Not much is known about the life of the Indian mystic and poet, Kabir. He was raised in a family of Muslim weavers and later became a disciple of a Hindu ascetic. But he was critical of aspects of both faiths, especially when it came to what he saw as meaningless rites of initiation.
For Kabir, truth can be found by pursuing a spiritual path, valuing all creatures the same as yourself and detaching yourself from the things of the world. To know truth, we simply have to set aside our ego.
Our inspiration for today is a poem by Kabir that invites us to let go of our preconceived notions so we can see the world from a different perspective. It’s a piece titled “Brother, I’ve Seen Some.”
BROTHER, I’VE SEEN SOME
Brother, I’ve seen some
A lion keeping watch
Over pasturing cows;
A mother delivered
After her son was;
A guru prostrated
Before his disciple;
A cat carrying away
Driving a bullock-cart;
A buffalo going out to graze,
Sitting on a horse;
A tree with its branches in the earth,
Its roots in the sky;
A tree with flowering roots.
This verse, says Kabir,
Is your key to the universe.
If you can figure it out.
FOR ADDITIONAL READING: See Kabir: Ecstatic Poems, translated by Robert Bly.
More spiritual nuggets for today …
On this day in 1597, a group of early Japanese Christians known as the “26 Martyrs” were killed by the government.
The imperial government of Japan initially supported the establishment of a Catholic mission based on the belief that it would reduce the power of the nation’s Buddhist monks and improve trade relations with Spain and Portugal. But by the late 1500s, the government saw Christianity as a threat and banned its practice.
Tensions reached a boiling point in 1597 when the government slaughtered 20 native Japanese Christians and six foreign priests by crucifixion in Nagasaki.
And on this day in 1918, the Decree on the Separation of Church and State went into effect in Russia.
On the surface, the order reinforced the secular nature of the state’s power and deprived religious organizations of legal rights, including the right to own property. But in reality, it was an extension of Lenin’s efforts to gradually eliminate religious belief altogether.
Although the government never officially outlawed religion, the decree and other state-sanctioned practices came to be viewed as milestones that encouraged the persecution of adherents of any and all faith traditions in Russia.
Today is also the birthday of baseball slugger, Hank Aaron.
He was born in 1934 in a section of Mobile, Alabama known as “Down the Bay.” His family couldn’t afford baseball equipment, so he learned to play the game by hitting bottle caps with sticks and other discarded items he found on the street.
Aaron is widely regarded as one of the greats of the game. His 755 career home runs broke the record set by Babe Ruth and stood for 33 years. When he was chasing Ruth’s record, Aaron received, by his own count, hundreds of thousands of letters filled with threats and racial epithets. Yet despite the racism he experienced, Aaron somehow managed to remain hopeful.
“He was very clear-eyed about America, but also a very positive person,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. “That’s one of the wonderful things about being in his company and talking with him about the most difficult issues involving race and opportunity and inequality. There was always a sense of hopefulness and calm and focus about him, which I found incredibly comforting.”
Aaron also practiced a vibrant spirituality. After the baptism of his first child, Aaron developed a friendship with a Catholic priest, leading to Aaron’s conversion to Catholicism in 1959. As part of his spiritual practice, he kept a copy of Thomas a Kempis’ fifteenth-century book, The Imitation of Christ, in his locker, and was frequently seen reading it when he wasn’t on the field.
Aaron died of natural causes in Atlanta two weeks ago, on January 22. He was 86 years old.
Finally, our happy thought for the day comes to us from the Nobel prize-winning physicist, Albert Einstein:
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
And that’s today’s Spiritual Almanac.
Thanks for listening. Be kind, take good care and I’ll see you tomorrow.