Last month I learnt to knit. I should say I re-learnt, because I had knit once for a school project when I was a teenager. I didn’t enjoy it then. One month back, the urge to knit came suddenly upon me. Armed with some needles, wool and how-to-knit Youtube videos, I successfully knit scarves for my son and my daughter. That was in Melbourne.
Yesterday I flew back from my home in Australia to my home in Switzerland. As I came awake at 3 am, slowly becoming aware of my changed surroundings, I let my still sleepy mind wander through last month, looking for insight and learning as I often do. Thinking of my knitting, it struck me that the lessons I learnt from it applies equally well to life.
Choose the right yarn with which to knit I chose a ‘furry’ kind for my first project. I was forever disturbing the strands and unravelling mistakes was painful! And thus too in life. Choosing the wrong kind of ‘yarn’ in the form of people or work to knit our lives will lead us to disturbed and broken strands and leave us with problems too difficult to unravel.
Its easier to be careful than to fix errors Sometimes it is just a momentary carelessness. You make a mistake in the pattern or drop a stitch and you don’t even notice. When you finally realise your error, it takes a lot of time and effort to fix it. Surely it is easier just to be careful from the start? Isn’t that true in life too? How many mistakes I have made, how difficult (and sometimes impossible) it has been to fix them! If only I had had the sense to be careful from the start…sigh!
One cannot see a pattern by one stitch It may only be made up of simple knits and purls, but you need to knit a swatch before the pattern becomes evident. One stitch shows nothing. Thus too with people. One cannot know of ourselves, others or life by one action. Watch the pattern.
All these were my pre-waking up thoughts. As I came awake I thought, oh I know who sang of life and stitches or rather life and weaving. Kabir of course! I made myself a cup of tea and sat down to listen to the wonderful, inimitable Kumar Gandharva singing Kabir’s poetry ‘Jheeni Jheeni Beeni Chadariya’. The poet compares life to a woven wrap. ‘Subtly, delicately, He wove this wrap! What is its warp? What is its weft? With what fibre was it woven?’ he wonders. Describing this body which is just a wrap the soul takes on, to be discarded at the end of life, he says ‘Gods, men and sages have worn this wrap and sullied it by their wearing. This servant Kabir is wearing this with care so that he can leave it unsullied, just as it was.’ For lyrics and translation, see footnote.
Kumar Gandharva sings this superbly; he is reflective but still has a great depth of emotion. I imagine that Kabir would have sung in this same simple folk style. Kumar Gandharva is quite remarkable, this is the epitome of meditative singing. I believe it is raga Jogiya. Just listen!
This comes from a lovely album called Nirguni Bhajans. To listen to the whole album, click here.
I have been fascinated by Kabir since my teenage years. I enjoyed his poetry which is often pithy but also mystical. So I was particularly interested when I came upon the site of the Kabir Project while looking for Kumar Gandharva’s connection with Kabir. I saw one of the films : Koi Sunta Hai-Journeys with Kumar and Kabir. It was both informative and interesting, with some lovely music. It is subtitled in English. I urge anyone interested in Kabir, Kumar Gandharva, spirituality or the folk music of India to watch this. Last week I wrote of Saints of India and their music. I was reminded after seeing the film that music and spirituality runs in the veins of India.
Footnote (Lyrics) :
झीनी झीनी बीनी चदरिया ॥
काहे कै ताना काहे कै भरनी
कौन तार से बीनी चदरिया ॥
इङ्गला पिङ्गला ताना भरनी
सुखमन तार से बीनी चदरिया ॥
आठ कँवल दल चरखा डोले
पाँच तत्व गुण तीनी चदरिया ॥
सांई को सियत मास दस लागे
ठोंक ठोंक कै बीनी चदरिया ॥
सो चादर सुर नर मुनि ओढ़े
ओढ़ कै मैली कीनी चदरिया ॥
दास कबीर जतन से ओढी,
ज्यों कीं त्यों धर दीनी चदरिया ॥
jhInI jhInI bInI chadariyA
kAhE kai tAnA kAhE kè bharnI
kaun tAr sE bInI chadariyA
ingalA pingalA tAnA bharnI
sukhman tAr sE bInI chadariyA
AT kanwal dal charkhA DolE
pAnch tatv guN tInI chadariyA
sA.nyI kO siyat mAs das lAgE
TO.nk TO.nk kè bInI chadariyA
sO chAdar sur nar muni ODE
OD kai mailI kInI chadariyA
dAs kabIr jatan sE ODI
jyO.n kI tyO.n dInI chadariyA
Subtly, delicately He wove this wrap!
What is its warp? What is its weft? With what fibre was this woven?
The Nadis Ingala and Pingala are the warp and weft,
the Nadi Sushumna is the fibre,
He turned the eight-fold lotus wheel,
and with the five elements (Aakash-Spirit, Vayu-Air, Agni-Fire, Ap-Water, Prithvi-Earth) and three attributes (Sattva-trans-active, Rajas-Active, Tamas-Inactive) (he wove this wrap).
He took ten full months,
knock by knock he wove this wrap
Gods, men and sages have worn this wrap
and sullied it by their wearing.
This servant (of God) Kabir is wearing this with care
So that he can leave it as it was (unsullied).