To the Ramnamis ramnam bhajan is both a religious practice and a form of entertainment. Insofar as it is the focus of their individual spiritual lives as well as of their shared life of devotion as a community, it is a religious practice to be taken quite seriously. At the same time, however, ramnam bhajan gatherings, especially the periodic large ones, are the only opportunity many Ramnamis have to see each other and to escape temporarily from the troubles and concerns of daily life. Thus group chanting sessions are also a time of joy and celebration. In this context bhajan is viewed as a source of entertainment, involving at times lighthearted conversation, jesting, and joking.
Besides the corpus of verses from the Manas and other texts that have been incorporated in ramnam bhajan , there is a vast array of other Manas verses
covering a broad range of subjects. Although these verses do not directly apply to bhajan topics, they are often quite useful for the purpose of conversation. Sect members will occasionally interject such verses into the chanting as a means of greeting one another, joking, complaining about the difficulties of family life, speaking irreverently about priests, politicians, or wealthy landowners, and so on.
For example, seeing a friend after a long time apart, a Ramnami may nod an acknowledgment of the other's presence while reciting the following Manas verse. The words are those of a sage greeting Ram upon his arrival at the former's hermitage.
I have watched the road day and night with deep concentration. Upon seeing [you] my Lord, my heart has been soothed.
A fitting reply to this welcoming couplet might be:
Now I have faith, O Hanuman, in the Lord's blessings upon me, for without it the company of saints cannot be gained.
If an unknown member of the sect arrives to take part in a bhajan gathering, a Ramnami may want to show hospitality and inquire about the stranger's identity. At the same time he may want to ascertain whether the stranger is aware of the conversation format and gauge his cleverness.
Are you one of the Lord's servants? My heart is filled with feelings of love.
Or maybe you are Ram, friend of the poor, who has come to grant me blessings.
With the following brief reply the newcomer could show his humility, his awareness of the conversation, and his knowledge of how to respond:
Lord, I am [Vibhisan] the brother of the ten-headed Ravan. O Protector of the gods, I was born in the family of demons.
This in turn might prompt the reply:
Vibhisan, you are triply blessed. You have become the jewel of the demon family.
In this manner the Ramnamis combine bhajan and conversation, although the process often seems more like a competition to see who can be cleverer in finding verses that apply to a variety of situations. When a verse used in conversation is replied to, a dialogue may begin, which may lead into another stylistic variant of bhajan called takkar .