Shirdi Sai Baba misterious cult – in the divine fakir’s footsteps

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Shirdi Sai Baba life, teachings and misterious cult

Sai Baba of Shirdi (1835-1918) or Sai Natha of Śhirdi is the Symbol and Essence of all religions. No religion was ever intended to be anything more than the Gateway to God as Truth. Shirdi Sai (Sāī from persian Sa’ih, saint) is the Path and Goal in the realisation of this Truth. A series of events have begun from Shirdi to the world over to mark the 100th year of the saint taking samadhi.

Sai Baba, a personification of spiritual perfection and an epitome of compassion , lived in the little village of Shirdi in the state of Maharashtra (India) for sixty years. Like most of the perfect saints he left no authentic record of his birth and early life before arriving at Shirdi. In fact, in the face of his spiritual brilliance such queries do not have much relevance. He reached Shirdi as a nameless entity. One of the persons who first came in contact with him at Shirdi addressed him spontaneously as ‘Sai’ which means Savior, Master or Saint. ‘Baba’ means father as an expression of reverence. In the Divine play it was designed as such, that He subtly inspired this person to call Him by this name, which was most appropriate for His self-allotted mission. All that we definitely know of Sai Baba is that his arrival at Shirdi was anonymous. He was first noticed in the outskirts of the village Shirdi, seated under a ‘neem’ (margosa) tree, about the year 1854. However, even this date is not definitely noted. Sai Baba of these younger days remained a stranger staying under the neem tree for some time and then suddenly he left Shirdi to come back again sometime in 1858, and stayed on there till he left his gross body in the year 1918.

The second advent of Baba at Shirdi, around 1858 was interestingly quite different from the first. This time he accompanied a wedding procession as guest of honor. On the arrival at Shirdi, he was immediately recognized by someone as the same anonymous saintly personality who used to be seated under the neem tree a few years earlier and, greeted Him as “Ya Sai” – Welcome Sai. In the early days of his stay at Shirdi he spent his time either wandering in the outskirts of village and neighboring thorny jungles or sitting under the neem tree totally self absorbed. The first set of villagers who regarded this saintly figure were Mhalsapati, Tatya Kote, Bayyaji Bai and few others. Bayyaji Bai felt deeply motivated by this Divine Saint, and with her motherly instinct she used to walk miles on end into the jungles in search of him, carrying food in a basket on her head. Often she found Sai Baba sitting under some tree in deep meditation, calm and motionless. She would boldly approach him, serve the meal and return home.

After sometime as though out of compassion for her, Sai Baba ceased wandering and moved into a dilapidated mosque in the outskirts of the village. He referred to this mosque, where He resided till the end, as ‘Dwarkamai’ (Dwarka was the place where Lord Shri Krishna stayed to fulfill His divine Advent). This mosque ‘Dwarkamai’ – abode of Sai Baba became Mother of Mercy for all the time to come. He had a body of athlete built and in his earlier days he was fond of wrestling. Another aspect of Sai Baba’s personality was his love for song and dance. In those early years of his life he used to go to ‘Takia’ , the public night shelter for moslem visitors to the village. There in the company of sojourning devotees and fakirs, he used to dance and sing in divine bliss, with small tinkles tied around his ankles. The songs he sang were mostly in Persian or Arabic. Sometimes he sang some popular songs of Kabir.

He donned a long shirt – ‘Kafni’ and tied a cloth around his head, and twisted it into a flowing plait like manner behind his left ear. He used a piece of sackcloth for his seat and slept on it with a brick as his pillow. He always declared that Fakiri (Holy poverty) was far superior to worldly richness. He was no ordinary fakir but an ‘Avatar ’ (incarnation) of a very high order. But His external appearance was of simple, illiterate, moody, emphatic – at times fiery and abusive and at times full of compassion and love. In the moments of towering rage people with him thought it was ungovernable rage. But his anger never prevented his compassion dealing with the devotees. His anger was evidently directed at unseen forces. He enacted all these simple traits only to hide His real identity as the God incarnate. Under the cover of simplicity He silently worked for the spiritual transformation and liberation of innumerable souls – human beings and animals alike, who were drawn to Him, by an unseen forces.

He begged for alms and shared what he got with his devotees and all the creatures around him. He never kept any food in reserve for the next meal. He maintained the ‘Dhuni’ – the perpetual sacred fire and distributed its ash – ‘Udi’ as token of His divine grace to all who came to Him for help. Baba would ask for ‘Dakshina’ (money offered with reverence to the ‘Guru’ or the master) from some of those who came to see him. This was not because he needed their money but for deeper significance, which the devotees realized at, an appropriate time. Baba used to freely distribute all the money that was received in the form of Dakshina to the destitute, poor, sick and needy the very same day. This was one of Baba’s methods for testing out the devotees attachments to worthy things and willingness to surrender.

He ploughed up the village common land and raised a flower garden thereon, he watered the plants, carrying pots full of water on his shoulders. In the later years he spent a few hours in this Lendi garden which he himself had laid out in the early days. He was every moment exercising a double consciousness, one actively utilizing the apparent Ego called 'Sai Baba’ dealing with other egos in temporal and spiritual affairs, and the other – entirely superceding all egos as the Universal Ego or Over soul. He was the common man’s God. He lived with them, he slept and ate with them. Baba had a keen sense of humour. He shared a ‘chillum’ (clay pipe for smoking) indiscriminately with them to write off the cast superiority and orthodoxy in their minds. He had no pretensions of any kind .He was always very playful in the presence of children. Baba used to feed the fakirs and devotees and even cook for them. Saibabas perfect purity, benevolence, non -attachment, compassion and other virtues evoked deep reverence in the villagers around him. His divinity could not conceal itself for long. Initially when people wanted to worship him formally, Baba protested and dissuaded them. But gradually he allowed it with the prescience that it would become the means for temporal and spiritual benefits to millions of individuals for all time to come.

The Dwarkamai of Sai Baba was open to all, irrespective of caste, creed and religion. As the days passed devotees from all walks of life started streaming into Shirdi. The village Shirdi was fast assuming prominence. As the gifts and presentations flowed in, the pomp and grandeur of Sai worship also increased. But Baba’s life of a fakir remained calm, undisturbed, unaltered and there is the Saint’s spiritual glory. He lived His divine mission through His pure self in a human embodiment. The immense energy that was manifest in the body of Sai was moving in a mysterious way, creating and recreating itself every where beyond the comprehension of time and space. This fountainhead of unsurpassed spiritual glory shed His gross body on 15th October 1918. Every limb, every bone and pore of his body was permeated with divine essence. Baba claimed that though one day his physical body will not exist his remains will communicate with all those who seek him with inner yearnings. His self-allotted labour of love in His physical body was perhaps over. Today He continues to work ever vigorously as the ‘Sai Spirit’.

Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to pray, chant God’s name and read holy scriptures such as the Qur’an, the Ramayana, the Vishnu Sahasranam, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Yoga Vasistha. He advised his followers to lead a moral life, help others, treat them with love and develop two important features of character: faith (Shraddha) and patience (Saburi). He also criticized atheism. In his teachings Sai Baba of Śhirdi emphasized the importance of performing one’s duties without attachment to earthly matters and being ever content regardless of the situation. Shirdi Sai Baba, leaning against the wall of his masjid, with devotees. Sai Baba observed worship procedures belonging to both Hinduism and Islam; he shunned any kind of regular rituals but allowed the practice of namaz, chanting of Al-Fatiha, and Qur’an readings at Muslim festival times. Occasionally reciting the Al-Fatiha himself, Baba also enjoyed listening to moulu and qawwali accompanied with the tabla and sarangi twice daily. He also wore clothing reminiscent of a Sufi fakir. Sai Baba also opposed all sorts of persecutions on religious or caste background. Although Sai Baba himself led the life of an ascetic, he advised his followers to lead an ordinary family life.

Sai Baba also interpreted the religious texts of both faiths: He explained the meaning of the Hindu scriptures in the spirit of Advaita Vedanta. This was the character of his philosophy. He said that God penetrates everything and lives in every being. He emphasized the complete oneness of God, which was very close to the Islamic tawhid and the Hindu doctrine (Vedanta). Sai Baba said that the world and all that the human may give is transient and only God and his gifts are eternal. Sai Baba 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 karman. Sai Baba left no written works. His teachings were oral, typically short, pithy sayings rather than elaborate discourses. Sai would ask his followers for money (dakshina), which he would give away to the poor and other devotees the same day. According to his followers he did it in order to rid them of greed and material attachment.

Sai Baba of Shirdi remains a very popular saint and is worshipped by Indians across the world. He is also revered by several notable Hindu and Sufi religious leaders. Some of his Hindu devotees believe that he was an incarnation of Shiva or Dattatreya, and he was regarded as a satguru and an incarnation of Kabir. In contemporary India, the famous Hindu guru Sathya Sai Baba is often thought to be a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. In Islamic culture, Sai Baba appears mainly in Sufism and is considered a Pir of a very high order. Meher Baba declared Baba to be a Qutub-e-Irshad – the highest of the five Qutubs. Sai Baba is also worshipped by prominent Zoroastrians such as Nanabhoy Palkhivala and Homi Bhabha, and has been cited as the most popular non-Zoroastrian religious figure attracting the attention of Zoroastrians. During Sai Baba’s life the Hindu saint Anandanath of Yewala declared Sai Baba a spiritual „diamond”. Another saint, Gangagir, called him a „jewel”. Sri Beedkar Maharaj greatly revered Sai Baba, and in 1873, when he met him he bestowed the title Jagadguru upon him. Sai Baba was also greatly respected by Vasudevananda Saraswati (known as Tembye Swami). Sai of Shirdi was also revered by a group of Shaivic yogis, to which he belonged, known as the Natha-Panćhayati. Swami Kaleshwar publicly worships Sai Baba of Shirdi, and treats him as a great saint and his own guru.

A devotional movement arose around Shirdi Sai Baba in the nineteenth century, while he was staying in Shirdi. A local Khandoba priest – Mhalsapathy – is believed to have been his first devotee. However, in the nineteenth century Sai Baba’s followers were only a small group of Shirdi inhabitants and a few people from other parts of India. The movement started developing in the twentieth century and even faster in 1910 with the Sankirtans of Das Ganu (one of Sai’s devotees) who spread Sai Baba’s fame to the whole of India. Since 1910, numerous Hindus and Muslims from all parts of India started coming to Shirdi. During his lifetime, Hindus worshipped him and Muslims revered him greatly, considering him to be a saint. Later, in the last years of Sai Baba’s life, Christians and Zoroastrians started joining the Shirdi Sai movement. The Sai Baba mandir in Shirdi is active every day with worship services. Shirdi Baba is especially revered and worshipped in the state of Maharashtra. A religious organization of Sai Baba’s devotees called the Shri Saibaba Sansthan Trust is based there. The first ever Sai Baba temple is situated at Bhivpuri, Karjat. According to estimates the Sai mandir in Shirdi is visited by around twenty thousand pilgrims a day and during religious festivals this number amounts to a hundred thousand.

The devotees of Shirdi Sai Baba have spread all over India. According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Religion there is at least one Sai Baba mandir in nearly every Indian city. His image is quite popular in India. Beyond India, the Shirdi Sai movement has spread to other countries such as the U.S. or the Caribbean. Sai Baba mandirs and organisations of his devotees have been built in countries including Australia, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA. Sai Baba’s millions of disciples, followers and devotees believe that he has performed many miracles such asbilocation, exorcisms, curing the incurably sick, helping his devotees in need in a miraculous way, reading the minds of others. Numerous inhabitants of Shirdi wrote about how they (and others) were the witnesses of his unusual Yogic powers: levitation, entering a state of Samādhi at wish. Moreover, according to his followers, he continued to appear to them after his death, in dreams, visions and even in bodily form, whence he often gave them advice. His devotees have many stories and experiences to tell. Many books have been written on the same.

Donation to the Sainatha Aśhrama

Sharada (name changed), an ardent devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, was seated in the office of Mohan Yadav, the Public Relations Officer of Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust in Shirdi. She began telling Yadav about how Sai Baba had showered all kinds of riches on her and how much she was indebted to him. She was eager to make a donation of Rs 15 lakh to the Sai Baba Super Speciality Hospital. In the midst of this, an old gentleman was ushered into the office.

He had one request—to be compensated the Rs 13,000 he had lost during his travel and to spend the rest of his life in Shirdi, serving people. Yadav told him the Sansthan could give him work, but no money. As the old man began pleading his case, Sharada counted out crisp Rs 500 notes totalling Rs 13,000 and handed it over to the old man, who was overcome with joy. For Sharada, it was a test of her not being overly attached to mammon. Sai Baba’s ways are inscrutable indeed. The love and devotion people have towards the humble saint is evident in the proliferation of Sai Baba temples across India and the world.

More than a century and a half ago in the village of Shirdi in Maharashtra, Sai Baba walked the earth. On account of Sai, Shirdi—just a dot on India’s map—has grown in influence as a religious and spiritual centre. Sai Baba left his mortal coil on October 15, 1918, and all through this year and next year till his samadhi anniversary, Shirdi will commemorate its loved saint and his reincarnation as God.

Dr Suresh Haware, nuclear scientist, politician and businessman, who took over as chairman of the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust last August, talks of the Sai Movement, spread across the length and breadth of the world. “There are 8,500 Sai Baba temples in 47 countries. Last year, we organised the Global Sai Temple Summit wherein we invited trustees of all Sai temples with 4,500 people participating. The idea was to chalk out a common plan for all Sai Baba temples. More than a religious movement, it’s a social movement, for Sai Baba’s focus was on community service. This year we’ll repeat the summit, in which 8,000 people are expected,” says the man of science.

The year-long centenary celebrations, which have already started, include blood donation camps, talks by religious experts, tree plantation drives, international marathons, etc. “We’ll be starting a wax museum, which will have statues of saints from all over India as well as national leaders, with an iPad and headphones attached to each. A state-of-the-art planetarium with a seating capacity of 200 is also on the cards,” says Haware, who believes that spirituality is the launch pad for progress.

During his lifetime, Sai Baba lived the life of a fakir. And in an interesting paradox, the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust is one of the richest in India, second only to the Lord Venkateshwara temple in Tirupati. ‘Annadan’ or offering food was very dear to Baba, and often he would cook in a large utensil to serve everyone present. As if in obeisance to Baba, the trust has built what is billed to be Asia’s largest Prasadalaya (dining hall), which can seat 5,500 people simultaneously, where food is served free of cost. A mammoth figure of Baba stirring a huge pot is mounted atop the building.

The second triumph of the Trust is the Shri Sai Baba Super Speciality Hospital in Shirdi, built in 2006. Ganesh Deshmukh, who is here from Osmanabad in Maharashtra for his father’s heart surgery, believes that the “big doctor”, Sai Baba, will take care of everything. Dr Vijay Narode, acting medical director who has been with the hospital since its inception, says the treatment afforded in the 244-bed hospital is on par with international standards. “Patients come here for treatment of heart-related ailments and joint placements. Through the Rajiv Gandhi Jeevandayee Arogya Yojana (RGJAY) Health Scheme, cardiac surgeries are performed free of cost. Ten per cent of beds are reserved for indigent persons,” he says.

While the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust is involved in social and community initiatives, thousands of other organisations across the country are promoting the message and ideals of Sai Baba. Shri Sai Trust and Shirdi Sai Trust in Chennai, started by entrepreneur philanthropist and Baba devotee K V Ramani, have helped construct 450 Sai Baba temples. “We evaluate every proposal and for many temples, we provide Sai idols. The temples are a means to help discharge service such as annadan, education and medical assistance for the needy. Through our scholarship programmes, we have targeted 3,000 children from low income groups. For critical healthcare such as heart and kidney problem, cataract, we have tied up with hospitals. Free lunch and dinner is provided for 10,000 people daily,” says Ramani. The trust doesn’t accept donations in cash or kind.

Some 40-odd km away from Chennai on the scenic East Coast Road, the trust houses a beautiful Sai Baba temple. “I wanted to build a small meditation hall here for me and my family, but the building sketches started getting bigger and bigger, and I knew then that Baba wanted a different outcome,” smiles Ramani. Simplicity is the only adornment in the temple with no hundis for cash offerings with Baba’s tenets, ‘Shraddha’ (devotion) and ‘Saburi’ (patience), gracing the pillars. “People come here for worship and meditation, the temple is strictly a ‘no money’ place. Baba here wears a simple dress with no crown or other paraphernalia. After all, Baba arrived like a fakir in Shirdi,” reasons Ramani. In the morning and afternoon, there is Vedic chanting, while between 4 and 5 pm, there are recitations from the Koran. Ramani’s philanthropy reached a crescendo when he donated `110 crore towards the building of Sai Ashram in Shirdi, which can house 14,000 people. The trust has also been contributing money regularly for other charitable causes in Shirdi as well.

Another such charitable organisation is the Shri Martand Mhalsapati Maharaj in Shirdi. Mhalsapati was one of Baba’s closest and dearest devotees; it was him who addressed Baba as “Aao Sai” when he alighted at the Khandoba Temple. From then, the fakir took on the name of Sai Baba. Roughly 35 km away from Shirdi at Vadi, the Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust runs an ashram. “When Baba’s palki (palanquin) is taken out in December and during Ram Navami, devotees accompanying it are provided accommodation and food. We do annadan as well,” says Ajay Nagare, Mhalsapati’s great grandson. Many are not aware of Sai Baba’s connect to the Khandoba Temple. It is customary that devotees should first offer worship to the Khandoba deity and then proceed to the Sai Temple. “Probably only those who have read the Sai Satcharita know,” says Nagare. He recalls that Baba had once asked Mhalsapati, “Will you be able to fill your stomach only by resorting to being a goldsmith?” causing him to switch businesses.

Baba adhered to no religion, he respected all faiths and preached harmony and brotherhood. In one of the first movies on him, Shirdi Ke Sai Baba (1977), a dialogue goes, ‘Kaun hai ye Baba jo Mussalman ko Ram Ram aur Hinduyon ko Allah Malik kehta hai” (who is this Baba who greets Hindus with an ‘Allah Malik’ and Muslims with ‘Ram Ram’?). The question whether Baba was a Hindu or Muslim has dogged everybody with no answers till now. “That matter is confidential,” chuckles Salim, the great grandson of Abdul Baba, Baba’s closest devotee. On seeing the dark-skinned Abdul arrive with mangoes from Nanded to Shirdi, Baba remarked, “Mera kauva aa gaya” (my crow has come). Abdul stayed on in Shirdi. After Sai Baba’s passing away, Abdul Baba used to clean the samadhi, offer flowers and perform service. “This is a ritual we practice even today. Every morning at around 9.45, my father and I, including members from our family, offer flowers at Baba’s samadhi,” says Salim.

During his lifetime, Baba cured hundreds of people from innumerable ailments, sometimes just with a look, with a touch or by distributing udi (sacred ash) as prasad. The underlying significance of the udi was to remind devotees that the visible phenomena in the universe, including the body, are as transient as the ash. The udi also bestowed material gains. Its power was felt by Chennai-based L Ramesh, a government official, who was diagnosed with cancer in the spine. He showed the medical records to Sharada, who asked him to go to Shirdi and worship Baba. “Doctors advised me not to move out of the house but I went to Shirdi all the same. The moment I landed there, the pain vanished. Sharada told me that there is no cancer in the body, but on the persistence of the family and doctors, I am undergoing chemotherapy. Although a bit weak, I can walk and am even going to office,” shares the 47-year-old and father of two.

Another person who came into Baba’s fold courtesy a serious illness is Shubashree, a history lecturer and research scholar from Periyar University in Salem. A numerologist and distance healer, Shubashree also practices deep meditation. “In 2008, my jaundice had taken a turn for the worst and I was at death’s door. After a year-and-a-half of treatment, I was dejected while awaiting the results of the scan when a young couple came towards me. The lady asked me why I was so stressed, and when I told her, she gave me a photograph of Sai Baba and asked me to pray to him. At that time, I did not know who Baba was or where Shirdi was. All the same, I prayed to him fervently and said that if he was a true god, he would save me and make me alright. The scan results proved the doctors wrong. Baba gave me a rebirth,” says the 33-year-old scholar. She is now doing a PhD on Sai Baba.

Sixty-year-old Elumalai had a different experience. When his wife Saroja, a Baba devotee, was operated the second time for a brain tumour, he was shattered. He was surprised when he got a call from a person representing a popular store in Chennai asking about how the operation went and that he knew it would be a success as Baba had ordained it. Similarly, a colleague whom he didn’t was a Baba devotee said his wife would be fine. A year after the operation, his wife passed away, but wherever Elumalai went after that, Baba seemed to precede him. “It was as if Baba’s grace was following him everywhere courtesy his wife and that he should remember Baba,” says Elumalai.

There are as many believers as there are nonbelievers. And Baba pulls them all to him. Deepika, her mother and two friends from Pune kneel and pray inside Dwarkamai, where Baba lived in Shirdi. All of them are visiting Shirdi for the first time. Deepika, who lives in the UAE, had asked her wheelchair-bound mother in Bengaluru what she wanted for her birthday, to which she said she wanted to visit Shirdi. “My father was an atheist and I am agnostic, only mom is a believer. As I pray before Baba, I am warring within myself; my intellect will not let me believe in Sai, whereas my heart tells me otherwise. For my mom, it’s been a wonderful experience to be near Sai Baba,” says Deepika, an advertising professional.

Koteshwar Subba Rao, who worked with fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani 12 years ago, is a firm believer. Rao’s wife was told that she would never be able to conceive. The couple, who were devotees of Sai, prayed in Shirdi. In time, they were blessed with two children. “The first girl we named Sai, the second Pooja; that was our Sai Pooja,” says Rao. How has Baba changed Rao? “I should do good at least once a day,” says the 45-year-old.

Middle-aged couple Biswanath Das and Sunanda Das have come all the way from Bhubaneswar to Shirdi, traversing 1,500 km to pay their respects to Baba. Seated within the temple precincts, there’s a faraway look in the husband’s face while wife Sunanda talks softly to him. This is not their first visit; they have been coming here for the last seven years. The calling just came to them one day, admit the couple who have also chalked up the char dhams and the 12 jyotirlings. They have never asked Baba for anything, “Even if I were to ask him for `11,000 crore, he will give me. It’s not as if he does not know what is happening in our lives. Even now we are facing problems and Baba is helping us,” says Biswanath. “Baba is seva ki murti (service personified), there’s a lesson in that.”

For Sudha Umashanker, who has always been wary of godmen, it was not love at first sight. “It was only after I began reading some more about him that I began to develop faith in him. Recently, I read the Sai Satcharita, and found it to be a manual for life,” says the journalist, writer and storyteller. To celebrate the 100th year of his mahasamadhi, Sudha used the material from the Satcharita for her storytelling outfit Storycorner At Bookmine. “The Satcharita lends itself very well to storytelling. Baba also used a lot of stories in his teachings, especially when he wanted to draw his devotees’ attention to something,” says Sudha who came into contact with Baba around five years ago. Her mission is to revisit whatever he taught. “In these trying times of religious disharmony, Baba’s oft-repeated phrase comes to mind: ‘Sabka malik ek’ (One god governs all),” says the 62-year-old.

The Divine Journey

Sai Baba of Shirdi was a saint, regarded as an incarnation of god. He is popularly known as Jagrut Dev (Living God). He first appeared in Shirdi when he was 16 years old, doing hard penance and meditating under a neem tree. His presence attracted the curiosity of the villagers. Some thought he was mad and threw stones at him, following which he left the village. He returned many years later in 1858 with devotee Chand Patil’s wedding party, which camped near the Khandoba Temple in Shirdi, whereupon the temple priest Mhalsapati welcomed him saying “Aao, Sai”. The name stuck. He wore a knee-length one-piece Kafni robe and a cloth cap. The Sai Baba movement began in the 19th century, while he was living in Shirdi.

He performed many miracles such as bilocation, levitation, mindreading, materialisation, exorcisms, entering a state of samadhi at will, lighting lamps with water, removing his limbs or intestines and sticking them back to his body (Khandana yoga), curing the incurably sick, appearing beaten when another was beaten, preventing a mosque from falling down on people, and helping his devotees in other miraculous ways. He also gave darshan to people in the form of Sri Rama, Krishna, Vithoba, Shiva and many other gods depending on the faith of devotees.

Nobody knows whether Baba was a Hindu or a Muslim. He practised both Hindu and Muslim rituals, proclaiming “Sabka malik ek” (one god governs all). He led a simple life, living in a mosque he called Dwarkamayi. During his lifetime, he performed numerous miracles and was regarded as a healer of maladies. He used to constantly test his devotees and many a lesson was learnt in that. He preached universal brotherhood and condemned persecution based on religion and caste, holding up two virtues always—shraddha (faith) and saburi (patience). He left behind no spiritual heirs, only a legion of devotees who spread his name far and wide. Today, there are Sai Baba temples all over the world. He breathed his last on October 15, 1918. His body is interred in the Sathe Wada, also known as the Samadhi Mandir.

The miracles of faith

L. Ramesh, a government employee in Chennai, was diagnosed with cancer in the spine. His friend, a devotee, recommended he visit Shirdi and pray to Sai Baba. Immediately on reaching Shirdi, the 47-year-old’s pain disappeared. Research scholar Shubashree, who is pursuing her Ph.D on Shirdi Sai Baba at Periyar University in Salem, had severe jaundice. Doctors had little hope for her. A lady at a hospital gave her a picture of Śhirdi Sai Baba and asked her to pray to him. She did, and the jaundice disappeared.

Sharada (name changed) was 13 when her father, a college professor, passed away, putting the family in dire financial constraints. After her acquaintance with Shirdi Sai Baba, she became his ardent devotee. Through the years, Sai Baba has rained riches on her, both material and spiritual. Today, she runs a company with 200 people under her and considers herself a channel of Sai Baba.

Costume designer Koteshwar Subba Rao from Guntur in Andhra Pradesh was told his wife would not bear any children. The couple prayed to Baba in Shirdi. Their wishes were granted with the couple being blessed with two girls. They named them Sai and Pooja. Shaikh, who works for a government firm in Chennai, was disappointed when his son didn’t get admission to a US university. He prayed to Sai Baba of Śhirdi, and soon he got into one of the best US universities. He named his son Sai Shamoor.

Year-long Celebrations

One of the social initiatives launched is daily blood donation camps. Later, the donors will be given free Samadhi darshan through the year. Religious experts will conduct talks. The Runbuddies Club of Pune with the Sai Baba Sansthan is organising an international marathon on October 15. A wax museum with statues of all saints and national leaders is also on the cards, as is a state-of-the-art 200-seater planetarium.

“There are some 8,500 Sai Baba temples spread across 47 countries. Last year, we had organised the Global Sai Temple Summit wherein we had invited the trustees of Sai temples all over the world with 4,500 people participating. The idea was to chalk out a common plan for all Sai Baba temples. More than a religious movement, it’s a social movement for Sai Baba’s focus was on community service. This year too we will have a repeat of the summit.” – Dr Suresh Haware Chairman, Shri Sai Baba Sansthan Trust

Selection of 100 Shirdi Sai Baba Sayings

More over, Sai Baba was a celibate, remaining in one place, performing miracles, admonishing his disciples, and keeping a fire perpetually burning at Shirdi. The functions of a Guru, ascetic and saint, Sai Baba adds that of Avatar as many of his devotees and followers consider him as major incarnation of this age. Sai Baba is exemplary among the great saints of Maharashtra in western India for the ways in which he drew upon and surpassed the categories, concepts, and styles of a variety of conventionally competing religious traditions. Maharashtra is well-known for the integrative spirituality of its foremost figures, and among them Sai Baba is particularly important. The author “locates” Sai Baba in the contexts of both Islamic and Hindu traditions.

A Collection based of Sri Sai Satcharita

Surrender completely to God.

Speak the truth and truth alone.

See the divine in the human being.

Avoid unnecessary disputation.

Do not kick against the pricks of life.

God will show His love. He is kind to all.

Put full faith in God’s providence.

Fulfill any promises you have made.

What you sow, you reap. What you give, you get.

Always think of God and you will see what He does.

God has agents everywhere and their powers are vast.

Let us be humble.

Mukti is impossible for those addicted to lust.

Do not be obsessed by the importance of wealth.

If you avoid rivalry and dispute, God will protect you.

If one devotes their entire time to me and rests in me, need fear nothing for body and soul.

If one sees me and me alone and listens to my Leelas and is devoted to me alone, they will reach God.

If you make me the sole object of your thoughts and aims, you will gain the supreme goal.

Trust in the Guru fully. That is the only sadhana.

Stay by me and keep quiet. I will do the rest.

What is our duty? To behave properly. That is enough.

My eye is ever on those who love me.

Whatever you do, wherever you may be, always bear this in mind: I am always aware of everything you do.

If a devotee is about to fall, I stretch out my hands to support him or her.

My treasury is open but no one brings carts to take from it. I say, “Dig!” but no one bothers.

My people do not come to me of their own accord; it is I who seek and bring them to me.

All that is seen is my form: ant, fly, prince, and pauper

However distant my people may be, I draw them to me just as we pull a bird to us with a string tied to its foot.

This body is just my house. My guru has long ago taken me away from it.

Those who think that Baba is only in Shirdi have totally failed to know me.

Without my grace, not even a leaf can move.

If you are wealthy, be humble. Plants bend when they bear fruit.

Spend money in charity; be generous and munificent but not extravagant.

Get on with your worldly activities cheerfully, but do not forget God.

Whatever creature comes to you, human or otherwise, treat it with consideration.

Do not bark at people and don’t be aggressive, but put up with others’ complaints.

There is a wall of separation between oneself and others and between you and me. Destroy this wall!

Give food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, and clothes to the naked. Then God will be pleased.

Saburi (patience) ferries you across to the distant goal.

The four sadhanas and the six Sastras are not necessary. Just has complete trust in your guru: it is enough.

Meditate on me either with form or without form, that is pure bliss.

God is not so far away. He is not in the heavens above, nor in hell below. He is always near you.

If anyone gets angry with another, they wound me to the quick.

If you cannot endure abuse from another, just say a simple word or two, or else leave.

What do we lose by another’s good fortune? Let us celebrate with them, or strive to emulate them.

That should be our desire and determination.

If formless meditation is difficult, then think of my form just as you see it here. With such meditation, the difference between subject and object is lost and the mind dissolves in unity.

If anyone offends you do not return tit for tat.

Whoever makes me the sole object of their love, merges in me like a river in the ocean.

Look to me and I will look to you.

What God gives is never exhausted, what man gives never lasts.

Be contented and cheerful with what comes.

My devotees see everything as their Guru.

Poverty is the highest of riches and a thousand times superior to a king’s wealth.

Whoever withdraws their heart from wife, child, and parents and loves me, is my real lover.

Distinguish right from wrong and be honest, upright and virtuous.

Do not be obsessed by egotism, imagining that you are the cause of action: everything is due to God.

If we see all actions as God’s doing, we will be unattached and free from karmic bondage.

Other people’s acts will affect just them. It is only your own deeds that will affect you.

Do not be idle: work, utter God’s name and read the scriptures.

People abuse their own friends and family, but it is only after performing many meritorious acts that one gets a human birth. Why then come to Shirdi and slander people?

No one wants to take from me what I give abundantly.

Do not fight with anyone, nor retaliate, nor slander anyone.

Harsh words cannot pierce your body. If anybody speaks ill of you, just continue on unperturbed.

Choose friends who will stick to you till the end, through thick and thin.

Meditate on what you read and think of God.

You should not stay for even one second at a place where people are speaking disrespectfully of a saint.

If you do not want to part with what you have, do not lie and claim that you have nothing, but decline politely saying that circumstances or your own desires prevent you.

Satsang that is associating with the good is good. Dussaya, or associating with evil-minded people, is evil and must be avoided.

Recognize the existence of the Moral Law as governing results. Then unswervingly follow this Law.

All gods are one. There is no difference between a Hindu and a Muslim. Mosque and temple are the same.

Death and life are the manifestations of God’s activity. You cannot separate the two. God permeates all.

Gain and loss, birth and death are in the hands of God.

When you see with your inner eye. Then you realize that you are God and not different from Him.

The giver gives, but really he is sowing the seed for later: the gift of a rich harvest.

Wealth is really a means to work out dharma. If one uses it merely for personal enjoyment, it is vainly spent.

Whenever you undertake to do something, do it thoroughly or not at all.

One’s sin will not cease till one falls at the feet of Sadhusò

Be ashamed of your hatred. Give up hatred and be quiet.

The Moral Law is inexorable, so follow it, observe it, and you will reach your goal: God is the perfection of the Moral Law.

Have faith and patience. Then I will be always with you wherever you are.

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.

Education must promote peace, security and happiness.

Calmly look at the show of all things passing before you.

Shirdi Saibaba about Himself

I speak the truth.
I love devotion.
I am the slave of my devotee.
I am your servants’ servant.
I am formless and everywhere
I am in everything and beyond. I fill all space.
I do not shake or move.
I will take you to the end.
I get angry with none. Will a mother get angry with her children? Will the ocean send back the waters to the several rivers?
I give my devotees whatever they ask, until they ask for what I want to give.
I will not allow my devotees to come to harm.
I stay by the side of whoever repeats my name.
I am the slave of those who hunger and thirst after me and treat everything else as unimportant.
I think of my people day and night. I say their names over and over.
I look on all with an equal eye.
I cannot do anything without God’s permission.
I have to take care of my children day and night and give an account to God of every paisa.
I am not the body or the senses – I am formless and in everything.
If one meditates on me, repeats my name and sings about my deeds – he is transformed and his karma is destroyed. I stay by his side always.
The wise are cheerful and content with their lot in life.
To God be the praise. I am only the slave of God.
Why fear when I am here?  
My business is to give blessings.
All that you see taken together is Myself.  

The 11 Sayings of Sai Baba

1. Whoever puts his feet on Shirdi soil, his sufferings would come to an end.
2. The wretched and miserable would rise into plenty of joy and happiness, as soon as they climb steps of my samadhi.
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. I shall be active and vigorous even from the tomb.
6. My mortal remains would speak from the tomb.
7. I 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 shall be given to you at once.
11. There shall be no want in the house of my devotees.


The declarations of Divinity

I am God. I am Mahalaxmi. I speak the truth sitting as I do in the mosque. I am Vithoba. I am Ganapathy. All offerings made to Ganapathy have reached me. I am Dattatreya. I am Laxmi Narayan. Why go to Ganga elsewhere. Hold your palm at my feet – here flows Ganga. I am Maruti.  

True Being of Śirdi Sai Baba

1. I am the attributeless absolute Nirguna. I have no name and no residence.  
2. I embroiled myself in karma and got this body. Brahman is my father and Maya is my mother. I am formless and in everything. I fill all space and am omnipresent. I am in water, in dry places, in crowd and solitary wilderness. I am in the fire and in ether.
3. I am the Progenitor of God. Meditate on me as pure Ananda Nirakara, but if you cannot do this, then meditate on this Sai Body exactly as you see it.
4. I am not the body or the senses. I am the eternal Sakshi (Witness).

Śirdi Sai Baba wistful longing

My Master (Guru) told me to give bounteously to all that ask. No one asks with wisdom. My treasury is open. No one brings carts to take away the real treasures. I say: dig and search, but no one wants to take any pains. Be the true sons of the Divine Mother (Śri Devi Maa) and fully stock yourself. What is to become of us. This body will return to earth and the air we breath will melt into air. This opportunity will not return.  

Dwarka Mayi

1. This is not just a mosque. It is Dwarka (Mercy). Those who seek refuge here will never be harmed.  
2. As soon as one climbs the steps of the mosque, sufferings due to karma are at an end and joy begins.  
3. When one enters the Dwarka Mayi, his goal is achieved.  
Sai Baba’s assurances:
1. My eye is ever on those who love me.  
2. Whatever you do, wherever you may be, ever bear this in mind that I am always aware of everything you do.
3. If one meditates on me, repeats my name and sings about my deeds — he is transformed and his karma is destroyed. I stay by his side always.
4. If one perpetually thinks of me, and makes me his sole refuge, I become his debtor and will give my head to save him.
5. I am the bond slave of my devotees. I love devotion. He who withdraws his heart from the world and loves me is my true lover and he merges in ME like a river in the sea.
6. If you make me the sole object of your thoughts and aims you will gain Paramathama.
7. Look at me and I will look to you.
8. Trust in the guru fully. This is the only sadhana. Guru is all the Gods.
9. Repeat my name. Seek refuge in me. But to know who I am, practice sravana and manana.
10. I shall be active and vigorous even from my tomb. Even after my mahasamadhi, I shall be with you the moment you think of me.  

Om Śri Sainathaaya Namah!

Yaa Sai (Saaii)!


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