Sri. Kapadia Baba and the Transformation
Swami Munishwaranandaji Maharaj, popularly known as Sri Kapadia Baba, at that time was roaming on the bank of Ganga. He lived in a small hut in a secluded place on the bank of the Ganga near Nardara. Sri Kapadia Baba used to carry a big mud vessel in his hands and would beg for food in the villages situated on the bank of the Ganga, shouting “Roti de, roti de”. Kapadia means a big mud vessel. As he used to carry the big mud vessel, he was called ‘Kapadia Baba’.
There are several stories about this mahatma. The villagers of Nardara believe that he belonged to a place in West Bengal state. It was 25 miles away from the Ganga and 100 miles away from Bagalpur, a famous town in Bihar state. (Bihar and West Bengal are neighboring states.) He was a judge in a judicial court and it so happened that he had to award death sentence to his only daughter’s husband. As soon as his son-in-law was hanged to death, he renounced the worldly life. He did Ganga Pradakshina and realised God. He preached people to chant the maha mantra, ‘Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare’.
From his childhood Ram Surat Kunwar was fascinated by Kapadia Baba. Kapadia Baba used to wear only a loincloth and the children in the villages were greatly frightened to see him. But Ram Surat Kunwar was attracted towards him and whenever the Baba visited his village for food, Ram Surat Kunwar would be the first to offer food to him. Kapadia Baba was also very fond of young Ram Surat Kunwar.
Later in 1953, the people of the villages on the bank of the Ganga including Nardara built an ashram for Kapadia Baba at Chandpur near Bariya. Even though the ashram was built at Chandpur for Kapadia Baba, he would visit the ashram only occasionally, but mostly he would roam on the bank of the Ganga and as usual he would beg for food in the villages. Sri Kapadia Baba attained his mahasamadhi in the Ashram at Chandpur. A marble statue of Sri Kapadia Baba was erected on the samadhi. (Sri Amitabh, the son of Ram Surat Kunwar said to the author that he had the vague memory of taking some prasad at the Kapadia Baba Ashram at Chandpur with his father and elder sister Yasodhara in early 1950’s.)
Ram Surat Kunwar was shaped and prepared to some extent by this great mahatma Kapadia Baba. Kapadia Baba showered his compassion and blessings on Ram Surat Kunwar by his roaring laughter and mysterious puzzles that encouraged him to have the close proximity with the Baba. This association later helped him to a great extent in his transformation. The grace of this great mahatma gave him courage and inspiration to set out in search of his guru. Even though Sri Kapadia Baba was a realised soul, he directed Ram Surat Kunwar to search for guru and that too in South India. He refused to be the guru for Ram Surat Kunwar. Probably he was aware that Ram Surat Kunwar’s service was needed at Tiruvannamalai in South India. If he were Ram Surat Kunwar’s Guru, the latter might not have visited Tiruvannamalai during his life time. God’s ways are always mysterious, but meticulous. As per the directions of this great mahatma, later, Ram Surat Kunwar set his feet in the southern part of India in search of his guru. The mahatmas of all times know their role and play their part in great perfection, so that the mission of their life will be accomplished with beauty and precision.
In the house, mother Kusum Devi used to tell the stories of Rama and Krishna to her children. Ram Surat Kunwar used to insist his mother to repeat the stories of Rama and Krishna. He had great passion to listen to the stories of Rama and Krishna and wanted to become like Rama and Krishna. He had a great love for Hanuman, the monkey devotee of Rama and wondered on listening to Hanuman’s valour and devotion for Rama.
Ram Surat Kunwar, from his early age, was always helpful to others. He assisted his mother in several ways. He would draw water from the well and would carry it to the house. If any elders in the village needed his help, he would do it with all sincerity. He was a darling to everybody in the village.
Ram Surat Kunwar completed his elementary school education in 1929 and joined the middle school at Bariya, 5 km away from Nardara. After completing his middle school education at Bariya, he joined the Baliya High School in 1933 to do his Matriculation. He stayed in Baliya in a relative’s house. He completed his Matriculation in first class in 1937.
During the school holidays in 1931 Ram Surat Kunwar came to Nardara. He was then thirteen years old, studying at the Baliya High School. One day, as usual, he went to the well to draw water. While drawing water from the well, a sparrow was sitting on the other side of the well and looking at Ram Surat Kunwar curiously. It was so cute and inviting. The swiftness of the small bird attracted Ram Surat Kunwar. Involuntarily Ram Surat Kunwar threw the ropes on the bird as if he wanted to own the bird. It was purely an act of friendship and intimacy. However the rope hit the bird badly and the bird fell down on the earth. Ram Surat Kunwar ran towards the bird and fetched it in his hands and tried to revive it. As the bird was badly hit, he could not revive it. Carrying the bird in his hand, he ran towards Ganga and poured some Ganga water in its mouth, believing Ganga Ma would give back life to the bird. But alas, the bird died in the hands of Ram Surat Kunwar. He was shocked. He got shivering. It was unbelievable to think that he had killed a small, beautiful and defenseless bird. He sat on the bank of the Ganga for a long time with a heavy heart and tears in his eyes.
His tender heart felt guilty. “Why should this beautiful bird die at the hands of me?” Ram Surat Kunwar asked himself. “Where has gone the beauty of the bird? Where has gone the flying power of the bird? The wings are there. But it has lost the power to fly. What was within the bird? What has gone out from the bird? Why has it gone from the bird? Is the rope the reason? If something has gone out of the bird, will it not be possible to bring the same again into the bird?” The questions welled up in his aching heart, but he could not find the answer.
The sorrow pierced through his being. He cried and tears flowed from his eyes uncontrollably. He slowly put the bird on the Ganga. The Holy River took the bird. The bird disappeared in the Ganga. He wept and wept for a long time sitting on the bank of the Ganga. The death of the bird was the first shock he received from the life and it sharpened his awareness on creation and death. From that date a silent transformation started taking place in him. He was different after this event. He was searching for the unknown reality of the world. His tender heart got baffled and pained at the first experience of death.
Whenever Ram Surat Kunwar came to Nardara for holidays, he would never miss the opportunity to meet Kapadia Baba. After the bird’s death, he was restless and always in pain. He was not able to conceal the pain particularly to Kapadia Baba. It seems, on the instructions of Kapadia Baba, he went to Kasi, a great pilgrim center for the Hindus, to have the darshan of Kasi Viswanatha (Siva) at the temple to get his pain and doubts cleared off. He was then 16 years old.
At Kasi he went to the famous Viswanatha Temple. He stood before the deity, the Sivalingam at the temple. He saluted the deity with devotion and closed his eyes in meditation. All of a sudden, he felt for the first time, a divine ecstasy that had driven away the pain and other thoughts from him. He was able to feel a divine energy that engulfed him. He was standing in the temple in a state of trance. He was able to see and listen to the divinity but it was not clear enough. He saw a bright, divine light conveying some message to him. But he was not able to understand it. He focused all his attention and still he was not able to get the message. The message was uttered with a divine compassion, as if it was a hug from the all pervading Father. At that time he was not able to feel anything more than that.
He was in the temple for a long time and then he left for Harichandra Ghat, on the bank of the Ganga at Kasi. People used to bring dead bodies to be burnt at this ghat. The remains of the burnt bodies would be thrown into the Ganga. People believe that dying at Kasi and having the funeral on the bank of the Ganga would bring salvation and there will be no rebirth. Ram Surat Kunwar saw for the whole day several funerals at this ghat and lost his body consciousness for a long time. He felt as if he was brought dead and was put on the pyre. He was burnt to ashes and then dissolved in the Ganga. Perceiving his own body’s funeral, he was not able to feel his body. After a long time the feeling gradually disappeared and he came back to normalcy. From his early age, he had the capability to feel the oneness with the object he saw, so naturally. The experience he got at Kasi made him more calm and serene. He came across the reality about the body and its death. After seeing several funerals on the bank of the Ganga, the pain due to the death of the bird had disappeared from him finally.
From Kasi, Ram Surat Kunwar went to Saranath, where Buddha gave his first sermon (teachings to the mass). He was in great ecstasy and was roaming around the holy place thinking that there the Great Buddha might be strolling with his disciples. He wanted to roll over the earth there with great ecstasy. A few days passed in such divine ecstasy.
After spending few more days at Kasi and Saranath, he returned to Nardara. There he met Kapadia Baba again and narrated the unique experience he had at Kasi and Saranath. The saint laughed with great joy. Suddenly the saint became serious and instructed Ram Surat Kunwar to go through the lives and teachings of the saints, particularly Vivekananda and Swami Ram Thirtha. He also instructed Ram Surat Kunwar to develop a habit of reading Tulsi Ramayana and Bagavad Gita daily. From then on Ram Surat Kunwar daily read Tulsi Ramayana and Bagavad Gita with all seriousness and involvement till he met his Guru. More or less he remembered all the verses of Tulsi Ramayana and Bagavad Gita throughout his life. He also went through the life and teachings of Swami Vivekananda and Swami Ram Thirtha. It was not a habit, but a passion for him to go through the works of those great masters. He was able to understand the teachings spontaneously and follow them in the day to day life.
After he attained his Father, he didn’t have the time and opportunity to go through these works again for several decades. However, whenever he was sitting with his dear devotees, he used to quote many verses here and there from Tulsi Ramayana and Bagavad Gita. He would also sing some songs of Kabir, Meera Bai and several other saints. Occasionally he would chant some verses from the Vedas and Upanishads also, while talking with his friends. He would also explain the meaning of those songs in English. His memory power is amazing, indeed.