10. The Same Baba
Sathyam Shivam Sundaram, Vol 1
The Same Baba
It is significant that Sri Sathya Sai Baba was giving clues about His kinship, nay, identity, with the Saint of Shirdi, even from His childhood. When He taught His companions songs about "a Baba," a Saint about whom no one had seen of heard, and about a place of pilgrimage to which no one who heard the songs had been, people wondered! "Where is this Shirdi," they asked each other. "Who was this Muslim Saint?" Little did they realize that the child in their midst, singing and dancing so captivatingly, was, in a few years, to make their village another Shirdi to which hundreds and even thousands seeking the same Baba would be coming!
As recorded, when the formal Announcement was made by Sri Sathya Sai Baba that He was the famed Sai Baba of the town of Shirdi, He was asked, "If you are Sai Baba, show us a miracle now!" He said, "Bring me some jasmine flowers." When they were placed in His Hands, He threw the flowers on the ground. They fell in the form of the Telugu letters, "Sai Baba," flower behind flower, as if arranged with meticulous skill with all the curves and convolutions of the Telugu letters perfectly reproduced! Even Seshama Raju, who had learned by long experience to live with the miracles of his brother, was surprised at the emphasis of the revelation. "Of course, I gave them the name of the incarnation that had just preceded mine," said Baba when questioned about these incidents. "It only meant that He who came as Sai Baba has now come again as Sri Sathya Sai Baba! Moreover, the Sais come in a series. After this there will be another, Prema Sai, who will take birth in the Mysore region," He added.
About this time two teachers who had Sathya as their student at Bukkapatnam visited Puttaparthi. Fortunately, they have recorded what happened. One of them, Sri B. Subbannachar, says, "My first impression about him was that he was a great devotee, like Prahlada of the sacred books. I saw Him doing miraculous deeds. I was convinced that He was not an ordinary human being, but a boy endowed with supernatural powers. Quite to our wonderment, this 'Mad Boy' of Puttaparthi revealed to us that He was none other than Sai Baba of Shirdi! He invited us once to stay for the night when He would narrate His past. We wanted to hear about His life, as the available books on Sai Baba of Shirdi do not give any information about His infancy and boyhood up to sixteen years. He granted us this boon even without our asking! Our joy knew no bounds. Night came. We heard the life story. We saw Sai Himself in human form!"
Sri Sathya Sai Baba invariably refers to "My previous body' when He speaks about Sai Baba of Shirdi, and often describes how He, in His "previous body," dealt with people and situations, what illustrations He gave to amplify certain points, and what questions were asked. He may remark, "The same doubt was raised by a man who had come to Shirdi," and then He will continue with the reply He gave that other man long ago at Shirdi! He recognizes all devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi as His own. He tells them, "I have known you for ten years," or "Though this is the first time you see this body, I saw you twenty years ago when you came to Shirdi." The person will find that either he has been worshipping Sai Baba for ten years or that he had actually been to Shirdi exactly twenty years before! Baba has encouraged many to go to Shirdi, giving detailed descriptions of the route and even of the pictures at the shrine! It would appear to a listener that He has long been a resident of Shirdi.
Once when several devotees went to Shirdi, Sri Sathya Sai Baba told them, "Go and sleep in Dwarakamayi where I shall come in your dream." He fulfilled this promise. Many devotees who visit Shirdi hear later of an incarnation of Sai Baba at Puttaparthi; so they proceed there immediately. As soon as He sees such devotees, Baba asks them about their pilgrimage to Shirdi. During the interview He answers questions which have been unanswered on their visit to Shirdi! This has been the experience of many.
The Raja of Chincholi was an ardent devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi. This king used to spend a few months each year at Shirdi, Akalkot, and other holy places in the company of spiritual sages and seekers. After the Raja passed away, the Rani, his queen, was pleasantly surprised to hear of the incarnation of the Lord as Sri Sathya Sai Baba and she visited Puttaparthi. She also persuaded Baba, who was then just fifteen years of age, to accompany her to Chincholi. What a surprise it was for her when Baba asked her about a margosa tree which had since been uprooted, a well that had been filled up, a line of shops which had been newly built! Baba told her that He had seen these places years ago while in His "previous body!" He asked her about a small stone image which had been given to the Raja by Sai Baba of Shirdi. The Rani did not know of its existence. Baba discovered it for her! He also said that there would be found a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi given when in the "previous body." That, too, was later discovered in the house.
Years passed. One day the Rani was rummaging through a huge storeroom at Chincholi for old brass, bronze, or copper which she could sell to create space. She came upon an old brass drinking vessel as used by wandering monks. The shape was unique and artistic; the water had to be poured in through a slit in the handle; the spout ended in a cow's head figurine. It was suggested that it be polished and displayed as a decorative article in the drawing of her mansion. The mystery deepened the next day when the vessel was found with a cobra coiled around it! 'Baba alone can solve the secret," she said to herself while propitiating the cobra with the traditional rites.
She arrived at Puttaparthi on the first day of the Dasara festival, and as soon as she entered the premises, Baba sent word, asking her to come to Him "with My drinking vessel!" No sooner, was it in His Hands than He showed to those nearby, the letters inscribed on the vessel in Sanskrit characters, SAA followed by a pair of short vertical lines, BAA with the two lines again, SAA indicating Sayi and BAA for Baba. Baba has said that he will also secure the almsbag of Sai Baba of Shirdi in a few years from wherever it is.
Many wonder how the Saint of Shirdi, who, according to all accounts, never left Shirdi for years, could have gone to Chincholi and later Hyderabad and left this vessel with the Raja! It is the honest belief of the Rani, as well as some old servants of the place, that Sai Baba of Shirdi stayed a few days every time He came to Chincholi and that He would ride far out of the town in a bullock drawn cart, accompanied by the Raja, to have talks. This cart is now at Puttaparthi. Devotees who have seen and experienced the acts of Sri Sathya Sai Baba will have no difficulty in understanding this strange story, for they know Baba can be at Madras and yet take tea with a family at Bangalore as happened once in a bungalow at the Civil Station! He can converse with a man at Bhopal or be seen at a stall in an exhibition in Delhi or speak on the phone to Menon in Madras while simultaneously being at another place.
For instance, at Hospet in 1940, there was a family known well to Baba since His childhood. The elder sister was a schoolteacher, and her brothers were His classmates and playmates at Bukkapatnam. They had heard about the manifestation and had also seen Baba at Puttaparthi. One evening, a year later, a bullock cart brought Sri Sathya Sai Baba to their door. Their joy knew no bounds! The boys spent the entire night talking with Baba, one on each side of Him. They laughed, cheered, and joked. The mother made preparations for Baba's bath the next day and for a feast. How can her disappointment be described when she discovered in the morning the empty bed - and Baba gone! On inquiry she found Baba had never left Puttaparthi, a hundred miles away! Incarnations are not bound as mortals are by the limitations of time and space. They are a Law unto themselves!
One year when He addressed a meeting at the All-India Sai Samaj at Mylapore, Madras, Baba's opening words were, "Though this is the first time this body has come here, I have always been here in this temple!" This identity and unbroken continuity are emphasized by Him in a hundred different ways on all occasions.
In Coorg, He recognized on sight an ardent devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and noted with pleasure that He was a Life Member of the Sai Baba Trust.
Baba has presented to His devotees lockets and pictures of Sai Baba of Shirdi, or of Sai Baba of Shirdi with His own portrait incorporated, or His picture with the portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi in the region of the heart. No distinction is allowed to be made in worship of Himself and the previous manifestation. In the Prasanthi Nilayam prayer hall there are two pictures which further demonstrate this lineage. The artist captivatingly caught the charm of the moment when Sai Baba was resuming His Mission. The grandeur and the historicity of the moment are immanently portrayed in the pictures.
A silver figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi is the focal point toward which all prayer at Prasanthi Nilayam is directed. Baba establishes His identity and continuity by a series of significant acts. For example, the image of Sai Baba of Shirdi is decorated with flower garlands that have been offered to Baba, and no difference is ever made between these garlands and fresh ones; both are used for decorating the image. During the nine days of Navaratri, women at the Nilayam offer "saffron worship," and all the saffron thus offered is collected and poured ceremoniously on the silver figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Baba tells many visitors who have questions, "You need not wait until you meet and ask me; ask the Old Man," meaning Sai Baba of Shirdi. On the raised platform at the prayer hall, facing the assembled devotees, are two life-size oil paintings, one of Sai Baba of Shirdi, the other of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Both figures are standing and both have one hand crossed over the other, Sai Baba of Shirdi holding His right hand with His left and Sri Sathya Sai Baba holding His left hand with His right. The knot of the cloth around Sai Baba of Shirdi's head, usually tied to the left, is here found on the right of the head. This is intriguing to some people, for they do not know that when the portrait artist wanted pictures to copy, Baba waved His Hand - two small pictures were materialized in His Hand! The picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi showed the two hands in a new posture and the cloth knot on the right. So the artist copied that picture, placing the knot on the right.
Song and hymns sung in daily worship to both incarnations are the same. They refer to the identity and continuity in unmistakable terms. In the list of 108 names with which Sri Sathya Sai Baba is worshiped, either in person or through picture representation, there are those included which are specifically attributable to Sai Baba of Shirdi. Sri Sathya Sai Baba is addressed as, "He who was born in the village of Patri," "He who was living in the village of Shirdi," "He who is the undifferentiated Incarnation of the Power of Sai Baba of Shirdi," "He who is the embodiment of Shirdi Sai," and so on. The silver image of Sai Baba of Shirdi is there only as the representative of Baba. When accommodating Baba on the dais, the image is removed to the right or the left of Baba, placed on the floor, or removed from the hall. Once when Baba felt there should be a procession to the village, He said, "The Old Man shall go today," and sent the image in the decorated palanquin.
When Baba was a young boy, and after His Declaration of this identity, many a doubter posed the question, "How can we believe that you are He?" One who had such doubts was given an unusual Vision by the young Baba in 1943. The cynic was flabbergasted by the proof presented to him. Baba, it seems, stretched out His Palm, and there appeared a resplendent portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi. On the other Palm, an equally effulgent portrait of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Another similar miracle was experienced by a devotee named Chidambara Iyer at New Delhi. It shows that Baba continues to use the same means to convince seekers that He who had come then as Sai Baba of Shirdi has come now as Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
The Delhi devotee writes: "One evening I was bicycling along a deserted road between Old Delhi and New Delhi cogitating on my financial worries. I had returned from Puttaparthi some weeks before, and though I was drawn much to Baba, I had not yet been convinced that He was also Sai Baba of Shirdi, or a manifestation of God. Years ago I was advised by someone to worship Sai Baba of Shirdi, and now I had fallen in with this new Baba at Puttaparthi. I revolved these doubts in my mind and pedalled along. Suddenly, a question, 'Finished the work of the day?' was thrown at me from behind by a hefty old man who was struggling to catch up to me by harder cycling. When I turned, I saw a fascinating smile lighting a face, looking at me half-pityingly and half-affectionately.
"I earned my livelihood in Delhi teaching music to children and occasionally playing the violin at musical concerts. So I thought the old man must have seen me at a concert or in a student's house, and noticed me pedalling on my cycle along the roads of Delhi. 'Yes, I am going home now,' I replied in Tamil, my mother tongue, and the language in which the stranger had, most unexpectedly, addressed me. 'Then', the old man pleaded, 'can you come along with me to that old tomb yonder? I will not keep you long.'
"We rode abreast for about a furlong to the tomb, and leaning our cycles against the wall, sat in the shadow on the eastern side. He asked me to sit opposite him, and by clever questioning he drew out my problems, one by one. He said that the Master I had providentially acquired was the Lord Himself. Then suddenly arising, he said, 'Why do you doubt it? He is Sai Baba of Shirdi, see!' He extended his palms toward me, and I clearly saw, as if painted in life-like color, the portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi, resplendent on one palm, and on the other, the shining face of the Puttaparthi Baba. I can never forget those two faces lighting up the palms of the saintly old man. The episode came as an answer to all my doubts; it gave an anchor to the drifting soul; it provided me a new outlook on life. Whenever I now sit for meditation, that scene of twin splendor comes before my mind's eye and thrills me with a mysterious joy.
"We rode back to the road together, reaching which, he turned in the direction from which we had come. This was rather unexpected, for surely he could not have come so far just to bless me with that Vision. He admonished me again not to waiver in my allegiance and lose hold over a treasure so easily come by. I watched him pedal away, admiring his agility and cycling skill. But imagine my wonder and consternation the next moment, for he suddenly melted into thin air!"
Thus Baba gave the Delhi devotee positive proof of the identity of the two Babas.
Baba speaks the same words of consolation and courage and uses the same gesture of "Do not fear," under similar conditions now, as He did when a little boy, showing doubting mortals that He is born with the divine mission to uplift and guide. The same Vision is presented to solve the same doubt, whether the doubter is present physically before Baba, or whether he is far away in Delhi, cycling on a deserted road! He has given this Vision to many people, wherever they were, and to fortunate devotees this and other clear indications that He and Sai Baba of Shirdi are one.
When once a devotee was waiting at the Bangalore City Railway Station for the train to Mysore, so that she could enter the Mission Hospital for an operation, Sri Sathya Sai Baba manifested Himself before her as a tall hefty old man wearing a long kafni, "gown," a cloth wound around his head, and carrying a heavy stick and a bundle of clothes. Seating himself on the same bench as the one on which the lady was sitting, he opened the conversation in Telugu and dissuaded her from having the operation, saying that it was now a fad with doctors to perform surgery at the slightest provocation! He told her he was just back from Shirdi, and he gave her date fruits which he said were the offering from the shrine! He said that the offered fruits would cure her, and they did! He also informed her that his ashram was near Viduraswatam, on the way to Puttaparthi, and that he, would be ultimately taking all the inmates of his own ashram to Shirdi!
Thus it is seen that Sai Baba of Shirdi is inextricably intertwined in the experience of devotees with the present manifestation of the same Godhead. When worship is done by any devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi now, Sri Sathya Sai Baba knows about it.
Once a lady at Madras, desperate because her son was seriously ill, placed him in front of Sai Baba of Shirdi's portrait. Years later she came to know of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. She came to Puttaparthi with her son, then a tall muscular young man. As soon as Baba saw them, He asked the mother "You placed this boy under my care fifteen years ago, did you not?"
Every year when the anniversary of the passing away of the mortal body of Sai Baba of Shirdi is celebrated at Shirdi, Baba "transcends" this body, and when He returns, He usually says, "I have been to Shirdi."
A few years ago while Baba was at Madras, an incident happened which is inexplicable by any other theory than the one which proclaims the identity of the two Babas. Baba casually announced to His devotees that a close attendant of Sai Baba of Shirdi would pass into eternity on a certain date in the morning hours and that He would have to go to give him the coveted Vision of Himself at the last moment of his mortal life. Most of the devotees were apprehensive about what might happen that day, although some were filled with expectation and indeed joyous that they would have an opportunity to see Baba blessing a disciple of His previous manifestation. For a few days they talked of little else; they watched the calendar and then the clock for the arrival of the historic moment!
At last the day dawned, and when the hour struck, Baba was, in spite of all the devotees' precautions, in the bathroom! Seeing that He did not emerge for a long time, they peeped through the window, and finding Him actually away from His Body, they broke open the door and began to attend the Body, watching for signs of movement or activity of heart or pulse. They saw Sacred Ash emanating in large quantities from His right toe, and they could hear Him speak in Marathi, quoting stanzas from scriptures. On "coming back" Baba told them the story of the passing away of the disciple of the "previous body" and how He had blessed him with a Vision of Sai Baba of Shirdi and given him the Udi which his Guru always granted him.
Four years ago, when Baba was in Hyderabad, He was invited to Sakori to the ashram of Godavari Matha, the disciple of Upasini Baba and Sai Baba of Shirdi. Welcomed by the women disciples with Vedic recitations and the traditional ceremonies of the Reception of Elders, they offered worship. He must have blessed them with a glimpse of His Reality and His Identity, for they expressed a keen desire to come to Prasanthi Nilayam. But Baba said that He was present at Sakori and that it was best they remain there.
Those who are familiar with the miracles of Sai Baba of Shirdi and also the miracles of Sri Sathya Sai Baba may note certain differences in style, language and technique, but as stated by Yogi Suddananda Bharathiar of Madras, who has seen and been inspired by both Babas, "There is an unmistakable identity of mission and message." Sri Sathya Sai Baba says that He is not as severe or as stern with people now about ignorance, negligence, disobedience or superciliousness as He was in His previous manifestation. He explains this difference by means of a parable: "The mother is usually stern when the children enter the kitchen and disturb her while cooking; but while serving the food, she is all joy and patience. I am now serving you the dishes cooked then; wherever you may be, if you are hungry, and if you have a plate, I shall serve you the dishes and feed you to your heart's content!"
People who have read the description of the elaborate procession to the Chavadi of Sai Baba of Shirdi once every week, are thrilled at the grandeur of the affair. With its chariot, caparisoned horse, decorated palanquin and other paraphernalia, they might remark that Sri Sathya Sai Baba does not permit His devotees to lavish all that pageantry on Him! Those who have read the description of the precariously hung plank upon which Sai Baba of Shirdi often slept, will be glad that Sri Sathya Sai Baba does not adopt that type of austerity.
Concerning the difficulties one naturally experiences in believing the identity of the two Babas, Sri Sathya Sai Baba told a gathering at the All-India Sai Samaj at Madras in January of 1959, "The careers of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna are different in the various incidents of their earthly careers; they also emphasized different aspects of ethical behavior and philosophical belief; they differed in their methods of teaching and uplifting. It is all a difference in emphasis rather than in basic things. It is difficult to be convinced that Sri Rama is Sri Krishna ; but few have any doubts on that score. So too, those who can delve deep into these, My mysteries, can understand that the same Power has now assumed another human form."
Those who know about Sai Baba of Shirdi's miracles, His omniscience and omnipresence, His teachings, His universal love, can, by merely spending a few days in the Holy Presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, convince himself of the identity of the two. There is unmistakable similarity in speech, style, attitude, outlook, and teachings.
His Holiness Gayatri Swami, a disciple of His Holiness Narasimhabharati Swami, and a comrade of Swami Amritananda to whom reference has been made in previous pages, came to Prasanthi Nilayam in 1960. He told of spending the year 1906 with Sai Baba of Shirdi and of seeing Him frequently thereafter. He recalled incidents similar to the "Don't Shoot" miracle, described in a previous chapter, and he related many anecdotes of Sai Baba of Shirdi that parallel those of the present manifestation. Even some of the jokes were the same!
The night before he left Puttaparthi on that visit, it seems he had a Vision of his Guru, Sai Baba of Shirdi, in which He told him that He had left His tomb after eight years and had brought away all His "properties" fifteen years later! The next morning Gayatri Swami was surprised to learn from Nilayam residents that Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born in 1926, eight years after the passing away of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and that He had assumed the name "Baba" and manifested all the powers associated with Sai Baba of Shirdi in His fifteenth year! The name and the powers, Gayatri indicated, must be the "properties" referred to by the Guru. Gayatri went away supremely happy that he had had his "center-view," and was bothered little about not having the interview! A simple childlike soul, he was, reminding everyone of Swami Amritananda.
Yogi Suddhananda Bharathiar says that when he visited Sai Baba at Shirdi in the company of the Lokamanya Balagangadhara Tilak and Karandiker, Sai Baba told them that freedom won by the rifle would be of no avail, for what is won by force will be lost to force. He advised that independence must be won by and for spiritual progress. Sri Sathya Sai Baba also places first emphasis on love, based on sympathy and understanding.
Olaf Stapledon, noted author, writes about Europe and the West: "Already before the two great wars a materialistic pleasure-loving go-getting socially irresponsible civilization was becoming a nightmare. Between the two wars the nightmare deepened. In revulsion from it there was a widespread turning away from individualism and a yearning for a true community. This produced the movement for democratic socialism, but also, its perversion, totalitarianism. Both commercial individualism and the barbaric tribalism that sprang up in opposition to it were in their different ways object lessons in the frightfulness of a world disoriented from traditional values!" But the malady has affected India and other parts of the world too, for the world is fast becoming one.
There was another reason also for this second advent of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Stapledon speaks about the need: "Scientific enquiry itself seems to be producing important evidence that the assumptions on which the modern wisdom has been based are false! There is strong evidence for telepathy, and also for pre-cognition and post-cognition. It seems that future events can take effect on consciousness while they are still future, and in the orthodox view, non-existent! Similarly, with past events. All this makes nonsense to our familiar assumptions about time and about mind's temporal limitations. To cope with pre-cognition and post-cognition and even with simultaneous telepathy, 'the modern wisdom' will have to be transformed."
Sai Baba of Shirdi, and now Sri Sathya Sai Baba, have both been doing just this, to emphasize traditional values and transforming "modern wisdom" by familiarizing everyone with the miracles of pre-cognition, simultaneous telepathy, multilocation, and also many an unnamed one, to the utter confusion of the pundits of science, thus proving to man that there is a God in him that is whispering mystery all the time.
The purpose of both the Sais is the same. Only the need to transform the modern wisdom has now become more imminent. In Sai Baba of Shirdi's time the emphasis was more on the community; in Sri Sathya Sai Baba's time it is on the individual. Previously, it was more on activity for the good of all; now it is mostly on love for all and for one's innermost self; then the message was given to comparatively few; and now all are welcome to it and it is even taken to the very doors of the needy.
A person knowledgeable of the life of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, reading, for example, the Sai Satcharita, written in English by Sri N.V. Gunaji, on the basis of the Marathi book by Hemadpant, will be reminded on every page of the continuity and identity of the present manifestation and the last. He will find in the book echoes of what he has often heard Baba Himself saying.
The book reveals that Sai Baba of Shirdi encouraged and warned devotees with such admonitions as: "Be wherever you like, do whatever you choose; remember this well, that all that you do is known to me. I am the ruler of all. I am seated in your hearts. Though I am here bodily, still I know what you do beyond the seven seas. Go wherever you will, over the wide world, I am with you." On innumerable occasions Sri Sathya Sai Baba has said essentially the same thing.
Once when a number of devotees at Prasanthi Nilayam were planning where they should stay at Courtallam, on the way from Trivandrum to Surandai, Baba said, "Wait! I shall tell you." The next morning He gave a detailed description of the Travancore House there, the number of rooms, the kinds of plants in the garden, the height of the compound wall, the location of the telephone in the hall, and so forth. A list was made to which He added a few more items including two bougainvillaea bushes at each end of the porch! He had seen all this from the Nilayam. When the group reached the Travancore House, the list was found to be correct to the minutest detail of a neglected rose tree near the garages!
He has proved to His devotees that He is with them always and that He knows every little thing they do, think, or speak. A devotee came to Puttaparthi some years ago and Baba told him that His ears were suffering with pain because of the singing of songs of God in the devotee's house! This was caused, He said, by "a neigbbor who came and joined in the singing who had a voice which was quite unmusical; the man did not know how to adjust the tone and tempo of his voice to that of the others." The reference to the pain was, of course, a jest; but how could He know of the grating voice unless He had actually heard?
Baba astonishes people by telling them all about their inmost thoughts and their most private deeds; He "reads them like an open book." An Inspector-General of Police who was once waiting in line outside Baba's interview room told a friend with him, a little challengingly, "There is one incident in my life, which, if He reveals to me, hats off to Him!" The Inspector-General's turn came; the interview ended; he came out of the room full of joy and satisfaction, shouting, "He knows everything from A to Z, official and unofficial."
Very often Sri Sathya Sai Baba has told devotees starting a voyage or pilgrimage, "Purchase three tickets for the four people who travel," meaning that He will join them as a ticketless passenger!
While His physical Body was at Puttaparthi, He once saved a pilot from suicide at Kashmir. This was in 1949. The facts were verified by those who actually witnessed the "trance." Baba was away from His Body for twelve hours. On His "return" He recounted that He not only dashed the fatal cup from the pilot's hand but entered the courtroom where the case against the pilot was being tried. He directed one of the military judges to raise an objection which virtually foiled the prosecution and forced the court to pronounce a verdict of "not guilty!" The pilot, Baba said, was a staunch devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi and was being unjustly charged with embezzlement of funds!
A Mr. Gunji writes of Sai Baba of Shirdi: "Shirdi was His center, but His field of action extended far wider to Bombay and Calcutta, North India, Gujerat, Deccan and South Kanara." The same is true of the Sathya Sai manifestation. Devotees who have gone to far away places including England, France, Canada, the United States, Japan and Germany, have felt His protecting Hand. Mr. and Mrs. G.V. Venkatamuni, for example, proceeded to the Continent and planned from there to attend the Coronation Ceremonies of Queen Elizabeth II. They were shopping in Paris when they discovered, to their utter dismay, that the bundle of traveler's cheques they had was lost! They could not locate it in spite of their desperate and thorough search not only in their purse and luggage but even in the most unlikely places. They were overcome with sorrow when they contemplated their plight in a strange land. They turned to Baba, as they always did in distress. Baba heard their pathetic cry - thousands of miles away! The next day, while looking in the self-same purse for something else, they were amazed and overjoyed to find the entire bundle of traveler's cheques intact!
There were two classmates of Baba when He was a little boy at school who joined the army in later years. An accident occurred, and they were caught in the flames of a fire that blew up a gasoline tank. Baba said this happened in the Northeast Frontier. This fact was verified some years later when the boys returned home after the conclusion of hostilities. Baba at Puttaparthi had immediately left His Body and proceeded to the scene of the fire. He prevented the fire from spreading to the tent where the boys were, though the flames encircled the area.
The Sai Satcharita says, "Goulibhava, aged ninety-five, who made his way to Pandharpur, saw Sai Baba of Shirdi as God in the form Vittal, and exclaimed, "This is Vittal incarnate, the merciful Lord of the poor and the helpless."
Last year a family of devotees went to Shirdi and from there attempted to travel to Pandharpur, but because of heavy rains and floods and the consequent cancellation of trains, they could not proceed further. They came to Puttaparthi. As Baba visited with them, He asked the aged father and mother, "You could not see Vittal, could you? You seem to be very sorry that your pilgrimage had to be cut halfway. If you want to have a Darshan of Vittal, look at Me." They looked, then danced with supreme joy, for Baba had become Vittal for their sake.
Of Sai Baba of Shirdi it is said that He was the form of God as Rama, Krishna, Siva and Maruthi. The Satcharita records an incident of a doctor, who, when he went to Sai Baba of Shirdi "saw not Baba but his beloved deity, Rama, on the seat before him." Sri Sathya Sai Baba has, as many devotees have attested, granted Visions of Himself as Rama, Krishna, and Kamakshi.
The experience of Swami Amritananda at Puttaparthi is a valuable example of this aspect of the divinity of Baba. As soon as Amritananda reached Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba accosted him, "Amritam," and Amritananda was genuinely astonished at the familiarity and even affection with which the call was saturated, and said, "Only Ramana Maharshi, a saint of South India, with whom I spent seventeen years, accosted me in that manner. The voice and manner were exactly the voice and manner of the Maharshi!" Later Baba asked the eighty-five year old Swami about a Ganapati Homa, a sacrifice to the elephant-headed God, which he had performed for forty-one days when he was seven years old! He told the Swami all the details of that sacrifice, including the long involved mantra, "words of Power," with which the offerings were placed each time in the fire. The mantra, as disclosed by Baba, begins, "Om Sreem Hreem Kleem Gloum Gam." This is a mantra of Seed Sounds. Baba told him that he had repeated this mantra a thousand times a day for forty-one days and made as many coconut offerings in the fire of the sacred sacrifice. "But what is the reward promised in the Scriptures?" Baba asked the old ascetic. He answered that if the sacrifice is done with scrupulous regard for ritual, Lord Ganapati Himself will appear in "the fiery enclosure," as the golden-colored effulgent elephant-headed God; that with His trunk He will receive the final and concluding offerings and will grant everlasting bliss by means of the Darshan. Baba asked him whether he had the Vision. Amritananda replied that it was not so easy for a seven year old boy to get the Vision of the Lord by the mere number and quantity of offerings and mantras. Baba interrupted him, saying, "No, no. It is due to all that mantra and all that sacrifice that you have now come to Me. You will today, after an interval of seventy-eight years, get the reward mentioned in the Scriptures."
He asked the Swami to look at Him, and when he did, Amritananda saw the golden-colored elephant, the Ganapati as described in ancient texts. He was overwhelmed with joy and bliss for four days following this Darshan, and forsook food, drink, and sleep.
It is mentioned by Hemadpant that Sai Baba of Shirdi, "the famous doctor of doctors, cared not for His own interests and always worked for the good and welfare of others. Himself suffering unbearable and terrible pain many a time in the process." This is true even in this manifestation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, for Sri Sathya Sai Baba has taken upon Himself many forms of suffering including mumps, typhoid and other fevers, childbirth pains, and scalding burns of His devotees. [Picture: Shirdi Sai in a village]
A doctor who lived near Madurai wrote to Baba: "My ear began to bleed profusely all of a sudden, and it gave me great pain. I suffered for a day. All at once the pain and bleeding subsided miraculously." Just as the doctor's letter reached Puttaparthi, Baba Himself was "free" from a slightly bleeding ear and earache, which He announced He had "taken over" from a devotee who had been suffering the agony!
On the twenty-first of June, 1959, at Bangalore, Baba's temperature suddenly shot up to 104.5 degrees F. at about 1:30 in the afternoon. The alarm of the devotees was considerably reduced when five minutes later, the thermometer registered a fall and indicated 99 degrees F. No one knew the reason for this sudden rise and the equally sudden fall until about 9:30 that evening. During dinner, Baba, seated on the terrace in the moonlight, instructed a young man from Madras, "Tomorrow, when you go to your mother, tell her that she should be more careful about fire. Assure her that Baba is always with her and that she will never come to harm." Baba explained that the sari of the young man's mother had caught fire from oil lamps while she was praying in her shrine room. The aroused curiosity of His guests prompted one to place a long distance telephone call to the mother two hundred and twenty-two miles away in Madras. When Baba spoke to her, her first query was whether His Hands were burned in the process of putting out the flames, as she knew of such instances of His mercy. Baba answered, "Oh, no. I did not burn My Hands. I just had an increase of temperature for a short while!"
Sai Baba of Shirdi once had his arm scorched while saving a child from fire. The accident happened many miles away. Sai Baba of Shirdi commented, "The child slipped into the furnace. I immediately thrust in My Hand and saved the child. I do not mind My arm being burned. I am glad that the life of the child is saved." The acts of Grace are the same in both manifestations.
The Satcharita, the remarkable book about Sai Baba of Shirdi which has been previously mentioned, gives many cases of illness which were cured by Him by a mere command such as, "You should not purge any more." "The vomiting must stop." "Your diarrhea has stopped." "Do not climb, O snake poison."
Sri Sathya Sai Baba continues to perform the same miracles, and cures diseases, however long standing, by His Will only. An old merchant from the town of Kuppam, thought to be dead, was kept for two days because Baba did not give His word to proceed with the disposal of the body. On the third day Baba ordered him to get up, and he obeyed! There was a young man from Salem suffering from acute diarrhea. Baba commanded him "not to purge any more" - and the purging ceased! Living in Puttaparthi was a young girl whose eyesight was so poor that, to guide herself about her house, she had to walk touching the wall with one hand. She could not even bear the sunlight; it burned her eyes, giving her agonizing headaches. She remained in a darkened room indoors most of the day. She had consulted all the renowned optometrists in Mysore, Madras and Bombay. No cure resulted. She spent her days in prayer and meditation. At last, one day, after visiting Baba, He said she could go home and that her eyes would be right. He gave her a bottle of eye-drops, which He materialized by a Wave of the Hand, and told her "Use this medicine; a few drops will do." She went home and found her eyes perfect in every way. His command was obeyed!
The Satcharita says of Sai Baba of Shirdi, "He became famous as a Magician. Without any liquid or medicine being put in the eyes, some blind men got back their eyesight." This is true, word for word, of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
The Satcharita also states that Sai Baba of Shirdi used to say, "I am the Mother, the origin of all beings, the harmony of the three qualities of nature, the propeller of all scenes, the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer." Also, "His firm conviction was that He was the Lord Vasudev." Likewise Baba has announced many times that He has come to save the world and that He is the Lord Himself. A profoundly true declaration of this was evinced about 1952. Sudden death had taken away His sister's husband, and the entire family and villagers were grief stricken. A few hours after the burial Baba was seen seated on the low porch wall of the family house facing the road that leads to Prasanthi Nilayam. The bereaved sister was wailing pathetically from inside the house. Her little son with his grandmother was in front of Baba and there was a semi-circle of the father, mother, sister, brothers, and others, all in deep sorrow. Baba smiled, and chided with a chuckle, "What? If there is no death, and no birth, how can I spend My time?" Is not Baba the Creator, the Preserver, the Destroyer, the Lord Himself?
Sai Baba of Shirdi had control over the elements. "Once there was an imminent fear of a terrible storm; the sky was overcast; the rains fell and the waters flooded the streets; the panic stricken villagers ran to Baba for help. Baba told the storm, "Stop your fury and be calm." All became calm at Shirdi. This account, too, is given in the Satcharita. He also once commanded a fire to "step down and be calm, and it obeyed instantly."
Many such instances are stored in the memory of the devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba also. For this is but a continuation of the same divine drama. Sri Challa Appa Rao writes concerning a downpour. "It occurred when Baba was taken in procession on the night of the Vijayadasami Festival. He sat in a decorated chariot. When the procession started, the sky was dark and heavy with storm clouds. There was deafening thunder and flashes of lightning. Truly a grim spectacle! More than three hours passed before the procession returned to the temple. Still there was no rain. Who else can it be, if not God Himself who can hold back the downpour for so long? Baba stepped down from the chariot and went upstairs at the Nilayam. Everyone else returned to their lodgings. Then came the deluge!"
On a cloudy June evening, Baba was addressing an audience in an open-air meeting at Mercara. A monsoon sky was overcast and gloomy; an ominous sense of approaching rain was felt. On the distant hills the rain poured. It came nearer and nearer until it reached Mahadevpet, just half a mile away. Baba discoursed quietly and calmly, holding the audience spellbound for more than an hour and a half. At the end He said, "Now you can go home, for in about ten minutes you will get the rain that would have drenched you by now." The rains came precisely as announced!
The Chitravathi River at Puttaparthi is subject to sudden floods. It rises in the Nandi Hills, and heavy rains in that region in Mysore State bring down water many feet deep along the banks for many miles. The Prasanthi Nilayam was built on an eminence to avoid these periodic floods which at times invade the old temple and enter the prayer shed, the kitchens, and all the surrounding area. On many such occasions Baba has stood on the edge of the water and said, "This is enough, go back." The rising waters obeyed. Some years ago, during Dasara, when food was being served, it rained all around the Nilayam, but not a drop fell in the precincts where people were being fed!
In 1963 Baba was in the East Godavari District. He had crossed over to Rajahmundry by the very last boat permitted by the police to brace the turbid torrents of the flooded river. The earth was soaked and slushy everywhere; a cold wind had swept down a drizzle for almost twenty-four hours. At Mirthipadu, approximately ten miles from Rajahmundry, Baba addressed villagers from an open terrace of a bungalow. One could see all around the broad sheets of water formed by the swelling Godavari and the curtain of rain advancing from all directions toward Mirthipadu. But the rain could not penetrate the area, and the meeting continued far into the night! Baba had willed that the rain not advance.
Satcharita records that Sai Baba of Shirdi cured Bhimaji Patel by means of two dreams. "He gave instructions to many persons in dreams. To one addicted to drink, He appeared to him in a dream; He sat on the man's chest and pressed him until he promised not to touch liquor again. Baba explained mantras to some people in their dreams."
The present Sai Baba has "operated" on many suffering patients during their dreams. Thirumala Rao of Bangalore had such an experience, and when he awoke, the bed was soaked with blood, and the pain gone. What he dreamed had actually come to pass. Baba, the Surgeon, had blessed him.
Dreams form a very important means of communication between Baba and His devotees. Baba warns, teaches, instructs, treats, or "operates," during a dream of the devotee which He designs and times. He has initiated a number of devotees into the first lesson in spiritual discipline. In dreams He has presented Himself and communicated the sacred formula to the deserving aspirant. Later when the devotee visits Puttaparthi, He has told him about the processes and conditions for successful spiritual practice.
Just as Sai Baba of Shirdi sat on the chest of the drunkard and forced him in a dream experience to promise not to touch liquor again, so Baba, too, has "beaten" an unruly son-in-law of one of His devotees while he was in a moving train, alone, in a first class compartment! The man jumped out of the train as soon as it halted at a wayside station. The crowd that gathered could see the finger-marks on both his cheeks.
An insane patient at the hospital at Puttaparthi was also "beaten" in absentia by Baba, and the doctors at his bedside witnessed the fellow yelling at every blow, shouting that he would behave better, and praying to Baba to stop beating him, all the while wondering at Baba's mysterious way of curing the patient of his foul vocabulary. After this treatment and the suffering of actual physical pain, the fellow gave up his vile speech and chose always to sing devotional songs!
Satcharita gives the case of a Punjabi boy who saw Sai Baba of Shirdi in a dream and heard Baba commanding him to come to Shirdi. He did not know who Baba was or where Shirdi was. Luckily, he came across a picture of Baba in a shop, and after many adventures, arrived at Shirdi.
Many instances of exactly the same nature have occurred in Sri Sathya Sai Baba's role. The principal of a college in South India was surprised when his son, afflicted with dire heart trouble, said one day that he had dreamed of a place called Puttaparthi where he would be cured! He made inquiries, consulted the railway time tables of all the Indian zones, got a copy of the Post Office Directory, and was surprised to find that there was a village called Puttaparthi. Further inquiries gave him the precious news that Sri Sathya Sai Baba was there and that He could, by His mere Will, cure all afflictions!
How Baba called the great devotee of the composer-saint Tyagaraja to Himself is an interesting story. In 1951 the Raja of Venkatagiri was surprised to receive a letter from this devotee which read: "Tyagaraja appeared in a dream and commanded me to go to Venkatagiri in order to be blessed by the Lord who has come to this earth and who is soon reaching Venkatagiri in His tour. He told me that God has assumed the name of Sri Sathya Sai. I shall come to Venkatagiri as soon as I hear from you." It was the festival of the birth of Krishna when she met Baba at Venkatagiri in answer to this command. Baba gave her the chance to sing the compositions of Tyagaraja for two full hours in His Presence. He also blessed her with an image of Sri Rama, which He materialized for her. After receiving the image, she was in ecstatic unconsciousness for over twenty-four hours! She was happy that Baba granted her two boons. She experienced a peaceful end and the remembrance of Ramnam, the repeating of Rama's Name, to the very last moment of her life!
Hundreds of people come to Puttaparthi drawn by mysterious intimations. For example there was Sukumara Menon, who was "called" by phone by Baba's voice to meet Him, a call not noticed anywhere along the line; the phone rang in his room, although Baba was actually in Bangalore in the midst of devotees at a housewarming function. Sukumara Menon wrote about the mysterious call and the conversation he had with Baba. When this was mentioned to Baba He said, "You know this now, because he wrote about it. But remember, this is only a millionth part of My activity in showering Grace."
Satcharita also records another facet of Sai Baba of Shirdi's life which can be seen as a correct account of what happens today at Puttaparthi. "The devotees could never approach Him unless He intended to receive them. Nobody could go there of his own accord; nobody could stay there long if he so wished; he had to leave the place when allowed to do so by Baba."
Once, when a long line of bullock carts approached Puttaparthi from Bukkapatnam bringing visitors from various places, Baba sang jubilantly, "It has come! It has come! Baba's Caravan." The author, standing nearby, remarked, "People who come to Puttaparthi tell their neighbors, friends and relatives, and so the number increases. "Baba turned sharply, saying, "No! No one can come to Me without My calling him, even if a hundred people persuade or drag or push." Everyone who comes to Puttaparthi leaves saying prayers such as, "Help me to come again." "Kindly get me once again to this place." Devotees know that without His express wish, no one can fulfill the pilgrimage. When He says, "Stay," they stay, whether they have "leave from the office" or not. When He says, "Leave," they leave, however unwillingly, for when they scrupulously follow Baba's orders in doing so, some urgent work will be awaiting them when they return home!
Devotees of Sri Sathya Sai Baba have heard Him assure them, "Why fear when I am here?" "You look to Me, and I look to you." "All your sins are forgiven the moment you come into My Presence." "I shall carry all your burdens." "Take, take as much bliss as you can from Me and leave with me all your sorrows." Assurances were given to many fortunate souls, in identical terms, by Sai Baba of Shirdi, as recorded in the Satcharita :
"I do not need any paraphernalia for worship, either eightfold or sixteenfold. I rest where there is full devotion."
"My treasury is always full; it is overflowing; I say, take this wealth in cartloads; this time won't come again."
"Let there be no insistence on establishing one's own view; no attempt to refute other's opinions."
"Nothing will harm him who turns his attention toward Me. Avoid the Company of atheists, irreligious, and wicked people; be meek and humble toward all. See Me in all beings."
"All the insects, ants, the visible, movable, and immovable world is My Body and Form."
"My treasury is full and I can give anyone what he wants, but I have to see whether he is qualified to receive what I give."
"Look at Me wholeheartedly and I in turn will look at you similarly."
"To get realization of Self, meditation is necessary. If you practice it continuously, the mental waves will be pacified."
"Give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, and your veranda to strangers for sitting and resting. If you are inclined to give, give; if you are not inclined to give, do not give, but do not bark like a dog."
"I require no door to enter; I always live everywhere."
"God's quest should not be made on an empty stomach."
"Leaving out your pride and egoism, surrender yourself to Me. I am seated in your heart."
The Satcharita says that Sai Baba of Shirdi wanted a devotee to cast aside his blind belief in horoscopes and predictions of astrologers and palmists, for it weakens one.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba also has advised similarly. There is the incident of a man from the old State of Hyderabad who dreamed that Baba asked him to extend his palm. With a sharp pointed knife, Baba drew a line on his palm, the line of good luck, as he discovered the next day to his delight and dismay! For One who can draw a new line on the palm, of what concern is palmistry? For One who can change the stars, of what value is astrology? Little wonder that these divine manifestations decry man's faith in these beliefs when he himself is master and maker of destiny!
Again, from the Satcharita :
"Baba never liked people to create debts when coming to visit Him, celebrating holy days or going on pilgrimages."
"Baba anticipated and forestalled the calamities of His devotees and warded them off in time."
"Baba respected the feelings of His devotees and allowed them to worship Him as they liked."
"Baba was extremely forgiving, never irritable, straight, soft, tolerant, and content beyond comparison."
"Baba read and understood all the thoughts of His devotees."
"He suppressed the evil thoughts and encouraged the good ones."
All these sayings parallel those of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Swami Amritananda, companion of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, was convinced that Sri Sathya Sai Baba knew Yogic science better than anyone else in his experience because Sai Baba elaborated to him on his faulty practice of Yogic exercises which he had performed years before Sai Baba's "birth." In Satcharita it is written that "Sai Baba of Shirdi knows well all Yogic practices."
Sri Sathya Sai Baba gave practical lessons in Yoga to a young Frenchman who, like many other enthusiastic students, had endeavored to practice Yoga through a study of books. Many cases of misdirected practice of Yoga come to Baba for treatment and correction.
The following sentence from Satcharita could very well have been written about the present Sai Baba. "To Him all duties are alike; He knows neither honor nor dishonor."
Sri Sathya Sai Baba attends the smallest detail of the lowliest task at Prasanthi Nilayam. He sits on the floor, sleeps on a mat, does not hesitate to walk in sun or rain, climbs the snow-clad Himalayas barefoot, invites a large crowd to ride in His car in spite of the crush and length of the journey, goes long distances without food and drink. He prefers the dishes of the poorest of the land, because, as He says, "No one should be put to extra expense and trouble on My account!"
The Satcharita says of the previous Sai Baba:
"Baba could read the hearts of others as though He had received a wireless message."
"Baba converted by His touch raisin seeds into seedless raisins."
"Baba gave instructions to His devotees in both spiritual and temporal matters."
"Baba saw no difference between caste and caste, and even beings and beings."
"Baba always loved those who studied about the Universal and the Absolute, and He always encouraged them."
"Baba hated scandal mongering and spoke of it as equal to gorging dung."
"Baba insisted that remuneration for labor must be paid promptly and to the satisfaction of the worker."
Everyone of these sayings appear to those who have met, heard, and followed Sri Sathya Sai Baba, to be His own statements and as representing His own advice and attitude.
In 1958, when He was examined on commission by a law court, Baba referred to a similar incident in His previous "birth" and gave the same replies. When asked His name, He said, "I answer to any." He said that everything was His, that He lived everywhere, and by these replies, He made the pundits of law describe Him as inscrutable, though, for adepts in spiritual science, it was as clear as crystal that those were the unmistakable utterances of an Incarnation of the Lord.
It is the same Presence come again! Sri Sathya Sai Baba once said that this body was born in Parthi; the previous one was born in Pathri. In this "birth" as well as the previous, there was a Muslim who loved Him and fondled Him as a child. In this "birth," too, He drew people's attention to Himself when a boy, by disclosing the whereabouts of a lost horse at the village of Uravakonda. Everyone will find in the present God manifestation the same motherly solicitude, simplicity of exposition, profundity of wisdom, universality of outlook, all-conquering love, and the same omnipresence and omnipotence.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba has often said that He had been to Shirdi when He was in what may be called a trance. At Puttaparthi on Purnami Festival Day in 1950, Baba was having lunch with a young man from Madras. The lady serving the dishes did not know that it was an auspicious day for Sai devotees. Suddenly Baba "went on a journey," and during this period, He ordered, "Serve him chapatis," unleavened bread. "Serve him kheer," sweets, and mentioned strange names of other sweets and foods. When He "returned," the lady gently chided Him, "If you ask me to serve this young man items that I have not prepared, and items I have not even heard about, what can I do?" Baba sympathized with her plight. He said He had been to Shirdi and the names He mentioned were Marathi dishes! He then created a chapati and slices of Marathi sweets which He gave to the young man.
When He came to Puttaparthi after the Declaration of His identity, a young lad of fifteen, He showed in His Hand a fruit which no one there had seen or tasted before. Pedda Venkapa Raju's sister says that she asked Baba what type of fruit it was and received the reply that it came from Shirdi. Baba proposed to cut and distribute pieces in the evening. She pleaded with Baba that each person be given at least one full fruit so that it may be relished. Baba asked her to give Him a large basket with a cover. He tapped the basket once and she was shown a basket full of the fruit! That evening there were a hundred or more people, and she was again concerned that there would not be a whole fruit for each. The basket could not hold more than thirty to forty! She told Baba how nervous she was. Then the unexpected. From that basket Baba gave a whole fruit to each of the more than one hundred people after devotional singing! The taste was so strange and so sweet!
Pedda Venkapa Raju's sister relates another miraculous incident. She was troubling Baba with a request to grant her some Vision to instill faith in her heart, for she did not want to dismiss the story of the Sai incarnation as an invention, an attitude that many in the family found it easy to assume. Baba liked her because she was a simple soul, steeped in suffering. He told her, "I shall show you My 'previous body' this evening!" She confessed that she could not contain her joy and was praying for a shorter afternoon and a quicker sunset! As soon as dusk fell, Baba led her through many doorways into one of the innermost rooms of the house. He took away His Palm which had been covering her eyes and asked her to look at a corner to which He pointed with His Finger. There sat Sai Baba of Shirdi on the floor in His characteristic pose, with one leg slightly folded, the other stretched just a little. The incense sticks before Him were burning and the smoke rising straight into the air! His body was glowing with a strange effulgence and there was a beautiful fragrance everywhere. After a minute or two, Baba asked her, "Have you seen?" and when she said, "Oh, how wonderful!" He placed His Palm once again firmly over her eyes and led her into the outer room.
Baba has often said that controversy as to whether He is the same Baba is meaningless and unnecessary, for as He explains, when there are two pieces of sweet, one square, another circular, one yellow and the other purple, unless one has eaten and realized the taste of both, one cannot believe that both are the same. Tasting, experiencing, that is the crucial thing, in order to know their identity.