Baba’s omnipresence was not confined to the three forms we have noted so far - all gods, all saints and all men. He was all the other creatures too!
Mrs. Tarkhad was at Shirdi. It was noon and she was serving lunch. A hungry dog turned up there and began to moan pitifully for food. Mrs. Tarkhad at once got up and threw it a roti which it ate with great relish. Later, in the afternoon, when she went to the mosque Baba said, “Mother, today you have fed me sumptuously and my senses and hunger were much appeased. Ever act like this and this will stand you in good stead. Sitting in this musjid I never speak untruth. Take pity on me; feed the hungry first and then eat yourself. Note this well.” Mrs. Tarkhad said “Baba when did I feed you?” Baba said, “The dog which you fed at lunch hour is I. I roam in this world in different forms - cats, pigs, crows and all. He who sees me in all these creatures is dearest to me. Abandon the sense of difference and serve me as you did today.”
One evening Mrs. Laxmibai entered the mosque and bowed to baba who said to her, “Laxmibai, I am very hungry”.
She ran home and fetched roti and vegetables for him. He at once took it up and gave it to a dog. Laxmibai felt shocked and insulted and said, “Was it for this that you wanted me to bring the food here”. Baba was unperturbed. He said, “Why do you grieve over such a small affair? The appeasement of its hunger is the same as feeding me. The dog has a soul though it cannot communicate with us. Remember that whoever feeds the hungry feeds me.”
Baba begged his food from five houses and he ate it in the musjid. Mrs. G.S. Khaparde who stayed at Shirdi for a number of days used to offer him food at the musjid. Once she invited Baba to her lodging for meal. This she did day after day, for some time. One day Baba promised her that he would go to her house. That day, when she was preparing various dishes, a dog came there. Mrs. Khaparde was afraid that it might pollute the pure dishes. Not finding anything handy with which to drive it out, she picked up a burning brand from the hearth and threw it at the dog and the creature ran away. That day too Baba did not turn up. So she took the food to the mosque. On seeing her Baba said, “When I came to your house you threw a burning brand at me!” Mrs. Khaparde caught his point and repented for her inadvertence.
Hansaraj stayed at Shirdi with his wife for a considerable time and was cured of his asthma by Baba’s grace. Baba told Hansaraj that he should strictly avoid taking curd and sour and hot items of food. But Hansaraj was too fond of curds and privately told his wife that he would rather give up his soul than stop eating curds. So they prepared
curds every day for two months but Baba somehow prevented him from eating it. Everyday, when the couple went to attend the noon-arti at the mosque, a cat used to steal into their lodging; and eat up that curd. One day he was furious and decided to punish the cat. So he stayed away from the noon-arti and watched for it. He saw it coming and eating the curds and hit it with a stick. Crying in pain the creature ran away. In the afternoon, when everyone went to the mosque, Baba said, “There is an obstinate idiot amidst us who wants to die by eating sour and pungent things. But I would not allow him to do that. Today I went to him in the form of a cat. That fellow has given me a caning on my back. See here!” So saying, Baba exposed his back and Hansaraj noticed scars of severe caning! Hansaraj repented for his stupidity and thereafter gave up eating the things which Baba forbade. Baba had to prescribe the remedy to his patients and make them adhere to that and suffer at their hands.
Sainthood is no rosy privilege. How much such a one as Baba has to suffer from the violence that people commit on dumb creatures, receiving and experiencing, as they do, all the pain and misery, not for a day or two at some point in history but to the end of time? We shall, in a later chapter, note a few incidents to show that Baba was very much alive even after his mahasamadhi and that he did suffer for the sins of mankind and bless it in return. Christ had only brought this truth into the knowledge of mankind. But the ignorance of making seems to have been too great even for him. Men have conveniently packed him up in to a limited period in history and thought that he had once suffered for them and that he no longer does. The testiomony of all great saints and prophets like the Buddha and Vivekananda shows that they have to suffer till the last creature in creation is ultimately liberated from sin and ignorance. But men find it quite Christian to vilify, kill and hate one another, in the name of such holy ones by raising
one Godman’s name against that of another. Yet the holy ones hold on and continue to draw the ignorant mortals to the shore. What grace, compassion and tenacity are theirs!
Mrs. Hansraj says, “Sai Baba, while he was all along living at Shirdi itself, should suddenly declare, ‘I am just back from Varanasi after a holy dip in Ganga. Why do I want a bath here’ Or ‘I have just now returned from Kolhapur and Audumbarwadi.’ ”
Baba’s omnipresence extends even to things. Balabua Sutur of Bombay was a famous saint who by his melodious and ecstatic bhajans, earned the title of ‘Modern Tukaram’. He came to Shirdi for the first time in 1917 and bowed before Sai Baba. Baba said to the others, “I know this man for the last four years”. Balabua remembered that exactly four years earlier, he prostrated before Baba’s photograph in Bombay. What an immense assurance for us today!
Babasaheb Tarkhad of Bandra was a Prarthana Samajist. His wife and son were ardent devotees of Baba. Once, during the May vacation, Master Tarkhad was asked to accompany his mother to Shirdi. But he was reluctant to go; because his daily worship of Baba’s photograph at home would suffer and his father, being a Prarthana Samajist, may not care to worship it in his absence. Knowing his fears, Mr. Tarkhad solemnly promised him that he would conduct the daily worship on his behalf. After extracting an oath from his father, Mrs. and Master Tarkhad left for Shirdi on a Friday night. During the next three days Mr. Tarkhad performed the worship scrupulously. Everyday he offered sugar as naivedya to Baba’s photograph and the same was distributed to all at lunch by the cook. On Tuesday he conducted the puja and rushed to his office as usual but in his hurry to attend the office in time, he forgot to offer naivedya to Baba’s picture that day. Later Tarkhad was shocked at his grave lapse. After lunch, he wrote a letter to his son at Shirdi confessing his lapse, praying for Baba’s pardon and promising that he would not repeat the error.
The same day (i.e., Tuesday), at Shirdi, Sai Baba said to Mrs. Tarkhad, “Mother, I was very hungry. I had been to your house at Bandra hoping to find there something to eat. I found the door locked. Yet I managed to enter the room. But I found that Bhau (i.e., Mr. Tarkhad ) had not kept anything for me to eat. So I have returned unappeased.”
The lady could not understand his words. But Master Tarkhad at once realized that there was some error in his father’s worship at Bandra. So he requested Baba to permit him to return to take care of the worship himself. Baba refused to give the necessary permission and asked him to perform the puja there itself.
After the noon-arati, Master Tarkhad promptly wrote a letter to his father at Bandra, conveying to him the words of Baba and requesting him to see that there were no lapses in the worship. The father’s letter reached the son and the son’s reached the father at the same time. Thus the literal identity of Baba with his picture was established. Who can raise his finger against image and idol worship?
On a full moon day in 1917, Sai Baba appeared to Hemadpanth in his dream as a well dressed sannyasi, woke him up and told him that he was going to be their guest that day. Strangely enough this act of Baba waking Hemadpanth was a part of the dream! Soon Hemadpanth woke up. He knew very well that Baba would not go to anyone’s house for meal. Yet the dream had a compulsive force about it so that Hemadpanth could not but take it seriously. So he told his wife that Sai Baba would be their guest that day she wondered how Baba would come all the way to Bandra. Yet she made the necessary preparations.
After the noon worship lunch was being arranged. Hemadpanth was anxiously watching how Baba was going to turn up. When every thing was ready they heard the sound of footsteps on the stair-case. Hemadpanth immediately opened the door. There were two persons, moslems – Ali Mohammad and Moulana Ismu Mujavar. The visitors apologised to them for disturbing at the lunch hour and, handing him some packet, said “Please take this; we have brought it for you. We shall meet you later and recount the wonderful story behind it.”
When the visitors went away, Hemadpanth found that it was a nice picture of Sai Baba. Lo! There came Sai Baba as his guest, punctually at the lunch hour! Hemadpanth’s joy knew no bounds. With tears of joy in his eyes he placed the picture on the central seat reserved for the chief guest at lunch. After duly worshipping it and offering naivedya, the whole family finished their lunch. In the light of the experience of Balabua Sutar and the Tarkhad family, this event cannot be brushed aside as a mere coincidence.
Nine years later Ali Mohammed met Hemadpanth and related the story as follows:-
Ali Mohammed kept pictures of great saints like Tajuddin Baba, Moulanasaheb, Mohammed Hussein and Sai Baba in his house at Bandra and worshipped them. Once his brother-in-law, Nur Mohammed Peerbhoy presented copies of the photograph of his own guru, Saint Abdul Rahman to his friends and he gave one to Ali Mohammed. The latter kept the picture along with those of others at his house three months before Ali Mohammed’s visit to Hemadpanth house, the former underwent an operation for abcess on his leg and was bed-ridden at Nur Mohammed’s house in Bombay. About this time, Nur Mohammed someday presented a copy of the photograph of his guru, Saint Abdul Rahman to the guru himself. Abdul Rahman, being an orthodox Moslem, disapproved of image worship. So, he grew wild for worshipping his photograph and drove him out. Nur Mohammad was shocked to see that what he did was a piece of heresy. So he at once took back all the copies of the photographs which he had distributed among his friends and got them thrown into the sea through a fisherman at Bandra. He also pressed Ali Mohammad to follow suit. Ali Mohammed had got all the pictures in his house at Bandra thrown into the sea through his manager.
After two months Ali Mohammed returned to Bandra and was amazed to find in his house the picture of Sai Baba safely resting against the wall! For his manager was ordered to throw away all the pictures in the house. How did Sai Baba’s photograph alone manage to be there? At once he kept it in his cupboard lest his brother-in-law might see it and throw it away. When he was thinking how to save it from destruction, it occurred to him – probably Baba had inspired the idea- that he should seek Moulana Ismu Mujavar’s counsel. The latter suggested that the best thing would be to give it to Hemadpanth who, being a staunch devotee of Sai Baba, Would take proper care of it. So it was that picture that arrived at Hemadpanth house punctually on time for lunch and Sai Baba told him of his arrival in advance. A little thought as to why the other moslem saints allowed their pictures to be thrown away while Baba did not? The answer is simple. The other saints were chiefly moslems and as upholders of Islamic principles they did not want their pictures to be worshipped. But Sai Baba who identified himself with all religions, did not mind his picture being worshipped. As moslems, Ali Mohammed and Nur Mohammed were absolutely right in removing the pictures from their worship. It is no sin. For Baba wanted every one to follow his own path. And quite as legitimately, a Hindu devotee could worship the same and benefit equally by thus following his own religion. This explains Sai Baba’s announcement to Hemadpanth that he was going to visit his house, and Baba’s picture escaping the fate of all the other pictures.
The mission of the other saints mentioned above was to uplift Islam just as Shankara and Ramanuja were born to uplift Hinduism. Sai Baba’s mission was different. His is the religion of tomorrow, if mankind has a future. If it has no future, Sai Baba’s is the only possible way of ensuring it. Each has to follow his own path with the realization that other paths are equally valid to their followers. Sai Baba himself is the assurance to show that all of them are equally valid. Many were the orthodox moslems and Hindus that attained spiritual perfection under his guidance. None of the world’s religions is bad or imperfect; their narrow, proselytizing attitudes, their intolerance and dogmatism are bad, bad not only to others but to themselves too. For, intolerance and rivalry are the life breath of politics of destruction; they are an expression of the lingering beastly instincts of a stone age man. Devoid of these evils all religions are the very blue-prints of a future mankind of supermen. And Sai Baba, in the tradition of Kabir, is the surest guarantee of this truth which no one who has eyes encouraged everyone to follow his own way and helped everyone to get out of pitfalls which he encountered him. Returning to our main theme –
Kakasaheb Dixit once came to Shirdi to invite Sai Baba to his son’s sacred-thread ceremony at Nagpur. Nanasheb Chandorkar too arrived there to invite Baba to his son’s marriage at Gwalior. Sai Baba told both of them to take Shama with them as his representative and assured them that after visiting Banaras and Prayag he would be ‘ahead of Shama’.
Then Shama started and, after attending the two functions at Nagpur and Gwalior, he visited the holy-places Banaras and Ayodhya. He spent twenty one days at Ayodhya and two months in Banaras. Then he went to Gaya and stayed in the house of a priest. When the Shirdi party arrived there, a big photograph of Baba was there, fixed in the central hall. Shama was overwhelmed by Baba’s love and his eyes were brimmed with tears. He was told that, the priest visited Shirdi twelve years earlier. There at the house of Shama, he saw a big photograph of Sai Baba which he loved to possess. When shama asked Baba whether he should give the picture to the visitor, Baba told Shama to do so. And thus it came to Gaya, years ahead of Shama. And strangely enough Shama happened to stay at the same priest’s house. And Baba knew of this far ahead. The devotee could realize the literal truth of Baba’s assurance that he would be ahead of him. Till Shama saw the picture, neither he nor the priest remembered anything of their previous acquaintance with each other.
It is not as though Baba’s picture is a living force only to those who were his staunch devotees. It is so even with others.
Kaka Maharaj of Dhopeswar was a famous saint. When he once visited Poona, he was surrounded by a crowd of
his devotees; every one of them requested him to come to his house for dinner. Among them was Sai Baba’s devotee, H.V. Sathe. The Maharaj told him that he could not oblige him. But by evening the great saint had himself sent word to Sathe that he would visit his house! Sathe who received the message to his office, at once returned to his house and made the necessary arrangements. When finally Kaka Maharaj visited his house, Sathe asked him why he changed his earlier resolve. Kaka Maharaj pointed to the photograph of Baba in the house and said, “He would not allow me to rest till I visited you!”