Katha Chopais

Tehi giri par vatta bitap bisaala | Nit nootan sunder sab kaala ||
Tribidh sameer suseetali chhaaya | Siv bishraam bitap shruti gaaya ||

On the summit of that mountain exist a huge banyan tree which is ever young and is charming during all seasons/eras. Fanned by cool, soft, fragrant breeze, its shade is ever refreshing.
It is the favorite resort of Siva, glorified by the Vedas.

Katha Translations

Here, in the benign shelter of Bhagwaan Vadavaada (deity of the place) and the whole tradition of saints in the form of a Banyan tree (Vata vriksha), we begin Ram katha.

There are five main Vata (Banyan tree) in Shri Ram-charit-manas:

  1. Vishraam Vata – In Kailas, where Bhagwaan Shankar resides.
  2. Vishwaas Vata – In Prayaag.
  3. Vivek Vata – In Bhushundi Sarovar.
  4. Vichaar Vata – Tulsidas jee’s base.
  5. Vishaal Vata – In Chitrakoot where Ma Jaanaki and Bhagwaan Ram listen to katha.

There is a mention of a Banyan tree in every Kand of Shri Ram Charit Manas:

  1. Baal Kaand – The Vata of Kailas and Prayaag.
  2. Ayodhyaa Kaand – The Vata of Chitrakoot.
  3. Aranyaa Kaand – The Panchvati denotes 5 Vata.
  4. Kishkindhaa Kaand – The Vata where Bhagwaan Ram stood to watch the dual between Bali and Sugreev.
  5. Sunder Kaand – The Vata that Hanuman jee used in the clash with demons.
  6. Lankaa Kaand – The war between Bhagwaan Ram and Raavan is described as ‘Sangraam bata’.
  7. Uttar Kand – The Vata of Kaag Bhusundi jee.

There are usually five fears in an individual.

  1. God’s fear – One can become free of it, if one leads a truthful life and become a devotee.
  2. Dharma’s (Righteousness) fear – If one desists from involving in vices; one can be free of it.
  3. Society’s fear – To be free from it, one should abstain from anti-social behavior.
  4. State/Government’s fear – One should follow the rules of the state to be free from it.
  5. Fear of self-decline – if the above four are taken care of, then there is no chance of fall of a person.

In the shelter of a Sadgranth (scripture), service of a sadaguru and involvement in satsang, all the fears fade away. Katha provides all these three and thus makes a person truly fearless.

In the beginning of Shri Ram Charit Manas, a sadaguru can be seen in the form of Bhagwaan Shiv, Narsimha jee and Hanuman jee.

A sadaguru is the one who adorns a disciple on his head and makes him/her worshipped by all. Just like Bhagwaan Shankar places the curved moon on his head.

A sadaguru is like Narsimha who guards his disciple from negative elements and prevents the good qualities from evading.

A sadaguru is like Hanuman jee who keeps the Lord as the utmost priority and prestige as the last.

A Banyan tree grows high and also spreads to give shelter to many. Its shelter is soothing in the summers and it gives warmth in the winters.

Every Banyan tree (Vata) has five prominent parts – roots, stem, branches, leaves and fruit.

Let us discuss the Vata of Kailas, the abode of Bhagwaan Shankar. It is the ‘Vishraam Vata’ that actually signifies peace and tranquility. The tree of peace also has five parts, which are discussed as below.

  1. The root of peace is ‘sahaj santosh’ i.e. inherent contentment. A person can experience satisfaction through various happenings in life. A dejected person may have to accept satisfaction by the circumstances that are not in control, but sorrow is the base of such satisfaction. An individual can derive satisfaction from successful events in life, which is dominated by happiness. Another way to experience satisfaction is to accept every situation as God’s will. But ‘sahaj santosh’ can be experienced by a mind that is free of prejudices and reservations. This kind of contentment is from within and it is not dependent on any thing, situation or person. It is the root of peace.
  2. The stem of tree of peace (Vishraam Vatta) is ‘nishttha’ or unbending allegiance towards one deity. Either acclaim or criticism of people does not affect it. It is never shadowed by want of prestige.
  3. The branches of tree of peace (Vishraam Vatta) are the many ways of bhakti/devotion. It may be of nine types that Bhagwaan Ram discussed with Shabari jee or may be those that are discussed in Shrimad Bhagwat. One can choose any branch, which suits and appeals to one’s heart to experience true peace.
  4. The leaves of this tree of peace (Vishraam Vatta) can be seen in the sublimation of the Lord when he melts for his beloved devotee.
  5. Finally, the fruit of this tree of peace is the grace of the Lord. It is experienced by all that god’s grace always results in peace.

Even the simplest words of your sadaguru, spoken spontaneously should be considered as ‘Mantra’. They carry a deep meaning and intense thought.

To maintain a cordial atmosphere in the family, one should take care of following five things.

  1. Don’t be partial.
  2. Be tolerant.
  3. Acknowledge the positive qualities of family members.
  4. Don’t insult anyone.
  5. Go through every kind of unfavorable circumstance quietly with perseverance.

Satsang should never become narrow in nature; it should be as vast as sky. It should serve as a medicine for the mind and not become a disease.

A sect should not build boundaries and create distinctions between different believers. Groupism leads to various conflicts.

Mind is the reason behind an experience of pleasure and pain. The Lord does not possess a mind (mana) like ours, so He is beyond these feelings. Bhagwaan Krishna had to accept a mind for Raas lila.

It is a fact that God is omnipresent. But to feel His presence one has to do some efforts. As Bhagwaan Shiv points out in Shri Ram Charit Manas, “Hari vyaapak sarvatra samaana | Prem tein pragat hohin main jaana ||”.

A spiritual person is like a Banyan tree. He is ever new and the freshness never fades. He is not affected by the age-factor; he looks good in every phase of life. The nature of that person is such, which is soothing for all; he is free of aggression.

The supreme power can be felt every day/every moment. The appearances in the forms of Ram, Krishna etc. are for special times, but the true form is accessible for all. It is mentioned in Shrimad Bhaagwat-“Sachchidaanand roopaay vishwot-patyaadi hetave..”, which means that the supreme power’s actual form is sata (truth), chitta (tranquility of mind) and aanand(joy). When we live with truth, we meet him. Whenever we experience the serenity in our minds, we get his glimpse. When we feel blissful, it’s the pointer of His presence with us.

A spiritual person should not get involved even in social service at the cost of Bhajan. Bhajan should not take a back seat, but should be the most dominant feature in life. These days, ‘upayogita-vaad’ (using the other person for certain motives) is prevalent in the society. Therefore, a spiritual person should be careful and use his/her time more in bhajan. Lao tse said, “Be like an useless tree, otherwise people will make furniture out of you.”

Let us discuss “Akshaya vata” of prayaag. This is ‘Vishwaas vata’ as it denotes fervent faith. It is heard that the British rulers cut it and even threw acid on the leftovers to destroy it completely. But as the waters of triveni flooded the place, vishwaas vata grew again. Faith should be such that it can never be abolished.

There are two roots of tree of faith – watching and knowing. These two form the base of faith. Faith can never be blind, it sees and recognizes first and then accepts.

Stem of this tree of faith is surety, which crops up only as a result of watching and knowing. Hanuman jee first saw Bhagwaan Ram, then identified him and when he was sure that he was the subject of his worship, then only fell in his feet.

There are three main branches of tree of faithfaith in Sadaguru’s thinking (vichaar), speech (vachan) and action (vartan). An aspirant’s faith should be such that Sadaguru’s thoughts will be for the best for me. Sadaguru’s speech will lead me to the right path and there is an inspiration behind every action of Sadaguru. If an aspirant develops such faith, then Sadaguru takes care of the minutest detail of his life. A disciple’s faith should be focussed on how his Sadaguru’s grace has worked wonders in his life. A disciple can grow with the support of all these branches or whichever suits one the best.

We shall continue with the rest of the parts of tree of faith tomorrow.

Incomplete knowledge is almost like ignorance. It weighs down a person. Only complete knowledge can make an individual feel free of burden. Ignorance is a little better than imperfect knowledge as there is a possibility of admittance of reality of not knowing; but partial knowledge is very risky as it may breed false pride of being learned.

Yoga is a medicine and not the food for life. Samaadhi is the state of absolute peace where there is no anger (krodhi swabhaav), no upaadhi (anguish) and no vyaadhi (worries).

Never assess a person/ thing / situation in a hurry. Spend some time to watch and analyze properly to know the actuality. Never comment on anything that may be in process. A situation that seems unfavorable initially may result in the best of results.

Let us continue with the tree of faith (Vishwaas Vata). Root forms the base of a tree, stem shows its stability, branches denote its development and leaves signify shelter and beauty.

To continue from yesterday, the leaves of tree of faith is the element of life (praan tatva). Only a strong will-power can complement strong faith. Sound will power is a beauty in itself and becomes the shelter of faith. Bapu says, “I request all to take care of will-power and never let it become weak. Will power can even fight disease in the body.” The fruit of tree of faith is Bhajan. People expect some fruits after doing Bhajan, but the truth is that bhajan is a fruit in itself. Lord’s holy name is the biggest fruit for any aspirant.

Trishna (want for acclaim, money, family etc.) is the cause of pain. It is not easy to end it in one’s life. But an aspirant can successfully deal with it, without being pained, if one consumes a little of what he/she gets and then share the rest with all. This can lessen trishna in a big way.

Question – Please discuss the ‘sangraam bata’ of Lanka kand
Bapu’s AnswerSangraam means conflict/struggle/friction, but it also means Sang+Ram = Along with Ram.. But if seen in the context of Lanka Kand, it denotes a tree of war. The root of this tree is hatred (Dwesh). Detestation becomes a base of tussle. Constant anger is the stem of the tree of war. The branches are the negative inclinations of mind. The unstable state of mind signifies the leaves that never let an individual experience security. The fruit of the tree of war is violence.

It is observed that there have been mainly three reasons of any war in history – Want of expansion, revenge and challenge of war by an opponent.

Japa is a yagnaTulsi mala is sameedh (wood), tears are aahuti (offering), devotion is ghee (igniting element) and attachment (mamata) is sacrifice in this yagna.

Let us discuss the ‘Vivek vata’ of Bhushundi jee. All the means of Bhushundi jee’s saadhana are of utmost kind. They are manasik pooja (worshipping in the mind), japa yagna (chanting Harinaam), Dhyaan rasa (meditation full of rasa) and Hari katha (reciting and listening of katha). Anyone who criticizes these is not aware of their magnitude in spiritual path.

The tree of understanding/ knowledge (vivek vata) is very important. The root of vivek is satsang – ‘Binu satsang bibek na hoi..’ Satsang gives rise to a person’s mati (positive intellect), keerati (fame), gati (right path of progress), bhooti (fortune), bhalaai (goodness) and also vivek (appropriate knowledge/awareness). Satsang cannot be bound in one form. It is too vast and anyone can practice it in daily life. It can be in being quiet and interacting with yourself, studying shastras, avoiding supposedly religious talks/gatherings that harm your faith.

Anything that is aligned with truth is satsang. A person who is sincere and true in his duties can make even his profession as a form of satsang. Satsang should not breed superstition and false miracles that lead to blind belief. Satsang should never be used for business purposes, be careful!!

We shall discuss the rest of the parts of vivek vata tomorrow

QuestionWhat is better, service (seva) or dharma (religion)?
AnswerDon’t separate the two. According to Shri Ram Charit Manas, “Seva dharamu katthin jagu jana”- serving others can be a Dharma in itself.

The supreme power is omnipresent in the creation, but it can also be said that the omnipresent itself has taken the form of the creation. It is important for an aspirant to realize this. But the test of this realization is that one should never have any kind of negative feelings (virodh) towards anything/person. One can pass this test only in the absence of ego, because ego forms distinctions in the mind.

The Lord is like the epicentre of a circle. We are like dots on the ring of the circle. If we try to attain peace by running after different dots, we would not be successful as the circle goes on and on. We can only experience ultimate peace, when we directly go to the centre.

A person willing to take the spiritual path usually has certain characteristics:

  1. Intense anxiety for the divine.
  2. Fearlessness in any place.
  3. Faith on Sadaguru.
  4. Appropriate understanding.

Let us continue with the ‘Vivek vata’ (tree of knowledge/understanding) of Bhusundi jee. Yesterday, it was said that satsang is the root of knowledge. The stem of tree of knowledge is dispassion (vairaagya), which provides strength and longevity. Dispassion should not be fluctuating, but it should become the nature of an aspirant; otherwise, knowledge would not be stable.

There are three main branches of vivek vata.:

Laukik vivek – Worldly courtesy and mannerly behaviour, according to place, time and situation.

Alaukik vivek – It is seen in Shatrupa in Shri Ram Charit Manas. When the Almighty offered her to ask for anything, she did not ask for any material gains but only asked for the spiritual way of life.

Paar-laukik vivek – When one uses own knowledge to lead others towards awareness.

There are seven leaves of vivek, that are mentioned in Yoga Vashishtha:

  1. Shubhechha (goodwill towards all)
  2. Vichaarana (thoughtful behaviour)
  3. Tanu-maanasa
  4. Satvaapati
  5. Asansakti
  6. Padaaarthaabhaav
  7. Tturyiga.

The fruit of tree of knowledge is salvation. The end of delusion (moh) is true salvation.

The supreme power is in the form of a scripture/book (Granth-avataar) i.e. Shree Ram Charit Manas, Lord is in the form of a place of pilgrimage (Dhaam-avataar) i.e Ayodhya jee, Lord’s name is personified as the form of Hanuman jee (Naam-avataar) and Lord’s full manifestation came in the form of Bhagwaan Ram (Leela-avataar).

Outward equipment is not harmful, but the thought behind any equipment causes harm. Only a noble thought can treat a distorted thought of any person. Tulsidas jee wrote Shri Ram Charit Manas as a scripture of inspirational thoughts. So, it can aptly said that Tulsidas jee’s writing is a ‘Vichaar vata’. Bapu says, “ I was once asked in an interview (around 30 years back) about the key thoughts in Shri Ram Charit Manas and I listed seven of them (one in every kand).”

  1. “Seeya Ram maya sab jaga jaani | Karaun pranaam jori juga paani||” (Bal Kand). The ideology that the supreme power is omnipresent was discussed in theory; but Tulsidas jee established this thought by saying that, ‘I bow down to all after practically knowing/experiencing (not just believing) that here everything is a form of the Almighty.’ The realization of the presence of Almighty everywhere is a knowledge based (gyaan) thought and humbly bowing down is a thought of devotion (bhakti). This is remarkable amalgamation of thoughts by Tulsidas jee. Raghukul reeti sadaa chali aai | Praan jaahu baru bachanu na jaai || (Ayodhya Kand)
  2. Tulsidas jee mentions the tradition of Raghukul but in the same Kand, he puts across a revolutionary thought that the tradition should not be binding (‘Bimal bans yehu anuchit eku..’). He advocates that anyone who deserves can hold the throne.
  3. “Asa abhimaan jaai jani bhorey | Main sevak raghupati pati morey||” (Aranya Kand). It is a fact that ego is a weakness of a human being; But Tulsidas jee clarifies it, when he says that there is nothing wrong if a person is proud to be a devotee of supreme beloved.
  4. “Ab prabhu kripa karahu ehi bhaanti | Sab taji bhajanu karaun din raati ||” (Kishkindha Kand). Sugreev asks for God’s grace that may he never abandon bhajan, even if everything has to be kept at stake. Tulsidas jee writes that no compromise should be made in bhajan. No activity should be taken up at the cost of bhajan.
  5. “Kaha Hanumant bipati prabhu soi | Jab tav sumiran bhajan na hoi ||” (Sunder Kand). Tulsidas jee is of the opinion that the gravest adversity in one’s life is the time when he/she cannot do bhajan.
  6. “Sant kahahin asi neeti dasaanan | Chauthein-pan jaaihi nrip kaanan||” (Lanka Kand). Every individual should lead an ascetic life in later years of life, in spite of staying in a home. The inclination is more important than the place.
  7. “Saral subhaav na mana kutilaai | Jatha laabh santoshe sadaai||” (Uttar Kand). Simple nature that is free of hypocrisy and satisfaction from whatever is achieved after doing sincere efforts should be the way of life indicated by Tulsidas jee.

The root of ‘Vichaar vata’ i.e. the tree of thought is the mind. It is a psychological fact that all the thoughts crop out of a person’s mind. One experiences happiness and grief only because of mind. ‘Aman’ (absence of mind) means peace, but it is not so easy to be in that state, so, one should try to cultivate ‘suman’ (an amiable mind) to live a better life.

The stem of tree of thought is a clear intellect that takes decisions.

The rest of the two parts (leaves and fruit) would be discussed tomorrow.

When an aspirant chooses the path of Harinaam, he should try to make the family members happy and satisfy them with affection. Never keep a feeling of enmity with anyone, even if others do not reciprocate the same way. Try to be a support to the needy.

Yesterday, we were discussing the “vichaar vata” of Tulsidas jee. The stem of tree of thought is the resolute intellect that decides upon a thing. In Shri Ram Charit Manas, ‘So ananya jaakein asi mati na tarayi hanumant | Main sevak sacharaachar roop swaami bhagwant ||’. Here, Bhagwaan Ram discusses with Hanuman jee about the earnest intellect of a person with spiritual bend of mind. Such a person lives as a servant of God and treats all creation is the form of God. Hanuman jee holds on to this thought. It is evident when he is taken to the court of Raavan in Lanka, and he addresses Raavan as ‘prabhu’ (replica of Lord) and also when asked about the scar in the moon, Hanuman jee sees the image of Lord in it. Only a strong intellect provides stability to thoughts.

One should try to see the Almighty in every creation, but the conduct has to be in accordance to the practical situations.

The branches of a positive intellect are reasons (tark), but the distortion of branches is pessimistic reasoning (kutark or dushta tark). Positive reasoning may lead to constructive results but negative reasoning may result as a mere wastage of time and energy; it does not yield anything.

The leaves of tree of thought are inclinations of bliss that are experienced by mind. And the fruit of this tree is ‘Yoga’ (union with divine). When there is continual joy in the mind, one feels that he/she is getting truly aligned with God. Joy is a form of the supreme power. An aspirant should not become grave but should be cheerful on the path of spirituality.

Let us discuss the fifth banyan tree, ‘ Vishaal vata’ of Chitrakoot, where Shri SitaRam jee stayed during vanavaas. This is the tree of enormity that encompasses all the trees in itself. In our scriptures, dharma is said to be –‘gagan sadrisham’ (as vast as sky). The vastness of this tree signifies dharma. The root of the tree of dharma is truth. If a person maintains truth, he/she can remain novel even in old age.

The stem of the tree of dharma is patience (dhairya). An aspirant should not lose patience even if others do not accept his/her truth. A Sadaguru lets the patience of the aspirant develop to make him/her as a determined seeker in the spiritual path.

The branches of the tree of dharma are in the form of mercy (dayaa), which treats one and all equally. Mercy should not be bound by limits. It can also be in the form of harshness (katthore kripa), but it is always for the betterment of an individual.

The leaves of the tree of dharma are in the form of purity (pavitrata). Purity of thought, speech, action, vision etc. are the various types of leaves of dharma.

The fruit of dharma is prem (love). All dharma should lead to goodwill for all ‘premaambu-pooram shubham’.

Bapu says, “on the concluding day, I would like to present one banyan tree i.e. Shri Ram Charit Manas to everybody. This tree is not for house but for heart. The root of Shri Ram Charit Manas is large-heartedness (vishaalata) as it respects all. The stem of Ramayana is faith (vishwaas) that is unbending in all kind of circumstances. Knowledge (vivek) forms the branches of Shri Ram Charit Manas. Various thoughts (vichaar) given by Tulsidas jee are its leaves and the fruit of Shri Ram Charit Manas is tranquility/peace (vishraam). All the five trees that were discussed over these days have made this tree. Bow it in the heart, nurture it with tears and take care of it. It will give shelter to you and your coming generations.”

Let us offer the fruit of virtue of this katha to Vadavaada dev (deity of the place) and may all experience his soothing shelter.

“Jai SiyaRam”