The book: Shree Sai Satcharita Author: Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant alias Annasaheb
Chapter 11 The Description of Sree Sai’s Greatness.
SUMMARY: Friends, let’s begin the summary with the strong point Hemadpant makes at the end of this chapter: Read this chapter regularly, “with faith and devotion” (Ovi 150) and in doing so often we would be doing “Sai Parayan” and would thus attain “Brahman”. (Ovi 151) Let’s explore this idea later, under Interpretation.
In the opening statement, however, Hemadpant makes it clear: “This is the continuation of the previous narration-Baba’s sleeping on a narrow plank–…” (Ovi 1). The writer describes Baba’s Greatness, His kindness and benevolence, and narrates four stories.
Mostly, we need a form to worship effectively. Anna Saheb states this fact echoing our inherent sentiments. The abstract is not for us because it is not easy to pray with the inner mind. Baba understood this human shortcoming quite well. Our way of worshipping a deity or a Guru entails offering Kumkum and rice, applying sandalwood paste, offering flowers, Prasad and more. Without these, we feel handicapped. Yet Baba, says Anna Saheb, encouraged the formless worship. He adopted different strategies, with different devotees. Some were sent on a tour, others to the Wada to read a specified religious text. Some were asked to meditate and others to sing bhajans. Baba repeatedly indicated the temporary, perishable nature of the body. Worshipping the formless is essential to making God an inherent part of a bhakt’s life. He ought to remember God, whether asleep or awake, eating or bathing, resting or working! Hemadpant shares a beautiful analogy to explain: “Though frozen, it is ghee only, and when it melts it is also called ghee.” (Ovi 14) [i.e. no matter which form solid or liquid the inherent nature of the ghee remains the same.]
Anna Saheb strongly recommends absolute surrender to the Guru, with a drive towards achieving the eternal, that is God. To achieve such intensity and depth in devotion, one definitely needs the company and guidance of a saint or guru who is “beyond pleasures and pain”, (Ovi 34) is “the glorious form of inner bliss” (Ovi 35) and is the “incarnation of Brahman”.(Ovi 35) To authenticate his words, Dabholkar cites what Krishna said to Uddhav: “One who completely surrenders to the Saints, I also bow down to his feet.” So, even Gods acknowledge and respect those who accept the supremacy of a Guru.
Anna Saheb tells us truly engaging stories about Baba controlling a storm on one occasion and an intense fire on another. A third incident pertaining to an elderly haji who was constantly refused permission for darshan deserves much exploration. The fourth one is a beautiful illustration of the miraculous nature of pure love.
Let’s zoom into the fourth: Once Tatyasaheb Noolkar, Baba’s bhakt from Mumbai came to Shirdi with his friend Dr Pandit. Soon after darshan, Baba asked Dr. Pandit to meet Dada Bhat, pointing the way to Dada’s house. Pandit, a first-time visitor was welcomed warmly by Dada. Some conversation and refreshments later, the two men approached Baba. A thali (plate) of prayer articles in his hand, Dada began his daily ritual of worshipping Baba. Something unexpected happened! Pandit snatched the puja thali from Dada and dipping three fingers in sandalwood paste applied the tripunda (tilak of three parallel lines) to Baba’s forehead. This was a blasphemous first! No one had ever been given permission to put a mark on Sai’s head. So the onlookers expected Baba to burst into a fiery rage. To their amazement, Baba merely smiled. It was the turn of the daily worshippers to react to this occurrence. Dada felt rather hurt. Despite worshipping Baba for days he had never been permitted to apply tilak. He got his chance to air his thoughts to Sai during the evening gathering. Baba’s “unusual behaviour” (Ovi 60) and his “inconsistency” which had irked the elderly man was raised! But Baba, an image of composure, responded lovingly: No thoughts about being a staunch Brahmin himself while Baba was a Muslim had come to Pandit. That is his mind was pure before applying the tripunda. So Baba was “ensnared” as well as “overwhelmed” and evidently had “no room to raise any objection”. (to the tripunda)
Baba’s response could not pacify Dada ! But his doubts were put to rest by Dr. Pandit. The doctor told Dada that he saw his own Guru Raghunath (Kaka Puranik) instead of Baba and was compelled to do what he did! Dada’s hurt reduced and he recalled Baba’s words: “I am under my devotee’s obligations. ….I am hungry for love….”(Ovi 76)
Next up is the occurrence when Dabholkar “was astounded to see Sai Samarth exercise His authority over clouds….” (Ovi 114) A fierce storm accompanied by heavy rains and hail lashed Shirdi. This led to flooding, destruction of the harvest and much havoc. The scared residents rushed to the masjid seeking refuge in Sai. They were stunned to see Baba standing up to shout loudly, over and above the threatening sound of thunder and lightning. Sai’s “bawling”(Ovi 131) increased in pitch with the rising winds. The help-seekers watched with mute respect; Anna Saheb watched the spectacle from under the eaves of the masjid. Soon the wind sobered, the rain-pelting transformed into a drizzle and the water receded. The weather Go, Indra had responded to Sai’s call. Everything under control, the residents returned to their respective homes.
Once it so happened that the flames of the dhuni rose higher and higher till they kissed the wooden ceiling. Baba was in His contemplative mood and none dared to disturb Him. Yet the fear of the fire burning down the masjid nagged them. As if responding to their unspoken fears, Baba’s hand extended to his satka (staff). Tapping the ground and the wooden pillar ahead of him with the staff, Baba compelled Agni or fire to lower its intensity and resume its original state!
But what had Haji Siddiqui Falke a resident of Kalyan (Mumbai) done to not get Baba’s darshan for nine long months? The Muslim resident had made a pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina a difficult journey in those days Falke stayed in the north-facing Chavadi, but Baba refused to meet him. They did not even exchange a glance when the old Haji stood outside the masjid! Finally, he took Shama’s help. Anna Saheb tells us that Shama was like the Nandi bull outside a Shiva temple whom we approach before taking Shiva’s darshan. Likewise, those seeking Baba went via Shama. Shama asked Baba why he was being so harsh on an old man even as hundreds of others were granted His divine darshan. Unfazed, Baba responded that it was impossible for Shama, whose milk teeth hadn’t fallen off, to understand everything.“Allah’s grace is not with him (haji Falke)…” (Ovi 96) “ and “I have no control over them” (Ovi 97)
In His unique manner, using Shama as His messenger Baba posed three questions to Haji Falke who sent his response to Baba via Shama. The final response upset the applecart. The haji said something about being happy with a morsel of food from Baba’s Kolumb (urn) and committed to absolute surrender. On hearing these words, Baba became livid. Lifting His kafni he ran towards the haji uttering what Hemadpant calls “unspeakable words”(Ovi 109) Baba asked, “ What do you think of yourself to be?….. (Ovi 107)… “You are giving yourself airs because of your age…… But you do not realise who I am.” (Ovi 108). But the soda bottle effervescence settled immediately. On his way back to Dwarkamayi Baba saw the gardener’s wife selling mangoes. He bought all the mangoes and sent them to the Haji. Then He Himself went to the Haji and counting one by one placed Rs. 55/- on the man’s hands! The past forgotten, the future and present became bliss for the old man! Haji Falke became a frequent visitor to Shirdi.
At the end, on a note of finality Hemadpant instructs the readers: So be it. Those devotees who desire to enjoy the bliss of Parmarth and perfect knowledge should read this chapter (11) repeatedly, with great respect.” (Ovi 153)
Let’s consider the last story first. Why did Baba deny the Haji darshan? Despite the man’s intense desire for darshan, Baba was upset with him. Was it some occurrence that had taken place in the past, his past life which neither Shama nor we know about and once Baba had expressed his anger, rather Allah’s annoyance, he accepted the man’s wish? Or could it be, that the man having accomplished Haj when it wasn’t easy, nurtured some pride (not evident to any others) that Sai did what he did to help him remain rooted? Would you like to share what you think of the matter? The writer a little lost! And then why nine months? What is the significance of nine? Just like the truth about the picture Baba sent to Hemadpant on the day of Holi revealed itself to the anxious man after nine long years? Two things come to mind. 1. Baba’s test of patience. How much could each one take? Was the person steadfast in his devotion? 2. Could it have something to do with the nine-fold path of worship?
The two stories about Baba controlling fire and rain speak of Baba’s immense powers, his spiritual strength, His connect with the divine and his tremendous love for his devotees for which he goes to any length. To keep them safe and secure, Baba could fight the very Gods themselves! These two stories also illustrate the devotees’ faith in their benefactor. They approached only Him there were multiple temples In Shirdi. So, why Baba? He rushes to help bhakts, ensures immediate and prompt redressal of a problem. Is it because of this Greatness that Baba is regarded as God incarnate? And Hemadpant asks us to read this Chapter 11 with due reverence and several times? Is it because Baba’s true Nature, His true essence, His real self unfurls itself in its full glory in these occurrences which the writer himself had the privilege of witnessing? Why so much stress on the reading of Chapter 11? Could it be that the writer decided to describe in detail those occurrences which mark Sai as God Himself in this particular auspicious numbered Chapter? Hemadpant does say that he wrote what Baba prompted and in that manner of speaking, Chapter 11 reveals Baba’s divinity, his overwhelming capacity to ensure his bhakts welfare and his strong and eternal presence in their lives in full measure as per Sai’s own will!
And what of the incident pertaining to Dada and Dr. Pandit? Perhaps Baba wanted to tell all those present that no obstacles remain between the pure of mind and Baba. Such worship is the most acceptable of all.
Inherent in the chapter is the nature of true worship, one that requires no paraphernalia, no externals, one that doesn’t seek a form of a God or Guru and at best remains a deeply internal matter. The road to pure bliss! 🙂 🙂
Baba Sai! Give Light to the path of true and pure worship!