The 15th of October of the year 1918 was a sorrowful and fateful day for the little village of Shirdi. On Tuesday the 15th of October at about 2.30 in the heavy hours of the noon the beloved Master suddenly breathed his last. His self-allotted labour of love was perhaps deemed by him in his inscrutable wisdom to have been finished. The all-too-brief span of sixty glorious years, the period that he had set himself for his Messiahship, came to an abrupt end, as the blessed one gave up his body on that eventful afternoon. Quietly and unobtrusively, without any fuss or complaint, Sai Baba released his breath and let his head fall gently on the shoulders of a near disciple. The last words that he uttered were that he should be taken to an adjoining wada as he did not feel well in the masjid. But hardly were these words out of his mouth when the Saint of Shirdi passed away. The news of his death spread like wild fire in the village of Shirdi, and soon the ashram was filled with men, women and children who had been suddenly plunged into the throes of an agonizing grief. All the magic light seemed to have died out -- that erst-while had given to those thousands of seekers so much courage and hope. In a moment all the chambers of the ashram seemed emptied of delight, and a strange desolation of spirit filled each heart.

But the great Avatar of love and compassion did not forsake his suffering people even in the hour of his so-called death. The outflow of peace that radiated from his body soothed the mourners. The older devotees of the Saint -- those who are still alive -- tell us of the sudden calmness and beauty that seemed to descent on the atmosphere. For, the devotees who had gathered there now remembered how Baba had always sought to give them the true perspective of death. Like worn-out garments the body is cast away by God, and what is made of earth returns to the earth; why should, therefore, any one bemoan death or exult over a birth? True wisdom, true feeling lies in being unaffected both these events which are eternal processes in the cycle of creation. “So-called death and life”, said Baba, “are manifestations of God’s activity; you cannot separate the two.” But when a preserving self-search at last reveals to man who he really is, when man really learns to know, not merely because someone else tells hi, but with that knowledge that comes of direct experience -- then man ceases to identify himself with the body, and is unaffected by the death of the physical form which is not the reality of his being. The real man is deathless and eternal. However, the flesh is weak, and to grieve for the physical loss of a dear one is common to the race, and Sai Baba who was ever compassionately mindful of the frailties of human beings, did not in the moment of his mahasamadhi arrest his tender indulgence of man’s natural sorrow. On the very next day after his death Baba, appeared to one of his devotees in a dream-vision, saying, “Jog thinks I am dead, I am alive. Go and perform my morning arati.” Soon, other devotees also began to get unmistakable signs of the Master’s deathless presence until almost each disciple was able to claim with conviction -- “The Master is come again, he cannot die.”

In the meantime, the physical body of the beloved Guru lay in quiet splendor. There was a dispute about how and where to dispose of the Sage’s mortal remains, but I the overwhelming serenity that enveloped the atmosphere, all disputes and controversy were incredibly smoothed out, without any untoward loss of temper. Hindu and Muslim devotees alike unanimously decided to inter the body of the Saint in the center of the wada. The body had lain intact for 36 hours, and it is significant that though so many hours had elapsed, the body had lost none of its living lusture and radiance. Indeed the rigor mortis so common in death had not at all set in, and the flesh had so far retained its elasticity, that the kufni of the beloved Master could be removed easily, and comfortably as from a living and supple body. The physical form of the gracious Guru was laid to rest in the central hall with all due formalities and obsequies, but his eternal spirit rose from the tomb to proclaim to his followers again and again the indisputable evidence of his resurrection and life. The master had often promised that his tomb would speak and move with those who made him their refuge, that even after his mahasamadhi, he would appear the moment a devotee called upon him with implicit faith and love; and happily even today, though 53 years have passed away, these promises are abundantly fulfilled. The Master manifests himself in different ways to different devotees. His voice is not hushed. Nor is his physical presence lost to his devotees. Testimonials come pouring in from all quarters of the tangible reappearance of Sai Baba. In many cases the Master gives darshan in actual flesh and blood, not only to those who had been his close disciples during his life time, but also to many others who had not even seen him or heard of him. This deliberate choosing of fresh disciples and devotees by vouchsafing to them some kind of mystical experience is very characteristic of the Saint of Shirdi.

Through such visitations the great Yogi is gradually widening the scope of his influence and hold. It is as it were the Avatar of Shirdi still feels that a humanized symbol of Godhead, the mediating aspect of the Supreme is the support that reassures. To make the vast spiritual joy intimate, living, visible and possible to man is the Master’s mission. One is reminded here of Arjuna’s plaintive cry when he saw Lord Krishna manifested in his supreme universal character. Blinded by this terrible vision, Arjuna cried out, “I would see thee even as before crowned and with thy mace and discus. Assume Thy four-armed shape, oh thousand-armed, O Form Universal.” And when the Mahatama resumed once more the desired form of ‘Grace and love and sweetness’, Arjuna was consoled. Sai Baba is like Shri Krishna in this merciful aspect of a friendly deity, who both inspires and delights.

It is a pleasing sadhana that Sai Baba outlines for the eager aspirant -- the longing for a guru, the complete surrender to that guru when he is eventually found, and then striving through the guru to achieve a feeling of unity with all creatures. This sadhana of attaining unity with all creatures was advocated because in all life there is oneness with the cosmic God-head whom the guru represents. Absolute love for God and His creation is the way to a spiritual transcendence of the troublesome ego which is at the root of all evil. And this contains in essence all those ethical principles which make human relationship a pleasant adventure, rather than an intrusion of bitterness and strife. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” -- if he does not say so in so many words, it is the same commandment that Baba gives precedence to above all other rules of conduct. “When man truly loves his fellow-man, he loves me,” Baba said, “and when one dislikes or fears or hates one’s fellowmen, such a person entertains actually the same feeling towards me, for all men are one in principle since they are bits of me.” So, though Baba was often indulgent to the other frailties of human nature, though he even condoned moral lapses of character, he was most miserable and unhappy when he found people bickering and quarreling. We are told that a spasm of deep pain would shoot across his face whenever he heard of strifes and disagreements, and that he would use all his loving influence to nip them in the bud. He even disallowed heated debates and discussions of metaphysical problems, for he thought them futile and disruptive of one’s inner harmony.

Perhaps it could be said that Sai Baba’s teachings and precepts develop true individualism, even rugged individualism, for is not salvation individual? But this individualism thrives only if it is matched with a spirit of true democracy and co-operation. Real freedom of life and action is possible only in and through a proper guard of one’s neighbour. The absence of this sensitive solicitude for others leaves the door open for conflicts and friction. How can any man hope to progress deeply if his personality brings about this kind of disturbing reaction? Sai Baba is all for love which alone can bring about that unimaginable transformation in man.

This is but a brief resume of what has been outlined already in the preceding chapters. Writing of the life and leelas of this supreme guru has been an extraordinary experience. The author is conscious of a curious pang of regret as the end of this little book looms in sight. It is as it were a separation from the Guru himself to cease writing about him. When the Sage of Shirdi passed away on the 15th of October in 1918, the light was dimmed -- but only for a brief second, for re-birth and resurrection ever keep pace and outlive the forces of death and destruction. Sai Baba is more alive today to his bhaktas than he was years ago when he lived in Shirdi.