Sai Baba of Shirdi as I Know
- by Vijay Vivekanandan, Richmond, British Columbia, CANADA

I am writing this essay about Shirdi Baba, a Brahma Jnani, because I have recently read the book entitled "Shri Sai Satcharitra", and have learnt a great deal about this Poorna-Avatar. I would like to share with you, the points about Shirdi Baba which have made deep impressions in my mind. Before reading the book originally written by Hemadpant, I knew very little about Sai Baba of Shirdi, but after reading the wonderful stories and leelas performed by this Avatar I realized that I knew Him because of Sri Sathya Sai Baba’s presence now on earth.

Shirdi Baba was born on September 28, 1835 and He lived in Shirdi for sixty years showering the inhabitants of the town with wonderful leelas. Though nobody knew His parents or His original place of birth, His followers did not care. The first time that Sai Baba visited Shirdi, He was sixteen years old and stayed for only three years. Then, for a while He disappeared, and returned to Shirdi at the age of twenty and remained there until He took his Maha-Samadhi in 1918. He had come only to use His Power to save His devotees from trouble and danger, and not to attract. He wore a simple robe and a cloth tied around His head. He started wearing the robe and cloth after losing a fight to a wrestler in Shirdi, with whom He disagreed with.

Many stories are told in the book by Hemadpant, but I would like to share a few. Sometimes His devotees would see anger in His eyes, but Sai Baba displayed this without any hate, He still loved His devotees no matter what they did. Most of the time, His devotees would see His motherly love for them, and this could be seen from the things He endured for the devotees. When the Cholera epidemic had reached Shirdi, He started grinding wheat flour, but four women rushed to Him and took over the task. Then He asked the women to spread the ashes on the outskirts of the town. Nobody could understand what Shirdi Baba was actually doing, He was actually grinding the epidemic and getting rid of it by placing it outside the town! This story is at the beginning of the book, and still remains fresh in my mind.

Shirdi Baba manifested Himself on earth to uplift mankind, the same reason why we live in the presence of Sathya Sai Baba. From my knowledge of the book, I know that Shirdi Baba had attracted many people from all over India, in the same way that Sai Baba now attracts millions from all over the world. In the book it states that Shirdi Baba’s mission was to bring together the gap between Hindus and Muslims. Shirdi Baba’s advice to this conflict was that Rama and Rahim (the god of the Muslims) were one and the same, so why should their followers quarrel?

Many stories are presented in the book about the omnipresence of Baba, and how He saved the devotees from their troubles that they had created. He let his devotees perform all the rituals that they were accustomed to, like applying sandal paste to His forehead. The blessed ones were able to drink water which poured effortlessly from His toe, and received His blessings. Shirdi Baba was the world to His devotees and the faith of these devotees can be rendered by the descriptions in the book. One interesting thing I noticed upon reading through the book was how Baba sometimes asked for Dakshina (money offerings) from his followers. I was confused because if Baba needed any money He could obtain it Himself, but my confusion was made clear when this was explained. Shirdi Baba asked for these offerings to free His devotees from the loans that they had obtained in their previous lives, thus helping His followers achieve Liberation. That is why in one of the stories, He does not let His devotee give an offering because then the devotee would have to be reborn to be paid back the offering, since the devotee had already repaid his previous loans from previous births. Also, Shirdi Baba would ask for Dakshina in the form of surrendering bad qualities or practicing what had been learnt. He collected these offerings to basically teach His devotees the lessons of Renunciation and Purification.

Shirdi Baba took Maha-Samadhi on Vijayadashami day, which was on October 15, 1918. Though He had given previous indications of the time He would leave this world to His devotees, they did not realize it until it happened. Baba had told one of His devotees that Tatya Patil, another devotee, would pass away on Vijayadashami day in 1918. However, when this day approached both Tatya Patil and Shirdi Baba fell ill. On that day Patil’s pulse began to slow, but he was able to recover, while Shirdi Baba left His body. It seems as though Baba exchanged places with His devotee, but before His leaving He said that he would reappear as a boy of eight years.


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