Can you believe it? A quarter of our journey together for a deeper level understanding of the Sai Satcharita has been accomplished! What a sense of growth and fulfilment! It’s Chapter 13 today. And this one can be nothing if not full of luck, promise and assurance for its readers. How so? Do read further.
The book: Shree Sai Satcharita Author: Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant alias Annasaheb
Chapter 13. The Cure of Bhimaji’s Tuberculosis
Summary: The spirit of Chapter 13 rests in the word HEALER which Baba truly is. He heals both physical ailments that mitigate our progress as well as the emotional ones which slow down our spiritual growth.
Hemadpant narrates some truly spectacular healing strategies that Sai Baba used to relieve the bhakts of their distress and pain. Baba treated sickness ranging from life-threatening diseases like tuberculosis to piles and dysentery in His own unique manner.
Anna Saheb begins with the story of Bhimaji Patil’s tuberculosis and ends the chapter with it too; other narrations adorn the space between these two ends. Bhimaji was severely afflicted by TB and he spat blood every few minutes. Ravaged by high fever, bouts of cough and spells of vomiting blood, the man had lost all interest in life. At the brink of his tolerance, he wrote in despair to his friend Nana Saheb Chandorkar. Nana was deeply moved by his friend’s letter. He wrote back about a single but sure-fire cure, that of “Surrender at Sai’s feet” (Ovi 57) and “Take Sai’s darshan” (Ovi 60). Immediately after receiving Nana’s letter, Bhimaji travelled to Shirdi. Baba’s darshan, His divine countenance soothed; he placed his head at Baba’s feet. He wasn’t even deterred when Baba questioned Shama, Madhav Rao, why he brought such ‘scoundrels’ and “dump them on me”. (It was Madhav Rao who had brought Bhimaji to Baba’s presence. Nana Saheb was also in Dwarkamayi then). In a few moments, Sai melted. Lovingly, he asked Bhimaji to rest and recuperate in Bhima Bai’s house. The house had a damp floor and hence would be regarded unfit for a TB patient, yet Bhimaji opted to keep faith and do as Baba advised. Just a glance from Baba was helping him gain strength. His rare remedy would definitely cure him. Such was Bhimaji’s belief.
A few days into his visit, the suffering Bhimaji had a dream in which he saw his school master beating him black and blue over not being able to learn a poem. A poem? Don’t be stunned by its contents! It was about a wife’s wifely duties and how she ought to serve her husband. The first dream melted into a second. Bhimaji felt someone sitting on his chest and using it as a grindstone. The man began grinding his chest vigorously with a roller stone, almost choking him. After the second dream, Bhimaji drifted into a peaceful sleep. On waking up, he felt extraordinarily energetic and rejuvenated. The incessant coughing, bouts of bloody phlegm stopped miraculously. What couldn’t be cured with diverse and prolonged medication had been cured by Baba’s grace. Bhimaji began visiting Shirdi quite often, thereafter.
Baba says, “ ‘If you recite Sai, Sai’ always I will take you beyond the seven seas” (Ovi 12)
Other stories divide the Bhimaji experience into two. These occurrences include some of the people cured of their perennial ailments. A Swami from Alandi (Pune) was cured of his acute earache and consequent insomnia without having to undergo the advised surgery after Baba’s darshan. Kaka Mahajani’s fortnight-long loose motions stopped when Baba himself shelled, dusted groundnuts and gave him to eat. Can’t believe this? Wait till you read more!
Anna Saheb tells us how Baba cured Dattopant’s shooting stomach pain which had been bothering him since fourteen long years with a single loving glance, applying vibuti and placing His loving hand of blessing on the man’s head. The next will truly flummox us: Bala Ganpat, a tailor’s recurrent malaria was cured when he fed rice and curds to a black dog near the temple of Ma Lakshmi, as per Sai’s advice. You might be stunned by Baba’s treatment of Bapu Saheb Buti’s diarrhoea and vomiting. While none of Dr Pillay’s cures worked, Baba’s remedy of feeding him an “infusion of milk, boiled with almonds, walnuts and pistachios” worked wonders and the long-suffering man had respite!
Beginning to have doubts? Well, Anna Saheb has something for you: You may think these stories are deviations……..In any case, it is Sai who reminded me of it.” (Ovi 86) He goes on to add, “’I will tell my own story’. Sai Himself has said this……” (Ovi 87)
Kaka Mahajani’s experience is a part of a very engaging incident related to renovating the masjid. Bhakts longed to refurbish the crumbling masjid but without Baba’s consent that wasn’t possible. With difficulty and continued persistence Baba relented one day even suggesting that the work begin right after he returned from his daily walk to the Lendi Baug. Bhakts waited excitedly and as soon as Baba came back, the labourer was summoned. However, no sooner than the pickaxe made contact with the floor Baba flew into a rage. He hollered, picked up his satka and ran after the devotees, who used to such transformations, scampered away to safety. Anyone who dared to come close to the stairs of the masjid was greeted with a volley of abuses. This included Shama! The only one who couldn’t escape this apparently threatening scenario was Kaka Mahajani whom Baba had signalled to sit. Demurely, Kaka sat in a corner witnessing the debacle unfold before him. Baba even shook a finger at him saying he couldn’t go to pass motions anymore. Subdued, Kaka Mahajani sat quietly waiting for Sai Leela to unfold further. Shortly, Baba calmed down, the people returned, and the labourer resumed work! All in a span of a few minutes! And what did Baba do? He picked up the sack of peanuts dropped by a fleeing devotee, took some out, shelled and dusted them and began feeding Kaka! Demurely, Kaka began eating the peanuts and this continued till 5 seers of peanuts were finished. Occasionally Baba too took a handful of peanuts and ate them. What of the upset stomach? Cured! In this astonishingly uncommon way. As soon as Baba commanded Kaka not to go anywhere, the pain in his stomach began subsiding. Sai Leela is truly enthralling. And living with Him in Shirdi must have been an experience one couldn’t forget over lifetimes!
Interpretation: Although the Title, focuses on the cure of a single individual Bhimaji, Hemadpant tells us about different afflictions cured by Baba in His unique manner. Let us consider one story at a time.
Bhimaji first. TB and damp floor? The Gods can do the impossible, the unlikely, even that which defies human understanding. The moment one searches for logic the connect between the divine and human snaps! Guru and God can do what is beyond the very imagination of man. Key learning? TRUST! Bhimaji was a first time visitor but had complete faith that Baba would cure him. And this trust, ensured he was!
So it was for Kaka Mahajani and Bapusaheb Buti. They had accepted Baba as their Guru as an inherent part of their life and had surrendered in entirety to HIM! The faith healed them of their chronic stomach concern.
The third learning is obedience. Doing as Baba bid without giving a second thought to it. Absolute obedience helped Bhimaji, Kaka and Buti. Can damp floor or groundnuts or milk and dry fruits infusion be remedies? Maybe. But the medication had more to do with belief and surrender than with these medications. A case in point is that of Madhav Rao who was affected by piles. Baba gave him a concoction of senna pods. Shama was cured. However, when the problem recurred and Shama took the same concoction on his own, it had little effect. (footnote 6) Why so? It was the Guru’s touch, his loving grace and his kindness that helped to transform any ordinary substance into a miracle cure. It was His blessing! And that’s where the miracle rested. Absolute recovery depends on absolute faith!
Consider the case of the tailor Bala. What can feeding a black dog curd-rice have to do with eradicating malaria? Nothing! Or again, everything! In belief, in compliance rested the cure of the affliction.
Perhaps, by suggesting these unconventional methods of medication, Baba was testing the faith of His. He wanted to find out if they accept the advice and take it through or would they allow their own rational thinking to overpower their belief. Would they ridicule the unusual or would they submit to the divine will? The moment a devotee begins to think about things other than God and Guru, it is an indication of declining faith.
What was the significance of Bhimaji’s dreams? The first dream of being thrashed might as well have tested if he could take the rigors involved in true worship; could also be about thrashing the very germs of TB away. And Bhimaji not learning the poem of the wife by heart. Could it be an indication of the sincerity in devotion expected of a bhakt? Inability to do so is liable to some sort of consequence which would be unpleasant, like the thrashing? Again, not being in a Guru’s company would make life difficult for an individual and to enjoy this proximity intense dedication is mandatory! The second dream of grinding had to do with grinding the virus, the bad karmas and all vices into particles so tiny they could be whisked away with the power of bhakti.
Time to reflect on Baba’s wrath. Off and on the Shirdi residents experienced such transformations when Sai resembled Narsimha Himself. Why did Baba get enraged? It may have been to drive away the hindrances that could mar the work undertaken by bhakts, it could also be to test the courage and strength of his bhakts, and it was certainly about scaring away the negative spirits and influences! The mango blossoms which could withstand the storm would eventually bear fruit. These ones knew Sai never meant any harm. The virus that had Kaka in its grip while he was overseeing the work of the masjid was driven away. Interestingly, unlike in other stories, Kaka did not approach Baba for help; instead, he said that omniscient Baba should be aware of the sickness and hence cure him. And so all-knowing Sai did! 😊
Chapter 13 is about Baba’s infinite love❤ and kindness, His inability to see any devotee in trouble and Him removing obstacles. His benediction when we hear his stories that are “sacred and purifying like the holy water of the Ganges” (Ovi 21) and are comparable to “nectar” which is said to “save life” yet cannot be sweeter than Sai Leela, his stories, which “give freedom from the cycle of birth and death.” (Ovi 22)
PS: Has this journey helped you? Would you like to suggest some changes?😊 Please do. 🙏 In the comments section below.