Katha Chopais

Ram-katha kali kaamad gaai | Sujan sajeevani moori suhaai ||
Soi basudhaatal sudha tarangini | Bhaya bhanjani bhram bhek bhuangini ||

Ram Katha is a cow of plenty in this age Kaliyug). It is a beutiful life-giving herb for the virtuous.
It is a veritable river of nectar on the surface of this globe. It shatters the fear of birth & death and is a virtual snake for the frog of delusion.

Katha Translations

Bapu chose Ravana as the theme for the katha and reminded the audience that his first katha on Ravana was in America and this, the tenth and the last katha on Ravana is also in America. Ram Charit Manas as sadguru gives , updesh and aadesh. But Bapu never gives advice, updesh or directions, aadesh. He only gives a message, sandesh, to his listeners whom he enjoys meeting through katha.

Bapu has his own unique approach, vishishta darshan for Ravana and for him Ravana provokes us for introspection or aatma khoj. The tenth katha of Ravana is the last katha about Ravana because Ravana had ten heads. He had twenty ears and twenty eyes. Such as person can see a lot and hear a lot and become wise and good. But Ravana never used his heads, he only used his twenty hands and did a lot of things. He had great achievements; he did a lot of saadhana. We should not bother about various forms and replicas of Ravana like ahi Ravana and mahi Ravana. We should search for the real Ravana, sahi Ravana, and sahi Ravana is not a villain in Ramayana. He is only a counter hero. Rama is naayak and Ravana is prati naayak. They are poles apart like positive and negative poles. Ravana represents the evil that we all carry in our hearts.

Bapu would concentrate not on the story of Ravana but the approach that Ravana typifies and represents so that we can end that evil within from within. Rama and Ravana are the two distinct and different poles in Ramayana. Ram represents eternal peace and quietude, vishraam, while Ravana represents incessant and fruitless labor, shraam. Ravana labored and toiled forever and ever and did a lot of saadhna secured enormous wealth, unlimited power and out sanding position, but failed to get peace as also he failed to be at peace with himself. Rama also worked very hard and was continuously active but he was at peace within, vishraam, and gave peace and serenity to all others which Ravana could never do.

The difference between Rmama and Ravana is not about work and exertion, but about the results, the fruits there of. Rama always gave away; he always distributed which he achieved. Ravana acquired but never distributed. Rama was a generous giver, a donor, while Ravana was merely acquisitive.

Bapu quoted a Hindi poet who passes on the message of a Neem tree, a tree that modern botanists call a “tree of gold”. The Neem tree takes only a minimum amount of water, just enough for sustenance and growth, without exploiting nature. It suffers the hot sun, but provides shade to people. The Neem tree takes in air but converts carbon dioxide into life giving oxygen, making others energetic and lively. Every part of the tree, its skin, its leaves, its fruits and its seeds has medicinal values. The Neem tree is bitter in taste but is a health giving tree. Even if the tree is cut down, its wood is used for housing, for furniture and for fuel. Bapu reminded the audience that ancient Indians valued trees very highly and often compared trees with saints. Let us learn from the trees; work hard to become prosperous but then distribute your wealth, spend it for charities, spend at least ten percent of your wealth for others.

Bapu remembered that he has been severely criticized by orthodox people for focusing on Ravana. But lets us remember that Rama was born to the family of the Sun, Suryavanshi and represented light and brighter side of life. Ravana was born in the nocturnal family, Nishichar, representing the darker side of life. But then there can be no light without darkness, we all have to grope our way from darkness to light, tamso maa jyotir gamya. Without Ravana we can never approach Rama.

Bapu told the episode from the life of Buddha. When his father protested that family traditions prohibit begging, Buddha’s reply was that he discards old tradition and establishes a new tradition, a tradition of Buddha. This was also Bapu’s reply for focusing on Ravana, Bapu breaks away from the old to establish new routes and new traditions of his own.

So Ravana is going to be the focus of the discourse, katha. But before taking up the subject matter, Bapu wanted to introduce the volume, Ramcharit Manas, which is going to be the basis of this discourse. He gave a unique interpretation by pointing out that Ramayana is an idol of femininity, of maternity and in the Gujarati language, Ramayana Katha, bhaasha, chopai, naouka and naadi, are in words of feminine gender. Not only this but, Tulsidas has emphasized all the feminine qualities as described in the Gita, shree, vaak, smruti, meegha, kirti, kshma and dhruti. Bapu gave examples and the context where and how these words care used by Tulsidas. These are the seven vibhuti’s of maternal instinct and these vibhuti’s are mentioned and illustrated in Ramchrit Manas. He then quoted Bhikshu Akhandanand Ramayana that he used to study in his youth and he mentioned seven types intellect: childish (kaachi buddhi), matured (paaki buddhi), cunning (luuchi buddhi), innocence (bholi buddhi), perverted (dur buddhi), benevolence (sutt buddhi), and intense (saatvik buddhi).

Bapu then quoted mangla charan and vandana of Ganesha, Hanuman, Sarasvati, Shankar, Vishnu and Surya. Tulsidas has devoted himself to guru vandana and Bapu emphasized the importance of guru for spiritual progress and enlightenment. He explained that the instruction, vachan, of guru works in five different ways. Instructions of guru, vachan, controls our evil inclinations, shaaska, it dries up what is evil in us, shoshka, are often the expressions of his love and his care about us and it fulfills us and gives us bliss, toshak. Bapu summed up the attribute of guru. Guru is on who has only Rama in his heart and there is nothing evil, haram, in his personality.

Bapu nearing the end of the day, explained his happiness at the qualities of his shrota’s who listen, not only listen but understand and they also make a conscious and deliberate choice. That is why whatever is spoken or advised by guru is of great importance. Bapu mentioned the Sikh’s respect their guru’s but they do not worship human individuals but the words of guru, guru vani and treat the books, granth sahib as their height veneration. Bapu insisted that no man can ever be perfect but vichar, especially vivek vichar, can give us perfect guidance and can be our best guru.

Bapu quoted Yagnavalkya on the timely birth of Ravana and others, commenting that every event and incident involves four factors, what philosophers call causation. The first is time; nothing happens before the proper time, nothing is delayed. We cannot hurry the process. Even instant happenings, kshirop bhavati, require long time processing. The second factor is karma both in the sense of action and in the sense of destiny. Our actions lead to good and bad results. Third is our svabhav, our own nature and habits, our approach to life that makes or mars the existing situation. Lastly events are shaped by what sankhya calls guana of prakrati, satva, rajas, and tamas.

Bapu chose six names from Ramcharit Manas: Ravana, Kumbhkarana, Vibhishana, Lakshmana, Shatrugana and Hanumana, all ending in ‘ana’ or ‘na’. Three are from Lanka, and three are from the side of Rama.  All of them play important roles in the unfolding story of Ramayana. The Western culture does not attach any importance to names and Shakespeare even ridiculed name – “What is in a name?” But we from the Eastern Culture, attach great importance to names and would say that naam is all and everything. Changing divine name, naam jap, is of great importance in purifying our mind and our intellect. This does not happen every time but may happen anytime. Bapu keep on telling his beads and very often participates in launching books in the hope that some beads and some books may purify his mind and his hands. But he advised that naam jap is effective only if you have a liking for it. Otherwise it may become just show.

Tulsidas has extolled the importance of naam jap. Even a great and reputed scholar like Chaitanya threw away all his books and resorted to naam jap. One who is devoted to naam jap can overcome all difficulties.

Yagnavalkya calls Ravana very powerful and brave but Angad knows better. He is a prince and grew up in a royal family. He was chosen and sent to Ravana for negotiating peace. When Ravana tried to impress him with all the pomp and show of his strength, Angad reminded him of his three earlier humiliating experiences. Children at the court of Baliraja caught him as a prisoner and tied him down in a stable of horses. Sahastrarjun treated him as a mere insect and shrugged him off. Vali caught him and kept him in his armpit for six months.

Bapu then explained in great detail the allegorical interpretation of these three events. Vishnu had overcome Vali, and when Ravana tried to compete with Vali (which also means “mighty”) Ravana suffered humiliation. Ravana is our infatuation, our moh, but the doors of Vali were guarded by Hari himself. Moh cannot enter our mind if every entrance of our body is guarded by god or by guru. Ravana had twenty hands, but Sahastrarjun had a thousand. Ravana approached out of jealousy and was therefore worsted; jealousy is the product of our ego, ahankaar, and to humiliate persons who are better than us, more powerful than us, richer than us, would result in our own disgrace.

Bapu explained that real Ravana is our moh, our arrogance and both can be controlled by recitation of Rama naam. If Ravana was arrogant so was Vali, but there is a difference. Vali confessed to Rama that he was arrogant, while Ravana never confessed his defect. Confession or awareness of our limitation is the beginning of purification. Vali had that purity and therefore he could conquer Ravana. Angad reminded Ravana of such experiences and advised Ravana to give up his arrogance, ahankaar, but Ranava rejected his advice. He boasted of his strength and told Angad about his victories at Kailash and over all the gods and digpals.

Bapu also explained that the twenty hands of Ravana, the thousand hands of Sahatrarjun and the six hands of Kartikeiya worshipped as murgan in South India. This implies so many weapons and so many strategies. But moh and ahankar destroys even the bravest and the strongest. If we get enlightenment from a proper guru, if we give up our infatuation, our arrogance and our jealousy, we can be a better person. Anything that takes us nearer to our goal is our nayan, our eyes.

Bapu said that every limb in our body: our hands, our feet, our stomach, our tongue, our nose have their own individual function and each one of these is important. But if Bapu was given a choice, he would prefer the eyes. Bapu talked at length because eyes are not to be taken only in the physical sense. Eyes imply sight, a proper darshan, a proper understanding, a proper approach to life. The Gita has mentioned millions of eyes of God. One can see God himself in the eyes of a child resting on the lap of its mother. Bapu’s Catholicity was revealed when he mentioned the eyes of Jesus on the cross when he forgave his tormentors, the eyes of Hussein at Karbala when he saw children all around him dying of thirst, the eyes of Mohammad when he released his mortal enemies, the eyes of gopis when looking at Krishna, the eyes of saints like Ramkrishna Paramhansa or Raman Maharishi, eyes of Surdaas, the eyes that help us visualise the beauty of the rising sun, the eyes of Jesus freeing the erring girl from those who wanted to stone her. Eyes, eyes, eyes everywhere.

Fresh eyes and free vision would take us to divinity but our vision is blocked by hypocrites who call themselves religious leaders and preachers and teachers. But Bapu warned that eyes can hunt, shikari, can be greedy and vicious, vikaari. Bapu advised us to admire better persons who are more powerful and richer than us, because the modern world suffers from arrogant and infatuated competitiveness.

Bapu then clarified his vision of Ravana which is different from that of Angad. Angad sees only the uglier side of Ravana, but he did not see Ravana as a great saadhak; his great victories and achievements. But Ravana could not give up his moh and therefore developed ahankar and passions, kaamna. Tulsidas considers moh to be the root cause of all evils, and such moh can be overcome by guru krupa and by naam jap. We do not have to destroy the evil, we have to control evil and regulate evil. We should follow the middle path of Buddha with his eightfold path of propriety, samyak.

Bapu said knowledge, gyana, can be of great help and we can get such gyana from studying and reading, adhyayan swadhaya, from personal expereinces, anubhav, from satsang, from purification of our internal senses, aatma vishuddhi, from guru seva, from pure and pious, saatvik shraddha. Bapu defined satsang in very broad terms; any contact with anything good, anything noble, anything beautiful is satsang.

What counts in the spiritual path is not what you do, but why you do it; not your actions but mentality and motives of action. He gave an example of donations and charity; now charities can be for social service, samajik daan, for nation building, rashtriya daan, for sectoral benefit, sampradaik daan, for dharma daan, spreading satya, prem and karuna. But charity can also be of lower categories when donations are given for personal glory or for securing power and prestige.

Bapu emphasised the best gyana is only by grace of our lord, Isvar anugraha, and frees us from moh and from ahankar. Let us understand the real Ravana, sahi Ravana in this sense.

Bupu then picked up the narration of katha and mentioned nine stages in which Tulsidas has extolled the benefits of naam jap. Rama naam gives us light like sun, coolness like moon and burns the evils within us like fire. Rama naam creates like Brahma, sustains us like Vishnu, and destroys evil like Shiva. Rama naam is the essence of Vedas, the soul of Vedas and like the soul, the essence is invisible. Rama naam is the basic foundation of all religions because it gives us vishraam. A religion that does not give us vishraam is no religion at all. It is only as sham religion. Rama naam is beyond all gunas; it is gunaatit, and Shiva himself chants Rama naam as a maha mantra.

Bapu advised his listeners to develop a positive attitude; never be negative, never denounce others, never interfere in what others are doing. Why waste our energy in criticising others? Religion is not for money, not for power and not for prestige. The one and the only purpose of religion is the realisation of Divinity, ishvar prapti. Rama naam is even more potent than Rama himself. Ram naam purifies, it destroys ego, it sustains and builds bridges across enmities. Bapu made a startling statement that Ravana was the greatest one doing Rama naam jap because at the moment of death he uttered name of Rama. This is possible only for a person if he has done naam jap all his life. Bapu gave the example of Gandhi. He emphasized that criticizing others only leads us to our own decline and downfall, adhamta. Naam alone leads us to identify with god. By naam, we can reach roop, or form, the visualisation of god-hood.

On the third day of katha, Bapu began by referring to the law of causation – that everything in this Universe, every event and every effect, must have a cause. The only exception is God. God exists and acts on his own free will and there is no reason and no cause for his krupa, his grace.

Bapu asked the audience about the cause or reason for the emergence of Ravana and got a variety of answers from his shrotas. He answered his own question by pointing out that the origin of Ravana was in Vaikuntha, which is not a geographical region, bhumi, but a stage, bhumika, which is the highest stage and because it is highest, there is a possibility, a danger, of falling down. Ravana is both an individual, a vyakti, and also a vrutti. Ravana is far away from us as an individual, but as a vrutti he is quite near us, he is within us, in fact, he is we ourselves. Vaikuntha is far above Time and is beyond all the four yugas. But every day in the katha, we can experience all the four yugas. The prayers and the chanting at the beginning of katha creates sātvik mood, an experience of peace and quietness that is satya yuga . Then follows a longer period of discussion and discourses, a sort of prem yagna or gyana yagna, which is treta yuga. The pāth of Bhushundi Ramayana, and ārti etc. is similar to puja and archana of dwaper yuga and finally, we go back to age of action and everyday struggles which is kal yuga. The bliss we experience by sankirtan is also a symptom of kal yuga because nām jap is the only effective sādhna in kal yuga.

Bapu went one step further and said that in our everyday life also, we experience the cycle of four yugas; the peace and joy in the morning, the activities and routine of life, the evening core and finally the sleep that symbolizes kal yuga . Our body has been described as a kshetra and an enlightened soul is kshetragna but Vaikuntha is beyond such rotating cycle of Time. It is kālatit. The story of Ravana, who fell down from devatwa and became a rakshasa and once again attained his status by merging in to Rama, is a story of decline and development.

Jay and Vijaya became Hiranyāksha and Hiranyākashyap in sat yuga and counted gold, hiranya. Ravana and Kumbhakarana reached nirvana after being killed by Rama in treta yuga. Shishupal and Dantvkra fought with Krishna in dwapar yuga. But in kal yuga Ravana exists not as a person, not as a vyakti, but only as a vruti, as moh with ahankar and passions, kamana. Ravana as moh is ever comatose, unaware of reality, Kumbhakarana as ahankar, slept for six months but  in one moment when Kumbhakarana was awake, he created chaos and havoc all around. Ego, ahankar, is very destructive and is never satiated. He demands more and more; his ears are big as kumbha on which wants to be continuously praised and extolled. Bapu said that kāma and krodha are limited by time. They are temporary, they come and go but lobh is eternal and ever expanding. Kumbhakarana eats a lot but he can never digest. He puts the monkeys in his huge mouth but they exit from his ears. Our hunger for prestige is so great that we never can digest it, and such a person always indulges in self praise.

Such a Ravana, very brave, a great achiever but suffers from feeling of void within. He has so much but never feels enough. Compare him with Kevat who had nothing and yet felt happy and fulfilled in the presence of Rama and proclaimed that all his blemishes, dosha, all his sufferings, dukha, all his yearnings, dava, have vanished by mere darshan of Rama. In midst of luxury and power Ravana is a great sufferer, he is an unhappy man. Bapu gave two reasons; one Ravana could never open his heart and confess the miseries he was feeling. He was a lonely person, a prisoner of his own power, his own wealth, and his own pomp. The second reason is that Ravana and entire Lanka suffers from lack of fluidity. Lanka has so many wells, so many step wells and so many ponds but it has no river, no flow of life. Life in Lanka and the life of Ravana is narrow, sankuchit and stalled, bound in limits. Ayodhya has a river, a flowing bubbling, ever fresh flow of life. So, even the poorest in Ayodhya were happier than the richest in Lanka. Before, life was ever fresh, ever changing and ever new.

Bapu advised us to enjoy every moment and every experience of life. Do not waste your joy in merely acquiring and hoarding. A person who enjoys a painting, enjoys a piece of music, a line of poetry is the real owner of it all. A thing of beauty is a joy forever and the joy, ānand, makes him the master, the possessor, of everything around. Enjoyment of life does not need a lot of money or power or prestige.  The smile of a child is enough. We should not merely collect things, but use them, bhog. In trying to possess so many things, we lose the joy of life. A man with nothing of his own can be happy and contented.

Bapu exalted those who are staying far away from homeland to preserve the best traditions of India, preserve the unity of family life, preserve our culture, and preserve our own mother tongue.

Bapu reverted to the meeting of Kevat and Rama. Kevat took nothing from Rama and yet felt that he has got everything. Rama gave him supreme joy but felt that he has given him nothing. In Indian tradition, the donor feels uneasy for not giving enough and the receiver is happy by whatever he gets.

Bapu is strictly against begging or taking anything from anybody. He considers that taking or receiving from others is dosh forever and ever. But there are a few exceptions. Donations for social service, gifts, dakshina, prasād and honorarium are such occasions where accepting from others is not a dosh. Let us remember that the world is a mixed fare of good and evil and therefore we should always be alert, saudhan, cultivated non-attachment, sakshi-bhav. World and society always try to degenerate the prophets; the entire society disowned Jesus, Socrates was condemned by entire city, Mohammed suffered banishment from his own people.

The leaders of Lanka were Ravana (moh), Kumbhkarana (ahankar), and indrajit (passions). Ravana and Kumbhkarana were asleep, unaware of the situation, not able to see or understand Rama, but Indrajit could never sleep. Our passions never allow us to relax, never allows us any peace.

Bapu clarified that he is not trying to idolize Ravana, but what is good in Ravana deserves to be praised, what is bad in Ravana should be condemned. Ravana is to be pitied because moh always makes us blind to the needs of time, requirements of our country and makes us forget the worth, patrata, of our fellow beings.

Bapu then reverted to Katha and traced its evolution. Ram katha was composed by Shiva. After a long time, he narrated it to Parvati and then to Kag Bhushundi. Bhushundi told the katha to Garud. Ram katha, in this way travelled from Kailash to Nilgiri. This katha was explained by Yagnavalkya to Bharadvāj and was taught again and again to Tulsidas by his guru in Varahghat. At the mature age of seventy seven, Tulsidas composed Ram Charit Manas for self awakening, prabodh, not for suppression, nirodh, of self. This Katha has four aspects: gyanghat of Shiva-Parvati, upāsna of Bhushundi Garud, karmaghat of Yagnavalkya-Bharadavāj and sharnagatighat-prapatighat of Tulsidas reciting it to his own self for swantaha sukhaya.

Tulsi Raghunāth gatha bhasha prabandha ati manjula aatnoti.

Tulsidas writes the story of Raghunath in soft style for his own internal bliss.

Yesterday, most of the time was taken up by questions that were picked up by Bapu. The first question was about the distinctive features and differences, if any, between the four versions of ghats and their teachers. Bapu said that the first ghat is gyan ghat where Shiva himself is a teacher. Shiva has 3 eyes that are wide, vishal, and are respectively gyan-bhakti and yoga drushti. The eyes, drushti, mean the vision. Shiva is a speaker with a broad vision and he is equally the master of gyan-bhakti and yoga which are different aspects of spiritual growth. Such a broad vision can be cultivated by studies, swadhya, adhyayan. But mere studies are not enough; studies must be supplemented by listening, shravana, to those who have experiential knowledge. A good orator needs to be a good listener and must listen to as many teachers as possible. The orator must be an expert in his field, yogyata, and he must have the technique, kaushalya, of conveying his views.

Listening to teachers like Shiva helps us in 3 different ways. One, all our illusions, bramah, are removed. Bapu said that there are many other remedies for removing misery, dukh, or deprivation, abhavagrastata, etc. but illusions, branti, can be removed only by awakening in the spiritual sense. Such awakening takes time and one must be focused, nisthavant, on to guru or subject. Such focused avyabhichari, faith can produce wonderful results. Two, by teachings of Shiva, all perverted logic sophistry, dushta tarka, are destroyed immediately and completely. We need logic but we do not need perverted and misused logic. Three, a teacher like Shiva, confirms our adoration, preeti, at the feet of Rama. Such adoration ought to be firm and unwavering. It should be based upon deep conviction, pratiti.

The second version, ghat, is when Bhushandi teaches  Garuda. Bhushandi, said Bapu, has not only a vision, ankh, but he also has wings, pankh, and symbolizes upasana. Bapu warned against misinterpretation of his words what he said does not mean that Shiva is incapable of flight or has no pankh. All spiritually advanced teachers have all the capacities which all others equally share. But each teacher has his own specialty. Bapu strongly insisted  that we must try to take a wholistic view. Teachers and principals ought not to be broken up and split in parts. Partial vision might lead to false vision and dissensions and even hatred. Bapu gave examples of how false faith of various sides divides people into hostile groups. Every path to spirituality is whole, purna, and each path has all the ingredients, factors found elsewhere. Bhushandi is a crow and traditional belief is that crows only have one eye, meaning that Bhushandi has concentrated, ekagra, vision of reality. Second, a crow is never tamed or put into a cage like other birds. A teacher with wings will be in midst of the crowd but he will never come within the cage of money or prestige or power. A crow is a free bird and Rama bhakts are always free. A true Rama bhakt is not confined to any one sect or one path. He flies all over and where ever he wants. Three, Yagnavalkya is the most outstanding teacher of bhrama vidya in Upnishads and Janak gave him a hundred thousand, one lakh, cows when he proved himself to be the most learned and superior to all the scholars at the court of Janak. His great discernment, param vivek, is very well known. He insisted on driving straight to the goal, lakshya.

But Tulsidas has nothing. He calls himself dumb-witted, mati mand, and does not claim to have either a vision, or a flight. But, Tulsidas is an embodiment of total surrender, sharnagati-prapati, total dependence on the grace, krupa, of Rama.

The second question raised the issue of the difference between Rama and Ravana. Bapu answered that Ram and Ravana share many similarities but there are also very important and vital differences between them. Both Rama and Ravana are great devotees of Shankar, both worship with lotus, kamal puja, but Rama was both in Suryavaunshi and stands for light and brightness. Ravana was born in the nocturnal family and stands for the darker, uglier side of life. Rama builds bridges, Ravana breaks them, Rama accepts everybody, Ravana discards his own brother, Rama is a giver, Ravana is a taker.

The third question was whether there was any Ravana in Ayodhya or any Rama in Lanka. Bapu replied in the affirmative. Manthra embodies, Ravana-ness, Ravanatva in Ayodhya using the policy of divisiveness, bhed niti. Bapu agreed that divisive policy, bhed niti, is needed in politics and is widely used by all politicians everywhere. The names of Rama and Manthra contained the same syllables ‘ra’ and ‘m’ but for Rama, spiritual values are more important than mundane benefits. For Manthra, it is the other way around. But Manthra, the embodiment of divisiveness, would not dare to go to Kaushalya who represents enlightenment. An enlightened person is never divisive, because his approach is wholistic. Manthra could influence Kaikeyi because Kaikeyi herself was ambitious, rajaIsi, to get and grab whatever was available. Bapu added a very interesting episode; mother Kaushalya was asked about her age. She said she is of the same age as Rama or a few moments younger than Rama. This was so because her real life began when Rama was born and she attained motherhood a few moments after the child Rama was born.

There was a Rama in Lanka and she was Trijata, who at great risk to her life and her job as a servant protected and solaced Sita out of sheer compassion, karuna, and Rama is karunya murti.

After answering the three questions Bapu resumed his analysis of Ravanatva. We speak of Jaya and Vijaya of Vaikuntha but Tulsidas in a series of rhetorical questions of Angad in the court of Ravana has denied the very existence of Vaikuntha. Tulsidas is often being criticized without a proper study of his books and his views. There are some who out of malice for Bapu criticize Tulsi. But Tulsidas as a thinker is far more radical in his opinions.

Angad raises a series of rhetorical questions; is Rama a mere person or a mere warrior? Is Vaikuntha a mere lok or a space for residence? Is Ganga a mere river? Is kalpavruksh a mere tree? Is Shesh Naag a mere serpent? Is Garuda a mere bird? Is chinta mani a mere pebble? The answers to all these questions are No. Rama is much more than a mere man or a mere warrior.

Bapu led sankirtan and then picked up the katha. The story of Rama begins with Shiva, and Tulsidas tried to bridge the gulf between shaiva and vaishanavas of his days.

Shiva went to Kumbhaj and very attentively listened to Rama katha. While returning home, Sati saw Rama weeping and searching for Sita. She failed in her testing Rama, told a lie to her husband, Shiva, and was discarded in separation. She went uninvited to Daksha Yagna and burnt herself to death. She was reborn as Parvati. She did her penance to regain Shiva as her husband and Shiva was persuaded by gods to get married as his son, Kartikei, alone was capable of killing Tarkasura.

Bapu began by quoting Yagnavalkya whose Ravana darshan includes his merits as well as his defects. Ravana has a few vibhutis that are divine while Rama is full, purna, of all the vibhutis. Bapu referred to the statement of Angad who says that he alone can kill Ravana but there is no sense in killing those who are already dead. He treats Ravana as dead, as a mere cadaver, while Rama is eternally alive; he is the life of the Universe, jagjivan. But the Gita proclaims that death, which is inevitable for everybody is also a vibhuti of god. The yogis treat death as a sweet experience. Ordinarily people wish to live for eternity, but yogis covet death. Bapu quoted an episode where a wise yogi wanted people to do what he told them to do. People proposed three conditions: it should not cost money, it should not take away their time and it should be possible to do. The yogis reply was that death does not cost any money, takes no time and it is quite possible for everybody to die.

Bapu then advised the audience to turn to Ram Charit Manas all the time and for facing any situation that was either good or bad. But Bapu clarified that by Ram Charit Manas he implies any holy book, any scripture, be it the Manas, the Bible, the Gita, the Koran or the Guru Granth Sahib. To Bapu all religions are siblings because they all are from the same womb. Superfluous differences apart, the basic teachings of all religions are the same and are of equal importance. Bapu quoted the vedic sutraahou sat. Truth is one and the same but it is presented and expressed by scholars, vipra, in different ways. Bapu quoted Kabir that different women use different types of vessels to draw the same water from the same well. So we must rely on scriptures under all circumstances and situations because such books like mirrors show us our real form and face.

Tulsidas makes Angad describe the reason why Angad calls Ravana dead when he is still alive. Angad calls Ravana a living dead , a jinda lāsh, because fourteen different types of people are already dead before they die. The vam margi shastras, i.e. those who deliberately violate social rules and norms of behavior and ethics and go against all morality should be treated as dead. Two, those who are miserly, krupan, in the physical as well as moral values, also come under the category of dead as also the people who are slaves to their passions, kamvash. Those who totally lack in understanding, vimudh, who like fools rush in where angels fear to tread, those who are steeped in intense poverty and infamy, aupyashi, who suffer from senile decay, ativrudha, who are terminally sick, rogi, both physically and mentally, and those who always lose their temper for trifles or for no reason at all are to be considered dead. Bapu mentioned, inter alia, that our weaknesses lead us to be over assertive. People who have a missionary zeal to preach their religion and convert others do not realize that a strong religion spreads by itself and on its own. A religion that needs the support of propaganda and publicity is a weak religion. Bapu quoted Krishnamurti as saying that a person who keeps weapons and is afraid to be without a weapon is a weak person. The strong do not need weapons. A healthy body does not need medicines or drugs.

Some people always shout victory to truth, satya ki jai, and some people go to the extent of shouting victory for Morari Bapu. Bapu does not like such slogans and he does not like adjectives like vishva sant; he feels such adjectives and such slogans are cruel jokes. He is happy to be a simple straight forward Morari Bapu, nothing more and nothing else. Bapu argued that he does not like the very concept of victory because victory implies the defeat of someone else. He does not want anybody to be defeated. He wants all and everyone to win in brotherhood. He wants to give the message that man to man should be brothers; there should be universal brotherhood. Let us remember such slogans of victory and such belief that we are spreading dharma and we are making dharma strong is sheer arrogance. It is to be like the cock, sure that only when I (the cock) crow, will the sun rise.

Reverting to the court of living dead, he quoted Tulsidas that those who are opposed to Vishnu are dead while alive. He explained that Vishnu means broadness. Those who oppose broadness, those who are narrow minded are actually dead though their bodies are living. Those who reject scriptures, shurti virodhi and sant virodhi, who as a nihilist negates all scriptures and all saintly people is a dead person. He disclaimed being a vishva sant because sant tatva needs a prolonged and difficult ordeal. To be a sant is not easy. You have to pay a very, very heavy price of saadhana to be a sant. A hedonist, tanu poshak, a person devoted only to physical pleasures and passions, who has no glimpse of superior or higher sight of life, is a cadaver. Those who are always malicious, nindak, of all and everybody, who could not see anything good in anybody are already dead. Bapu explained that malice, ninda, and jealousy, irsha, are conjoint; they are related. Malice is spoken by tongue; jealousy is felt in the mind. Lastly, a person who is steeped in sin, pāp khani, who continuously lives a sinful life, is also a living dead.

Ravana, an embodiment of death, carried nectar, amrut, in his stomach and therefore he had a spark of divinity. He was a cheater and gambled in abducting Sita. But let us remember that in the Gita gambling is also a vibuti of bhrama and he was known as Jaya in his original life. Gita has declared Jaya also to be a vibhuti. Jayosmi vijigushinam. 

Bapu concluded the long argument by saying that Ravana has many vibhutis but Rama, of course, is a vibhu, continuing all the vibhutis. Rama represents life while Ravana is death. Rama was a life-giving force as can be seen in case of Ahalya and Shabri. Ravana needs to be awakened by Shurpanakha and Trijata.

Bapu, after analysing Ravanatva, turned to katha and resumed from yesterday. Shiva and Parvati were married, had a son, Kartikeiya. Shankar is a symbol of quietude, shantras, and is prasanna. So Parvati took this chance and requested him to narrate Ram katha. Shiva started by saying that activity, leela, of Chaitanya is spontaneous as Tulsidas calls the Universe as chidvilash. Chaitanya prevails everywhere, even in the centre of evil. Prahalad was born in the family of Hiranyakashyap and Vibhishan was a brother of Ravana. But even there are five factors leading to the birth of Rama. He narrated how earth and Gods and Brahma requested the supreme, param tatva, to help them out and Brahma enjoined on the Gods to participate in the divine programme to eradicate evil like Ravana.

Bapu then turned to Ayodhya and narrated the family life of Dasharatha and his wives. Bapu commented that the Dasharath family has a message to give to the modern world. He expressed his anguish that somehow as civilisation progresses, family life is deteriorating, is getting disrupted and is losing its charm. Marriage can be rejuvenated and revitalised by a simple remedy as seen in the family of Dasharatha. Husbands should give love to wives and wives show respect for husbands. Such a family life can provide the emergence of Rama, a solace and happiness, vishrama, to all around. Dasharatha faced one problem of not having an heir and successor and he turned to his guru for a solution. We should all turn to our gurus for seeking solutions. Vashistha advised a yagna and after it was duly performed, Kaushalya, Sumitra and Kaikeiyi became pregnant. Then, at the auspicious moment, Rama was born. Bapu extended congratulations to all and the audience broke into joyful festivities.

Bapu says, ‘If anyone asks me about what is my aim and I have to provide an answer, I would say that it is good that the knowledge (gyaan) of Manas spreads but I would be more happier if there would be more of recitation (gaan) of Manas in an individual’s life. Recitation ultimately leads to attaining happiness and gaining knowledge.’

Every individual should do efforts at own level to create harmony and peace amongst communities and sects. Do not worry about or wait for large-scale steps to be taken for creating unity; just start at your own level. Even if you fail, try at least!

Tulsidas jee equates bhakti with Ma Ganga (sudha-tarangini)..Like the flow of Ma Ganga, bhakti (devotion) should also flow continually and not become stagnant. Maintaining devoutness in the feet of the Lord or Sadaguru denotes that like feet represent movement, devotion should also progress with time.

Question – Can you please explain the ideology of Acharya Madhusudan Saraswati about the origin and development of devotion.
Bapu’s answer – The Acharya explains eight aspects of origin and development of bhakti in his ideology.

  1. Nisargaja – the bhakti inclination comes through family tradition.
  2. Sansargaja- when an aspirant creates a particular relationship with the Lord, bhakti starts flowing.
  3. Opamyaja – when an aspirant finds someone who seems like the Lord to him, he gets devoted. A committed shishya has such devotion towards the Sadaguru, where Sadaguru becomes the God for him.
  4. Adhyaatmaja – devotion comes from the nature of inner self. An aspirant should do spiritual efforts also according to one’s nature and not according to what others say and do. Don’t bind yourself in too many rules (niyam) as there arises a risk of becoming robotic in religious practices. Love and devotion should not be bound in rules.
  5. Abhiyogaja – If some divine touch takes place, devotion starts automatically.
  6. Samaprayogaja – when there’s a union of shishya and Sadaguru, Devotee and the Lord, devotion occurs spontaneously.
  7. Abhimaanaja – An aspirant gets conscious of the fact that he has a Lord to take care of him; he/she becomes a devotee.
  8. Samaarogaja – devotion is when one is eager to listen, touch, smell, see and feel the essence to the Lord.

The Almighty is the combination of positives and negatives. One may see all kinds of extremes in the creation as everything runs in a balance here.

RamKatha is like the divine nectar (amrit) that brings dead alive and also does not let the living die. Even if the devotee dies physically, the amrit keeps alive his/her goodwill and qualities; just like the fragrance of a flower remains even if the flower is crushed. The flow of the nectar of RamKatha may seem culminating in the form of God, but still does not end literally; it just takes different forms and remains ever after-‘ Hari anant hari katha ananta…’

There are two poles of living- sansaar (worldliness) and sanyaas (asceticism). But for ordinary people, there is a middle path of ‘kutichak sanyaas’ where one can live an ascetic life in spite of living in the world. It refers to a person who lives with son or grandson (maintaining safe distance), eating the food without being demanding, gradually distancing oneself mentally without hurting the sentiments of family members and also not displaying your spiritual stage. Bapu calls this middle path as ‘samyak samajh’. There should not be any show of your spiritual state as the display reduces the amount of result that can be got from it. But, it is seen that people are more interested in showing off their spiritual efforts rather than experiencing the essence and joy of them. One should continuously do self-analysis, as it is a must for an aspirant. Even if an aspirant tries to get away with show off, his Sadaguru can make out his spiritual stage with just one glance.

Bapu says, ‘Kroadh bodh ka kalank hai, yaad rakhna!’ whenever you get angry, you are tarnishing the knowledge given by your Sadaguru, always remember that!

The whole creation is like a great scripture of which every page and chapter is filled by God. Vinoba jee used to say that every page of this book only explains that the whole creation is a form of the Almighty. But it so happens that an individual is not able to like the form of God that is close to him (paas ka ishwar janchata nahi) and neither is able to assimilate the form of God who seems far from him (door ka ishwar pachata nahi).

Question – Why do you give more importance to masti (joyfulness) than mukti (salvation)?
Bapu’s answer – Salvation is usually talked about, whereas everyone can experience joy.

RamKatha is so powerful that it creates fearlessness in an aspirant’s life from every angle. One can take shelter in four – RamKatha, Bhagwaan Ram, Ram naam and Ram doot (Hanuman jee). The four are different names but they are actually one element. If an aspirant holds on to any one of them also, he would be free of fear. Bapu says, “In fact, I can promise that you will be completely free of fear if you hold on to Ram naam. And even if you remove the first three and just keep Hanuman jee as your refuge, you’ll get the refuge of all the four, as Hanuman jee contains the rest three in himself.”

The points of fear can be following, but the aspirant who is constantly in the shelter of the Almighty, he/she will be free of every kind of fear:

  1. King/Government – An aspirant would not be scared of politicians or leaders. In fact, sometimes the politicians would be afraid of him; his truth would keep them alert!
  2. Enemy
  3. Thief
  4. Spouse – there would be cordiality with the spouse and not fearfulness
  5. Death
  6. Sadaguru – An aspirant becomes fearless in the shelter of Sadaguru. Aspirant should carry ‘samidh’ (wood sticks) that represent the various duals (pain-pleasure, respect-insult, sorrows of past-worries of future etc.). if an aspirant surrenders these duals, Sadaguru takes him to the stage where he grows beyond them and experiences true joy.

The state of a person depends on the attitude he/she carries. If an aspirant gets a spiritual viewpoint with the grace of Sadaguru, then he can be joyful in every kind of condition.

‘Bhaya bhanjani bhram bhek bhuangini..’- Tulsidas jee says that RamKatha is like a snake which eats up the frogs of doubts in a person’s life. Frogs are fidgety (fuss/uneasiness or restlessness) , so they don’t remain still; likewise is with doubts, they seem small but are very disturbing.

Doubts look for a chance to arise and develop into superstition. Try to be as away from them as possible.

Bapu says, ‘ I feel that an individual can become a saadhu spontaneously, if there is no doubt and no ego left in him.

Please take care that they (doubts) do not enter your mind. Anger, greed and desire are not as dangerous as doubt and ego! Sadaguru can help a lot as he eats up doubt and ego when a shishya surrenders. But if he’s in solitude, his food is Harinaam. Sadaguru becomes a mother for the aspirant, so provides solace to him.

QuestionPrem can be two-way or one-way?
Bapu’s answer – In the initial stage of prem, one asks for prem from the other, in the middle stage, both experience prem for each other and in the highest stage, one gives more and more prem unconditionally without expecting from the other.

QuestionDoes a person become a ‘paapi’ with one mistake?
Bapu’s answer – Committing a mistake is not a ‘paap’, but not  admitting it and being hypocritical about it is a certainly a vice (paap)!

QuestionShould we do spare 10% of our income for charity even if we are under debt?
Bapu’s answer – In that case, repay your debt first and then when you are done with that, then give 10% as charity. But, if there’s no debt, every individual should donate some part of his wealth for welfare of others.

Question – If you don’t consider anyone as your shishya, then whom do we accept as our sadaguru?
Bapu’s answer – I have no shishya nor any group; the whole world is my family as I believe in ‘Vasudhaiv kutumbkam”. If you really want a Sadaguru, you can accept Shri Ram Charit Manas or Hanuman jee as your Sadaguru. They would not ask for anything but will eliminate your fears and doubts. A Sadaguru works on the mind of an aspirant and washes away the faults; his work in not just about giving a rosary or deeksha.

Question – It is seen that you don’t force anyone for anything, there is no aagraha from you?
Bapu’s answer – I think forcing anyone for anything (keeping an aagraha) is a kind of mental violence. If asked, I would say here is that if you can keep your surroundings/environment clean (baahari swachhata) and inner-self pure (bheetari pavitrata).

Every individual should be given freedom to grow with inherent qualities. Restrain yourself from finding faults with others. Never blame others for your problems. If you try to blame others or even exploit others for your good, then just understand that you have lost consciousness (behosh).

RamKatha never finishes; it actually finishes those who are committed to it! It destroys the faults and prejudices of the devotee. A story gets over with time but katha is eternal-‘ Hari anant hari katha ananta…’

Ramahi sumiriya gaaiya ramahi | Santat suniya ram guna graamahi ||”

The chaupai prescribes the saadhan (efforts of spiritual field) for Kaliyuga, the present times.
Sumiriya – Remembrance of God is the best yagya.
Gaaiya – Reciting/singing the glory of the Almighty is a form of charity (daan). Singing out of devotion removes the pollution from the environment.
Suniya – Going for katha, managing in whatever resources is penance (tapa) for listeners.
The above three sutras also connote – satya, prem and karuna.

Remembrance of God is the ultimate truth/satya (Sata hari bhajan jagat sab sapna..), singing for God comes out of love/prem and listening to katha happens only with God’s grace/karuna.

Question – There have been various descriptions of ‘Ram’. Is Ram one or many?
Bapu’s answer – There’s only one Ram, the supreme power. But like one sun has different reflections in different containers, the projections of Ram takes place in every heart according to one’s nature and interest.

Question – How do we appease Hanuman jee?
Bapu’s answer – The best way to make Hanuman jee happy is to recite RamKatha for him with total faith and devotion.

“Paai na kehin gati patit paavan ram bhaji sunu satth manaa|

Ganika ajaamil byaadh geedh gajaadi khal taarey Ghana ||”- Tulsidas jee says that RamKatha worked for the most down-trodden people also. But, for people like us, we have the inclinations of such people, RamKatha can work for us in removing those negativities. ‘Ganika’ is our corrupt intellect, ‘Ajaamil’ is our unhealthy mind, ‘Byaadh’ is our egoistic hunting tendency, ‘Geedh’ is our hypocrisy when the show is of goodness and the thoughts are demeaning, ‘Gajaadi’ is our intoxicated state due to arrogance- all these inclinations are treated by RamKatha effectively.