MY EXPERIENCES IN INDIA-1985 # 8 Nov 20, 2019
Satguru Kabir demonstrated and taught during his whole life that we should get rid of ignorance, superstition, bigotry, etc. and accept God without fear. This is why he is spoken of as being free of defects and fear (nirvikar, nirbhay) but that all others are bound by fear. Just as he lived fearlessly, he went to Magahar and departed his life fearlessly to break one more of the ignorant superstitions held by the people of his time.
Having finished our visits around Varanasi, Jagdish and I left by train at 12:00 noon and arrived in Ayodhya at 4 p.m. We stayed one night at the Kabir Ashram in Ayodhya. Ayodhya is a small and ancient town, and the Kabir Ashram is an older building run by a few monks, supported by the devotees of Satguru Kabir in this area. We went for a walk to see the ancient buildings that are mentioned in the Ramayan, one of the main scriptures of Hindus. This book is also a renowned epic poem of the world. There was a building named Hanuman Garhi which apparently has sadhus living there. These sadhus are also wrestlers. Close by there was King Dasarath’s (Lord Rama’s father) dwelling, and about a hundred yards or so was the Janam Bhumi (birthplace) of Ram, the hero of the Ramayan. This birthplace is in dispute, whether it belongs to the Hindus or the Muslims, and no one is allowed to take its photograph. There were only a few older buildings, but I could not get a good view of what was inside the guarded area. Along the same street were the various dwellings of King Dasarath’s three queens, Kaushalya, Sumintra, and Kaikeyi. Somewhat further away is the Kanak Bhavan, a huge square building on two floors enclosing a large central courtyard. Ram and Seeta lived there after their return from fourteen years of banishment in the forests.
Close by is the Valmiki Bhavan, the place where the sage Valmiki wrote the Ramayan in Sanskrit. The whole Ramayan is inscribed in Sanskrit on the inner walls of this building. Somewhat further away is another bhavan called Tulsi Chowra where Tulsi Dass wrote the Ram Charit Manas, the life story of Ram, in medieval Hindi. We also visited the Sarju River which runs right beside Ayodhya. This is the river in which Ram, his brother Lakshman, and many others, committed suicide by drowning. Because of this event, the Sarju River is said to have become “swarg dwar”, steps to heaven.
While on the train towards Ayodhya, a fellow passenger told us that we could not miss Ayodhya because, before we reach the city, we would see monkeys everywhere. The monkey is revered practically everywhere in India because of Hanuman, a great devotee of Lord Rama who was thought to be a monkey. Indeed, on arriving in Ayodhya, we saw monkeys on the trees, on buildings, and also on the fences. I heard that they sometimes snatch your eyeglasses.
On February 8th, Jagdish Saheb and I left Ayodhya by train for Vadodara (Baroda). We left Ayodhya at 6 p.m. and spent that night, the following day, and the following night on the train. We arrived in Vadodara at 5 a.m. The city was just starting to come to life for the day. It was not quite daylight yet. We hired a rickshaw which took us to the Kabir Ashram in the city. After such a long journey, it was nice to have a shower and a good breakfast. There were several sadhus staying at this ashram, and the chief mahant made us very welcome. There were many birds flying freely in the ashram’s courtyard and it was quite pleasant to hear their various sounds. We spent two nights at this ashram. After breakfast, we left with Mahant Shanti Dass of Ayodhya to visit the Kabir Vat (tree). It was a four-hour trip by bus, and on arriving there we had to cross the Narmada River with a ferryboat operated by boatmen using long poles, and carrying about twenty to thirty people each trip. There were about fifty to sixty people on the bank waiting to be ferried across to the Kabir Vat, which is a popular spot for picnics and pilgrimage for the followers of Satguru Kabir. This famous tree is on an island, and there is an ashram of Ram Kabir. Many Ram Kabir devotees come to pay their homage here. The mahant in charge of this ashram was Diaram Dass, and he treated us to a delicious lunch. Satguru Kabir visited this spot in 1465, and the place where he preached is marked by a small temple housing his picture and a pair of wooden sandals.
There is an interesting story about the Kabir Vat. There were two Brahmin brothers who were not initiated, and they wished very much to be initiated by a guru who could give them spiritual enlightenment. Their names were Jiva and Tattva, and they were farmers on this island. Since there were many Brahmins and gurus of all descriptions, they decided to devise a test whereby they could obtain a perfect guru. They thus planted a dry branch of a Banyan tree and promised themselves that they would accept that guru whose washings of the feet would make the dry branch come to life. Many holy people came their way. They dutifully washed the feet of these visitors, fed them, made them comfortable, and poured the water on the dry branch. They did this for twelve years, but the branch would not become alive. They became depressed and decided to commit suicide, because all their efforts in twelve years to find a true Satguru were futile. Since they were true Brahmins, they felt that they needed to be initiated before they could gain salvation, and they would not settle for anything less. This is why they decided on suicide. They planned that one night at 3 a.m. they would drown themselves in the Narmada River. Satguru Kabir heard of their plan and went to them on the eve before they planned to commit suicide. The year was 1465. The brothers somewhat half-heartedly decided to wash Satguru Kabir’s feet and pour the water on the dry branch. At this point they had lost hope of ever finding a guru, but they thought it would not hurt to do it at least one more time. They did this, and Satguru Kabir went on his way, and the brothers went to bed. On awakening at 3 a.m. to commit suicide, they decided to look at the dry branch for the last time and, to their surprise, they found that it had come to life with new shoots growing. They were very happy and decided to make Satguru Kabir their guru. But how could they find him? They decided that if they could not find him in three days, they would then go ahead and commit suicide, as previously planned. On the third day Satguru Kabir appeared before them again, and they became his disciples and accepted his teachings.
To be continued