Sai Baba lived a simple life, in a dilapidated mosque. He used the same set of clothes till it became obscenely torn and useless. He never cared for fancy clothes, which was always available, as his popularity rose. Many people brought many goodies to Baba. He immediately distributed them to who ever was around at that time. Very few things did he ask Shama to keep, such as some pictures of his that devotees gave, some vegetables, wood for dhuni etc. Many times, Baba appeared to people as very ordinary. He used to smoke chillum – and even suffered breathlessness and asthma at times. He would ask very basic ordinary questions to devotees which would make them wonder if Baba was indeed a true master or actually an ordinary man. Baba always behaved like an ordinary man to confuse his visitors. Those who could not see beyond his simplicity and natural behavior, left him with a confused mind. Some came back again, some never returned back to him. Some others who saw the fire inside the ashes, never left.
A master should be internally felt and absorbed, not heard or seen. What you see or hear could be very ordinary stuff. The true master hides behind this ordinary matter. A true master may look too ordinary and simple. People who are used to spiritual pomposity will easily get confused. They may even consider the shallow pompous as real and the true but ordinary master as unreal. Nevertheless, masters always served their purpose of assuming their gross body precisely and with commitment. They always gave forth what each deserved, instead of what each desired. In this chapter, we shall see how he bestowed blessings on some of His closest disciples.
Status and stature are two entirely different things. Status can be conferred while stature needs to be earned. Status can be created while stature has to happen. There are many acharyas, Gurus and philosophers. Some have only book knowledge and borrowed experiences. They have read enough books to know how each situation in spirituality feels, including the state of enlightenment. They have only theoretical knowledge and they depend on books to deliver knowledge to seekers. They can never impart experiences. It is important that we develop our sixth sense, enough to identify these acharyas who pretend to be Gurus, and avoid them as much as possible.
Shirdi Sai Baba once entertained such a man called Javhar Ali, brimming with knowledge, but with no stature. Baba seemingly respected and obeyed Javhar Ali and confused those who respected or worshiped Baba. Was Javhar Ali indeed superior in stature to Baba? Baba was playing a game to make Javhar Ali humble and also make His devotees sharper in their awareness and understanding. Stature always comes out into the open and wins, sooner or later. As is the case here, Shirdi Sai eventually proved to be much more superior and a true master than the egoistic Javhar Ali. This is how Great Masters operate. They convey messages and teachings quite implicitly. Only those who have developed the faculty of keen observation will know the difference and truth between the real and the glamorous.
In His early days at Shirdi, Sai Baba used to have long hair, unshaven or cut. He was a strange, but handsome boy. He used to dress like an athlete.After His wrestling bout and defeat at the hands of Mohiddeen Tamboli, Baba changed His attire completely and started dressing up like a Muslim Fakir. He did not even have a name, when He came to Shirdi. The name Sai Baba was a spontaneous expression from the mouth of the priest of Khandoba temple, Mhalsapati. Mhalsapati recognized the master inside the ordinary man; he felt the stature of Baba. He spent all his life with Baba. He always used to sit with his eyes closed near Baba. He became blind soon after Baba left His body, because he wanted to only see Baba and nothing else. Baba never allowed Mhalsapati to accept any money or gifts that devotees who came to see Baba showered on him. Baba kept him poor in kind, but rich in his spiritual heart. Baba gifted him the supreme bliss, much more valuable than any physical and transitory richness.
Kasinath Govind Upasani Sashtry was born on 5th May 1870 in a family of Brahmin priests. He was a spiritual renegade. He had no interest in academics and practiced chanting, Yoga and Meditation rigorously. His spiritual practices were often extreme. He used to even meditate in Burial grounds on Lord Shiva. Even though he married thrice and tried his luck in medicine and other means of livelihood, he always went back to his supreme aim – spiritual growth. He stayed in Nasik and Pune at times, and even begged for a living. He resorted to extreme penance without food or water and attained great spiritual powers. It was Shirdi Sai Baba who finally converted Kasinath into Upasani Maharaj, a true master. He left his physical frame in 1941. Even now, Sakori (near Shirdi), where Upasani Maharaj lived the latter part of his life, is a shrine frequented by many. He continues to guide many, even after his physical exit.
Baba had a unique connection with Upasani Maharaj. Upasani Maharaj used to know every thing happening in Dwarakamai, sitting in Khandoba temple. Whenever Upasani Maharaj left Shirdi on his own, Baba brought him back. This is the love of the master. Remember the famous lines of Ramana Maharshi ” He who has earned the grace of his Guru will undoubtedly be saved and never forsaken, just as the prey that has fallen into the tiger’s jaw will never be allowed to escape.” Baba protected him, elevated him, empowered him and made him in His own spiritual image. After meeting Baba and connecting with Him, Upasani Maharaj stayed in Khandoba Temple, alone. He cooked his own food and contemplated on Lord Shiva all the time. Baba told Upasani Maharaj ” You must sit quiet in the temple and do nothing. Have nothing to do with anybody. You have great (spiritual) future”. When ever Upasani Maharaj requested through Shama for Baba’s permission to go from Shirdi, Baba said “He has to clear his account. This is a connection of many lifetimes. Our families have been connected for thousands of years. So, we are one.” Finally Baba said “Everything I have got has been completely given to him”. When his third wife died and Maharaj became sad, Baba consoled him and said ” I myself have taken care of the welfare of her soul. I am fully responsible for you”.
Sai Baba did test Upasani Maharaj in many ways. Baba visited Maharaj in the form of a dog during lunch time. He also visited Maharaj who was a staunch Brahmin in the form of a lower caste man, and later scolded him for not caring for Baba. Baba also took away most of the money that Maharaj had, in the form of dakshina and even did not allow Maharaj to wear new clothes sent by his elder brother on religious occasions. Thus, Baba taught him detachment to worldly matters, increased his sensitiveness to see Baba in everything, a dog, a poor man, a bird, and established Maharaj in supreme spiritual well-being.
It was Upasani Maharaj who wrote the famous verse on the occasion of the installation of Sai Paadukaas (Holy footwear representing the feet of the master), under the neem tree where Baba appeared first in Shirdi. The lines that Upasani Maharaj wrote are chanted everyday as part of the Arathi. It goes like this:
“Sada Nimba Vrikshasya Mooladhiwasat
Tarum Kalpavrikshadhikam Saadhyayantam
Namaameeswaram Sadgurum Sai Naatham”
(I bow at the feet of Sadguru Lord Sai Nath who, by His Divine presence, made the bitter Neem tree into a tree oozing with life-giving nectar, much greater than Kalpavriksha, the celestial wish-fulfilling tree)
Madhavrao Deshpande alias Shama was “Baba’s Boy”. He used to be a teacher in the neighborhood of the masjid where Baba stayed. He used to observe Baba’s mannerisms very closely and used to get bewildered. Is this a saint or a mad man? Later, wisdom dawned on him and he came closer to Baba. Baba took care of him. Shama used to be like a personal assistant to Baba. They used to chat informally in the quiet hours of the days, during the times when Baba’s popularity was relatively less. Once Shama asked Baba: “Does Brahma Loka and Vishnu Loka exist?” Baba replied: “Yes, they do, but, what have you got to do with it?” Shama had a wish to see these lokas. Baba asked him to close his eyes and enabled him to see these lokas as clearly as he would see the outside world with his eyes open. Baba said: “Understand that these lokas are also as illusory as earth. We must go well beyond all these illusions and merge into the supreme, non-dual world.”
Shama: “Did Rama and Krishna really exist?”
Baba: “Indeed, they did.”
Shama: “Is it true that all the monkey squads helped Rama?”
Baba: “It is true. I myself saw innumerable monkeys assembling and them climbing one on top of another like ants.”
Shama: “How can you see them? You are not that old. This happened centuries ago”.
Baba: ” I was as I am now. We have lived numerous lives. You do not know that, but I do.”
Baba always used to treat Shama with kindness and love, and hardly used to display anger on him, even when he used to display it to his other close followers like Tatya Kote Patil. Shama had the freedom to question and even challenge Baba and Baba never minded it. His bhaav (feeling and devotion) towards Baba was pure and innocent with zero demands and expectations.
One day, a man came to Baba and requested for some money as he was in deep debt. Shama knew that the amount he requested was indeed available in Baba’s pocket. But, Baba replied to him that he has no money on him. The man left sad and gloomy. While pouring water to Baba to wash his hands after a meal, Shama asked Baba why he lied to the poor man and sent him empty handed, who came seeking for some solace, despite him having the required amount in his pocket. Baba always used to tell people not to lie and not to promise what one cannot deliver. Baba replied;
“It is in his karma that he must experience this state. It is not yet time to change it. People experience poverty because of their inherent miserliness and poverty of the mind. If he is relieved of it now, he will not transform. Every experience is a result of past actions, words and thoughts. It must be experienced to the fullest. Nobody can cut it short. A rich and generous heart will only reap richness and generosity in life. Selfishness breeds selfishness. Greed breeds greed. Intolerance about anything breeds the same towards you from others. Understand this my boy Shama, you will not understand my ways. When one lies to people that one has no money, despite having it, invariably experiences the same situation in life. One must share whatever one has, and stay rich inside always.”
Shama fell quiet. One thing struck his mind hard – Baba is unfathomable. It is not easy to understand even the seeming casual actions of Baba. His mind is too small to contain this ocean called Shirdi Sai Baba.
Baba gave short cut remedies to people. He was a practical Guru. When Mr. Pradhan wanted to go home and heavy down pours were dampening his hope, Baba read his mind and said “Are Allah Abhi Barasat Purakar. Mere balbacche ghar janewala hai. Usko sukhse jane de”. (Oh God, Stop the rain now, my children need to return home. Let them go back in comfort.) The rain stopped soon and Mr.M.W.Pradhan was given permission to leave.
Mr.Narke saw Sai Baba in the heighth of His anger. He was fuming and full of passion and anger. That was Narke’s first experience and he was confused. “Is this a saint or a mad man?” That evening, when Narke went to Baba and, while massaging His feet, Baba stroked Narke’s head and said “I am not mad.” Baba knew Narke’s innermost thought!!!
As we know, Baba had power over elements. Once a severe storm lashed Shirdi, along with rain and thunder. Baba stepped on to the edge of Dwarakamai and shouted. “Jara Dhav” (Stop Little). The storm abated quickly.
Abdullah who served Baba with devotion and faith had seen many strange behaviors of Baba. Everyday, He used to stare at east, west, north and south and talk something, and even wave his stick at some invisible entities. Das Ganu Maharaj also observed Baba vigorously rubbing coins between 1PM and 2PM – almost everyday, when He was alone. Everything had a purpose – He was liberating body-less entities from terrestrial bounds, and also liberating embodied entities like Abdullah, Shama and Das Ganu from emotional bondage.
Some people are never satisfied with anything. They habitually complain and see something lacking always. They can never be truly happy. To one such woman, Baba said “why do you constantly complain about things big and small? Chant the following mantra many times everyday and be happy”. He asked her to chant
“Sree Raama Raama Ramethi
Rame Raame Manorame
Raama Naama Varaanane”
She found peace within and Baba warded off all internal and external evils from her with this “manthropadesh.” Even if someone asked, Baba never used to give a mantra. In this case, even without asking, He gave one. Such is the style of Great Masters. The nature of Shiva is “Kshipra Kopa” Easy to get angry and “Kshipra Prasaada” easy to be happy or bless. This is why even Raavana and such others pleased Shiva and got many boons. In both these states, Shiva removed heavy karmas of devotees. Shirdi Sai Baba was also very famous for his anger and also for his deep compassion and kindness. He was easy to be pleased. There were occasions where he was violently displeased with the rich and tasty gifts offered by a rich merchant and very much pleased with a small banana offered by an old woman.
Words cannot explain the truth of Baba’s existence. He blessed us by his visit on earth. What a master!!! A master par excellence indeed!!! The story will continue, as long as Baba wants it to. I wish all of you Blessings from Sai Baba.