Sai Satcharita! The ladder with steps leading to Baba Sai. The sacred book whose reading or even listening purifies the very soul. This Thursday we take the fourteenth step of this spiritual ladder. Today it’s Chapter Fourteen!
The book: Shree Sai Satcharita Author: Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant alias Annasaheb
Chapter 14: Ruttonji’s Meeting with Sai
Summary: With a powerful passionate intensity Hemadpant glorifies his Guru, Sai Baba. Every word of this chapter drips with love and strong emotions. Using Ruttonji’s experience as a medium Hemadpant spreads before his readers a beautiful map which shows the various steps and the precise direction that a bhakt needs to take in order to reach his Guru. Titled Ruttonji’s Meeting with Sai, this emotionally charged chapter details the benefits of listening to Sai Leela’s, the glory of saints and Gurus, how they connect in an ethereal world without a face to face meeting and the significance of dakshina. The story of a Parsi gentleman who had the privilege of wealth and riches but lacked a good night’s sleep is narrated in bits and pieces across the length of the writing, a sort of flag bearer of Anna Saheb’s devotion.
To showcase his fervour, Hemadpant calls out to Sai multiple times: “Hail, hail the boundless and Immanent One!” apprising the readers of Baba’s unlimited compassion as well as infinite presence. (Ovi 1)
Anna Saheb then queries, as if almost helplessly, “What can the speaker do?” (Ovi 12) “ If the listeners are not attentive, how will the speaker be inspired?” (Ovi 11) indirectly appealing to the readers to let their good sense prevail, for their own individual benefit. He tells his readers to take time to listen to Sai stories which are a treasure trove of wisdom and are nectar sweet. The stories help in dissipating all sins and ensure a comfortable passage through this life. The only expectation is to listen to these stories with love, with faith and with a heart full of devotion. It is necessary to become one with the Guru, to extinguish the lines of discrimination. It is this self-realisation that is a pre-requisite to true happiness, to salvation. To help understand his thought better, Hemadpant gives the example of how two different containers of pure water when mixed together blend to form a single homogenous whole leaving no traces of the original yet maintaining properties and qualities that of being pure, that of being liquid.
Anna Saheb adopts a frenetic tone that repeatedly urges, no, coaxes the listeners to pay heed, to pay utmost attention and maximise benefit through Baba’s stories. The writer comes across as a loving yet anxious father who wishes the welfare of his children (readers) and senses that though physically present at a religious ceremony, they have travelled away mentally, making their presence in the ceremony null and void. For what is worship without devotion. Description of Sai’s merciful glance, His loving kindness and generosity make the pages glitter and the words rise to meet the hungry eyes.
Anna Saheb picks up the thread of the main story Ruttonji’s Anubhav, leaving it to speak of Baba’s glory and inspire his readers to read more and more about Baba’s greatness. Finally, in Ovi 64 he begins the story by introducing Rutton ji as a rich and famous Parsi merchant of Nanded who had “every material possession” (Ovi 65) and was “endowed with wealth” (Ovi 70) but, the longing to have a son topples him into a depression. Dogged by misery of not having an heir to his vast riches, he turns to Das Ganu for help. Maharaj pointed towards the single direction he knew and followed for every concern- Shirdi. Bearing garlands and baskets of fruits, Sethji left for Shirdi almost immediately. With utmost piety and humility, he garlanded Baba and placed the fruits at Baba’s feet. Gradually, he opened his heart to Sai. Kind Baba let him know that his arrival was a little delayed yet despite that things would be fine once he gave whatever Dakshina he wanted! Could Sethji’s wishes remain unfulfilled Baba? He had taken the stairs of Dwarkamayi and it was Sai wish that he was there in his benevolent presence.
Right after this Anna Saheb launches into a description of the significance of Dakshina, justifying why Baba a sanyasi was accepting and taking Dakshina, how it all began despite Baba refusing any Dakshina during his initial stay in Shirdi. This explanation picks up steam when Hemadpant presents a series of questions as if on behalf of the readers, in a manner of both absolving Baba, answering the readers and presenting what scriptures and Vedas have to say about Dakshina. Baba had renounced the world and its ties, yet he accepted Dakshina! Why? It was most certainly not for himself. It was to give an opportunity to the devotees to make a contribution, learn selflessness, to be humble to understand that wealth needs to be shared, not hoarded. Dakshina is our expression of gratitude to the Maker for bestowing His bounty. Anna Saheb posts us about Baba’s pattern of receiving Dakshina. At first nothing, later Sai took only one paise as Dakshina and when the stream of visitors to Shirdi turned into a torrent, Malik began accepting and even asking for varied sums of money. The sum depended on one’s capacity to give and was based on what he needed to give back. Sometimes Baba sent a rich person to beg on His behalf, imparting a lesson in humility to the wealthiest. The money thus collected was given to Bade Baba (50%), used for buying wood for dhuni, oil for lamps and prasad and fruits for devotees. Not a paisa remained with Baba at the end of the day! He never had any need nor attraction for money.
Hemadpant cites from the Vedas and Shrutis to bring forth the significance of giving Dakshina, a mark both of reverence and gratitude to the Divine entities: God and Guru. As time proceeded, Sai bhakts too rejected the idea of going empty handed to the Guru; Baba relented to the growing insistence of bhakts. Yet, interestingly, he declined some offerings, yet surprisingly, of others, He asked multiple times; from some it would be a single rupee and from others anything from Rs 10 to a lakh! When it came to Ruttonji, Baba said, “You gave me Rupees three hundred and fourteen annas earlier. That I know. Out of the amount intended for me, give me only the balance. Give that to me as dakshina.” (Ovi 160)
Ruttonji was puzzled! How could he have given Baba any Dakshina when it was his first ever visit for his darshan? Nonplussed, he posed the question to Das Ganu once he returned home. Sethji shared his happiness after Baba’s darshan; yet this riddle baffled him. After much reflection, Ruttonji recalled Mauli Saheb’s visit. Mauli Saheb, worked as a coolie at the station but was known for his saintly ways. He was an Aulia known throughout Nanded. One day Mauli Saheb visited Ruttonji’s house. The host treated him with deep respect offering a meal, fruits, refreshments and garlands etc as per the custom. When Das Ganu totalled the exact amount spent on each aspect of hospitality, astonishingly, the sum was ‘Rupees three hundred and fourteen annas’! The exact same as Baba had said!
A few more surprising revelations from Hemadpant! Baba never went out of Shirdi and so hadn’t ever met Mauli Saheb! How then? Saints do not need to meet physically. The spiritual, mental plane is good enough meeting ground! Distance between Shirdi and Nanded is great but that between two minds is minuscule. Gently reprimanding, Anna Saheb says that calling the religious men “those two” is itself an insult because “internally they are united”! Ovi 190) Seated in Shirdi, Baba was connected with other saints. He knew Ruttonji’s past, present and future. With Baba’s grace, Ruttonji was blessed with a son and several children thereafter. Unfortunately, the kindly man lost eight of his twelve progeny to fate; the man graciously took all setbacks in his stride, grateful for whatever remained with him as being truly his for the taking! Ruttonji’s gratitude expressed through his multiple visits to Shirdi.
The title though suggestive of the story of a single individual is actually more about the Guru’s exalted status and the role of Dakshina. Ruttonji’s experience becomes a source of inspiration for Hemadpant to hail Baba Sai and to appeal to the devotees to listen attentively to all Sai stories so that they may attain salvation. Pure love is the life blood of this chapter.
Hemadpant repeatedly cajoles the readers to hear Baba stories, be spiritually engaged, to reciprocate Guru’s magnificence and munificence with offerings of love, absolute faith and Dakshina to thrive spiritually. The Guru has no need for any wealth or any materialistic things; He is far above any worldly requirement, yet our gratitude could manifest in surrender and donation. We humans Baba’s bhakts relate more with tangible things and thus offerings of flowers, sweets, clothes, jewellery and money give us a sense of fulfilment as well as joy.
This humble writer has interpreted Ruttonji’s story thus 1 All are equal in Baba’s eyes. Caste and religious practices are no importance for Baba regards everyone as a human tied by the bonds of love. 2. Baba knows the past, present and future of each one whether the person may be taking his first darshan. 3. All saints connect in a higher realm and needn’t meet each other. As Hemadpant says- They share knowledge, soul and aim. 4. Baba fulfils all genuine wishes. If one seeks Him lovingly, Baba responds in Sai time.
From the discussion on Dakshina, the learning is that it should be given with a willing heart and reverence. More importantly, if the Guru is unwilling, it is impossible to make an offering. Just because we are making a donation doesn’t mean it will get accepted. The receiver retains the right to accept or reject. So, the one who is able to make a Dakshina should consider himself fortunate and blessed to be able to do so.
Hemadpant’s insistence and persistence in us listening diligently to Baba’s stories is based on a singular premise: Our own spiritual welfare. The writer is simply the medium of conveyance; Baba is writing the stories himself. “He is the inspiration behind the words. He is the one who tells his own story. Therefore, let my wayward mind rest at His feet.” (Ovi 210). It is thus that each reader benefits even today. At an individual level, neither Baba nor Anna Saheb gained anything out of our listening. It is the welfare of the fellow beings that is topmost in Anna’s mind. He seems almost anxious and thus lovingly beckons us again and again to Sai’s holy feet.
Ya Malik. May the good sense to remain absorbed in your Holy Feet prevail!