Besides being an ancient and holy festival, Mahashivratri also happens to be the birthday of well-known Ram Katha Vachak Morari Bapu. Sarjana Sharma and Akrita Reyar spoke to him about his personal beliefs and the meaning they hold.
On the occasion of Mahashivratri, what would you like to say especially in the context of the Ram Charit Manas? About the role of Shiva in a Vaishnav or Ram devotee’s life….
Bapu: Ram and Shiva are forever conjoined. The Ram Charit Manas starts with Shiva Katha. It is the door. A person’s bhakti(devotion) is not successful without Shiva. I sing the praises of Ram, but do it with the Vishwas(faith) of Shiva and distribute Prem(love) in the world inspired by Krishna.
If I were to quote an incident from the Ram Charit Manas, then I would say that when Lord Ram put the foundation of the Shila, he publicly proclaimed that for him God was a Sethubandh i.e. a bridge, which brings people together. ‘Setubandh Rameshwaram’ literally also means that. Lord Ram is God and even he says that Setubandh is his God. The act of bringing together people and creating bridges is in itself God.
Shankar Priya Mum Drohi, Shiv Drohi Mum Das; Tehi Nar Kare Kalap Bhari Ghor Narak Mehi Vaas.
Lord Ram says that the person, who is my devotee but against Shiva or is a Shiva devotee and is against me, will dwell in hell.
Now, I don’t know about hell or heaven; but I interpret it in this way that hell means a person would not be able to find peace or happiness, however wealthy or talented he maybe. So clearly there is no difference when it comes to Shiva and Ram.
Lord Ram also said that whoever prays at Rameshwaram will obtain Sayuj Mukti or salvation. This should be interpreted in this way that a person will not be enslaved by anything in the world and live in great joy.
Jo Rameshwar Darsan Karehi Jo Ganga Jal Aaani Chadahi So Sayuj Mukti Nar Pahi
He says, whoever does a pilgrimage to Rameshwaram, or he who brings the water of Ganges and offers to my Shiva would gain salvation… you see Ganges is the north of the country and Rameshwaram is in south, so this is also a bridge.
Mahashivratri also holds a great significance for you personally….tell us something about it?
Bapu: Yes, Mahashivratri is a very important day for me. As far as possible, I stay at Girnar in Junagarh during that period. I have been doing that for several years. In our tradition we have nine nights devoted to the power of Mataji in Navratri, but there is only one Shivratri. That also Mahashivratri. According to me, the night signifies the great and auspicious attempt of a human to scale Shiva’s heights. A lot of people advocate different types of Sadhanas or practices, but I talk about only the Satvik (pure) path.
There is a thinking amongst Tibetans that 500 spiritual beings dwell on Mt Kailash and only after any one achieves salvation, is space made for another. This is a part of their epic. But I feel that a lot of Siddh and more than that Shuddh powers manifest themselves on this night.
So it is very helpful for people, who are interested in spiritual advancement, or even for those who are interested in living an enlightened or useful life. For example to do Abhishek(ritual of pouring water) on Shiva linga - this means a person who wants to work for the welfare of others and dedicate himself for the good of the world, this festival holds a great significance for him.
You have shifted back from Mahuva to your village Talgajarda. You said that you are going towards your roots. The statement has a spiritual undertone to it…does it depict a spiritual journey?
Bapu: Yes it does. My village Talgajarda is the place of my birth and has also given me a lot in terms of my life. I would like to say here that going to the city of Mahuva was a compulsion. I was employed as a teacher there and that is where I earned my living.
About the meaning of going back to my roots, I would like to cite an analogy. Just like the water that comes out of Gangotri travels though the hills and then plains, eventually joining with the Gangamahsagar, the same water again evaporates and those clouds then shower water yet again on the source; so it is a cycle though in another form.
In the spiritual realm, it has been noted that a person can take back his thoughts to when he was young…. 10 years old, then 5 years and then when he was in his mother’s womb; and people have even known to have gained memory of their past lives. So these things are possible.
Changing track…You are in Delhi to speak on Mahatma Gandhi. You have spoken on Gandhi earlier as well in Dandi and Sabarmati Ahsram and have strongly espoused his principles of Truth and Non-violence. But how relevant is Ahmisa in times like these?
Bapu: Ahmisa or non-violence in its completeness has immense power. But as a society or even as individuals, practicing non-violence in its entirety is very difficult. In Patanjali Yoga Sutra it is said that if a person practices non-violence by thought, word and action, then even if a violent person comes near him, he too becomes non-violent. This is a scientific fact. The problem, as I mentioned earlier, is that practicing non-violence completely is difficult.
But violence is no solution. The entire creation was not caused through violence, but love. Whether you take the tale of Adam & Eve or Manu & Shatarupa, the starting point was love, or you can even call it attraction, but certainly not war. If the beginning was war, this world would have been destroyed by now.
But in terror-infested times like these, how practical is a policy of non-violence?
Bapu: See, even Gandhiji agreed to sending troops to Kashmir, when Pakistan infiltrated tribals and its own men into our territory. He gave Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel the go ahead to use force.
Personally, I am completely against violence, but when such a situation arises, its use cannot be avoided. We must then use violence as a medicine. For example, if an incurable and toxic boil erupts in the body, it has to be cut through surgery. We don’t need surgery everyday; that is no cure for anything.
You have said you are against the word Sena (Army) itself. But even Lord Ram used the Vanar Sena? Moreover, once again, how does one secure a country without the Army?
Bapu: I understand nations need Army. But from a spiritual point of view, Army is certainly not a good indication. I understand that if there are nations, there would be Armies. At least their use should be limited or minimized.
So what is the alternative in your view?
Bapu: The alternative is that person-person, community-community, state-state, and nation-nation take to peace. Sab Nar Karehe Paraspar Preeti (All people love each other), that is a solution.