Tridib Raman is a senior journalist with over 30 years experience in print, broadcast and digital media. As a political journalist he has closely tracked politicians and politics of every kind, educating readers to nuances. He has founded Parliamentarian magazine with the sole objective to encourage pro-people politics
One year ago you announced that you will be retiring from social service. India is a country where religion has the biggest market. The Gurus shower blessings, get work done through disciples and make billions. You seem to be an exception, who was unable to pay interests, thus became a debtor.
What is a religion? Intention, psyche and conditions are challenges, combating which in times of adversity is dharma. That’s why everyone has his own dharma. As you need a society to keep a nation alive, you also need a family to sustain the society and for that, you need a human being. I feel the question put to me was why I didn’t approach the rich and the mighty. My answer is those who have everything don’t need me. I am more than satisfied in reaching out to those who need me.
I saw your statement that...
The answer to your question is that like a son serves his mother selflessly, I too have served the society and the nation without any expectation. My service is to humanity, irrespective of caste, creed or conditions. I have addressed the challenges before society, humanity and the nation. So the real meaning of religion is that we keep on working until we find resources. When there is a resource crunch, the process slows down. For example, the farmers’ suicide issue, or where women are killed after being branded as witches, or women being made devadasis despite the tradition having been banned completely. Women are still being burnt for dowry. When Raja Ram Mohan Roy could get the tradition of Sati banned, why can’t all of us come together and stop our women from taking to prostitution?
Where there is such an environment, religion can’t exist. People have been using religion to gain social acceptance and reputation. But religion, which had been invented to provide protection to good human beings, has gone away from them. Health, education and religion have become out of bounds for a common man in our country. We need to make meaningful efforts to reverse the trend.
Religion is the biggest business in India and earnings made by babas are not hidden from people. A section of the people talk about afterlife journey but looking at your work, I feel you want to make people learn to live this life properly. It’s a huge difference. Babas charge Rs 200, 500, of even 1,000 for a darshan. But, you prohibit people from bringing even coconut or any other gift.
I say we can’t change the society even after spending crores of rupees. People still need resources. You need money if you even want to make a phone call to the other person. Resources are needed but, we need a change of perception. There should be a change of heart. We talk of giving. On one hand, we believe babas when they say they have reached God, on the other hand, they stand with a begging bowl to devotees. Why don’t these babas request God itself to give them Rs 500 or 1,000?
God has given you resources to serve humanity. If god wants you to continue this work, it’ll arrange for the resources itself. I have decided that I will not accept a single penny from abroad. I feel nothing matters to me more than my country’s respect. I wish to strengthen our farmers, mothers and the youth. It takes time for an idea to mature. It is quite possible that people might not remember Bhaiyyu ji Maharaj after his death. But, I should be satisfied that whatever I did, I did with my heart.
You are talking about radical changes. Do you think your concepts are beyond the common man’s understanding, given the kind of educational and social background he comes from?
It takes time for a new idea to mature and receive acceptance. I feel I have done that. Why do people believe in me? Those who can’t look after their own welfare, how will they look after others’ welfare? They ask God to take away pains of all the people. You can request for the well being of people you know. If you ask for en mass welfare, the beneficiaries might include sinners and corrupt people as well. I am clear on that. First, they subjugated our conscience, made us remain uneducated and then hammer in these bad practices through event management, branding and image building. Exploitation hasn’t stopped yet. Why don’t we walk on pure fundamentals of karma? Why don’t we go by India’s philosophy that is, the philosophy of Gita’s and Maryada Purushottam Ram?
You have to decide what you want to do. Do you want to form a fearless society, a high-quality society where people have the feeling of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (universal brotherhood) and still maintain unity in diversity or not? This is possible only when we stand up against market forces and obsolete traditions. I am one person who is swimming against the tide.
While charging against the age-old religious traditions, aren’t you angering a huge chunk of powerful people?
When you take such steps you don’t expect milk and honey from them. When you walk out under the blistering sun, you are bound to get heat shocks. I am ready for such shocks.
A man usually has two journeys internal and external. While most gurus talk of only internal journey, you talk of a synergy, claiming that the external journey is as important as the internal one. Are Indians ready to accept this new model?
The youth needs a roadmap for the coming 200 years which has morals, values and intellect. Only by striking a balance between materialism and spiritualism can the society be saved. From Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam we came to nuclear families, and now relations don’t last more than a few years. The morals, values and thoughts which have perished should be our natural practice. What is a body without an existence? What is a soul without detachment? That means one should create one’s own identity. Lord Krishna couldn’t have created his identity had he not exposed Arjun to His Vishwaroop, and Gita wouldn’t be before us. Today, I am seeing a small change in people. Whenever there is negative news on TV, even a young child says, please change the channel. People are moving towards Discovery, Animal Planet, and Discovery Science. Problem is that people are hungry but if there is no one to cook, they are bound to eat junk food. In technical terms morals, intellect, spiritual and physical this is a great combination. Your body is Shiva, intellect is Brahma and soul is Vishnu. This is our philosophy.
People go in droves to gurus, who try to scare them in name of religion. You try to awaken them. Do you think your way will bring people to you?
You can’t dream while you are awake. You can dream only while sleeping. People are sleeping that’s why they are dreaming. When they wake up they will listen to the truth, and that’s why waking them up is necessary so that they can hear the truth.
When God is present in every human being, which means God has given him powers to work for his own welfare. He only needs to discover himself internally. Depending on others and playing with someone’s emotions is the greatest sin. How can a man become self-reliant and self-confident? This is possible only when he is awake. People need to think that they are awake. But do they have the capacity to imagine this? Do you have the power to recognise your own self, so that your karma can rise? Then karma has sanskaar as its mother, struggle as father and gyaan as its guru. When you attain that level, you can understand the truth.
The media has been claiming frequently that you have been talking against Hinduism and you are going to become a Buddhist…
All ideologies are the same when you understand religion as the process that converts adversities into advantages by identifying culture, traditions and psychology. All ideologies teach humanism, nationalism and socialism. If you include Buddha among 10 incarnations of Vishnu, then whether Buddhists or Sanaatan, Narasimha or Krishna all are one. I am not against any religion. I believe in one religion.
How close do you see religion is to politics?
This is a very simple question. The policy formulated to plan the economy for the protection of religious principles was called politics.
When Yogis, those who had taken to sanyaas, take over the governance then what...
It’s a good thing. If somebody is attaining completion of any kind, it should be held that God has given him the responsibility. But, the embodiment of tyaag (sacrifice) should be in an awakened state for development. It should be seen in the form of development which should reflect in positive thinking to make a positive society. He should be able to meet the challenges before the nation. It could be any medium, but the person who pursues this path is called a Yogi.
So, how much do you expect from Yogi Adityanath, the new CM of Uttar Pradesh?
I don’t have expectations. I am happy. I know Yogi is a far-sighted person. Whatever I know of him, I perceive him as a very sensitive and disciplined person. When these two qualities combine, they seem as strictness. But, his simple-heartedness gets reflected on the entire society.
I have studied your 281 schemes running in different sectors. They are all extraordinary like water harvesting, bringing prisoners back to the mainstream, liberating devadasis... to mention a few. Their canvas is so large that it is very difficult to be managed by one person, or one institution. Don’t you feel it hard to coordinate?
Any Bhaiyyu ji Maharaj can’t quench people’s thirst of the world only by constructing 1,700 ponds. But at least, we can present a role model before the people that this is a way to solve social problems. Like devadasis still exist, though the tradition has long been banned. Same with the witches. Law is omnipresent, and people agitate against the malpractices to get the law implemented but still, we fail to build a fearless society that is being promised? I know I can’t change the entire system, or that God hasn’t empowered me to do that. But I can present my views before the public, which if you give up materialistic things like garlands, flowers, coconuts, etc., you can contribute to the education of a child. You give this flower to your guru, he will certainly be happier. Instead of worshipping people, you can water trees thinking that you are giving water to your guru. You will get the same pleasure. I am only giving directions. Whoever is willing can take it. Those who don’t like don’t take it. It’s their decision.
Can the government and administration take up the models developed by you? Like you talk about digital technology in higher education, how digital libraries can be created. Can you present such models before the government?
Yes, we are trying for that. I don’t want Bhaiyyu ji or my institution to become big. I want my country to grow, become great, I want humanity to grow. If the government likes our schemes, it should adopt it.
You have become a famous man. You always opposed VIP culture, but still, all the bigwigs are coming to your durbar.
My criterion is simple the person in need is the biggest VIP for me.
You used to be called Maharaja of Mumbai - Raj Thackeray, Uddhav Thackeray and chief ministers, all used to come to you!
They still come. But, people don’t notice when an unemployed youth comes to me or an exploited family comes for help. Because they are ordinary people. But when some important person comes to me, everyone notices that. Religion has become a tool to become God and social service a ladder to win awards.
A number of chief ministers attend your birthday celebrations.
Not a single CM has ever attended my birthday.
I read in newspapers that Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh was here...
Yes, he had come here for the Dattatreya Anniversary. He gave away the Humanity Awards. I don’t celebrate birthdays.
I have seen your team work in Vidarbha and Marathwada where farmers committed suicide. Nitin Gadkari has also constituted Purti Cooperative. Are you collaborating with him?
Efforts keep going on. A seed sown doesn’t grow into a tree in a day. May be I’ll exhaust my life in a constant struggle. But, we can give the next generation a dense forest that provides shade.
What is the plan behind the Sant Nagar?
We need to understand the essence of sainthood if we want to understand Indian culture and philosophy. We need to understand sainthood to understand spiritualism. Sainthood is also needed to perform rituals. Which saint was born in which era like saint Narsinh Mehta used to get dry, leather-like chapatis in his childhood, but when he went to
Vrindavan to see Raaslila, Lord Krishna used to get up and sit next to him. I want to tell the next generation what changes he brought into society.
Sir, shall we understand that this will accommodate saints from other religions as well?
The code of life’s ideal conduct is religion for me. Those who gave us discipline, code of manners, code of living, they will all be saints.
You have modelled for Siyaram Suitings, you have been the CEO of a big company. What was the turning point which changed your life?
I have always opposed the establishment from my childhood. The family I come from had made everything accessible to me. I experienced everything from the age of 10 years rich, poor, rural, urban… Modelling was not my goal, I used to play cricket for my university. It was a passion, a lifestyle. I wear shirts and trousers even now. That’s again my lifestyle. It doesn’t affect my inner conscience, which is like sandalwood which always smells good. But if the body also smells equally well then both body and mind will be happy and beautiful. You too will be happy, and so will be others.
I hear that you used to be called Rashtra Sant from the age of five?
No, no. Who will call a five-year-old child as Rashtra Sant! It will be something like Swami Om. It’s all humbug. There was nothing like five lakh people gathered at India Gate to see me. I got my trust registered in 1999 when I was 23. I used to talk about the nation’s welfare with Babuji of Nirogdham, so out of love he started calling me Rashtra Sant. Then it was picked up by the media. Had I been from engineering background, I would be called an engineer, or if I came from a medical background people would be called a doctor. But since I am from the religious background, people started calling me ‘Sant’ and Rashtra too was affixed to it. In my village people used to call me Bhaiyyu so this became popular. And soon Maharaj was also added. So this became Rashtra Sant Bhaiyyu ji Maharaj.
You were in reclusion (agyaatvas) for two years. You had taken sanyaas. Then you returned back to society with a new vision. What lay behind this change.
I didn’t return by myself. I was directed by my mother to return. I never go back on my word, but you are helpless in face mother’s orders. No resolution works there.
You have lots of schemes lined up. Would you re-prioritise them?
Everything is a priority for me. I don’t want to create a brand. Idiots are into image building, I have to take only a couple of products to carry forward. I reiterate I have to work against exploitation, social discrimination and mismanagement.
You are very emotional. Many things you do show that, like seeds to farmers free of cost. If you had a self-sustainable model, then you should have charged something.
That is done by traders not saints. A guru is only into giving. I have not been authorised to think that way (commercially) by God. I have been a farmer myself. I know how a farmer has to take loan on high interest to buy seeds. That’s why I don’t charge anything from them. Because I know that if farmers have a good yield, they will surely take out 25 per cent for the poor.
India a young country with a 62 per cent youth population. What is your message to them? What kind of life inspiration should they develop?
First comes the nation, then society. These young people are getting packages of Rs 25-30 lakh per annum. They put out their messages in the social media, they gripe about challenges. I have only one question for them are they spending even 30 rupees for the country or for humanity? Our issue is to understand problems. For the youth as well for the old. The old aren’t able to perform their duties well. They expect that the young should perform their duties, but the young too expect the same from the old. And nobody is performing their duty, which is why the social system is crumbling fast.
I only want to tell the youth that whatever you have studied is the basis of that package. You have bought education to get this package. If you do this specialisation, you will get a better package, better placement. That is foreign culture impeding our lives.
There is one major difference in the two. We have better family values and less social ones. Whereas in Western culture, you have more social values and less family values. Now we are becoming so modernised that we are losing faith in family values. What is the contribution you are making?
First, your heart gets into trouble because of your loyalty to the country and then patriotism gets into trouble because of your heart. Our youth has done what Pakistan wanted. They wanted to protests against a movie in the name of nationalism. If you protested and did that successfully, you have actually slapped the country’s self-respect, slapped your own character. And you are still not ready to think. No concern.
An army jawan like Cheetah takes nine bullets! He lost his life to enable you to go to a pub or McDonalds. It’s alright to pick up huge pay cheques, but you should never forget to visit the martyrs. Did you ever visit a farmer’s family who committed suicide? Did you ever try to handle social problems? Did you prepare yourself for voluntary tourism?
You have been attacked too in the past?
Yes, but so what? God saved me. I still roam around without security. Shall I endanger the country’s welfare just because I apprehend danger for myself? Who is not under threat? King Parikshit used to take so many precautions but could he escape his death? The Danger is inside our homes as well. We need to flirt with dangers.
Those who play with danger alone
become Chhatrapati Shivaji and
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