Seeing God in a Dog: The unity of the two Babas - Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai
- We gratefully acknowledge the writer Aravind B
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The question of the two Babas being the same...
Mrs. Serene Shroff ( birth name Sudha) is a long-standing devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In fact, she was completely devoted to Shirdi Sai Baba before she came to realize the oneness between the two Sais. Today, she leads her life in a divine romance with the Lord of her Heart, her Swami, and stays with her husband in the Indian state of Goa. It was during the Prasanthi Seva (service in the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram of Swami) that she became a friend to my mother who was also volunteering. The two worked together and enjoyed several experiences with Swami. Keenly interested in the connection between Shirdi Baba and Sathya Sai, I questioned her,
“Aunty, do you have any experiences which show you beyond doubt, the link between our Swami and Shirdi Baba?”
Her eyes lit up with nostalgia and love. It was clear that she was lost in a magical trance recollecting and reliving several experiences, all at once. Having come to Swami in the 1960s, she surely had a large number of experiences to share.
“There are so many. I am convinced beyond doubt that Sathya Sai and Shirdi Sai are one and the same. Actually, I am convinced that God is one though we give different names. So, for me, my Bhagawan is not only Shirdi Sai, but also Rama, Krishna, Jesus and Allah! Anyway, what kind of incident do you want me to narrate?”
“Aunty, tell me the ones that are the most dramatic.”
I was clear in what I was looking for! There is something about ‘dramatic’ incidents that seems to strike a chord instantly in thousands of devoted hearts. In just a few minutes, such incidents are able to strengthen the devotion and protect the tender saplings of faith in the hearts of people.
She smiled at me and said that there were two incidents that came to her mind instantly. One was something that happened in 1971. It was definitely dramatic but it was also funny. The second took place in 1978. Along with being dramatic, it was also a comprehensive proof of the unity of the two Sais.
(As shown in the first image, it was Swami who installed the first-ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world. On the day of the temple inauguration, when Baba's feet were applied with sandalwood paste and turmeric to take the impression of His tiny feet on a silk cloth, the impressions that appeared were not tiny in keeping with Baba's tender feet. Instead, they were gigantic and rough, keeping with the large feet of Shirdi Baba.)
Sweets for the Lord
In 1971, Sudha had arrived to Prasanthi Nilayam along with her brother. They were accommodated in one of the many small cottages that stood beside the Mandir where Swami used to stay. (This is the area where today the South-1 block stands.) The brother and sister had arrived to the holy hamlet to bask in the divine love and proximity to their Baba. As always, their mother had prepared a box full of assorted sweets to be offered to Baba. The box of sweets was packed safely in the bag.
As they settled in the spartan comforts that the cottage offered, they realized that they were hungry. They opened a packet of biscuits and began to munch on them. A few biscuits later, they saw that there was some commotion outside. Apparently, Baba was moving about in the Mandir and if they rushed, they could be fortunate to have a darshan (sighting of a holy/divine person). Quickly rising from their relaxed state, they got dressed and rushed out of the room. Sudha, being a woman, took more time to get ready and her brother was the first to leave the cottage. Soon, she followed suit after closing the bags and latching the room from outside. They were indeed in time to catch a glimpse of their beloved Swami!
After that rejuvenating darshan, as Sudha was walking back to her room in serene bliss, she heard another commotion. This time it was a dog barking. Soon, the barking dog emerged out of her very cottage whose door was now ajar! She was surprised seeing this. Following the dog closely at its heels was her brother brandishing a stick. He was beating the dog and chasing it out of the room. She wondered what was going on. She entered the room and saw it as neat as she had left it. The opened biscuit packet was still there, in the center of the little room.
When her brother returned, she asked him what had happened. With great anger, he asked back,
“Why didn’t you close the door properly before leaving?”
“Oh I did! I myself latched the door before rushing for darshan...”
“Then how did that idiotic dog get into the room??”
“I don’t know. But why do you make such a fuss? And why on earth did you beat the dog? It did not do anything in the room...”
“That is what you think,” fumed the brother, “but it had the cheek to pull out the box of sweets from your bag. It devoured every single sweet and now, there is nothing left there. That box was meant for Swami and that dog ate it all away. Why couldn't it just eat the biscuits that were lying in the room? I got very angry and beat it out of the room.”
Now, Sudha flt sad. She would not be able to offer to Swami the special sweets that her mother had made. With no other choice but to accept what had happened as His will, she moved on with the day. There was no use crying over spilt milk - nor over eaten sweets! Hours flew by and it was darshan time again.
When viewed from another angle, even DOG becomes GOD
Swami came straight to Sudha and said,
“You have successfully cleared the exams but you did not get any sweets for Swami?”
At that point in time, Sudha had no idea that she had cleared her exams. In fact, it was only a day later that the results were announced after which her mother informed her the good news! But she still got up on her knees and thought of telling Swami that she had indeed brought sweets but a dog had eaten them all.
“Swami, Mithai Khaaya...” (Swami, the sweets were eaten...) she began when Swami interrupted her with a smile.
“Swami Mithai Khaaya, Pitai Bhi Khaaya “ (Swami had the sweets... Swami had the beatings too)!
In an instant, the happenings of the morning flashed before her mind’s eye. She apologised to Swami on her brother’ behalf. Swami patted her lovingly and said that the sweets were very tasty and therefore He had eaten all of them! Then, He walked on.
How many times we miss God because He does not come in a form that we were expecting! How many times we miss what we want because of how we want it!
The Shirdi Connection
There have been multiple recorded instances of Shirdi Baba having partaken food while appearing to devotees in the form of a dog. In fact, all devotees of Shirdi Sai believe that if a dog partakes food kept for the Lord, it is indeed Baba in that form. The 9th Chapter of the Shirdi Sai Satcharitra records the episode of Mrs. Tarkhad wherein the lady offers bread to a hungry dog in her courtyard. Later on, when she is with Shirdi Baba, Baba tells her,
“Mother, you have fed Me sumptuously up to my throat, My afflicted pranas (life-forces) have been satisfied. always act like this, and this will stand you in good stead. Sitting in this Masjid I shall never, never speak untruth. Take pity on Me like this. First give bread to the hungry, and then eat yourself. Note this well."
In several discourses, Swami has exhorted to everyone that one must see the Lord in all. He says that D-O-G (dog) becomes G-O-D (God) when viewed in the correct perspective.
Sudha aunty now tells me,
“Wow! Pray what is that incident aunty...” I asked.
Sathya Sai fulfills a promise He gave as Shirdi Sai
Nearly a century-old promise and revelation
This article is actually part 2 of another equally interesting and intriguing one. To have the complete joy of reading it, ensure that you have read the previous one before proceeding with this.
“This is an incident that is spaced apart by more than 80 years. It truly shows that where God is concerned, time is of no consequence. It happened to my maternal grandmother who had the good fortune of meeting Shirdi Sai Baba too.”
With that introduction, Serene Aunty (Sudha in the story) delved into the details of that unforgettable incident.
It was some time in the first decade of the 20th century that her grandmother visited Shirdi. Granny was a teenage girl then and Shirdi Baba, an ‘old’ man. All she needed was a darshan to convince her that this Baba was very special. He became her Lord and captured her heart. She spent many happy days with Shirdi Baba and made a few more trips to that village in Maharashtra. On one of the visits, Shirdi Baba made a sudden revelation to her,
“I shall come again as an Avatar. Even then, you will enjoy my darshan just as you are enjoying now. Keep Shraddha (faith and reverence) and Saburi (patience and perseverance).” Saying so, Baba also gave her a special coin which had the image of goddess Lakshmi on one of its faces. Then He blessed her.
It was a very special moment for the teenage girl and Granny was thrilled to have been blessed by Baba thus. A few years later, Shirdi Baba shed His mortal coil on the Vijayadashami day of Dusshera in 1918.
Exactly 8 years later, Baba did come again as the little boy, Sathyanarayana Raju, in 1926 in a remote hamlet called Puttaparthi in South India. When He was just 14 years old, He declared Himself to be Shirdi Sai Baba come again. He threw away His school books stating,
“Maya has left now. My devotees are calling me. My work awaits me. I am your Sathya no more.”
That statement had shocked all the village people who had not the slightest inkling of any “Sai Baba” who had made Shirdi, 1000 kilometers away, as His home.
From that day, little Sathyanarayana Raju became Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba The first message He gave humanity was to concentrate on the feet of the Guru and get redemption by crossing the ocean of human existence.
The second avatar
It was sometime in 1973 that Granny got to know that Sudha was a regular visitor to a ‘Sai Baba’ in South India. She became very curious and a sense of excitement built up within her. Was this the second Avatar that Shirdi Baba had spoken about? Was seeing Him going to be the result of her Shraddha and Saburi? At the same time, she had her doubts. Babas and Swamis were cropping up by the dozen in India. Spirituality seemed to have become a lucrative business and she did not want to be conned. There was no way to tell other than by personal experience.
Granny contacted Sudha and asked her,
“Child, will you take me along when you go to visit your Baba?”
Sudha was happy with this interest that Granny showed in Swami. But she was worried about how they would take a 85-year old woman suffering from complete blindness to a remote village with minimal facilities. So, she told her grandmother to wait a bit longer and began to pray to Swami for a solution.
Baba says, “Take one step towards me and I shall take a hundred towards you.” That was literally the story as Swami visited the port city of Bombay in the summer of 1978, 5 years after Granny had expressed her desire to Sudha! Bombay was the place where Granny was staying and so this would be the best opportunity to take her for Darshan. It was about this time that Granny also narrated to Sudha the reason behind why she wanted to see Swami. Sudha was very excited now. She arranged a taxi and landed with her newlywed husband and Granny at Dharmakshetra, the abode of Baba at Bombay.
An unforgettable Darshan session
Sudha got Granny seated in the front rows in a special seating-block designated for the patients. However, Dharmakshetra is not a very large place. As time passed, more and more devotees poured into its precincts and soon, the space in front of Granny too was filled up with devotees. Seeing this, Sudha’s heart sank. How would Swami ever grant darshan from close quarters to Granny? There was no way for Him to even come close to her now...
The way the Masterplan unfolded took Sudha’s breath away. A sweet scent wafted in with the gentle breeze and announced Swami’s arrival. A smile broke out on Granny face and Sudha almost suspected that she was seeing the beautiful form of Swami. Swami, on His part, made a beeline to where Granny was sitting. Coming to the cluster of women seated in front of her, He asked for space to be made so that He could walk to her!
Sudha’s heart was racing now. Swami came right up to Granny and accosted her sweetly. The first thing He asked her was whether the coin with Lakshmi on it was still with her! Granny had tears in her eyes and the radiant smile on her face told Sudha that those were tears of uncontrollable joy. Even as Swami stood in front of her, she turned to Sudha and asked,
“Do you see Him! How beautiful He is...”
“Yes! I see Him. But do you see Him??”
The blind Granny’s answer stunned Sudha,
She began to describe Swami in His presence and Swami just nodded and smiled. Once Granny’s outpourings were complete, Swami told her,
“You have been steadfast in your Shraddha (faith and reverence) and Saburi (patience and perseverance). Keep it up.”
He patted the 90 year old woman on her head and caressed her drooping cheeks. He blessed her profusely and gently walked away after that.
The world went dark again for Granny after that moment! She could no longer see anything else. But then, she did not feel the need to see anything else either. Her eyes spoke continuously in the language of tears and Sudha, who was witness to the miracle that had occurred before her eyes, also was conversing in the same language.
It was during their blissful drive back home that Granny made a startling revelation,
“You know Sudha”, she said, “I have been urging you to take me to see Sathya Sai for five years now. Even as I made the first request, I had a vision. In that vision, I saw a beautiful form in orange robe with a lovely mop of curly hair. Today, having seen Sai with my own eyes, I realize that He has been granting His darshan to me whenever I wished to see Him! I just did not recognize Him. In order to grant me that joy of knowing that I am seeing my beloved Sai, He gave me back my sight briefly. Now, I have no need of any kind of sight! My life is fulfilled. Baba has fulfilled His promise.”
Just a few months after that blissful darshan, Granny breathed her last. Sudha knew for sure that she had merged in her Lord.
“Now, tell me, what more proof do you want about Shirdi Baba and Sathya Sai Baba being one and the same?”, Sudha asked me.
I just nodded in wonderment, awe and joy. And then, I decided to pen down the beautiful story for humanity to read for eternity.
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Text & photo source - copyrights: Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust - sssbpt.org - Radiosai.org Prasanthi Diary - Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation - h2hsai.org . | Web layout - Photo graphic design : saibabaofindia.com "SBOI" | - We gratefully acknowledge the publishers Sri Sathya Sai Sadhana Trust & Sri Sathya Sai Media Foundation