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Chapter 4

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

  • Mission of the Saints 

  • Shirdi a Holy Place of Pilgrimage 

  • Sai Baba’s Personality

  • Goulibuva’s Dictum

  • The Appearance of Vithal

  • Kshirsagar’s Story 

  • Das Ganu’s Bath in Prayag 

  • The Immaculate Conception of Sai Baba and His First Advent in Shirdi 

  • The Three Wadas

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Om Shri Sai Nathay Namah

In the last chapter, I described the circumstances which led me to write the Sai Satcharitra. Let me now describe the first advent of Sai Baba in Shirdi, with Baba’s grace.

  • Mission of the Saints

Lord Krishna says in the Bhagvadgita (Chapter IV, 7-8), “Whenever there is a decay of Dharma (righteousness) and an ascendancy of unrighteousness, I manifest Myself, for the protection of the virtuous, the destruction of the vicious and for the establishment of righteousness; I thus manifest Myself age after age”.

This is the mission of God and Saints. Saints are His representatives and appear here at appropriate times and help in their own way to fulfill that mission. For instance, when spiritual preceptors are humiliated, when nobody cares for religious instructions, when everybody thinks himself very learned and when people begin to partake of forbidden food and intoxicating drinks; when under the cloak of religion, people indulge in malpractices; when people belonging to different sects fight amongst themselves; the orthodox forget their religious practices, when Yogis neglect their meditation, when people begin to think that wealth, progeny and wife are their sole concern, and thus turn away from the true path of salvation; then Saints appear and try to set matters right by their words and actions. They serve us as beacon-lights and show us the right path for us to follow. In this way, many saints− Nivritti, Jnanadev, Muktabai, Namdev, Gora, Gonayi, Ekanath, Tukaram, Narahari, Narsi Bhai, Sajan Kasai, Sawata, Ramdas, and various others− appeared at various times to show people the right path. And Sai Baba also arrived on earth with the same mission.

  • Shirdi – A Holy Place of Pilgrimage

The banks of the Godavari River in the Ahmednagar District are very fortunate. For they gave birth and refuge to many a Saint− the most prominent amongst them being Jnaneshwar. Shirdi also falls in the Ahmednagar District. It is after crossing the Godavari River at Kopergaon, that one reaches Shirdi. When you travel another 9 miles, you come to Nimgaon, from where Shirdi is visible. Shirdi is as famous as other holy places like Gangapur, Narsinhwadi and Audumbar on the banks of the Krishna River. Just as the devotee Damaji flourished in and blessed Mangalvedha (near Pandharpur), as Samarth Ramdas blessed Sajjangad and just as Shri Narasimha Saraswati elevated Saraswatiwadi, Sainath flourished at Shirdi and blessed it.

  • Sai Baba’s Personality

It is on account of Sai Baba that Shirdi grew into importance. Let us see what sort of personage Sai Baba was. He had conquered this Samsar (worldly existence), which is very difficult to cross; Peace or mental calm was His ornament and He was the repository of wisdom. He was the home of Vaishnava devotees and was very liberal (like Karna). He had no love for perishable things and was always engrossed in self-realization, which was His sole concern. He felt no pleasure in the things of this world or of the world beyond. His heart was as clear as a clean mirror and His speech always rained nectar. The rich or poor were the same to Him. He did not know or care about honor or dishonor. He was the Lord of all beings; He spoke freely, interacted with everyone, saw the acting and dances of Nautch-girls and listened to Gajjal songs; Yet, He did not swerve an inch from Samadhi (mental equilibrium). The name of Allah was always on His lips and while the world awoke, He slept; And while the world slept, He was vigilant. His inside was as calm as the deep sea. His Ashram could not be determined and nor could His actions be determined with certainty. And though He lived in one place, He knew all the transactions that took place in the world. His Darbar(royal court) was imposing; He told hundreds of stories daily and yet He did not break His vow of silence. He always leaned against the wall in the Masjid and walked in the morning, noon and evening towards the Lendi and Chavadi. He abided in the Self at all times. Though an enlightened soul, He acted like a normal human being; He was meek, humble and pleased everyone. Such was Sai Baba and as the soil of Shirdi was trodden by Sai Baba’s Feet, it attained extraordinary importance. Just as Jnaneshwar had elevated Alandi and Ekanath elevated Paithan, Sai Baba elevated Shirdi. Blessed are the grass and stones of Shirdi, for they could easily kiss the Holy Feet of Sai Baba and receive the dust from his feet on their heads. Shirdi became, for us devotees, another Pandharpur, Jagannath, Dwarka, Banaras (Kashi), Rameshwar, Badrikedar, Nasik, Tryambakeshwar, Ujjain and Mahabaleshwar Gokarn. Contact with Sai Baba in Shirdi was like our Veda and Tantra, as it calmed our consciousness of the world and rendered self-realization easy. The darshana of Shri Sai was our Yoga-Sadhana and speaking to Him destroyed our sins. Shampooing His Legs was our bath in the Triveni Prayag and drinking the holy water from His Feet destroyed our desires. To us, His commands were Vedas and accepting His Udi (sacred ashes) and Prasad was purifying. He was our Shri Krishna and Shri Rama, who gave us solace and He was our Para Brahma (Absolute Reality). He was beyond the pair of dwandwas (opposites)− never dejected or elated. He was always engrossed in His Self as Existence, Knowledge and Bliss. Shirdi was His center, but His field of action extended far and wide, to Punjab, Calcutta, North India, Gujarat, Dacca (Now in Bangladesh) and Konkan. Thus, Sai Baba’s fame spread far and wide and people from all parts of the world came to receive His darshana. Through mere darshan, people’s minds, whether pure or impure, would become at once quiet. They got here, the same sort of unparalleled joy that devotees get at Pandharpur, upon seeing Vithal Rakhumai. This is not an exaggeration; Consider what a devotee said in this regard.

  • Goulibuva’s Dictum

An old devotee named Goulibuva, who was about 95 years old at the time, was a devotee of Pandharpur Maharaj.  He spent 8 months every year at Pandharpur and four months (July to November) on the banks of the Ganges. He had a mule to carry his luggage and a disciple as his companion. Every year, he made his pilgrimage to Pandharpur and came to Shirdi to see Sai Baba, Whom he loved greatly. He used to stare at Baba and say, “This is Pandharinath Vithal incarnate, the merciful Lord of the poor and helpless.” Goulibuva was a devotee of Vithoba and had made many trips to Pandharpur and testified that Sai Baba was indeed Pandharinath incarnate.

  • Vithal Himself Appears

Sai Baba was very fond of remembering and singing God’s name. He always said the words, “Allah Malik” (God is our Sole Master) and in His presence made others sing God’s name continuously, day and night for seven days. This is called Namasaptaha; Once, He asked Kakasaheb Dixit to perform the Namasaptaha. Kakasaheb replied that he would do it, provided he was assured that Vithal would appear at the end of the 7th day. Baba, placing His hand on Kakasaheb’s chest, assured him that Vithal would certainly appear but that the devotee must be “earnest and devout.” He then said, “The Dankapuri (Takore) of Takurnath, the Pandhari of Vithal, the Dwarka of Ranchhod (Krishna) is here (Shirdi). One need not go far to see Dwarka; Will Vithal come here from some other place? He is here; Only when the devotee is bursting with love and devotion, will Vithal manifest Himself here (Shirdi).”

After the Saptaha was over, Vithal manifested Himself in the following manner. Kakasaheb Dixit was meditating after his bath and saw Vithal in a vision. When he went at noon to receive Baba’s darshana, Baba asked him, “Did Vithal Patil come? Did you see Him? He is a very truant fellow; catch Him firmly, otherwise he will escape.” This happened in the morning and at noon there was another Vithal darshana. A hawker came there to sell pictures of Vithoba. This picture exactly matched the figure that appeared in Kakasaheb’s vision. On seeing this and remembering Baba’s words, Kakasaheb Dixit was quite surprised and delighted. He bought a picture of Vithoba and placed it in his shrine for worship.

  • Bhagwantrao Kshirsagar’s Story

Baba’s fondness for Vithal worship is illustrated in Bhagwantrao Kshirsagar’s story. Bhagwantrao’s father was a devotee of Vithoba and used to go on annual trips to Pandharpur. He also worshipped an image of Vithoba at home. After his death, the son stopped everything – the trips, the worship and the shraddha ceremony. When Bhagwantrao came to Shirdi, Baba, who remembered his father, at once said, “His father was my friend, so I dragged him (the son) here. He never offered naivedya (an offering of food) and so he starved Vithal and Me. So I brought him here; I shall change him now and set him to worship.”

Das Ganu’s Bath in Prayag

Hindus believe that a bath in the holy waters of Prayag, where the Ganga and Yamuna meet, is very meritorious and thousands of pilgrims go there to have a sacred bath. Das Ganu once wanted to go to Prayag for a bath and came to Baba to get His permission to leave. Baba replied, “It isn’t necessary to go so far; Our Prayag is here, trust me.” Then, when Das Ganu placed his head on Baba’s Feet, out flowed streams of Ganges and Yamuna water– a stream from each of Baba’s feet. Seeing this miracle, Das Ganu was overwhelmed with feelings of love and adoration and his eyes were full of tears. He felt inspired and his speech burst forth into a song in praise of Baba and His Leelas.

  • The Immaculate Conception of Sai Baba and His First Advent in Shirdi

Nobody knew the parents, date of birth or place of birth of Sai Baba. Many inquiries were made and many questions were put to Baba and others regarding these matters, but no satisfactory answers have yet been obtained. We know nothing about these matters; Namdev and Kabir were not born like ordinary mortals. They were found as infants; Namdev was found on the banks of the Bhimrathi River by Gonayee and Kabir on the banks of the Bhagirathi River by Tamal. Sai Baba’s story was similar. He first manifested Himself as a sixteen year old boy under a Neem tree in Shirdi, for the sake of his devotees. Even back then, He seemed to be full of knowledge of the Brahman. He had no desire for worldly objects even in his dreams. He had kicked out Maya and Mukthi (deliverance) was serving at His feet. An old woman in Shirdi described Him thus, “A young lad, fair, smart and very handsome”. He was first seen under the Neem tree, seated in an Asan. The people of the village were wonderstruck to see such a young boy practicing hard penance, with no regard for the heat or cold. By day, he associated with none and by night he wasn’t afraid of anybody. People wondered where this young chap had turned up from. His form and features were so beautiful that a mere look endeared Him to everyone. He didn’t go to anybody’s door and always sat near the Neem tree. Outwardly, he looked very young, but through His actions he was really a great soul. He was the embodiment of dispassion and was an enigma to everyone. One day it so happened that God Khandoba possessed the body of a devotee and people asked Him, “Deva (God), please tell us whose son this boy is and where he came from?”. God Khandoba asked them to bring a spade and dig in a particular place. When it was dug, bricks were found underneath a flat stone. When the stone was removed, a corridor led to a cellar where cow-mouth shaped structures, wooden boards and necklaces were seen. God Khandoba said, “This lad practiced penance here for 12 years.” Then people began to question the lad about this; He put them off the scent, by telling them that it was His Guru’s holy resting place and requested them to guard it well. The people then closed the corridor, just as they had found it. As Ashwattha and Audumbar trees are held sacred, Baba regarded this Neem tree equally sacred and loved it the most. Mhalasapati and other Shirdi devotees regarded this site as the final resting place of Baba’s Guru and prostrated before it.

  • The Three Wadas

The land with the Neem tree and the land that surrounded it was bought by Mr. Hari Vinayak Sathe and on this site a big building named Sathe’s Wada was built. This Wada was initially the sole resting place for pilgrims. A raised platform was built around the Neem tree and lofts with steps were constructed. Under the steps, there is a niche facing south and devotees sit on the platform facing north. It is believed that if a devotee burns incense there on Thursday and Friday evenings, by God’s grace, they will always be happy. This Wada was old and dilapidated and needed repairs. The necessary repairs, additions and alterations have now been made by the Sai Sansthan.

Then after a few years, another Wada— Dixit’s Wada, was constructed. Kakasaheb Dixit, a Solicitor from Bombay, had gone to England. He had injured his leg in an accident there. The injury could not be gotten rid of by any means. Nanasaheb Chandorkar advised him to try Sai Baba. So he saw Sai Baba in 1909 and requested Him to cure the lameness of his mind rather than that of his leg. He was so pleased with the darshana of Sai Baba that he decided to reside in Shirdi. So he built a Wada for himself and other devotees. The foundation of this building was laid on the 10th of December 1910. On this day, two other important events took place. Mr. Dadasaheb Khaparde was given permission to return home and the nighttime Arti in the Chavadi commenced. The Wada was completed and was inhabited on the Rama-Navami day in 1911, with due rites and formalities.

Another Wada (palatial mansion) was constructed by the famous millionaire from Nagpur, Mr. Booty. Lots of money was spent on this building, but the amount was well utilized as Sai Baba’s body rests in this Wada, which is now called the Samadhi Mandir. The site of this Mandir formerly had a garden, which was watered and looked after by Baba. Three Wadas thus sprang up, where there were none formerly. Of these, Sathe’s Wada was the most useful to everyone in the early days.

The story of the garden (attended to by Sai Baba with the help of Vaman Tatya) and Sai Baba’s temporary absence from Shirdi; His return to Shirdi with the marriage-party of Chand Patil, the company of Devidas, Jankidas and Gangagir; Baba’s wrestling match with Mohdin Tamboli, His life in the Masjid, His love for Mr. Dengale and other devotees and a few other incidents will be described in the next Chapter.

Bow to Shri Sai – Peace be to all!

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