Saibaba The Master
Parama Pujya Acharya Sri Ekkirala Bharadwaja

A Previous Life of Sai Baba

In the chapter ‘Sai Baba is in all Saints and Sadhus’ we have noted a peculiar anecdote. In one of his previous mainifestations, Sai Baba was asked to go to one Mukund and assure him of the success that was at hand in his spiritual endeavour. Soon after, Baba met a prince in the market place and directed him to proceed to Amarkot assuring him that a son would be born to him who would be a king of a country in future. Baba added that this child was Akbar the Great. Obviously, Baba, in narrating these two episodes, implied a connection between Mukund and Akbar. I shall quote the passage which I found in Prof. A.L.Srivastava’s book “The Mughal Empire”. 1

“The tradition is recorded in the pages of Murtaza Hussain Bilgrami’s Hadiaq-tul Aqalim, and when a child, the present writer heard it also from his father who gave the story in detail. It is related that in his previous life Akbar was a Hindu anchorite, entitled Mukund Brahmachari, who was supposed to have undertaken a religious penance (tap) at Prayag so that he might be born a powerful Kshatriya King and exterminate Islam from India. But as luck would have it, he was, owing to a mistake in the performance of the tap, born as a moslem. Nevertheless, in view of his prenatal-heritage, Akbar acted like a Hindu monarch that he was so anxious to be, and served the interests of Hindu religion and culture. Many a Hindu would not have his breakfast without having seen the emperor’s face (‘darshan’) in the morning”.

How close is the connection between this passage in a text book of Indian history and the anecdotes recounted by Baba!

The Miracles of Sri Sai Baba

The true mystical tradition of all the great religions hold that in the course of intense spiritual discipline, the higher potentialities of man might get awakened and these might secure seeker the power to perform ‘miracles’ . Besides it also warns the seeker that these miracles might distract him from his goal of perfection and may even cause his moral fall. Some even believe that the performance of miracles will lead to spiritual depletion of the mystic. How then could Sri Sai Baba be considered a genuine, prefer, saint when he almost incessantly performed miracles?

The fact is that there are two classes of ‘miracles’. Those performed by those who are still on the path, as an act of will, either for the blatant purpose of self-aggrandisement or for the seemingly benign purpose of winning more souls to faith in the spiritual life. As this class of miracles involves individual will, it only serves to further strengthen the false sense of individuality or ego of the sadhaka: it hinders his realization of the One Reality that underlies his self and of others. It strengthens his fascination for fame and fear of losing it. It is this which leads to the fall and has to be by-passed by the true seeker.

The other class of miracles occur, and are not ‘performed’, spontaneously without the will of the prefect sage. The very strength of the sage’s perfect realization, in its interaction with nature, causes the ‘miracle’ to take place. Such miracles did take place even in the ‘lives’ of such as Bhagawan Sri Ramana Maharashi. He even elucidated this distinction between the two classes of miracles and said that the miracles of Sri Krishna and of Jesus Christ are of the latter category.

How do we know that Baba’s miracles are of this class? Firstly, the fame that accrued to him thereby did not in the least touch his heart as is amply borne out by his way of living. Secondly, we have to judge the tree by the fruit. The miracles which manifested through Baba were just such as are needed to make his devotees ethically and spiritually better evolved. Thirdly, almost all his contemporary saints, whether Hindu, Moslem or Parsi, did all acknowledge his inner perfection long before he came to the notice of the people around him. Fourthly, the miracles did not taint him with egoism nor did his spiritual energy get exhausted even sixty years after his mahasamadhi. Fifth, his firm opposition to the performance of the lesser class of miracles is demonstrated by his dealings with the devotee Kusa Bhav.

Bhagawan Sri Ramana is said to have elucidated the distinction between a Jnani and Jnana Siddha and Sri Sai Baba, like his great contemporary Sri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot seems to belong to the latter category and this explains why the miraculous experiences of his devotees stand such a characteristic feature of his life.

An Objection and An Answer

Several readers of Telugu version of the book objected to the chapter in which I have written of some of the famous contemporary devotees of Sai Baba. Different readers averred that most of these devotees do not deserve to be mentioned in such a book, caught as they are in the coils of certain moral lapses.

To this charge I can only give my view point. Moral lapses are a consequence of incomplete spiritual perception of the nature of worldly things and of the spirit. Increased insight into the worthlessness of matters grossly worldly is a product of gradual evolution of consciousness through sadhana. In the path of devotion to Baba this development is entirely a matter concerning the devotee in question. We have nothing to bother about it. Sai Baba himself had furnished the true picture of the matter. When one of his devotees wondered how many of those flock to Baba would realize life’s goal, he gave an apt parallel. When the mango tree blossoms, how many of these blossoms, buds, tender fruits and half-ripe ones fall off owing to wind, pests, monkeys, children etc? And how few reach the state of ripe fruition? A verse in the “Bhagavadgita” too says that of thousands of individuals, only a few turn godward; of these, only very few will realize Him. “Many are called but very few are chosen” says Christ and illustrates it with the parable of the sower. The devotee’s zeal in the pursuit of his goal is of prime concern to him and it is a matter concerning his enlightenment. Why should we bother about it? A true devotee of Baba never does. For, Baba himself had demonstrated what our attitude to such should be. When Jawahar Ali, the pseudo-saint pretended to be the guru of Sai Baba, the latter kept quiet. He never bothered to expatiate the former’s unworthiness to other devotees. He was very explicit in asking us to shed the sense of difference and to see the one in all if we wish to attain the ultimate object of life (paramartha). Then should we bother about any moral lapses in these devotees?

I included them in this book just to show to the readers how Baba is willing to bless his devotees even long after his mahasamadhi. How well the utilize the grace thus showered is their headache and not ours. It is enough if we too could strive to win his grace and take care not to fall victims of such lapses. If any of these devotees have any lapses, it only further vindicates how far Baba is willing to grace us inspite of such lapses and how we can fare better if we could rid ourselves of such lapses. It is all the greater incentive to our zeal in self-culture.

To be obsessed with the lapses we see in some devotees is to totally divert our attention from that Baba taught both by his practice and precept and then we do not deserve to be called his devotees. Instead of meditating on the divine in all, we thereby do the reverse of it and the fruits of doing so could be contrary to what we hope to get by following Baba. Perhaps Baba had inspired me to write the chapter partly to bring any such error in us to our attention so that we could strive to shake it off. Do we not see that Baba did something alike in the case of the Ramadasi , when he had snatched the book Vishnu sahasranama and presented it to Shama?

May Baba inspire in us the wisdom to take what is positive in the accounts of these devotees, and if we notice any of their failings, these help us to be careful against falling into similar errors ourselves.

A Note on Devotion to Guru

We have noted in the Introduction that association with a great saint is of paramount importance to spiritual life. Sai Baba’s account of his devotion to his guru and his saying “Look to me and I look to you” corroborates it. It is relevant to consider a few suggestions for shaping our devotion to Sri Sai Baba along these lines.

Firstly, a life-like picture of Sri Baba is an invaluable asset. To a keen student of Baba’s life history, the form of Baba is a powerful reminder of the supreme value of unfaltering meditation on the guru and the picture conveys this attitude of Baba. The spiritual greatness of the saint which the picture recalls us will act as a powerful force to motivate us to aspire and strive for that goal. At one stroke, it places all other aspects of our life in their places, giving them, no more value than they deserver. Our attitude to things and persons we encounter in normal life, if so seasoned, is what is implied by viveka (insight or understanding) and vairagya (absence of thoughtless fascination for things.) fascination for things.) The sight of Baba’s picture thus evokes these two potent forces of sadhana in us. And he personified these two forces in his form and life.

Secondly (i) a regular and devoted study of the account of Baba’s life-history will draw our heart towards the goal spiritual. (ii) The experience of the devotees will inspire love, reverence and wonder for the saint and when these attitudes are clearly impressed on us, they keep all our thoughts and feelings hovering about our love for Baba. sadhana becomes incessant. It becomes our very life. (iii) Usually the manifold objects and creatures of the world and our attitude to them are the most powerful constituents of mundane life which thwart us in our attempts to keep our life tuned to the Spiritual Reality. To a diligent student of Baba’s life, the very obstacle gets transmuted into an aid. The miracles that demonstrate his identity with all creatures, deities and his picture are the aids. After reading these accounts repeatedly, we find that every object and person gets associated with Baba’s leelas in our mind and so will act as a reminder of Baba. The very things of the world will be the agents for tuning us to Baba.(iv) The mysterious experiences such a student usually has will further strengthen these forces. (v) Thus the emotional currents of worldly life and of spiritual life get harmoniously synthesized so that we are never out of tune with Baba and yet never out of tune with the world. (vi) This further sharpens our viveka and vairagya by making us realize the triviality of mad sensuality of all types. The innumerable fruits of these adjustments in our psychic life can only be experienced and never enumerated in toto.

Thirdly, we can cultivate the habit of engaging our mind in thoughtful and constant repetition of Baba’s name. We can utilize the name to recall Baba’s form which, through long association of ideas will, in course of time, evoke all the attitudes mentioned under the second head above. This we can do whenever we have nothing imperative to do. All the hours we usually spend in idle fancies will be turned to good account. Or, the name can be made to evoke in our mind the spiritual powers that his miracles demonstrate, his omniscience, Omnipresence, his dispassion, his wholehearted meditation on his guru, his vigilance over the welfare of his devotees, his transcendence over death etc. Or we can with the strength of this understanding, look on the manifold world as the joyful projection of the one consciousness we call Sai Baba. And Baba’s name can be taken as a symbol of this truth.

Fourthly, we can cultivate the habit of mentally offering to Baba anything that we drink or eat and then partaking of it as his consecrated gift to us.

Fifthly, we can set apart the fifteen minutes of the day for tuning our attitude to Baba for the whole day. It consists of a few minutes of recollecting Baba and then reaffirming our resolve to observe the four points we have noted so far. Again the last fifteen minutes of the day we utilize to think of Baba and mending our attunement to Baba whenever it is battered by the day’s mundane experiences. We strengthen our viveka and vairagya as mentioned in the second head before sleeping. A minute of silent prayer before taking food or drink will complete it. Sixthly, making it our habit to partake of Sri Baba’s udi everyday.

Seventhly, we can and should set apart an hour or two per week for whole-hearted worship of Baba. Here we remember strongly Baba’s oneness with his picture. The point is to keep the feeling as a continuous thread through the awareness of his supreme qualities like omnipresence, omnipotence etc.

Eighthly, we can utilize all the inevitable occasion of contact with others (wherever possible) in sharing with others our loving recollections of Baba and what he did to his devotees. So too, whatever opportunities for action life affords us, we might utilize them to do our best for others with the deep awareness that the same psychic being as ours is theirs too. We should strive to act up to the ideal “Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.

The possibilities for such attunement of ours lives are indeed infinite and I leave it here to the creative understanding of the fellow-devotees.

Chavadi Procession

We have noted that Sai Baba used to sleep in the musjid and the chavadi on alternate nights. On December 10,1909, the devotees started worshipping him at the chavadi. They even led him there in a ceremonial procession, with all pomp and eclat. We shall note here the details of the pageant.

A little before it was time for Baba to start for chavadi, the devotees gathered in the frontyard of the mosque and sang bhajans. With the small chariot (ceremonial procession car) behind them, the tulasi stand (the oscimum sanctum) to the right, Baba before them, the devotees gathered in the middle spot. The young and the old played in various musical instruments like the drum, cymbals, chiplis etc., as they sang. Some stood at the gates of the musjid, getting the torches ready for the night procession. Some decorated the palanquin. Some stood there, holding long ornamental staves, now and then loudly hailing, “Sadguru Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai” . Rows of oil lamps burned bright on the walls of the masjid. The whole mosque and its premises were decorated with garlands, leaves, flowers and coloured paper. Outside it stood the well-decked horse, Shyama Karna (Moslem devotees called it Shamsuddin).

A little before the moment of Baba’s departure arrived, Tatya, along with several other devotees, came to Baba and told him to get ready for the procession to the chavadi. Till Tatya himself saw him again and helped him to stand up by lifting him by the arms, Baba sat in wait. Tatya lovingly addressed Sai as ‘mama’ or uncle. Indeed, so cordial and intimate was their relationship. At last, when Tatya came again and helped him to stand up, Baba took his small staff(sathka), clay smoking-pipe and tobacco in hand, put a small piece of cloth on his shoulder and got ready to start for the chavadi. Tatya then placed a shawl with golden embroidery over his shoulders. Baba then took a step forward, adjusted the fuel in the dhuni with his right foot, put out the oil lamp with his right hand and started from the mosque. At once the devotees played on drums and pipes in the most majestic manner. Crackers were exploded and missiles fired into the air which left a beautiful display of colours in the sky. The devotees started moving on while chanting Baba’s holy name to the accompaniment of rapturous music. Some of the devotees even danced in ecstasy. Some of them carried flags and standards. The devotees loudly proclaimed his name with one voice. They stood in two rows on either side of Baba’s path. Some of them fanned him with chamaris (tufts of chamar tails), while others spread a cloth along his path. As devotees held his arms, Baba slowly walked over the cloth. Tatya held Baba’s left hand and Mahalsapathy held his right. Bapusaheb Jog usually held the ceremonial umbrella over his head. The well caprisoned horse walled ahead of him. Behind him followed the devotees, attendants and the band of musicians.

The chanting of the divine name of Hari interspersed with loud proclamation of Baba’ name. In this manner, the procession reached the turning at the mosque. Sai Baba used to stand there, facing the mosque. His form wore an unearthly (divine) halo around it. His face looked radiant like the rising sun. As he gazed intently towards the north, it looked as though he was inviting some invisible forces mentally. As the musicians played on the instruments, Baba used to wave his right arm up and down several times. Kaka Saheb used to fetch a red powder called gulal and, mixing it with flowers, used to sprinkle them on Baba. The devotees seemed to drink his heavenly appearance with their eyes. Late Sri Hemadpanth who witnessed the scene remarks :- “Words fail to describe the scene and the splendour of this occasion”.

Other Celebrations

Moslem devotees of Baba once commenced the annual festival, in honour of the ‘moslem fakir’ called urs. After sometime, Hindu devotees commenced the celebration of Ramanavami. As though in accordance with Baba’s mission, the day coincided with the urs. Henceforth, devotees of the two communities have been celebrating the two festivals on the same day, in perfect harmony.

After the mahasamadhi of Baba, Vijayadasami has come to be the most important festival at Shirdi, as the anniversary of the supreme event. As many devotees believe that Baba is the most complete avatar of Lord Dattatreya, the ancient traditional festival of Dattajayathi, the anniversary of the divine descent has also come to be the fourth important celebration. Gradually, all festive occasions of Sai devotees of all religions have been occasions of large festive congregations.

Baba’s Antecedents

It was late Sri Das Ganu Maharaj who first wrote the story regarding Baba’s birth, parentage and discipleship. Later, late Sri B.V. Narasimhaswami has elaborated it in the first part of ‘Life of Sai Baba’. We have shown in Chapters II & III of this book that the story could not be true. In fact, when Sri B.V. Narasimhaswami compiled ‘Devotees Experiences’, Sri Das Ganu Maharaj, in his account, says that he first wrote ‘Bhaktisaramrit’ chapters 52 and 53 which were approved by Baba. The rest of the story of Baba’s life contained in that book was published in 1925. The details of the previous history of Baba which are included in chapter 28 deal with Baba’s story at Selu. Das Ganu himself admits that the story was partly based on Baba’s stray references, but mostly it was what he gathered from hearsay from the natives of that place. The only thing that Baba is said to have mentioned was that he came from Selu. When Das Ganu was working in the Police department, he tried to investigate the antecedents of Baba. He admits that he does not even remember which facts of Baba’s life were conveyed to him by which native of Selu. All that he could gather was that a hundred years earlier, there lived an old man in Selu; that a fakir came and stayed with him; that some people had killed the old mahatma for some grudge which they had against him; that the fakir had finally escaped.

Now let us see if it is proper to identify the fakir in the Selu story with Sai Baba. When I was gathering information about the life of Hazarat Tajuddin Baba of Nagpur, one of his disciples told me that a fakir came to the Baba for instructions, and that he was Sai Baba. I found a similar claim from the devotees of Sri Swami Samarth of Akkalkot. His devotees claim that Sai Baba was his disciple. I found that the source of all this confusion is the custom of referring to fakirs as Sai (a saint). Thus the Sai’s mentioned in the three stories above are identical only in their common title. But as the name of Sai Baba of Shirdi became famous, different people came to identify him with the various fakirs in the life histories of the three mahatmas mentioned above.

Sai Baba told his early devotees of Shirdi that his guru’s tomb was underneath the local neem tree. He told Swami Sai Sarananandaji, that Roshan Shah was his guru. On another occasion, he told Hemadpanth that he met his guru in a forest. All this calls into question the authenticity of his connection with the guru of Selu. Besides, Das Ganu started his investigation in 1901. So, the Selu-episode could have taken place prior to 1801, according to his account. That is, if this story were true, Baba’s age at his arrival at Shirdi ought to be about 50 years. Some say that Baba appeared at Shirdi in 1872. As per this version, if the Selu - episode was true, Baba ought to be 70 years old at his first arrival at Shirdi. We thus find no possibility of the story being true. If Baba’s single statement that he came from Selu is to be accepted literally, what should we think of his identifying himself with the Mauliv Saheb of Nanded and with Swami Samarth of Akkalkot? It is possible that his reference to Selu was just a cryptic statement implying something totally different.

1  p.173, Seventh Edition 1970, published by Shivlal Agarwal and Co., Agra-3.
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