Sai Baba of Shirdi
This is a collection of newspaper articles selected for the excellence of their content.
Shirdi Sainath's Universal Prescription
M N Kundu
The Times of India Jul 15 2014
Whatever their faith or belief, millions of suffering devotees seek compassionate refuge in the incredible Sai Baba of Shirdi with deepest devotion. For mitigation of worldly suffering and smooth movement from the mundane to the Divine, Sainath prescribed a sevenfold doctrine of love, kindness, devotion, faith, equality of outlook, compassion and peace. Reverence and patience are the two foundation stones Baba wanted us to develop on which everything else can be built. Emphasising unity in diversity of religions he said, “Sabka Malik Ek“. God is the single supreme sovereign of entire creation to reme sovereign of entire creation to be realised by intense devotion to God and sincere surrender to sadhguru.
As a realised master Shirdi Sai Baba was one with God and performed innumerable miracles with the power of his practice and constant anchorage in oneness with Spirit and Nature. That is why suffering people worship him as a divine incarnation; he attracts people in this way and turns them to the Divine with progressive realisation of the apparent and the ultimate. Root cause remedy of universal suffering should not be more intolerable than the disease and spiritual transformation must be a smooth process.
The nucleus of our earthly existence is desire or craving and every human activity is directly or indirectly intended to satisfy the same. If we can be free from all desires we will not need to worship God or even exist in delusive reality . The path of Sainath is direct, frank and free from religious hypocrisy .
The Gita teaches us that whatever may be the purpose or way of worship it invariably reaches the Lord of the universe. It also reveals that people worship God for protection from danger, acquisition of desirables, realisation of truth and identification with innermost Self. Our devotion is proportionate to immediate motivation and we cannot sustain devotion for mere abstraction for long.
Baba made it categorically clear, “I give people what they want with the hope that they will want what I want from them.“ He felt the pulse of the people and diagnosed that to a man with empty stomach food is God. Higher spirituality calls for higher eligibility which is rare and his devotees must go through a systematic process.
Once devotees develop sincere spirit of reverence, devotion and surrender even for the sake of fulfilment of desires, further spiritual growth will be a natural process. There will be gradual eradication of ego and thereby realisation of the utter futility of earthly cravings and their fruition. This is a unique process of Sainath suited to the suffering multitude for their redemption.
Sainath emphasised more on inner Sainath emphasised more on inner awakening of devotees through service and surrender rather than on external rituals. Those who are obsessed with external rituals and boundaries of religions can find fault with him. But they are oblivi ous of the fact that externals of religions are intended as aids to inner awakening and those secondary aspects are not compulsory .
Guru kindles the divine flame which reveals the supreme Self according to the capacity of the lamp or receptivity of the devotee. The altitude of Self-realisation can be reached through the stepping stones of suffering and sincere surrender. Either as a sadhguru, one with God or as a divine refuge, the everpresent Sai Baba attracts the multitude interested in practical spirituality with his immortal assurance like Christ, “Ask and it will be given, seek and ye shall receive, knock and the door shall be open unto you.“
Ramnavami, the birth anniversary of Lord Ram is very auspicious for Sai devotees as it is commemorated as the birthday of Sai Baba. No one knew when he was born as he didn’t reveal precise details of his birth. Baba, however, once said that he was born in village Pathardi and his parents hailed from Brahmin caste, who entrusted him to a Muslim Fakir at a tender age.
Large number of devotees throng Sai temples in India and abroad on Ramnavmi to pay their obeisance. After early morning-prayer known as ‘kankarh Aarti’, devotees besmear Baba’s idol with milk, curd, ghee, honey and water. Baba is then adorned with majestic mantle (‘chola’), embroidered scarf, flower garlands, gold necklace and magnificent bejeweled crown of gold. Devotees offer roses, while a few present bouquets and fresh coconut to Sai Baba. ‘Makhan-misri’ (butter-crystal sugar) and dry fruit ‘Prasad’ is distributed among the gathering. A special ‘langar’ is organized after the ‘Havan’ in which devotees whether they be rich or poor, irrespective of caste, creed, religion or region partake sumptuous meal. Most devotees enjoy day-long ‘Bhajan-Kirtan’, some meditate on Baba’s captivating ‘murti’ while others remain engrossed in “Shri Sai Sacharitara’-the book written during his lifetime that offers authentic account of events associated with Baba’s over sixty years stay in Shirdi.
At sunset, Sai ‘Palki’ is taken out with much fanfare. In 1897, Gopalrav, a devotee organized ‘Urs’ on Ramnavmi. Later on, Amir Shakkar, a Muslim devotee suggested that ‘Chandanotasav’ should also become part of the ‘Urs’. In 1911, at the initiative of Krishanrav Jogeshwar, devotees began celebrating Bhagwan Ram’s birthday alongside Urs and Chandanotsav. Decades after, the event took the shape of Baba’s birth anniversary celebrations.
Baba first appeared in Shirdi sitting under a Neem Tree at the age of barley 16 years. His countenance was that of a ‘Brahmgyani’ reflecting dispassion, stoicism and renunciation. Curious about the origin of the teenaged hermit, the villagers approached a devotee of Lord Khandoba when he was possessed by the deity, who advised them to excavate the area close to the Neem Tree. As digging progressed, a brick structure emerged under a large stone slab. When the villagers lifted the slab, they were stunned to find a room with four burning lamps inside. Lord Khandoba said that the lad had done twelve years penance at this place. Baba informed that this was his Guru’s ‘Samadhi’.The village folk restored the excavated area to its original shape by closing the passage at Baba’s request. This place is now worshipped as Gurusthan.
Once Chand Patil, a wealthy Muslim of village Doopgaon lost his mare. For couple of months he kept searching but could not trace the animal. One day he found a young fakir sitting under a tree with ‘Chilm’ in hand. The fakir struck his prong in the earth and produced an ember, with which he lighted the tobacco. Then as he stuck his ‘Satka’ on the ground, fresh water gushed forth. The fakir moistened the ‘Safi'(cloth attachment with ‘Chilm’) and started smoking. Chand Patil asked the fakir the whereabouts of his mare. The fakir advised him to search the mare towards the nearby stream. To his great amazement, as he approached the stream, he found the mare grazing in the vicinity. Chand Patil took the fakir to his house. From Doopgaon, the fakir came to Shirdi with a Barat. Mahalsapati welcomed the fakir with the words, “Aao Sai,” where-after the fakir came to be known as Sai and later as Sai Baba.
In 1910 AD, one fine day Sai Baba placed a hand-mill over a piece of sack-cloth, poured some wheat into the quern and started grinding the seeds. Baba had none to support and survived on begging from any five houses of Shirdi. Devotees present in Dwarkamai, therefore, wondered for what on earth, Baba should undertake this onerous work.But none could dare ask Sai Baba. Like wild fire the news spread in the entire village and throngs of people began pouring in ‘Dwarkamai’ with curious looks. Four daring ladies chanting Sai bhajans, ventured through the crowd, forcibly pushed Baba aside, snatched the handle of the quern from him and began grinding. At the outset, Baba became furious but realizing their devotion, he later relented. While continuing to grind, the ladies presumed that flour would be of no use to Baba as he didn’t cook his food and lived on alms. Engrossed in such thoughts, they finished grinding, divided the flour into four parts and as they readied to depart with respective share, Baba shouted, “Have you ladies, gone mad? How you dare plunder my flour. Now do as I say. Take this flour and spreadit all along the periphery of the village”.
The ladies were dumb founded and did as desired by Baba.The newcomers to Shirdi not conversant with Baba’s miracles asked the village folk about Baba’s motive behind the act.
They informed that Cholera has wrecked-havoc in Shirdi. And what everyone had then witnessed Baba grindingwas not wheat but the deadly cholera virus. Immediately afterwards, the intensity of the disease subsided and all the villagers were relieved.Human faculties, however, fail to comprehend as to what could be the material co-relation between the disease and the flour.
Popularity and economics of the Shirdi temple
Saibaba temple earned Rs 1,441 crore in last five years
PTI | May 15, 2013
In 2008, about 20,000 devotees used to visit the Saibaba's shrine daily, but presently figures show that around 60,000 people come to visit the temple every day and the number goes up to about one lakh on weekends.
Saibaba Sansthan trust has recorded Rs 1,441 crore income in the last five years, with 22 per cent higher donations received every year, Sansthan's executive officer Kishor More said on Wednesday.
The trust has spent Rs 828 crore on various beneficial works for devotees, including Rs 160 crore on hospital, 'prasadalaya' and funds allotted in the form of donations to various charity trusts, More said, quoting the figures recorded after the Sansthan's audit conducted recently by a government recognised agency.
Five years back, about 20,000 devotees used to visit the Saibaba's shrine daily, but presently figures show that around 60,000 people come to visit the temple everyday and the number goes up to about one lakh on weekends.
During special festivals at least two to three lakh devotees visit the famous shrine, More said, adding that the daily income now was around Rs 45 lakh, as compared to Rs 20 lakh per day five years back.
The trust has contributed funds on building super-speciality hospital, Shirdi's roads, water arrangements, various developmental works including Chief Minister's Relief fund and Shirdi's airport, he said.
The audited report of the Sansthan will be tabled in the state assembly during the winter session for grant, he said. When asked about 'hidden donations' in boxes like gold ornaments, cash and foreign currency, More said the trust has not a separate machinery to check such things because when devotees come to seek blessings of Saibaba they donate money, but from where they get it is difficult to know.
Instead of counting donated money once in a week in practice five years back, now it is being counted twice a week and an officer from charity commissioner's office and Sansthan's officials remains present at the time of opening and closing of donation boxes, a video recording of which is also done, More added.
2014: The Dwarka Shankaracharya's comments on the Shirdi Sai Baba
Sai vs Shankaracharya: Conflict may turn ugly TNN | Jul 3, 2014 The Times of India
The 90-year-old pontiff's comments hurt a legion of Sai devotees.
An unusual confrontation arose in July 2014 when Dwarka Shankaracharya, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, ran down the followers of Shirdi Sai Baba, saying they ought not to worship the 19th century mystic who was no god, and remove his photographs and idols from temples where he gets the pride of place with Hindu deities.
The 90-year-old pontiff's comments hurt a legion of Sai devotees. In Varanasi, protests broke out soon after the Shankaracharya's observations, while the 'sanatani' followers of the seer hit the streets of the temple town in the seer's favour.
Sai devotees burnt Shankaracharya's effigy and scores of 'dandi sanyasins' (staff-wielding sadhus) supported the pontiff and sat on fast condemning filing of case against the seer by Sai worshippers.
The Shankaracharya, known to be a Congres [political party] backer, also took a dig at BJP leader, Union minister Uma Bharti, saying he thought a devotee of Lord Ram had become a Union minister, but she turned out to be the "worshiper of a Muslim" — meaning Sai Baba.
Bharti said looking upon someone as god was a personal opinion. But the seer wasn't impressed, who said she seemed not to have seen pictures of Sai Baba depicted like Hindu Gods including Shiva and Vishnu. "Statues of Sai Baba are being installed in homes. What if they were installed in our temples?" the Shankaracharya asked. (Indpaedia: They have been since around 2010, when mainstream Hindu temples--e.g. the Vaishnav temple behind Delhi's Khan market--installed the saint's idol in a room built specially for him within the temple complex.)
The conflict grew with Swami Narendra Giri, mahant, Baghambari Mutt and member of Akhara Parishad, telling The Times of India that Sai Baba devotees have two days to withdraw their protests, failing which the parishad would press the fearsome Naga sadhus to settle the dispute. With their state of undress, matted hair, ash-smeared bodies and swords, the Nagas inspire fear and fascination in equal measure, and the subtext of the Akhara Parishad's warning is the defenders of faith would be let loose on those protesting against the Shankaracharya.
Narendra Giri said. "Sai followers have left only one alternative (for us), and that is damaging and defacing their temples just as they did with the Shankaracharya's images and photographs," Giri tadded. Mahant Hari Giri, secretary of Juna (ancient) Akhara that controls the Nagas, said, "Naga sanyasi are protectors of (the institution) of Shankarachrya, and if there's an attempt to malign him, the sadhus are free to take to the streets and attack them."
But an unperturbed trustee of the Shri Saibaba Sansthan in Shirdi, Shailesh Kute, said the temple wants the controversy to rest. "The four Shankaracharyas hold an exalted position in Hinduism. The institution of Shankaracharya is a university that awards religious degrees like the 1008 Mahamandaleshwar," Kute said.
"On the other hand, Sai Baba is a faqir without degree. Baba's followers are growing not just in India but across the world. The Shirdi temple is the third largest in the country in terms of financial turnover and devotees. It's possible certain segments feel threatened because Sai temples are visible on street corners. Nearly every temple to Lord Ganesh, Shri Ram and Hanuman also has an idol of Sai. People place pictures of Sai in their household shrines. Offerings to him are increasing as well," Kute added.
On the Shankaracharya's claim that Sai Baba is not representative of Hindu-Muslim unity, Kute said, "It's true we don't receive as many Muslim worshippers on a daily basis, but the community participates in the 10am aarti and offers floral chadar regularly. Shirdi is the only place where Ram Navami and Urs are celebrated every year."
What The Seer, Shankaracharya, Said
"Hinduism is governed by Shastra and Vedas and there is no mention of Sai Baba. He should not be worshipped with Hindu gods... Muslims don't revere Sai Baba as much as Hindus do, who seem unaware of the 'adharma' they commit by worshipping him."
"They may burn my effigy or even send me to jail, but my campaign to protect the sanctity of the Hindu religion will continue.... Sai Baba was a Muslim faqir who cannot be compared to Hindu deities or worshipped like them."
(With inputs from Rajiv Mani in Allahabad, Bella Jaisinghani in Mumbai)
In the 20th century there were attempts to erase the Muslim phase of Sai Baba ji's life. His Holiness the Shankaracharya has at least confirmed that Sai Baba was a Muslim faqir.
Sai Baba’s birth anniversary is commemorated on Ramnavmi. But few devotees are aware that Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to remain absorbed in Ram bhakti. On this Ramnavmi falling in the 100th year of Sai Baba’s Mahasamadhi, it is worthwhile recounting Baba’s relevant ‘Leelas’.
In 1916, a ‘Kirtan-Mandli’ arrived in Shirdi village in the hope of making money by singing ‘bhajans’ at Sai Baba’s abode -a dilapidated Mosque, which Baba called Dwarkamai. During this period, Baba’s fame having spread far and wide, lot many devotees frequented Shirdi. Each day lot of money would get collected with Sai Baba who would spend as mall amount for purchase of firewood for ‘dhuni’ and oil for the earthen lamps and distribute the rest to the poor and needy. The kirtanmandli consisting of a Tamilian, his wife, a daughter and his sister-in law sang melodious ‘bhajans’. However, their real motive was to earn money. Three out of the four in the troupe were extremely greedy. But his wife was of simple and of God fearing disposition. She was an ardent devotee of Lord Ram and had immense reverence for Baba. One day during the daily noon-time prayer, Baba gave her ‘darshan’ of Lord Ram. Whereas all else present in the Dwarkamai, witnessed Baba seated on a rock; every time she looked towards Baba, she saw Lord Ram in His place. Unable to control her emotions, she started clapping in sheer ecstasy. She related the experience to her husband who brushed it aside as nothing more than a mental concoction and asked when each one of them saw Sai Baba as usual, how could she alone see Him as Lord Ram. She chose not to enter into an argument as during that time also she was having a vision of Lord Ram.
A few days after, her husband had a dream in which he found himself in shackles behind bars. Soon Sai Baba emerged from nowhere before him. He entreated, “I have come to your refuge on hearing about your exalted spiritual stature. How can such misfortune befall me, when you are so near. I do not remember having committed any despicable sin for which I should be subjected to this punishment”. Baba replied, “If not in present life, it could be the result of sins incurred in previous birth”. He insisted that he had no recollection of his previous birth adding even if Iam responsible for such acts, these should have been decimated on account my close proximity to you”. “Do you believe in what you just said?” asked Baba. He replied in the affirmative. Baba directed him to shut his eyelids. When he did so, he heard the sound of some heavy object falling near him. As he opened his eyes, he found himself out of the barred windows and got terrified on seeing a profusely bleeding wounded police constable having fallen in front of him. Baba warned, policemen would re-arrest him and subject him to severe punishment.He beseeched, “O God Sai! Save me” Then Baba asked him to yet again close his eyes. As he opened his eyes, he found himself a free bird and Baba standing before him. He prostrated at Sai Baba’s feet in all humility. Baba asked, “Did you notice any difference between your previous namaskar and this one”. “Difference akin to that of the sky and nether world”, he replied adding “My earlier namaskar were for the purpose of accumulating wealth. But now I have bowed unto you realizing you as God”. Thereafter Baba appeared before him as Shri Ramdas, his Guru. When he woke up, there was complete transformation in his thinking. His greed having vanished, the reality of Baba’s greatness dawned on him.
Sai Baba always provided encouragement to noble ideas. As per a well-known adage, if a noble thought crosses your mind in the early morning, and if you reflect on it throughout the day, it would substantially develop your intellect and calm your mind. One evening, Hemadpant decided that he should spend the next Thursday repeating Ram naam. On the following Thursday morning, he took some flowers and left to offer his obeisance to Baba. As he reached near Dwarkamai, he heard SantEknath’s following hymn that Aurangabadkar was singing from inside Dwarkamai in an extremely melodious tone:
Gurukripaanjanpayo mere bhai; Ram binakuchmanatnahi.
Andar Rama, bahar Rama; Sapne me dekhatSitarama.
Jagat Rama, Sovat Rama; Jahan dekhewahipurankama.
EkaJanardanianubhavnika; Jahan dekhewahi Ramsarikha.
There were thousands of ‘bhajan’, but why especially this song on Lord Ram, Aurangabadkar chose to sing at that moment. Wasn’t it a pleasant arrangement by Sai Baba that left Hemadpant spellbound?
One day Baba rose from his seat and immediately started partaking lunch brought for Him by Mrs Khaparde wife of a famous lawyer. Devotees present there complained, “Normally, plates offered by others remain lying for hours without even being touched by You. Why this partiality with this lady Baba?” He replied, “Truly this meal is special. She was a healthy cow in a previous birth and provided abundant milk. After casting off her animal body, she was born in a gardener’s house. Later she took birth in Kshashtrya caste and was married to a trader. Ages after she has met Me. Let me take a few bites from her plate. After relishing the meal, Baba resumed his seat. Mrs Khaparde massaged His lotus feet. Pleased by her service, Baba advised her to chant Rajaram,Rajaram saying if she remains absorbed in contemplation, she would attain salvation.
The Shirdi Sai Baba Controversy: a devotee's take
The Times of India Jul 08 2014
The Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath recently unwittingly stirred up a controversy by saying that the Shirdi Sai Baba ought not to be regarded as a Bhagwan ¬ presum ably because no one knows if he were Hindu or not. One wonders if this really matters, when we all need to be moving towards Oneness.
Everyone needs some kind of spiritual support to get through life. So, does it matter if someone gets it by placing faith in Sai Baba or some other master? People will follow someone or something so long as it works for them; it's trial and error. With due respect to the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath the Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath and any other custodian of `Hindu Dharma', let's face the fact that people would have approached them too if that helped them in any way .
The question arises, as to what use are discourses given on vedas and upanishads when they are unable to address the fact that human relationships are deteriorating and instances of violence and abuse against women continue to rise? Why has no guru come out to address these issues substantively? Even in the Mahabhara ta, learned men, revered custodians of so-called dharma, stayed put in their seats in Dhritrash tra's court when Dushasana dragged Draupadi by her hair in court and humiliated her.
`Hindu' is a geographical term; it is not the name of a religion. Hindus were known to live in sync with Nature and this was their way of life, truly spiritual. The sun shines and exudes heat and energy; it has been doing so for ages; it is sanatan, eternal. No individual, faith leader or religion can lay claim to the Sun. That which is sanatan is not the property of any one cult or religion.
Everything on this planet is composed of panchtattva, the five elements ¬ earth, fire, air, space and water. These are sanatan. Let's revere, respect and worship Nature. Strive to be comfortable and in tune with universal energies because you are a product of these energies, the five elements which are manifest in each one of us.
The basic guna of every human being is to act according to Nature ¬ which is whole and complete ¬ something that is perfect for natural evolution of all species and expansion of the Universe. One has to be part of this magical and divine cosmic play and this is the highest joy of being human.
We are here to celebrate life according to laws of Nature, enhancing each other towards growth, glory and grace. Religions created by us pale in significance before this most spectacular, grand and wonderful eternal divine cosmic play.
Kabirdas said: “You collect Kabirdas said: “You collect stones and build a mosque and on it stands the mullah and recites his prayers loudly; is the Khuda hard of hearing?“ “If by worshiping stone you can “If by worshiping stone you can find Hari, then i will worship the mountain itself; better to worship the grindstone... “Time sieves out all imperfections. Such is cosmic play . Time is a great sieve.“
When cosmic messages come, they reach only those who are constantly tuned in to the Universe's frequency . With time, those who are not tuned in to universal energies, or have f even an iota of imperfection, falsehood and ego ¬ get sieved out. Whoever remains, how; ever few, are the ones who are constantly work ing to stay tuned ¬ the true recipients of the . eternal ¬ sanatan knowledge. Time is eternal, f sanatan, and that which is eternal stays with time. Follow Meena Om on speakingtree.in and post your comments there.
Saibaba Temple Trust of Shirdi
2018: trust gives ₹500cr loan to Maharashtra project
Cash-Strapped Govt Gets Interest-Free Loan For Irrigation Plan
The cash-starved Devendra Fadnavis government has secured an interest-free loan of Rs 500 crore from the Saibaba Temple Trust of Shirdi for completion of pending works of the Nilwande irrigation project to meet the drinking-water needs of most tehsils in Ahmednagar district.
After the BJP-led government approached the trust for a loan for the irrigation project, its chairperson BJP leader Suresh Haware took the decision of granting it. Never before has such a huge loan been given to a state-run corporation without interest. Also, no timeframe has been fixed for repayment of loan.
At a meeting presided over by CM Fadnavis on February 1, , the loan proposal was approved and the order to release funds in two instalments was issued on Saturday. “The Saibaba Temple Trust and the Godawari-Marathwada Irrigation Development Corporation have signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the purpose. It will be a special case in the history of the temple trust,” a senior official told TOI.
The official said work on the project had been pending for long. Of the total project cost of Rs 1,200 crore, the temple trust will release Rs 500 crore. The water resources department has made a budgetary provision of Rs 300 crore in the current year, while it has been proposed to make a provision of Rs 400 crore in next year’s budget. “We expect to complete the work of the left and right bank canal in two years,” he said.
The official said 70,000 devotees visit the Shirdi temple every day, and during festive season, the number crosses the 3.5 lakh mark. But there is acute shortage of water in the region. “We have proposed to meet the demand of all tehsils in Ahmednagar district. Akole, Sangamner, Rahuri, Kopargaon and Shirdi are among the villages which will benefit once the project is complete,” the official said.
Incidentally, all these tehsils are controlled by politicians. NCP leader Madhukar Pichad belongs to Akole, BJP’s Shiva-jirao Kardile and Snehalata Kolhe belong to Rahuri and Kopergaon, while leader of opposition Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil has been elected from Shirdi. The official said that the trust had released Rs 71 crore for four government-run medical colleges. “This time, an exception has been made in the form of an interest-free loan, for a public cause,” the official said.