SAI BABA - THE PERPETUAL STAR AT SHIRDI
Om Sri Sai Ram
THE PERPETUAL STAR AT SHIRDI
By Swami Sai Sharan Anand
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who has made the unique revelation about the relationship between Jesus Christ and himself on the Christmas day of 1972, has chosen to make another important revelation. This time about the Sai Avatar on September 28, 1990. Little was known about Sai Baba, particularly about his birth and childhood and his nascent divinity before he had landed at Shirdi in 1858 with the Barat party of Chandu Patel's brother's son.
When R.K. Karanjia asked what made him so sure that he was Shirdi Baba incarnate, Sri Sathya Sai Baba said:
The knowledge of my own authentic experience, of course. Since no one who knew Shirdi Baba is alive today, there is no evidence except my own knowledge and experience. The very fact that I announced that I am Shirdi Baba forty years ago, when I was only 10 and nobody in this part of the South had known or even heard of Shirdi Baba, proves the fact.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba on September 28, 1990, made the dramatic disclosure about the facts hitherto unknown about the advent of the first Sai Avatar at Shirdi, Maharashtra, and the fact that he himself was the reincarnation of Sai Baba in human form as prophesied by Sai Baba in a talk with some of his close devotees. He said:
I propose today to reveal what has not been known to anyone hitherto. In the former Nizam's dominions, there was a remote village called Pathri. In that village there were a couple named Gangabhavadiya and Devagiriamma. They were grieving over lack of children. In answer to their prayer, a son was born on September 28, 1835. Today is the anniversary of that day. That child was Sai Baba. September 28th was the date of his birth. On Vijayadasami day in 1918, he gave up his body.
When Gangabhavadiya and Devagiriamma were living in Pathri village, they were worshippers of Iswara and Parvati. They had no offspring for a long time. Gangabhavadiya used to ply boats near the village for a living. One night when it was raining heavily, Gangabhavadiya 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 left, she ate and went to bed at 9 P.M. There was a knock at the door. Devagiriamma opened the door, expecting the return of her husband. 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 inside in the verandah and went in after bolting the inner door. A little while later, there was a knock on 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. There was again another knock 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: 'Oh 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 back door, she went in search of someone who could be engaged to render help to the old man. At the same time, a woman knocked at the back door. She said, 'It appears you came to my house and sought some feminine help. I was away at that time. Please tell me what service I should render feeling happy that Goddess Parvathi herself had sent the woman in response to her prayers, Devagiriamma sent the woman to the verandah for serving the old man and closed the door. The old man and the new woman were none other than Parameshwara and Parvathi, the divine couple.
Parameshwara told Parvathi: 'Fulfill the cherished desires of this lady.' Parvathi told Eswara, 'you are the Supreme; please shower your grace on her yourself! Eswara said, 'I came to test her. You came in answer to the prayers. Hence you must bless her.' There was a knock at the door again. This time Devagiriamma opened the door because of the presence of another woman there. Parvathi and Parameshwara appeared before her in their divine form. Unable to control 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. Then she fell at the feet of Eswara. Eswara said: 'I am immensely pleased with your devotion. I shall take birth as your third child.' When Devagiriamma got up, the divine couples were not there. Feeling ecstatic over this experience Devagiriamma was eagerly expecting the return of her husband in the morning to relate to him the whole story. He returned in the morning. Eagerly she related to him all that had happened the previous night. He husband said, 'Devagiri, what is all this fanciful tale? It is all a dream. Parvathi and Parameshwara appearing before you and giving Darshan! It is pure fantasy.' Gangabhavadiya dismissed the whole episode as incredible and fanciful.
But as years passed Devagiriamma became pregnant and a son was born. A year later a daughter was born. Gangabhavadiya was convinced that the birth of the two children was the result of the blessing conferred by Parvathi and Parameshwara. When she conceived again, Gangabhavadiya began to feel an urge to give up home and hearth 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, she decided to follow him, though she was in the ninth month of pregnancy. After proceeding some distance, she developed labour pains. She was delivered of a boy. Wrapping the baby in a piece of cloth she left the child by the roadside and followed her husband. Because of this circumstance no one knew who the parents were. Baba's life story is known only after his arrival in Shirdi.
There was in the same village a Sufi Fakir. As he was also childless he took charge of the child and brought him up in his home. The boy stayed at the Fakir's home for four years. 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 further to her worries the boy was behaving in a troublesome manner. In those days Hindu-Muslim differences in that area were growing alarmingly. There was considerable bitterness among members of the two communities. What the boy used to do was to visit a Hindu temple and sing songs in praise of Allah: 'Mein Allah hoon', 'Allah malik hai' (Allah is the supreme Lord). He used to declare in this manner in the temple. Not only that, but he would enter a mosque and declare 'Rama is God', 'Shiva is Allah'. His behavior in singing about Allah in a Hindu temple and about Rama and Shiva in a mosque 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 pious scholar named Venkusa who was living near the house. One night in 1858 the boy left the Ashram. He reached Shirdi a very small village at that time. He stayed there for two months and then went about wandering from place to place. After strolling for many years, he reached a place called Dhoopkheda. When he was residing there, the marriage of Chandu Patel's brother's son was celebrated there. Baba joined the marriage party and reached Shirdi again which was in the year 1858. From that day till 1918 he did not move out of Shirdi. He remained there for sixty years. While at Shirdi, Baba used to converse with those coming to him, give advice to them regarding their problems. In this manner Baba's activities came to be known all over the country. In 1917 Baba called Nanachandorkar MahalsaPathi, Abdul Baba and Dasgabe 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. Do you recognize the difference between a disciple and a devotee? Anyone can be a devotee, but that is not the case with a disciple. A disciple is one who carries out implicitly the commands of the Guru (The Preceptor). The mark of a 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 a disciple? 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 difference between a devotee and a disciple. The disciple and the preceptor are like two bodies with one spirit. The disciple should have no sense of separation from the preceptor. He should feel 'I and you are one'. There are millions of devotees but no disciple.'
All that Baba said or did was for the good of the devotees alone. Towards the end, Abdul Baba came to Baba. Baba told him, 'I shall appear again and give you Darshan.'
'When will that be? Asked Abdul Baba and was told, 'It will be after eight years.'
'The first advent of Sai was in Maharashtra. The Second Advent will be in Madras/ Baba said. It should be noted that when this form (Sathya Sai) made its advent, Andhra Pradesh was part of Madras Presidency.
When he was asked in what form the next advent would take place, Shirdi Baba told Abdul Baba, 'I will give Darshan in the name of Sathya for upholding truth.' That is the present advent.
The two bodies are different, but the Divinity is one the first advent was for revealing Divinity. The second one is to awaken Divinity (in human beings).
The next advent is for propagating Divinity. The three Sais are Shirdi Sai, Sathya Sai, and Prema Sai. The reason for relating all this is that today happens to be birthday of Shirdi Baba. Baba attained Samadhi in 1918. Bodies are transient.
These vestures are assumed only for the sake of devotees. Unless the Divine comes with a form, no one can develop faith in the formula. The Divine in human form is the preparation for comprehending the formulae absolute.
The truth about God cannot be understood by anyone. He is infinitely vast. He is minuter than atom. No one can know what is the macrocosm and what is microcosm? It is not easy for anyone to understand the ways of the Lord. When one cannot understand the ways of the Divine, it is best to keep silent and at least refrain from indulging in grievous misinterpretation. Seek, therefore, to understand the ways of God and through devotion and worship strive to experience the Divine.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said that at the time of the advent of Jesus Christ a star broke away from the heaven and this phenomenon was observed by some Tibetans and others. Although a star does not actually break from the Empyreon, it is symbolic of the birth of an incarnation on earth, transmitting waves of supernatural light, aura and splendor. When Sai Baba was born and wrapped in piece cloth was placed by the roadside by his mother Devagiriamma no supernatural phenomenon was witnessed by anyone
However, we have the story about the vision in which the proud mother saw Shankar and Parvathi and was bestowed the divine boon that Parameswara would himself take birth as the third child of the devoted couple. The abandoned child was picked up by a Sufi Fakir named Patil and was bred and brought up by him and his wife. But as an Avatar is destined to reveal his splendor in fulfillment of the Avataric design, the child, Babu as he was called by the Fakir's wife, did show his infinite splendor even as Lord Krishna had shown to his foster mother Yasoda. This is how it happened in the words of Professor Gokak: -
One day, the boy was playing at marbles with the son of a neighbouring Sahukar or wealthy man. The Sahukar's son lost all his marbles to Babu. Tempted by the game, the Sahukar's nor any aura or splendor was visible, son went to his mother's worship room, seized a saligram or a black globular stone and played with it as a marble. The Sahukar's son lost that saligram also to Babu. The Sahukar's son went to his mother and told her that Babu had played foul and that the saligram should be returned to him. Babu refused to part with it. He kept it in his mouth. When the Sahukar's wife, a devout and pious woman devoted to Lord Shiva, came to know about it, she was horrified. She rushed to her worship room and found to her dismay that the saligram was actually missing. She ran to the spot where Babu was playing with her son and importuned him to return the saligram. Babu remained tight-lipped and refused to return the saligram. She then compelled him to open his mouth and saw in it what Yasoda had seen in Sri Krishna's the vishwaroop, worlds rolling on worlds. But no saligram. Babu laughingly said that the saligram was in her worship room. She ran back there and found the saligram. She came back to Babu and prostrated herself before him. She had now realised that he was Divine.
Sai Baba was no doubt the universal master and one of the greatest and finest saints that India has ever produced. More than that, he was the God who walked the earth to sow the seeds of secular integration and universal brotherhood. Attempts have been made by some biographers and devotees to present a true interpretation of his divinity in concrete terms. John Osborne's 'The Incredible Sai' is one such attempt. In fact, there is the existence of what is commonly designated as Sai Baba movement in India. Most of the social and cultural historians view Sai Baba of Shirdi as a vital link, a promoter, not an inaugurator of the Sai Baba movement that owes its beginning and true ancestry to the medieval poet and saint, Kabir. Born in the fifteenth century, the greatest contribution of Kabir was to bring about reformation in Hindu asceticism and in creating a link between Hindus and Muslims. It is not known for certain whether he was born a Hindu or Muslim. Now the accepted opinion is that he was a Hindu by choice and a theist, he taught an extreme form of devotion to the God without qualities. He also referred to the God of his inner experience as his Guru. Kabir's humble origins, his love for all mankind, whether Hindu, Muslim or otherwise and his great love and compassion for animals, his yogic connections with the Nathpanthi order of saints and his synthetic belief in the unity of all religions point the direction towards the founder of the Sai Baba movement in India.
Sai Baba of Shirdi has been the most popular of the saints among the masses in central and western India, and his pictures can be found all over the country and there are temples and shrines in his name at Madras, Mangalore, Coimbatore, New Delhi and Bombay. The currency has gained around him as one of the major Avatars with great divine powers.
Sai Baba established himself as an incarnation by virtue of his miracles, qualities of omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence. He used to keep a dkooni burning perpetually at Dwarkamai and offered the ash of the dhooni to his devotees and sick people who were cured immediately. By means of his miracles, he attracted people to himself and took them forward on the spiritual path. He never asserted that he was the Eternal Absolute, but he said in all humility that he was just a humble servant of Allah and that he could use his influence with Allah to bring about health, wealth and happiness to his devotees. What is strange is that even after he gave up his body on the Vijayadasami day in 1918, Shirdi has become a place of pilgrimage for many. He is worshipped by millions as a major incarnation, like Rama, Krishna, Vital, Vitoba and Panduranga. Many devotees have recorded their unique and incredible experiences with Sai Baba of Shirdi, and even those who worshipped him even after his physical manifestation had gone, have been blessed by him. The volume jointly written by Dr. Kakade and Dr. Veerbhadra Rao, entitled Shirdi to Puttaparthi, is an instance in point. Some of the sayings of Sai Baba have universal appeal and his injunctions that he will continue to speak from his tomb and that his sincere devotees would not feel the want of anything are widely believed in. The present author's personal experience of visiting Shirdi and stepping into the portals of Dwarkamai, feeling a deep sense of serenity and ineffable bliss that passeth understanding. Standing before the statue of Sai Baba on the hallowed grounds of Shirdi, one realizes that the dead weight of custom, staleness and weariness has been lifted and that one is climbing up the ladders of spiritual ascent. Truly Shirdi appears to be the gateway of heaven. It would be relevant here to quote the eleven sayings of Shirdi Sai Baba in this context.
1. Whoever puts his feet on Shirdi soil, his sufferings would come to an end.
2. The wretched and the miserable would rise to plenty of joy and happiness.
3. I shall be ever active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body.
4. My tomb shall bless and speak to the needs of my devotees.
5. 1 shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb.
6. My mortal remains would speak from the tomb.
7. 1 am ever living to help and guide all who come to me, who surrender to me and who seek refuge in me.
8. If you look to me, I look to you.
9. If you cast your burden on me, I shall surely bear it.
10. If you seek my advice and help, it will be given to you at once.
11. There shall be no want in the house of my devotee.
Since a detailed account of the life and times of Shirdi Sai Baba is not called for here, it would suffice to say that he was the perpetual star, shining in its resplendent glory and splendor at Shirdi. His resemblance with Kabir is just incidental. One of Sai Baba's favorite terms for God Almighty was Fakir and the first teacher was a Sufi Fakir. As Charles S.J. White rightly points out,
Moreover, Sai Baba was a celibate, remaining in one place, performing miracles and admonishing his disciples, and keeping a fire perpetually burning at Shirdi. To the functions of a Guru, ascetic and saint, Sai Baba adds that of Avatar as many of his devotees and followers consider him as a major incarnation of this age.
Millions of people throughout the globe consider Sri Sathya Sai Baba as a full and major Avatar. However in Western terms, an Avatar is a spiritual teacher and a world� redeemers like Christ. Dr. Samuel Sandweiss presents a very. Rational and altogether convincing definition of the powers and prowess of an incarnation. He says:
The appearance of an Avatar is an extremely rare and monumental event in the history of mankind; his appeal is universal. He represents the highest expression of man's potential: Consciousness without limit, Love without boundary. He is all power; all love, capable of achieving anything imaginable, a being who dictates history and whose activities benefit all mankind. He is all power. He speaks all languages of the world; is a source of all knowledge, knowing past, present and future; and is in all places at all times. The Avatar's life is a clear sign that will, consciousness and love are the source of all creation that spirit transcends matter. He is proud of our divine nature.
Certainly, the chief attributes of avatarhood are found in the nature and character of Sai Baba although most of the time, he is hiding himself under a veil and deluding the people by his Maya, as it were. He often described himself as humble and modest servant of Allah. But there are instances when he has displayed his universal omniscience and omnipresence, assuming different forms and manifesting his presence at different places. He wanted his devotees to be sincere and steadfast in their love and devotion to him and assured them that he would look after all their needs and save them from death, disease and calamities. There was something deeply human and profoundly divine in him that indubitably placed him among the great avatars.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said that he is the incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and of course, there is the prophecy made by none other than Lord Shiva to sage Bhardwaj that he himself would incarnate thrice in Kaliyuga, first as Sai Baba at Shirdi, secondly as Sathya Sai Baba as Shiva Shakti at Puttaparthi, and finally as Prema Sai as Shakti at Mandya district of Karnataka. And we have no reason to question or doubt the authenticity of that prophecy. Then we have also the recorded evidence about the vision given to Devagiriamma of village Pathri in Maharashtra that Lord Shiva would appear before her and would take birth as her third child. All these are truly revelations, compounded of fact and fiction, myth, legend and reality so that the whole thing assumes the tenuous character and mystery of a kind that is difficult to understand. It is only through the felt experience of the individual that a clear view of the reality can be apprehended.
Let us, therefore, try to go into the matter concerning the relationship between Sai Baba of Shirdi and Sri Sathya Sai Baba. We have seen how in a personal interview to R.K. Karanjia, Baba clarified the point that he was Sai Baba of Shirdi born again. He said that he knew it from his authentic personal experience, as none who lived during the Shirdi incarnation was alive now. However, the experiences of his close devotees amply demonstrate that the two Sais are two bodies and one spirit. If we go through official biography of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram we find a record of the events of 1940 when Sathyanarayan Raju was supposedly bitten by a scorpion and started behaving in a strange fashion. He started declaiming difficult passages in Sanskrit and was taken to village exorcist who subjected him to immense physical torture, shaving his head, scratching it with a razor and putting acid into the cut, and anointing his eyes so that the eyes swelled. Sathyanarayan Raju put up with the ordeal calmly and patiently until he was taken back to Puttaparthi by his parents. But his strange and inexplicable behavior continued. He produced items like pencil, rubber, toffees and sweets and distributed them among the boys and other onlookers. Greatly incensed by such behavior of Pedda Venkappa Raju came to him with a rod in his hand and admonished him: 'Tell me who you are, madcap or a God?�
'I am Sai Baba. I have come to ward off your troubles. Keep your houses clean.'
There were very few people in the region who had heard of Sai Baba, the wonder-making mendicant Fakir. However, there was a Government official at the neighboring town, Penukonda, who happened to be a devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba. Good counsel prevailed and the family took the boy to Penukonda, and hoped that the mystery of his strange behavior would be cleared. However, the said Government officer did not believe that his great Guru, Shirdi Baba, had reincarnated as a small boy. He dismissed the idea outright and advised the guardians: 'It is mental derangement. The child should be taken to a psychiatric clinic for treatment.'
Here young Sathyanarayan Raju intervened, 'Whose mental derangement? You're just a pujari, you can't recognize the very Sai whom you are worshipping.' Saying this, he took a handful of ash from nowhere, threw it in all directions. Earlier at Puttaparthi, when he was pressurized to give concrete evidence that he was Sai Baba, he asked for jasmine flowers and flung them on the floor. The name of Sai Baba was written on the floor by the flowers. Everyone was struck with awe. But the most striking phenomenon was the production of Vibhutti or sacred ash as if from the fourth dimension in the space that demonstrated the sameness of the two Sais. Shirdi Baba used to keep a fire aflame at Dwarkamai and used the Udi to bless his devotees. We have it on record that in October 1940 Sathyanarayan Raju renounced the school and the family, saying that he had his work to do and that his devotees were calling him. Thereafter the number of his devotees went on increasing and Majans were sung regularly on Thursdays. Shirdi Baba had also indicated to Abdul Baba that he would give Darshan again as a boy of fourteen in Andhra Pradesh.
So the identity of the two Sais is established beyond doubt. Shirdi Baba had given up his body in 1918 and Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on November 23, 1926. And Sathyanarayan Raju's dramatic announcement that he was Sai Baba cannot be brushed aside as mere whim or fancy of a teen-aged boy. Furthermore, Sathyanarayan Raju produced by mere wave of the hand Vibhutti that was the special trademark of Shirdi Baba, which he used as effective remedy for blessing and curing the serious ailment of his devotees. Moreover, Sathya Sai Baba used to tell his mother that a Fakir gave him food to eat when he was refused food by the mother for giving food to the beggars and destitutes.
Professor N. Kasturi has narrated a number of very interesting episodes in the life of Sri Sathya Sai Baba that conclusively prove the identity of the Sai Avatar. One such episode is the personal experience of two teachers of Bukkapatnam, who knew Sathya as a student in their school and believed in him. Sathya Sai Baba revealed himself as reincarnation of Shirdi Baba and appeased their curiosity.
The other important and easily verifiable account has to do with the Rani of Chincholi whose husband was an ardent devotee of Shirdi Baba. He used to stay a few months every year at Shirdi. It is also reported by the Rani of Chincholi and her old servants that Shirdi Baba visited Chincholi on occasions and that both the Raja and the visitor used to drive in a Tonga far out of Chincholi. The Rani of Chincholi came to Puttaparthi in order to see the reincarnation of Shirdi Baba and she was more than convinced that the two Babas were one and the same. Sri Sathya Sai Baba was persuaded to accompany the Rani to Chincholi. There had been many changes in the palace since Shirdi Baba's visit to the place. Sri Sathya Sai Baba at once commented on these changes. He asked what happened to the Margosa tree and to the well around there. He also asked about a stone image, which he had given to the Raja as Shirdi Baba long ago. The Rani was not aware of it. However a thorough search was made and the image was found out. One Sri Gayathri Swami, a disciple of Sankaracharya of Shringeri, who had spent a year at Shirdi with Shirdi Baba, came to Prashanthi Nilayam to ascertain if Sri Sathya Sai Baba was Shirdi Baba Incarnate. He had a dream one night that Shirdi Baba gave him darshati in a dream and said he had returned from his Maha Samadhi after eight years and that he had brought all his properties with him. Sri Sathya Sai often materializes pictures, rings and other talismans with the imprint of Shirdi Baba's image on them. He also produces the dates from Shirdi and the pieces of Shirdi Baba's Kafni. Professor Kasturi has related the experience of an incident in which a former devotee is assailed with doubt about the claim of Sathya Sai Baba that he was Shirdi Baba reborn. The devotee while cycling down the road in New Delhi was followed by an old man who asked him to wait for a while near a graveyard off the road and told him all about his work and preoccupations. He further assured him that his Guru was God. Then he stretched his hands and showed both his palms. There were the shining images of Shirdi Baba on one palm and that of Sathya Sai Baba on the other palm. Another incident narrated by Professor Kasturi is of special interest. A lady, a former student of Professor Kasturi and working then as Principal of Devagiri College, Mysore, was sitting on a bench at the Bangalore platform, waiting for the train scheduled to go to Mysore. An old man holding a rod and carrying a box on his head came towards her and finding a seat vacant on the bench by her side engaged in her conversation in Telugu. She told him that she was going over to the mission hospital, Mysore for a surgical operation. The old man who was wearing a Kafni on his head, advised her not to go in for the operation, as there was absolutely no need for it. Questioned about his identity, the old man said that he was coming from Shirdi and would go back to the same place along with some devotees. He offered her some dates of Shirdi and a packet of Udi. Impressed by the aura on the face of the old man, the lady asked him if she could bring some fruits for him. She went to buy some fruits, but when she returned, she found that he was no longer there; only his box was 'lying on the bench. Later, Sri Sathya Sai Baba told Professor Kasturi that he had met his former student and prevented her from going in for an operation that would have proved fatal. Thus, the resemblance of the old man with Shirdi Baba and his words that he was from Shirdi and was collecting his devotees to take them to Shirdi and, more specially, his offer to the lady of dates from Shirdi and packet of Udi make it clear beyond any shadow of doubt that Sathya Sai Baba had assumed the mantle of Shirdi Baba to intervene at a critical moment to save the lady from serious trouble.
Then there is the experience of Mr. M.S. Dixit, the son of Sadashiva Dixit, the elder brother of Hari S. Dixit, a close devotee of Shirdi Baba. M.S. Dixit now lives at Whitefield, Bangalore and has had the unique privilege of being taken to Shirdi by his uncle Kaka Saheb Dixit where Shirdi Baba had cured him of migraine instantly by just applying the Udi on the affected part and asking the disease to go away. This Mr. Dixit came to Prashanthi Nilayam and was called for an interview and went into the room holding a photograph of his uncle Hari S. Dixit in hand. Sri Sathya Sai Baba saw the photograph and recognized him saying 'he is your uncle Hari S. Dixit, my close devotee when I was in my previous body.' Another incredible story is that of a lady who went to Shirdi in 1917 in a state of desolation after the death of her four children and pleaded to Baba that she be allowed to live at Shirdi with him. Baba said, 'Not now. I will come again in Andhra; you will meet me then and be with me.' As the story goes, the said lady, having heard that Shirdi Baba had been born again, went to Urvakonda to see him. Sri Sathya Sai Baba spoke to her softly and affectionately, 'So you have come, my child.' This lady has taken permanent residence at Prashanthi Nilayam. Baba is also reported to have, told her that she owed him Sixteen Rupees while he was in his Shirdi manifestation. So the identity of two Sai Babas having different bodies is firmly established. Same divine spirit resided in both.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has clarified the mystery about his relationship with Shirdi Baba through many beautiful and impressive analogies. Once Sri Sathya Sai said:
When there are two pieces of candy, one square, another circular, one yellow and the other purple in colour, unless one has eaten and realised the taste of both pieces one cannot believe both. Tasting, experiencing that is the crucial thing for knowing the identity.
And furthermore, Sri Sathya Sai differentiates between the two incarnations and their modes of operation :
The mother is usually hard when the children enter the kitchen and disturb the cooking, but while serving the food she is all smiles and patience. I am now serving the dishes cooked then. Wherever you may be, if you are hungry and if your plate is ready, I shall serve you the dishes and will feed you to your heart's content.
I have used the metaphor of Perpetual Star here to symbolize the divine advent of Shirdi Sai Baba who had landed at Shirdi in the nineteenth century and had acquired almost a pan-Indian reputation like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. In my earlier work on Sri Sathya Sai Baba, I have employed the metaphor, a more inclusive one, of Rose-Fire. But this hardly makes any difference. Since Divinity is something that can only be defined and explicated in terms of imagination and poetic perceptions of pure hearts and beautiful souls in prayer, the perpetual Star also becomes the multifoliate rose of heaven. The Rose-Flame descends on the Shirdi soil and after completing the Avataric Design it again walks the earth at Puttaparthi.
Professor Gokak has very nicely summed up the question of identity and apparent differences in the modes of the working of two avatars, when he comments:
Even then, how does it matter if the two prophetic roles are regarded as different from each other. It is the same Divine - Existence - Consciousness - Bliss that works in the other Great ones as well. In a special sense, through certain common characteristics, the same Divinity works in a more intimate way through Shirdi and Sathya Sai manifestations. I once saw Sathya Sai Baba looking at a large portrait of Shirdi Baba, sitting in the famous cross‑legged pose, the right leg thrown across the left lap and the left hand on the right foot. Sathya Sai looked at it amused for a while and said in Kannada with a smile, moving his head a little, Aha, Enu jambha! (Aha, what vanity!) He seemed to say, 'you deliberately wear these rugged clothes. You have chosen a dilapidated masjid to live in. You live in a village dead to the world. You do this, so that your supreme self-confidence may shine through them all the more and the world be put to greater difficulty to find out that you are the King of Kings.'
Professor Gokak goes on to say:
These can be regarded as Sathya Sai's comments on himself through perceived identity. They can be regarded as comments on the other role that the same Divinity was acting. A new dimension is added to our understanding of either of them realising the actual identity and apparent difference.
Shirdi Sai Baba was truly a major incarnation of the Ray Supreme. The very Alpha and Omega of his destined sojourn on earth was mainly for loka-kalyan or the benefit of humanity and to bring about spiritual transformation of the hearts of men. He worked ceaselessly to fulfill his mission. The bright lamp of his noble and redemptive task has illuminated the world at large and is serving as a Lighthouse for the entire humankind tossed on the perilous seas of the material world, the world of endless misery and pain. To take man to the glorious and rose-lit pathway towards God is verily the avowed function of an Avatar. This perpetual star descended on earth and chose Shirdi as the place for his earthly sojourn under circumstances still shrouded in mystery and comparatively unknown to the world until Sri Sathya Sai Baba in his Divine discourse on September 28, 1990, threw light on the circumstances of his advent. This may sound strange and unique that a world teacher and a major Incarnation should spend full sixty years at a remote and land‑locked village, initially hostile to him, and yet take his devotees to Light from darkness, from ignorance to knowledge and from death to immortality‑is indeed a wonder of the highest kind. But this is nothing new. We are aware that the life and career of the Great ones are both inscrutable and incomprehensible. Lord Krishna, rated a full incarnation, was born in the prison‑house. Jesus Christ was born in a stable. Ramakrishna Paramhansa took his birth in a small cottage at Chandramauli village and still the glory and splendor of these perpetual stars spread worldwide and became a source of light, love and bliss for the entire human race. A dispassionate glance at the life and career convinces the readers about the supreme continence, candour, detachment and humility of the Avatar. Possessed of God‑like power, universal omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence Baba preferred to take a modest and humble stance. He always said that he was a humble servant of Allah and that his Guru had always been kind to him and it was only with the grace of his Guru that he could relieve the pain and suffering of his devotees. At the same time, the awareness of his role as an Avatar was ever implicit in his statements. It would be fair to narrate the passing way of Baba, which was as mysterious as his advent. And this brings us to the point that the descent and the ascent are the same. Haven't we ' the instance of Jesus Christ rising to heaven after his crucifixion?
Sai Baba blessed the proposal for the construction of a temple at Shirdi nearer the Dharmashala saying: 'Go ahead with the construction of the temple, but refrain from installing the image of Krishna awhile. I would myself like to be there. I love this place immensely and would like to spend my life here.' The foundation of the temple was laid at a simple ceremony by breaking a coconut and the building work started in right earnest and was soon completed. But Baba was taken ill and grew very weak within three days. Baba's last wish conveyed to the devotees was: 'I should be placed in the temple. Baba's body temperature kept on fluctuating for several days and on the 18th October 1918, the Vijayadasami day, he left his body to go to that celestial city from where he had come. According to his last wish, his Samadhi was erected in the same temple. Thus Sai Baba, the Avatar of Sri Krishna, found his resting place in the temple of Sri Krishna.
Biographers of Shirdi Baba have recorded a few strange incidents that had taken place at Shirdi two years before his actual Samadhi. Baba once lost his temper and was in terrible rage. He cast aside his dress and looked all round with bloodshot eyes. A close devotee Bhagoji somehow pacified him and forced him to put on the dress. But two years after on the Vijayadasami day he cast aside his mortal vestment, the body. A few days before Vijayadasami, a close devotee, Ram Chandra Patel, who was critically ill, prayed to Baba for his life. Baba assured him that he would recover and be all right. The God of Death, Yama, had brought his hundi, which Baba had returned. He further said that Tantya Patil's lot is causing anxiety. He will not survive the coming Vijayadasami. Baba's prophecy came true. Ramchandra Patel recovered from his illness while Tantya Patil became critically ill. On Vijayadasami, Baba himself threw aside his mortal coil by taking on the illness of Tantya, all on himself. Thus the perpetual star ascended to the Heaven its perpetual home, promising to come again to shed its lustre on the world. He also declared before his Samadhi that his avataric mission had been completed. The Light was gone, but in a different sense, there was only the Light. Because Avatars never die. They come and go according to their own volition or Sankalpa and are not bound by karma, their chief motivation being their infinite compassion and boundless love for mankind. But human beings grieve over the passing away of an Avatar on account of their limited and finite consciousness. Thus, the news of Shirdi Baba's Maha Samadhi spread like wild fire in all directions and people rushed towards Dwarkamai in large numbers. The devotees and even the general public mourned and cried their hearts out in utter desolation. The light had gone out of their lives, as it were! The Star that shone at Shirdi disappeared and the whole landscape, the entire creation became dark.
TO BE CONTINUED�
From Sai brothers with Sai love
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