All the mystics of the world and all saints have declared that the immediate presence of a realized sage is one of the most potent forces in the spiritual advancement of a seeker (sadhak). Contact with them induces in us inner calm and purity, restores our sense of values, wipes out illusory allurements of the senses and turns us spiritwards with renewed vigour. Besides, when approached in the proper manner, they can enable us to realize that all saints are one in essence. That is why it is necessary for a true seeker after realization to contact several realized souls; ‘The Gurugita’ thus says, “Just as the honey-fascinated bee goes from flower to flower, so should the wisdom-fascinated person go from guru to guru”.
Some do not realize the need for this and mistake the act of seeing several saints as amounting to deserting their own guru, as a sign of their flickering faith. This may be true in the case of those whose faith is weak. But again, such a condition is a consequence of their initial error. True seekers should first see several gurus, hear their teaching watch their ways and only then fix their faith where it naturally abides in course of time. Such a one’s faith would not flicker. Besides, it would even help him to realize that his own guru is not merely an embodied mortal but is the spirit which is manifest in all guru-forms. This is the spirit of the statement quoted from ‘The Gurugita’. It signifies that honey is one though flowers are varied and a bee, being wise, does not care for the form and colour of the flowers but cares for the honey they contain.
This is the spirit of Baba’s leela of demonstrating that he is one with all saints. That Baba approves of such an attitude is shown by the fact that whenever his devotee ardently prays for true enlightenement alone and has transcended the erroneous view that seeking the blessings of other saints is contrary to reposing faith in him, he brings him in contact with several great saints and shows that he is one with them. Though I have mentioned some instances in the Introduction, I shall deal with a few more of such instances in this chapter.
R. Sarath Babu (24), P.Vijayakumar (25) and T.D.K. Murthy (27) were old students of our college and they had been regularly attending Thursday bhajans and daily satsang at my house. The three wanted to witness the Kumbha Mela in 1976 in Allahabad. On the way they wished to take darshan of the Samadhi of Hazrat Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur and see Videha Sri.Annasuyamata of Paradsinga (20 miles from Nagpur).
All the members of our group look upon all saints as forms of Baba and, before visiting any of them, pray to him to grace them with the special attention and blessings of the saint so that our faith that he is one with them might be strengthened. Accordingly, the three worshipped Baba and started for Nagpur. I wished them godspeed and assured them that Baba would go ahead of them and make all the arrangements necessary. Indeed, their experiences on the trip did bear out the truth more strikingly than we could imagine.
They first went to Dr.Anil of Nagpur, a devotee of Sai Baba who had sent them with a letter of introduction to Sri V.D. Dholey, President of the Samsthan at Paradsinga. What happened subsequently was communicated to me in a letter dt. 31-1-1977 by Dr. Anil. I quote the relevant sentences from it:
“They reached there safely and enjoyed the meals offered by Sri. V. D. Dholey. Thereafter Sri. Dholey took them along for having the holy darshan of Sati Mata (i.e. Anasuyadevi); they stayed there for about 24 hours. Shri Mata allowed them to sleep in her room in the night. On 29-1-1977 the below mentioned message had been conveyed to me from Samsthan of Paradsinga (in Marathi language) and I have been asked to convey the same to you in English.
Just at the very moment when they got down at Paradsinga bus stand, the elder sister of Shri Dholey saw, a circle of wide circumference, highly shining and celestial, dazzling light in the form of a globe, momentarily and that was witnessed by a few other family members too.
And within fifteen minutes after its disappearance these three of your disciples entered the residence of Mr. Dholey. All members of that family were aware beforehand that ‘something new’ was going to happen during the forthcoming moments. Because hitherto none of them had ever witnessed the above sort of scene or occurrence.
When these three were taken to the temple of Mata she was sitting on the decorated bed encircled by a group of devotees. No sooner than these three entered Shri Sati Mata murmured rather in a whimsical way, “Karate mi Ram Ram” by way of greeting.
Then she suddenly asked then ‘Kon desh Kay Nao?’ i.e. “Where from have you come?”
As these three were unable to understand Marathi language, she by herself answered, ‘Dakshinatele Lok Dev Pahayala Alet’ i.e. ‘You have been supported by Godly power; hence God has called upon and bestowed upon you this opportunity to visit (me)… These three requested her to help them in completion of their sadhana. She replied, “Bhajan Kari, Bhajan kari, Chandra Kahi Halena, Kahi Dolena” i.e., ‘You are singing bhajans; yet you are not successful i.e. your cry to reach the destination could not shake His heart’… They asked her through Shri Dholey what should be done in order to reach the destination. Shri Mata replied, ‘Hat Dharun Chalav’ i.e., ‘Walk hand in hand or strictly follow the words of guru. Then these Trimurthi ventured to ask the originality of Mata (i.e. who she is). Shri Mata replied, ‘Anasuya… Anasuya he sarva Jagat Prasiddha Ahe’; ‘Ti Anasuya Satya yugtil Anasuya Ahe’ i.e. Anasuya… Anasuya is famous all over the world. The same Anasuya of Satyayug is here’. Then she murmured that these three name their guru as ‘Master… Master… Master is God’ and with these words, with the help of her fingers she applied the saliva of her tongue on her forehead, (i.e. between her eyebrows)… Lastly these three disciples of yours had placed the photograph of Shri Sai Baba and you before her on the bed. She lifted up the same with her hands and touched mainly your photograph twice or thrice with her tongue. The same photograph was kept by her covered under the sari for the whole of the night. When she touched your photograph with tongue she pronounced ‘Rishi, Rishi……Two Rishis. One on horse’ (perhaps this refers to Shirdi Sai Baba and his horse Shyam Karna)….. She looked at both the photographs for a good length of time.
The mysterious globe of light which Shri Dholey’s sister had seen just before the arrival of the three young men at their house is, in my view, Sai Baba. I was told Shri Mata Anasuya’s revelation that she is indeed the famous Anasuya of yore was an unique gesture on her part which no one before could elicit from her. So too the three young men being permitted to sleep in her room for the night and her unusually cheerful mood in their presence had surprised a few of those present. All this is Sai Baba’s grace reaching these aspirants through the physical form of Mata Anasuya. The truth of this interpretation of the incidents is borne out by what Mr. Sarath Babu has to supplement to the above details:
“As we entered Mr. Dholey’s house we were pleased to notice the photograph of Sai Baba hanging at the entrance. Mr. Dholey was excited as he read the letter (of introduction written by Dr. Anil). He received us very cordially and said, “Your guru (Sai Baba) is always with you. He came here just a few minutes earlier”, We could not make out what he was referring to. Then he said, to our surprise, that just ten minutes before we arrived at their house all the members of his family saw, very distinctly, a blue, luminous light for about two minutes in their verandah, exactly where we later stood… the other residents of the village put out lights at 8.30 p.m. and the Dholeys were all stunned to see the light there at about 9 p.m. As they were all still discussing the phenomenon we entered their house.
In 1967, I was laid up with a relapse of typhoid and was admitted in a hospital at Chirala (Prakasam Dt. A.P.). I wondered why Baba who almost always intervened in my affairs to set them right, had allowed this to happen. One day when I was telling my fellow patients and visitors about Sri Saibaba and other saints, one of the patients told me that there lived at Chirala, an old bearded man in rags, with matted hair, and that he never minded wind, sun or rain. I was told that he continuously wandered from place to place, resting now and then on the roadside; that he did not speak to anyone nor did he accept anything from anyone except the one whom he chose. The fellow patient asked me to see the man described and determine whether he was a saint or not.
It was on a Thurday morning after my prayer, that I was told all this and it at once struck me that, probably, Baba had used my illness to serve the purpose of getting me in touch with a living great saint. So I at once told my visitor friend to take me to him that day. My friend was at first hesitant to do so and asked me to wait till I was well. But I insisted.
My friend first went out and saw where the holy one was and took me there in a rickshaw. There, in the front verandah of a thatched hotel was seated, a man of about 50 or 55, his clothes all dirty and dust-laden, his whole body unwashed, his hair and beard growing long and twined like ropes. He had a leg swollen with elephantiasis. He sat there smoking and blinking at the world like one stupefied. I at first felt that he could be anything but a saint. Even when I stood close to him he took no notice of me. I wondered whether he was sane at all.
Time passed in awkward silence and I tried twice to attract his attention by bowing to him. He did not seem to have noticed it at all. I immediately became aware of a subtle but significant change gradually coming in my mind. All thoughts regarding the Swami and the self-conscious waiting on my part and my apprehensions of what the passers by on the road would think of me were rapidly dissolved into a profound inner peace which deepened more and more firmly. I sat down and my body was getting more and more locked up in one posture and it was imbibing the peace. I at once knew that I was in the presence of a perfect avadhuta. He just glanced at me and I joined my palms in salutation. He took no notice of it. I gradually grew aware of my friend’s presence by my side. I felt I should see the saint alone and left for the hospital. The words of Bhagavan Ramana that the inner peace we experience effortlessly in the presence of a sage is the hallmark of his perfect jnana had sealed my opinion of the swami. However, I wished to take another chance.
Next day, I saw him alone at the same place. During the first few minutes I met with the same seeming indifference of the sage to my presence accompanied by the same peace. I bowed to him thrice and he took no notice of it. A painful apprehension that I was not worth his attention was slowly occupying my heart. I was in a mood to quit. Suddenly a way of trying to contact him flashed in my mind. I silently prayed to Baba, “Baba, you have demonstrated that you are one with all saints. If, indeed, you are identical with this one too, and if you want me to see him often, you have to demonstrate it to me. I shall silently repeat your sacred name a hundred times and if, before I finish the number, this saint gives me something without my asking, I shall take it that I am his as I am yours”.
So saying, I started silently repeating Baba’s name. By the time I repeated it some 40 times, the saint sat upright, took out something from his pocket and gave it to me saying, “Take it!”. I stretched my hand for it and he placed a cigarette and a match box. “Smoke it” he said. I never smoked in my life earlier nor was I willing to do so then.
Just when I was about to say ‘No’ it occurred to me that it was I that prayed for some token of grace from him and I looked on him as Baba. How improper to reject what he deigned to offer me as a token of grace!
I took it and smoked it. He immediately offered me another and I smoked it too. In the meanwhile, the hotel-keeper came out and asked the swami what he wanted. “Serve idli, chilli powder and chutney to this swami”, he said pointing at me. In a moment a bearer handed him the same which the swami passed on to me. I almost panicked. How improper for one who was passing the ninth day of relapse of typhoid to eat the stuff! Yet my feelings again told me, ‘This is a test of your faith that it is Baba who responds to you through the swami’. I at once ate what was given. Then came dosa, upma and a glass of milk! Then followed two packets of cigarettes all of which I smoked. It was 3-45 p.m. and I had to be in the hospital by 4 p.m. when the doctor arrives there. As this thought crossed my mind the swami said, “You may go, swami!”.
As I returned to the hospital in a rickshaw, I could not decide whether I should tell the doctor what I ate that day or not, I decided to wait till 10 p.m. and tell him the same if necessary. Quite surprisingly there was no fever any longer! It was evident that Baba gave me a great demonstration of his grace, more than I had asked for. Subsequently, for about five years I visited the swami as often as I could. Thus Baba had blessed me with the darshan of one more great saint for which I had prayed him at Shirdi years earlier. Further, he had won for me the blessings and prasad of this saint and demonstrated that he was not different from the avadhuta.
This is a typical instance of my experiences with all saints I had seen and in almost all cases, I invariably had a demonstration, subtle or gross, of Baba’s oneness with all of them. I now firmly believe that one who is dear to Baba will invariably be so to any other great saint. One who loves Baba for no other gain than true enlightenment is sure to win the grace of other saints. To show that it is not my individual experience alone, I shall quote a few instances of other devotees’ experiences known to me.
Sri. P. Subbaramaiah, a science teacher in the high school at Kalichedu village (Nellore Dt.) has been devoted to Sri Sai Baba since a few years. Once he visited a great saint named Avadhuta Venkaiah Swami (mentioned in the introduction) and requested him to grace his house. “Not now. We shall see later!”, he said. In 1977 Subbaramaiah had completed the thirteenth parayan of the Telugu version of this book by the time of holy Gurupurnima. Quite surprisingly, a day before that holy day, the swami visited his house, lit up the holy fire (dhuni) there and blessed their family! That day the Sai devotees of that place were performing incessant bhajan from 6 a.m to 6 p.m. at the house of Smt. Subbamamba. The Avadhuta graced this function too for half an hour. The strangest part of it is that he never visits anyone’s house and even when there is a heavy rain he has to be forcibly taken for shelter into someone’s and even then, he sits only in the verandah. Besides, the swami accepted the hospitality offered by Sri Subbaramaiah. His immediate disciples marvelled at his quite unwonted gesture. Nothing can explain this except the grace of Baba!
A. Bhaskar Reddy, an old student and a regular member of our satsang group who is now living at Sullurpet had tried once or twice to see the same saint but he did not succeed. On 12-9-77, he went to Nellore on some work. While going along a road he was impelled to turn a corner for no apparent reason. As he passed through a narrow street, a rickshaw passed by his side and the person seated in it loudly told a tailor in a shop on the roadside that he was going to visit Sri Avadhuta Vankaiah Swami at Golagamudi. Bhaskar stopped the rickshaw and requested the person in it to convey his pranams to the Swami and told him that he too would try to visit the saint that day.
Later, at 12-30 noon, Bhaskar visited the swami. The latter told him to sit aside for a while and come to him a little later. As Bhaskar sat in a corner, the devotees there told him that a little before his arrival the swami said to them, “A brahmin is coming here!” It is evident that thereby the swami was not referring to the formal caste to which Bhaskar belongs but to his yearning for enlightenment. Later Bhaskar saw the swami and the latter said to him, “A devotee will join you. Together both of you are going to look after the work of a temple”. He repeatedly asked Bhaskar, “What do you want?” “I want only your grace”, Bhaskar said. The swami told the other devotees, “I had already blessed him! Not only him but I had blessed his village too; I have granted him lots of devotion and faith”. Then Bhaskar again offered to bow to the swami and the latter said, “You have already earned the grace of great ones. Where is the need to bow again?” Obviously, by ‘great ones’ the swamy meant Sai Baba and the other saints whom Bhaskar saw with Baba’s grace. When he said that he had blessed not only Bhaskar but also his village, he was referring to the fact that at Bhaskar’s house Thursday bhajans and satsang were being conducted and several people of the village were attending it.
Sai Baba secures for us not only the blessings of living saints but also of those who had long ago passed away. These experiences of devotees also confirm his oneness with them. We have noted in the Chapter, “Sai Baba is in all saints” that he had demonstrated his identity with Sri Samarth of Akkalkot. Even today there seems to be a special affinity between these two saints as the following experiences indicate.
Mrs. R. Venkataratnamma, wife of Sri. R. Surendra Babu, (the then Head Master, Z.P. High School, Kota) records her experience:
“My son, Sarath Babu, a close disciple of Sri Bharadwaja brought a manuscript copy of the life of Sri Akkalkot Maharaj written by his Master. He said that I would get peace of mind if I studied and copied out the biography. So I started copying the script devoutly. After a few days, one night I had a vivid dream. An unusually tall sadhu with long hands, wearing a dhothi (loin cloth) appeared. He was holding a brass vessel (i.e. chembu) in one hand. I had a vivid feeling in the dream that he was Akkalkot Maharaj. He asked me to give him a seer of milk. He clearly told me that I owed him that seer. The next moment I woke up. Till then I had no opportunity to see the photograph of the Maharaj. But later when I saw it, to my pleasant surprise it exactly tallied with the figure I saw in my dream.
I was at a loss to know why he asked me for milk because I had never vowed to offer any, either to the Maharaj or Baba. I conveyed my dream to Sri Bharadwaja who asked me to offer the milk to Baba the next Thursday, saying there must be some connection which we might not know. The next Thursday when I was boiling the milk to be offered to Baba, my mother-in-law, casually asked me why I was doing so. She arrived only on that day, after a fifteen day’s stay at her daughter’s house. I told her about the dream. She was surprised and told me that a few days ago when she was away, she fell ill, and vowed to Sri Sai Baba that she would offer a seer of milk if she recovered soon. Accordingly she recovered soon and returned home that day. Only then could I know the purport of the dream. I realized that Sai Baba and Akkalkot Maharaj are really one in spirit. My mother-in-law vowed to Sai Baba but Akkalkot Maharaj claimed the offering!
Similarly, once the mother of Mr. Sarma had darshan of Sri Samarth on several occasions, and the most striking instance is as follows. Once Sri M.B.R. Sarma had completed nine devotional readings of the life Sri Swami Samarth. That day at noon his mother was resting on a cot in the backyard of the house. She felt sleepy but thought that if she fell asleep, monkeys which are rampant there might slip into the house. She opened her eyes and when she looked about she saw Sri Swami Samarth seated there! But strangely enough, it did not seem surprising to her. She casually thought, “While the swamy is seated there how can monkeys enter?” After sometime the same doubt occurred to her and she again looked at the back and again saw the swamy sitting there. That happened some four or five times. She also saw some other holy man sitting by his side but she did not know who it was. Much later she got up and found nobody there. Where Baba’s devotees are, there are all saints! That is the purport of this leela.
Smt. Susheeladevi and Sri Bhatkal were devotees of Bhagvan Ramana Maharshi and considered him as their guru. At the time of Bhagwan’s mahasamadhi they were in Switzerland and could not take his last darshan. A fortnight afterwards, when they arrived in Madras, they were approached by some devotees of Sai Baba for donation for the construction of a Sai Mandir. Smt. Bhatkal told them that her guru was Bhagavan and she had to go to Tiruvannamalai first. The devotees said that Sri Ramana and Sai Baba were not different from each other and assured her that she should realize it if she visited Shirdi. She went to Shirdi on 3-3-1953. There, at Gurusthan she and her fellow-devotee Smt. Dongre had a vivid darshan of Sri Ramana Maharshi in Sai Baba’s photograph! She was immensely pleased with the darshan and stayed at Shirdi for seven days, and read ‘Sri Sai Satcharita’.
It was the year 1974. One day an old gentleman named A. Subbarayudu came to my room. He looked every inch a pious, orthodox brahmin. He is the father of my friend and colleague, Sri A.E. Purushottam Rao (Department of Mathematics). He told me that his sacred-thread ceremony was performed in his ninth year and ever since, he had been assiduously attending to the japa of the sacred Gayatri mantra. But he complained that his mind was never still. I then told him of the need to resort to the succour of a great siddha purusha. Henceforth, everyday he used to visit me and I used to read to him from my books on Swami Samarth of Akkalkot and Sai Baba. This devotional reading produced the needed impact and he felt much elevated spiritually.
During our reading of the book on Swami Samarth we came across the instance of the great saint giving his belongings like the rosary and sandals (padukas) to his closest disciple and my comment thereon that such gifts from great saints would be charged with some of their spiritual vibrations and that they would keep the recipient in good stead.
Then Sri Subbarayudu told me of a moslem saint at his native place. The saint wandered as a mad man. He often played on a flute-like musical instrument which wafted his spirit into ecstatic trances for days on end. While everyone in the village took him for a mad man, one old lady had recognized the spiritual fire in him and served him food everyday. At last, one day he called at her house and gave her a staff saying, “Mother, you have served me with loving care. The time has come for me to quit this earth. Keep this, my staff, with you as a token of my blessing. It will do you good”. The lady received the staff reverentially and cherished it for some time. One day she showed it to Sri Subbarayudu.
Sri Subbarayudu recounted the incident and said how blessed the old lady was and that prior to his listening to the account of Swami Samarth’s life, he did not realize the value of the saint’s gift to the lady. He added that the whole episode took place hardly a year or two earlier. A passing thought came to me that if I had known of the existence of such a saint earlier, I could have secured the staff myself. And I mentally complained to Baba that he had not blessed me with it.
After the summer vacation, one Thursday morning, Sri Subbrayudu called at my house. I was in a hurry to leave for the college and I was slightly uneasy at the old man’s arrival at such a moment. “I am sorry to call on you now. I know you would be in a hurry to go to the college. I shall take only a few minutes’ time…. This is the staff the moslem saint had given the old lady at my place”, he said, putting the same in my hands! I wondered how he could get it from the lady.
“The old lady at my place had one day come to my house during this vacation and gave this to me, saying that she was somehow strongly impelled to do so. I accepted it most gratefully. Eversince it came to me I had a good push in my meditation. But somehow, since a few days of my coming here, whenever I tried to meditate keeping the staff with me, I felt a terrible inner disturbance, much worse than before! I felt that I could not keep it any longer. It strongly occurred to me that orthodox as I am, the staff which carries with it the spiritual vibrations of a moslem saint has not agreed with my vibrations which are tuned to the Vedic tradition. But knowing the value of a gift from a saint, I could not conceive of throwing it away or even returning it to the old lady. So I was thinking of giving it to someone who can cherish it with the devotion and respect it deserves. This morning, when I sat in meditation, I was thinking of this question and suddenly you came to my mind. As you belong to the flock of Sai Baba who has harmonized both the traditions in himself, I thought I should give it to you. The thought was so compelling that I could not help but come with it now. Take it”, he said, keeping it in my hands.
Think of it all! A pious old man comes, on a Thursday, immediately after I had finished my prayer to Baba, and gives me the very holy object for which I had a longing thought for a moment months ago! Is not Baba the harbinger of grace? The sturdy walking stick stands in my puja room as a testimony to Baba’s watchful care of his devotees’ holy aspirations.
Smt. Kamala of the nearby village writes: “When Sri Narayan Maharaj was camping nearby, I wished to see him the next morning and I read Baba’s life to secure his blessing. Early next morning, after ablutions, I worshipped Baba’s picture and offered him two bananas. Afterwards, when I touched them, I felt something like an electric shock and passed into deep meditation wherein I grew oblivious of everything except the picture of Baba. Then I heard a voice from it. ‘I’ve taken one fruit. Give the other to Narayana Maharaj!’ When I regained normal awareness, I found one fruit missing. The one that was left was too black and soft to be offered to Sri Maharaj. So I gave away a piece of it to everyone in the house. When I visited him, Sri Maharaj at once said, “Where is the fruit? Hasn’t Baba told you? Have you lost your head? Why have you done like this?” Then he recounted everything as it happened at my house.
One day, I noticed a cobra moving about the snakepit in our backyard. The next day, Sri Maharaj said, “It is a great mahatma. It has a ‘gem’ in its hood. Take care that no one harms it!” Where Baba is, there are all the mahatmas. Henceforth, I meditated everyday for some time near the snakepit.
For sometime, I longed to see Sri Ranganna Babu. On December 4, he visited Sri Bharadwaja and both of them came to our house. Entering my room of worship, he said, ‘Your puja room is quite peaceful!’ Once I took darshan of Sri Avadhuta Venkaiah Swami. He accepted the gruel and biscuits we offered and gave us a little of it as prasad. I meditated for sometime in his presence and found that a permanent change for the better had occurred in my being. So too, when I visited late Mataji Revati Amma in Madras and told her that I came from Sri Bharadwaja, she lovingly led me into her room, rested my head on her lap and gave me a little of the betel she was chewing, as prasad. On another visit, she presented me with her sari and blouse and blessed me saying, “In such a place as this, you have a special place. You always have my blessing! Rest content with it”. One day, as I was in bed, I had a vision in which I saw an announcement in ‘The Hindu’ that Mother Revathi Amma had taken samadhi. In four days, I came to know that she passed away precisely at the moment of my vision and it was announced in the same paper!