Ruzbeh N. Bharucha
BABA Sai was an enigma. Most of the world considered Him to be either a Sufi or a Mad Fakir. The irony was that all Sufis considered Him to be a Friend of God and all Sages who met Him or spoke of Him, considered Him to be One with God. But the common man never gave up either trying to fix a religion with His name or malign Him by calling Him various names. He just did not care of what people thought of Him or spoke about Him. He was oblivious to praise and criticism. He was so detached that one would never be sure if Baba was truly spiritual or just a mad man.
He would often talk to Himself, abuse nobody in particular, sing, dance, laugh, and people would wonder who He was addressing. Baba was never alone. He was always with Light Workers and other Spiritual Masters who came to seek His company or guidance and spirits who wanted a release or agents of God who took instructions of Baba and went about doing Baba’s work all over the world and other spirit dimensions.
All His life, Baba Sai, lived for the poor.
He helped the rich to become more giving, generous and compassionate to the plight of the needy; and helped the poor to live a life of dignity even in their state of poverty and hardship. He loved us so much that though once He had left His body for three days and was declared dead, He came back to serve and love and be amongst us in the flesh.
Baba Sai was always chanting Allah Malik, God is The Master and would keep telling one and all, Sabka Malik Ek Hain which meant Everybody’s God is One, but nobody really understood what He was trying to tell them, that God came before and beyond religion.
In 1886, Baba told Mahalsapati to protect His body for three days and if He did not return to His body then to bury His body at a particular spot and put two flags for all those who wanted to come and pay respect to their Sai. Saying this He left His body and medically He was declared dead. Mahalsapati with Baba’s head resting on his lap, did not get up for three days. Baba’s head on his lap, he dared any of the authorities to come close to Baba. Baba’s other disciples guarded Baba’s body. Baba had been suffering from severe asthma and His body had taken a toll from serving His children, day and night, those physically present and those not in Shirdi, but who were under the protection of Baba.
The first time Baba left His body was for three days, thirty six years before His final Maha Samadhi. Baba was suffering from an excruciating painful attack of asthama for weeks. Around the same time Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the sublime child of Maa Kali, too had been very ill during that same period. Baba Sai came back to His body on the third day, though doctors had pronounced His body to be dead. Baba Sai came back to His body and said, “I went to Allah, to be there forever, but My Friend Gadhadhar (Ramakrishna Paramahansa) wanted to reach Allah too, so I came back.” It is said that as soon as Baba Sai woke up from the three day period of Samadhi, Ramakrishna Paramahansa took Samadhi. Ramakrishna Paramahansa used to sing a song about Sai Baba of Shirdi, which when translated went as follows, “Such a noble Fakir has come that the Hindus worship as God and the Muslims worship as a Pir.”
So Baba Sai came back to serve once again and lived in His physical body for the next thirty six years, and is still selflessly serving even after leaving His physical form. Serving one and all, bringing about peace amongst followers of various religions, serving the poor and the destitute, Baba Sai took Samadhi on October 15, 1918, at two twenty seven in the afternoon.
The first indication which Baba gave about Him making preparations of leaving His body took place in 1916, two years before Baba’s Maha Samadhi, which eventually took place in the year 1918.
People had crossed the village border to enter Shirdi to pay their respects to Baba and the moment they arrived, Baba flew into a rage, which not many had seen before.
It was Vijayadasami day or Dasera, in 1916, and two years later on the same day, Dasera in 1918, though according to a few astrologers it was on Ekadashi Baba would take Samadhi.
Thus in 1916, Baba had not only removed His bandana, which He rarely did in front of devotees, but had torn His Kafni, removed His undergarment called langot, and threw them all into Dhuni Mai. He was upset over two things.
First and foremost, the fact that most people only came to ask for material and temporal help. Nobody it seemed, or a mere handful, came to Baba out of pure love and to seek spiritual guidance. He was really tired about the constant flood of people only wanting everything but the pure gems that He wanted to distribute.
The second reason for His anger was the incessant debate about Baba’s religion. It was as though it mattered more than Baba’s very Oneness with the Almighty. The One who has merged with The Creator, is beyond religion.
Religion becomes redundant for those who have crossed the ocean of maya (illusion) and karma (the law of cause and effect), but for most, it mattered immensely to know of Baba’s religion. So, Baba became naked and abused one and all that by being naked if the question of His religion was going to be answered, then go ahead and look at Him. Of course nobody dared to look at Baba.
The people gathered were actually scared witless and shivering with Baba’s wrath. It was Bhagoji, who was suffering from leprosy, and on that day he was in extreme discomfort, with pus oozing from his body, who came and tied the undergarment. Bhagoji told Baba, ‘Baba today is Dasera, the day of Simolanghan’.
Baba had looked at one and all and said, ‘this is my Simolanghan, the crossing of the border’. Baba took an hour to calm down and most people were certain that the Chavadi procession would not take place as it was already an hour to midnight. But Baba having calmed down, wore a new Kafni, then behaved as though not a thing had transpired.
Thus, two years ago, to the exact day, Dasera, the tenth day of celebrations of the Ten Auspicious Nights of the Goddess, Maa Durga, Baba had already decided His day of passing over. By stripping bare, Baba had in His own way, announced the beginning of the end of His physical body.
Then in the same year, 1916, Ramachandra Patil became critically ill. There was little hope of him surviving the illness.
One night, Ramachandra dreamt that Baba Sai visited him. Ramachandra fell at Baba’s feet in happiness and sorrow of leaving Baba so early that day due to his illness. Baba Sai caressed him and told him not to worry, as the warrant of his certain death, Baba had torn away, but two years from now, Baba’s close devotee, Bayaja Ma’s son, Tatya, would not survive. This was all narrated to Ramachandra in his dream.
Ramachandra woke up and realised the illness had begun to abate considerably and in a few days he was hale and hearty, but Baba had told him clearly in the dream to keep this a secret as Tatya would not be able to take the news of his impending death.
Then, in August 1918, the brick, given by Baba’s Guru, broke and Baba was inconsolable, telling one and all, that this was not just a brick, but His companion, the physical reminder of His Guru, and with the breaking of the brick, His final connect with the gross five elemental world itself had broken. Baba had kept the brick safe and sound through these years, always close to Him, so often using the brick as a pillow, no matter where He was, the brick would be with Him. Though, the brick was then fixed by gold and silver threads and other binding material, Baba was clear that His time had come now.
It was then soon after, a few weeks before He took Maha Samadhi, Baba Sai sent a message to a Muslim Saint, in Aurangabad which stated that, “Allah is taking away the lamp He placed here”. The Saint began to weep hearing this Swan Song of Baba.
Baba was tired by then. He was exhausted. He had taken on the suffering of His children for more than eighty years. Nobody knows when and where Baba Sai was born, though now there are conjectures, but Baba Sai never told anybody.
Baba had given permission to Booty to build a Temple near Dwarka Mai, in 1915. Thus, it was clear that Baba Himself chose His final resting place. Of course, all assumed that a grand Temple was being built by Booty in honour of his God, Lord Krishna.
Not many realised that by referring to the Masjid, as Dwarka Mai, the abode of Lord Krishna, Baba was going to take care of His children after He dropped His body, from the Temple meant for Lord Krishna.
Why would a Mosque be given a name as Dwarka Mai and why would a Temple for Lord Krishna become the final resting place for Baba’s body? Obviously there was a deep connect with Baba and Lord Krishna though Baba always called His abode as Masjid Ayi.
Every day while passing by for Baba’s daily rounds to beg, He would look about, give His suggestions and commands towards the ongoing work at the Temple. He had told Booty, ‘when the temple is built, we shall live in it, play and ever afterwards live in joy’.
Four months before Baba took Samadhi, He sent a direct indication of Him passing over. It was in the month of July, Baba through one His devotees, Kasim, son of Bade Baba, and Imam Chota Khan, sent a garland of flowers to a close friend, Bannemiya.
Bannemiya, was a known Wali, a friend of Allah, and Baba had spent time with Him, after Baba had left Shirdi for the first and last time only to return after four years.
These four years, Baba had travelled to Aurangabad and other places, and had met a number of His friends from past lives. Bannemiya, looked up at the sky and tears began to roll down His cheeks.”Nau din, nautarikh, Allah Mia, apne duniya le jayega, marzi Allah Ki.” Meaning, On the ninth day and ninth night, Allah will call Me to His world, it is the will of our Allah.
As per the Islamic calendar, the ninth day and ninth month, called the Night of the Massacre, fell also in the holy month of Ramzam.
In August, Baba told Hemadpant, the author of Baba Sai’s biography, who was blessed by Baba to write The Book, to drink the glass of butter milk offered by Baba to him, as Hemadpant would not get an opportunity ever again. Which was true, as that was the last glass of butter milk given by Baba to Hemadpant.
In August all of a sudden Tatya fell ill. He began to cough out blood and slowly his health began to fail due to tuberculosis. Though he was unwell he continued to be his cheerful self and serve Baba but by the end of September, Tatya became bed ridden and one and all were certain that he would not make it alive.
It is to be realised that though Tatya was so close to Baba, and had been given the opportunity to serve Baba all his life but he had to suffer, he had to go through his personal share of agony, angst and pain, all the while Baba was in the body, in Shirdi, physically so close to him, but Tatya had to go through his karmic cleansing.
Baba was clear that one had to go through his or her lot gracefully and that He would take care of everything else, but one’s karmic give and take, one had to go through.
From 28th September, 1918 slowly Baba began to abstain from all food. His close devotees and disciples were worried as Baba’s strong frame, began to show signs of weakness. But Baba continued with His rounds of seeking food from the five homes and also continued to go about life as a matter of fact but it was obvious that His health was failing and that The God and Master of so many was not well at all. Everybody realised Baba was ill but nobody wanted to accept the fact that He was not going to be in the body for long.
Though Baba was so fragile and weak He still went about it with calm silence and supreme dignity but nobody once thought that Baba would leave His body so soon.
Now when Baba went about in Shirdi, Booty and Nimonkar helped Baba walk through His dear, loved lanes of Shirdi. In fact, it seemed as though Baba’s body was shrinking.
October set in.
The last month of Baba’s physical body and fourteen days before Baba took Maha Samadhi, He made a Brahmin devotee by the name of Vaze read the Rama Vijay, the Victory of Lord Rama, and Baba spent time listening to the recitation of the Holy Book. The first reading of the Book took around eight days. Baba made Vaze read the Book again but this time faster. The second reading of Rama Vijay took four days. Baba asked him to read it again but after a while Vaze seemed really tired and Baba gave him permission to let the reading be after the third round.
Thus, virtually two days before Baba’s Samadhi, Baba made the Holy Book be read in front of Him, while He spent His time in meditative contemplation but still very much visible, available and concerned about His devotees and children.
Baba also sent two hundred and fifty rupees, with Kasim and Imambhai Chota Khan to Hazrat Shamsuddin, in Aurangabad, another friend of Baba.
Baba had Himself prepared, a coarse bread called poli and chicken to be fed to the poor in the Name and Glory of Prophet Muhammad and also in His own Name. This food, given as charity, just before death is also called nyas. The money was sent to be given to those who would sing devotional songs in the memory of Prophet Muhammad, called moulu and also qawaalis, and hearing this Hazrat Shamsuddin, began to cry too. He realised His old friend, Baba Sai of Shirdi was going to leave His physical shell.
Thus, even before taking Maha Samadhi, Baba made sure that both the Hindu and Islamic rituals were conducted, once again showing that He belonged to Oneness. By hearing the Holy Book of Lord Rama and offering food and having devotional songs sung in praise of Prophet Muhammad, Baba was ready to drop His body.
Where Tatya was concerned, his end was virtually near. Shama wanted Baba to go and meet Tatya, but Baba was clear, that He had given a promise to Tatya’s mother, Bayaja Ma that Baba would take care of Tatya, thus Baba would never break His promise and the help Baba could give Tatya seated at Masjid Ayi, was as good as Baba being physically present with Tatya.
Eight days before Baba took Samadhi, three dervishes, Men of God, entered Shirdi with an ailing tiger. They wanted Baba to bless the tiger. The tiger slowly walked up the stairs of Dwarka Mai and sat with its two feet extended towards Baba who Himself was very ill but Baba’s Eyes glowed as though there was fire within Them. Baba looked at the tiger and both stared at each other in the eye and after a while the tiger exhaled and passed over. The dervishes understood the importance of their beloved tiger leaving its mortal frame in Dwarka Mai, in front of Baba Sai of Shirdi.
In the last week of Baba occupying His physical body, devotees were allowed only to see Baba and seek His blessings from the stairs of Dwarka Mai. Mahalsapati, Shama, Booty, Nana, Gustard Irani, Laxmi Ma and others all took guard to protect Baba from His own devotees, who did not care whether He was ill or gasping for breath. They wanted Baba to bless them and solve their issues, even though it was apparent to one and all that Baba was so very ill and weak.
Baba would protest to allow His people within, but His body was too weak, tired and ill. But when He went out on His usual rounds, droves of devotees gathered in two lines, giving passage to Baba, and like an aged, tired, King, Baba would go about His routine.
Two days before His Samadhi, Baba stopped going to Lendi Garden and thus two days before Samadhi, Baba stopped venturing out in the world in His physical body, even for seeking food. Thus, till two days before He left His body, Baba continued with His normal practice of going about His routine, though it was obvious that His body was battered and He was physically really ill.
People should have understood the meaning and significance of Baba now no longer going on about His routine, but their faith that their Baba would remain with them in the physical coil was so strong or they did not want to acknowledge the obvious thus even Baba’s closest disciples did not for a moment think that the time had come for their beloved Baba to leave His body.
On the last day He lived in His physical body, though all knew that He was truly unwell, He yet allowed devotees and visitors to take His blessings. Yes, there were times when Baba Sai would be in some rage or the other, abusing one and all, all for the benefit of all of Creation, and He would often go into a few hours of seclusion and not see anybody, but that day, the day of Samadhi, He allowed all to come and take His blessings.
Then He called His inner circle and individually told them a few things. Nobody was aware that these were the last few hours of them spending time with their Sai, their ‘be all end all’. Even the last night before Baba took Samadhi, He woke up, took His stick or satka, and banged the ground loudly. His close devotees who now spent the nights with Baba woke up with the loud sound. Baba was in a rage but soon calmed down. When asked as to what had transpired, Baba told one and all that thieves had entered the house of Khaparde in Amravathi with the aim to rob and cause bodily harm to anybody who interfered but Baba had driven ‘the rascals and the *&^%$#@ away’.
Thus, till the end, ill health of body or not, Baba made sure that His children were taken care of.
The fateful day arrived. It was the day of Shri Rama and Lord Kartikeya, a tuesday, October 15th, 1918. It was the Holy month of Ramzan and also the Tenth Day of the auspicious Ten Nights of Goddess Durga, Dasera, or Vijay Laxmi. Baba sat with His back to the wall. He smiled at the devotees and though Shama tried his best to stop devotees from entering Dwarka Mai, Baba gave a firm order that nobody was to be stopped that day. Baba began to bless all those who had come for Him, by putting His hand on their heads and personally giving them the Holy Ash.
Then Baba turned and looked at Laxman Mama. “Laxya chant the names of The Lord softly but I want to hear His Names.” Laxman Mama began to chant the Holy Names of Lord Vishnu while Baba continued to bless one and all. Then it was time for the Arti, the devotional songs, sung to their God and Master, Baba Sai of Shirdi. The last time the Arti would be sung to Baba in His physical form in Baba’s dear Masjid Ayi.
The noon Arti began and Baba’s Eyes glowed. He looked Magnificent. Anybody who saw Him then would refuse to believe that Baba’s body, His physical Temple, was in a matter of a short while, going to be devoid of its Lord and Master.
That day, Baba was seen in various Avataric forms. The first form was of His beloved Lord Hanuman, Lord Maruti and then Baba became Lord Vitthal, and then Lord Rama and then Lord Dattatreya Guru, the three headed incarnation of The Trinity.
That fateful afternoon Arti, Muslims saw The Mecca and Madina in the form of Baba and the Zoroastrians saw Prophet Zarathustra and the Holy Fire, while the Christians who were present saw their beloved Lord Christ in Baba. It was Baba’s way of saying that He was present in All and All were present in Him.
At one in the afternoon, once the Arti was concluded Baba requested all the devotees to go to their homes and lodgings. The devotees were in a daze seeing Baba take on the forms of their personal Goddess, God, Guru, so they complied, and certain that they would see their Baba Sai later in the day.
All of a sudden Tatya became completely well. Earlier whenever Tatya vomited blood, Baba would vomit blood and thus splatters of blood would be all over Dwarka Mai. His devotees would keep cleaning the blood off the floor and also dab Baba with a wet cloth but after the Arti Tatya was completely well. He came running to Dwarka Mai and met Baba and Baba told Shama to drop Tatya back home. Both Baba and Tatya looked at each other. Baba was aware that this was the last time when both of them would physically meet. His eyes had so much love gushing from them for His dear Tatya that Tatya began to cry, still unaware that Baba was going to soon drop His mortal shell. This happened at two in the afternoon. Just twenty seven minutes before Baba took Samadhi.
Baba had sent everybody away but His closest disciples were with Him though He told them all to wait outside Masjid Mai. He was not at well but Baba kept sitting all the while, satisfying all those who saw Him with visions, love, blessings; it was as though all Baba wanted to do was to give His children all He could while in the body.
Moments before Baba Sai released His Great Spirit from His physical body He called Laxmi Ma towards Him. Laxmi Ma had served Baba selflessly all her life and Baba slowly put His hand in His right pocket and removed five coins and from the left pocket of His Kafni He removed four more coins. He handed the nine coins to Laxmi Ma. He then told her in a soft whisper, as His breath was slowly leaving His body.
“These nine coins keep with you. There are nine qualities required to win Allah’s favour. The first is absence of false ego. Second is absence of jealousy. Third is to be devoid of attachments which separate one from God. Fourth represents selfless service without any personal gain. The fifth stands for having complete faith in one’s Goddess, God, Guru. The sixth indicates to always have a calm and peaceful nature no matter what goes on in one’s life. Seventh represents the constant yearning to know the eternal truth. Eighth stands for being devoid of envy and the ninth stands for being humble, not to be filled with pride and not indulge in slander and gossip and finding flaws in others. Only and only then can one move forward towards our One and Only, Creator, our Father, Mother. These nine coins also signify the nine attributes to walk the Path.
The first coin signifies to keep the company of saints and good human beings and listen to the words of The Master.
The second coin implies that one should read and hear the sacred texts.
The third coin represents to always serve The Guru selflessly, only with love and without seeking anything from The Guru, as The Guru always knows what is best for each one.
The fourth coin signifies that on The Path, one has to do away with false ego, wrong thoughts, words and deeds and always be selfless and with love surrendered to one’s Goddess, God, Guru.
The fifth coin is to spend all our life in prayers and chanting the name of The One… Naam Smaran.
The sixth coin denotes that one must give one’s best to remove our character flaws and inherent tendencies that take us away from the Path.
The seventh coin suggests that no matter what goes on in one’s life, to go through life with calmness and positive acceptance of one’s lot after giving one’s best to each moment, taking whatever life hands out as a blessing and Prasad of The Lord.
The eighth coin stands for having calm patience no matter how difficult life, people or circumstances become.
The ninth coin represents faith… the pure faith that our Master knows what is the best for us, irrespective of what we think, want or feel.
Soon thereafter Baba began to gasp for breath. He took a supreme effort to speak the final sentence. ‘I am not feeling well. Take Me to the Wada. I will feel better there’. Saying this Baba, still seated, shut His eyes and sighed the final exhale. By wada, Baba always meant the Booty wada, the Temple being constructed for Lord Krishna. Bhagoji was the first one to realise that Baba had taken Samadhi.
He cried out and all waiting at the entrance of Dwarka Mai came rushing in. Nimonkar put water into Baba’s mouth but the water trickled out. He cried out ‘Deva’ and Baba slowly opened His eyes. He sighed out and exhaled and then shut His eyes for the last time.
The King had left His body. He had exactly sixteen rupees in His possession for His own last rites. Just enough not to burden anybody for the expenses of His Tomb or the other requirements of feeding the poor after the mandatory prayers.
After the initial haggling between the Hindus and Muslims, it was decided that as long as all communities had access to Baba’s holy Tomb, Baba’s body would be rested in the same place reserved for Lord Krishna’s statue. In fact the place already had six feet reserved by Baba for the God of the Temple, which for eternity shall always remain Baba Sai Himself. Thus the next day, October 16th, 1918 at four in the afternoon, Baba’s body was placed outside Masjid Mai. Baba’s body was still supple and not stiff as is the case with most bodies devoid of the life force.
On a table outside Dwarka Mai, Baba’s body was placed and His body was given a bath. Then a white cloth was spread on Baba’s body and for the last time all those grieving lovers of Baba gazed at Baba’s body. The Fakir who lived His life in a tattered Kafni begging for food, was given a King’s procession through His dear lanes of Shirdi where every day He would make rounds for His food or go to Lendi Gardens.
First in the open ground where Baba’s body was to be placed, Baba’s lifelong companion, His brick was placed. For some reason, they broke the already broken brick into various pieces and scattered the pieces into the open ground and then Baba’s stick called the satka was placed, then Baba’s beloved chillums, a needle and stitching material with which our Baba used to stitch His torn Kafni along with some spices and an old bag that Baba never allowed anybody to touch was placed. Many by now had opened the old bag which contained a green Kafni and a cap.
Then various layers of cloth were placed and then Mahalsapati, Shama, Dixit and Booty lifted our Baba’s body and slowly with other devotees put Baba’s body into the womb of Mother Earth. There was a deep deafening silence as people all around still could not believe that their always loving but sometimes temperamental and grumpy, kind hearted, Father, Mother, Brother, Friend, who only loved and loved and gave; and took upon all their problems, would never be seen physically walking the lanes of Shirdi saying, Allah Malik Hain, Allah Bhalla Karega.
The only consolation which all His children had and even now have, were the promises which Baba Sai had given them all. He promised one and all, all His children that, through His very Tomb He will take care of them. That He is not this body but He is One with The Eternal One. That if they took one step towards Him, He would take a thousand steps towards His children. If they ask Him something with true love and devotion, He would answer them for sure. That He has not gone anywhere. That He was, is and will always be the slave of His children, always with His children. Keeping in mind His promise, I am sure, must have given hope to all those who mourned.
He called the Masjid as Masjid Mai or Masjid Ayi or Dwarka Mai, telling one and all the importance of the Goddess. That He lived in the shelter of the Goddess. He was so loving, only a Mother can be this loving. If you have Baba Sai, then you have The Divine Mother with you too.
He sometimes said, ‘The Universe is Me and I am the Universe’ and most of the times called Himself as the servant and slave of The Fakir. He could control the elements of nature but lived in the most humble way and laughed, sang, danced, cursed, thrashed, loved, served, lived and loved, loved, loved, amongst His children.
The one expression that I believe in completely is what Avatar Meher Baba said of Baba Sai of Shirdi. He said, ‘Baba Sai is Qutub-e-Irshad; The Master Of The Universe’.
As long as Sai of Shirdi, The Old Man, This Darling of a Fakir remains for eternity as our Master, sab theek hain, fikar not.
Aum Sai Rakshak Sharanam Deva.
Be blessed always.
Ruzbeh N. Bharucha