St. Simeon writes in the Philokalia, “The Saints…are linked together and united by the Holy Spirit… A man who does not express the desire to link himself to the latest of the saints (in time) in all love and humility, owing to a certain distrust of him, will never be linked with the preceding saints and will not be admitted to their succession, eventhough he thinks that he possesses all possible faith and love for God and for all his saints”.
Thus the account of Sai Baba’s life affords us a close view of this aspect of the lives of god men like Jesus Christ. Christ for instance, gave his followers a vision of Elija and Moses in himself.
Sai Baba and Narasinga Maharaj
Narasinga Maharaj was a great saint of Nasik and was a contemporary of Sai Baba. The two saints, like all great saints, experienced an inner at-one-ment and acted in unison. One was constantly aware of what the other was
doing though they were separated by a considerable physical distance.
Hansraj of Sakori was a devote of both the saints. He was suffering from asthma and he also had no issue even
years after his marriage. When he approached Narasinga Maharaj for blessing the latter told Hansaraj that his body was obsessed by a spirit which was preventing the birth of children. Narasinga Maharaj advised him to go to Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi who would give him two slaps and hereby exorcise the spirit. Accordingly Mrs. And Mr. Hansaraj visited Sai Baba in 1916. When they bowed to Sai Baba in the mosque, Baba slapped Hansaraj twice and said “Evil spirit get away!” Later the pair was blessed with offspring!
In 1917 Haribhau Karnik of Dahanu visited Sai Baba on the holy Guru Purnima day and worshipped him in the morning. In the afternoon he took leave of Sai Baba and was getting down the steps of the mosque when he had a sudden impulse to offer Re.1/- as dakshina to Sai Baba. When he was about to turn round, Shama told him that none should see Baba again, once leave was taken of him. So Karnik started home. On the way he visited the temple of Kalarama at Nasik. Sri Narasinga Maharaj who was seated with a number of his devotees near the gate in the temple suddenly stepped towards Haribhau and, holding
him by his hand said, “Give me my one rupee!” Karnik was at first surprise but he paid the rupee most willingly. At once it flashed in his mind that through Narasinga Maharaj, Sai Baba himself received Re.1/- which he wished to offer.
Ruttonji Shapurji Wadia was a wealthy mill owner of Nanded. He had no issue. Ganu, a local devotee of Sai Baba advised him to seek Sai Baba’s blessings. Shortly after, Ruttonji visited Sai Baba with gifts and, after bowing to his feet, expressed his wish. Sai Baba at once asked him for dakshina of Rs.5/-. When Ruttonji took out the amount readily, Sai Baba said that as he had already received Rs.3-14-0, he needed only the balance of Rs.1-2-0 to Baba. Ruttonji gave Rs.1-2-0 to Baba. Baba blessed him saying that Allah would satisfy his heart’s desire.
Ruttonji returned to Nanded with joy but he could not at all understand how Sai Baba could ever have received
Rs. 3-14-0 from him earlier, for his visit to Shirdi was the first ever. He asked Das Ganu for clarification. Das Ganu thought about it a while and remembered that one day Ruttonji offered his hospitality to a moulvi. When Das Ganu said that Sai Baba received Rs. 3-14-0 through the moulvi, Ruttonji calculated the value of the things offered to her latter and it amounted precisely to Rs.3-14-0! In course of time, Ruttonji had as many as twelve issues of which four survived.
The Swami of Akkalkot, one of the greatest saints of India is considered as the incarnation of Lord Dattatreya. He
granted the highest spiritual experience to many of his visitors and made them very great saints.1 He lived at Akkalkot (Maharastra) from 1856 to 1878. When he was about to attain mahasmadhi in 1878, one of his devotees, Keshav Naik of Tardev said to him, with tears in his eyes, “Maharaj, if you go away, what support have we?” The Maharaj gave him padukas to Keshav Naik to be worshipped as his representatives and said, “My manifestation will be at Shirdi in Ahmednagar district. Go there always. Be devoted to him. If you do so, you will not suffer my absence. And you will be happy.”
When Akkalakot Maharaj passed away, Keshav Naik and his son Ramachandra Naik, accompanied by two orthodox
brahmins, went to Shirdi. On the way the brahmins spoke ill of Sai Baba, calling him a moslem and a mad fakir and said that a brahmin should not bow to him. When they all arrived at the mosque at Shirdi, Sai Baba said to Keshav Naik, “You and your son may come and visit me if you like. The two others are karmatha brahmins (zealots.)”
Then Sai Baba asked Keshav Naik to fetch some margosa leaves and distributed the same to all the four and asked
them to tell him how they tasted. The two brahmins found the leaves unusually bitter and the Naiks found them
sweet! Thus Baba separated the grains from the chaff and confirmed the statement of the late Akkalkot Maharaj to
the Naiks that he was the manifestation of their former guru.
Harischandra Pitale of Bombay had a son who suffered from epileptic fits. On the advice of his friends he took the
boy to Shirdi and by Sai Baba’s grace the boy was gradually cured. After spending some days in Baba’s blessed presence, the Pitale family sought his permission to return home. Then Baba called Pitale near and said “Bapu, I have given you Rs. 2/- earlier. Now I give you Rs. 3/- Keep these also in your shrine and worship them. You will be much benefited.” Pitale received the gift, and returned home.
The Pitales considered themselves blessed by their visit to Shirdi but could not understand how Baba could have
given them Rs. 2/- earlier; for that was their first visit ever to Shirdi! Pitale’s mother, after cool reflection said, “Just as you have visited Sai Baba with your wife and son, so did your father visit the great Maharaj of Akkalkot when you were a small child. That Swami blessed your father and gave Rs. 2/- and told him to keep them in his worship. Your father worshipped them carefully till his death. Thereafter the worship was neglected and the two rupees could not be found. Now it is clear that the same Maharaj has manifested himself in the form of Sai Baba and gave you the clue to recognize him as such and blessed you with Rs. 3/- more.” Harischandra Pitale’s joy knew no bounds. He realized that saints not only bless their devotees but care for their children also.
A devotee by name Bhai Krishnaji Alibagkar worshipped the photograph of Akkalkot Maharaj. Once when he was planning to go to Akkalkot, the Swami of Akkalkot appeared in his dream at night and said, “Now I am at Shirdi. Go there.” So Bhai went to Shirdi and worshipped Baba and stayed there for six months. As a memento of his dream-vision, he prepared stone padukas and installed them under the neem tree (under which Sai Baba sat before he resorted to the musjid) in 1912 . Upassani Maharaj who was Sai Baba’s devotee was at Shirdi at that time and he wrote a beautiful verse in Sanskrit on Sai Baba which is inscribed on the pedestal of the padukas. The padukas can be seen even today.
At the end of his stay at Shirdi, Bhai once again longed to visit Akkalkot. When he sought Sai Baba’s permission he said, “What is there at Akkalkot? That Maharaj is here now in my form! Why go there now?”
Once Sai Baba gave jog the darshan of Akkalkot Swami in himself.
Sridhar Narayan Kharkar of Thana was given a picture of Baba and his udi when he was ill and the next day he recovered! Faith thus struck root in his heart. But a doubt arose in his mind whether he could keep a Moslem saint’s (i.e. Baba’s) photograph by the side of the picture of Akkalkot Maharaj. That night he had a dream in which a fakir, robed like Sai Baba, came towards the verandah where he (Kharkar) and his friend were sitting. Kharkar stood up to welcome the fakir. Then his companion said to him, “This fakir (Sai Baba) is not different from the Swami of Akkalkot” and told him to treat both the saints with equal regard. The next morning Kharkar kept both the photographs together in the shrine and worshipped them.
Guru Gholap Maharaj
Moolay Sastri was an orthodox brahmin, well versed in astrology and sastras. Once he came to Shirdi to see the millionaire of Nagpur, Bapusaheb Buty, who was a great devotee of Sai Baba. After meeting Buty, Moolay Sastri and others went to the musjid to see Sai Baba. Baba bought fruits with his own money and distributed the same to all the devotees. Moolay Sastri requested Baba to permit him to read his (Baba’s) palm. But Baba ignored his request and gave him four bananas.
All the devotees later returned to the wada. Moolay Sastri took his bath and started his daily devotions like agnihotra (keeping the sacred fire) etc.
Baba started on his stroll to Lendi and said to those at the mosque, “Get some saffron dye (gerua); today we shall put on ochre robes!” No one understood the real significance of Baba’s words. For Baba never wore a saffron robe.
At noon Baba sat on his gaddi and the arti commenced. Then he said to Buty, “Go and get some dakshina from that brahmin of Nasik”. Buty conveyed Baba’s demand for dakshina to Moolay Sastri and he was puzzled. For he was a pious brahmin while Baba was a moslem and he was not, after all, Baba’s disciple! Why should he offer dakshina to him? But he could not refuse to give it either. For Baba was a great saint and Buty, his friend and millionaire. So
reluctantly he left off his daily observances and at once proceeded to the musjid.
When they reached Dwarakamai, Moolay Sastri remained a little away from it; for it was a mosque; and he was pure after his bath and worship. From there he threw flowers at Baba and joined his hands in salutation. And lo, in the musjid it was not Sai Baba that was seated. He saw his late Guru Gholap Swami there! He was speechless for a few moments with wonder and joy. He at once ran into the mosque and fell at his guru’s feet. While the whole congregation was chanting the arti of Sai Baba, he was ecstatically calling out his guru’s name. Standing there with folded hands, he closed his eyes in bliss. When he again opened his eyes, he saw not his guru but Sai Baba asking him for dakshina! Seeing Baba’s real nature, Moolay Sastri completely forgot his pride of caste and learning. With tears of joy in his eyes, he gladly offered his dakshina. It was only then that the devotees understood the real significance of Baba’s earlier statement, “Today we shall put on the saffron colored robes”. Baba obviously meant that he was going to demonstrate his identity with an ochre-robed guru. Sai Baba was one with all Gurus! For we have already noted in the chapter “Call of the Guru” that Sai Baba identified himself with the sadhu of Tapovan whom Govind Upasani Sastry had met before visiting Shirdi.
Guru Raghunath Maharaj
One Dr. Pandit came along with Dadabhat to the mosque. Usually, except Mahalsapathy no one else was permitted
by Baba to apply sandal plate to his body. Even Mahalsapathy applied it to Baba’s throat only. But on this occasion, when Dadabhat was worshipping Baba, Dr. Pandit took sandal paste from the plate with his fingers and applied it to Baba’s forehead in the form of the tripundra. Everyone thought that Baba would flare up in rage; but to the surprise of all he meekly allowed Dr. Pandit to do what no one else was allowed to do, Baba said, “In me he was visualizing his own guru Raghunath Maharaj and was worshipping him through me as was his wont. How, then, could I object to it?” On enquiry Dr. Pandit confirmed Baba’s statement and was himself thrilled with joy to know that Baba was aware of his attitude.
In 1908, during the holy chaturmasya (rainy four-month period) Mrs. Chandrabai Borkar was at Kopergaon. Once, a fakir asked her for garlic chutney and roti. She said that she does not prepare it during the holy months and the fakir left. Later, when she visited Shirdi, Sai said, “You’ve not given me garlic chutney and roti. Why have you come here?” She replied, “I’ve come to offer it” Baba then said to the others, “She has been my sister for the last seven births!”
Sri Manik Prabhu
Sai affirmed his identity with saints of yore. One day, he said that he was once forced by six moslems to partake of mutton. He protested that as a brahmin, he was forbidden from eating it, but they did not relent. Then he covered the mutton with a cloth and prayed to God. At once it was transformed into roses, each as big as the palm of one’s hand. Evidently, Sai was identifying himself with the great saint Sri Manik Prabhu, the third incarnation of Lord Datta, in whose biography is found this incident.
A Great Moslem Saint of Emperor Humayun’s time
Mr. Kolhatkar reports a very interesting fact in his book on Sai Baba.
One day Sai said, “Long ago, I worked, ate and slept in the house of a good brahmin at Paithan. Only Allah knows
where he is. I was there even 1,000 years earlier! Once I lived happily at Prayag. I was old and used to smoke. One day, a brahmin with a veena in his hand, came to me and told me that a brahmin celebate named Mukunda was practicing austerities and said, “Tell him to be patient and that his tapas will soon bear fruit.” When I went to his retreat, Mukund and his dispciples grew wild and said, “A moslem like you should not step in here. We’ll immolate ourselves in protest and the sin will light on you!” “Do as you like, Allah Malik!” I said and left. At the market place, I saw a young royal couple, evidently in exile, with three attendants. They were begging for water to drink. I gave them water from my kamandala. The princess drank it and sought my blessing. I blessed them and said, “Go to Amarkota. You’ll have a son who will become a king. I too shall go there!” So they left. After wandering little, I too reached there and learned of the birth of a son named
Jalaluddin Mohammad to the prince. He is the famous Akbar.” Obviously,Sai identified himself with a Moslem saint of the Mughal period. Mughal historian Billigrami’s chronicle does contain facts corroborating Sai’s story.
Sri Narasimha Saraswathi
One Sindhia had only daughters. In 1903, he visited Gangapur and vowed that if he were blessed with a son, he
would take the child there for darshan. Within a year he had a son, but he neglected the vow. In 1911, when he visited Shirdi, Sai bawled out in a rage, “Are you proud of having a son? There was no male issue in your destiny. I tore a piece of my flesh and gave you one!” Sindhia realized that Sai was one with Sri Narasimha Saraswathi of Gangapur, the second avatar of Lord Dattatreya (1458 AD).
Sai demonstrated his essential one-ness with the great saints of later times. Sadasiv of Harda was very much
dejected after Sai’s mahasamadhi in 1918. One night Sai appeared in his dream and said, “Now I am at
Saikheda. Come for darshan.” At that time, saint Sri Dhunivala Dada was living there. Sadasiv went for his darshan and saw Sai seated in the place of Sri Dada. Henceforth, he looked upon the latter as the living form of Sai.
See the ‘The Supreme Master’ by the author