Bhai Sahib’s views on Katha are very much misunderstood. In his book “Katha Kirtan” he has explained the term “Katha” as it appears in Gurbani. In Gurbani, the meaning of Katha is one of the 9 meanings listed and explained later in this article.
Secondly, what Bhai Sahib has written is that doing katha of Gurbani is not kalyankaari i.e. this karma in its capacity cannot lead one to salvation as chanting of Naam and recitation of Gurbani does. It helps one to solidify one’s position on the spiritual path, provided it’s done by a person who is well-versed in meanings of Gurbani but just by listening to Katha one cannot get Paramgat (salvation).
On the other hand, the Akath Katha (description of the unexplainable i.e. Gurbani) of Naam and Naami Vaheguru that our Guru Sahibaan have done is such that just by listening to it and by uttering it, one gets paramgat. Similarly the Har Har Katha i.e. Naam is such that just by listening to this Har Har Katha (Naam) and by chanting it, one gets Paramgat (salvation).
Bhai Sahib has not said that one should not do meanings of Gurbani for personal understanding. Bhai Sahib was not against katha of Sooraj Prakash and other historical granths but he was of the opinion that the katha of Gurbani was not done at Gurdwara Sahibaan. He himself witnessed that in olden days the katha of Gurbani was not done at Gurdwara Sahibaan. Only Kirtan was sung or Katha of history was done.
Some people use the pankit below and preach that Katha is greatest Karma of all but they fail to understand that in Gurbani the word “Katha” is never used in the meanings of doing lectures, translating Gurbani, or doing katha of history. In Gurbani the word Katha is used in one of the 9 meanings listed later in this article.
"Sabh te utam Har kee Katha|| Naam Sunat Dard Dukh Latha||"
The next pankiti proves that "Har kee Katha" is referred to Naam here and not katha by some gyani. Dard (pain), dukh (sorrow) will go away listening to Naam roopi Katha and not katha by some gyani. How can the katha of a certified gyani be "Sabh tey uttam" i.e. greatest of all. Greatest Katha is Gurbani itself. What is Gurbani? Guru Sahibaan have done katha of Vaheguru and his Naam and his bhagats, in form of Gurbani. Gurbani is the Akath Katha of Naami Vaheguru. Then Har Har Katha i.e. Naam japna is the katha of Vaheguru that Gurmukhs do with every swaas.
To equate the katha of a mortal being with Gurbani is nothing short of blasphemy.
Bhai Sahib’s last book was Katha Kirtan and this book inspires one to do more paath and Naam abhyaas. This book explains the importance and greatness of Gurbani and Naam. It rejuvenates and kindles one’s faith in Gurbani and Naam.This book is about the word "katha" as it appears in Gurbani. Bhai Sahib has written that the word "Katha" appears in Gurbani in many meanings but never in the following two meanings:
1) History Katha e.g. Suraj Parkash Granth Katha etc.
2) Gurbani katha i.e. translation of Gurbani.
Following are some of the meanings of the word "Katha" in Gurbani:
1) Akath Katha (of Naami Vaheguru) through Gurbani. Akath means that which cannot be explained or expressed. Akath means Vaheguru. Akath Katha means the explanation or description of the unexplainable and indescribable Vaheguru.
2) Gur-deekhiya roop Katha i.e. Gurmantr roop Katha that we get at the time of initiation or Amrit Sinchaar Samagam.
3) Har Har Katha i.e. Katha of Vaheguru through Naam Abhyaas. In other words to Japp Naam is doing Katha of Vaheguru.
4) Katha of Vaheguru through Ajappa Jaap. When the Jaap of Vaheguru goes on all by itself, and does not stop ever, it is referred to as Ajappa Jaap. Doing Ajappa Jaap is doing Katha of Vaheguru.
5) Amrit Katha - Again this is Katha of Vaheguru through Gurbani or Naam. When one sings Gurbani, one is doing Amrit Katha of Vaheguru and his qualities.
6) Sehaj Katha: This is a mystical state where katha of Vaheguru is done by the jeev aatma, through Naam or is listened by the jeev atma when it reaches the high spiritual states.
7) Guhaj Anand Binodi Katha.
8) Akath Katha through kirtan.
9) Sadh Jana kee Acharaj Katha (7 ashtpadi of Siri Sukhmani Sahib). It means praising Guru Sahibaan through Gurbani is referred to as Sadh Jana kee Acharaj Katha.
Following is an extract from Bhai Sahib's book Katha Kirtan. It's impossible to do correct and accurate translation of Bhai Sahib's writing. Guru Sahib baksh lain.
ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਪੜੀਐ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਗੁਣੀਐ ॥ ਹਰਿ ਹਰਿ ਨਾਮ ਕਥਾ ਨਿਤ ਸੁਣੀਐ ॥
ਮਿਲਿ ਸਤਸੰਗਤਿ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਗਾਏ ਜਗੁ ਭਉਜਲੁ ਦੁਤਰੁ ਤਰੀਐ ਜੀਉ ॥1॥
In this gurvaak, reading Hargunn (qualities of Vaheguru, Gurbani) and singing Hargunn (gurbani) has been determined as Katha of Harnaam. To sing the qualities of God’s Naam is doing Gurmat Katha of Har Naam. This Love Katha is sung in Satsangat while being absorbed in Naam.
Some stubborn people who are supporters of doing Katha of Gurbani claim that in the first pankiti “ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਪੜੀਐ ਹਰਿ ਗੁਣ ਗੁਣੀਐ ॥” , both doing paath of Gurbani and kirtan of Gurbani has been clearly mentioned. The second pankiti therefore clearly refers to doing Katha of Gurbani, just as traditionally the katha of Gurbani has been done at samagams after Gurbani kirtan.
In response to the above claim, we have mentioned this many times that this (the above paragraph) is a false statement and this maryada of doing katha after kirtan just got started out of imitation. What Katha can some Kathakaar do of Naam? The words “Har Har” appear two times before “Naam” which clearly means that saying Naam again and again is doing Tatt Katha and this is not something you are supposed to do only daily (once a day) but with every breath. The Kathakaars who do katha at Gurdwaras don’t do katha of Naam but they do katha of Gurbani Shabad. (therefore they cannot use the second pankiti of the above shabad in their favour).
For some years now, the katha of amritvela hukamnama of Siri Darbar Sahib Siri Amritsar has been started at Gurdwara Manji Sahib but this maryada was not there in the past. Before, there used to be katha of only Suraj Parkash or some other historical scripture (not of Gurbani). And what Shabad Katha do they do there? They just express the false beliefs of their mind there. Many times this katha is done in form of a lecture. Famous scholars of Chief Khalsa Diwan do the katha of Gurbani standing and in lecture form. We ourselves have heard them doing so. To call this lecture, a katha, is a wrong thing to say. It is purely an entertainment of mind and nothing spiritual. No one does katha of Naam Shabad rather the real essence of Gurbani Shabad is lost during these katha samagams. They tell tales with the cleverness of their mind. Just because they call it Gurshabad Katha does not mean that it becomes Gurshabad Katha.