SAI BABA - THE SAINT OF SHIRDI
(by Mani Sahukar)
I. The Guru's Initiation
II. Sai Baba Comes to Shirdi
III. Surrender to the Guru Is the Only Sadhana
IV. The Glory of Shirdi
V. Shri Sai Baba's Leelas
VI. How the Master Lived
VII. What the Master Taught
VIII. Sai Baba Speaks: His Charters and Sayings
IX. The Passing of Sai Baba
It is man's privilege that he has been endowed with the capacity to experiment
with Truth and to achieve in that process a new orientation of his personality.
The pathos of life with its unstable vicissitudes and frustrations leads
man at last to seek for the light that is not dimmed, the light that liberates
man and gives him a taste of a higher existence and a more nearly divine
perfection of his whole being. Tired with the limited assurances of mere
intellectualism and dry academic knowledge which seems still to leave
his personality deeply disintegrated, tired also of his endless oscillations
from pain to pleasure and pleasure to pain-man craves for wisdom, and
craves even more for that peace which passes all understanding.
This is the first step. But once this Divine discontent is felt, very
often it serves as an incentive to further researches into unexplored
levels of thought and experience. It is here that one begins to look for
inspiration and unconsciously one's being hankers for the Master, the
Guru, who alone can reveal to man his sadhana and help him to grow more
and more in spirituality until he eternally abides in the Lord. One does
not need to search for the Guru; the Guru finds his own and gathers unto
himself the earnest with a vibrant compassion.
Almost from the dawn of her history, it has been the sole privilege of
our Bharat to give birth to these supermen, these maharishis, and it is
the exalted spiritual culture which these realized souls have taught from
time to time that India has the privilege of bestowing as her unique contribution
to the world. Swami Vivekananda said: " Like the gentle dew that
falls unseen and unheard and yet brings into blossom the fairest of roses,
has been the contribution of India to the thought of the world. Silent,
unperceived, yet omniperceived in its effect, it has revolutionized the
thought of the world." Poets sometimes, and sages even more than
poets, are alone capable of substituting enlightenment for knowledge,
for they have some mysterious source of inspiration, and drawing from
this source they are able to touch the mainsprings of human endeavor.
Lowell has stated this thought aptly in Columbus except that I would substitute
the word "sages" for "poets".
... And I believe the poets: it is they who utter wisdom from the central
deep, and listening to the inner flow of things speak to the age out of
One such maha purusha was the Saint of Shirdi-Sai Baba, as he is popularly
and lovingly called by his innumerable devotees-my Master and Guru to
whose grace I owe an unspeakable debt of gratitude, at whose lotus feet
I find my only refuge.
It was in the year 1942 that I first got to know of Sai Baba, when the
revered Narasimha Swami of Madras, perhaps one of the oldest living devotees
of Sai Baba, came to my house through the kind offices of a friend. Singling
me out from among the six or seven persons who had assembled for his darshan,
Narasimha Swamiji took me aside and presented me with his books on Baba
and lovely photograph of the Saint with a benediction and words of encouragement
and hope. This is my first contact with the Guru. It seemed then to be
an accidental contact; but, it appears nothing happens without the consent
of the Divine, and very often there is some deep purpose underlying these
seemingly coincidental contacts. Strange that this old and illustrious
Swami should have come all the way to Bandra during his brief sojourn
in Bombay to visit an insignificant and an unknown being, who at that
moment had not even conceived of any spiritual values, but lived engrossed
in the illusory preoccupations of wordly pursuits! and yet not strange
when one recalls the almost peremptory saying of the Master: "I bring
my men to me from long distances under many pleas. I seek them out and
bring them to me. However distant, even thousands of miles away, my people
might be, I draw them to myself, just as we pull birds to us with a string
to their feet."
How little I did guess at that time how pregnant with deep possibilities
this meeting with Swamiji would prove for me ! To yield or not to yield
to the call of the Guru, we are no more free than the ebb and flow of
waves; but when the realization of that contact becomes conscious in one,
then one is thrilled; then one's spiritual sadhana is really said to have
begun. True, there are many failures and setbacks, and at times for long
periods, losing sight of the high ideal, one even slips back to old grooves
of thought and habit; often there is a deluded sense of progress through
a projection of one's confused self as the ideal-in short, there are many
pitfalls and obstacles. But, shouldn't these difficulties be necessarily
there, seeing that the ideal one has set oneself is the highest? And besides,
the awakened "Self" in one now no longer allows any failures.
Once ignited it draws man's whole being irresistibly onwards until the
tiny spark becomes a flame.
The many thousands of devotees of Sai Baba will bear me out when I say
that Master's peculiar characteristic is that he clings tenaciously to
his devotees as much as he expects the devotees to cling tenaciously to
him. Rarely has there been a Guru who has had the same insistent attachment
for his people-though attachment is not perhaps a very happy word-as Baba
showed for his flock, when he was alive, and continues to do even now
almost 60 years after his maha samadhi .
It all began with a vision that was vouchsafed to me soon after I acquired
Baba's photograph. Somehow one feels loath to speak of an experience so
intimate as the initiation of oneself by the Guru. It is sufficient to
say that happily for me the Saint of Shirdi elected to cast his spell
on me and awoke me to the realization of a higher rhythm and a deeper
purpose of life. Man's subconscious and unconscious are gravely unillumined
regions which give rise to chaotic thoughts and impressions and to the
all too well known complexes of fear and frustration. But, somehow also
lies hidden infinite treasures of the Spirit. How shall these be unearthed?
The Master hints at complete surrender to the Divine .
Throwing out all fear from one's consciousness, for fear is the greatest
of enemies, he compassionately exhorts his devotees to "Cast all
your burdens on me and I will bear them." Such gift is a gift. We
must, therefore, cultivate it and cultivate too a receptivity and a capacity
to open to the Guru's force, for only so can his Divine grace work satisfactorily
in us. Has not the Master said again and again-"Look to me and I
will look to you ?"
May his infinite grace shine upon this humble effort to pay homage to
his resplendent life and teachings.
Sai Baba Comes to Shirdi
Sai Baba came to Shirdi-that seems to be the starting point. From where
he came, where he was born, the time of his birth, who his parents were,
and what his creed and religion-all these important facts, important from
a worldly point of view, are shrouded in complete mystery. It was a mystery
which Sai baba took delight in perpetuating. To the many queries that
were put to him from time to time regarding his birth and parentage, the
Saint of Shirdi returned evasive replies; at best, he sometimes spoke
in parables which if taken too literally, resulted in a mass of contradictory
beliefs and theories, each set of people believing what they wanted to
believe. The Hindus thought him to be an avtar of some Godhead; the Muslims
said that he was a pir sent by Allah to liberate men. To one man he was
the avtar of Dattatreya; to another he was Akalkote Maharaj incarnated.
Each individual saw in this unique Saint the personification of his own
favorite deity, and incarnation of his own chosen ideal, and worshiped
him as such.
Through all this maze of contrary beliefs, Baba lived unperturbed with
perhaps a glint of humor in his eyes for the perplexity which these unimportant
speculations about his caste and creed roused in those who surrounded
him. For Baba was full of keen sense of humor. Though he had attained
to the highest kingship in the realm of the spirit, he was not like many
another yogi absorbed in the contemplation of his blissful state. He always
walked, talked, and laughed with his many devotees. He loved fun and loved
to poke fun at the discrepancies of human nature, though his humor was
always tempered with tenderness. His durbar in Shirdi in those glorious
days when he was in the body was a veritable abode of joy, and in no sense
did it resemble a gloomy cloister bereft of laughter and sunshine.
The Saint of Shirdi baffled his admirers. No one definitely knew whether
he was a Hindu or Muslim. He dressed like a muslim and bore the caste
marks of a Hindu! he celebrated with the same childlike eclat the festivals
of both the communities! If the Hindu protagonists felt a pride of possession
in the thought that true to their customs Baba was always burning the
sacred fire, or dhuni, before him, they were also reluctantly compelled
to admit that after all he lived in a masjid. He quoted the Koran and
delighted his Muslim worshippers and then made them look askance at his
profound knowledge of the Hindu sastras. He called himself a fakir, and
on his lips reverberated constantly the incantation Allah Malik. But,
then, he called himself a pure Brahmin too and showed a remarkable proficiency
in all yogic practices. It was a magnificent tribute to his luminous presence
that the most orthodox members of both the communities prostrated themselves
at his feet. Perhaps, such a phenomenon is yet unknown in the history
of this vast and bewildering country of ours when the same veneration
and with mutual toleration of each other's mode of worship. Sai Baba in
his infinite wisdom saw how imperative it was to harmonize people, for
he grievously hated all dissensions and was never so hurt as when he found
people arguing and quarreling. That Rama (the God of Hindus) and Rahim
( the God of Muslims) were one and the same was his constant counsel to
his followers. In Shirdi in those days a remarkable spirit of love and
brotherhood prevailed, for all communities had found a common and unifying
interest in the Divine personality of Shri Sai Baba. Could this not be
one of the important reasons why Baba set about deliberately baffling
his followers whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim ?
So, who is Sai Baba ? people ask to this day, and to those who seek for
a superficial classification of the Saint as subscribing to this or that
creed there is still no satisfactory solution to this problem. But those
few who have assimilated the teachings of the great Master realize that
"Sai is not this three and a half cubic feet of visible body residing
in Shirdi," as Baba himself was fond of repeating, but a glorious
being who had transcended the limitations of time and space to become
one with the all-absorbing and all-loving Divine. To such a one, what
did it matter how and where he was born, or what his nationality was.!
Once in reply to this same query Baba said: " I have no residence.
I am an attributeless absolute. By the action of karma, I got embroiled
and came to a body. My name is embodied dehi. The world is my abode. Brahman
is my father and maya my mother. By their interlocking, I got this body."
"Those who think I reside at Shirdi do not know the real Sai,"
he chided, "for I am formless and everywhere."
Like the late Sage of Arunachala, Bhagavan Ramana, whose life is yet another
saga of spiritual magnificence, Baba also constantly encouraged enquiry
into true Nature of the Self. The similarity of approach between these
two great teachers is significant. Bhagavan Ramana's "Who am I ?
" has become the pivot of his teachings. Sai Baba six decades ago
never got tired of telling his followers to think who they were. He often
said "Who am I -Whence ? Night and day think on this." This
was one of the most important injunctions of the Master and will be developed
further in another chapter.
To return once again to the question of his birth and parentage, it would
not be amiss to point out that Baba is one of the very rare saints of
whose birth and parentage there is absolutely no record. There has not
been a single chronicler or individual who has ever been able to cast
any light on these events. All that is known is that Sai Baba first came
to Shirdi when he was a lad of sixteen and lived there for three years.
Then suddenly he disappeared for some time and after a gap of four years
appeared in the Nizam's state near Aurangabad, from where he again returned
to Shirdi around the year 1858. After that he resided in the place of
his choice for an unbroken period of sixty years until he attained his
maha samadhi in 1918.
But, when and where was this young lad of sixteen born, where did he come
from? No one knew. Can it be that he was not born at all in ordinary human
way ? Could he not be a mahatma , a great avatar, who willed himself a
body because he wanted to fulfill a mission, because he wanted to "lad
lakhs of people to the subhra marga [sacred path]" ? A daring conception,
no doubt; but then one is justified in wondering why there is not a single
solitary clue about the birth and parentage of the elusive Saint of Shirdi.
Nor is the speculation a mere figment of the author's imagination. It
is a well established fact of spiritual lore that when a jiva reaches
Nirvana or attains liberation, he transcends his material body. No yogi
dies in the ordinary sense of the word. His mission is self-alloted and
springs from the source of his free and redeemed spirit. Such a one's
passing from amongst us is said to be a conscious and voluntary act, so
that when a liberated being leaves the world, he is not said to have died,
but to have "given up his body." If, then, in the tradition
of spiritual wisdom it is believed that great sages are not overcome by
death but will themselves to die, it is not irrational to envisage not
to go through the ordinary physiological process of birth. Shri Aurobindo,
one of the greatest seers of our times, has hinted at the above possibility
in one of his writings which is quoted below :
A soul wishing to enter a body or form for itself a body and take part
in a divine life upon earth might be assisted to do so or be even provided
with such a form by this method of direct transmutation without passing
through birth by sex process or undergoing any degradation or any of the
heavy limitations in the growth and developments of its mind and material
body inevitable to our present way of existence.
The question of the birth of Sai Baba cannot, however be profitably solved
now. It is sufficient to come within the orbit of his radiant influence,
which shines as effulgently today as it did 60 years ago, when he was
alive and residing in Shirdi. The master taught by precept and practice
and by the power and glory of his mere presence the way of life that leads
to a radical transformation in the inward man. True, he taught only through
the medium of the spoken word in the agelong tradition of many of India's
old gurus but that spoken word had in it the luster and the strength to
pierce through the limitations of time and distance and has spread far
and wide, even to the remotest recesses of our villages. Sai Baba's teachings
and life have especially captured the imagination of Maharastrians and
South Indians among whom alone there are millions of devotees at the present
day. But even in other parts of India there is no dearth of Sai bhaktas
. Curiously enough, the influence of this maha yogi is growing and spreading
more and more, instead of waning with the passage of years.
Though himself a great jnani and an able exponent of metaphysical subtleties,
Baba was preeminently the savior of the poor and the simple and the so-called
ignorant mass of humanity. Shri Aurobindo talks of divine love that is
also personal. "It is not like the ordinary personal human love depending
on any return from the person, " he says. "It is personal but
not egoistic; it goes from the real being in the one to the real being
in the other." This is the kind of love that Baba has for humanity.
He is even today actively burning with compassion for the misery and the
sorrows that seems to have found an asylum on this earth. A glance into
his eyes, and somehow one seems to hear the Christlike utterances of intense
compassion echoing back through the passage of years: "Come unto
me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."
Surrender to The Guru is the only Sadhana
It is very interesting to observe and analyse the oriental concept of
the Guru and the relationship he bears to his chosen disciples. This relationship
is in sharp contrast to the mere external and causal link that exists
between the teachers and the taught in the Western countries. According
to the occidental idea, the Master serves as a medium for imparting knowledge
or truth which is the final goal. As Aristotle said, "Dear is Plato,
but dearer still is truth." But in India truth and the Guru are completely
identified. There is no truth apart from the Guru , and to know and serve
the latter with whole-hearted devotion is also to serve the cause of truth.
In India, in particular, the Guru has almost become an accepted axiom
of spiritual progress, and as such, the relationship he bears to those
whom he guides is unique. Random would seem the road to heaven until the
Guru's grace paves the way for mortals to follow. Nor need we be denied
this grace if our quest is sincere. We have certain assurance that even
as we strive we shall rise and arrive.
The problem of human relationship is a very acute one. There is not a
single relationship on the human level which does not at some time or
another strike a reflective man as being based on egoism and mutual exploitation
of those that are related. A mother's love for her child is perhaps in
some rare cases the nearest approach to the ideal, but even that is not
perfect. A relationship without a flaw -is that possible ?. This is what
is sought to be embodied and has indeed been successfully concretized
in the beautiful bond which is established between the Guru and his devotee.
The beauty and wisdom of India's spiritual literature is enhanced by the
tribute that is paid in poetry and prose to this unique fusion of the
Guru and the bhakta. Innately mystical as the Indian temperament is, it
is no wonder that the goal is always to achieve a direct union with God.
The Sage of Shirdi recognized this and felt that the very ethos of the
nation could be found in this enduring and supreme association of the
Guru with his followers. A firm and unfaltering faith in the Guru , according
to Sai Baba, is the highest sadhana. "Trust in the Guru fully,"
he reiterated. "This is the only sadhana." Baba averred that
the secret of a successful approach was to give oneself, not to demand
or desire. The more he gives himself, the more power to receive does a
sadhaka develop, and in the measure in which the surrender to the Master
is complete, in that measure shall the initiate reap the fruits of the
Human relationship, as stated before, is always based on an instinct of
possession or appropriation. But the disciple's attitude is one of voluntary
giving of himself unspoilt by any demands untainted by any spirit of barter.
In return the Guru's grace is just as spontaneous and unstinted, in that
the Guru takes up the entire being of the chela to prepare him in the
way the Guru thinks best for the life of fulfillment and perfection. Baba
himself once poetized this idea by likening the disciple to lump of plastic
clay from which the master potter fashions fascinating pieces of pottery.
In this remolding of the aspirant, the Guru as it were fulfills himself
too; and in some subtle way his strength seems to be made perfect in weakness.
However, despite the great emphasis he laid on the need of a Guru , Baba
did not deny the possibility of attainment without one. He even allowed
that since to know oneself is the essence of spiritual growth, there was
indeed a possibility of self-realization by growth from within and not
necessarily through the Guru's intervention. This, however, he said, was
very rare. For the majority of sadhakas the Guru was a paramount necessity,
and he believed that with the Guru's radiant guidance the way could be
made not only easier but more inspiring.
To a question once asked by a simple devotee at Shirdi, Baba's reply was
as characteristically simple and direct -for it may be mentioned here
that Baba suited his teachings to the needs and capacity of the seeker;
he never confused an unsophisticated mind with unnecessary flights of
metaphysical subtleties. The devotee wanted to know how far a Guru was
needful to show the way. "The way is rugged," was Baba's response.
"There are tigers and bears on the route, but if one has a guide
with him, there is no difficulty. Then the tigers and bears move aside.
If there is no guide [Guru], there is the danger of falling into a deep
yawning pit," he said. And then again, "If one makes the Guru
the sole object of one's thoughts and aims, one attains Paramatma."
Close contact with the Supreme Master ensures a protection which seems
to envelop the disciple like an aura, helping and guiding him, and although
the Guru may not necessarily throw aside all sufferings and stumblings,
he invariably carries the seeker safely across all obstacles. That is
what Baba meant when he said, "If one devotes his entire life to
me, he need fear nothing for body or soul."
It is the Guru who guides the faltering step and forces the wavering will
and the straying gaze to find their impassioned focus on the face and
form of the radiant Master, until the devotee looks-not to look away,
but looks on with unabated ardor. Then indeed does the disciple's mind
become completely silent and can be likened into a flame protected from
the wind, burning steadily without either being ruffled or extinguished.
This is concentration of the highest sort, and Baba spoke of it as being
conducive to meditation and samadhi which in their turn lead to complete
Baba often, and without any reserve, spoke of his own Guru . Indeed it
is amazing to read and hear of the simplicity and utter lack of reticence
which Baba displayed in talking of his own highest experiences. Before
him sat a mass of mediocre humanity, most of them immature and full of
faults and shortcomings, all of them mere sadhakas groping for the Lightand
he the peerless Siddha spoke to them as if they were his equals. "My
Master told me to give bounteously to all that seek and ask," was
one of his illuminating charters, so he gave bounteously of material benefits,
as well as spiritual gifts, to his children. His treasury was indeed always
"Trust in the Guru fully -Guru is all the Gods" is, therefore,
Baba's favorite text, and he would have us base our seekings on this great
and simple foundation. His references to his own Guru are replete with
Baba once told his disciples how he met his Guru -whether this reference
was to some immediate past or a remote one belonging to some other incarnation
is not clear; nor is it certain whether the experiences Baba described
were symbolical or literal. It was enough that the utterances of this
Yogi were like some deep prophetic reverberations that gave a powerful
impetus of richness to the thoughts and lives of all those who came within
the orbit of his radiance.
Baba described how he once roamed about in a forest seeking for truth
with three other young men. They discussed amongst themselves the right
way of reaching their goal. One of them said that self-reliance was the
way; another favored self-control of the mind to free it from thoughts
and desires; and the third man cast his vote in favor of always doing
vichara distinguishing between the nitya and anitya (the changeless and
the changing). But Baba was content even at that stage to feel that surrender
of the body and the soul to the Guru was the best way. Debating thus,
the young men lost their way, for they disdained to take the help of a
vanjari who offered to feed and guide them. Baba however felt a twinge
of conscience and returned to this kind guide who had offered to help
him. It was then that the Guru came! In order to arrive at some version
of the transforming and profound allegiance that the Master expected of
a sadhaka, one cannot do better than quote here Shri Sai Baba's words
as rendered by Narasimha Swamiji.
How can I describe his [Guru's] love for me ? When he was dyanastha [in
love trance] I sat and gazed at him. We were both filled with bliss. I
cared not to turn my eyes upon anything else. Night and day I pored upon
his face with an ardor of love that banished hunger and thirst. The Guru's
absence even for a second made me restless. I meditated on nothing but
the Guru, and had no goal or object other than the Guru! Unceasingly fixed
upon him was my mind. Wonderful indeed the art of my Guru! I wanted nothing
but the Guru and he wanted nothing but his intense love for me. Apparently
inactive he never neglected me, but always protected me by his glance.
That Guru never blew any mantra into my ear. By his grace, I attained
to my present state. The four sadhanas and six shastras are not necessary.
Trusting in the Guru fully is enough ..... So under the cool shade of
the neem tree where Baba first came and sat like a fakir gradually drawing
unto himself thousands of disciples by the dazzling immensities of his
personality, no less than by the brilliant miracles he performed, today
there stands an epitaph consecrated to the memory of his Guru. For in
this spot, according to some of his devotees, lies the samadhi of Baba's
Guru, and they maintain that Sai Baba himself pointed out the spot saying
his Guru lay buried therein. But there are others who strongly repudiate
this story and deny any reference Baba made to his Guru's samadhi. We
need not, however, let this controversy worry us or make us lose sight
of the central truth. The important thing is that Baba did create an idealization
of what a Guru should be, and it is enough if we remain loyal to that
creation. Shri Krishna and Christ are not any less real and inspiring
for all the controversy which centers around the authenticity of their
existences, and it is enough too that we know that our perfect Master,
so consummate in his sainthood, so accomplished in philosophy, revered
by the age wherein he lived, his name and memory preserved with increasing
veneration by the present age, is daily resurrected in the lives and the
visions of those who place their entire faith in him.
The Glory of Shirdi
It is possible even now 33 years later to recapture vividly the wonderful
leelas of this master artist. The dynamics of his personality, the versatility
of his accomplishments, the works and miracles he wrought from day to
day, the peculiar mysticism attached to his birth and death and deeds
can be composed into a story that reads like a romance yet is unsurpassed
in the annals of biographical literature.
A visit to Shirdi is an experience in itself. An insignificant village
lying almost on the banks of the sacred Godavari River, Shirdi has nothing
much to commend in the way of natural scenic beauty or civilized amenities,
save for a profusion of sugar cane plants, from which it derived its name.
The name is, however, symbolically appropriate, for the mystic who chose
this spot as his abode did indeed fill it with the aroma of his sweet
and gracious presence. The exterior of the ashram is unimposing too, but
as soon as one enters the precincts of the Holy Shrine where the mortal
remains of the seer lie interred, an unspeakable thrill of ecstasy passes
through one's being and there is almost an instant awareness of a living
presence. This illusion, or should we not rather term it a supreme truth,
that Sai Baba is alive and actually present in some part of the ashram,
is one which many devotees have experienced. A strange expectancy hovers
about the atmosphere, as if just there around the corner we would inadvertently
come across the familiar and lovable figure.
From the many descriptions of the Saint and the remarkable likenesses
that the camera has reproduced of him in his many moods and poses, it
is possible to create him anew! A tall loosely built physique, long and
shapely limbs-one can visualize him sitting in the masjid distributing
(ashes of the sacred fire that perpetually burnt before him) to all those
who went to him. An arresting appearance, the olive complexion set off
to advantage his handsome features. But the chief attraction lay in his
deep, brilliant, and penetrating eyes-they were the eyes of mystic half
drunk with secret nectar, and yet capable of reflecting the many changes
in his moods. When his gaze fell upon a devotee, the eyes seemed to be
probing into the devotees innermost recesses, and yet no one seemed to
mind this, for the expression in those eyes was one of habitual compassion.
This was the mystic of Shirdi, as he is described by some of the veteran
devotees who saw him, and as his photographs and portraits reveal him
So whether it is in the main hall of the Shrine, or in the Lendi gardens
where Baba meditated for two hours every day, or in the Dwaraka Mayi (masjid)
where he lived and assembled his durbar and where he spread his loving
protection over devotees far and near, the feeling of his dynamic presence
and nearness persists, and there persists too a sense of an allpervading
peace, despite the very voluble and frantic worship that is poured out
by the pujaris and by the incessant chain of visitors who throng into
the ashram from the early hours of the morning. Not in Shirdi is there
any of that atmosphere of dignified calmness. No, here there is a perfect
catholicity of worship untrammeled by any rules or restrictions where
each man, woman or child just unburdens his or her heart in perfect spontaneity.
The Master's compassionate sanction is there: "Cast all your burdens
on me, and I will bear them."
In spite of all the din and noise, the place is imbued with the holiness,
and the peace which belongs to it is of another world, and it seeps into
one's innermost self almost surreptitiously. It was the same when Baba
was alive and resided in the ashram; it is the same now, three decades
later-a sudden discovery of the true silence within the heart amidst all
the noise and liveliness without; a coming upon the quintessence of one's
being-this is an experience which many devotees gratefully share. It is
as if the Master were saying again, as he was wont to say then, that true
solitude springs from the wells of the atma and comes as the result of
an inward purification. Not by any external or physical isolation but
by the difficult process of making the mind quite does man's consciousness
open to the forces of the Divine. As a matter of fact, Baba often decried
the practice of renouncing the world and running away from it, for he
feared that such an escape into isolation or solitude very often gave
rise to a false sense of smugness in the sadhaka, and made him insensitive
to a keen spiritual awareness which is the prerequisite of any successful
sadhana. For, said Baba, so long as the six elemental passions of kama,
krodha, lobha, moha, mada and matsara had not been sublimated, so long
as the mind continued to chatter, so long would it be futile for the aspirant
to seek solitude, for in the very act of alienating himself from the world
he might miss a true perspective of his inner preparedness and progress.
So Baba usually cautioned his devotees to be in the world and not of it.
This process of inward purification starts almost at the very instant
in which a contact with the Master is established. It is immaterial whether
or not a person has actually had the sage's darshan in the flesh. Baba
has his own mysterious ways of electing his disciples-through a vision,
through a dream, through a strange call like the fervid love whisper in
the dusk, and a power like the pull of a mastermind-and if by some rapport
with his seen or unseen presence the contact is once assured, then the
fate of the fortunate one is sealed. His destiny is thereafter in the
custody of a maha yogi who makes it his business to pull the struggling
soul out of the rut, and slowly but surely to set his tired feet on the
path of spiritual rejuvenation. This is a characteristic that is eminently
peculiar to the Saint of Shirdi.
Rarely, if ever, has there been among the world's realized souls one who
has so consistently gone out of his way to bring the straying sheep into
his compassionate fold. Shri Sai Baba labors-more actively now after his
death, for has he not promised that he would be active and vigorous from
the tomb also? -for the struggling humanity which he loved so much. And
with a doggedness all his own he goes on badgering the recalcitrant novice
until all barriers are broken and light is enkindled in the seeker's heart.
Shri Sai Baba is a master artist because, like a true creative genius
in any phase of art, he does not surrender his medium until he fashions
from it a thing of exquisite beauty. And if the purpose of art is the
revelation of the beautiful, then Baba is an artist par excellence, in
that his creations belong to the eternal verities of existence and surpass
the transient achievements of the ordinary artist however great he may
be. Contact with such a master gives a powerful impetus of richness to
the thoughts and lives of those who are spiritually awakened.
So it happens that all sorts of people are attached to this Master Yogi.
The ignorant and the erudite, the meek and the well-placed, the weak,
the sinning as well as the strong and pure are drawn to him. People from
all walks of life flock to Shirdi even today and find solace and fulfillment
in the pilgrimage. And, what is more, all kinds of prayers are addressed
to the Master. Devotees pray to him for health, wealth, progeny, and even
for the recovery of the lost possessions among other material benefits!
And Shri Sai Baba who himself has attained nirvikalpa samadhi, which is
accounted the highest type of realization, does not disdain to hearken
to the cries of the ordinary man to whom the eradication of worldly misfortunes
is more real than the conquest of some remote spiritual light.
With a compassion that is all embracing and an acute understanding of
the reality of human miseries and cravings, Baba invites his dependents
even now to go to him for all their needs. We are put in mind of the gracious
Nazarene who centuries ago walked the earth healing the sick, casting
out error, and setting at liberty those that were bruised; and through
the passage of centuries also comes echoing that intimate, powerful assurance:
"Ask and it shall be given unto you!" The Saint of Shirdi too
gives today the same blessed assurance to his ever increasing number of
disciples, though he is not present in the flesh.
No craving is too insignificant, no problem of the human heart too trifling
to be brushed aside. To this Master Yogi in his supreme state of consciousness,
all wants are real, for do they not partake of the hidden and merciful
Divine? It is not to be wondered at, therefore, that in answer to the
remonstrations of a certain devotee who objected to people going to Baba
for temporal benefits, Baba gave his characteristic reply: "Do not
do that. My men first come to me on account of that only. They get their
hearts' desires fulfilled, and comfortably placed in life, they follow
me and progress further."
In the last line of the Charter quoted above, however, lies also the clue
to the better understanding of Baba's methods. It is true the name of
Shri Sai Baba has become famed through out the length and breadth of the
country for the countless blessings he has poured on his devotees out
of his boundless love for them. But behind all this concession to the
ordinary mortal's lowly needs are hidden deep and far reaching effects.
It is as if Baba were launching on purpose a strategic campaign to win
over his adversaries to his side. Once a man goes to Sai Baba, he keeps
on going irrevocably until the surrender is complete, for, with each approach
to the Master, there is a corresponding process of purification in the
seeker's heart; at first it is barely predictable, then it is conscious
This is the secret behind Baba's wonderful leelas; this is the purpose
for which he encourages people to ask for the good things of life. Not
to acquiesce in the shortcomings of the earth-bound man, but on the contrary
to draw him gradually away from the world's maya is his ultimate purpose.
Unlike most yogis, therefore, Baba actively encourages the practice of
going to him for material favors. Indeed he even chides those who refrain
from asking. His attitude is that of the Universal Mother whose business
is to tend and fulfill all the wants of her children. But Baba knows too
that a time will soon come when the person himself will cease asking and
will crave only for union with the beloved Guru. In his incarnate person
Baba embodied the conception of Divine motherhood.
It is because of this idea that Baba called the masjid where he was wont
to sit and preach by the name of Dwaraka Mayi. "Highly merciful is
this Dwaraka Mayi," he said; " She is the mother of those who
place their entire faith in her." This spot too in Shirdi has become
a holy landmark.
Perhaps it is the light of the Spirit that glimmers in its precincts waiting
for its hour to reveal itself fully to those who can assimilate it, that
gives to this durbar an atmosphere of intense sanctity. This sanctity
is not only acquired but somehow innate in the place itself. Baba often
emphasized the importance of Dwaraka Mayi and spoke of its purity as if
the hall were something apart from his own spiritual kingship. But it
is in this spot that the Great Master lived and passed away; it is here
that he preached his deathless gospel and performed his wonderful miracles.
No wonder that the atmosphere has absorbed all the glory of those sixty
years of peerless guruship when he inspired thousands to riseup in their
own strength and freedom, to conquer, and to create.
This durbar remains intact, the same simple construction it was in the
days of the Master, a priceless legacy from him to us who revere him.
In the center of the hall where Baba used to sit is built a small wooden
throne like seat on which there is a life-size portrait of the Guru done
in oils by one Mr. Jayakar of Bombay. A brief reference to this beautiful
picture of Sai Baba is unavoidable. Mr. Jayakar is not an artist of any
great recognized international fame, but in this portrait of the Saint
of Shirdi he has produced a masterpiece, not in any strict academic sense
however, because it is quite possible that from a technical point of view,
the painting is full of flaws, and the art critic may find in it many
shortcomings of line and perspective and color tones. Nevertheless, the
painting is a masterpiece, for in it somehow the subject has come alive!
The picture assures almost a three-dimensional reality, a hammering, insistent
presentation of the Soul, not a mere thing of canvas and oils, but a creation
that manifests the supermental touch. The eyes have the luster, brightness
and the compassionate moisture which is seen only in life., and the smile,
curiously resembling the smile of Mona Lisa in Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece,
is no less real and vivid. "It is not a painted smile," was
the outburst of a devotee. "It is not static, but alive and real,
a thing of flesh and blood." That could be said of the whole picture.
It is not some static likeness of the Saint that has been reproduced on
canvas; it is as if the Master had himself descended into the picture
and made it real and immortal! It is very interesting to record that the
painting was done when Baba was actually present in Shirdi, and when the
inspired artist showed his work to him, Baba hugged the portrait to his
heart and is reported to have said, "This picture will live after
me." This prophecy has come true. In Dwaraka Mayi, with this immortal
portrait at one end, and the sacred fire which has not been allowed to
be extinguished since well nigh a hundred years at the other end, one
can find anew the infinite splendors of his supernal light!
Shirdi has become immortal today as Brindaban in the days of yore. And
in the all-embarrassing panorama of historical truths, posterity will
deem it an abode of the Divine.
Shri Sai Baba's Leelas
How shall humanity rise and awake to that supreme vision of Truth which
alone gives a meaning and purpose to life and its leelas? This life as
it is lived on the material and physical level is barren and unproductive
until it finds its focus in the Eternal; then alone does it burst forth
into a grand symphony, for its creative energies are loosened by this
contact with the light "that shines forth from beyond the darkness."
The assumption of imperfection by the perfect is one of the most extraordinary
leelas of the Divine as He manifests himself in the Universe. How the
Divine reconciles and unites in itself all the variegated and even the
opposite and opposing faces of its manifested being is a secret known
to the Divine itself. We can only call it a leela and accept it as we
accept many other fundamentals of existence.
Among the many wonderful miracles of Shri Sai Baba-and truly the amazing
and supreme quality of these miracles has not yet been duplicated since
the days of Christ-the most profound and important miracle is that of
his very being and existence on earth. With the recognition of this fact
we are inevitably led into a closer analysis of the distinction between
sainthood and avatarhood.
It is necessary to discriminate between these two concepts before we are
able to declare that Sai Baba was not merely a Saint but also an avatar.
Clearly, since the purpose of life is the liberation of oneself from the
thralldom of the ego, in an infinity of release and freedom, the individual
who achieves this ineffable state commands our homage and we rightly call
him a saint. All realized beings-and happily our world can boast of many
such-are our saints, but not all saints, not all those sages who have
attained self-realization are necessarily avatars. Avatarhood has a deeper
Avatarhood is a concept peculiar to the Indian scriptures, grounded as
it is on the Vedantic concept of Brahman, other than whom and different
from whom there is not, nor can be anything else. So that whereas other
religions have talked of God sending prophets or saints to redeem the
world, the Hindu Shastras have gone beyond this in exclaiming that God
himself comes sometimes to the earth to sport with his devotees. These
special incarnations assumed by the Supreme Being in order to help the
processes of evolution are termed avatars. As declared in the Bhagavadgita,
"The Lord manifests Himself as a human being and acts like a human
being, in order to bestow His grace on jivas, so that hearing of his sports
they may attach themselves to Him."
A further elucidation of how, though the Divine is unborn and infinite
in its own true nature, it can yet assume finite existence by supreme
resort to the force of his self maya, is contained also in the following
pregnant line of the Gita: "Standing upon my own nature, I am born
by my self maya." This, as hinted before, is the Divine's most significant
leela or miracle. The Divine takes birth in human shape and form with
all the limitations common to humanity, as one of us, so that he can fulfill
his self-allotted mission within some particular self-allotted period
of time. Whenever there is the fading of dharma and the uprising of evil,
then the Divine looses forth Himself into birth. This is of course no
ordinary birth into ignorance as we understand it, but the descent of
the illumined Light with all the semblance merely of ignorance and finiteness.
But though the Divine does so limit itself, it does not at the same time
get entangled in the inevitable mechanism of karmic laws known to ordinary
births. The very word avatar itself means a descent: " A coming down
of the Divine below the line which divides the Divine from the human world
Now the purpose of such a descent is twofold. Not only does the Lord take
birth in human form to uphold dharma, but he further so arranges that
by impact with His presence on earth, man also becomes conscious of his
Divinity and seeks to ascend to the Godhead above him. So that with every
birth of the avatar into the world, millions of people are born anew in
the sense that they are made actively conscious of their Divine potentialities.
It is only an incarnation of this type that declares himself: "I
am the way and the truth and the life," and holding forth before
man the example of his pure and blameless life on earth can inspire him
to adopt and assimilate it.
Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was no ordinary saint, but an avatar even as Christ
and Krishna and Buddha were. His sayings and charters are replete with
the assertion of himself as the supreme Godhead. This is proof enough
of his Divine descent. He often identified himself with Vithoba, with
Dattatreya, with Laxmi Narayana, with Shri Krishna, and many other avatars
known to the Hindu scriptures. Not only was this identification verbal,
but it has been the experience of many devotees that Baba often took on
the form and appearance of several avatars. In fact, to assume the very
image and likeness of that particular Godhead for whom a devotee had veneration
was Baba's favorite method of effecting the devotee's transformation.
He often enough declared that he in his visible human form and the supreme
invisible Lord were one and the same Divine Purushottama. " I am
in Gangapur, Pandharpur, and in all places. I am in every bit of the globe.
All the Universe is in me," he said. On one occasion when a devotee
named Uddhava asked him from which purana he should study, Baba replied
significantly, "From that in which I have already spoken to you,"
and it transpired that he was referring to the Bhagavadgita.
It is abundantly clear from all these declarations that Baba was no ordinary
saint or prophet, but Divinity itself made manifest in order to mold the
thoughts, feelings and actions of man according to his shining example.
For it is not given to ordinary realized beings, great souls though they
are, to speak of themselves in the absolute vein, nor indeed have they
ever been known to do so. These supreme declarations are the prerogatives
only of those Divine Incarnations who are termed avatars.
Shri Sai Baba's Divine avatarhood is a certain conviction in the minds
of each and every one of his devotees. This conviction is based not only
on the declarations of the Master as cited before, but also on the wondrous
quality of his deeds and doings. Not the least among these are the miracles
of Sai Baba, the experiences of devotees in all walks of life, super skeptics
among them. Wonderful as these experiences are, it would be more profitable
to view them calmly and in their proper perspective. For when these miracles
of Sai Baba assume a sensational value in the minds of devotees, they
are apt to confuse these persons and make them forget the great perpetrator
of the miracles in the unusual character of the miracles themselves. If
the Master's miracles become more important than the Master himself, then
surely they defeat their own purpose. These miracles, these experiences,
should rather be evaluated as signs of the great Guru's omnipotence and
as sure proof of his Divine descent. They should act as an incentive to
a further understanding of his Divine nature and message. Even so it is
also equally true that to reject this phase of Baba's manifestation is
to limit oneself and arrest one's spiritual growth. A gathering together
of all these wonderful miracles of Sai in an integral understanding of
the Master is the correct approach.
In view of this understanding it would be in the fitness of things to
substitute the word miracles by the more comprehensive term leelas. This
exquisite denomination at once gives to these uncommon experiences of
Sai bhaktas the correct touch of dignity which places them far above the
trivialities of a soothsayer or even above the lesser miracles of a prophet
who is not an avatar. The Divine Leela is one of the most aesthetic aspects
of religious philosophy. It lies in nature of the supreme Purushottama
to reveal Himself in the way he does. His leelas are His manifestations,
and since the Lord is all in all, there can be no miracles from the point
of view of the eternal. Sai Baba therefore does not perform any miracles
in this sense. He simply manifests his leelas in order to sport with his
Nevertheless, from our limited level of comprehension the marvelous experiences
of many of Baba's cherished devotees are miraculous enough. Quite a collection
of these marks of the great Master's grace, have been compiled in the
excellent volumes of the revered Narasimha Swamiji, and the authentic
efforts of "Hemadpant" in his Sai Charitha. All the same, it
would not be amiss to mention here a few of these remarkable instances
of Baba's great powers. The story of how the Master once lit his wick-lamps
by feeding them with water instead of oil is a very well-known testimony
of many of his devotees who actually saw the miracle.
Baba was in the habit of borrowing oil form the shopkeepers of the village
for his little lamps which he kept burning the whole night, both in the
masjid and the temple. Once these merchants who were wont to supply him
with oil gratis took it into their heads to refuse this little service
to the Master. Quite unperturbed, the Saint filled his lamp containers
with water and lighted the wicks-and lo, they started burning, and kept
burning all throughout the silent watches of the night as if in defiance
of the ungracious behavior of the shopkeepers who later repented and became
Instances abound too of Baba's control over the elements. Christ like
he could command the winds and the rain and the lightning to obey his
behests. One evening there was a terrible and destructive storm at Shirdi
and the little village was flooded with incessant rain. The many local
deities were sought to be appeased but in vain. At last people flocked
to the masjid and prayed to Baba to quell the storm. The great yogi came
out to the edge of the masjid and ordered the storm to cease. At once
the winds and the rain and the lightning obeyed his sweet will and became
These wonderful miracles have not ceased to take place today though the
Master is not visibly present. The curative impact of his personality
on the sick and the ailing and even on those suffering from so-called
incurable and grave maladies are too well known and too many to recount
in this little volume. Under the aegis of our beloved Guru the lame have
indeed walked, the blind have recovered their sight and the deaf their
hearing, and in his infinite mercy he still goes about healing the sick
and giving succor to those that are otherwise bruised and unhappy.
Baba's ways are indeed inscrutable. Only those whom he wishes to accept
as his own are able to reach him or to go to Shirdi. In those days some
visitors were summarily dismissed by the Master; others who had gone for
a short visit out of mere curiosity were made to stay on until they became
his most devout followers.
It is interesting to record one more experience of a living devotee as
an example of one of the most extraordinary leelas of the Shirdi Saint.
Dr. Rustomji, a homeopath who is now engaged in selfless work in the homeopathic
dispensary recently opened in Shirdi, tells us of this wonderful miracle.
It appears that the doctor was owing a sum of 300 rupees to a certain
party in Bombay. The doctor came down to Bombay and made out a check for
that amount and passed it on to his friend, telling him he could cash
it when he liked. On returning home, however, the doctor found much to
his dismay that his passbook showed that he had not that much balance
in his account. The thought that his check might be dishonored, and what
his friend would think about him in consequence, upset the doctor very
much. In the predicament, with his usual implicit faith in his Guru, Dr.
Rustomji pleaded with Sai Baba to get him out of the impasse. His prayer
was answered in a strange manner.
A couple of days later a casual acquaintance called on the doctor and
asked him if he could keep a small packet for him which he would come
and claim after three months. Dr. Rustomji was surprised at this unusual
request and asked the man what the packet contained. "It contains
a sum of 300 rupees," was the amazing reply! "Do you mind if
I use the money?" asked the doctor promptly. The gentleman said he
did not mind what the doctor did, so long as the money was returned to
him when he came to claim it after three months. One can imagine the doctor's
reaction! Surely this was Baba's leela, he felt. He rushed to the bank
with the amount, and after ascertaining that his check had not yet been
presented, he paid the amount on his account with a sigh of relief. His
honor was saved.
Three months passed by, but the man who had given him the money to keep
did not turn up. Nor did the doctor know of his whereabouts. After six
months, Dr. Rustomji suddenly saw his benefactor walking down the road.
The doctor at once went up to him and after greetings were exchanged said,
"Why did you not claim your money all these months ? You can take
it back now." But the man so addressed looked blank and said he hadn't
given any money to the doctor. Thinking that the man was joking, the doctor
tried to press the packet of notes into his hand. But that gentleman would
not have it and vehemently denied having visited the doctor or ever having
given him any money at all! It was then brought home to the spellbound
doctor that this was the extraordinary sport of the Divine, incarnate
in the person of the unassuming fakir who had lived in Shirdi 60 years
We have described these experiences in full detail as examples, typical
of the kind of miracles the Master performed, for such miracles have taken
place again and again in the lives of many other devotees, and what is
more, continue to occur even today. Among the Sai bhaktas, it is perhaps
the pure in heart who are blessed with the vision and the grace of the
Guru-God. Many a man of humble origin with a simple and unsophisticated
mind gets similar marks of the Master's favor. Perhaps Baba like men to
be simple and childlike in order that they may enter the kingdom of heaven.
What is the rational explanation of these miracles? Is there a duplication
of personality? Does Sai himself enter into the physical semblance of
a soul ? One cannot say. But one can say with utter conviction that these
are no ordinary miracles. Such marvels can only spring from a Divine source-and
they establish beyond all doubt the supreme avatarhood of the Saint of
Although such uncommon wonders occur in the lives of some bhaktas only,
each and every devotee is blessed with some concrete token of the Master's
protection and love. Such inner vision and psychic experience are important
avenues of Divine help. Through these means Baba is able to create that
intense longing for the Divine which nothing can damp-neither delays,
nor difficulties, nor disappointments.
Together with these inspiring instances of Baba's innate Lordship may
also be recounted the unique phenomena of what is known as Baba's anterjnana,
or omniscience. Baba himself, at the close of noon arati one day, made
an avowal of this power which he possessed thus: "Wherever you may
be, Whatever you may do, remember this always-I ever know whatever you
do or say." No matter with what secret thought or desire or doubt
an individual confronted him at Shirdi, Baba could read him like an open
book. Sometimes he exposed those thoughts as much as to rebuke them: "Oh
those of little faith," he seemed to say," wherefore do you
doubt?" At other times he started replying to the half-formed questions
of the casual visitor; often he solved the problems of those who had not
even had the time to speak of their needs. This anterjnana was not limited
to those who were in his actual presence. Baba could express the thoughts
of persons, thousands of miles away, foresee events and reveal the past,
present, and future as if space and time had shrunk into an all-revealing
point of eternity in front of this omniscient and omnipresent presence
Endlessly could we go on recounting the leelas of the Blessed One. Perhaps
hearing of his consummate deeds which out-flash all religious theories
and rituals, thousands will come within the ambit of his gracious influence
opening to the children of men the gates of immortality.
How the Master Lived: Dakshina
Over a century ago one maha purusha in the form of a young boy of 20 appeared
in the unobtrusive little hamlet of Shirdi. Dressed in a long kufni with
a begging bowl as his sole possession this young and handsome lad, appearing
from nowhere as it were, came and sat beneath a neem tree. He soon lit
a fire in front of him which he always kept burning. When he felt hungry
he went off and begged for his crust of bread. To all intents and purposes
he might have been just an ordinary fakir, a little touched in the head,
so some people of the village imagined at first when they heard him mumbling
to himself. But soon the glory of his atma began to attract mortals to
him as bees are attracted to a hive.
Somehow, to man is given by the Almighty's grace a kind of super-sense,
as it were, which enables him to recognize the greatness of the holy ones
by mere contact with their presence. No doubt we have, and we will always
have, in our midst the unbelievers, those men of little faith, the philistines
who, due probably to their Karma, are not prepared to receive the grace
of sadgurus. But, on the whole , there are not many amongst us who are
not strengthened by this contact with a saint and who do not come to recognize
in time the sweetness of a life of righteousness. Wherever a maha yogi
chooses to install himself, around him there grows an atmosphere of sanctity,
and thousands of pilgrims are ready to take refuge in him, in his dharma
, and in the glorious Satsang which he keeps open in his infinite mercy
to the rich and poor, to the great and humble alike.
So it was with this great yogi too. He had no pretensions, he assumed
no titles. He called himself a fakir and accepted the simple name of Sai.
He sat under that immortal tree and later in the adjoining mosque for
60 long years, and around them imperceptibly there grew the ashram as
it stands today. Gradually the fame of the enigmatic one began to spread.
No one seemed to know who he was or where he came from. Some spoke of
his compassionate bearing, others raved about his healing touch , and
some related stories of his remarkable all-knowingness. If he went to
beg for food, he was like no ordinary beggar. One day he astounded a lady
who refused him charity by gently rebuking her thus: " Mother, you
have such and such number of chapatis , so much rice, [naming the exact
quantity], why do you refuse a crust to the poor fakir? "
Slowly but surely the influence of the strange being spread far and wide.
Although in a very short while money began to flow into his coffers and
he could have lived like a prince, he still chose to beg for his food,
and every morning the sweet and lovable figure would be seen going out
with the begging bowl to four or five of the neighboring houses from where
he collected his ration of food. Much later he relaxed this severe discipline
and would partake of the naiveda, food given as offering by any of the
visiting devotees. But this he did more as a concession to the feelings
of those who loved and worshiped him.
Nor did the Master ever change his mode of dress. A long loose robe reaching
to the ankles and a piece of cloth tied around his head completed his
attire. He did not possess a wardrobe and it was useless to give him any
clothes for he immediately gave them away ! The kufni remained on his
body until it was torn and tattered or until some devotee forcibly took
it off him and made him don another. Even so the great one would sometimes
sit with a needle and thread repairing the torn garment with an incorrigible
But it is these habits that caused him to be loved so intimately. Veteran
devotees still recount with tears in their eyes some of these very human
and humble traits of the Master. He did indeed descend from his heavenly
abode to be as one of us, and, what is more, to be akin to the poorest
among men so that he might with greater understanding and assurance relieve
their sorrows and wants. Though he could have lived in a magnificent palace
he showed vairagya for material things by living in a hut with few or
no wants, at one time with only a shaky, rickety plank for a bedstead.
It was characteristic of the Master , that although he lived in such austerities,
he neither preached to his men nor allowed them to practice any sort of
physical mortification. Indeed he was against austerity for the sake of
austerity. He never forbade anyone to refrain from eating flesh or other
palatable food. He sometimes even forced the orthodox to eat onions against
their will; and on occasions he is reported to have cooked meat and distributed
it to all. This the Master did because he sensed the danger of men forgetting
the spirit of the dharma in the mere letter of its formal rituals. No
amount of physical and external vairagya would serve any purpose if the
man who practiced it remained impure in mind and heart. Therefore Baba
cautioned his devotees not to make self-mortification an end in itself.
Austerities are a means only to inward purification, and if they do not
promote this effect, they are not only useless and unprofitable but even
dangerous, he preached.
Baba did not deem it an evil to satisfy the natural wants of the body,
and if devotees undertook a penance fast, Baba always pointed out the
uselessness of their endeavors until these erroneous ideals of self-affliction
which chilled their hearts melted away under the gentle warmth of the
Master's persuasion. How can anyone be free from self by leading a wretched
life if he does not succeed in quenching the fires of lust and greed ?
In Baba's ashram, therefore, there was no dearth of good and plenty of
food. He himself sometimes indulged in cooking. A huge vessel was placed
on the fire in which Baba poured ghee, and then all manners of vegetables
and rice and spices were thrown in and cooked in a mighty hotchpotch!
Out of this magnificent repast Baba himself served out the food to all
those who were in the ashram, and it is said that no matter how many people
came forward to eat there was enough food to go around.
As a matter of fact, the atmosphere in the whole durbar used to be delightfully
informal and happy, and , as pointed out elsewhere, did not in the least
resemble the puritanic atmosphere of a monastery.
The great Guru was always approachable. Men, women and children could
go to him at any time without fear of being rebuffed. Most of the time
Baba sat out in the masjid ministering to his people. Whenever an opportunity
offered itself, he gave a discourse on moral and philosophical issues
and brought home to the assembly the futility of lives absorbed in material
pursuits. The rest of the time he busied himself in solving the problems
of the ordinary householder, healing the sick, and restoring hope and
comfort to the afflicted. People came to him for all their wants and sorrows.
They had but to ask, and it seemed to be Master's business to give to
all those who asked, provided in his wise estimation they did not ask
Sometimes, however, the compassionate one wistfully waited for people
to ask for the real treasures of the spirit. "No one cares to listen
to me or the wisdom I can give, " he sometimes sorrowfully complained.
And if in the assembly there were a few who showed a thirst for eternal
values, Baba felt radiantly happy and sought in every way to guide such
seekers to the right source.
The Master's knowledge of the sastras , the puranas, the Koran, the Gita,
and other scriptures was phenomenal. He could quote from Skanda verse
and line to show where a particular truth was embodied, much to the amazement
of the pandits and scholars who went to him, and his interpretations and
elucidations of the difficult passages were extremely revealing and inspiring.
Such was Baba's durbar.
There was never a dull moment in the Sage's presence. On the contrary.
Baba always made the proceedings lively and interesting by his wit and
charm. Due to his extremely cordial and friendly demeanor, no one stood
in awe of the great Saint. People both loved and revered him. He was generally
very sweet-tempered and tolerant, and he allowed people to take all manner
of liberties with his person, in that they adorned him with flowers or
sandal paste and vermilion and performed all kinds of rites and pujas
on him. He submitted to all this with the true meekness which only the
great ones possess.
But there were times when Baba got into a towering rage and raved and
shouted like one possessed. This show of temper would last for a few moments,
and then Baba would again melt into tenderness. Devotees sometimes were
at a loss to understand such manifestations of wrath. It must be added
here that the anger which realized beings exhibit is not of the same quality
that ordinary men indulge. When saints get angry, they do so for the good
of those who are so chided. The Guru only appears to be wrathful, but
there is no scar in his heart which is always full of love for his children.
Every morning for a couple of hours Baba retired to the Lendi gardens
where he remained alone and undisturbed. At that time too his aspect was
forbidden and stern. Indeed, he looked so very awesome and terrific in
those two hours that devotees could not go anywhere near him. It seemed
as if he assumed at times the third and most awe-inspiring aspect of the
trimurtic conception of the Divine. As Shiva the Destroyer, no less than
as the Creator and Preserver, did the maha yogi manifest himself. But
soon after his return from the gardens the Master would relax again and
become his sweet and gentle self. His ways were indeed sometimes mysterious!
Before we close this chapter giving these few glimpses of the habits and
temperament of the beloved Master, it is necessary to give an explanation
of the strange giving and taking of dakshina which was a practice peculiar
only to Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi. There were certain devotees from whom
Sai Baba always extracted money, and the huge amount of wealth he collected
in this way, it was his practice to distribute among other devotees. His
allotments were peculiar too. People used to get fixed allowances every
day, ranging from 4 annas to 100 rupees. This was not some crude form
of socialism which Baba sought to put into practice, for he did not invariably
collect money from the rich to distribute it to the poor. There seemed
to be a deeper purpose behind this strange giving and taking dakshina
which is difficult to understand from our level of consciousness.
The ways of Almighty are not all the time comprehensible, but nevertheless
they have their own mysterious functions in the entire pattern. Once when
Baba was asked why he took so much money, he replied: "I do not ask
of everyone. I ask only from those whom the fakir [God] points out. But
in exchange I have to give that man ten times the amount which I have
taken from him." And this proved to be true in every case. Whenever
Baba took away either money or valuable articles from anyone, that man
was not impoverished. On the contrary, in some mysterious way he got back
what he paid ten times over in the shape of a sudden fortune or gift or
through a rise in his salary. Baba often demanded dakshina from a person
who could ill-afford it, but only to pay it back to him in this manner.
It was, therefore thought to be a greater privilege to be asked for dakshina
than to receive it. Moreover, this asking of dakshina might also have
been a powerful means of promoting vairagya for wealth and worldly possessions.
Probably Baba sometimes felt that attachment to money was the only weakness
that delayed the spiritual growth of certain devotees, and this was his
way of curing the weakness. In the same way, if Baba found that a person
had collected money which he did not merit, he took this exact amount
away on the pretext of demanding dakshina. Likewise did he denude that
man of the amount which in some amount he had promised to give away in
charity if his wishes were fulfilled, but conveniently forgot to do so
now that he was prosperous.
The trouble was that nothing was hidden from this mahayogi. No matter
how deeply embedded even in subconscious a devotee's thoughts and desires
were, Baba always knew! Dakshina had therefore both a literal and a symbolic
meaning and value. Every morning Baba started his day as a penniless fakir.
As the day advanced he would amass a fortune which even princes would
have envied; then again, before eventide, his treasury was once again
empty! This too was one of the leelas of the Saint of Shirdi.
These are some interesting glimpses of the habits and temperament of the
beloved Guru. We can understand from these significant details of his
life that in all that he did and said Baba clearly revealed his transcendental
origin. When the Divine descends into the earth consciousness, he has
no need to learn and acquire knowledge. Knowledge and wisdom are imminent
to him, for is He not from which all knowledge, all wisdom emanate? Is
He not the fountain source from which springs all beatitude and goodness?
Why need we go to any other source but this! But the Divine is also all-merciful,
and to enable the priceless gems of wisdom to be grasped and assimilated
by mortal men, He chooses thus to embody himself in a shape and form which
men can worship and cherish and understand more readily than an abstract
ideal of the Godhead. That is why to millions of Sai bhaktas the Master
is the resurrection and the life, and that is why Baba often said: "Those
who come to me reach their Chaitanya, their God." " Simply say
Sai-Sai," he pronounced. "I care not for show of respect and
What The Master Taught
Again and again during his eventful pilgrimage on earth, the Master exhorted
his devotees to spend all their time, energy, and thought in knowing the
Self. Steady and disciplined inherence in the Self was what he always
advocated. After all, the most fundamental thought in the mind of every
individual is the thought of "I" and "Me". Therefore,
it is only through a concentrated self-enquiry that one can arrive at
the Truth-thus taught the Master. That is why he repeatedly said, "Who
am I? Think, always think about this." "We have only to see
the Self," he said once to a devotee," and the rest becomes
It used to be the custom in those days at Shirdi for devotees to go to
Baba on particular occasions, each with a religious book in his hand in
order to invoke the Sage's blessing on that particular work which the
devotee found inspiring. On one such occasion a certain devotee went empty
handed. Instead of rebuking him, as was expected by those present, Baba
on the contrary turned to this devotee with a radiant smile and told him
that he was wise, for it was not by reading pages and pages of the shastras
that a man could assimilate wisdom-true wisdom lay concealed in one's
own atma. Even in order to understand what meditation is, one must first
and foremost understand the meditator. If man is a mass of contradictions
and conflicts internally, how can he assimilate anything from the outside!
The impressions of a confused person, of an unintegrated one, would necessarily
be confused and unreliable also. This was one example of the Master's
Such preoccupation with the Self leads one in time to realize that the
Self is identical with God. Baba meant that by constantly regarding oneself
as God, the importance that one unconsciously gives to the changing and
mutable qualities of the jiva would be given up. Man's attention would
then be focused on that which is changeless. According to Sai Guru, this
process of identifying oneself with the Supreme Being can be greatly strengthened
by contact with saints.
Whenever people quarreled and fought, Baba's favorite method of chiding
them was by asking them a counter question. "Who is quarreling with
whom?" he asserted. "Just think of that." What the Master
wished to emphasize was that if we see God in every place and in everyone,
then we would have no scope left for hatred and dissension. "Therefore,
let none hate and let none forget that I, you, and all the world are parts
of the Lord," said Baba .
But the blessed Master did not merely stop at giving this injunction.
He showed ways and means whereby this could be put into practice. It was
all very well to advise men to conduct an enquiry into the true nature
of the Self. How was an ordinary mortal to set about this difficult task
of knowing himself ? After all, it was not given to every one to be introspective,
nor was it possible for the majority of human beings to grapple with abstractions.
Baba knew that what people needed was practical guidance and help. It
would not be of much use to give wise metaphysical formulas if the common
man could not assimilate it. Baba's practice was to elaborate his injunctions
by constant references to practical modes of approach.
The best way of giving effect to this process of knowing oneself was,
according to Sai Baba, through a complete surrender to God. Ideas of what
God is vary widely. Those who believe in a personal deity as embodied
in the form of a Guru, for instance, can get a tremendous push forward
in the evolution of their spiritual growth. Surely, to be able to call
upon a power like this which is the master of all material conditions
is to have the "pearl of great price", for which we may well
work, and pray.
It seems then that the Sage of Shirdi did favor the bhakti marga to salvation.
Once when comparing jnana and bhakti, the Master likened the former to
ramphal and the latter to sitaphal. The pulp of ramphal is difficult to
comb out, but the sitaphal is sweet and its pulp is easily accessible.
If the jnani falls, there is a danger of his remaining in that state,
since he may not able to help himself, but the bhakta always has the compassionate
succor of his master to support and reinstate him. Perhaps Sai Baba felt
that the crying urgency of this kali yuga was bhakti .
The first and most fundamental requisite is of course a strong desire
for moksha, a hunger and thirst for the Divine which no material conditions
can ever assuage. Wealth, kith and kin are all transient. So long as material
attachments occupy a vital part of man's thoughts, he cannot go far. Equipped
with this burning desire for union with the Lord, if a devotee has complete
faith in His mercy and surrenders all to His wisdom, then his task becomes
less arduous and his ultimate success is assured. Not only this, but bhakti,
even if not practised very thoroughly, is still a powerful weapon of purification,
in that it gradually leads the bhakta to a greater and greater concentration
of worship; that is to say, if one may so express it, even a casual bhakta
is transformed into an ardent one sooner or later. Only a beginning has
to be made; the rest is taken care of. How reassuring this thought is.
We cannot take the wrong path if we keep conscious of the light .
Baba, therefore, gave great importance to all those practices that aid
concentration in the Divine. He greatly favored the use of japa, repetition
of the Guru-God's name either audibly or mentally. Such repetition, Baba
said, may seem mechanical at first, but it slowly draws the mind into
the vortex of a one-pointed concentration. From a practical aspect its
aim is to cultivate emotional and mental stability and thus prepare the
soil for the realization of Brahman.
It is important at this stage to make a clear distinction between the
kind of bhakti that Sai Baba enjoined his followers and the undisciplined
emotionalism that sometimes goes by the name of bhakti. Baba gave bhakti
the highest place in the sadhana, but he wanted this emotion to be purified.
The emotion must not be allowed to degenerate into mere sentimentalism
which has not the same poise and balance. True bhakti can be easily distinguished
from mere hysterical emotionalism. For in the latter there is ever a sign
of incompleteness, a hankering, and an exhaustion due to overspent and
misspent energies. The lower type of bhakti is a kind of deluded extension
of self-love. It has its roots in the ego; that is why it is impatient
for returns. But the bhakti that Baba enjoined is bhakti plus yoga-bhakti
that is shorn of all selfish considerations, bhakti that is also a rigorous
discipline. In the giving of such devotion there is a feeling of completeness
and fulfillment and a total conserving of one's energies, so that the
true bhakta never has a sense of frustration, nor is he ever exhausted.
There is no doubt that Shri Sai Baba was the apostle of love and his predilections
lay more in the direction of the bhakti way to salvation. Not once but
several times did he emphasize the great value he attached to devotion
and surrender. " I am the bond slave of my devotee. I love devotion.
If one ever dwells on me in his mind and will not even taste food before
offering it to me, I am his slave-so also if hungers and thirsts after
me and treats all else as unimportant." Such was the illuminating
language in which the sage gave predominance to the function of Love.
Shri Sai Baba's followers, therefore, have so to elevate their understanding
as will enable them to realize the living beauty of love, its Divine energies,
its health-giving properties, its power to demonstrate immortality.
The Master revealed himself to be a true and sensitive psychologist, in
that he always recognized that the need and the desire to adore is inherent
in man. Bhakti is a natural state of the human heart; one does not have
to acquire it or be initiated into it. It is there, and to ignore it is
to ignore one of the most vital traits of human nature. Like any other
innate gift, however, bhakti has to be developed and chiseled into the
right shape before it can yield any creative results, before it can effect
an opening for the Divine to enter.
Baba did not in any sense belittle the supreme value of knowledge. At
the same time, he did not make it incumbent upon every sadhaka to grasp
the subtleties of fundamental truths with the intellect. It was enough
if a devotee earnestly inspired in the silence of his heart to become
one with the Lord. To such a one is given infinite protection and guidance,
and ultimately the bhakta necessarily becomes a jnani too. Knowledge comes
of itself by an instrument that is far more potent that the mind. Bhakti
brings in its wake knowledge that is both spontaneous and effortless.
Those seekers who have a purely intellectual bias sometime wonder why
Shri Sai Baba tolerated and even fostered external forms of worship. But
Baba deliberately encouraged rituals and ceremonials and held them to
be the outflowing expressions of the inner devotion. Symbols are the very
source and support of life. Man thinks in terms of symbols. Why then should
there not be symbols in the adoration which man seeks to express for the
Besides, the mass of men do need physical and concrete outlets for their
emotions. They cannot realize anything except through visible and tangible
symbols. The symbol of the crucifix and the attendant ceremonials commemorating
the life and events of the Christ are powerful assets of the Christian
faith. They have a dynamic appeal to man's imagination, and as such they
play no small part in keeping the religion alive and potent; so do many
of the colorful religious rituals of the Hindus. Certainly, the danger
of rituals and ceremonials being misused and even abused has to be reckoned
with; but for all that, one cannot deny them their value, nor their significant
place in the religious impulse of man.
So long as these external expressions of worship were an index to the
inward spiritual aspiration, Baba treated these with respect and allowed
the devotee to pursue unhampered all the outward forms of worship which
were dear to his heart. But whenever the sage found that these pujas and
ceremonies were just subterfuges used in order to conceal false pretensions
of piety, or when Baba felt that they were just empty customs practiced
through sheer force of habit, then he either ruthlessly destroyed them
or discouraged them .
The sadhana of devotion prescribed by Shri Sai Baba has a warm appeal
to all those whose aesthetic sensibilities are predominantly developed.
The sensitive and the artistically inclined are lured by the prospect
of a union with the Divine which combines in it so much ecstasy and beatitude.
The way in not cold and austere, but replete with the intimate fullness
of loving and being loved. The perfect Master of Shirdi is also the perfect
artist, and he beckons to those who are temperamentally capable of emotional
transportation. The way he outlines is colorful, warm, and vigorous, and
sweet-scented with love's distillations.
The Master's message is the message of love raised to its acme of perfection,
and since love is not a mere abstraction, it is natural that the soul
of the bhakta should turn to some living embodiment of the Divine. That
is why in the sadhana of Shri Sai Baba's choice the Guru becomes the Supreme
Reality. To a living, palpable image of God alone can the love-smitten
disciple pour out his devotion in all the fullness and warmth of his ardor;
and the beloved can be sought by any and all of us. We are now in a position
to realize why Sai Baba laid such overwhelming emphasis on the dependence
of the sadhaka on the Guru by whose grace and contact the seeker can advance
very rapidly. Therefore, to the man or woman who puts his or her hand
in the hand of the omnipotent God-Guru like Sai Baba, the outlook can
never be dreary.
Sai Baba Speaks: His Charter and Sayings
The sayings of a sat purusha are self-validating. There is no need to
explain them; nor it is necessary to comment on or interpret these few
intimate charters of the great Master. They have come down to us as the
priceless heritage of spiritual wisdom, happily preserved by his devoted
and loyal disciples. We owe a debt of gratitude to these bhaktas for giving
us these cherished maxims in their original form, particularly to the
great Shri Narasimha Swamiji and Shri Annasaheb Dabolkar from whose works
these maxims have been culled and reproduced.
Shri Sai Baba did not give any sermons, nor did he write any spiritual
thesis, though his scholarship was profound and he could surpass the knowledge
of may pandits (Hindu learned men or priests) and moulanas (Muslim spiritual
teachers) who often came to him for elucidation of the texts. The source
of Sai Baba's mastery over the scriptures of all religions was as unfathomable
as his entire personality was enigmatic. No one knew how this incredible
avatar was able to amass so much knowledge, and that too in all its immaculate
details! Sai Baba had settled in Shirdi at the tender age of 20, and after
that no one saw him either studying or reading a single book. In him was
manifested the innate genius who had fathomed the profundities of that
luminous Reality, knowing which everything else becomes self-revealed.
Just as Baba was Guru Incarnate, he was also Knowledge Incarnate. Sai
Baba, however, preferred to transmit knowledge and teachings through the
spoken word in the age long tradition of Bharat. Not only spiritual but
venerated teachers of classical nritya (dancing) and sangeet (music) preferred
this method of transmitting knowledge in the ancient past, and many of
them do so even now. Like the rishis of old, Sai Baba also believed in
a close and intimate association of the teacher and the taught. Each sadhaka's
spiritual and material problems were peculiar only to him; therefore,
Baba preferred a very individual transmission of grace and instruction
to his flock of disciples. He neither gave any formal talks not wrote
Shri Sai Baba's conversation and sayings were not delivered with the purpose
of dazzling a handful of intellectuals with technical discussions of philosophy;
his aim was to rouse the moral insight of the average seeker. Often employing
analogies and similes drawn from experiences that are common to all men
and women, the Master was able to carry conviction and inspiration to
those who came to him. Using simple stories and clothing great truths
in simple parables as did Jesus Christ, Baba was able to create a pyramid
of perceptions in the listener.
Somehow, when a sat purusha speaks, subtle forces are at work, and the
words of these great Masters acquire a strange power, which perhaps is
not inherent in the words themselves. Even the familiar stock-in-trade
of ethical admonishments and moral reflections assume a compelling power
which again is not inherent in them, for the same words issuing out of
the mouths of ordinary men would sound commonplace and platitudinous.
Hundreds of disciples, however, would listen to Baba's words in rapt wonderment,
which soon changed to conviction. This is because one knows the truth
uttered by realized persons have been actually experienced by them; their
words consequently carry authority and conviction. One Mr. Francis Brabazon
in an introduction to one of avatar Meher Baba's brochures very succinctly
confirms this in the following sentence: "The words of [ordinary]
men are like candles which burn out leaving both the speaker and his audience
in darkness; but the message of the Divine Incarnation, both at the time
of utterance and for posterity, is a sun which never sets and is always
available if one will but pull up the blind of prejudice and partake of
Some of Sai Baba's sayings reveal the hunger in his heart for true and
selfless adoration. The Master's yearning for the love, friendship, and
understanding of the bhaktas who belonged to him was a touching and lovely
facet of his relationship with his disciples.
As a matter of fact, Sai Baba often hinted that he had not come to teach
but to awaken. He sought to bring about this awakening through the impact
of his love. Through centuries men have read volumes of philosophy, but
so long as there is no integration between thought and practise, sadhakas
do not grow in spiritual grace. Sai Baba, therefore, simplified his teachings
so that bhaktas may get down to the sheer practice of spiritual sadhana.
As the Master repeatedly told his followers, all great work for God is
done first in the individual soul of the worker.
The Saint of Shirdi was one of the most compassionate of avatars. He accepted
all the self-imposed limitations, restrictions, and sufferings that the
ordinary human body is heir to, so that he might inspire men by the example
of his magnificent life. He descended from the eternal abode of peace
to embroil himself in the affairs of men. This was his supreme act of
redemption for humanity which he loved so tenderly. The living thoughts
of a saint who has entered samadhi have constantly to be restated, reinterpreted,
and reassessed, and thus to use Plato's lovely words, "restored to
youth and beauty."
SAI BABA's CHARTERS
1. This is not just a mosque. It is dwarka [mercy]. Those who seek refuge
here will never be harmed.
2. As soon as one climbs the steps of this mosque, sufferings due to karma
are at an end and joy begins.
3. When one enters the Dwarka Mayi, his goal is achieved.
Sai Baba's assurances:
1. My eye is ever on those who love me.
2. Whatever you do, wherever you may be, ever bear this in mind that I
am always aware of everything you do.
3. If one meditates on me, repeats my name and sings about my deeds, he
is transformed and his karma is destroyed. I stay by his side always.
4. If one perpetually thinks of me and makes me his sole refuge, I become
his debtor and will give my head to save him.
5. I am the bond slave of my devotee. I love devotion. He who withdraws
his heart from the world and loves me is my true lover and he merges in
Me like a river in the sea.
6. If you make me the sole object of your thoughts and aims you will gain
7. Look to me and I will look to you.
8. Trust in the Guru fully. This is the only sadhana. Guru is all the
9. Repeat my name. Seek refuge in me. But to know who I am, practice sravana
[hearing the word of the Guru] and manana [reflection].
10. I shall be active and vigorous even form my tomb. Even after my maha
samadhi, I shall be with you the moment you think of me.
The declaration of Divinity:
I am God. I am Mahalaxmi. I speak the truth sitting as I do in the mosque.
I am Vithobha. I am Ganapathi. All offerings made to Ganapathi have reached
me. I am Dattatreya. I am Laxmi Narayana. Why go to Ganga elsewhere? Hold
your palm at my feet-here flows Ganga. I am Maruti.
1. I am the attributeless absolute nirguna. I have no name and no residence.
2. I embroiled myself in karma and got this body. Brahman is my father
and maya is my mother. I am formless and in everything. I fill all space
and am omnipresent. I am in water, in dry places, in crowds and solitary
wilderness. I am in the fire and in ether.
3. I am the Progenitor of God. Meditate on me as pure ananda nirakara
[formless bliss], but if you cannot do this, then meditate on this Sai
Body exactly as you see it.
4. I am not the body or the senses. I am the eternal Sakshi [Witness]
His wistful longing:
My Master told me to give bounteously to all that ask. No one asks with
wisdom. My treasury is open. No one brings carts to take away the real
treasures. I say: dig and search, but no one wants to take any pains.
Be the true sons of the Divine Mother and fully stock yourself. What is
to become of us? This body will return to earth, and the air we breathe
will melt into air. This opportunity will not return.
The Passing of Sai Baba
The 15th of October of the year 1918 was a sorrowful and a fateful day
for the little village of Shirdi. On Tuesday the 15th of October at about
2:30 in the heavy hours of the noon the beloved Master suddenly breathed
his last breath. His self allotted labor of love was perhaps deemed by
him in his inscrutable wisdom to have been finished. The all-too-brief
span of sixty glorious years, the period that he had set himself for his
messiahship, came to an abrupt end, as the Blessed one gave up his body
on that eventful afternoon. Quietly and unobtrusively, without any fuss
or complaint, Sai Baba released his last breath and let his head fall
gently on the shoulders of a near disciple. The last words that he uttered
were that he should be taken to an adjoining wada as he did not feel well
in the masjid. But hardly were these words out of his mouth when the Saint
of Shirdi passed away.
The news of his death spread like wild fire in the village of Shirdi,
and soon the ashram was filled with men, women, and children who had been
suddenly plunged into the throes of an agonizing grief. All the magic
light seemed to have died out that formerly had given to those thousands
of seekers so much courage and hope. In a moment all the chambers of the
ashram seemed emptied of delight, and a strange desolation of spirit filled
But the great avatar of love and compassion did not forsake his suffering
people even in the hour of the so-called death. The outflow of peace that
radiated from his body soothed the mourners. The older devotees of the
Saint -those who are still alive -tell us of the sudden calmness and beauty
that seemed to descend on the atmosphere. For the devotees who had gathered
there now remembered how Baba had always sought to give them a true perspective
of death. Like worn-out garments the body is cast away by God, and what
is made of earth returns to the earth; therefore why should anyone bemoan
death or exult over a birth ? True wisdom, true freedom lies in being
unaffected by both these events which are eternal processes in the cycle
of creation. "So-called death and life," said Baba, "are
manifestations of God's activity; you cannot separate the two." But
when a persevering self-search at last reveals to man who he really is,
when man really learns to know, not merely because someone else tells
him, but with that knowledge that comes of direct experience then man
ceases to identify himself with the body and is unaffected by the death
of the physical form, which is not the reality of his being.
The real man is deathless and eternal. However, the flesh is weak, and
to grieve for the physical loss of a dear one is common to the race. Sai
Baba who was ever compassionately mindful of the frailties of human beings
did not in the moment of his maha samadhi arrest his tender indulgence
of man's natural sorrows. On the very next day after his death Baba appeared
to one of his devotees in a dream-vision, saying, "Jog thinks I am
dead. I am alive. Go and perform my morning arati." Soon, other devotees
also began to get unmistakable signs of the Master's deathless presence
until almost each disciple was able to claim with conviction "The
Master is come again, he cannot die."
In the meantime, the physical body of the beloved Guru lay in quiet splendor.
There was a dispute about how and where to dispose of the sage's mortal
remains, but in the overwhelming serenity that enveloped the atmosphere,
all disputes and controversy were incredibly smoothed out, without any
untoward loss of temper. Hindu and Muslim devotees alike unanimously elected
to inter the body of the Saint in the center of the Wada. The body had
lain intact for 36 hours, and it is significant that though so many hours
had elapsed, the body had lost none of its living luster and radiance.
Indeed the rigor mortis so common in death had not at all set in. The
flesh had so far retained its elasticity that the kufni of the beloved
Master could be removed as easily and comfortably as from a living and
supple body. The physical form of the gracious Guru was laid to rest in
the central hall with all due formalities and obsequies, but his eternal
spirit rose from the tomb to proclaim to his followers again and again
the indisputable evidence of his resurrection and life.
The Master had often promised that his tomb would speak and move with
those who made him their refuge, that even after his maha samadhi, he
would appear the moment a devotee called upon him with implicit faith
and love -and happily even today, though 60 years have passed away, these
promises are abundantly fulfilled. The Master manifests himself in different
ways to different devotees. His voice is not hushed. Nor is his physical
presence lost to his devotees. Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters
of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives
darshan in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his
close disciples during his lifetime, but also to many others who had not
even seen or heard him. This deliberate choosing of fresh disciples and
devotees by vouchsafing to them some kind of mystic experiences is very
characteristic of the Saint of Shirdi.
Through such visitations the great yogi is gradually widening the scope
of his influence and hold. It is as it were the Avatar of Shirdi still
feels that a humanized symbol of Godhead, the meditating aspect of the
Supreme, is the support that reassures. To make the vast spiritual joy
intimate, living, visible, and possible to man is the Master's mission.
One is reminded here of Arjuna's plaintive cry when he saw Lord Krishna
manifested in his supreme universal character. Blinded by this terrible
vision, Arjuna cried out, "I would see Thee even as before crowned
and with Thy mace and discuss. Assume Thy four-armed shape, O thousand-armed,
O Form Universal." And when the Mahatma resumed once more the desired
form of "Grace and love and sweetness" Arjuna was consoled.
Sai Baba is like Shri Krishna in this merciful aspect of a friendly deity,
who both inspires and delights.
It is a pleasing sadhana that Sai Baba outlines for the eager aspirant
-the longing for a Guru, the complete surrender to that Guru when he is
eventually found, and once again through the Guru, a feeling of unity
with all creatures. This sadhana of the feeling of unity with all creatures
was advocated because in all life there is oneness with the cosmic Godhead
whom the Guru represents.
Absolute love for God and His creation is the way to a spiritual transcendence
of the troublesome ego which is at the root of all evil. And this contains
in essence all those ethical principles which make human relationship
a pleasant adventure, rather than an intrusion of bitterness and strife.
"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" -if he does not say
so in so many words, it is the same commandment that Baba gives precedence
to, above all other rules of conduct. "When man truly loves his fellowman,
he loves me" Baba said. "And when one dislikes or fears or hates
his fellowmen, any one or any class of people, he entertains actually
the same feeling towards me, for all men are one in principle since they
are bits of me."
So, although Baba was often indulgent of the other frailties of human
nature, though he even condoned moral lapses of character, he was most
miserable and unhappy when he found people bickering and quarrelling.
We are told that a spasm of deep pain would shoot across his face whenever
he heard of strifes and disagreements, and that he would use all his loving
influence to nip them in the bud. He even disallowed heated debates and
discussions of metaphysical problems, for he thought them futile and disruptive
of one's inner harmony.
Perhaps it could be said that Sai Baba's teachings and precepts develop
true individualism, even rugged individualism, for is not salvation individual?
But this individualism thrives only if it is matched with a true spirit
of true democracy and cooperation. Real freedom of life and action is
possible only in and through a proper regard of one's neighbor. The absence
of this sensitive solicitation of one's fellows leaves the door open for
conflicts and friction. How can any man hope to progress deeply if his
personality brings about this kind of disturbing reaction? Sai Baba is
all for love which alone can bring about that unimaginable transformation
This is but a brief resume of what has been outlined already in the preceding
chapters. Writing of the life and leelas of this supreme Guru has been
an extraordinary experience. The author is conscious of a curious pang
of regret as the end of this little books looms in sight. It is as it
were a separation from the Guru himself to cease writing about him. When
the sage of Shirdi passed away on the 15th of October in 1918, the light
was dimmed -but only for a brief second, for the rebirth and the resurrection
ever keep pace and outlive the forces of death and destruction. Sai Baba
is more alive today to his bhaktas than he was years ago when he lived
Om Sai Sri Sai Jaya Jaya Sai