The spiritual perfection of a sadguru consists in realizing his essential identity with the One spirit of all existence which is god. All the gods of the Hindu pantheon are its different aspects. Thus the perfect Master is one who can demonstrate that he is all the gods, as Sai Baba did.
The father of Bhagwantrao worshipped Vithal regularly with great devotion. But after his death, his son Bhagavantrao neglected the worship and the annual pilgrimages to
Pandharpur. When Bhagwantrao came to Shirdi, Sai Baba said to the other devotees, pointing at him, “His father was my friend, so I drew him here. This fellow never offered naivedya (i.e. offering of food to the Lord) and so he starved Vithal and Me; I have drawn him to this place so that I could remonstrate him and set him to carry on the worship regularly.” Bhagwantrao marvelled at Baba’s words and his faith was revived.
Raghuvir Purandhare too had such an experience. About the year 1913 his mother was asking him repeatedly to take her to Pandharpur even when they were at Shirdi. Even before Purandhare broached the subject of going to Pandharpur with him, Sai Baba himself mentioned it by asking her when she proposed to “start for Pandhari”. The same day, Purandhare and his mother got darshan of Baba as Vithal and Rukmabai in the musjid itself! They were naturally, highly pleased with the experience and did not wish to go to “Pandhari” any longer. Afterwards, Baba often asked Purandhare’s mother, in a jocular manner, when she proposed to go to Pandharpur and she always replied that her chosen deity was at Shirdi and so Shirdi was her
A mamlatdar, who was a devotee of Sai Baba invited his friend, a doctor to accompany him to Shirdi. The doctor was a devotee of Sri Rama and was unwilling to see Sai Baba who, he thought was a moslem. He was afraid that he might be obliged to bow to Sai if he went to Shirdi. The mamlatdar then assured him that no one would force him to bow to Baba. So he came to Shirdi.
When they arrived at the mosque suddenly the doctor rushed to Baba and fell at his feet! The mamlatdar was surprised and later asked him why he gave up his earlier resolve. The doctor replied, “Sai Baba is not a moslem. He is a perfect yogi, an avatar of Rama”. Three days later Baba graced him with the experience of supreme bliss which lasted for a fortnight.
In 1916 a Madrasi bhajan mela of the Kabirpanth consisting of a man, his wife, his sister-in-law and daughter, started on a pilgrimage to Banaras. On the way they heard of Baba’s greatness and his generosity in rewarding devotional singers and so they visited Shirdi. They sang several songs melodiously at the Dwarakamai but except for the man’s wife who was very devoted to her chosen diety Sri Rama, all of them were singing with their hearts set on Baba’s gifts of money. Baba was pleased by the woman’s devotion and at the noon arti, graced her with the darshan of Sri Rama in his own person. She was lost in the surge of spiritual bliss; her eyes overflowed with tears of ecstasy as she clapped her hands in utter joy; while everyone saw Sai Baba in the mosque she saw Sri Rama Himself in his place!
To the devotees of Lord Dattatreya, Sai Baba was Datta. Once two visitors came from Goa for Baba’s darshan. Baba asked one of them for Rs. 15/- as dakshina and the man gave it. The other man volunteered to offer Rs. 35/- but Baba did not accept it. Later Shama made bold to ask him why he made such distinction between the two visitors. Baba said, “Shama, you do not know anything. I do not take anything from anyone. Musjidimai (i.e. mother musjid) calls for her debt and the debtor pays it and becomes free. Have I any home, property or family to care for, that I should need money? I require nothing. At first the man was poor and could not secure any job. He then took a vow that if he got a job he would offer his first month’s pay to Lord Datta. He soon got a job and his first month’s pay was Rs. 15/- Later he was promoted and his pay rose up to Rs.790/- p.m. But in his prosperity he cleanly forgot all about his vow. Debt, enmity and murder have got to be atoned for. The force of his karma has driven him here and I asked for the amount from him as dakshina”. The visitor in question confirmed that Baba’s words were nothing but the truth. By revealing his knowledge of his vow and the circumstances in which it was made and also demanding it Baba showed that he was Lord Datta.
Balwant Khojokar was at Shirdi in 1911 on the occasion of holy Datta Jayanthi i.e., the day of Lord Dattatreya’s first manifestation as the son of Sage Atri and his wife Anasuya. Khojokar’s son writes about the incident that took place on that day; “At about 5 p.m. or so, Baba was seated at the mosque with devotees around him. Suddenly he said, ‘I am having the pangs of labour. I cannot bear it. I am about to be delivered!’ Evidently he was identifying himself with Anasuya of yore, mother of Lord Dattatreya, who at that time of the day had her pains of labour ages ago and so he too was undergoing sympathetic pain. At the time of sunset, he drove out all people from the mosque and again, after a little while, he called in all people to come to him. Then he was in glee. This, according to puranas, was the time of Datta’s birth. People went in, and among them was my father. What he saw on Baba’s seat and in the place of Baba was small child, charming three-faced figure of Datta as an infant. That vision lasted for a moment. Khojokar realized that Sai Baba was Datta.”
Another devotee’s experience occurred long after Baba’s mahasamadhi (in 1918). Vinayak Daji Bhave, a clerk in the Railway Department, was anxious to find a guru. So he undertook a devout daily reading of the “Guru gita” which is said to be efficacious in such matters. After a month, he visited a temple of Datta on a Thursday. But, to his wonder, there he saw a samadhi (i.e. tomb of a saint) in the place of the usual idol of Datta! Next morning he happened to see, for the first time, late Sri Dabholkar’s (Hemadpanth) book on Sai Baba in which he saw a picture of Sai Baba’s samadhi. At once he recognised it to be the one that he saw at the Datta temple earlier and inferred that Sai Baba was his guru. For a time he took Baba’s udi and read books on Baba. After some time the doubt cropped up in his mind that a tomb cannot be a substitute to a living guru who could communicate with him. So again he did parayana of the Guru gita for a week. Then the great saint Narayan Maharaj of Khedgaobet appeared in his dream. Inferring that Narayana Maharaj was his guru, he went to Khedgaonbet. There Sri Narayan Maharaj appeared in his dream and said, “I and Sai Baba are not different from each other. Why do you not go there?” Thus confirmed, Daji Bhave accepted Sai Baba as his guru. Later a sadhu read his palm and said, “Sai Baba is your guru”. The appearance of Sai Baba’s samadhi in the place of Lord Datta’s idol in the Datta temple and its confirmation by Narayana Maharaj establish Baba’s identity with Lord Dattatreya beyond any doubt.
About 1900, one Balasaheb Binnevala, a close relation of Nanasaheb Chandorkar, went to see Sai Baba, but only to oblige Nanasaheb. He was a worshipper of Lord Datta. When he went and saw Sai Baba, the latter appeared to him as having the three heads of Lord Data. Balasaheb was at once convinced that Sai Baba was Datta.
Somanath Deshpande, the son of Nanasaheb Nimonkar had the fortune of serving Baba for four days when his father had to remain at Ahmednagar to attend the court. Within that short period Somanath had a blessed vision. Baba was seated in his usual place and Shama was sitting on the steps of the mosque. Suddenly Baba appeared to Somanath in the form of Maruthi. “There was no longer Sri Baba’s usual figure. There was the Maruthi body. Only I did not see if he had a tail. Seeing that form I at once said to Madhav Rao (i.e.,Shama), “Take his darshan; see, he is Maruthi!”, so writes Somanath.
M.V. Sahasra Buddhe of Satara learnt of Baba only after the later’s mahasamadhi, in about 1931 and had several divine experiences. The crowning experience was, in his own words, as follows: When I was at Paltan, I had a vision one night of a Satyanaarayana image (i.e., an idol) and a pandal put up (above it) and worshipped in the Shirdi samadhi front hall. The offerings made to the image were passing straight into the tomb to Sai Baba seated within the tomb. The tomb was transparent. To verify the truth of this, I wrote at once to Shirdi to see if Satyanarayana puja was conducted at the time and place mentioned above. I got a reply in the affirmative. Baba has thus shown me that he is Satyanarayana and that puja to Satyanaayana is puja to Sai Baba”.
A housewife was suffering from severe and chronic headache. All medical aid proved futile. At last she resorted to Baba. As soon as she bowed to him and sat in his presence her ailment vanished quite mysteriously. When she told Sai Baba about it, he said, “Mother, you have been feeding me sumptuously. I have been watching you since you were a girl.” The lady was surprised and said, “Baba I am blessed with your darshan just now, how could I have fed you sumptuously?” Sai smiled most benignly and said, “Whom do you worship at your home?” She said that she had been a devotee of Lord Ganapathi and that she worships Him every day. “At your mother’s place?” Baba asked. “There too I used to offer flowers, fruits and sweetmeats to the same deity,” she replied. Sai said, “All those offerings of your have reached me. That’s how I have known you since your younger days.” Mythologically, Ganapathi is a deity who is fond of sumptuous food and Baba had identified himself with him. This miracle demonstrated that hearty offerings and worship rendered even to an ‘inanimate idol’ in a true spirit of devotion and faith are sure to reach the Spirit which prevails all Saints, animals and even idols. It is the spirit behind the worship that is of prime importance. Hence Baba did not condemn idol worship. It is a valid form of spiritual practice for those who are by nature made for it.
Sadasiva Joshi of Sholapur accompanied his friend Gadgil to Shirdi. There he used to attend the daily arti to Baba’s picture in Sathe’s wada. On three days in succession Sadasiv had darshan of Lord Narasimha in Sai’s picture. Later when he took leave of Baba to return home, the later gave him udi and sweetmeat as prasad to be taken home. Sadasiv found that the prasad was too small in quantity to be distributed to all the members of his family. Baba then gave him eight annas (i.e., fifty paise) and told him to purchase more sweetmeats from any shop at Shirdi and that it was indeed his prasad. This experience of Sadasiv demonstrates that Sai Baba is not different from Lord Narasimha. Besides, it shows that by the blessed presence of the godman, the whole of the village got so sanctified that sweetmeat purchased from any shop there is equivalent to prasad given by him. Baba offering the needed money is a tacit way of acknowledging that the mystic vision which Sadasiv had was specifically granted by Him.
Once Sri Marthand, the son of Mahalsapathy, was seated at the threshold of Khandoba’s temple. Baba came there and Marthand reverentially stood up. But quite astonishingly, even before his very eyes, Baba appeared smiling and walked towards the idol of Khandoba and merged in it. In amazement Marthand peeped behind the idol but there was none there. While he looked on in panic Baba again walked out of the idol and left the temple, smiling at him. Henceforth, Marthand took it that Baba wanted him to worship the idol as Baba’s form and so he did till the last.