    In our conversation, “True” is being used in tons of ways. I suggested that you boys just stick to factual or come up with an agreed definition of “True” — but I don’t think that will happen because of investments.

    Luke said,

    art and optical illusions. Picasso said “art is the lie that shows you the truth.

    But we were talking about a resurrection BEING true, not showing truth. Also, “lie” here means tricks the senses and offers cognitive impressions. So the statement is cute exactly because it plays with equivocation. It had nothing to do with the factual questions you asked. Such dancing with words is very frustrating and a waste of time.

    Luke quoted a friends website where the friend did an essay defining. Truth as revelation and a eureka moment, an experience of wholeness and restoration. While he say fact only pertains to this world and is experienced by analysis.

    Well that is his definition of truth — there are lots of them. Words are tools — speakers have to agree on them.

    All these are used in the way English speakers us “truth”

    真実 Shinjitsu (Japanese)
    la verdad (Spanish)
    Wahrheit (German)

    In Japanese, Luke’s friend could not play with the origin of the word ShinJitsu and make it mean what he wants it to.

    Bottom line: You have to agree on terms. And I think Boz simply wants to test a historical fact. So stay to that. As long as you use abstract words that people invest with their tradition, you will never correctly expose the differences or similarities between your preferences, presuppositions, and investments.

    I speak several languages and the perspective that gives is the ability to really understand how words work and how easy it is to avoid communication by pretending words are real and that we have to discover their meaning.

  35. optical illusions: http://www.ted.com/talks/beau_lotto_optical_illusions_show_how_we_see.html

    pretty much what we see is a lie and not entirely fact. there maybe an objective reality, but we aren’t equipped to see it. that’s biological…

    but that aside, was Kabir factually resurrected? i don’t see any evidence in the text given for that. as for Jesus, the jury is still out… but I think no, no bodily resurrection but metaphoric as described by theologians like Borg, Crossan and Spong.

    now i wouldn’t make such a distinction between truth and fact but as a friend who’s a doc of lingustics pointed it out, so there isn’t a “making it mean what he wants it too.” fact, in my mind, must be separated from truth as the marriage of these two could only happen after the Enlightenment. that’s the history of English…

    mythos was and still is the prime teacher of humanity, we are a “story people.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=the-secrets-of-storytelling

    Now we have the scientific method… but we must learn how to marry the two! so many scientists and “rational” ppl feel they can run around and have the facts speak for themselves. they don’t. nothing is self-evident. story is the best way to reach people and that’s why so many cling to really bad ideas like “creationism” because they “get” the story over the fact. what if we merged Genesis as an account of evolution? chapter 1 fits it much better than chapter 2. or start a new story? i’m all about practical theology… i wish more in my faith were. however, i wish more nonbelievers are more creative with their facts and want to “dance” with them and show others, creatively, how the facts practically matter so that the common person can get their minds around it. check out the video by David Deutsch, i think you’ll be on board: http://www.ted.com/talks/david_deutsch_a_new_way_to_explain_explanation.html

  36. Earnest

    @ Mike: thanks for the link, I’m sure we all want to apologize for the behavior of those around us from time to time.

    Great post Sabio! OK, I will swallow the bait. I love the story and strongly desire to embrace it as truth. Except it probably went like this:

    The Hindus probably “stole” his body and cremated it, or even cremated it before they even thought of the traditions of the Muslims nearby. Then the Hindu leadership went into damage-control mode when they realized the meaning of what had been done, and tried to figure out what they could do next to preserve village peace. So they crafted a plan to put flowers and a book (very Hindu symbols may I add) into the coffin. Then in a pre-arranged scuffle the lid of the coffin “accidentally” fell off revealing the contrived “miracle”. The Hindus as one person began loudly celebrating the transfiguration. The duped Muslims were pleased with the outcome as it validated their belief system. The Hindus preserved their peaceful multicultural environment by the clever use of a hoax. There may indeed have been doubting Muslims, who kept their mouths shut in collusion with the Hindus because to speak out would be inflammatory and risk violence among peaceful neighbors.

    I think this is an excellent example of a “good lie”. Those who wish to pursue absolute truth should decide carefully before they do so. Sometimes truth hurts and can be a lot more trouble than the lie ever was.

  37. @ Luke

    I agree with a whole lot of what you said,

    I agree strongly that stories & myths can be inspiration and often more informative than analytic essays. We are story animals. I have read a lot on that. Thanx for the SciAm link too.

    But let me point out a puzzlement I have:

    Back on my Ragtime Jesus post you said,

    for now I believe the resurrection is bodily.
    — Luke (Nov. 12, 2009)

    Then above you said,

    as for Jesus, the jury is still out… but I think no, no bodily resurrection
    — Luke (Nov. 16, 2009)

    Boy am I confused.

    Now I get the metaphoric stuff of Borg, Crossan and Spong. Did I misunderstand your first quote or did you change your mind? I imagine that the circles you run in must make this confusing. Or maybe I just misunderstood you.

  38. I changed my mind and posted that on 11-12.

  39. Wow, within your tradition, that is huge !
    I put the dates with your quotes to mark the event.
    Does it feel like a big realization to you? I remember when I finally clarified that for myself.

  40. No… I’ve been bouncing between the ideas for a while now. Once i saw that there would be more power in the myth than the literal event, it sort of clicked for me. plus, that type of direct BAM! in your face event isn’t how i’ve experienced God or Jesus Christ in my life. the divine works from the margins and constantly at work, IMO, indirectly and subtely. i just read “Indecent Theology: Theological Perversions in Sex, Gender and Politics” by Ma Althaus-Reid that really cemented this view point for me.

  41. I looked at that book — wow, just reading that book would place you on the periphery of “Orthodox” christianity. Was that reading for a course? Are you gay?

    Do the students in your seminary divide into groups of those that are seriously committed to a literal, factual, historical, bodily resurrection and those that aren’t? Do you run well between groups?

    Thank you for sharing — love the honesty. I’d put that book on my list but $35 for a 225 pg book is too much for something I would only read once. I guess it must have some nice glossy pictures to be going for that price. 😉

  42. yeah, coming from the margins of any orthodoxy seems to be my lot in life 😉

    i read it because it looked REALLY interesting and ppl say that i “live out” that book. i’m not gay, but an ally… and yet somehow, we’re all ‘queer’ in some way or another, not one of us fits the ideal.

    there does seem to be a divide between the progressives and the traditionalists (note the intended use vs. lib and conserve as it’s well beyond politics). i tend to run between the groups and am a frustration and blessing to both 😉

    you might be able to find the book at a library or get it from transfer from a theological library or some way. i mean we pay for the library system but some 80% of us never use it! that is a great tragedy. RAWK!

  43. Ian

    “$35 for a 225 pg book is too much for something I would only read once”

    Welcome to theology 😦

    The university library I’m a member of take forever to order in books, so I end up buying them. At $40 for a weekend’s reading, it gets expensive fast!


    Looks like a great book. I’m with you 100% with the ‘queer’ observation. I think the same thing goes for all kinds of characteristics. I think most Christians are partly ‘queer’ in their view of God / Jesus / Miracles / Prayer, etc. But as for sexuality there is a disappointing tendency for an institutionalized mythology of the straight norm. I wonder what a church of people with metrosexual-theologies would be like.

  44. Aryavrata Baghel

    Interesting to see soooooo many Christians debating on Kabir. We Indians don’t do so much of damned discussions.

  45. Hem Singh Pundir

    Sant Kabir was not only a good poet in
    His time but The best poet in all time
    We are lucky that he was born in India.

  46. Deepak Kumar singh

    Very nice to read thnxx

Please share your opinions!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s