With Sai Kripa, a short trip to Shirdi transformed into an extended stay. What a blessing it was! A truly engaging learning experience. The learner’s graph rose higher, each passing moment, in the company of two stalwarts, who speak, breathe and live Baba every moment of their life- Vaidya Guruji and Vinny Chitluri ji . Inspiring company; fabulous food for thought.
During one of the several meetings with Vinny ji I asked her if she could throw more light on Chapters 16, 17 and 39 of Hemadpant’s Satcharita. In her characteristic humble manner she said- “Oh those are tough ones. All I know and strongly support is that one should follow the Guru, believe in Him and do exactly as He says without nurturing even an inkling of doubt.” When of one of the greatest researchers and knowledge provider on Baba and His ways, said so, how could this ignoramus interpret Chapter 16, the next in sequence of her writing? Suitably humbled by Vinny ji’s words, the writing ceased! 😊
The blessing of a long stay in Shirdi was followed by a prolonged spell of more travel offering welcome opportunity to abstain from the Herculean task of interpreting Anna Saheb’s magnum opus, his Satcharita! But then, such an approach couldn’t be maintained forever, could it? So a return to the desk saw this silly, struggling writer begin the much delayed work on interpretation of Chapter 16, The Narration of the Knowledge of Brahman. Apologies Vinny ji!
Before starting this challenging journey, seeking both- your help in interpretation and your forgiveness, for errors and differences in your thought and mine shared hereunder! An opportunity is a disagreement! 😊 It would be a privilege and a great help to read your views in the comments section after this post.
The book: Shree Sai Satcharita Author: Shri Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias Hemadpant alias Annasaheb
Chapter 16 The Narration of the Knowledge of Brahman.
SUMMARY: Anna Saheb Dabholkar’s pure and deep love for Baba gushes forth in the torrent of words of praise that gush forth. Qualities essential to spiritual enrichment, those which we strive towards our entire life and yet find unattainable are an inherent in Baba Sai. No! Actually these qualities and virtues surrender themselves to Baba “the King of kings” (Ovi 10). A “glittering” “assembly” (Ovi 4) of traits such as pure devotion, knowledge of the Vedas, Puranas and Shastras, peace and restraint, the attributes of Dispassion, Meditation, Contentment, Pure Knowledge and Experience adorn Baba; the most important of them all, self-realisation being the hallmark. A string of this “divine necklace” (Ovi 6) sparkles on Baba’s person. Anna Saheb asks when such is one’s Guru, isn’t the spiritual upliftment of the bhakts certain!
But to reach Baba one has to shed Chaturai (Cunning), a quality Baba strongly advised against. No acting smart or slackening in service; these are major deterrents in and eradicators of noble deeds, distancing one from the spiritual path.
Words of praise are bound to flow when the kindly Guru has nothing but the bhakt’s welfare in mind. Drawing various comparisons, Anna Saheb refers to Baba as Chintamani, Kalpataru and Kamadhenu in turns, declaring each of these falls short since they fulfill or grant only those wishes which one asks for. Contrastingly, Baba Sai gives plentifully, even beyond what one can ask for, think or imagine.
With a simple, straightforward story Hemadpant takes the chapter forward. A super rich gentleman visits Baba one day, asking for Brahman (Supreme Knowledge) immediately, the only thing that remained to be acquired by him! On receiving Brahman on the spot, he would return home by the tonga hired for the day. Hearing his extra-ordinary request, Baba praises the man stating how He eagerly waits for His bhakts to ask for something meaningful, yet none do as each one is in the throes of Maya and materialism! Soon after this appreciation, Baba begins His sport! He sends a little boy on an errand to the grocer Nandu asking for a short-term loan of Rs. 5/- The boy returns empty handed for the grocers shop is shut. The same errand is repeated for three other individuals, including Bala but the boy draws a blank as none was at home. Helping his readers reflect or perhaps pre-empting their quizzical look, Anna Saheb poses a question: Didn’t Baba, the omniscient, already know that the men were not present at the place the boy looked for them? Had he sent the lad on a wild goose chase? Anna Saheb answers the question when he says that it was Baba’s way of teaching everyone an essential lesson. That of complete surrender, impossible without detachment. The man who had covered a long distance, who was in a hurry to get back and hence urgently sought Brahman from Baba had a thick wad of currency in his bulging kurta pocket. A tidy, princely sum of Rs. 250! Yet it did not occur to him to part with a paltry sum of Rs. 5, even temporarily as a loan to Baba! Baba sent the boy to multiple persons for the amount while the man sat there waiting to receive Brahman. Eventually, when the flustered man asked Sai once again for what he so desperately wanted, Baba simply said to him, “To show you Brahman, where you are sitting, I have tried certain means so far. Did you not follow anything?” (Ovi 72)
To make things clearer, Baba clarifies not only to the visitor but all those present in Dwarkamyi that one has to surrender in totality, shed all attachments, focus only on the spiritual path and practise immense self control to attain Brahman. He further clarifies that when such happens and the time is ripe, Brahman “appears before the fortunate person, all of a sudden.” (Ovi 74)
The depth of Baba’s knowledge, his enthusiasm towards spiritual progress of His devotees is evident in the discourse that goes on throughout the Chapter. The holy one informs that self-realisation is the most difficult of attributes to attain, apprising the listeners with the kind of persons who can attain Brahman and those who can’t.
INTERPRETATION: A few thoughts on the understanding of Chapter 16 presented in the form of a list (Do rectify the errors in your words in the comment section below)
- Baba is a treasure trove of virtues, an image of perfection, the attainer of Brahman, the perfect Sadguru. In fact, he didn’t pursue any of the attributes listed in Paragraph 1 of the SUMMARY; it is the attributes that came to Him, surrendered at His feet, waited to be acknowledged and accepted. With such tribute, Hemadpant shows us that Baba is way beyond the human! The only one in recent times to attain self-realisation; the one who took birth only for the benefit of His devotees!
- Drawing a comparison between Baba and the wish fulfilling agents that humans seek, Anna Saheb states that even the Kalpatru is limited in beneficence. Why so? It gives only what is asked for! While Baba gives beyond expectation to those who place their whole-hearted faith in Him. We ought to expedite our spiritual uplift and seek Baba’s refuge to attain pure bliss and fulfilment.
- Baba seeking a loan of a meagre Rs. 5/- though He could Himself own all the riches of the world suggest quite clearly that the Brahman seeking visitor clung to his wealth. His money and resources belonged only to him and were not meant to be shared. At a deeper level, it might suggest surrendering the five pranas, the five senses, offering ego at the altar of faith, giving up the intellect to allow the Guru to lead. For all this one needs to be downright humble, be able to acknowledge absolute supremacy of the Guru and place complete faith in Him.
- Through His sagacious words, Baba tells all those who nurtured a secret wish of attaining self-realisation, that it is not an easy path to walk. The wealthy visitor was the medium to convey this message. He was given to realise that all the riches in the world owned by an individual do not entitle or guarantee the individual spiritual wealth too. For that one needs to dissociate oneself from the material world, detach from near and dear ones, be willing to take the path of spirituality with full-fledged enthusiasm and fervour and shed all fears and apprehensions of the unknown while walking the path. When the body dissolves into worship giving supremacy to the soul only then one takes the first step on this enriching though obstacle-ridden path! Walking along this road entails absolute focus, an unwavering mind, control over the senses and total obedience of the Guru. The Guru alone can help a seeker attain his goal of self-realisation. Doing it alone is impossible; a lot of difficulty is faced by the seeker of Brahman!
- Perhaps the last learning from this Chapter- The Sadguru alone is the one who can help in salvation, He is the one who lights the way, He is the true guide and He alone can lead, making this journey fruitful and fulfilling.
Let us together bow humbly and in obeisance to our Guru and Guide: Baba Sai!