Although SaiBaba’s origins are unknown, some Historical researches into genealogies in Shirdi give support to the theory that Sai Baba could have been born in 1835 at Pathri Village. In that village there were a couple named Gangabhavadya and Devagiriamma.
They were worshipers of Lord Shiva and Parvathi. They had no offspring for a long time. They intensified their prayers. Gangabhavadya used to ply boats near the village for a living. One night, when it was raining heavily, Gangabhavadya left his house to take care of the boats, telling his wife that he would not be returning in the night. After the husband had an early meal and left, Devagiriamma ate and went to bed.
At 9 p.m. there was a knock at the door. Devagiriamma opened the door, wondering if her husband had returned. A very old man entered the house. He pleaded, “It is very cold outside. Please permit me, mother, to stay inside.” As a pious woman, she allowed him to stay in the inside verandah and went in after bolting the inner door. She opened the door. The old man said, “I am feeling hungry; give me some food.” Finding that there was no food, the woman mixed some flour with curd and gave it to him. Another knock sounded after some time. When she opened the door, the old man said, “My legs are aching, Mother, will you massage them?”
Devagiriamma went inside, sat in the prayer room and prayed, “O Mother! Why are you testing me like this? What should I do? Should I serve him or refuse?”
Going out of the house by the backdoor, she went in search of someone who could be engaged to render this service. No one was available. Again there was a knock by the old man. At the same time, a woman knocked at the backdoor. She said, “It appears you came to my house and sought some help? I was away at the time. Please let me know what service I should render you?”
Feeling happy that Goddess Parvathi herself had [come to her rescue and] sent the woman in response to her prayers, Devagiriamma sent the newcomer to the verandah to serve the old man and closed the door. The old man and the new woman were none other than Shiva and Parvathi, the Divine couple.
Lord Shiva told Parvathi, “Fulfill the cherished desires of this lady.” Parvathi Shiva replied, “You are Supreme. Please shower your Grace on her yourself.” Shiva said, “I came to test her. You came in answer to her prayers. Hence you must bless her.”
There was a knock at the door again. This time Devagiriamma promptly opened the door because of the presence of another woman. Parvathi and Shiva appeared before her in their divine form. Unable to contain her joy, Devagiriamma fell at their feet. Parvathi then blessed her, “I grant you a son to maintain the lineage and a daughter for kanyadan (a girl to be offered in marriage).” Devagiriamma fell at the feet of Shiva. Shiva said, “I am immensely pleased with your devotion. I shall take birth as your third child.” When Devagiriamma got up, the Divine couple had vanished. Feeling ecstatic by this experience, Devagiriamma eagerly awaited the return of her husband in the morning to relate to him the whole story.
When the husband came home in the morning she related to him all that had happened during the previous night. The husband said, “Devagiri! What is this fanciful tale! It is all a dream. Parvathi and Parameswara appearing before you and giving Darshan! It is pure fantasy!” Gangabhavadya dismissed the whole episode as incredible and fanciful.
As the years passed, Devagiriamma became pregnant and a son was born. A year later a daughter was born. Gangabhavadya was now convinced that the birth of the two children was the result of the blessings conferred by Parvathi and Parameswara. He told his wife, “You had the good fortune (to be blessed by the Divine couple). I did not have that luck.”
When Devagiriamma conceived again, Gangabhavadya began to feel an urge to give up hearth and home and go in search of the Divine couple. He announced to his wife that he was leaving for the forest to do penance. The devoted wife that she was, Devagiriamma decided to follow him, though she was in the ninth month of her pregnancy. After proceeding some distance, she developed labor pains. She delivered a boy. Wrapping the babe in a piece of cloth, she left the child by the forest and followed her husband.
There was in the same village a Sufi fakir. As he was also childless, he took charge of this child and brought him up in his home. The boy stayed in the fakir’s home for four years (1835 to 1839). The fakir passed away in the tide of time. The fakir’s wife, who had lavished great affection on the child, was grief-stricken. To add to her worries, the boy was behaving in a troublesome manner.
His behavior in singing about Allah, Rama and Shiva in a mosque & temple was a puzzle to the public. Members belonging to both the communities went to the fakir’s wife and complained about the boy’s behavior. Unable to deal with this situation the fakir’s wife handed over the boy to a high-souled, pious scholar named Venkusa (Hindu Guru), who was living near her house. The boy stayed in Venkusa’s ashram for 12 years from 1839 to 1851. Venkusa was extremely fond of the boy. In every matter, he used to give priority to the young Boy’s views. Seeing this, in course of time, members of the ashram developed envy towards the boy.
One night, the boy left the ashram. He reached Shirdi, a very small village at the time. He led an ascetic life, sitting motionless under a Neem tree and meditating while sitting in an asana. His presence attracted the curiosity of the villagers and the religiously-inclined such as Mhalsapati, Appa Jogle and Kashinatha regularly visited him, they treated as a Fakir (Saint Baba), while others such as the village children considered him mad.
Some time Baba stood as a beggar and rooming in city called out, “ oh lassie, give me a piece of bread” and spread out his hand to same. In one hand he carried a Tumrel (tin pot) and in the other a zoli or chopadari, i.e., a rectangular piece of cloth. He daily visited certain houses and went from door to door. Whatever things he got in his zole and in the tinpot were mixed together and partaken by baba to his heart’s content. Sometime he collected food thrown in a earthen pot to dog, cat and crows. Rest of the time baba mediating under neem tree.
Some villagers from nearby places used to visit him under the tree and get relief for their ailments. He would take out some leaves, crush them, and give them to the ailing person as a medicine. In this manner, he cured many persons of their illnesses. News of the healing powers spread to all the surrounding villages. As a result a large number of persons used to come to him, receive the crushed leaves from him and get cured of their ailments.
After some time he left the village, then wandering from place to place, to met many saints and fakirs.
After strolling for many years, he reached a place called Dhoopkheda (Aurangabad District). Meanwhile a gentle man name called Chandu Patel making a trip to Aurangabad, he lost his mare. For two long months, he made a diligent search but could get no trace of the lost mare. After being disappointed, he returned from Aurangabad with the saddle on his back. After travelling four Koss and a half, he came, on the way, to a mango tree under the foot of which sat a RATNA (queer fellow). He had a cap on His head, wore Kafni (long robe) and had a “Satka” (short stick) under His arm-pit and He was preparing to smoke a Chilim (pipe). On seeing Chand Patil pass by the way, He called out to him and asked him to have a smoke and to rest a little. The Baba asked him about the saddle. Chand Patil replied that it was of his mare which was lost. The queer fellow or Baba asked him to make a search in the Nala close by. He went and the wonder of wonders! he found out the mare. He thought that this baba was not an ordinary man, but an Avalia (a great saint). He returned to the Baba with the mare. The Chilim was ready for being smoked, but two things were wanting; (1) fire to light the pipe, and (2) water to wet the chhapi (piece of cloth through which smoke is drawn up).
The Fakir took His prong and thrust it forcibly into the ground and out came a live burning coal, which He put on the pipe. Then He dashed the Satka on the ground, from whence water began to ooze. The chhapi was wetted with that water, was then wrung out and wrapped round the pipe. Thus everything being complete, the Baba smoked the Chilim and then gave it also to Chand Patil. On seeing all this, Chand Patil was wonderstruck. He requested the Baba to come to his home and accept his hospitality. Next day He went to the Patil’s house and stayed there for some time. The Patil was a village – officer of Dhoop. His wife’s brother’s son was to be married and the bride was from Shirdi. So Patil made preparations to start for Shirdi for the marriage. The Baba also accompanied the marriage-party. The marriage went off without any hitch, the party returned to Dhoop, except the Baba alone stayed in Shirdi, and remained there forever. That was in the year 1858.
When the marriage – party came to Shirdi, it alighted at the foot of a Banyan tree in Bhagata Mhalsapati’s field near Khandoba’s temple. The carts were loosened in the open court-yard of Khandoba’s temple. The carts were loosened in the open court-yard of Khandoba’s temple, and the members of the party descended one by one, and the Baba also got down. Bhagat Mhalsapati saw the young Baba getting down and accosted Him “YA SAI” (Welcome Sai). Others also addressed Him as Sai and thence-forth he became known as Sai Baba.
The name ‘Sai Baba’ is a combination of Persian and Indian origin; Sāī (Sa’ih) is the Persian term for “holy one” or “saint”, usually attributed to Islamic ascetics, whereas Bābā is a word meaning “father” used in Indian languages. The appellative thus refers to SaiBaba as being a “holy father” or “saintly father”.
Sai Baba began to stay in a deserted Masjid. One Saint named Devidas was living in Shirdi many years before Baba came there. Baba liked his company. He stayed with him in the Maruti temple, in the Chavadi, and some time lived alone. Then came another Saint by name Jankidas. Baba spent most of His time in talking with him, or Jankidas went to Baba’s residence. So also one Vaishya house-holder Saint, from Puntambe by name Gangagir always frequented Shirdi. When he first saw Sai Baba, carrying pitchers of water in both hands, for watering the garden, he was amazed and said openly, “Blessed is Shirdi, that it got this precious Jewel. This man is carrying water to-day; but He is not an ordinary fellow. As this land (Shirdi) was lucky and meritorious, it secured this Jewel.” So also one famous Saint by name Anandnath of Yewala Math, a disciple of Akkalkot Maharaj came to Shirdi with some Shirdi people. When he saw Sai Baba, he said openly, “This is a precious Diamond in reality. Though he looks like an ordinary man, he is not a ‘gar’ (ordinary stone) but a Diamond. You will realize this in the near future.” Saying this he returned to Yewala.
One day Mahalasapati was sitting near Baba and doing some service to him. Mahalasapati was the priest in the Khandoba temple. The Muslims who were opposed to the presence of a Hindu priest near Baba, came with sticks and beat up Mahalasapati. At every stroke, Mahalasapati cried out, “Baba! Baba!”. Each time he shouted the name of Baba, the blow was borne by Baba. Mahalasapati fell to the ground. Baba came out.
Muslims had great reverence for Baba. Baba roared at the Muslim crowd, “Saithan! On the one side you worship me and on the other you beat me. Is this devotion!?” Baba was bleeding all over the body. The Muslims saw it and asked Baba who had beaten him. “Did you not beat me? Did you not beat me?” said Baba pointing to several men in the crowd. They said, “We did not come near you at all. We only beat Mahalasapati.”
“Who is in Mahalasapati? I am in him,” declared Baba. “He has surrendered to me and hence all his trouble are mine.”
On hearing this, the Muslims fell at Baba’s feet and craved his forgiveness. Baba then summoned the Hindus and Muslims and told them, “Dear children, you are all the progeny of one mother.” Thereby Baba demonstrated the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man. He wanted all differences of caste and creed to be eschewed. What mattered for mankind was the heart. One who is only concerned about his creed (matham) will never discover the Divine (Madhava). You must seek the Divine within you. Baba pointed out that all caste and creed distinctions related only to the body. Therefore, you should seek the Supreme in your inner consciousness.
Sai Baba did not mix and speak with the people. He only gave answers when he was questioned. By day he always sat under the Neem tree, sometimes under the shade of a branch of a Babul tree near the stream at the outskirts of the village. In the afternoon, He used to walk at random and go at times to Nimgaon. There He frequented the house of Balasaheb Dengale. Baba loved Mr. Balasaheb. His younger brother, named Nanasaheb, had no son, though he married a second wife. Balasaheb sent Nanasaheb for taking darshana of Sai Baba, and after some time with His grace, Nanasaheb got a son. From that time onwards, people began to come in numbers to see Sai Baba, and His fame began to spread and reached Ahmednagar; from thence Nanasaheb Chandorkar and Keshav Chidamber, and many others began to come to Shirdi.
Baba was surrounded by His devotees during day; and slept at night in an old and dilapidated Masjid. Baba’s paraphernalia at this time consisted of a Chilim, tobacco, a “Tumrel” (tin pot), long flowing Kafni, a piece of cloth round His head, and a Satka (short stick), which He always kept with Him. The piece of white cloth on the head was twisted like matted hair, and flowed down from the left ear on the back. This was not washed for weeks. He wore no shoes, no sandals. A piece of sack-cloth was His seat for most of the day. He wore a coupin (waist-cloth-band) and for warding off cold he always sat in front of a Dhuni (sacred fire) facing south with His left hand resting on the wooden railing. In that Dhuni, He offered as oblation; egoism, desires and all thoughts and always uttered Allah Malik (God is the sole owner). The Masjid in which He sat was only of two room dimensions, where all devotees came and saw Him. After 1912 A.D., there was a change. The old Masjid was repaired and a pavement was constructed. Before Baba came to live in this Masjid, He lived for a long time in a place Takia, where with GHUNGUR (small bells) on His legs, Baba danced beautifully sang with tender love.
Sai Baba was very fond of lights. He used to borrow oil from shop-keepers, and keep lamps burning the whole night in the Masjid and temple. This went on for some time. The Banias, who supplied oil gratis, once met together and decided not to give Him oil. When, as usual, Baba went to ask for oil, they all gave Him a distinct No. Unperturbed, Baba returned to the Masjid and kept the dry wicks in the lamps. The banias were watching Him with curiosity. Baba took the Tumrel (tin pot) which contained very little (a few drops) of oil, put water into it and drank it and forced it fall in the container. After consecrating the tin-pot in this way, He again took water in the tin-pot and filled all the lamps with it and lighted them. To the surprise and dismay of the watching Banias, the lamps began to burn and kept burning the whole night. The Banias repented and apologized. Baba forgave them and asked them to be more truthful in future.
Sathe was quite an extraordinary person. On reaching Shirdi, he and Narke had Darshan of Baba. On several occasions, looking at Sathe, Baba used to laugh, sing, and make strange gestures. Doubts arouse in Sathe’s mind whether Baba was a real sage or an eccentric person. No one mentioned anything about Sathe to Baba. Sathe and Narke merely went to see Baba and sat in his presence. Baba told Sathe, “Don’t worry about anything. Bodies are like water bubbles. Don’t develop any attachment to the body. Develop your attachment to the dehi (indwelling spirit). Worries are passing clouds. Have courage. Protect your child.”
The last remark had a reference to the fact that Sathe’s wife had died after giving birth to a child. Even Narke had not heard about the survival of this child. On hearing Baba’s words Sathe realised that Baba was not a crazy person but one who was a Trikala Jnani (one who knew the past, the present, and the future). Sathe, who had intended to stay for a short while just to have dracaena of Baba, prolonged his stay by two more days.
Making frequent visits to Shirdi, Sathe was the first to realise that there were no proper amenities at Shirdi for those coming to Baba. The place where he provided residential accommodation for visitor’s [in Shirdi] is Sathe Wada. Sathe was the first to set up apartments at Shirdi.
While serving in this manner, Sathe went again to Shirdi after he began to feel whether there was any purpose in his continuing to earn income and accumulate wealth. On seeing Sathe, Baba smilingly said, “You appear to be losing interest in your job. You are wondering how to dispose of the wealth you have acquired. Why give it to anyone? Use it for a good cause. Build a Koti in Shirdi.” Sathe told Baba, “Swami! I am not a millionaire. How can I build a mansion here?” Baba replied, “Go on doing as much as you can. Why fear when I am here?” Baba encouraged Sathe in this manner.
In due course Sathe’s maternal uncle Kelkar settled down in Shirdi. Sathe used to send funds from Poona and his uncle used to carry on the construction in Shirdi.
He regarded Sathe as his right hand in regard to all matters. Because Baba was keeping Sathe close to him and relying on him for everything.
Appa was the Kulkarni (revenue official) of the Shirdi village. He was ever immersed in service to Sri Sai Baba. It is the merit of our past lives, which rules our mind and dictates our actions. Now hear what happened once to Appa Kulkarni by the effects of his past Karma. A case was filed against him alleging misappropriation of funds. Only God knows for certain whether he was innocent of the charge or not. The people started vilifying Appa, saying that he was a corrupt man and a troublesome character. Appa heard these gossip of the villagers. He was troubled in his mind whether Sai Maharaj too would hear these rumours and start believing them. The revenue officer superior to Appa issued summons to him to come for an inquiry into the allegations against him. Appa was in a great panic. He was apprehensive that he may not come back to Shirdi again from the inquiry. He went to the Masjid and saluted Baba with reverence. He said, “Oh! Supreme amongst the guru’s, you are a saint. You are verily God. A great calamity has befallen me. Baba, I know that you can command time itself. You know whether this calumny is true or not. Oh powerful one! You are omniscient. You know the past, present and the future. What more can I say than this? You are my mother. I turn to you as my refuge and last resort. Only you can save me and my good name from these infamous allegations.” Appa grasped Baba’s feet and prostate on the ground, started weeping piteously.
“Baba, if something bad happens to me at the inquiry, it will bring you a bad name and disrepute. Oh powerful one, keep this in mind and remove this affliction. When I have Kubera (the God of riches) with me why should I wander abroad for alms form house to house? Do the children who drink the milk from the overflowing udders of that gem amongst cows, the wish fulfilling Kamadhenu, search elsewhere for milk? When the Kalpa Vruksha which fulfils all one’s desires is with one does he seek thorny bushes?
Do the fish leave the vast ocean of milk and seek refuge in mere rivulets? Baba, I have sought shelter at your lotus like feet. You are my mother, my father, please save me from this danger. If you remove me to safety from this danger, all will laud you as the saviour. On the other hand, if I am punished, it will be a black mark on your fame. Sai, please shower your kind, benevolent grace on me.” Appa begged Baba piteously for his kind grace.
Baba’s heart melted. He said, “There is no need for you to worry anymore. Have faith in me! Go from here to Niwasa Village. There, one the bank of the Pravara River, the God who plays the part of the unseen director of this whole universe, has taken the form of Mohini. Go thou there. He, to whom Jnaneswar had surrendered when he wrote, the ‘Bhavartha Deepika’ (commentary on Bhagavat Gita); He who incarnated ten times to rid this world of evil and uphold the dharma; that Allah-I-llahi has assumed form there to save these foolish people steeped in ignorance. Go thou there to him. Salute him with reverence and then go to your superior. The all merciful Allah will protect you. Do not fear.” Appa Kulkarni went to the Mohini Raj on the banks of the Pravara River and after paying obeisance went to where the inquiry was scheduled. He kept repeating the holy name of Sri Sai Baba while answering the questions of his superior. The inquiry concluded. The officer said, “It is my belief that you have been falsely accused in this case. I am of the opinion that you have not misappropriated any money. You are free to go.” Appa turned towards Shirdi and danced with happiness.
Appa praised Baba, “Sai Baba, thou wish fulfilling Kalpa Vruksha of the devotees! Thou the protector of the devotee! Thou abode of dispassion! You have shown great kindness to me. I have succeeded by your grace. You have upheld my honour, Baba, thou great mahatma.” Appa arrived at Shirdi the next day and hurried to the Masjid. He informed Baba of what all had transpired at the inquiry. Baba heard him out in silence and said, “God is the one who is the doer and the one makes us do action. He is the refuge of the true devotee. Even the impossible becomes possible by his will.”
There was one Gujarati Brahmin called Megha. He was a wise man. He used to diligently chant the Gayatri mantra regularly. He was well built. His hair was matted and long. Day and night, he would chant “Shiva, Hara Hara.” He was a bachelor who diligently performed all the religious activities daily. He had come to Shirdi with Hari Vinayak Sathe. Megha used to get up before dawn and have a cold water bath. He would apply ash to his body and apply the horizontal arks of the devotees of Shiva to his forehead with sandal paste. He would sit on a deer skin to meditate. His body used to have an otherworldly shine by the dint of his devotional exercises and he looked like a latter day Jalandhara. He would go for the darshan of Sri Sai Baba three times a day to the Masjid. He saw Shiva in Baba. To him it seemed that it was Shiva himself who was ensconced in royal court at the Masjid. So he would chant the panchakshari, ‘Om Namah Shivayah’ while keeping his head Baba’s feet. He would worship the holy feet of Baba with Bilwa leaves said to be a favourite of Shiva. He would also go 5 miles to the distant Godavari River everyday and bring the water from there to perform the abhishek (ritual bathing) of Baba. If any one questioned him; he would say, “Who do you think Baba is? He is that Shiva himself. He has to be bathed only with the water of Godavari. Ordinary water will not do.” Sri Sai Baba was pleased by the devotion of Megha. He presented him with a Shiva ling (the symbol of Shiva) for his regular daily worship. This is the concise story of Megha. The able Sai Maharaj showers his grace on his devotees in the same form that they worship him. Sri Sai Baba’s leelas are wonderful and beautiful. He appears as Shiva to the devotees of Shiva, as Vishnu to the devotees of Vishnu and as Parvardhigar to the Muslim devotees. One the one hand he would look like the Panduranga Vittala standing on a brick and on the other he would look like Sai Baba. His love for his devotees was limitless.
As the days passed, the residents of Shirdi developed hatred towards Sathe because he was collecting all the offerings to Baba in a hundi to use the money for building a Mandir. Just at the time, a silver chariot with silver horses, which was in Sathe’s keeping, was stolen by some thieves. Sathe was the principal trustee. The people of Shirdi suspected Sathe of complicity in the theft. One day one of the residents planned to strike Sathe with an axe on the way. Getting wind of this, his maternal uncle called Sathe and urged him to leave immediately as it was too dangerous for him to stay there. He told Sathe that he could worship Baba wherever he might be. Reluctantly Sathe left Shirdi.
Baba used to ask for Sathe ceaselessly. But Sathe was not there. Baba appeared to be in great distress. Sathe was near and dear to Baba. The devotees felt that Baba was sorely affected by the absence of Sathe.
About this time, the parents of Shyam came to Shirdi with the two-year old child. Shyam’s father had just retired from service and decided to settle down in Shirdi. The boy’s name was Mohan Shyam. The parents called him Mohan, while Baba called him Shyam. The boy was put to school at Shirdi and in due course he completed his studies and received training as a teacher. He was appointed as a teacher at Shirdi. The school adjoined Baba’s room. During the day, Shyam would be teaching at school. There was a ventilator in the wall separating Baba’s room and the classroom. Shyam used to watch Baba at nights through the ventilator. He used to notice Baba talking to himself, getting angry at times, or laughing to himself, or doing other curious things. Baba used to sleep on an eighteen-inch wide plank suspended from the ceiling. Shyam was apprehensive that Baba might fall from his lofty but narrow perch during sleep.
Once he mustered courage to ask Baba while massaging his feet, “Swami! You don’t seem to sleep at all at nights. You are laughing to yourself, or talking. What is the secret of all this?”
“You simpleton! Do you imagine you are the only person about whom I am concerned in this world? There are numerous persons who are praying to me. I am speaking to all of them,” replied Baba. “When I turn my finger, I am turning their minds. When I laugh, I am amused at their follies. These are the things I am doing for my devotees, dear child.”
Shyam prayed to Baba, “Swami! My classes don’t take up much of my time. Let me stay with you during the rest of the time and serve you.”
At that time there was a woman called Laxmibai who used to cook the food for Baba. Shyam used to go to her and assist her in the preparation of jowar rotis. Baba had great liking for brinjal. Shyam went to Laxmibai to learn how to prepare brinjal dishes. Shyam went on serving Baba in this way and he alone knew the joy he derived from such service.
Baba often used to fly into a temper. This was only an outward appearance. Sometimes he used to throw a stick at someone ten feet away. Shyam once asked him, “Swami! You are hurling the stick at the man in such a rage. Supposing something happened to him and he died, will you not get a bad name?” Baba replied sharply, ” You keep quiet! That fellows life is in gods hands. He will die only if god permit him. You better mind your business. Why are you bothering about others? That man will come to his senses only if he sees me in this manner. If I am indulgent they will try to ride the high horse.” Thus, in this way, Baba used to discipline people by threats and harsh words. “It is only with this aim in view I am displaying anger and not for any other purpose.” This secret was revealed by Baba only to Shyam and none else. Baba’s life is really a saga of love and nothing else.
Keeping Shyam near him and allowing him to serve him, Baba spent many years.
In 1917, Baba once called Abdul Baba, Nana Chandorkar, Mahalasapati, Dasganu and others and started asking each of them, “Do you know who you are?” Each of them replied, “I am your Sishya(disciple).” Baba said, “Nonsense! Don’t use that term any longer. I have no disciples in this world. I have countless devotees. You do not recognize the distinction between a disciple and a devotee. Anyone can be a devotee. But that is not the case with the disciple. A disciple is one who carries implicitly the commands of the guru (the preceptor). The mark of the Sishya is total devotion to the preceptor. Only the man who says, ‘I have none in the world other than the preceptor,’ is a disciple. How far have you respected my injunctions? How are you entitled to claim that you are my disciples? Only the one who follows me like my shadow can claim to be my disciple. The devotee is one who prays to the Lord wherever he may be. Hence, there is a big difference between a disciple and a devotee. The disciple and the preceptor are like two bodies with one spirit. The disciple should have no sense of separateness from the preceptor. He should feel, ‘I and you are one.’ There are no such disciples to be found in the world. There are millions of devotees, but no disciples.”
On hearing this, Shyam was in deep pain. He felt within himself, “Apart from serving at your feet, I have no other concern.” Baba then went into another room and called Shyam inside. “In this entire world, for me you are the only disciple. All others are only devotees.” At that moment, Shyam fell at the feet of Baba, and cried out, “You alone, you alone (are my refuge)!” and breathed his last.
In all his life of over 82 years, Baba had never shed a tear in the presence of devotees. When Shyam passed away, he shed three drops of tears. The devotees present there said, “Swami! Why do you feel so grieved? All are in your hands.” Baba replied, “Dear boys! I am not grieving at all. Almost all his sins had been wiped out already. By the three drops I shed, the remaining of sins (of Shyam) have been washed away.”
All that Baba said or did was for the good of the devotees alone.
One day a group of people came for the darshan of Sri Sai Baba. The first was the son of Govind Chandorkar, Narayana Chandorkar, who was working at the collector’s office at Ahmed Nagar as the Chitnis. He was called Nanasaheb by all. The second was a singer of ballads honouring God called Ramadas of Vayi village. The third was Bapu Nagarkar and the fourth was Kangaokar. They had all arrived at Shirdi on the day before Hanumajjayanti (the birth day of the God Hanuman, the foremost devotee of Sri Rama). They had all come to Shirdi to have the darshan of the divine Sai and to hear his gospel. Ramadas had to sing the ballad of God on the day of Hanumajjayanti at Ahmed Nagar, situated on the banks of the Seena River. He was hurrying the others of the party to leave immediately after the darshan of Sri Sai Baba. He stated shouting for the cart to take them all to the railway station.
Then Baba told Chandorkar, “You have your food first and only then leave.” Nana did not know what to do. He took Kangaokar with him and saw to the food for himself and the others of his party. Ramadas, however, was hurrying them and was insisting on leaving at once for the railway station. Bapu Nagarkar said, “What is your hurry?” Ramadas retorted, “I have to sing the ballad of God tomorrow at Ahmed Nagar. We have spent enough time with this man. Chandorkar is well off, he has no worries about his next meal. If we do not leave now, I will be losing a lot of money. What do we gain by following this Sai Baba? I will not get even a paisa here. Let us go to the railway station immediately. It is now time for the train to arrive. We have in any case accomplished what we have come for.” He prevailed upon Bapu Nagarkar to accompany him and they both started for the station. Chandorkar and Kangaokar stayed on at Shirdi as per Baba’s instructions.
Baba then said to Nanasaheb, “Have you noticed how people behave? They leave those with them and go away to seek their own selfish interests. That is why we should bring with us those who stay with us till the end of the world as the perfume stays with the flower.”
They all finished their meal. Baba said, “Now you can start. Believe in my words. Do not worry that you will miss the train. There is time yet for its arrival.” Chandorkar and his friend believed Baba. They listened to his advice and after reverentially saluting his feet, started for Kopargaon. As they reached the station, they found Bapu Nagarkar and Ramadas with drawn faces, famished with hunger. They could not find anything to eat at the railway station.
They hung their heads in shame as they saw Nanasaheb Chandorkar. Nana said, “Why, you have still not left for Ahmed Nagar? It seems that your train has still not arrived.” Nagarkar replied, “Today the train is late by three hours. It is our fate to fast and go hungry today. We have received our just desserts as we have not heeded the instructions of that great saint, Sai Baba.” The train arrived and they all boarded it to go to Ahmed Nagar. Sri Sai Baba knows the past, present and the future. His words are never in vain.
Baba one day told Appa, “Some thieves have entered our village. They are not ordinary thieves. Their methods are entirely different. They enter each house and examine it minutely. They only steal the most valuable things from each house. They are such experts in their vocation that one does not even realize that a theft has happened in one’s house. They will first come to your house.
You go to your house and see to its security.” Appa could not understand Baba’s words or their inner meaning. He hired some people to guard his house and he too joined them standing guard though that night. An hour or so after night fall; Appa started vomiting and had diarrhoea. He was afflicted with that dreadful disease- Cholera. His body lost its temperature and he started twisting in agony. His eyes lost focus and protruded. His pulse was not palpable. The villagers saw the condition of Appa and were saddened, losing all hope of his survival.
Appa’s wife, fearing the imminent death of Appa, ran at once to the Masjid to that mountain of kindness and the sole refuge of all in this world. She fell on the Baba’s feet and pleaded with tears streaming from her eyes, “Baba, my husband is in the last stages of his life, please give my husband some Udi along with your blessings. It will save my husband and bring him back from the doors of imminent death. Please save me from wretched widowhood”
Baba said, “Oh mother, do not cry. All those who are born have to die, someday or the other. To be born, to live and to die are all decided by the almighty. He is in everything and everywhere. It is not in our hands to change his plans. Who is it that is born? Who is it that dies? Get hold of your self and examine this with dispassion and true knowledge. You will also realize the truth. If the cloth we wear is torn, we throw it aside. We lose whatever liking we had for it too. The all-merciful God has covered the ever living soul with this cloth of a body. That soul is the ever living, infinite, indivisible, attribute less, formless God. Do not show love for the worn out cloth of the body of Appa and try to protect it by applying Udi to it. Do not come in Appa’s way and cause him harm. Let him reach his destination as per his destiny. As I have been talking to you here, he has already left behind the worn out cloth of his body. Do not interfere any more. Appa will achieve salvation. You will not be able to see it with your worldly eye. Let whatever happens happen. Baba consoled her thus and she went home reconciled to Appa’s death. By the time she reached home, Appa was dead.
The next day two or three more people died in the village of Cholera. The villagers were all terrified by this scourge and went to Baba who was their sole refuge. They prayed to him, “Baba, cholera is dancing her dance of death in the village. Do something and get her out of the village. What is the use of having you here if we are all to die by cholera?”
Baba replied, “Seven people have to die in the village. After that cholera will go away from here.” This turned out to be literally true. Seven people died at Shirdi due to cholera. No further deaths occurred. How wonderful is Baba’s knowledge. What he says will happen.
Baba had with him an old well baked brick with him. He used to love that brick more than he did his life. He would use it every day as his pillow when he slept. Nanasaheb Chandorkar saw this and said, “Baba why do you use that brick as a pillow? I will have a nice pillow stitched for you. Please throw that brick away.” Baba then replied, “Even if you bring a hundred thousand pillows they will not equal this brick. This was presented to me by my Guru. This is more valuable that the whole world to me. This is my meditation as well as the object of my meditation. Nobody can estimate its value. It is breaks; my life will depart this body. My guru’s feet had touched this brick; that is why I have made it my pillow. He who keeps his head on the lotus like feet of his guru; his shadow is also holy. That is why I keep my head on this brick which touched my guru’s lotus feet. By this I am becoming one who every day keeps his head on his Gurus feet. Nana! You all come and salute me in the mornings. I in turn present all your salutes to my guru. In the manner that the Godavari River takes all the water that joins it and consigns it to the sea, in the same way I consign your salutes to my guru. When I had put this brick at the feet of my guru, my guru who loved me as a mother did her child, laughed with pleasure at my devotion. He said, ‘Well done. In the past Pundaleeka had presented Krishna a brick and asked him to stand on that. Now you are doing me same thing and asking me to put my feet on that. By the dint of the excellence of your devotion, I have to stand steadily on this brick forever. What body is in samadhi, the same body will also be in this brick.’ This is the truth. My Sadguru had commingled with Lord Sri Venkateswara and had become Venkateswara himself. He is now in the form of Lord Venkateswara. Sri Venkateswara’s footprints are on this brick. That is why I call my guru Venkusa (Venkateswara Swami). The power of this brick is beyond compare. Have you now seen what it is?” Nanasaheb Chandorkar and the other devotees heard Baba and prostrated at his feet in devotion. Chandorkar was an ardent devotee of Sri Sai Baba.
One day Baba was sitting near the Dhuni on Divali holiday and warming Himself. He was pushing fire-wood into the Dhuni, which was brightly burning. A little later, instead of pushing logs of woods, Baba pushed His arm into the Dhuni; the arm was scorched and burnt immediately. This was noticed by the servant Madhava, and also by Madhavrao Deshpande (Shama). They at once ran to Baba and Madhavarao clasped Baba by His waist from behind and dragged Him forcible back ward and asked, “Deva, for what have You done this?” Then Baba came to His senses and replied, “The wife of a blacksmith at some distant place, was working the bellows of a furnace;her husband called her. Forgetting that her child was on her waist, she ran hastily and the child slipped into the furnace. I immediately thrust My hand into the furnace and saved the child. I do not mind My arm being burnt, but I am glad that the life of the child is saved.”
On hearing the news of Baba’s hand being burnt from (Shama) Madhavrao Deshpande, Mr. Nanasaheb Chandorkar, accompanied by the famous Doctor Parmanand of Bombay with his medical outfit consisting of ointments, lint and bandage etc. rushed to Shirdi, and requested Baba to allow Dr. Parmanand to examine the arm, and dress the wound caused by the burn. This was refused. Ever since the burn, the arm was dressed by the leper devotee, Bhagoji Shinde. His treatment consisted in massaging the burnt part with ghee and then placing a leaf over it and bandaging it tightly with Pattis (bandages). Mr. Nanasaheb Chandorkar solicited Baba many a time to unfasten the Pattis and get the wound examined and dressed and treated by Dr. Parmanand, with the object that it may be speedily healed. Dr. Parmanand himself made similar requests, but Baba postponed saying that god was His Doctor; and did not allow His arm to be examined. Dr. Paramanand’s medicines were not exposed to their air of Shirdi, as they remained intact, but he had the good fortune of getting a darshana of Baba. Bhagoji was allowed to treat the hand daily. After some days, the arm healed and all were happy. Still, we do not know whether any trace of pain was left or not. Every morning, Bhagoji went throught his programme of loosening the Pattis, massaging he arm with ghee and tightly bandaging it again. This went on till Sai Baba’s Samadhi (death).
Sai Baba, a perfect Siddha, as He was, did not really want this treatment, but out of love to His devotee, He allowed the ‘Upasana’ – service of Bhagoji to go on un-interrupted all along. When Baba started for Lendi, Bhagoji held an umbrella over Him and accompanied Him. Every morning, when Baba sat near the post close to the Dhuni, Bhagoji was present and started his service. Bhagoji was a sinner in his past brith. He was suffering from leprosy, his fingers had shrunk, his body was full of pus and smelling badly. Though outwardly he seemed so unfortunate, he was really very lucky and happy, for he was the premier servant of Baba, and got the benefit of His company.
People were immensely benefited by having a darshana of Baba. Some became hale and hearty; wicked people were turned into good ones. Kushtha (Leprosy) was cured in some cases, many got their desires fulfilled, without any drops or medicine being put in the eyes, some blind men got back their sight and some lame ones got their legs. Nobody could see the end of His extraordinary greatness. His fame spread far and wide, and pilgrims from all sides flocked to Shirdi. Baba sat always near the Dhuni and eased Himself there, and always sat in meditation; sometimes with and on other times without a bath.
He used to tie a white turban on his head; and wear a clean Dhotar round his waist, and a shirt on his body. This was his dress in the beginning. He started practicing medicine in the village, examined patients and gave medicines. He was always successful, and He became famous as a Hakim (Doctor). A curious case may be narrated here. One devotee got his eye balls quite red and swollen. No Doctor was available in Shirdi. The other devotees took him to Baba. Other Doctors would use ointments, Anjans, cow’s milk and camphorated drugs etc., in such cases. Baba’s remedy was quite unique. He pounded some ‘BEEBA’ (Some Carpus Ana Cardium i.e. marking nuts) and made two balls of them, thrust them on in each eye of the patient and wrapped a cloth-bandage round them (eyes). Next day, the bandage was removed and water was poured over them in a stream. The inflammation subsided and the pupils became white and clear. Though the eyes are very delicate, the BEEBA caused no smarting; but removed the disease of the eyes. Many such cases were cured and this is only an instance in point.
SaiBaba also interpreted the religious texts of both faiths. According to what the people who stayed with him said and wrote he had a profound knowledge of them. He explained the meaning of the Hindu scriptures in the spirit of Advaita Vedanta. This was the character of his philosophy. It also had numerous elements of bhakti. The three main Hindu spiritual paths -Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga – were visible in the teachings of SaiBaba.
Another example of the way he combined both faiths is the Hindu name he gave to his mosque, Dwarakamai.
SaiBaba said that God penetrates everything and lives in every being, and as well that God is the essence of each of them. He emphasised the complete oneness of God which was very close to the Islamic tawhid and the Hindu doctrine, e.g. of the Upanishads. SaiBaba said that the world and all that the human may give is transient and only God and his gifts are eternal. SaiBaba also emphasised the importance of devotion to God – bhakti – and surrender to his will. He also talked about the need of faith and devotion to one’s spiritual preceptor (guru).He said that everyone was the soul and not the body. He advised his disciples and followers to overcome the negative features of character and develop the good ones. He taught them that all fate was determined by karma. SaiBaba left no written works. His teachings were oral, typically short, pithy sayings rather than elaborate discourses. SaiBaba would ask his followers for money (dakshina), which he would give away to the poor and other devotees the same day and spend the rest on matches. According to his followers he did it in order to rid them of greed and material attachment.
SaiBaba encouraged charity and the importance of sharing with others. He said: “Unless there is some relationship or connection, nobody goes anywhere. If any men or creatures come to you, do not discourteously drive them away, but receive them well and treat them with due respect. Shri Hari (God) will be certainly pleased if you give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, clothes to the naked and your verandah to strangers for sitting and resting. If anybody wants any money from you and you are not inclined to give, do not give, but do not bark at him like a dog.”
One day, a Pandit came to Baba and said that his biography should be written. His name was Hemanthpanth. He is the author of ‘Sai Satcharita’ [The gospel of Shirdi Baba’s life]. He entreated Baba to disclose facts about the place of his birth, his parentage, his name and his early life. He could not get any information. Baba did not reveal anything to anyone. But on one occasion, when he was alone with Mahalasapati Baba disclosed his date of birth for him. Mahalasapati was no scholar. He had learnt Rituals to conduct the Puja in the temple. He noted down the date of birth, on a piece of paper. This came into the hands of Hemadpant. With this, he began to write the life of Baba.
We return to final touch stories of Baba. One day, Baba called Pradhan and asked him to construct a small tank. Pradhan was thus the first to be involved in the building of a Samadhi for Baba.
It was year 1918. Pradhan’s wife, who was living in her native village, had a dream in which Baba appeared to have passed away. Pradhan was in Shirdi. On waking up, Pradhan’s wife started crying over the passing of Baba in her dream. At that moment she heard a voice in the house declaring, “Don’t say that Baba has died. Say that Baba is in a state of Samadhi.” Samadhi means equal-mindedness. “Life and death are alike. Joy and sorrow, profit and loss are the same. Hence, there is no such thing as death for Baba”—this is what the voice declared.
When she was trying to find out wherefrom this voice came, she received a message from her husband conveying the news of the passing of Baba. That occurred on Vijayadashami day in 1918. Baba Stayed 60 years in Shiridi.
“If a man utters My name with love, I shall fulfill all his wishes, increase his devotion and if he sings earnestly my life and my deeds, him I shall be set in front and back and on all sides. Those devotees, who are attached to me, heart and soul, will naturally feel happiness, when they hear these stories. Believe me that if anybody sings my Leelas, I will give him infinite joy and everlasting contentment. It is my special characteristic to free any person, who surrenders completely to me, and who does worship me faithfully, and who remembers me, and meditates on me constantly. How can they be conscious of worldly objects and sensations, who utter my name, who worship me, who think of my stories and my life and who thus always remember me? I shall draw out my devotees from the jaws of death. If my stories are listened to, all the diseases will be got rid of. So, hear my stories with respect: and think and mediate on them, assimilate them. This is the way of happiness and contentment. The pride and egoism of my devotees will vanish; the mind of the hearers will be set at rest: and if it has wholehearted and complete faith, it will be one with supreme consciousness. The simple remembrance of my name as Sai, Sai will do away with sins of speech and hearing.”