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Incredible! - Still
The first volume of this book has a chapter on "The Same Baba", where many facts that convince us to the identity and continuity of the Sai Baba at Shirdi and the Sai Baba at Puttaparthi were mentioned. Baba refers to Himself always as Sai Baba, the name of Sathya Sai Baba is being used only to avoid legal and administrative complications with institutions and organisations that have grown round 'the previous body' and its admirers. When the Chairman of the Shirdi Samasthan, charged with the duty of administering the properties and the ceremonials of worship at Shirdi, where the 'previous body' is laid to rest, hesitated to swallow the 'Vibhuthi' materialised by the 'present body', (Sri Sathya Sai Baba) because he feared it might be a sacrilege, Baba gave him a sign, to convince him that the two are the same. His picture on the wall of that room in Bombay gave forth a flash of brilliant light, and the dark doubt in his heart was gone!
When Tideman Johanessen of Norway was before the Shirdi Shrine, an old man appeared before him and giving him a picture of Sathya Sai Baba and also a small quantity of Udi, directed him to see the present Avathar in Bombay, on the thirteenth day of March! No one had any inkling of the visit to Bombay in March of Sathya Sai Baba at that time. Later, when on 13th March, he met Baba at Bombay, Baba convinced him that he was informed at Shirdi by Him alone.
Sathya Sai Baba is the effulgence, the majesty, the compassion that animates every shrine in which Shirdi Sai Baba is now adored. A nephew of Kakasaheb Dixit, one of the inner circle of Sai devotees at Shirdi (if we can speak of inner and outer, instead of stronger and weaker) had written a song of prayer to Shirdi Sai Baba, where he yearned to be at least, 'your gatekeeper'! This was years ago. Now, he is the gatekeeper at Brindavan, Whitefield, living in a cottage near the gate and hurrying with the keys when Baba drives in, from Prasanthi Nilayam or Madras or Nilgiris.
Pray to Him, either as Shirdi Baba or as 'Parthi' Baba; it is Baba that hears. Mrs. Bhataja and her daughter heard of Baba while at Bangalore; they had to proceed to Bombay after a visit to Shirdi. They decided to have the Darsan of Baba on their way. Since they could not get the 'interview' within a few days, they had to leave. They called out to Baba when He was passing along the veranda on the first floor for permission to leave. So, He called me into His Presence and giving me some 'Udi' packets, said, "Go and give these to the mother and daughter from Bombay, waiting below." He added, "They have brought a piece of cloth for Me. Tell them they can take it back and use it, stitched as items of dress, as My Prasad." When I told them this, they were amazed! The piece of cloth they had brought and kept carefully inside their box was for offering at the Shrine of Shirdi; there, it would be spread on the 'tomb'! But, since Baba had accepted it "We shall not go to Shirdi; this is Shirdi. That offering has been accepted and returned as Prasadam," they exulted.
The Sai Sathcharitham, written while Sai was at Shirdi, with His Blessings, by Govinda Raghunatha Dabholkar refers to Shirdi Sai Baba Himself as "Sathya Sai"! It speaks of the story of Shirdi Sai Baba as "Sathya Sai Katha", it also describes a Sathya Sai Vratha, Sathya being as has happened in the present incarnation the abridgement of the name, Sathyanarayana!
Bhimaji Patel, after a miraculous recovery from disease through the Grace of Shirdi Sai, celebrated thanksgiving ceremonies. Full of gratitude and reverence instead of the usual Sathyanarayana Vratha, he observed the Sathya Sai Vratha! Instead of Sathyanarayana Katha which had to be read after the Vratha, he recited the Sathya Sai Katha! Sai Baba at Shirdi must have, as the indweller of Bhimaji, prompted him to name the Vratha and the Katha, in that manner, urged by the Sankalpa to suggest coming events. For, has not Sai Baba said at Shirdi, over and over again, "Blessed and fortunate is he who knows Me as seated in the hearts of all beings." In fact, He knew the past, present and future as Dabholkar has declared.
Ten years ago, a Maharashtrian composed a poem on Baba at Shirdi in which he characterised Sai as Sathya Sai. Last year, he came to know of Sathya Sai, through the first volume of this book. He came to Prasanthi Nilayam, drawn by the name which had come to his pen unawares. He told me that the continuity of the two Sais was confirmed by the last incident in the life of the first, and the first incident in the career of the second. Sai Baba appeared before Das Ganu at dawn on the 16th day of October, 1918 and said, "The Masjid has collapsed; I am going from there now; I have come to inform you; go there, quick. Fulfil this wish of mine: place flowers on My Dabari." Dabari indicated the 'tomb'. Das Ganu did as he was told. In 1940, when Baba announced Himself as having come again to resume His work and foster His Bhakthas, Peddavenkappa Raju asked his son who was making the announcement, "Show us a sign and convince us that you are the same Baba." And, Baba asked that 'flowers' be placed in His hands! - Flowers that He had asked Das Ganu to place on His Dabari, when He took leave of Shirdi! He threw the flowers on the floor - and the two words SAI and BABA were formed by those flowers moving themselves into those lines. For those who can read the tracks and trails of Godhead, this is a meaningful coincidence.
On Vijayadasami, 1916, when someone told Sai Baba at Shirdi, "Today is Seemollanghana Day", Baba stunned everyone by His announcement: "Yes; it is the day of My Seemollanghanam too." Seemollanghanam means the act of crossing the boundary, from one kingdom into another. Kings, in former days, gathered their forces, equipped them with arms worshipped and propitiated on Ayudha Puja Day (The Day previous to Vijayadasami Day) and, crossing their own state boundaries, they invaded the neighbouring states, eager to achieve Vijaya or Victory. That was on the tenth Day of Dasara, the tenth or Dasami day of the bright half of the Aswija month.
What exactly did Sai Baba mean, when He said, "Vijayadasami is the day of My Seemollanghanam"? Which border was He crossing and into which state was He proceeding? He left the body, as He had foretold, on Vijayadasami. He told Das Ganu next morning, appearing before him, "I am going from Shirdi now; oilmongers and grocers tease me a lot". So, He left Shirdi and crossed from one state to another, from Maharashtra to Andhra. That was the Seemollanghanam!
Sathya Sai Baba has said that in his previous Body, He told Kakasaheb that He would appear after 8 years, and not as 'a child of 8'. He appeared again at Puttaparthi, in 1926, 8 years after that Vijayadasami. He revealed Himself as a Divine Child, with a miraculous career before Him, in His 8th year, when He willed at school that the teacher should be stuck to his chair until He could get down from the bench on which He was ordered by him to stand. That was the first 'dramatic' announcement of the Advent of Sai again! - 'as a child of 8'.
There are some who limit the Almighty Will of Godhead and say that Sai Baba cannot enter into a human cage, once having flown out of it - as if they are the lawgivers for that Eternal Absolute! One such wrote a letter to me from Madras repeating this argument; when he received my reply he was so firmly convinced that he supported the identity and continuity and advent by a new argument! "The Bhagavadgitha tells us, the Lord has announced that those who depart from the body during a distressed smoky condition of the mind, or during the night, or the dark half of the month, or during the six months when the Sun is in the southern hemisphere, that is to say, during the six months that mark the southern or the manes' path, reach the region of the Moon, if they are Yogins. After some time, they have to return thence to the earth and human birth. (Chapter 8, Sloka 25). Sloka 28 says that if they depart during the day and during the bright half of the moon and during the six months of the Northward sun, the yogis do not return at all. Sai Baba of Shirdi departed during the Dakshinayana, the six months of the southern sun, because, evidently, He courted the chance of returning to earth." I can only say that such buttresses are not needed to prove the obvious. Here, beckoning us in love and sweetness is the Avathar, the reappearance of Sai whom we can all experience and benefit from. What need is there for argument?
As a boy of 14, when Baba decided to stand forth as Sai Baba, giving up the role of Sathyanarayana Raju, He threw away His school books, and walked away from His home, to a garden outside the town of Uravakonda. He told His sister-in-law who tried to persuade Him to stay: "I have got my work; My Bhakthas are waiting for Me." What was the Work? Who were the Bhakthas? We can see that the work was 'the continuation of what was achieved at Shirdi'; the Bhakthas were those who adored Him while at Shirdi and subsequently. This was the reason why He chided a far-famed worshipper of His Shirdi Form who refused to recognise Him thus: "What is the use of all your adoration and meditation when you cannot recognise the very God whom you are adoring and meditating upon?" Even in His teens, He demonstrated to two of His masters at school, Subbannachar and Kondappa, that He was Sai come again: He granted visions of Shirdi to His mother and father and many others at Puttaparthi. He gave pieces of the Kafni He wore at Shirdi to Thammiraju Manchiraju and others at Uravakonda.
Thammiraju Manchiraju was a teacher at the Uravakonda High School. He has written many articles about those days in the "Sanathana Sarathi" magazine. "Since the untimely death of my daughter, my wife was very depressed and so my 'pupil' at school - Sathya shall I say or Baba - came to my house frequently to console her. She used to go every Thursday evening to Him, at the Telugu teacher's house (the house of the elder brother of Baba). One day, while she was falling at His Feet, He raised her up saying, "I shall carry all burdens for you. Be happy, henceforth." Then, He waved His hands and created rice grains (just as he created for Megha at Viramgaon while at Shirdi) and asked her to tie them up in the Gerua piece of the Kafni He had given us earlier.
"We had to go some distance to the village well for the day's stock of potable water. My wife one day collected the children of the neighbours and asked them to play with our five-year old son, so that could go to the well and return. She gave them some sugar and said, 'Do Sai Puja, all of you; I shall come soon. Offer this sugar to Him and then, take it as Prasadam.' The children went into the shrine room; they repeated the hymns they knew. They saw Sai Baba sitting before them. He ate a small quantity of the sugar and gave each one of them a handful. My son was so excited at the Old Man's visit that he ran out to meet his mother and bring her along. He knew she would be delighted to meet Him. When she came in, the room was empty. 'Where has He gone?' she asked the children. The little innocents replied: 'We saw Him go into that picture'. Within a few days, we were at Puttaparthi, Baba told me, "You were sad that I had come away to Puttaparthi; but I can be here and still be there. I knew you would believe this only when the children spoke about what they saw." Thammiraju writes, "The question may arise: Why did He choose the Shirdi Form? I asked myself this question. I got the answer too from Sathya: There is no 'that form' or 'this form'. Both are one."
Sai Baba, while young, used to sing with enthusiasm, and dance with tinkling anklets on His Feet. In this appearance as Sathya, He used to delight in dance and impart delight to others by the dance. He sings with enthusiasm Kirthans and Namavalis which inspire hundreds of thousands into ecstatic devotion. Sai Baba wore, when He came to Shirdi, only a Dhothi round His waist and a shirt on His body; for many years, at Puttaparthi also, He wore the same style of clothes. He changed over to the long gown, as Sai Baba did at Shirdi, only later. He adopted the coloured gown and Dhothi for general wear, at the instance of devotees so that He could be more readily identified and not get lost when hundreds milled round Him for Darsan and to touch His Feet.
"Your joy is the food I subsist on", says Sathya Sai Baba. To give joy to the people around Him, at Shirdi, Sai Baba meekly submitted to pageantry and pomp. Every alternate day, Sai Baba was taken in procession from Dwarakamayi to the Chavadi, where He slept. Groups of men and women with Tal, Chiplis, Kartal, Mridang, Khanjira, Veena, and other musical instruments formed the vanguard of the procession. A long line of beautiful Raths followed behind. Next came the richly caparisoned horse, Syamakarna, which Sai Baba fondled and loved. Behind the horse was a palanquin borne by men who sang hymns, accompanied by many torchbearers on both sides. There were others with canes, silver sticks, poles with flags, bearers of poles with carved figures of Garuda on their crests. They danced in joy, shouting Jai, to the tune of drums and trumpets. Fireworks announced the approach of the procession through sound and the brilliance of sudden flashes of multicoloured light. Baba appeared on the steps of the Masjid with persons holding yak-tail Chowries on each side of him. The Bhaldars announced His appearance by shouting His name. Devotees spread folds of cloth on the road, as He moved along. An umbrella was held over His head; flowers besmeared with Gulal were showered on Him as he proceeded slowly."
The Sai Sathcharitha says, "What a beautiful procession. What an expression of devotion! That scene and those days are gone now. Nobody can see them now, nor in the future."
No; Baba has come again! He permitted devotees to arrange such processions again at Puttaparthi during the Dasara and Birthday Festivals, until about 1954. At Shirdi, Baba was bejewelled before He started for the Chavadi. "They put on His head a Mukuta (crown) and placed jewels round His neck as well as garlands. (Years ago, Sakamma from Bangalore brought many jewels which she put on Baba) During the short time of the procession, they changed His head-dress off and on." Even now, Baba yields to the prayers of people when He knows they are sincere and allows them to arrange processions in towns and villages (as at Shivajinagar, Kalyanapuram, Udumalpet, Coimbatore, Ootacamund), though with paraphernalia very much reduced.
At Shirdi, Baba referred to His Sircar, His Treasury, His Durbar; now too, He refers to Himself as Sath-Chakravarthi; He speaks of His storeroom, His treasury, His treasure (Pennidhi). At Shirdi, He said that "This Dwarakamayi is the Dankapuri of Dakurnath, the Pandhari of Vital, and the Dwarak of Ranchod". Baba has announced that the present Dwarakamayi (Prasanthi Nilayam) is "another Mathura, another Badrinath and another Thirupathi." The name Dwaraka was applied to the city built by Krishna on an island, because, the word means, a place the doors of which are open for the four castes and for the four types of men, namely, Aartha, Artharthi, Jijnasu and Jnani, so that they may attain the four Purusharthas. Certainly, the dwelling of the Lord at Dwaraka, Shirdi and Puttaparthi deserves the name. Baba has said, "This Prasanthi Nilayam has no wall or fence round it, for the Lord is accessible to all who come from all directions and all paths. All are welcome to the gift of Grace."
Sai Baba 'expressed a wish' that a Muralidhar idol of Krishna (with the flute or Murali in His hand) be installed in the quadrangle of the palatial building that Buty built in Shirdi; but He 'left' Shirdi before that wish could be fulfilled. Perhaps for that reason, Baba has a Muralidhar idol of Krishna on the porch of Prasanthi Nilayam, as the centre of adoration for all who raise their hands in prayer. He has a Muralidhar in the shrine in the Prayer Hall. There are two charming images of Muralidhar in the lovely garden of Brindavan, too.
A close study of the Sai Sathcharitha is a MUST for any one seeking to unravel the mystery of Sathya Sai Baba, for the Hand that gives and the Voice that teaches are the same. When a Brahmachari of the Ramakrishna Mission came to Prasanthi Nilayam to get his chronic colic cured, Baba asked him to pray to Guru Maharaj Himself, and instructed him how to do Dhyan with greater success. He assured him that Ramakrishna, his Gurumaharaj, will cure the ailment that hinders the spiritual progress of his child. At Shirdi, Baba would have given the same advice. "Do not lose hold of the bolster you have secured" "Apula bap tho, apula bap" (Our father alone is our father). "You cannot change one Master for another, to suit your whim and fancy." Sai Baba gave Darsan to the disciples of Golapswami as Golapswami, and to the disciples of Raghunath Maharaj as Raghunath Maharaj. Sai Baba was all saints in one.
Now also, it is the same One. While at Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba has given Darsan at Ramanasram to Swami Abhedananda as Ramana Maharshi and at Shimoga to Ramanandarao as Ramdas of Kanhangad! Sai Baba has accepted gifts intended for other Saints and Gurus, for He was all of them. Baba too has surprised many people by telling them that He has been with them for years, guiding and guarding, when they protest that they are meeting Him for the first time. Baba makes it clear that He is the very guru that they have followed so far.
The Secretary of the Hindi Prachar Sabha, Bangalore, had a meaningful experience. He was in the home of a friend when Baba arrived there, years ago. His friend and many others fell at His Feet, but he had no mind to do likewise. He feared that he may be singled out as a conceited youth, refusing to revere a great person. So, he fell at Baba's Feet, with a mental reservation that the prostration was not for Baba but was for his Guru, who was at Maddur in a Siva temple. When he rose after the fall, Baba patted him gently on the back and said, with a smile, "Your homage has reached your guru at Maddur." Thus He came to know, as many did at Shirdi, that Baba is the Divine vein of gold that runs through all the Spiritual Masters and all Divine Teachers.
The unbroken continuity of the Sais is established by the identical panacea they grant - Udi. Then, it was given from the Dhuni or fireplace at Dwarakamayi; now, it is created in the Divine palm, for, a fireplace cannot now be carried wherever He goes or feels like granting it. I must mention here one interesting fact about the Udi, and Shirdi Sai Baba. Sai Baba often sang a song on the Udi, a song which has become immortal, since He sang it "Ramathe Raam! Raam! Aayoji, aayoji! Udiaonki gonia Laayoji, laayoji!" (O, playful Rama, come, come! sacks of Udi, bring, bring.) Who is the Rama that is called upon by Sai Baba to bring sacks of Udi? Rama of the Ramayana did not distribute Udi as a mark of His Grace. Udi was Baba's own special gift, His unique means of alleviating man's physical and mental ills. So, it is a call into the future; for Baba at Shirdi did not stack the Udi and carry bags of it. It is a peep into the present, when we find Baba moving between long lanes of men and women with a bag or basket of Udi packets and placing a few in the outstretched palms of hundreds and thousands, in towns and villages all over the land!
When Baba "took on" the cerebral thrombosis or as the Director of Medical Services in Mysore diagnosed it, 'tubercular meningitis' of a devotee of the Lord, we were reminded not only of similar acts of compassion shown by Him in the past, but also of such acts done by Him while at Shirdi as Sai Baba. Sai Baba had taken on four fully developed bubos from the son of Dadasaheb Khaparde of Amraoti. Showing them to the boy's mother, Sai Baba declared, "See how I suffer for my devotees; their suffering is mine."
When we hear Sathya Sai Baba announcing, "Vivekananda has come again; he is growing up in Ceylon; he will come to me and join in my task", as He did one morning or "The man who wrote the first English biography of Vivekananda was born last night in a thatched hut on the sea shore on the west coast at Kuttipuram. It is a charming baby, with bright big eyes", we are reminded of Sai Baba at Shirdi announcing to the people around Him the past lives of snakes and cows and goats! In His discourses, Baba has often said, "I know your past; I know your future; so, I know why you suffer and how you can escape suffering." The declarations that resound from Prasanthi Nilayam are but echoes of those heard at Dwarakamayi. Baba says, "Imagine how foolish you are! Coming to this Kalpatharu and asking for a little coffee powder! Your behaviour is like a man coming to a huge departmental store and asking for a towel." As Sai Baba, He said, "I am sitting here, ready to give you the gold embroidered Shella cloth; then, why go and steal rags?"
Sai Baba spoke in such conundrums and parables. He told Kaka Saheb that He will send him a Vimana when he died. What happened was that he died in a moving train. Sathya Sai Baba also speaks thus. He told an aged film star, who spoke to Him of his physical illness, "I know; your body is a bundle of diseases; I shall overhaul you and give you a new body." What happened was, he died soon and entered a new body. That film star was blind; he pleaded that he might at least or rather utmost, get a picture of Baba in his heart. What happened can best be described by quoting a para from the book, Sai the Superman, by Swami Sharananand. He is writing about Sai Baba of Shirdi, but exactly the same thing happened at Prasanthi Nilayam, too! He prayed to Baba, "I have lost my eyesight. I do not feel its loss; for want of eyesight keeps me away from many undesirable things; but I am eager to see the human form in which you, My Lord, have manifested yourself. Please therefore grant me eyesight till I satiate myself by the sight of your glory. You may withdraw this grant as soon as this is done." Baba at once granted this request; he saw Baba with his own eyes and then he lost vision and became blind again.
Sai Baba evinced enthusiasm to safeguard and foster Sanathana Dharma and to promote scriptural studies, that can alone clarify the intellect and purify the mind. We read in the Sai Sathcharitha how He rebuked a Ramadasi for retaining his short temper, in spite of his recital of Vishnu Sahasranama for years. He rebuked Swami Vijayananda, who had ostensibly given up kith and kin, when he asked him for permission to go to Madras to see his sick mother. "Go and read the Bhagavatham", he told him. As Sathya Sai Baba, He is continuing on a vaster scale this role of correcting the craving and attachments of monks and Sadhakas. He rebukes them for celebrating or even remembering their birthdays; for decorating themselves and others with titles indicative of spiritual progress, and engaging themselves in competitive publicity to attract and retain rich followers. Sai Baba asked Haji Sidi Falke of Kalyan, "Do you read the Quoran like this?" As Sathya Sai Baba, we have seen Him regulating and modifying the speed and pitch of renowned Vedic reciters. Sathya Sai Baba places emphasis on the Gayathri, on Omkar as well as on the Githa as the most efficacious of Manthras and texts. As Sai Baba too, He did the same. He asked people to read the Bhagavatha, the Patanjali Yogasuthras, the Vicharasagara, the Panchadasi and other texts. Dadasaheb Khaparde, an expert in Vidyaranya's Commentaries, 'uttered no word' in Sai Baba's presence, because, as he confessed, 'learning cannot shine before self-realisation'. This is the experience of many a scholar in the presence of Sathya Sai Baba also. When a renowned poet and pundit, and popular preacher, who has toured USA, USSR, Japan and other countries and lectured there on religion, fell at His feet and offered to spend the remaining years of his life in flying from continent to continent, spreading the happy news of His Advent, Sathya Sai Baba told him, "Do not worry about My Advent; worry about your own future. I wish some one would clip your wings and keep you in one fixed place, so that you can do some Sadhana and save yourself, before its too late." "Concentrate on your own uplift before attempting to uplift others", was His advice to another popular exponent of the Githa and Upanishads. He has come to cure the blind, correct the proud, console the ignorant and comfort the distressed.
The declaration made at Shirdi and by Sathya Sai Baba everywhere about the Divinity and Mystery of Sai are naturally identical. Sathya Sai Baba says, "My Sakthi, My Power, My mystery can never be understood, whoever may try, for however long a period, by whatever means." Sai Baba said, "I pull the wires of this puppet show." At Shirdi, He told Vijayananda, "You were able to reach this place only as the result of the merit acquired in previous births." At Puttaparthi, He says the same thing to all those who come. The reaction to praise and blame, then as now, is the same. The Sathcharitha says: "Sai Baba was tolerant, emotionless, unattached, eternally free." Baba wrote to His brother when He was but twenty, "I shall not slacken My activity; for Me fame and name, reputation and calumny, are equally trivial. I am unconcerned with the whole lot."
Sai Baba was the embodiment of Prema; Sathya Sai Baba names Himself as Premaswarupa. The Sathcharitha refers to Udivrishti and Kripavrishti, the shower of Udi and the shower of Grace; any book on Baba, then as now, must mention these two showers, for they are the marks of the Sai Godhead. Sai addressed people as "O, Bhau", "You Anna", or "You Bapu", in love and endearment; now, in the new Sai Form, He addresses them as "Bangaru", "Nayana" or "Appa".
Then and now, Sai has taken every opportunity to proclaim His Glory, for how else can man realise His good fortune? At Shirdi, He said, "I am the indweller of all beings." Recently, Baba wrote to a learned Pundit, "Do not disparage the rich; do not disparage anyone. Sai dwells in every one and so, when you disparage any one you are disparaging Me." Professor G.G. Narke of the Engineering College, Poona, wrote of Sai, while He was at Shirdi, "He spoke as One seated in my heart, knowing all its thoughts and all its wishes. I tested Him at times. Each test produced the same conviction that He was all-knowing, and able to mould things according to His will." Now, in the present Sathya Sai form, Baba told a Sarvodaya worker, a certain Sri Mehta who asked Him quite frankly how He could read his mind so right, "This is no Siddhi or attainment; this is My Swavhava, My very nature. I do not by means of a power that I have learned and earned, enter into your mind, collect all the information I require about its contents, emerge from it, and then recite it all to you, to impress you. No. I am there always and everywhere. I am your Hrudaya-vasi, the Indweller."
Sai Baba told Balaram Mankar, when He appeared in person before him at Mathsyendragad, while also, at Shirdi, and in answer to Mankar's question as to why He had sent him away from Shirdi to that hill, "You imagined that, with this body three cubits and a half long, composed of the five elements, I was at Shirdi! Isn't it? I wanted to make you know My Reality; that is why I sent you here, so that I may come before you and show you that I am not in that body only." Sathya Sai Baba too has appeared as such to devotees in far off places and even beyond the seven seas, making them aware that He is not bound by the physical frame, which many mistake to be He. He says, "Learn to yearn, so that you can draw Me to you wherever you are. That is a more rewarding Sadhana than the journeys you now undergo. Transform your heart into a Prasanthi Nilayam; then, I shall certainly come and stay there."
The golden streak of continuity is evident in the miraculous cures they effect, in the mysterious ways by which they save devotees from accidents, by which they forewarn and rescue, in the methods by which they teach and train, in the emphasis they lay on the fundamentals of faiths. People who have lived long at Shirdi have noticed at Prasanthi Nilayam the same turns and twists in conversation, the same love and mercy, even the same mannerisms of gesture. M.S. Dixit vouchsafes for one such: "Sathya Sai Baba waves His right hand, just as the Shirdi Lord used to do, one or two fingers in the air, as if He is writing in the air." This waving of the hand, with no evident purpose or meaning, is mentioned in the Sai Sathcharitha of Hemadpant in Chapter, 27.
Another trait of Baba, at Shirdi and Puttaparthi, is the awarding of nicknames to people around and using them in general conversation. At Shirdi, the Lord was Fakir, Panduranga was Vital Patil; at Puttaparthi He is the Potter, the Smith. Das Ganu was the 'bridegroom', another person was 'the gourmand' or 'the fat one'. The nickname, Hemadpant, with which He accosted Govindarao Raghunath Dabholkar has become historic, since he accepted it as his nom de plume, writing at the end of each chapter, as its colophon, "Bhaktha Hemadapantha Virachitha Sri Sai Samartha Sathcharitha!"
Hemadpant was a famous minister of the Yadava Dynasty who ruled from Deogir (Daulatabad); he served two of the rulers, Mahadeva and Ramadeva, in the XII century, AD He wrote many celebrated works in Sanskrit, like Chathurvargachintamani and Rajaprasasti, mainly concerned with sociology and political science. When he was given this nickname, Dabolkar took it as a "dart to destroy my ego", as a means to teach me "nithya nirabhimana" (permanent egolessness). He contrasted his own insignificant attainments with the gigantic achievements of the person whose name was stuck on him; he prayed that Baba may write His story Himself through the pen he was privileged to hold. And, Baba blessed Him, 'so be it'!
Now too, there is a repetition. When recently I scanned my Diary for 1958, I discovered this entry on the 29th day of November: 'Baba accosted me, when I went to Him at 7-15 a.m. as Nannayya Bhatta!' I had no idea then that it was a name that was heavy with history. This was two years previous to the publication of His Life, "Sathyam Sivam Sundaram", a book He wrote while I held the pen, His Sathcharitha. He had blessed me with the task as early as 1948, and I was waiting for His command to begin, even ten years later, for he was saying, "Now, if you publish a book about Me, people will not believe it: they will deem it as a fairy tale; wait till the world is made ready to receive it."
That name He accosted me with is, as I learnt later, famous in Andhra, as the name of the Adi Kavi, the First Poet, one of the three who together compiled the immortal Andhra Mahabharatham; Nannayya Bhatt is also said to have composed another great poem, on Sri Rama, "Raghavabhyudayam" He lived at Rajamahendravaram on the banks of the Godavari River, in the XI Century AD, and he had as his patron, the Chalukya Emperor, Rajaraja. While naming, with a twinkle in the eye, illiterate me, as Nannayya Bhatt who extolled in excellent poetry the glory of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna, Baba was only revealing His Identity. The nickname was a dart against my egoism, the conceit of this infinitesimal ripple on the ageless boundless Ocean that He is. May I too be established in nithya nirabhimana, that is my daily prayer.
M. S. Dixit, to whom reference has been made, is the nephew of Kakasaheb, who was intimately attached to Sai Baba at Shirdi. He had many opportunities of receiving blessings from Baba, at Dwarakamayi. Once, Baba took Udi and applying it to his forehead with a slap, said, "Go to the Wada, don't sit here." He was a boy in his teens then; so he told his uncle, "I will not go to Baba; He slapped me on the forehead." But Kakasaheb said, "You are a fool; the slap means your horrible headache will not recur." He is seventy now and the headache has not dared to pay him a visit since that slap. Dixit writes of another incident; "One day, about 5-30 a.m., Baba sent for the barber and had a shave, after which He bathed. This was very unusual. He generally had a shave and a bath in the afternoon. That day, after the bath, he sent a man to the grocer, and got a coconut, some jaggery and a quantity of groundnuts. He broke the coconut and cut the kernel into pieces; then, he gave a piece along with jaggery and groundnuts to all present. After this, He said, "Bolo Gajanan Maharaj Ki Jai." We all cheered, Jai. I wondered why; no one knew who this Gajanan Maharaj was. Later, Baba said, "I have lost My brother, this morning. Two days later, a letter came to Kakasaheb from Shegaon written by Buty Saheb that his Guru Gajanan Maharaj had left the body at 5-30 a.m., that day and that during his last moments, he had assured him, "My brother Sai Baba will take care of you hereafter; go to him, at Shirdi!" (Sathya Sai Baba too is immediately conscious of the birth or death or whatever happens to all; He announces to those around Him the passing away - or rather, the mergence in His Feet - of persons yearning to have that happy way of release).
Some years ago, Dixit who was at Mangalore, and reading the 'Guru Charitha' in the orthodox style, determined to finish the book in 'seven days', a Sapthaha as it is called. On the seventh day, he had a dream: "I entered an arched gate which led me into a magnificent building at the end of a wide road, with dark green trees on both sides. As I was proceeding, I felt some one was following me, calling me in a soft sweet voice, Dixit, Dixit. When I turned round to find out who it was, I saw a charming figure in silken robes, and a thick halo of hair that was remarkably curly. A few days later, I went to a friend, a Doctor and I saw in his room, the picture of that same figure. Who is this? Is He available? I asked. The reply took me by storm. 'He is Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba!' Sai Baba? Sathya Sai Baba? - I pondered. The doctor said, "Some of my friends are going to see him shortly, you can join them if you care to." Dixit was overwhelmed with joy; he joined the party and arrived at Prasanthi Nilayam. He passed through the arched gate, he proceeded along the wide road with dark green trees on either side. He saw the charming figure. He heard the silver voice, when he was called in for a personal talk, in the Private Room.
Let Dixit relate what happened. "Baba called me in. He saw with me a small photograph of my uncle. 'I know him, he is Dixit, your father's brother, elder brother. I told him I will be coming again, eight years later. Have you any doubt?', He enquired. That question was relevant, for until then, I was bogged in doubt." Dixit is unshakeably convinced now that this Sai Baba is the same that he served at Shirdi, for he had many an experience to deepen his faith.
Baba also grants many fortunate persons such experiences, even the many who have not heard of either Baba. His plan is, perhaps, to draw them to Him, so that they may become messengers of the 'Sai Era' of spiritual Joy. Else, how can we explain the following remarkable experience of Srimathi Sudha Mazumdar of Calcutta? She is a social worker since many years and has contributed much to the amelioration of the lot of women in the prisons of India; she was for a long time the Vice President of the All India Woman's Conference. Her translation of the Ramayana into English has kindled the flame of devotion in thousands of hearts all over the world. Here is her own account of the way in which, quite spontaneously, Sathya Sai Baba established Himself in her heart and instilled faith in Him, as the same Sai who was at Shirdi:
There was a slight drizzle that morning, in October 1964. I was in Darjeeling, high up in Jalapahar, on a bench under a shelter, on the edge of the road, looking down the deep valleys. Beyond were the snowy ranges of the Kanchenjunga, covered with clouds. The beauty of the Himalayas failed to lift my spirits; I was weighed down by my troubles. As I gazed at the splendour of Nature with unseeing eyes, I noticed a figure, clad in white, climbing up to where I was. An old man, with a battered umbrella under his arm reached the shelter, and stood before me, breathing heavily. He had on a small white cap; from his long white robe, I knew him to be a faquir. He hesitated, as if he was not sure whether I would like him to share my bench. I welcomed him warmly. He smiled and sat beside me, carefully leaning his umbrella against the bench. It was covered with some white material that had become unstitched, in places from the frame; I wondered how it served its purpose!
He sat in silence; so did I. We both gazed at the snow-covered peaks before us, for, the clouds had moved off, revealing the dazzling splendour. When he had recovered his breath, I asked him where he had come from. "Oh, very far", he smiled and with outstretched hand, he pointed to the distance. "From Nepal", he added. "But where do you stay here?" "Oh, anywhere, when the sun sets". "And food?" "People are kind, I always get something to eat and some kind of shelter at nightfall." Then he laughed. "I enjoyed a fine meal when the poor were fed after Nehru died". He had crossed his long legs and fumbling in the cotton bag slung over his shoulder, he brought out a piece of rag, from which he took out a pinch of tobacco. He did not partake of this, however, he sat with his eyes on the distant mountains, while he chanted melodious words in Hindi. "What is this?", I asked. Turning his eyes on me, he said they were from Kabir. He was a Kabir Panthi. "Yes," he continued, "both my father and mother died when I was very young. I had no kinsmen. Neighbours said I must marry, for some one must cook me food. But, I thought, since He has chosen to leave me without any people of my own, it must be because He wants me to leave the world. So, one night, I left home and became a wanderer. When I was sixteen years old, I became a faquir, of the path of Kabir."
Here, he hummed another verse. It had a haunting quality. Taking out a note book and pencil I had in my bag, I begged him to give me the words. With kindly eyes, he looked at me and nodded. One by one, I jotted down the terse verses. He corrected the mistakes and explained the meanings. Here they are, translated as best I can:-
"Very true," I murmured with misty eyes. "But how to proceed on the path?" I remember he gave good advice... Also that I should wake at 4 o'clock in the morning and repeat these verses and meditate on them. He was so kind and understanding. I bent low before him with folded hands in Namaskar and placed a rupee beside him on the bench. He gave me his blessings in many words that I do not quite remember, picked up his umbrella, and left me with a sense of peace.
Who was this faquir? My son said, "I go down daily to office from this side of Jalapahar; I have never seen any faquir. Your habit of making friends with strangers will land you in trouble someday, be careful."
In the Illustrated Weekly of November, 1965, there appeared articles and pictures of Sathya Sai Baba. The hair arrangement completely put me off. I never even read the article! In March, 1966, came an anonymous post card with a Bombay stamp - one of those chain letters requesting me to send off to 20 people what was written on that card about Sai Baba and good fortune would be mine in 10 days! I was in great mental distress at that time. I found myself getting 20 postcards and typing the letters in secret and posting them off! If the family knew, they would have teased me, for had I not refused to know anything of Sai Baba, because of his hair?
Late in November, two friends came to me for discussions over a seminar to be held the next month at Bangalore. "You are lucky to be able to go; try and see Sai Baba if you can", said one friend. "Oh," I said absent-mindedly "Why? Who is he?" Then, we were told of the miraculous powers of Baba and that miracles were happening in the home of a Mrs. Rao. The details sounded so incredible that I must have smiled. "You don't believe me?", she said in a hurt voice. I hastened to assure her that since this came from her, what she said must be true. She shook her head. "No. You must see for yourself. I can take you there now, it is not far."
So, we left our files and papers, called a taxi and came to the modest home of Mrs. Rao. Welcoming us, she laughed and said, "See what Baba is doing!" and took us where amongst other holy pictures, the small framed one of Baba had benediction in his eyes. Over his forehead, there appeared a fine grey dust. This was 'Vibhuthi' we were told and we were given a little folded in pieces of paper. Mrs. Rao had never seen Baba except once in a dream; she secured this photograph of his and sometime later, this fragrant ash began appearing on it and it is stored for devotees. "But, this is nothing." She laughed. "You should see what is happening in the home of my Dasi". She related how this woman servant became a devotee of Baba, and securing three pictures, kept them framed in her place of worship. She finishes her prayers at 4 o'clock in the morning, before she goes on her daily rounds to wash and scrub and sweep in different homes for her livelihood. Over her pictures, as an indication of Baba's Grace, there appears Vibhuthi in one, Kumkum in another and on the third photograph, Haldi powder! Good fortune is hers now; she has left for better wages offered elsewhere. "Is her home very far off?" I asked. "Can we not go there now?" Mrs. Rao said it was not a distant place, but in the heart of a bustee where there were no street lights even and the rain that day must have made the land leading to it very muddy indeed. We assured her we would not mind anything if she would kindly lead us there. We walked with her in the darkness through narrow lanes, lit up now and then by the flickering flame of oil lamps from adjoining homes, till we reached our destination.
The maid's name was Madhuri. She was not at home but her husband, a truck driver, was there with the four children. Occupying half the small room was a split bamboo structure fixed on the mud floor on which they all slept together, keeping their belongings under it. The other half of the room was reserved for their place of worship.
The place was specklessly clean, the few brass vessels gleamed in the lamplight. The wall of this portion of the room was covered with coloured prints of holy pictures including one of Shirdi Baba and, at the bottom above a steel shelf covered with a clean cloth, were the three pictures of Sathya Sai Baba, and true enough, there could be seen the Vibhuthi, Kum Kum and Haldi Powder in profusion over Baba's forehead. A light burnt on a brass lamp and a beautiful fragrance pervaded the humble home. The place had a definite atmosphere and overcome, I uttered a prayer and left a small offering. Two days later, the maid had managed to trace me and sent a large basket of Prasad - mostly home made sweets and Baba's Vibhuthi. I was moved to the depths and vowed to myself that I must see this Sai Baba.
How I succeeded in my endeavours when I had given up all hopes is another story; here I will conclude with only the portion that is connected with my Faquir. Leaving the car on the road, Usha and I were walking by the footpath to where Sai Baba was giving Darshan to devotees on his last day in Madras in January 1967. Lost in thought over what I had seen and heard of this most extraordinary person, I heard Usha say, "Look Aunty, isn't that a lovely house?" "Yes, it's indeed beautiful" I agreed. Then, suddenly remembering that first verse of Kabir, I sang it softly to myself. "What is it Aunty?" asked Usha. "Oh, only a Bhajan given by a faquir in Darjeeling, it's Kabir's. He was a Kabir Panthi". Usha stopped and faced me with puzzled eyes. 'Faquir? Kabir Panthi? Why Aunty?', she gasped, 'that must have been Shirdi Sai Baba!' "What on earth are you saying Usha?" Greatly excited Usha clutched my hand and nodded, "Yes! Yes! It must be Shirdi Sai Baba. I have just been reading Arthur Osborne's 'Incredible Sai Baba' and in this, there are incidents when he appears to people, and he was a Kabir Panthi..." I could do nothing but smile at the extravagance of her thought. "Aunty", persisted Usha, as we continued to walk. "Ask Sai Baba when you meet him this morning, for he is the reincarnation of Shirdi Baba".
I could never ask him anything so absurd, I told her, but she continued to press the matter. Her parting words were "You need not fear, he is never annoyed over questions"...
As I recall the past I was amazed at the strange sequence of events that brought me before the closed door upstairs. I had in my hands a small slip which I begged for an interview if he did not think I was too unworthy. It was meant to be made over to the person who opened the door... We had not knocked. The door opened and behold - it was Baba! Playfully he said to me smiling "Come, do Namaskar!" He was giving me my heart's desire. I bowed low to touch the beautiful feet of the red clad figure with benediction in his eyes.
I had meant to ask him questions about my own troubles, but it was he who told me what my sorrows were and assured me all would be well. Then, remembering my niece's words, I stammered, "Baba, Usha was saying I should ask about the faquir I met in Darjeeling... he..." Interrupting me he said, "That was I in another form. I gave you three Upadesh," he added raising three fingers... I remember sobbing at his feet and all that came to my lips was, "Baba, will you be with me?" I felt his hand upon my head and as in a dream heard, "Always! Always!" My face was wet with tears. My heart was full. My spirit was at peace at last... Then, he materialised as if to comfort me, Vibhuthi and a small photograph with his Abhay Hasta raised that had his address too, like a visiting card. "Put this in your purse," he said and gave me a handful of small packets of Vibhuthi from a brass container. "Come to Puttaparthi during Shiva Ratri... all facilities will be provided". He also told me he would come to Calcutta... He only knows when I will be blessed enough to be at Puttaparthi and favoured with another Darshan.
June 1957. I was at Bombay for a meeting, but my mind was bent on a cherished wish. "I would like to go to Shirdi!" I told my friends.
"Do please make enquiries", I entreated my host, "and help me to make this visit". He returned from office smiling broadly one day saying, "Why Aunty, when I mentioned your desire I was told since you wish to go, Shirdi Baba will surely fulfil your wish!" "That is all very well to say", I replied glumly, "but how? With whom? And where do I stay in Shirdi?" My health was not too good and the more I thought about it the more despondent I felt at the prospect of going to a strange place all by myself. But the prediction was true. In an extraordinary manner, I was guided right from the train in which I was going in the wrong direction, by the charming Maharashtrian lady travelling in the same compartment. With my two companions discovered at the last moment, devotees of Baba, she gave us hospitality in her home at Nasik and made all arrangements for our Shirdi visit one morning.
"The Arati is commencing; come at once!" The bus drive has been long and dusty; so after a quick wash we hastened to the Samadhi Sthan. Where the mortal remains of Shirdi Baba had been laid to rest, a gleaming silver sheet covered the spacious place. There were colourful flowers in abundance there, lights burnt, the air was heavy with the fragrance of incense, bells were ringing, the crowd surged, I pressed forward for a better view. My heart stood still as my eyes fell on the life size white marble image. Sitting with his right leg crossed over his knee, this figure of Shirdi Baba near his Samadhi Sthan strangely resembled the faquir I had met in Darjeeling. The same face, the same pose, only instead of the small cap, there was a scarf wound round his head. The same kind inscrutable eyes looked penetratingly at me. I held my breath. Time passed... My mind gradually accepted an indisputable fact and ceased to worry over the whys and wherefores. With my surrender, the tears rained down easing the tension. My trembling lips murmured, "Baba! Baba!" and wordlessly I prayed for His Kripa. My hands held on to the tray filled with fruit and flower given to me to make the formal offering here with the others. My tears continued to fall, I was blessed with a sense of peace - the peace that passeth all understanding filled my heart."
Sathya Sai Baba spontaneously and suddenly choosing Sudha Mazumdar at Darjeeling as His Instrument and drawing her into the Sai Family, giving her Darsan and Upadesh, in the form of His previous Body! Faquir, Sathya Sai Baba, Sai Baba - Sudha Mazumdar is indeed fortunate beyond words! Her experience is an eye-opener to those who refuse to see.
There is an old lady at Prasanthi Nilayam, whose experience clinches the question of the Avatharhood. Her father, a Collector in the Nizam's Dominions, took her to Shirdi in her third year and again in her seventh year; she was married at that age; torn by agony at the death of the four children that she bore, she clasped the Feet of Sai Baba at Shirdi in 1917, asking for spiritual initiation or Upadesh and permission to stay on with Him. In Lendi Bagh, Baba told her, "Not now; I will come again in Andhra; you will meet me then and be with me." She returned to the Nizam's Dominions, took to the propagation of Bhakthi by means of musical recitations on the life-stories of saints and sages, established a refugee-home for orphan girls named Sai Sadan, and, during her peregrinations to collect money for her institutions heard that a Raju Boy had announced Himself as Sai Baba! She hurried to Uravakonda, joined the throng that was proceeding to the house of Seshamaraju that Thursday and sat near Him, on the right side. She says, that Baba spoke to her in a low voice in Hindi, as at Shirdi, "So, you have come, My child." He asked her for a balance of sixteen rupees that she owed him! This took her by storm. She asked Him how that debt arose. He replied, "Out of the money you had accumulated to be sent to Shirdi for the Dasara Celebrations, you lent Balaram forty rupees; he returned only twenty-four." And, He added, in a whisper "I am asking you this, only to convince you that I am Shirdi Sai Baba... You have not touched My Feet... You sat as soon as you came in." This lady had to wind up her institution and visit Puttaparthi frequently thereafter. She is now at Prasanthi Nilayam, happy that what Baba told her at Shirdi has come true.
Incredible, is it? Well. Arthur Osborne could not get any other adjective to summarise the glory of Sai Baba; the incredibility of the wonder persists even now.