Long time ago, at the beginning of eighteenth century a young bearded man with sparkling eyes took shelter in a mosque, in Shirdi Village (of Maharshtra State, In India). Nobody knew from where this stranger had come who hardly spoke a word and stayed there.
Gradually the curious villagers started offering food to the man, but he never asked anything from them. Sometimes he shared his food with the animals. Soon the young fakir, as he was started to be addressed, started expressing his view points with few elderly villagers. His simple language of expresssion and his special power of solving the problems of poor needy and destitutes soon made this less known fakir, known as Shri Sai Baba. As the days passed, devotees started streaming into Shirdi in ever growing numbers. The village was fast becoming a centre of pilgrimage. As gifts and presentations flowed in, the pomp and ceremony of Sai worship were evolving. Everyday Sai Baba would be a pauper having distributed all among the needy and the poor. But Sai Baba’s life of a Fakir remained calm, undisturbed, unaltered and therein is the saint’s Spiritual glory.
People also realised that this “Baba” was no ordinary person but a person with extraordinary godly powers. Such powers are not known or present in normal human beings. Baba preached his principle of love and faith in humanity to all his disciples. He always felt anguished over the fact that all those who came to him were more for their own personal problems and not for attaining the ultimate goal of reaching God which he felt could be attained only by true servicing of humanity.
Sai Baba strongly believed in uniformity of religion and he never distinguished anyone on the basis of caste, creed or religion. He always made it a point not to return empty handed those who had come to him in their hour of need and grief. He performed miracles to alleviate the suffering of poor people. On one occasion he restored the eyes of a blind elderly and in another occasion he lighted a lantern with water when there was no oil to burn it.
As all good things have to end ultimately “Baba” also left his body on his own will on 15th Oct. 1918, leaving his millions of believers and followers crying. His body was laid in the Samadhi Mandir called “Booty”, which he had asked his disciple to built before his death.
Sai Baba was Unique, in that, he lived his message through the Essence of his Being. His life and relationship with the common man was his teaching. The lmmense Energy that was manifest in the body of Sai was moving and is still moving in a mysterious way, creating and recreating itself everywhere, beyond the comprehension of time and space.Yet, he lived with the common folk as a penniless fakir, wearing a torn kafni, sleeping over a mat while resting his head on a brick, begging for his food. He radiated a mysterious smile and a deep inward look, of a peace that passeth all understanding. He was always and ever aware of what transpired within the hearts and minds of everyone, whether they be, His devotees or not. This Omnipresent and Omniscient Sri Sai Baba who left his mortal body in 1918, is the living spiritual force that is drawing people from all walks of life, from all parts of the world, into his fold, today.Sri Sai Baba lived, acted and behaved as only a “God descended on Earth” can. He came to serve mankind, to free them from the clutches of fear.
His most concise message for one and all alike was “Why fear when I am here”. To take refuge in Sai, is to enter into ajourney to reach the Divine Oasis of Love and drink deep from the Fountain of Life, the source of all Spiritual Energy.Wherever the devotee is, Baba makes him recognize within himself his highest aspirations and goal and at one stroke, his conduct and the attitude to fellow beings is touched with the awareness of love, understanding, patience and faith. This is the promise that Sri Sai Baba holds out to all who come to Him. Sri Sai Baba was beyond the limitations of Time and Space and thus caste, creed, position dogmas and doctrines were fundamentally unimportant to him. Nobody really knew his parentage, where he came from or which religion he practised. He claimed no possessions nor accepted any disciples or gave any specific teaching.
This anonymity lent a strange facet to his interaction with the people who came to him for guidance. To the Hindus he was an orthodox Brahmin, with a sacred fire, enjoining the worship of many gods and the devout study of various Hindu scriptures. He lived in a mosque but always referred to it as “Dwarkamay!” (Lord Krishna’s birth place is Dwaraka). To the Moslems he was a fakir living in a mosque observing the disciplines of Islam, uttering “Allah Malik” (God is the master) guiding Muslim seekers along the lines c)f their own religion. To the Parsis he was the sacred rire worshipper. His life was a living manifestation c)f the Sermon of the Christ and of the Eight-fold path of the Buddha.
Sai Baba’s attraction and appeal lie in this fact that he was a perfect model of the harmony of all religions, for whom this world – with all its sectarian and religious antagonism, had been waiting. Sai Baba lived to awaken and lead mankind to the varities of spiritual life. He set in motion a wave of spirituality, which is now spreading all over the globe. All his life’s activities constituted the upliftment of mankind. By first conferring temporal benefits, he drew unto himself countless souls caught up in ignorance (darkness) and opened their eyes to the true meaning of life. The miracles which manifested through Sai Baba were just such as were needed to create faith in the people and to make his devotees ethically and spiritually better evolved. Baba did not purposefully perform miracles to show his powers. The very strength of his perfect realisation, in its interaction with nature, caused “the miracle” to take place. Thus he drew people from their deluded pursuits after earthly objects of a transitory nature and induced and inspired them to strive for self-realisation. He continued this glorious work until the last moment of his human embodiment in Shirdi.
Amazingly, there are a phenomenally large number of Instances in which Sai Baba has been literally physically appearing before his devotees, even decades after his passing out of the physical body. Sai Baba is constantly and simultaneously proving that he Is alive in spirit and responds to our sincere prayers. He Is the One Spirit of all existence. which is God in all the forms of God, in all the saints, in all the men and in all the creatures.All those who sincerely take to a life of inner development, Sai Baba lifts him to a higher level. Every one derives benefit according to the ripeness o f his soul and in accordance with his inner yearning.Baba assured his devotees by his saying “I am at Shirdi and everywhere. Whatever you do, wherever you may be, ever bear this in mind, that I am always aware of everything”. Sai Baba does not belong to any single tradition but to all mankind on the path of goodness, love and understanding.
The relevance of Sai Baba today
The divine role of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi in the present embodiment covered a period of about 64 years between 1854, when He made his first appearance in Shirdi, and 1918 when he left His body. However, his sixty years of stay at Shirdi on his second appearance between 1858 and 1918 manifested the depth and expansiveness of his unique role.India was in a cross – road of cultural and religious mix. The Mughal empire was vanishing and the British empire was establishing itself. Western culture and Christianity were slowly entering into the mainstream of Indian life. Religious and cultural intolerance were raising their ugly heads in the Post Sepoy-Mutiny Scenario of India. It could not have been possible for any leader or statesman to bring about harrnony among the divergent religious, cultural groups in such a situation. It was only a God in human form who could dare and accomplish the task of bringing unity between the different religious and social groups.Shri Sai baba had large number of Hindu, Parsee and Muslim devotees. Christians and Sikhs also used to visit Him.
All were treated by him alike. Under his umbrella, both the Hindus and Muslims happily took part in each others religious festivals. The caste scheme of the Hindus had no relevance with Shri Sai. He had introduced the tradition of group worship, group prayer and group dinning for all and would share his ‘Chilum’ (Tobacco pipe) with all. He even showed highest compassion for animals and birds and encouraged his devotees to feed and take care of them. He recognised no difference in temporal status of human beings. He refused to accept food brought in silver and gold utensils from a queen but relished a single ROTI (hand-made bread) of a beggar woman and showered all His blessings.
– He practiced and preached humanism and universal brotherhood – prophet like.
– He established the superiority of love and compassion above egoism – Christ-like.
– He taught simplicity of livelihood and excellence of human virtue reflected in day to day conduct, Buddha-like.
Today, the world is looking ahead for a magical solution to its problems of cultural, racial, national and religious differentiation. All intellectual exercises to bring about peace in -the world and happiness to mankind has failed for these efforts are not based on humanism, universalism and love as taught by Shri Sai. The ever multiplying number of Sai temples and devotees of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba in India and other countries establishes the ever- increasing relevance of His Preachings today. Jesus as an human embodiment is gone but the spirit of Jesus remains. The body of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi cannot be seen but the magnetic pull of His Divine Soul is felt by all those who merely think of Him and particularly, those who visit His tomb at Shirdi. Baba had promised that whosoever would put his feet pn the soil of Shirdi, his miseries would end or marginalise.
All devotees of Baba find His promise come true, even eighty years after He left the mortal body. Baba used to call His devotees as children, and like the true father, kept busy day-in and day-out for their temporal as well as spiritual upliftment. In todays world the children of God, torn asunder by religious, social and sectarian strife, should run to the father to experience that love which can only unite them.Human beings may conquer all the planets and stars before they learn the magic formula to conquer the hearts of their fellow beings. The formula has been given by the Master. It is for us to follow to make the world a better place to live.
Sai Baba, a personification of spiritual perfection and an epitome of compassion, lived in the little village of Shirdi in the state of Maharashtra (India) for sixty years. Like most of the perfect saints he left no authentic record of his birth and early life before arriving at Shirdi. In fact, in the face of his spiritual brilliance such queries do not have much relevance.
He reached Shirdi as a nameless entity. One of the persons who first came in contact with him at Shirdi addressed him spontaneously as ‘Sai’ which means Savior, Master or Saint. ‘Baba’ means father as an expression of reverence. In the Divine play it was designed as such, that He subtly inspired this person to call Him by this name, which was most appropriate for His self-allotted mission.
All that we definitely know of Sai Baba is that his arrival at Shirdi was anonymous. He was first noticed in the outskirts of the village Shirdi, seated under a ‘neem’ (margosa) tree, about the year 1854. However, even this date is not definitely noted. Sai Baba of these younger days remained a stranger staying under the neem tree for some time and then suddenly he left Shirdi to come back again sometime in 1858, and stayed on there till he left his gross body in the year 1918.
The second advent of Baba at Shirdi, around 1858 was interestingly quite different from the first. This time he accompanied a wedding procession as guest of honor. On the arrival at Shirdi, he was immediately recognized by someone as the same anonymous saintly personality who used to be seated under the neem tree a few years earlier and, greeted Him as “Ya Sai” – Welcome Sai.
In the early days of his stay at Shirdi he spent his time either wandering in the outskirts of village and neighboring thorny jungles or sitting under the neem tree totally self absorbed. The first set of villagers who regarded this saintly figure were Mhalsapati, Tatya Kote, Bayyaji Bai and few others. Bayyaji Bai felt deeply motivated by this Divine Saint, and with her motherly instinct she used to walk miles on end into the jungles in search of him, carrying food in a basket on her head. Often she found Sai Baba sitting under some tree in deep meditation, calm and motionless. She would boldly approach him, serve the meal and return home.
After sometime as though out of compassion for her, Sai Baba ceased wandering and moved into a dilapidated mosque in the outskirts of the village. He referred to this mosque, where He resided till the end, as ‘Dwarkamai’ (Dwarka was the place where Lord Shri Krishna stayed to fulfill His divine Advent). This mosque ‘Dwarkamai’ – abode of Sai Baba became Mother of Mercy for all the time to come.
He had a body of athlete built and in his earlier days he was fond of wrestling. Another aspect of Sai Baba’s personality was his love for song and dance. In those early years of his life he used to go to ‘Takia’, the public night shelter for moslem visitors to the village. There in the company of sojourning devotees and fakirs, he used to dance and sing in divine bliss, with small tinkles tied around his ankles. The songs he sang were mostly in Persian or Arabic. Sometimes he sang some popular songs of Kabir.
He donned a long shirt – ‘Kafni’ and tied a cloth around his head, and twisted it into a flowing plait like manner behind his left ear. He used a piece of sackcloth for his seat and slept on it with a brick as his pillow. He always declared that Fakiri (Holy poverty) was far superior to worldly richness. He was no ordinary fakir but an ‘Avatar ’ (incarnation) of a very high order. But His external appearance was of simple, illiterate, moody, emphatic – at times fiery and abusive and at times full of compassion and love. In the moments of towering rage people with him thought it was ungovernable rage. But his anger never prevented his compassion dealing with the devotees. His anger was evidently directed at unseen forces. He enacted all these simple traits only to hide His real identity as the God incarnate. Under the cover of simplicity He silently worked for the spiritual transformation and liberation of innumerable souls – human beings and animals alike, who were drawn to Him, by an unseen forces.
He begged for alms and shared what he got with his devotees and all the creatures around him. He never kept any food in reserve for the next meal. He maintained the ‘Dhuni’ – the perpetual sacred fire and distributed its ash – ‘Udi’ as token of His divine grace to all who came to Him for help.
Baba would ask for ‘Dakshina’ (money offered with reverence to the ‘Guru’ or the master) from some of those who came to see him. This was not because he needed their money but for deeper significance, which the devotees realized at, an appropriate time.
Baba used to freely distribute all the money that was received in the form of Dakshina to the destitute, poor, sick and needy the very same day. This was one of Baba’s methods for testing out the devotees attachments to worthy things and willingness to surrender.
He ploughed up the village common land and raised a flower garden thereon, he watered the plants, carrying pots full of water on his shoulders. In the later years he spent a few hours in this Lendi garden which he himself had laid out in the early days.
He was every moment exercising a double consciousness, one actively utilizing the apparent Ego called ‘Sai Baba’ dealing with other egos in temporal and spiritual affairs, and the other – entirely superceding all egos as the Universal Ego or Over soul.
He was the common man’s God. He lived with them, he slept and ate with them. Baba had a keen sense of humour. He shared a ‘chillum’ (clay pipe for smoking) indiscriminately with them to write off the cast superiority and orthodoxy in their minds. He had no pretensions of any kind .He was always very playful in the presence of children. Baba used to feed the fakirs and devotees and even cook for them.
Sai Baba’s perfect purity, benevolence, non-attachment, compassion and other virtues evoked deep reverence in the villagers around him. His divinity could not conceal itself for long. Initially when people wanted to worship him formally, Baba protested and dissuaded them. But gradually he allowed it with the prescience that it would become the means for temporal and spiritual benefits to millions of individuals for all time to come.
The Dwarkamai of Sai Baba was open to all, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. As the days passed devotees from all walks of life started streaming into Shirdi. The village Shirdi was fast assuming prominence. As the gifts and presentations flowed in, the pomp and grandeur of Sai worship also increased. But Baba’s life of a fakir remained calm, undisturbed, unaltered and there is the Saint’s spiritual glory.
He lived His divine mission through His pure self in a human embodiment. The immense energy that was manifest in the body of Sai was moving in a mysterious way, creating and recreating itself every where beyond the comprehension of time and space.
This fountainhead of unsurpassed spiritual glory shed His gross body on 15th October 1918. Every limb, every bone and pore of his body was permeated with divine essence. Baba claimed that though one day his physical body will not exist his remains will communicate with all those who seek him with inner yearnings. His self-allotted labour of love in His physical body was perhaps over. Today He continues to work ever vigorously as the ‘Sai Spirit’.
One of the most beautiful persons of this past century was Sai Baba of Shirdi. He had a friend and a follower. No one knows whether he was a Mohammedan or a Hindu, but he lived in a mosque, so it was believed he was a Mohammedan. And a Hindu follower was there, who loved, respected, has much faith in Sai Baba. Every day he would come for his darshan, and without seeing him he would not go. Sometimes it would happen that for the whole day he would have to wait, but without seeing he would not go, and he would not take food unless he has seen Sai Baba.
Once it happened the whole day passed, there was much gathering and much crowd – he couldn’t enter. When everybody has gone, just in the night he touched the feet.
Sai Baba said to him,
Why you unnecessarily wait? There is no need to see me here, I can come there. And drop this from tomorrow. Now I will do. Before you take your food you will see me every day.”
The disciple was very happy. So next day he was waiting and waiting; nothing happened. Many things happened really, but nothing happened according to his conception. By the evening he was very angry. He has not taken the food, and Sai Baba has not appeared so he went again. He said, “You promise and you don’t fulfill?”
Sai Baba said,
But I appeared thrice, not even once. First time I came, I was a beggar and you said to me, ‘Move away! Don’t come here!’ Second time I came I was an old woman, and you just won’t look at me; you closed your eyes-because the disciple had the habit of not seeing women; he was practicing not seeing women, so he closed the eyes.
I had come, but what do you expect? Should I enter your eyes, closed eyes? I was standing there, but you closed the eyes. The moment you saw me, you closed the eyes. Then third time I reached as a dog, and you won’t allow me in. With a stick you were standing in the door.
And these three things had happened. And these things have been happening to whole humanity. The divine comes in many forms, but you have a prejudice; you have a pre-formulated conception; you cannot see. He must appear according to you, and he never appears according to you. And he will never appear according to you. You cannot be the rule for him and you cannot put any conditions.