Sunday, December 22, 2019

Sai Baba of Shirdi

A Brief Sketch of Sai Baba of Shirdi

Shirdi Sai Baba was a great spiritual master who lived in Shirdi, in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, about 1858 and remained there until his death in 1918.

No one knows for sure the early details like When Shirdi Sai Baba was born, who his parents were, were he a Hindu or Muslim, etc.

He came to Shirdi along with a marriage party and stayed there till his passing away. He settled down in an old dilapidated mosque and called it Dwarakamai. Initially, villager thought he was a mad man and troubled him a lot.

He begged in about a dozen houses for food and alms. He used the little money to buy tobacco for his pipe (Chillum) and keep up the sacred perpetual fire (Dhuni). Maintaining a Dhuni is typical of the Nath sect of renunciates. Therefore many devotees believe he belongs to the Nath sect and call him Sai Nath.

He performed many miracles, cured many incurable diseases. Generally, he loved, protected and took cares of the material and spiritual wellbeing his devotees.

Sai Baba’s Teachings

Both Hindus and Muslims revered Sai Baba. He disliked religious orthodoxy.  Sai Baba encouraged his devotees to pray, chant God's name, and read Holy Scriptures. Even though he nudged common people towards devotion he also advocated the Advaita (non-dual) philosophy.

Sai Baba used to often say Allah Malik (God is the only Master) and Sabka Malik Ek (Everyone's Master is One), Allah terabhala karega, etc.  These words point towards the Bhakti path.

On the other hand, Sai Baba constantly urged his devotees to develop dispassion towards material objects and focus inwards. Such advice also suggests his Jnana (wisdom) leanings.

My Experiences with Shirdi Sai Baba

I did not know about Shirdi Sai Baba till I was about thirty years old. However, as a child, I met the other Sai Baba from Puttaparthi.

In my late thirties while I was passing through a major personal crisis I accidentally wandered into a Shirdi Sai Temple near Mahabalipuram near Chennai. The visit gave me immense peace and solace.

Afterwards, I lost touch with Shiridi Sai Baba. Many years passed. We shifted to many cities.
While on a trip to Thane for a family function I visited Shirdi. I had a quick darshan (beholding).  Still, I did not know much about him.

Now in my present home, we have a large framed picture of Sai Baba. I don’t know where it came from. Nor did I care to check.

I used to place a flower on the picture occasionally along with other deities. But I never cared to read or know about him. I had heard stories of many miracles he performed for the wellbeing of his devotees. Perhaps these tales had led me to a preconceived notion that he provided more material good than spiritual progress leading to enlightenment.

The revelation about Sai Baba

A few months back my wife told me that Sai Baba had granted her prayer and she had decided to distribute free meals to the poor at a nearby Sai Baba temple. We visited the temple to make the necessary arrangements. It was a replica of the temple complex in Shirdi. I experienced peace.

I had bought a book. The book was more about the evolution of the various buildings in the temple complex in Shirdi and not the life and teachings of Sai Baba.

Again we went to the temple on the appointed day. After making an offering of the food to him we distributed it.

I also bought another book. This time it was Shri Sai Satcharitra English edition. The book narrated the life and teachings of Shirdi Sai Baba.

It was a revelation. Reading the book always gave me a sense of peace and wellbeing. I no more had misgivings about him. I have added him in my list of great spiritual masters.

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