It is said in most of the Indian scriptures that in order to attain the final realization, it is necessary to resort to a guru. The Sufis too attach great reverence to the ‘Murshid’ (guru), And I believe the same ideas underlines Jesus Christ’s words, “No one can come to the Father except through me”. This is a truth which represents a particular angle of vision. Those who are not ripe enough to understand the truth implied herein have a doubt as to how one could be sure whether a particular holy man is a worthy guide or not. The one unfailing solution to the problem was given by great ones like Kabir who says that we need not run in search of the guru, that he would come to us if and when we are ready to receive him. Bhagawan Ramana Maharshi also often told his devotees that though God, Guru and the Self are one, when a seeker needs a guru in the human form, the Lord does appear to him in that form to turn his mind inward.
There are very many instances in which Sri Baba played the role of the guru in human form and led the seeker to himself. Sometimes, the seeker was led to him by Baba himself in his own person and sometimes by a deity which the seeker worshipped devoutly. Sometimes another great saint had led the devotees to him. However, it is not to be supposed that every one that is led to the sadguru is bound to become perfect in this life itself. Every one derives benefit according to the ripeness of his soul and in accordance with his inner yearning. Many of them take lives of inner development and in each, the sadguru lifts him on to a higher level. In some, this development may not manifest to themselves. We shall now proceed to note how several of his devotees were drawn to Sri Sai Baba.
M.G. Pradhan, a clerk of Bombay had lost his seven year-old son and was much upset. He heard of Sai Baba from one of his friends, One night he had a dream in which he saw five sadhus seated together. He asked them, “Which of you is Sai Baba?” One of them pointed to Sai Baba who was seated among the other four sadhus. Later, when he visited Shirdi, he was surprised to see that Sai Baba looked exactly as he did in his dream. He even revealed that, he knew Pradhan quite well by describing his house in Bombay, his garden and the number of Ramaphal and Sitaphal trees in it very accurately. He then said to some of the devotees present at the musjid about Pradhan, “Why does the fool go on lamenting the death of a son? It is merely going to the earth. Why go on lamenting that?”
Mrs. And Mr. Pradhan were henceforth devoted to Sai Baba but a learned Pandit Madhav Bhat who was attached to their family, and who did puja and mantra japa for their benefit was at heart unhappy that the Hindu couple should worship Sai Baba who, he thought, was a Moslem. When Babu, their son, was once seriously ill, he attributed it to the wrath of the Hindu gods for their error. Later one night he had a dream in which he saw Sai Baba seated on the top of the stair case, holding his short staff (satka). Baba said, “What do you mean? I am the lord of this house!” Madhav Bhat kept the dream to himself. Later, when Babu’s condition worsened in spite of Bhat’s japa, the latter ran to Baba’s photograph and loudly prayed, “If the child should improve sufficiently by 4 p.m. today as to be brought downstairs, then I will agree that you are Lord Dattatreya. Soon after, the fever subsided and by 4 p.m. the boy wanted to be taken downstairs for a change. Madhav Bhat was convinced that Sai Baba was Lord Dattatreya himself and was henceforth devoted to him.
D.M. Mulgy of Gadag was an atheist and did not believe in Baba nor did he care to see his picture which his brother worshipped. In 1916, he fell seriously ill. One night, an old man wearing a long white kafni and a white cloth tied round his head appeared in his dream and told him that his fever would pass off soon if he premised to go for his (the old man’s) darshan. Mulgy promised to do so and the old man disappeared. The dream so frightened him that he cried out. His sister-in-law ran to his bedside, woke him up and, on hearing of his dream, showed him the picture of Baba. Mulgy was convinced that Sai Baba himself had appeared in his dream. The fever subsided and he was all right in a short time. Later, when he visited Shirdi, he was struck by Baba’s exact likeness to the old man that had appeared in his dream.
M.B. Rege was very devoted to Lord Vishnu from his boyhood. Even from his younger days, he used to sit for long in one yogic posture, meditating on his chosen deity. In his twenty-first year (about 1910), he had three successive dream-visions in one night. At first, he experienced his separation from his physical body and before him was the divine form of Lord Vishnu. A second time the same vision recurred but this time there was someone else standing beside Him: Lord Vishnu pointed to that stranger and said, “This Sai Baba of Shirdi is your man; you must resort to him.” In the third vision he again left his physical body and drifted in the air to some village. There a stranger told him that it was Shirdi. Then he enquired whether there was a holy man by name Sai Baba in that village.
The stranger led him to a mosque where Rege saw Sai Baba seated leaning against its wall with his legs stretched before him. On seeing Rege, Sai Baba got up and said, “Do you take my darshan? I am your debtor, I must take your darshan! And placed his head reverently on Rege’s feet. Then the vision ended. Though he saw Sai Baba’s picture earlier, he never knew that Sai Baba’s most characteristic manner of sitting was with his legs stretched out before him. Shortly after, Rege went to Shirdi to verify whether Baba was his destined guru as the dream seemed to indicate. When he actually saw Baba a doubt arose in his mind whether it would be proper to worship a man like him. At once Baba said, “What, do you worship a man?” The rebuff was keen and to the point. When every other devotee retired to his room, Rege made bold to visit Sai, though it was thought that no one should visit him at that hour, Baba, far from getting angry, beckoned to him. Rege approached him and bowed in reverence. At once Sai Baba hugged him with love and said, “You are my child. When others (i.e., strangers) are present, we (i.e., saints like me) keep off the children”. Thus was the man’s dream confirmed.
On another afternoon Baba embraced him and said, “The key of my treasury is now placed in your hands. Ask anything you want.” “Then Baba”, said shrewd Rege, “I want this: In this and in any future birth that may befall me, you should never part from me. You should always be with me.” Baba patted him joyously and said, “Yes, I shall be with you, inside you and outside you, whatever you may be or do”.
There is one instance to show how, when Rege’s heart was yielding to some other love, Baba asserted his monopoly over it. Many years later, Rege’s child died and his wife was disconsolate. With the dead child in his lap, Rege sat on with a grief-stricken heart. Baba at once appeared before him and said, “Do you want me or the dead child? Choose! You cannot have both. If you want me to revive the child, I will; but then you will have me no more with you. If you do not ask for the revival of this one, you will have several children in due course.” Then Rege said that he wanted Him only. “Then do not grieve”, Baba said and vanished.
Another confirmation that he was Baba’s man: Once he visited a great saint in Poona, named Sri Madhavanath. The latter said, “You are Sai Baba’s man”.
In 1912, Rege visited Baba on the holy Guru Purnima day. Seeing other devotees offering garlands and other gifts to Baba he regretted that he did not remember to get any gift. At once Baba said, “All these are yours!”, and pointed at the garlands offered by other devotees. Thereby Baba hinted that the heart’s loving wish to offer is of greater value than a formal physical offering.
Toser was an employee in the customs department. In 1985 he had a dream in which he saw a holy man, and considered him as his guru. In 1910 he learned about Sai Baba and his greatness from Das ganu’s kirtans and immediately proceeded to Shirdi. He was thrilled to find that Sai Baba was the guru that appeared to him in 1895. After Baba’s mahasamadhi, Toser became a disciple of the great saint Sri Vasudevananda Saraswathi (alias Tembe Swamy). Later, he took sannyas and was known by the name Sri Narayan Ashram.
Balabhate was a free-thinking merry-go-lucky type of man. He was a mamlatdar at Kopergaon for five years, from 1904 to 1909. He used to say that Baba was just a mad fakir and scoffed at those who visited Shirdi often. Once some of his friends suggested that he should rather go and see Baba before forming his opinion of him. So he accompanied them to Shirdi and stayed there for five days. On the fifth day Sai Baba covered him with a gerua or kashaya (ochre) robe. From that day Bhate was a changed man. He did not care for earnings or work, and his only wish was to be at Shirdi and serve Baba till the last moment of his life. Sai Baba made Dixit write an application for leave for one year and, persuaded Bhate to sign it. The District Collector granted him leave for one year. But at the end of the year he still continued to be ‘mad after his guru’. He was granted a compassionate pension of about Rs. 30/- p.m. as one afflicted with ‘religious melancholia’. When his friends asked him the reason for his transformation he told them that the change came in him suddenly when Baba put the gerua on him. “By that”, he said “my original frame of mind was removed and, in its place, quite a new frame of mind was put in. After that, attending to worldly duties – especially official duties – became unthinkable”. He then lived at Shirdi, attending to his daily austerities, like Upanishad-reading in the presence of Sai Baba and so on. Occasionally Sai Baba offered useful comments on that reading. Bhate’s wife and family came to Shirdi and lived with him.
The transformation of Bhate reminds us of the effect of Sri Ramakrishna’s touch on Sri Vivekananda, the effect of the death-experience on Sri Ramana in his sixteenth year and the effect of the guru’s touch on the boy Tajhuddin who later became famous as Hazarat Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur. Such perfect bhakti and his incapacity to attend to the merely bread-winning official duties shows that he experienced certain higher form of samadhi and that some of his higher charkas, to put it in yogic terminology, must have been awakened. It is obvious that here, in Bhate, is one of those very few that deserved something which Baba yearned to bestow on his devotees.
Balakrishna Govinda Upasani was a professor of Sanskrit in Poona and was the brother of Sri Upasani Baba. Once his college was closed owing to the out-break of plague and he went on a pilgrimage to Hardwar and Tapovan along with his mother. There he met a sadhu who stared at him and asked him if he was from Satana in Maharashtra. When that was confirmed, the sadhu told him to visit him again the next day in the afternoon. His Mother too accompanied him the next day but a search for fifteen minutes for the sadhu did not prove fruitful. As soon as Balakrishna’s mother went home disappointed the sadhu at once appeared before him and said, “Do not act in this manner again…Only those who are asked to come should come!” Then the sadhu said that he had given a saligram (a sacred tone) to one Uddhav Maharaj whose grandson gave it to the grand-father of Balakrishna and that it was being worshipped by Balakrishna himself. (From this we can understand how old the sadhu must have been!) Then switching over from Marathi to Hindustani, the sadhu said, “Lo, there was a tree. Two persons went up that tree. One came down; the other went up….You will come to know!” The sadhu looked about sixty years old, a bit stout and had nothing but a koupina (a codpiece).
Later, in 1910 Balakrishna’s brother developed some respiratory trouble during the practice of yoga and left his home. So Balakrishna started in search of him. When the train stopped at Koperagaon a friend named Bhat met him on the railway platform and told him that a great saint, Sai Baba, lived only a few miles away and persuaded him to break his journey. He even sent Balakrishna to Shirdi by a tonga (or horse-coach). On seeing him Baba said, “Go to Khandoba!” Balakrishna thought that Baba wanted him to see the idol in that shrine and said that Baba was all the gods and therefore there was no more need for him to go to that temple. But Baba repeated his order. So the visitor thought that Baba wanted him to go out. When he did, some one told him that one Upasani Sastry stayed at the Khandoba’s temple. Balakrishna at once went there and found his brother who was staying there on Baba’s orders!
Afterwards, when Balakrishna returned to the mosque, Baba stared at him and said in Hindusthani, “Lo, there was a tree. Two persons went up the tree. One came down. The other went up!” Balakrishna was amazed on hearing Baba utter precisely the same words as were used by the sadhu at Tapovan years earlier. Then he noted that Baba did resemble the Tapovan sadhu though their dress was different. The master met his devotee far ahead of the devotee seeing him and gave him a clue to identify him when he, the devotee, meets him again at Shirdi.
Shevade was confident of passing the law examination in spite of his inadequate study as he had the blessing of Sai Baba. His friend Sapatnekar laughed at his superistitious sentiments. In due course Sapatnekar himself settled at Akkalkot as a lawyer. Ten years after, in 1913, he lost his only son and was much depressed. Piligrimages to Pandharpur and Gangapur did not give him any solace. One day he remembered Shevade’s reference to Sai Baba and went to Shirdi along with his brother Panditrao and was much pleased on seeing Baba. When he placed a coconut before Baba and bowed to him, Baba brusquely said, “Get Out!” Sapatnekar was mortified and sat at a distance. Later he sought a fellow-devotee’s help to pacify Baba and gain access to him. The devotee Bala Shimpi, in one of Baba’s lighter moods, took a picture of Baba with him and, showing it to Baba, asked him whose portrait it was. Baba pointed to Sapatnekar and said that the picture was that of his (i.e., Sapatnekar’s) lover, and laughed supportively and all the devotees shared the joke. Bala Shimpe beckoned to Sapatnekar to approach Baba. When Sapatnekar bowed before Baba, the latter again brusquely said, “Get Out!”. Both the visitor and Bala Shimpe were disappointed.
One year passed during which a few more pilgrimages did nothing to console the Sapatnekars. Finally, they decided to visit Banaras. The night before they started, Mrs. Sapatnekar had a dream: she was going to a well with a pitcher to fetch driniking water. She saw a fakir, with a cloth tied around his head, seated under a neem tree. The fakir approached her and said, “My child, I shall fetch water for you”. She was frightened and moved away and the fakir followed her. At that juncture she woke up and narrated her dream to her husband. They took this to be an invitation from Baba and they went to Shirdi. Mrs. Sapatnkar saw Sai Baba who was returning to the mosque from lendi and was surprised to see that he was the fakir that appeared in her dream. When Baba took his seat in the mosque she bowed to him. Baba said, in his characteristic, veiled, manner, “My arms, abdomen and waist have been paining for a long time. I tried many medicines in vain. But to my utter surprise all the pains have just now disappeared mysteriously.” Indeed it was Mrs. Sapatnekar’s story: she was just at that moment cured of all the obstinate pains from which she had been suffering for a long time. She was amazed at Baba’s ominiscience and such powers as would cure ailments with a word!
Hoping that Baba was in a jolly mood, Sapatnekar went and bowed to Baba. Baba shouted, “Get out!” This time Sapatnekar understood that he was angry at his past misdeeds and decided to win his grace. He saw Baba when he was alone and touched his feet with his head. Baba did not shout but put his loving hand on the visitor’s head. Then a shepherdess came and sat massaging Sai Baba’s waist. Baba narrated a story in his characteristic vein, of a bania (a merchant), the trials and tribulations of his life. It was indeed a veiled account of Sapatnekar’s life. Then Baba said to the shepherdess, pointing at Sapatnekar, “This fellow says that I (i.e., God) has killed his child. Do I kill anyone’s children? Why does this fellow cry even after stepping into this musjid? Now I will again place that very child in his wife’s womb” and he blessed Sapatnekar. Sapatnekar gratefully bowed and touched Baba’s feet and Baba assured him, “These feet are ageless and holy. Place your entire faith in me and you will achieve your object.”
The Sapatnekars stayed at Shirdi for a few days. Every day they used to offer naivedya (offering of food) to Baba and then took it as his prasad (consecrated gift). One day, seeing Sapatnekar pushing in the crowd to bow to him, Sai Baba said, “Why do you prostrate yourself again and again? The one salutation you have already made with love and humility is enough.”
The next day Sapatnekar wanted to take leave of Baba to return to Akkalkot. While starting for the Dwarakamai he wanted to give Re. 1/- to Baba as dakshina and kept one rupee more in reserve to offer if Baba asked a second time. He set apart the money for his return fares. When he went to Dwarakamai, Baba received the one rupee that Sapatnekar gave and asked for one more as per his intention. Receiving them Baba blessed him saying, “Take this coconut and give it to your wife. Go home happily”. Within a year Sapatnekar had a son and he visited Baba again with his wife and child.
Sai Baba used to say, “I draw my man to me, wherever and however far he might be, like a sparrow with a string tied to its legs”. How graphic is the description and how literally true it is in the case of Kakasaheb Dixit! Kakasaheb, a famous lawyer of Bombay, once met his old friend Nanasaheb Chandorkar and told him how his leg-bone was fractured when he fell while boarding train in London. Nanasaheb promptly advised him to visit Sai Baba.
Shortly after, Kakasaheb had to go to Ahmednagar. After his work was done, he wished to visit Shirdi. When his hosts were still thinking of a proper person to take him to Shirdi, Baba was making all arrangements to draw his devotee to him in his mysterious manner. Sharma had to go to Ahmednagar along with his wife to see his mother-in-law who was seriously ill. Kakasaheb’s host met him there and requested him to take their guest to Shirdi. Shama’s mother-in-law soon recovered. Just when they were about to start, his host unveiled the portrait of Baba which was in their house. It belonged to Megha and as the glass was broken it was sent to Ahmednagar for reframing. It was reframed and it, or rather Sai himself, along with his principal devotee, were to take Kaka to Shirdi.
The train arrived in time but the second class bogie was over-crowded. When the party was a little worried about securing accommodation, the railway guard met them and he was an old acquaintance of Kakasaheb. He promptly put them in the first class carriage and Kaka had a comfortable journey. On seeing Sai Baba, Kakasaheb found that all his expectations had been more than fulfilled. On seeing Kaka, Sai Baba said that he was awaiting his arrival !
If some of the readers are disposed to treat the whole episode as a mere coincidence, there is another incident to show that it was indeed a part of Baba’s leela.
Kakaji Vaidya, the priest in the temple of goddess Saptasringi at Vani, had a series of calamities in life. He had lost all peace of mind and sought the protection of the goddess. One night she appeared in his dream and said, “Go to Baba and then you will gain peace”. In those days Sai Baba was not yet so well known. So Kakaji wanted to know from her who he was. But before he did, she had disappeared. He thought that she directed him to Lord Siva at Tryambakeswar. So he went there and worshipped that deity for ten days but to no purpose. In despair he returned and again prayed fervently for clearer guidance. That night the goddess appeared in his dream and said, “Why did you go to Tryambakeswar? By ‘Baba’ I mean Sri Sai Samarth of Shirdi.”
Kakaji did not know where Shirdi was and how to go there and none could guide him. Baba’s omniscient gaze noticed the “sparrow’s” longing and his invisible hand promptly arranged the situation needed.
A great astrologer who arrived at Shirdi told Shama that the vows of his mother to goddess Saptasringi were not fulfilled and that the family troubles were all a sequel of that breach of promise. Shama was reminded of what his dying mother told him thirty years earlier: When, in his childhood, Shama was seriously ill, she vowed to goddess Saptasringi at Vani that if he recovered, she would take the child for her darshan. The child recovered, but she could not fulfill her vow. After sometime, she suffered from ring-worms on her breasts which defied all medical treatment. Then she again vowed to the same goddess that if she was cured of her ailment, she would offer a pair of silver breasts. She was cured and again she failed to fulfill her vows. On her deathbed, she took a promise from Shama that he would fulfill her vows. The son also neglected his promise for nearly thirty years. Shama also heard that once a person has surrendered to a guru like Sai Baba, he must henceforth see all gods in the guru . So he promptly got pair of silver breasts made by a goldsmith, prostrated before Baba and begged him to accept the gifts and relieve him and his mother of their vows to goddess Saptasringi.
Baba was very particular in such matters. At the time when Shama’s mother made the vows, Baba was not at Shirdi and she meant her vows only for the particular deity. Now neither Shama nor he can properly modify the same. So he insisted on Shama going to Vani and fulfilling the two vows. Baba alone knew that this visit had another purpose to serve in his mysterious scheme.
Shama promptly arrived at Kakaji’s house. After knowing his purpose Kakaji was thrilled with joy when he learned that there came to him, uninvited and unsought, a man from Sai Baba, precisely at a moment when he himself was dying to know where Shirdi was. Shama’s purpose fulfilled, he took Kakaji with him to Sai Baba. On seeing Baba, he prostrated before Baba and was speechless with joy. He wondered to see that the goddess’s words were literally true: he had to say nothing to Baba about his sufferings. The very sight of Baba made his mind calm and peaceful. After twelve days he returned to Vani. But his heart was ever after in the possession of Baba. Here too, Sai Baba sent his principal devotee to fetch the other sheep of his vast flock.
Ramlal, a Brahmin of Bombay once saw in his dream an odd-looking saint. The spiritual magnetism of the holy one was so striking. He at once decided to take darshan of the saint but he knew little about the saint or his whereabouts. Yet the next afternoon, when he was strolling along a street, an exact portrait of the saint was placed prominently in a shop. He enquired and was told that he was Sai Baba of Shirdi. He at once visited Shirdi and took Baba’s darshan and stayed on there till his death.
Balakram Mankar, a devotee of Baba was dejected when he lost his dear wife. Entrusting the family to his son, he came and lived at Shirdi. One day Baba gave him Rs. 12/- and told him to go and stay at holy Macchindragad in Satara district and told him that it would help him much spiritually. Baba sent Mankar with the instruction that he should practise meditation thrice daily and assured him of his (Baba’s) presence with him there.
At Macchindragad, Mankar, with great faith put Baba’s instruction into practice. After some days one day when mankar was quite awake, Sai Baba appeared before him physically. Mankar bowed to him at once and even touched his feet. Then he asked Baba why he was sent to Macchindragad. Baba replied, “When you were at Shirdi your mind was getting disturbed by thoughts. You were developing the erroneous view that I am identical with my physical body which is confined to Shirdi. Now, see whether this form of mine is in any way less real than my form at Shirdi. It is to demonstrate the truth about me that I have sent you here.” Later Mankar went to Pune.
One day Mankar wished to go to Dadar. The crowds were too big at the railway counter and there seemed little hope of his getting a ticket in time. Suddenly a villager clothed only in his loin-cloth and rapped in a coarse wool garment approached him and enquiring of Mankar’s destination, handed him a ticket to Dadar and said that as he himself droped his intended journey to Dadar, he was willing to give the ticket to him (i.e., to Mankar). Before Mankar could pay for it, the man disappeared in the crowd and could not be found any where! From Dadar, Mankar went to Shirdi and lived there till the end of his life.
All devotees are not cast in the same mould. Yet, a guru, like a mother, responds with equal love to their different demands. Some of Baba’s devotees were demanding in their attitude. Usually it is a Master that says to the devotee, “If you take one step towards me, I shall take two towards you.” But with Baba, at least in some faces, it seemed the other way round. Some people were prepared to believe in him only if their conditions were satisfied.
When Tatyasaheb Noolkar was a sub-judge at Pandharpur, Nanasaheb Chandorkar told him about Baba’s greatness and advised him to visit Shirdi. Noolkar at once put two tests to Baba’s grace. He said he would go to Shirdi only if he could secure a Brahmin cook and a good variety of Nagpur oranges as offering to Baba. Shortly after, a Brahmin approached Nanasaheb Chandorkar seeking employment. He promptly directed the Brahmin to Noolkar who realized that his first condition was fulfilled. Shortly, Noolkar also received a hundred oranges from Nagpur as a gift by parcel, the sender being, mysteriously, unknown. Nothing then held him back from rushing to Baba. He lived in Baba’s presence and passed away too. During last moments of his life sacred scriptures were read out to him and holy water in which Baba’s feet were washed was given to him for drinking. On hearing about his death, Baba said, “Oh, Tatya went ahead of us! He won’t be reborn.”
All the devotees that were drawn to Baba do not derive the same benefit. Nor would a God-man violate all laws of natural justice of God to benefit anyone beyond his capacity to be benefited. But no one will be allowed to fall to a lower level and the maximum possible benefit would be conferred on every devotee by the saint.
Vijayanand was a sannyasi from Madras. On his way to lake Manasarovar in the Himalayas he heard of Baba’s greatness and sojourned at Shirdi. There he met one Somadevaswami, a sannyasi from Hardwar, who spoke of the great hardships one has to face in a trek to Manasarovar. Vijayanand at once gave up his intention to go there. Later when he went to the Dwarakamai, Baba flew into a rage and yelled, “Drive out this unworthy sannyasi!” Baba was right. For, the fear of discomfort showed the unripeness of Vijayanand’s sannyasa (renunciation). Two days after, Vijayanand received a letter from Madras informing him that his mother was seriously ill. He came to Baba to take his permission to be at his mother’s bedside during her last moments. Baba knew that such a step is spiritually ruinous both to Vijayanand and to the institution of sannyasa. And he wanted to safe his devotee’s soul above all. For he knew what was in store for the unsuspecting devotee. Baba curtly said to him, “If you are so attached to your mother why did you take to sannyasa? Go and sit quiet at the wada and wait for a few days with patience. In the wada there are many robbers; so bolt your doors and be vigilant; thieves will carry away everything. Wealth is transient and the body is subject to decay and death. Keeping this in mind do your duty without attachment to this world and the next. He who thus surrenders himself to the Lord’s will shall enjoy bliss. The Lord helps him who remembers Him with love. Your store of past merits is great and so you have come here. Remember what I said and begin the study of The Bhagawata from tomorrow. Do three saptahas (week long reading) with devotion. The Lord will be pleased and you will attain Peace.”
Vijayananda duly commenced reading of The Bhagawata in the solitude of Lendi. After two readings he was exhausted, returned to the wada and on the third day he passed away, resting on Bade Baba’s lap! Baba then told the people to preserve the body for one day before performing the last rites. And he proved wise. For the next day the police turned up and after enquiry into the death found nothing amiss and allowed the people to bury the body.
In retrospect, we have to note that the thief that Baba mentioned to Vijayananda was death: the senses and the nine openings of man’s body are the doors which Baba asked him to close either through yoga or devotion. For, it is said in The Bhagavadgita and other scriptures that a departing soul would attain that about which it thinks at the moment of death. So Baba, prepared his soul to leave the body with its attention focused on the Lord. Else Vijayananda would have died a lost soul, his heart fallen off from the ideal and duty of sannyasi namely dispassion, and plunged in attachment to his mother and grief at her death. Further, Vijayananda died in the blessed presence of Sai Baba which is incomparably better than dying at his home.
Lala Lakshmichand, a clerk in a Bombay office, had a strange dream on one night in October 1910. He saw an old bearded man standing, surrounded by his devotees in a part of the Santa Cruz area. Later at Das Ganu’s devotional singing at his friend’s house, he recognized in Baba’s portrait displayed there, the saint that appeared to him in his dream! Hearing about Baba’s powers, he decided to visit Shirdi at the earliest. At 8 p.m. the same day, his friend Shankar Rao called on him and asked him if he would accompany him to Shirdi. His joy knew no bounds. He at once borrowed Rs. 15/- from his cousin and started for Shirdi. Along the way the two pilgrims did bhajan for sometime and then, meeting some Moslems that lived near Shirdi, enquired of them about Baba. They told the two friends that Baba was really a great saint.
When they arrived at Kopergaon, Lakshmichand wanted to purchase some guavas for Baba but soon forgot to take them. When their tonga was nearing Shirdi he remembered that he failed to buy guavas. In a few moments, he saw an old woman carrying guavas in basket on her head and she came running after the tonga. When he stopped the tonga and purchased some of the fruits the woman gave him the rest of them and said, “Offer them to Baba on my behalf.” They found her gesture a bit odd and thought that she was probably related to the old fakir.
When they saw Baba at the musjid, the latter said, looking at Lakshmichand, “What a cunning fellow! He does bhajan on the way and yet enquires from others about me. Why ask others? We must see everything for ourselves; just see whether your dream has come true or not. But why borrow money from a Marwari friend for this trip. Are you now satisfied?” What a chain of mysterious coincidences, which ultimately prove to be the deliberate design of the saint to get his devotee to him.
H.V. Sathe had a Brahmin cook by name Megha, a pious youth who always chanted the Lord’s name Namassivaya. Sathe once sent him to Baba. On the way he was much distressed on knowing that the saint was a moslem. Yet his master’s counsel prevailed and he reached Shirdi. When he approached the musjid, Baba flew into a rage and cried out, “Kick out that rascal”! Pointing his finger at Megha, Baba said, “You are a high caste brahmin and I am a moslem; you will lose your caste by coming here. Get out!” He wondered at Baba’s omniscience but his heart did not feel at ease at Shirdi and so he left. But would Baba leave his lamb to stray? Megha again returned to Shirdi and Baba silently helped him outgrow his inhibition. Megha came to believe that Sai Baba was the avatar of his chosen diety Lord Siva. Being traditional in his outlook he insisted on worshipping Baba with bel leaves and bathing him in the holy water of the river Godavari. He used to fetch water from the river everyday, walking eight miles in all and perform his worship.
Megha used to worship all the deities in the local shrines every day before worshipping Baba. One day he found the shrine of Khandoba still unopened and so, after worshipping the rest of the village gods, went to Dwarakamkai to worship Baba. But Baba insisted on his worshipping Khandoba first and said that the shrine was by then opened by the priest. He went and found it was so! This incident increased Megha his faith in Baba and in the efficacy of following one method of worship assiduously.
On the holy day of Makara Sankranthi (the entry of sun in the sign of Capricorn on the 14th of January), Megha wanted to worship Baba by besmearing his body with sandal paste and then bathing him in the water of holy Godavari. Baba who was at first unwilling had to yield to his persistent appeals. When Megha brought the river water, Baba appealed to him not to bathe him; for as a fakir he is not expected to permit it. But to Megha, Baba was Siva and how else could he be worshipped? At last Baba insisted that only his head be bathed and the body spared the ritual. Though verbally Megha agreed, when Baba sat on the bathing seat, he just poured the water from the pot all over Baba’s body, uttering loudly the name of Lord Siva, Hara hara Mahadev. But the next moment, he was amazed to see that only Baba’s head was wet!
Megha also worshipped Baba’s photograph at his lodge everyday. Early one morning. Megha was lying on his bed awake but with his eyes closed. Baba appeared clearly before his inner eye, threw akshatas (rice coloured with turmeric) at him and said, “Megha, draw a trident”. Then he disappeared. When he opened his eyes there was no one and the doors were closed; but akshatas were seen strewn all about him! Megha latter asked Baba whether he should really draw a trident. Baba said, "it was my direct order and my words are never uttered in vain. I need no doors to enter. I am everywhere."
Returning to his lodging, Megha drew the figure of a trident on the wall and worshipped it. The very next day, a devotee from Pune gave a sivalinga to Baba and he gave it to Megha saying, “Lord Siva has come to you; serve Him". Just at that moment Kakassaheb Dixit who was chanting Sai’s name at his lodge, had the vision of a beautiful sivalinga. And in a few moments he saw Megha bringing the same from the Dwarakamai.
When Megha passed away in 1912, Baba passed his hands over the body and said, “This was my true devotee.” He wept like an ordinary mortal, and after covering Megha’s body with flowers, joined the funeral procession. The obsequies were completed. Baba returned to the musjid and gave a funeral dinner to all at his own expenses.
Pure devotion, we have seen in the case of Megha, craves for nothing but grace and it gets it. But grace is no grace if can not correct some less mature attitudes of the devotes. And we can cite a few such instances in Baba’s case.
In 1916, a party of four - a man , his wife, his daughter and his sister-in-law – visited Shirdi on there way from Madras to Benaras and stayed there for a few days. They belonged to the Ramadasi sect. They heard that Sai Baba was a great saint and that he gave liberal gifts of money to those who sang devotional songs. They sang melodiously in Baba’s presence; but all of them except the wife inwardly craved for gifts of money but the wife wanted only Baba’s grace. One day Baba blessed her with the vision of her chosen deity, Lord Sri Rama, in himself. When she recounted her experience to her husband, he did not believe it. Later, one night, he had a dream-vision: He was being tied hand and foot and put in a prison by the police. While Baba looked on, the man asked his protection. Baba said that he was only paying for a sin he might have committed earlier in that life or in a previous one. The man requested Baba to burn out his sins by his power. “Do you have such faith in my power?”. Asked Baba and the man said that he had. Baba then asked him to close his eyes for a moment. When the man opened them again, he found himself free and the policemen dead. When he was rejoicing Baba taunted him by saying, “Now the officers will arrest you for this crime of killing the police!” The man was desperate and he fell at Baba’s feet crying, “There is no one to save me except you!”. Baba asked him to close his eyes again for a moment and he was free! When he bowed to Baba in gratitude, Baba asked, "Is there any difference between this bowing of your head (in namaskara) and the previous ones?" The man confessed that his earlier namaskaras were done with a desire for gifts of money whereas the latest was expressive of his real faith in Baba’s divinity. Besides, he said, his earlier namaskaras were not hearty; for he then had a prejudice that Baba, being a moslem, is unfit to be so bowed to. Baba then said, “Do you not worship moslem idols like the Panja, the Tabut and the deity Kadbibi? Why pretend that you have no faith in Moslem gods?” The man confessed the truth of Baba’s words and prayed that he be graced with the darshan of his guru Samarth Ramadas. Baba then asked him to turn back and see and there stood the great saint Ramadas! When the saint disappeared, the man turned to Baba and said, “Baba, you look old; how old are you?” Baba replied, “What, you say that I am old? Run with me, I shall see,” and he started running. The man tried to overtake him but Baba disappeared in the dust raised by his own feet. The dream was over.
The dream had completely shattered the man’s skepticism and faith in Baba sprouted in his heart. Next morning when he went to Dwarakamai, Baba gave him Rs. 2/- and some sweetmeats as prasad. And blessed him. His craving for money was alchemised thereafter into craving for grace and then the blessing was given by Baba.
The large number of accounts we have considered should not create the false impression that all those that were so drawn to Baba and helped were only Hindus. There were quite a good number of moslems who considered Baba a great moslem saint and who were graced by him accordingly.
Imambhai Chotai Khan of Aurangabad was once threatened with litigation and he went to a Moslem saint named Darves Shah who directed him to Shirdi and gave him some clues to confirm whether Baba was really a great aulia (literally means a ‘friend of god’). He told Imambhai to repeat the first chapter of “The Koran” silently behind Baba’s back and not to accept gifts of money from him. When Imambhai saw Sai Baba,the latter was standing in a street and a lady taking his darshan. Quietly Imambhai went and stood at a distance behind Baba and recited the said verse from the Koran silently. At once Baba turned round and shouted at him, “Who are you? Why have you come to ask me about something as though you are my father?” and went on heaping foul abuse on him. When they went to Dwarakamai,Baba did not allow Imambhai to step into it. When Kakasaheb Dixit interceded and said, “Baba, why are you angry with him?” Baba said, “Do you call him a child? He has beaten his master!” That was a reference to what Imambhai did sometime earlier as a policeman; he beat a Christian ‘master’ who failed to give information in his investigation, and the ‘master’ fell senseless, bleeding all over. The higher officer advised Imambhai to run away. So he resigned his job and ran up to Shirdi to escape prosecution through Baba’s grace. Noticing that Imambhai sincerely repented for his misdeeds, Baba touched his head as a sign of blessing and said, “Do not fear. Allah Malik!” Later everything went off well to Imambhai.
On a later visit Baba did not permit him to return to his native village but, said, “People should not go. If they go there will be storms and balls of fire and lots of trouble.” Imambhai could not grasp the significance of these words and was impatient to go home. So he started by walk. At about 5-30 p.m., he reached Vari, twelve miles from Shirdi. At sunset, as he walked along the banks of river Surala, the patil ( a village officer) warned him, “Do not go. The weather is cloudy. You will have trouble if you go.” Imambhai thought that he could cover the remaining distance of four miles easily. But when he covered some three miles or so there was a storm and suddenly lightning struck a huge peepal tree which he had just passed. The tree crashed and split into two and Imambhai had to turn his gaze away from the blinding flash. And lo, he saw Sai Baba standing behind him. There were two tawny dogs with him. When Imabhai bowed to him Sai Baba disappeared. Emboldened by this assurance of Baba’s protection, he proceeded to wade through the river near his village. He was surprised to find the water knee-deep all through. When he reached the other bank and turned round, he saw that actually the river was in spate, running high about the bank i.e., twenty feet deep! Baba’s words about storm and balls of fire came true.
Immabhai says, “Baba gave spiritual uplift to two moslems that I know. Sheik Abdullah of my village came here (i.e., to Shirdi). Baba spoke to him words of vairagya (dispassion). ‘If we die today, the third day would follow. What is the use of house, land and other things to us?’ Sheik Abdullah returned to our village. He left his house and property to his wife and children, wandered in the streets and spent his nights near tombs, muttering something always. He lived upon what people gave him and did not care if he got nothing. He had developed wonderful powers during these twelve years. Once he asked me not to go on my journey as, at a particular place named by him on the path, there would be a serpent. As it was daylight I did not heed his warning. But I found the serpent exactly in the place named by him.
Abbas Sait, a beedie-seller of my place once said to Adbullah ‘Why do you behave like a madman, giving up wife and relations?’ Abdullah said, ‘You will come to know the same!’ Abdullah flung his closed fist, as though he threw something at Abbas Sait and said, ‘You also become like that!’ From that time the latter gave up his business, home and relations and is still wandering about.
“In Bhopal of Varhad (Behar) one Anwar Khan lived; once he came to Baba and told him, ‘I do not want samsara’. He lived in the chavadi here for twelve months. Baba then gave him a mantra, ‘Bismilla, kuliyo hio valkafiraono nabudo Mabuduna’ etc., from the Koran and told him to repeat it hundred and one times at midnight. Then he was to recite ‘Davut’. Baba then gave him prasad of peda and told him to go to Baghadad in Arabia. He then went to Bombay where Haji Kasim of Bombay help him with free passage to Arabia. He has never returned thence.”
“Hida Beg of Kanad near Aurangabad came to Baba and stayed here (at Shirdi). Moulvi Yakub of Delhi was here then, reading the Koran daily, sitting in the mandap (frontyard of the musjid) during day and night. One night about 8 p.m. Baba told Hida beg, ‘Do not stay here. Go to the cantonment near Kanad (i.e., Aurangabad) and change your name as Punjab Shah. Go and sit there; eat what you get’. He is still living there as a saint and people revere him.”
“Mohammad Khan, a Rohilla of Newasa, was here with Baba. Once he lifted the curtain to see Baba, who was talking to Mahalsapathy (i.e., at night). Strange to say, he could not see Baba! He was getting queer and crazy. His younger brother who was at Newasa, came to Shirdi to take him. Baba gave udi and sent him back and he then became alright.”
“One Maddushah, a fakir at Meran, in Khandesh came to Shirdi about 1913 and entreated Baba to give him Rs.700/- for some urgent need of his. He cried and cried. Baba directed Bapu Sahib Jog to give him the money. He brought Rs.700/- all in silver coins, and placed them before Baba. Baba told the two boys – Gulab, son of Kondaji, and Lakshman Baba Borker Shimpi – to give the money to the fakir who was seated in the mandap before him. The boys pocketed Rs. 200/- and delivered only Rs. 500/- to the visitor. The fakir wept and was grumbling for two or three days. Baba did nothing. So the man took udi and went away on foot. Near Neemgaon, a tonga came up and stopped before him. One Irrus Shah, a Parsi working as a revenue officer in the Nizam State, alighted from the tonga, gave him food and then Rs.200/- saying, ‘Are you content?’ Then Irrus Shah came to Shirdi, and told all present that he had a dream in which Baba told him to go by tonga to Shirdi, and said that he would see a fakir near Neemagaon carrying a tiger-skin, that he should feed the fakir (as he would be hungry) and hand him over Rs.200/- which is the balance of money for which he was pining. So he came in a tonga with food and money and gave the same to the fakir!”
“A moslem from Lassor in Nizam’s state came to Baba and cried. Wanting Rs.400/- or 500/- to meet some urgent need. Baba told him to go and sit under the banyan tree for stool, that a vessel-full of coins will be found there. Next morning he went there and stumbled upon a very heavy vessel, evidently full of treasure. He could not lift it and so he came to Baba at the chavadi. When he returned, it could not be traced and the man cried. Baba said that one Ganu Kadu of Rui had carried it away and so nothing could be done. That Ganu Kadu became a rich man. This Lasoori went back in grief and poverty.
While most of the devotees were willing to trust their welfare completely to Baba there were some who tried to get what they thought was the best from him. And Baba had characteristic ways of teaching people that they should deserve what they ask for even if it were to be the noblest end.
Abdul Kadir visited Sai Baba in 1915 and stayed at the takia. One day when Baba came there on his stroll, Kadir begged Baba to give him fakiri (i.e., the inner state of a true fakir or sadhu) as he wanted to become a saint. Baba at first dissuaded him; but when he persisted, Baba flung his closed fist towards Kadir, as though he was flinging something invisible at him. Thereafter, Kadir’s manner and talk had completely changed. He gave moral advice to people and behaved like Baba, sometimes abusing them in veiled language. Sometimes, picking up a stone, he threatened to throw it at someone. His manner grew more and more unmanageable. This went on for a month and a half and then Baba met him at the frontyard of Dwarakamai and saying ‘Lav bale, idar’ drew his closed fist towards himself as though he were taking back something from Kadir. At once Kadir got back his original state of mind. He stayed on for two more weeks at Shirdi and then with Baba’s permission, went to Pune where he set up a beedie shop near Baba Jan’s margosa tree. (Babajan was an old moslem lady, a great saint and the first guru of Sri Meher Baba). It is evident that Abdul Kadir was not yet ripe for what he had asked and so Baba gave him a taste of it and took it away.
The case of Kusha Bhau illustrates how Baba drew some of the misdirected souls to himself and saved them from spiritual ruin. Kusha Bhau found a guru in one Datta Maharaj who trained him in yoga. He used to press his guru to teach him black magic which yields some lesser super natural power. The guru had to yield to some extent and teach him cetain mantras. Henceforth, Kush Bhau practiced the same intently and wore an iron bangle. He could utter a mantra and produce sweetmeats mysteriously, out of nothing, and distribute them to folks. He was forbidden from eating the same himself.
When Kusha Bhau was twenty two, his guru decided to retire into solitude in the Himalayas and took him along up to Delhi, there he instructed his disciple to resort to Sai Baba of Shirdi as his elder.
Kusha Bhau accordingly visited Shirdi in 1888. On seeing him Baba flew into a rage and did not permit him to enter Dwarakamai until he agreed to throw away the iron bangle and stop the mysterious transference of sweetmeats which amounted to theft. After much inner conflict, Kusha Bhau had to yield; for such was his guru’s parting instruction. He threw away the iron bangle and stopped producing the sweets. He stayed at Shirdi and lived by begging. Baba ordered him to sit in a corner of the mosque and go on reading the Dasabodha of Samarth Ramadas during day. He spent three years at Shirdi and later went on visiting Baba often for the next six years. During that whole period of nine years Baba used to tell him often to see ‘the person with three heads’. Obviously, the reference was to Lord Dattatreya. Henceforth Kusha Bhau started visiting Gangapur, the holy place of Lord Datta. Once, on Baba’s order he read the holy work ‘Guru Charitra’ one hundred and eight times, taking three days for each reading. Then occurred an interesting incident.
Kusha Bhau was fasting on an ekadasi day. And Baba asked him what food he took on such a day. Kusha Bhau said that he took kandamul, something like sweet potato. Baba deliberately distorted the pronunciation of the Sanskrit word as kanda which, in Marathi means, ‘onion’. So Baba picked up an onion and asked Kusha Bhau to eat it. The latter was in a dilemma whether to obey tradition which forbade eating of onions or the guru’s word. At last, as a way out, he said to Baba, “If you eat it, I shall also eat”. Then both of them ate the onions. When visitors arrived, Bada made fun of Kusha Bhau saying, “Look at this Bamniya! (a belittling abbreviation of the word ‘brahmin’) He is eating onions on the holy ekadasi day”! Kusha Bhau protested saying, “Baba ate it and so I did”. Baba categorically denied that he had eaten any onions. He said that he ate a sweet potato while Kusha Bhau ate onions. To prove his contention Baba at once vomited and to the amazement of Kusha Bhau, pieces of sweet potato feel from Baba’s mouth and there were no pieces of onion!
Shrewd Kusha Bhau regarded Baba’s vomit as his prasad, (consecrated food) and at once ate it. Baba tried to stop him through curses and kicks. But being a great sadhaka, Kusha Bhau knew that by taking guru’s uchhishta, i.e., the left over of a guru’s meal as prasad, a devotee automatically acquires the status of a disciple which is above that of a devotee. It placed a moral binding on the guru to secure the highest good to his disciple. And Baba scrupulously avoided accepting anyone as his disciple. But Kusha Bhau made himself one. This is not matter of mere shrewdness but it is shrewdness born of unbounded love for and faith in the guru as God himself. He says “Baba abused me, kicked me, and beat me. But I did not mind all this in the least, as I was overjoyed at having got his uchhishta as prasad. I also knew that as with Akkalkot Maharaj, so with Baba, his beating and abuse were auspicious and beneficial. In an instant Baba’s mood changed. His anger, real or pretended, gaze way to warm appreciation of my unquestioning faith in him and he lovingly placed his hand on my head and blessed me. He said that I would henceforth have the power, by barely thinking of him and holding up my palms, to pour abundance of udi from my palms. This miraculously produced udi could be distributed by me to those who have faith and want prasad from me, and it would remove troubles. This power was at once vested in me, and did not require any japa on my part. The power of producing udi which I have got is communicable by me. But the would be recipient of the power would have to undergo a rigorous course of an austere discipline like, for instance, six months of sexual abstinence. The production of this udi is not the result of any mantra, but is the result merely of remembering Sai Baba. The pedas I produced were merely fetched (i.e., transferred) from elsewhere. That power did not include the production at will of udi. Now it is production of udi by thinking of Sai. Formerly, it was merely transferring pedas from one place to another.” The implications are evident. The production of pedas was a power that he squeezed from his guru’s unwilling acquiescence to his demands and was intended to win fame for himself and thus it boosted his ego. Besides, its distribution meant distribution of stolen things, which polluted the unsuspecting recipients. The production of udi was won by humility and faith in Baba and every remembrance of Baba that had to precede its production made Kusha Bhau remember that he was but a humble medium of Baba’s blessing and thus it strengthened his humility and faith in the saint. It also healed the sick and thus won the hearts of recipients to faith in Baba. A world of difference indeed!
There is another case of a man asking Baba for something that he was totally unfit to have and Baba’s sense of humour in answering him is wonderful. A Man amassed a lot of wealth and owned many houses and much landed property. Once he had a fancy to complete his achievements by tasting Brahmagnana i.e., perfect enlightenment. He heard that a great saint named Sai Baba was capable of bestowing on anyone that asked for it; and he wanted to visit Baba in this connection. When he confided his plans to a close friend of his, the latter frankly told him the truth, “What you are going to ask of Baba is not such a simple thing which a man like you, whose heart is wedded to wealth and woman, can ever dream of getting”. But one day he saw Baba and said, “Baba, hearing that you show Brahman to all those that resort to you for the same, I have come all the way for it.” Baba replied, “Oh friend, all the people that come to me ask for money, health and children. Rare is a person like you who wants nothing less than the highest spiritual realization which I am most anxious to give to my devotees! I shall soon grant you the experience of Brahman”.
Then Baba managed to engage him with other conversation and make him loose sight of the object of his arrival at Shirdi. Then he called a boy and told him to get a hand loan of Rs. 5/- from one Nandu Marwadi. The boy soon returned empty-handed and said that the man was away from his home. Baba then sent him to a grocer named Bala and later to a few others but with the same result. The seeker after ‘Brahmagnana’ grew restless and Baba said, “Oh, friend, did you not understand that all the while I was trying to show you Brahman? For seeing Brahman one has to surrender five things to the Lord-(1) the five pranas, (2) the five senses, (3) mind, (4) intellect and (5) ego. The path of Brahmagnana is as hard to tread as the sharp edge of a razor.”
The point of this whole episode is brought out by a similar experience of another devotee. He asked Baba to show him God. Then Baba sent a boy to Bagchand Marwadi for a loan of Rs. 100/- but the boy returned and reported that the Marwadi had no money and that he wanted his namaskaras to be conveyed to Baba instead. Then Baba sent the boy to another money lender but the response was the same. Then Baba sent for Nana Chandorkar and asked him for Rs. 100/- Nana sent a chit to Bagchand Marwadi who at once sent the amount. Nana said to the visitor who wanted to be shown God, “Everything is just like this in this world.”
When Baba sent for the money it was not forth coming; for Baba was a fakir and the moneylender was afraid that the amount may not be repaid. When Nana, a big officer, wanted, it was promptly sent. One must deserve before one can ask for anything. And that was Baba’s lesson.
In the case of the earlier rich man who wanted to see Brahman, though he had lots of money in his pocket, he did not offer to give the meagre amount of Rs. 5/- for which Baba had been repeatedly sending the boy but kept looking on as though he had no money. And how can such a slave of money hope to get Brahmagnana? Baba had just demonstrated the famous saying of Jesus Christ that no man can serve two masters, god and Mammon.
Once a venerable old Moslem, Sidik Falke by name, came from Kalyan to seek Baba’s blessings. He visited Mecca and Medina and was proud of it. He probably expected Baba to recognize him of his own accord. So he lived in the chavadi and at times sat in the open courtyard of the mosque. Baba ignored him completely for nine long months. To the utter amazement of all, Baba never allowed him even to climb the steps of the mosque. At last Falke requested Shama to intercede with Baba for him. On a convenient occasion, Shama said, “Baba, why do you drive out the good old Haji from the mosque while you allow so many others to come to you freely? Why not show mercy on him and bless him?”
Baba replied, “Shama, you are too young to understand these things. If the fakir does not allow, what can I do? Without His grace, who can even enter the mosque?” Shama still pleaded for consideration for Sidik Falke. Baba finally said, “Well, go to the Haji and ask him whether he will come to the narrow foot-path near the Barvi well.” Shama went, and conveyed the same to the old man. The old man said that he was ready to do so. Baba said, “Ask him whether he is willing to pay me the sum of Rs. 40,000/- in four installments”. Again the Haji conveyed his willingness to pay even for lakhs. Baba again said, We are going to cut goat in the musjid; so ask him whether he would like to have mutton, haunch or testicles of the goat.” The Haji replied that he would be happy to receive even a crumb from Baba’s earthen pot. On hearing the Haji’s reply Baba flared up and with his own hands threw out all the pots in the mosque, walked towards the Haji and, shouted at him, “Why do you brag and fancy yourself great and parade yourself as a Haji? Do you read the holy Koran like this? You are proud of your pilgrimage to Mecca but you do not know Me!” Leaving the Haji amazed at his behavior, Baba went back to the mosque purchased a basketful of mangoes and sent them to the Haji. Then Baba took out Rs. 55/- from his pocket and gave him the money. Henceforth the Haji could visit the mosque freely.
Saguna Meru Naik lived in Goa when he was 10 or 12 years old. Every day he used to take the cattle for grazing . On one such occasion he saw a sadhu who beckoned to him. The boy was frightened and ran home and told his mother of what had happened. The pious lady looked on all sadhus as the forms of Lord Dattatreya. She accompanied her son to the place where the sadhu was. The sadhu asked her for food. The lady gave him sida (a kind of gram) and fire-wood for cooking it. Then he signed to young Saguna Meru and asked him, “When are you coming?” Sagun did not reply. The sadhu smiled and left the place.
Six years after, Sagun came to Belgaum for doing business and stayed there for seven years, then a devotee of Lord Dattatreya by name Dattopant became his friend and attracted Sagun to the spiritual path. After some time Sagun wanted to go on a pilgrimage to Narrasobawadi, a famous Dattasthan. There he had the good fortune of meeting the famous saint and devotee of Lord Dattatreya, Sri Tembe Swamiji Maharaj. The saint, when he saw Sagun, said to him, “You are the man of a great durbar, What more should I tell you?” Sagun could not understand the significance of these words at that time.
Two or three years afterwards, Sagun went to Hyderabad and was introduced to one Seth who was a devotee of Sai Baba. He took Sagun to Shirdi along with him in 1912.
Baba was returning to the mosque after his usual walk to Lendi and met them on the way. A large group of people were following. Sai Baba addressed Sagun in Kannada, “Whence do you come? What do you want?” Sagun could not reply. For two to three days Sagun felt a strong urge to return to Hyderabad. So he sought Baba’s permission. Baba kept quiet and Sagun had to stay away. On the fifth day Baba told him that his mind was still wavering. Then he recalled the event of his early days: “You don’t seem to remember my coming to your place. You were young and brought cows to the tank when I saw you. Your mother gave me sida and fire-wood. Do you remember now?”
Sagun vividly remembered what had happened fourteen years earlier. He then experienced an outburst of faith in and love for Baba and sat gazing fixedly at him.
Baba smiled and said, “Why do you stare at me like a mad man? Our parents are here and we must stay here. You look after me and I will look after you”. Henceforth, Sagun stayed away at Shirdi running a hotel and he wanted nothing. He then realized why Sri Tembe Swamiji Maharaj said that he was the man of a great durbar and what the sadhu meant when he said, fourteen years earlier, “When are you coming to me?”
Sagun’s hotel was situated just opposite the place where pilgrims to Shirdi alighted. One such pilgrim was Tendulkar from Betul District. After taking bath, he had darshan of Sai Baba in the musjid and he invited Baba to lunch with him. Baba smiled and kept quite. This went on for four or five days, and everyday Tendulkar ordered two meals, ate one and asked Sagun to keep one covered up.
One night, at 10 o’clock Sagun was cleaning his vessels for milking his cows. A sadhu approached him and said, “Give me the meal kept for me”. Sagun was a little surprised at his demand but served him cheerfully from what was kept covered up. After finishing his dinner, he said, “Call the man who ordered this for me”. Sagun sent for Tendulkar but he was sleeping soundly and did not wake up. “Let it be”, said the sadhu, “I belong to the Nath panth (Nath tradition). Be feeding the hungry like this. God will do you good”.
All the devotees of Sai at Shirdi came to know of this incident. Shama asked Baba whether he went to Sagun for meal the previous night. Baba smiled and said, “I ate and returned. If anyone comes to us for food we should not turn him away. If we have nothing to give, at least a little jaggery should be given”.