Finding Inspiration in Every Turn
Objective of Writing the Work
Incapacity and Boldness in the Undertaking
The Heated Discussion
Conferring the Significant and Prophetic Title of Hemadpant
And the Necessity of a Guru
Om Shri Sai Nathay Namah
Objective of Writing the Work
In the first chapter, I described Sai Baba’s miracle of checking and destroying the epidemic of Cholera, by grinding wheat and throwing the flour on the outskirts of the village. I also heard about some more miracles of Sai Baba, to my great delight. And this delight inspired me to write this poetic work. I also thought that the description of these grand miracles would be interesting and instructive to Baba’s devotees and would destroy their sins. So I began to write about the sacred life and teachings of Sai Baba; The life of the saint is neither logical nor dialectical. It shows us the true and great path.
Incapacity and Boldness in Undertaking the Work
Hemadpant initially believed that he was not fit to undertake this work; He said, “I do not know the life of my intimate friend and nor do I even know my own mind; then how can I write the life of a saint or describe the nature of Incarnations, which even the Vedas were unable to do? One must be a saint himself, before he could know other saints; then how can I describe their glory? To write about the life of a saint is the most difficult of undertakings. One may as well measure the depth of the water of the seven seas or enclose the sky with cloth. I knew that this was the most venturous of undertakings and that it might expose me to ridicule. I therefore invoked Sai Baba’s grace;
The most famous poet-saint of Maharashtra, Shri Jnaneshwar Maharaj, has stated that the Lord loves those who write about the lives of saints; The saints also have a peculiar method of getting the service, which the devotees long for, successfully accomplished. The saints inspire the work and the devotee becomes merely an indirect cause or instrument to achieve this end. For instance, in 1700 Shaka year, the poet Mahipati aspired to write about the lives of saints. Saints inspired him and got the work done. Similarly, in 1800 Shaka year, Das Ganu’s service was accepted. The latter wrote four works: Bhakta Vijaya, Santa Vijaya, Bhakta Leelamrit and Santa Kathamrit. In chapters 31, 32 and 33 of the Bhakta Leelamrit and in chapter 57 of the Santa Kathamrit, the sweet life and teachings of Sai Baba are very well depicted. These have separately been published in the Sai Leela Magazine. The readers are requested to read these chapters. Sai Baba’s wonderful Leelas are also described in a small book named Shri Sainath Bhajana Mala by Mrs. Savitribai Raghunath Tendulkar of Bandra. Das Ganu Maharaj has also composed various sweet poems on Sai Baba; A devotee named Amidas Bhavani Mehta, has also published some stories about Baba in Gujarathi. A few editions of the Sainath Prabha, a magazine produced by the Dakshina Bhiksha Sansthan of Shirdi, have also been published. Then one might ask the question: Since so many works regarding Sai Baba exist, why should this (Satcharitra) be written and what is its necessity?
The answer is plain and simple. The life of Sai Baba is as wide and deep as the infinite ocean and everyone can dive deep into it and take out precious gems (of knowledge and devotion) and distribute them to the aspiring public. The stories, parables and teachings of Sai Baba are indeed wonderful. They will give peace and happiness to people who are afflicted with sorrows and heavily loaded with the misery of this worldly existence, and will also bestow knowledge and wisdom, both in the worldly and spiritual domains. If these teachings of Sai Baba, which are as interesting and instructive as Vedic lore, are listened to and meditated upon, the devotees will get what they long for: union with the Brahman, mastery in eight-fold Yoga, Bliss of meditation etc. So I thought that I should compile these stories and thus that would be my best service. This collection would be very delightful to those simple souls, whose eyes were not blessed with Sai Baba’s darshana. So I set about collecting Sai Baba’s teachings and expressions−the outcome of His boundless and natural self-realization. It was Sai Baba who inspired me in this matter. In fact, I surrendered my ego at His feet, thought that my path was clear and that He would make me quite happy here, and in the next world.
I could not myself ask Sai Baba to give me permission for this work, so I requested Mr. Madhavrao Deshpande (alias Shama)− Baba’s most intimate devotee− to speak to Him for me. He pleaded for my cause and said to Sai Baba, “This Annasaheb wishes to write Your biography, so don’t say that You are a poor, begging Fakir and that there is no need to write it. Instead, if You agree and help him, Your feet (grace) will accomplish the work. Without Your consent and blessings, nothing can be done successfully.” When Sai Baba heard this request, He was moved and blessed me by giving me His Udi (sacred ashes) and placing His boon-bestowing hand on my head said, “Let him make a collection of My stories and experiences and keep notes and memos; I will help him. He is only an outward instrument. I shall Myself write My autobiography and satisfy the wishes of My devotees. He should get rid of his ego and surrender it at My feet. He who acts like this in life, him I help the most. And about My life-stories: I serve him in his house in all possible ways. When his ego is completely annihilated and no trace of it remains, I Myself shall enter into him and shall write about My own life. Hearing My stories and teachings will create faith in devotees’ hearts and they will easily get self-realization and Bliss. Let there be no insistence on establishing one’s own view, no attempt to refute others’ opinions and no discussions of pros and cons of any subject.”
The word “discussion” reminded me of my promise to explain the story behind my receiving the title of “Hemadpant”. And now I shall relate this story. I was very friendly with Kakasaheb Dixit and Nanasaheb Chandorkar. They pressed me to go to Shirdi and receive Baba’s darshana and I promised them to do so. But something happened meanwhile which prevented me from going to Shirdi. The son of a friend fell ill; My friend tried all possible means, physical and spiritual, but the fever would not abate. At length, he got his Guru to sit by the side of his son’s bed, but this too was of no avail. Hearing this, I thought to myself, “What is the utility of the Guru, if he could not save my friend’s son? If the Guru can’t do anything for us, why should I go to Shirdi at all?” Thinking in this way, I postponed my Shirdi trip. But the inevitable must happen and it happened in my case as follows; Mr. Nanasaheb Chandorkar was going on tour to Bassein. From Thana he came to Dadar and was waiting for a train bound for Bassein. In the meanwhile, a Bandra Local train arrived; He sat in it and came to Bandra, sent for me and took me to task for putting off my Shirdi trip. Nana’s argument in favor of my Shirdi trip was convincing and delightful, and so I decided to start for Shirdi the same night. I packed my luggage and started for Shirdi. I planned to go to Dadar and from there to catch the train for Manmad, and so I booked myself a ticket to Dadar and sat in the train. As the train was about to start, a Muslim man came hastily to my compartment and seeing all my paraphernalia, asked me where I was going. I told him my plan; He then suggested that I should go straight to Boribunder and not get down at Dadar, for the Manmad Mail did not stop at Dadar at all. If this little miracle had not happened, I would not have reached Shirdi the next day as desired and many doubts would have assailed me. But that was not to be; As fortune favoured me, I reached Shirdi the next day before 10 A.M. Kaka Dixit was waiting for me there. This was in 1910 and there was only one place, Sathe’s Wada, for lodging pilgrim devotees. After alighting from the tanga(a small horse-drawn carriage) I was anxious to receive darshana, when the great devotee, Tatyasaheb Noolkar, returned from the Masjid. He said that Sai Baba was at the corner of the Wada and that I should first receive Baba’s preliminary darshana and then, after a bath, see Him at leisure. Hearing this, I ran and prostrated before Baba and my joy knew no bounds. I found more than what Nana Chandorkar had told me about. All my senses were satisfied and I forgot thirst and hunger. The moment I touched Sai Baba’s feet, I began a new lease of life. I felt obliged to those who spurred me on and helped me to receive darshana and I considered them my real relatives. I can never repay their debt; I can only remember them and prostrate (mentally) before them. The peculiarity of receiving Sai Baba’s darshana, as I discovered, is that by receiving His darshana our thoughts are changed, the force of previous actions is abated and gradually non-attachment or dispassion towards worldly objects grows. It is by the merit of actions in many past births that such darshana is attained, and if you see Sai Baba, the entire world becomes or assumes the form of Sai Baba.
The Heated Discussion
The day I arrived in Shirdi, there was an argument between myself and Balasaheb Bhate, regarding the necessity of a Guru. I contended, “Why should we lose our freedom and submit to others? When we have to do our duty, why is a Guru necessary? One must try his best and save himself; What can the Guru do for a man who does nothing but sleeps indolently?” And Mr. Bhate took up the other side, and said, “Whatever is bound to happen must happen; Even great men have failed; man proposes one way, but God disposes the other way. Brush aside your cleverness; Pride or egoism won’t help you.” This discussion, with all its pros and cons went on for an hour or so and as usual we did not arrive at a decision. We had to stop the discussion ultimately, as we were both exhausted. The net result of this was that I had lost my peace of mind and discovered that unless there is strong body-consciousness and egoism, there will be no argument. In other words, it is egoism which breeds arguments.
The Significant and Prophetic Title
When we later went to the Masjid, Baba asked Kakasaheb Dixit, “What was going on in the Wada? What was the discussion about?” and staring at me, Baba added, “What did this Hemadpant say?”
Hearing these words, I was rather surprised, since the Masjid was at a considerable distance from Sathe’s Wada, where the discussion happened. How could Baba know about our discussion, unless He was omniscient and the Inner Ruler of us all?
I began to wonder why Sai Baba would call me by the name “Hemadpant”. This word is a shortened version of the name “Hemadripant”. Hemadripant was a well-known Minister of the kings Mahadev and Ramadev of Devgiri, of the Yadav dynasty. He was very learned, good-natured and the author of works, such as Chaturvarga Chintamani (which dealt with spiritual subjects) and Rajprashasti. He invented and started new methods of accounting and was the originator of the Modi (Marathi Shorthand) script. But I was quite the opposite− an ignoramus of dull and mediocre intellect. So I could not understand why the name or title was conferred upon me. But upon thinking seriously about it, I thought that the title was a dart to destroy my ego, so that I would always remain meek and humble. It was also a compliment paid to me for my skill in the argument.
When we look at things in retrospect, we know that Baba’s calling Mr. Dabholkar by the name Hemadpant was significant and prophetic. As future years showed, he looked after the management of the Sai Sansthan very intelligently and maintained its accounts professionally. He was also the author of such a good work, the Sai Satcharitra, which deals with important spiritual subjects such as Jnana, Bhakti, dispassion, self-surrender and self-realization.
About the Necessity of a Guru
Hemadpant has left no note or memo about what Baba said regarding this subject. But Kakasaheb Dixit has published his notes regarding this matter. The day after Hemadpant’s first meeting with Sai Baba, Kakasaheb went to Baba and asked whether he should leave Shirdi. Baba said, “Yes”. Then someone asked, “Baba, where should he go?” Baba replied, “High up.” Then the man asked, “How is the way that leads there?” Baba said, “There are many ways leading there; there is one way from here too (Shirdi). The way that begins here is difficult. There are tigers and wolves in the jungles on the way.” Kakasaheb then asked, “But Baba, what if we take a guide with us?” Baba answered, “Then there is no difficulty. The guide will take you straight to your destination, avoiding wolves, tigers and ditches on the way. If there is no guide, there is the danger of your being lost in the jungle or falling into ditches.”
Mr. Dabholkar was present on this occasion and he thought that this was the answer Baba gave to the question about whether a Guru was necessary. Thus, he took the hint that no discussion of the question− whether man is free or bound− is of any use in spiritual matters. On the contrary, real Paramartha is possible only as a result of the teachings of the Guru. This is illustrated by the examples of great Avatars like Rama and Krishna, who had to submit themselves to their Gurus− Vasishtha and Sandipani respectively− to attain self- realization. Therefore, the only virtues necessary for such progress are faith and patience.
Bow to Shri Sai – Peace be to all!