Sai Satcharitra Chapter 38

Preliminary

Oh, blessed Sadguru Sai, we bow to You; you have given happiness to the whole world, safeguarded the welfare of Your devotees and have destroyed the afflictions of those who have resorted to Your Feet. You are very liberal and the protector and savior of devotees who surrender themselves to You; You incarnate yourself in this world to oblige people and do them good. The liquid essence of the Pure Self was poured into the mold of Brahma and out of this has come the crest-jewel of the saints−Sai. This Sai is Atmarama Himself; He is the abode of perfect divine bliss. Having Himself attained all the objects of life, He made His devotees desire-less and free.

Baba’s Handi

Different sadhanas (means of spiritual accomplishment) are prescribed in our scriptures for different ages. Tapa (Penance) is recommended for the Krita age, Jnana (Knowledge) for the Treta age, Yajna (Sacrifice) for the Dwapara age and Dana (Charity) for the Kali (current) age. Of all the forms of charity, giving food is the best. We are very perturbed when we have no food and are hungry. Other beings feel similarly under similar circumstances. Thus, he who gives food to the poor and hungry is in fact the best donor. The Taittiriya Upanishad says that “Food is Brahma; from food all creatures are born, by food they live, and having departed, into food they again enter.” When an uninvited guest comes to our door at noon, it is our bounden duty to welcome him by giving him food. Other kinds of charity− giving away wealth, property and clothes− require some discrimination. But in the matter of food, no such consideration is necessary. Let anybody come to our door at noon, he should be served forthwith; and if lame, crippled, blind and diseased paupers come, they should be fed before the able-bodied. Other kinds of charity are imperfect without the giving of food; just as stars are without the moon, a necklace is without its central pendant or singing is without a sweet voice. The giving of food is thus the best form of charity.It has been stated before that Baba required very little food for Himself and what little He needed was obtained by begging from a few houses. But when He decided to distribute food to everyone, He made all the preparations from beginning to end, all by Himself. He did not depend on anybody and did not trouble anyone in this matter. First He went to the bazaar and bought all the things he needed− corn, flour, spices etc. He also did the grinding himself; In the open courtyard of the Masjid, He arranged a big hearth and after lighting a fire in it, placed a Handi(cooking pot) over it with a proper measure of water. There were two kinds of Handi— one small and the other big; the former provided food for 50 people, while the latter could serve a 100. Sometimes He cooked Mitthe Chaval (sweet rice) and at other times Pulav with meat. At times, in the boiling varan (soup), He added small balls of thick or flat breads of wheat flour. He pounded the spices on a stone-slab and put the thin pulverized spices into the cooking-pot. He took all the pains possible to make the dishes very palatable. He prepared Ambil by boiling jawari-flour in water and mixing it with butter-milk. He served this Ambil with the food to everyone. To see whether the food was properly cooked or not, Baba rolled up the sleeves of His Kafni and put His bare arm in the boiling cauldron, without the least fear, and stirred the whole pot of food. There were no burn marks on His arm or fear on His face. When the cooking was complete, Baba got the pots in the Masjid duly consecrated by the moulvi(muslim priest). First, He sent some of the food as prasad to Mhalasapati and Tatya Patil and then He served the remaining contents, with His own hands, to all the poor and helpless people to their hearts’ content. Blessed and fortunate indeed were those people who got food prepared by Baba and served by Him.

Somebody may raise a doubt here and ask, “Did Baba distribute vegetarian and non-vegetarian food as prasad to all His devotees?” The answer is plain and simple. Those who were accustomed to non-vegetarian food were given food from the Handi as prasad and those who were not accustomed, were not allowed to touch it. He never created in them any wish or desire to indulge in this food. There is a principle that when a Guru himself gives anything as prasad, the disciple who doubts whether it is acceptable goes to perdition. In order to see how any disciple had imbibed this principle, Baba at times proposed tests. For instance, on an Ekadashi day, He gave Dada Kelkar a few rupees and asked him to go in person to Koralha to buy mutton. Dada Kelkar was an orthodox Brahmin and maintained all orthodox conventions in his life. He knew that offering wealth, grain and clothes to a Sadguru was not enough. He knew that implicit obedience to and prompt compliance with Baba’s orders was the real Dakshina that pleased Him most. So Dada Kelkar dressed himself and started for the place. Then Baba called him back and said, “Don’t go yourself; send somebody instead.” Then Dada decided to send his servant, Pandu, for the purpose. Seeing him about to leave, Baba asked Dada to call him back and cancelled that program altogether. On another occasion, Baba asked Dada to see how salty the Pulav (mutton dish) was. The latter said, rather formally, that it was alright. Then Baba said to him, “Neither have you seen it with your eyes nor tasted it with your tongue, then how could you say that it was good? Just take off the lid and see.” Saying this, Baba caught hold of his arm and thrust it into the pot and added, “Draw out your arm and put some quantity in the dish without caring for your orthodoxy and without blustering.” When a wave of real love rises in a mother’s mind, she pinches her child and when it begins to cry, she holds the child close to her bosom. Similarly, Baba, in a truly motherly way, pinched Dada Kelkar. In reality, no saint or guru will ever force his orthodox disciple to eat forbidden food and defile himself thereby.

The Handi business went on till 1910 and was stopped thereafter. As stated before, Das Ganu spread the fame of Baba by his kirtans in the Bombay Presidency and people from that part of the country began to flock to Shirdi. Shirdi soon became a place of pilgrimage. The devotees brought with them various dishes for Baba as naivedya. The quantity of naivedya offered by them was so much that the fakirs and paupers could feed themselves to their hearts’ content, even leaving some extra food behind. Before stating how naivedya was distributed, we shall refer to Nanasaheb Chandorkar’s story showing Baba’s regard and respect for local Shrines and deities.

Nanasaheb’s Disrespect of a Shrine

By drawing inferences or guessing, some people believed that Sai was a Hindu while some believed that He was a Muslim. In fact, He belonged to no single caste or religion. No one knew exactly when He was born, to what community he was born into or who His parents were. Then how could He be a Muslim or Hindu? If He were a Muslim, how could He keep the Dhuni (sacred fire) always burning in the Masjid? How could there be a Tulsi Vrindavan there? How could He allow the blowing of conch shells and the ringing of bells? And how could he allow the playing of musical instruments and the different forms of Hindu worship in the Masjid? Had He been a Muslim, would He have pierced ears and would He have spent money from His pocket to repair Hindu temples? On the contrary, He never tolerated the slightest disrespect to Hindu Shrines and deities.

Once, Nanasaheb Chandorkar came to Shirdi with the husband of his sister-in-law, Mr.Biniwalle. When they went to the Masjid and sat before Baba talking, the latter suddenly got angry with Nanasaheb and said, “You have been in My company so long and then how could you behave like this?” Nanasaheb at first did not understand anything and humbly requested Baba to explain. Baba asked him how he had traveled to Kopergaon and then come to Shirdi from there. Nanasaheb at once realized his mistake. He usually worshipped the Shrine of Datta, on the banks of the Godavari at Kopergaon, on his way to Shirdi. But this time he dissuaded his relative, who was a Datta devotee, from receiving darshan at that Shrine, to avoid delay and drove straight to Shirdi. He confessed all this to Baba and told Him that while bathing in the Godavari, a big thorn had gone into his foot and had given him a lot of trouble. Baba said that this was the smallest punishment he could get and warned him to be more careful in the future.

Kala (hodge-podge)

After the arati was over and after Baba sent everyone away with Udi and blessings, He went inside and sat with his back to the wall among two rows of devotees, one on each side. The Bhaktas who brought naivedya, waited with their dishes such as PurisMandePolis, Basundi and Sanza, for prasad consecrated by Baba. All the food was mixed in a hodge-podge and placed before Baba. He offered it all to God and consecrated it. Then portions of the same were given to the persons waiting outside and the rest was served to the people inside. The devotees then dined to their hearts’ content. Baba asked Shama and Nanasaheb Nimonkar to serve the consecrated food to everyone sitting inside and look to their individual needs and comforts. This they did very carefully and willingly. Every morsel of the food thus partaken gave the devotees nutrition and satisfaction. It was truly sweet, lovely and divine food!

A Cup of Butter-Milk

Once, Hemadpant had eaten his full in this company, when Baba offered him a cup of buttermilk. Its white appearance pleased him, but he was afraid that there was no space inside for it. Nevertheless, he took a sip which proved very tasty. Baba saw his hesitation and said, “Drink it all; you won’t get such an opportunity again.” He drank it and found that Baba’s words were prophetic, for He passed away soon.

Dear readers, we certainly have to thank Hemadpant, for He drank that cup of buttermilk and supplied us with a sufficient quantity of nectar in the form of Baba’s Leelas. Let us drink cups and cups of this nectar and be satisfied and happy.

Adapted from the original Marathi Book SHRI SAI SATCHARITA By Govind Raghunath Dabholkar alias ‘Hemadpant’

Om Sai Om Sai Sadguru Sai

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