This is one of the most commonly known Dohas or couplets of Kabir but often, it is misunderstood and misinterpreted. Kabir is talking about the pair of grinding wheels in between which, we are all getting crushed.
What does Kabir mean by these grinding wheels? As per the normal understanding, the grinding wheel which Kabir is talking about is this universe. The earth is the base wheel and the sky is the upper wheel. And we humans are like the grains trapped in between these two, getting crushed endlessly.
So, many people also conclude that Kabir suggests, it is impossible to be happy in this world. This somewhere leads us to inevitability of pain and suffering in life.
Is that really so? The same Kabir, who talks about the shower of bliss, would he just conclude that suffering is unavoidable? We need a completely different approach to understand this Doha and to catch its real essence.
The two wheels necessarily symbolise friction. They convey a sense of constant conflict to me. If there is no friction, i.e. no conflict between these two wheels, the ‘suffering’ would immediately stop. I feel, the wheels Kabir is talking about are reality i.e. what exists and our expectations – how we want the things to be.
If we look at this Doha with this new definition of the grinding wheels, it makes total sense. We are constantly getting crushed by the conflict between ‘what is’ and what we want. A major chunk of our energy goes in fighting with what is and changing it to something that we imagine or some ideal which the society, our parents or we ourselves have given to us.
This is the part where Kabir and Krishnamurti come very close to each other. J. Krishnamurti says, when we know (at a superficial level) that we are violent, we invent a non-existent ideal – nonviolence. Which means, the reality is North Pole and we invent a South Pole which is the ideal. An our life becomes a constant struggle between these two poles.
Acceptance, Krishnamurti says, is the answer and not creating a radically opposite, non-existent ideal. Kabir has put up this problem very nicely. He has explained it very nicely, using a simple metaphor of grinding wheels. What solution does he propose to this problem?
Kabir shares an answer somewhat similar to J. Krishnamurti but in form of another Doha and another analogy.
If you ever have observed the actual grinding wheels, you must have seen the small portion at the centre of the wheels where the movement is almost negligible. The few grains which stay at that spot, remain intact. Kabir is using this analogy to make us move towards our own centres. We are constantly moving out and that’s why the conflict. Can we move in? Can we touch ourselves? Can we, with all our energies look at us and accept us as we are?
This very acceptance, Kabir says, is liberating.