Shri Shirdi Sai Baba
Sai Baba of Shirdi is an Indian spiritual master considered to be among the highest category of Yogis and seen as a manifestation/Avatara of Lord Dattatreya. He was equally revered among both Hindus and Muslims and is now worshipped all over the world. The sacred book about the first incarnation of Lord Dattatreya ‘Shri Pada Shri Vallabha Charitaamrutam’ written during his lifetime [1320-1350] prophesied the incarnation of Sai Baba. It claimed him to be an incarnation of Lord Hanuman.
The teachings of Baba were focussed on Devotion, Self-surrender to Sat-guru, Service, and Compassion.
There is no documented evidence regarding Sai Baba’s birth or his parents. Few close associates claimed that he was born of Deshastha Brahmin parents in the village of Pathri and was entrusted into the care of a Fakir in his infancy.
In the middle of the 19th century, when Sai Baba arrived, Shirdi was a very small and insignificant village in Maharashtra, unknown to most people. It is in the district of Ahmednagar. One has to cross the Godavari river at a place called Kopargaon before reaching Shirdi. For some inexplicable reason known only to himself, this was the place chosen by the great saint to make his appearance. Today it has become a flourishing town attracting millions of devotees from all over the world because it was on this blessed spot that Sai Baba played his immortal ‘leelas’ [divine plays].
The life of Shirdi Sai Baba is remarkable in as much as nobody knows his parentage, name, birthplace, or caste. Many people asked him these questions, but he always parried them and refused to answer any question regarding his personal life. He revealed himself under a neem (margosa) tree just outside the village. He appeared to be about fourteen years of age and was sitting and practising meditation under the tree for days, without caring for the heat or cold or rain. The simple folk pestered him with questions, but all he said was that it was under this tree that his guru had practised penance. After this, the boy disappeared for some years.
His next appearance was with a marriage party that arrived in the village of Shirdi from the town of Dhoop. The marriage party was led by a Muslim called Chand Patil. This man had lost his horse on one of his journeys, and though he searched everywhere, he couldn’t find it. As he was walking back dejectedly, he saw a fakir (holy man) sitting under a mango tree. The fakir beckoned to Chand Patil who went near and saw that he was preparing to smoke a chillum (a kind of pipe). He asked Chand Patil what he was looking for, and when he heard about the lost horse, he advised him to search near the creek. To his amazement, Chand Patil found the horse quietly grazing at the exact spot pointed out by the fakir.
He realized that the man was not an ordinary person. When he returned to the fakir, the latter was just about to smoke his pipe, but he had neither of the two things necessary to light it. There was no fire and no water to wet the cloth to put over the pipe. The fakir casually took his stick and thrust it into the earth and came out with a live ember, which he put into his pipe. Then he dashed his stick on the ground, and immediately water started to trickle out. The Fakir prepared the pipe, drew hard at it, and handed it over to the astonished Chand Patil. The latter now invited him to go and stay in his house. This invitation was accepted, and in a few days, when Chand Patil’s marriage party set out to Shirdi, the fakir also accompanied him.
When the marriage party came to the outskirts of Shirdi, it stopped just outside the temple of Khandoba. A person called Mahalsapati was the priest of this temple; when he saw the young fakir, he was so struck by his looks that he addressed him as “Ya Sai” (Welcome Sai). This name stuck to him, and ever since, people started addressing him as Sai Baba. Nobody knew his real name if he had one. From that day onwards, Sai Baba lived in Shirdi till his Mahasamadhi in October 1918. He lived all his life in a broken down masjid or deserted mosque, which he called Dwarakamai. He kept a dhuni or sacred fire burning all day and night and distributed the ashes from this to people with his blessings. This ash had miraculous powers, and even today, it is capable of curing all ailments. Today Shirdi has become a bustling town to which hundreds of people come to worship at the shrine which contains the mortal remains of the great saint. He had prophesied that his tomb would speak, and anyone who came there would be blessed. And so it has come to pass.
Baba used to speak highly about his Guru Venkusa under whom he practiced for 12 years. Baba considered his master Venkusa to be his mother, father and guide, and everything. His Guru was the sole object of meditation and worship for Baba during that period. His master, Venkusa, exposed him to rigorous training. Baba had complete knowledge of the past, present, and future. He could communicate and understand the language of every creature. He could cure many medically incurable diseases and even prevented a Cholera epidemic in the village of Shirdi.
Baba insisted on continuous remembrance of God or Sat-Guru for his devotees to become free of the clutches of Maya (illusion). Baba allowed his devotees to worship him as they liked. Baba used to say that nobody can enter Dwarakamai without Divine Will, and even more, that Baba doesn’t take money as Dakshina from anyone without some Divine Purpose. He used to roam in forests at noon and be in a state of ecstasy during meditation. A lady named Bayaja Bai used to search for Baba in the dense forest walking over bushes and shrubs in the afternoon and placing a leaf in front of him, and arrange food for him. Baba was extremely pleased with her service. Later, Baba stopped going into the forest and had his lunch in Masjid/ Dwarakamai itself.
His Promise before Departure
Just before he had left his gross body, one devotee named Keshav Nayak, emotionally charged, asked, “Maharaj, since you are going, who will give us protection?”. Swamy Samadth gave him a pair of his sandals to worship and told him, “In the future, I will be staying at Shirdi in district Ahmednagar.”
Another devotee, Krishna Ali Bagkar, decided to go to Akkalkot and worship the padukas (sandals) of Swamy Samadth. After that, he got a dream appearance of Swamy Samardh, who told him, “Now I am staying at Shirdi, go there and worship me.” Bagkar went to Shirdi, where he stayed for six months. Later, when he wanted to take leave of Shri Sai and go to Akkalkot again, Shri Sai told him, “What is there in Akkalkot? The Maharaj of Akkalkot is staying right here.” Bagkar then realized no difference existed between Swamy Samadh and Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, as he recalled his earlier dream.
Samadhi of 72 Hours
In the year 1886, on a full moon day, Baba had a severe attack of asthma. Baba asked Mhalsapati to protect his body for three days, and if he did not return, Baba ordered his body to be buried in the nearby open land. By 10 pm, his breathing and pulse stopped. All villagers gathered, and many wanted to bury the body, but Mhalsapati resisted. After three days, at 3 am, Baba opened his eyes, and his breathing continued as normal.
Baba had a brick on which he rested his hands and even leaned on during the night. One day, a boy, while sweeping the floor, accidentally slipped and broke it into two pieces. Baba cried and said, “It is not the brick, but it is my fate, which is split into two parts. Nobody understood what it implied until Baba left his mortal frame just a few days later.
Just before leaving his physical body, Baba gave Rs/-9 to Lakshmi Bai Shinde, which is symbolic of 9 forms of Bhakti.
Before his departure, Baba informed Ramachandra Patil that Tatya Patil, who was seriously ill at that time, was going to die on the day of Vijaya Dasami, but Baba himself died as if it was an exchange of karma. On Tuesday, 15th October 1918, at 2:30 pm, Baba entered Samadhi. On Wednesday morning, he appeared in the dream of his devotee Lakshman Mama Joshi and informed her, “Get up soon, do your worship and Morning Arati. “
On Wednesday evening, his body was placed in Wade’s center (Garbha), which was actually planned to be the place for the idol of Muralidhar (Lord Krishna). Before his death, Baba promised to continue his work from Samadhi and continue to guide his devotees. Today Baba is more active than ever, and many stories are told about his ongoing miracles and blessings.
Tradition and Gurus
Swamy Samardha of Akkalkot and Shirdi Sai Baba, One Consciousness. Swamy Samardha’s connection with Sai Baba, both from the same lineage, is from the Dattatreya Tradition. When Swami Samarth left his body, a part of his soul merged with Sai Baba, and Sai Baba became more powerful. So Swami’s presence started spreading further. Akkalkot Swami’s presence is very, very powerful even now. Those who connect to Swami will know. After he attained Mahasamadhi, some of his devotees were coming to Akkalkot. Swami came into their dreams and said, “Go to Shirdi; I am sitting there.” When they came to Shirdi and looked at Sai Baba, they could see Akkalkot Swami also. So Masters are all one; it’s one Consciousness, operating in different bodies.
Sai Baba’s teachings revolved around devotion, universal love, compassion, and selfless service. Sai Baba insisted on the importance of the Sat-Guru, and complete surrender and devotion to the Sat-Guru. Baba used to collect Dakshina [devotional offering] from his devotees to inculcate the spirit of service. He taught humanity that He resides in every creature, and that service of any creature verily reaches Him.
Baba's Eleven Promises
- WHEN YOUR FEET TOUCH THE SOIL OF SHIRDI ALL YOUR SUFFERINGS WILL BE PREVENTED FROM HAPPENING.
- WHOEVER CLIMBS THE STEPS OF MY SAMADHI HIS SORROW WILL BE DEFEATED.
- EVEN IF I CAST OFF THIS MORTAL BODY, NEVERTHELESS I WILL COME RUNNING TO THE AID OF MY DEVOTEES.
- MY SAMADHI WILL FULFILL YOUR VOWS. HAVE INTENSE, IMPLICIT & STEADFAST FAITH IN ME.
- I AM IMMORTAL, KNOW THIS TRUTH, AND FOREVER GET EXPERIENCES OF MY IMMORTALITY.
- SHOW ME, DO SHOW ME ANYONE WHO SOUGHT REFUGE IN ME AND WAS FORSAKEN.
- WITH WHATEVER INTENSITY, PASSION, AND DEVOTION A DEVOTEE PRAYS TO ME, WITH THE SAME INTENSITY, I RESPOND AND RECIPROCATE.
- I WILL CARRY THE BURDEN OF YOUR LIFE FOREVER, TILL ETERNITY, OR THIS PROMISE OF MINE WILL BE UNTRUE.
- KNOW THAT THEY WHO SEEK MY HELP WILL RECEIVE IT ABUNDANTLY, AND THEY SHALL RECEIVE WHATEVER THEY ASK FOR.
- HE WHO SURRENDERS TO ME COMPLETELY, WITH TOTAL SURRENDER OF BODY, SPEECH, MIND, SENSES, INTELLECT, AND INNATE BEING, I AM INDEBTED TO HIM FOREVER.
- HE WHO IS ARDENTLY DEVOTED TO ME, WHOSE FAITH IS STEADFAST AT MY FEET AND CONTINUOUSLY CHANTS ‘SAI SAI’ HE BECOMES ONE WITH ME AND WILL BE FILLED WITH MY GRACE AND BLESSINGS.
Holy Sites and Pilgrimages
Shirdi (Maharashtra, India)