Preface & Forward – Shree Sai Baba of Shirdi by Rao Bahadur M. W Pradhan

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“A bow to those good Souls, who enjoy the deep bliss of self. They shower down the water of self-bliss in order to refresh and cool those troubled souls who are burnt by the heat of this worldly existence. They are ornaments to ‘Chaitanya. They adorn the Science of the Knowledge of Brahman and they are the charming mansion where the Eternal God dwells. They do not expect from the people who come to them, the acquisition of the prescribed Sadhanas nor do they expect from them any proficiency in the Shastras. If people have only faith, they manifest the Light to them.” – Ekanat Bhagawat (Translated from the original Marathi) 

  1. It gives me a great pleasure to edit the second edition of ‘Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi‘ written by Rao Bahadur M.W. Pradhan, which gives a short sketch of the life and teachings of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi – a great Saint of the Maharashtra during the earlier period of the 20th century. If biography of saints is difficult, that of Shri Sai Baba is attended with difficulties almost insuperable. A cloud of mystery hangs over all the affairs of his life and completely veils of his birth, parentage and early life. None knows definitely anything about that period. In spite of such difficulties Rao Bahadur Pradhan has made a successful attempt in giving a short, but a vivid account of Shri Sai Baba’s life, which has become very useful especially to those who had no occasion to see him personally and for this the Shirdi Sansthan Committee is greatly indebted to the Rao Bahadur. In this edition the author has naturally surveyed the main incidents regarding the Shirdi Sansthan during the last 10 years. 
  2. Other features of this Saint that struck even casual observers were his unaccountable and marvelous knowledge of things and events far removed from him in the sense of time and space, and a remarkable power to foretell coming events or to force events to come to pass in accordance with his supreme will. Visitors noted with devout admiration that he was frequently mentioning either expressly or by allusion their inner most secret thoughts, their remote past, past of which they had lost all memory and incidents that occurred hundreds of miles away from his residence which none could possibly have communicated to him. Such miracles are seen to happen at the desire of great saints. Some Vedantis think that all miracles are brought about by the use of Siddhis and the Siddhis being obstacles on the path of self-knowledge, they express their disapprobation regarding such Siddhis and to some extent are even afraid of them. It is no doubt true that Siddhis are obstacles on the spiritual path, but we must distinguish between different kinds of Siddhis. The Siddhis acquired by the practice of Hatha Yoga by Changdeva are quite different from the Atma-siddhis of Shri Dnyanadeva. The miracles happened at the desire of Shri Sai Baba were the Siddhis of the – latter sort. By such divine powers many persons were first attracted to Shri Sai Baba to secure only temporal gains, but ultimately he made his devotees aspire to secure spiritual happiness and attainment of self-realization, which is the real mission of saints. Shri Sai Baba has fulfilled this mission to the entire satisfaction of many devotees who came to him. 
  3. The ultimate goal of human life is to realise God within and become merged in him. We may go further and say that this is the birth-right of every human-being and in order to achieve this ideal the Sadhak has to go and bow to the feet of a Sathguru, who is so called; because he makes the disciple realise the ‘Sat-vastu’ i.e., the Everlasting Thing and makes him experience perfect calmness of mind by making him realise his own self. Shri Sai Baba was, as said above, a real Sadguru at whose feet I had the great fortune to pass many days during my young age. Listening to his conversation which was very instructive and delightful and which has become a source of spiritual inspiration for me even now and it has also become a source of consolation and solution when I was thwarted with temporal as well as spiritual difficulties. I have to conclude this preface with a prayer that may this small book be a source of spiritual inspiration to those who read if and may Shri Sai Baba give perfect happiness, both temporal and spiritual to all those who have a strong reliance on him. 

Shri Sai Prasad, Turner Road, Bandra, 
Mumbai – 400 020. 
9th October, 1943 
Santa Dasanu-das,
Yeshwant Janardan Galvankar

A Foreword 

I feel pleasure in placing before the public this short sketch of the life and teachings of the late Divine Master, Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi (At present a wooden shrine is there, with an oil painting of Shri Sai Baba by Mr. Shamrao R. V. Jayakar of Parle, which is worshipped by hundreds of visitors), by Rao Bahadur Moreshwar Vishwanath Pradhan of Sai Pradhan Baug, Santacruz. 

He has taken his standpoint, by the translations of the various incidents in Sai Baba’s life, as they have appeared in Shri Sai Leela – a Marathi monthly Journal written by the able pen of the late Hon’ble Mr. Hari Sitaram Dixit, an eminent solicitor of Mumbai, and an equally eminent and sturdy devotee of Shri Sai Baba

In a translation, it is always difficult to convey the exact meaning of a theme from one language into another, nevertheless, it will be admitted, that, Rao Bahadur Pradhan has done his very best. 

I trust, therefore, readers will kindly forgive me if I take the liberty to mention, from out of the numerous personal experiences, an incident or two, as a foreword. 

Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was undoubtedly a great man -a superman – a man who had attained the realisation of the All Pervading Self, according to the tenets and experiences of the highest Hindu thought. 

His attainment was such, that gentlemen of the highest University attainments, men of unimpeachable social position, as well as mental culture, and almost all the then leading men of Maharashtra, in Government service and without, great journalists like the late Mr. B. G. Tilak, deputy collectors, eminent lawyers, advocates, solicitors, engineers, doctors and mathematicians, flocked to his feet for his blessings. 

Some of the most orthodox Hindu Shastrees, Christians, Parsees and Mahomedan Moulvies, and even Butchers from Bandra, vied with each other to pay their obeisance to him. The place where he used to sit, looked to all outward appearances as a tumbled down old ramshakle sort of a construction. But in that small oblong room, Sai Baba sat in the North-East corner. Opposite to him in the opposite comer was the sacred fire burning night and day (it is still kept burning by the Sansthan Committee). Next to this sacred Dhuni (fire) were earthenware pots filled with water for Baba to drink, and perform ablutions. The wall had a nitche, in which were placed a number of earthenware chilims (clay pipes). 

Next to Shri Sai Baba’s place (At present a wooden shrine is there, with an oil painting of Shri Sai Baba by Mr. Shamrao R. V. Jayakar of Parle, which is worshipped by hundreds of visitors to some of the devotees, amongst whom were high caste Hindus, Brahmins, Mahomedans and Parsees) and on his right hand, were a couple of grinding stones, where occasionally he used to grind corn and pulses, and in doing that, he was assisted by the village women, as well as high caste Hindu and Mahomedan lady visitors who happened to be there, eagerly, and without the slightest feelings of caste, creed and untouchability. 

There was also a sack of wheat and a sack of country tobacco. This tobacco was put in the earthen pipes and smoked, and pipe being offered to various devotees, smoked by them and passed on to and fro to Baba. 

This went on practically at all the times the visitors came in his presence and even anon. 

On the western wall was a sort of a niche as is observed in Mahomedan masjids. 

Opposite to this niche in central part of this room Shri Sai Baba partook of a little of the food, which he daily begged from certain houses in the village, and of the offerings made by visitors and others. These he mixed up and distributed himself to some of the devotees, amongst whom were high caste Hindus, Brahmins, Mahomedans and Parsees. 

It may safely be said, that Shri Sai Baba by practical teaching showed the ordinary house-holder how to perform his domestic duties, grind corn, eat his food, entertain visitors at the time of taking meals, and worship the Lord according to his own tenets, in his own home in the most simple and unostentatious manner. 

To the Agnihotri (fire worshipping) Hindu or Parsee, it was a sacred place, owing to the sacred fire kept burning there, and there Shri Sai Baba used to perform some observances, when no one was allowed to come up. 

When a Mahomedan visitor come up to pay his respects, with flowers, and lump sugar and coconuts, Fatia was uttered in which Baba joined. The flowers were hung up in the central nitche mentioned above, the lump sugar was partly distributed amongst all those present there as well as the village urchins outside, and partly returned to the party as prasad or present. The coconuts were broken up and similarly distributed. 

All the while the Hindu devotees sitting there, witnessed this Fatia, and partook of the lumps of sugar, as well as pieces of coconuts with pleasure and joy. 

The Hindus worshipped Shri Sai Baba, with all the rituals as observed in the Hindu temples throughout India. 

Sandal paste was applied to Baba’s forehead, chest, hands and feet. Kumkum with rice was similarly applied. 

The toes of his feet were washed and the water was partaken as sacred tirth (holy water). 

The arati was performed at noon with all the din and paraphernalia of worship as in a Hindu temple. 

Bells were rung. Sacred lamp with its five light was waived before him, cymbals clashed, the big drum sounded, the huge bell in the compound sent its deep notes for miles and miles around, and hundreds of devotees recited in perfect unison the words of the arati and the sacred Sanskrit hymns. The Mahomedans present there, enjoyed all this and freely partook of the offerings distributed by the Hindu Bhaktas. 

This wonderful place was called Dwarka Mai by Shri Sai Baba, who was heard many a time to say that whoever stepped into this Dwarka Mai, had his future assured-It will thus be seen, that this wonderful place owing to the sacred fire was a temple to the most Orthodox Hindu and Parsee, owing to the niche, it appeared as a masjid to the Mahomedan and to the Christian, owing to the sound of bells, etc., a Church. So in this unique place, all the principal creeds of my world were united and the common worship of the Universal God, brought home to each and all, in a unique and loving manner. Morever, to the ordinary house-holder, it was an object lesson for carrying on his daily worship alongside with his daily earthly duties, and toleration for the views and rituals of all others, in a most vivid and unmistakable manner. It will be seen that Shri Sai Baba created such an atmosphere of universal tolerance, good will and unity, and proved by his practical example the oneness of the worship of the Divinity to all the various casts and creeds, that, it may be said with pardonable pride that, though the foundation of universal tolerance was laid down by all the saints of India and more particularly by the saints of Maharashtra, so ably described by the late Hon’ble Mr. Ranade in his ‘Rise of the Maratha Power.’ Shri Sai Baba, brought it home to all in an emphatic and practical manner. 

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The Gujarati, the Bengali, and the Tamilian mind is very devotional. The Maratha mind is more practical and requires positive proof, as to the authority and capacity of the preacher of The Great Truth, Manifestation of the Divinity in Man is what the Maratha mind insists upon and when that is forthcoming and realised, it will at once unbend and worship such a person. 

Thus even men of untouchable classes, like Chokharnela (a Mahar), Rohidas (a Chamar), Sajan Kasai (a Butcher) and a host of other untouchable saints are held in the highest esteem, and revered by one and all. 

The manifestations of the Divine attainments of Shri Sai Baba, the realisation of the Universal Self, insisted upon as the highest attainment of the Hindu thought was patent to everyone, high or low, the learned and ignorant, men and women, to all the thousands and thousands of devotees, and seekers after the Truth, who flocked to Shirdi for his benediction. 

Their experiences have been various and have been published in the Shri Sai Leela, a Marathi monthly Journal. The western minds and thoughts and men and young women imbued with the present day teachings of west, with only a superficial aspect of life, are apt to utter in a hurried and thoughtless manner that Shri Sai Baba was a mere clairvoyant and a hypnotist. 

That he was miles and miles above these misleading lowest rungs of the ladder of spirituality viz.: clairvoyance and hypnosis the loitering in whose rungs, the highest Hindu thought strictly enjoins to avoid and not be ensnared or entangled in, such a lapse being absolutely detrimental to the progress towards Self Realisation, culminating in the Realisation of the Universal Self. 

The writer would therefore mention a couple of such incidents from his own personal experiences, for the readers to ponder upon. 

A friend staying in Bandra, was one day leaving his place in the morning to go to his office. Near the door of his block, his wife remembered that she had certain expenses to make, and asked him for a rupee. He knew the necessity of this request and opening his purse discovered that he had no loose coin in it, but currency notes. He told his wife that he would get these cashed in his office and in the evening on his return home, he would pay her the rupee, to which she gave her assent. 

On descending the staircase and coming upon the first landing, when fumbling for his handkerchief, he found a rupee in that pocket. As there was ample time for him to catch his train, his duty was to go up to his flat and hand over that rupee to his wife. Instead of doing that, nonchalant as most husbands are everywhere, he went to his office and after getting the notes cashed, gave a rupee to his wife on his return home in the evening, and forgot all about it thereafter. 

Some days passed since, when both of them happened to go to Shirdi. No sooner they made their obeisance than Baba said to his wife, “Mother, now-a-days one had become so untruthful, that though there was a rupee in his pocket he would say there was none!” 

Now the lady not knowing anything about the matter remained unperturbed, whereas the man remembering the whole incident, threw himself at Baba’s feet, and embracing them, shed tears of repentance and joy. 

Repentance for his callousness in not having gone up and paid that rupee to his loving and trusting wife, joy for the feeling of assurance of Shri Sai Baba’s watch on the guidance and progress of their worldly affairs. 

Now as the man had completely forgotten this incident, could it be said that this was a case of mere clairvoyance? 

Now as regards hypnosis:- Owing to the May vacation for schools, the youngest son of the above mentioned friend thought of spending his holidays at Shirdi, mother accompanying him. 

They were to have left on a Friday evening but as this day approached and my friend found that they had made no preparations, he asked them the reason of the delay. They kept silent, at which the man felt puzzled. After repeated queries the mother said that the boy had given up the idea of going to Shirdi, as there was no one at home to attend to the worship of the Shrine of Shri Sai Baba in their home at Bandra. Upon which, my friend told them not to be anxious as he himself would perform the worship exactly as the boy was doing. This they would not believe, as my friend having the views of the Prarthana Samajist, had never performed the worship of the Idea (misnamed Idolatory) according to the regular formal outward Hindu technique; and only believed him, when he took an oath about it before Shri’s picture in the Shrine. They accordingly left for Shirdi that Friday night. 

My friend was connected with a factory in Mumbai and had to leave early in order to be present at the factory when the gates were swung open for the workmen to enter. 

Next day was a Saturday. My friend got up a little earlier, took his bath and before proceeding with the pooja, prostrated himself before the Shrine and said, “Baba! I am going to perform the pooja exactly as my son has been doing, but please let it not be a mere matter of drill.” 

So saying, he performed the pooja and laid before the Master a few pieces of lump sugar as naivedya (offering). This sugar was distributed when he returned home in the noon for his lunch. 

After performing the pooja he felt a great deal of mental and physical exhilaration. He then locked the door, and left for his work. The servant came to the place later, and after opening the door with a duplicate key and sweeping the place, attended to the cooking of the food and waited till his return from the factory; when the food was served and the offering aforesaid of the morning pooja was distributed as the prasad or present. 

Having more time to spare, the evening pooja was performed with greater satisfaction. 

The next day was a Sunday, a holiday, and passed away with pleasure. 

The following day Monday was a working day and by evening my friend who had never performed pooja like this in all his life, felt great confidence within himself, that everything was passing quite satisfactorily according to the promise given to his son. 

Next day, Tuesday, he performed the morning pooja as usual and left for his work. Coming home at noon time, the food was served and he was just about to partake of it, when he saw that there was no prasad (present). 

He asked the servant, who told him that there was no offering made that morning and that my friend completely forgot to perform that part of the pooja. At this time my friend left his seat prostrating himself before the Shrine, expressed his regret, at the same time chiding Baba for his want of guidance in making the whole affair a matter of mere drill. 

Then he wrote a letter to his son stating the facts and requested his son to lay it before Baba’s feet and to ask Baba’s forgiveness for my friend’s remissness. 

This happened in Bandra at about noon on this Tuesday. At about the same time, when the noon arati in Shirdi was just about to commence, Baba spoke to my friend’s wife “Mother! I had been to your place with a view to having something to eat. I found the door locked. But there was, little window pane broken, through which I got in, and found, to my great regret, Bhau (meaning brother – that is my friend) had left nothing for me to eat, so I have returnee, uncomfortable with severe cravings of unappeased hunger.” 

The lady did not understand it, but the son who was sitting close by, understood, that, there was something wrong with the pooja in Bandra and therefore requested! Baba’s leave to be allowed to return. 

As Baba would not give him such permission he wrote a letter stating all that took place there and implored his father not to neglect the pooja. 

Both these letters crossed each other on their journey and were delivered to the respective parties the next day. 

Is this a case of hypnosis? 

Sceptics will naturally make light of these experiences having graduated in science the writer was a sceptic himself and can well understand the working of the minds of people in the same position as he was in, till he had the great and good fortune of sitting at the feet of this wonderful Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi in 1910. 

The writer has had numerous unique experiences which have appeared in Marathi in the Shri Sai Leela monthly. These as well as the experiences of various other people, I dare say, may appear in English print sometime hereafter. 

1st January, 1933 


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