Sai Baba Again

Having declared Himself as Sai Baba of the Bharadwaja Gotram and the Apastamba Sutra, Sathyanarayana Raju was hereafter commonly known either as Bala Sai (Boy Sai) or Sathya Sai Baba, an appellation which He Himself accepted. Singing to God was done in His Presence not only on Thursday evenings, but gradually on every day and sometimes even twice a day, for the pilgrims who began to arrive could not wait until the ensuing Thursday to pay their homage to Him. At first a small room, eight feet by eight, facing the road that led to the house of Pedda Venkapa Raju was utilized as a Hall of Prayer. But it could accommodate only a dozen at the most. Even the road was overflowing with people. A Recruiting Officer from Hindupur came in a jeep for Baba's Darshan (Holy Vision), giving the villagers their first contact with a motor vehicle. Others too came in large numbers. The village accountant's family put up a shed which was enlarged as the months passed. A tent also was rigged up, and some devotees who came from Bangalore and Anantapur pitched their own tents. Finally even the spacious house of the accountant became insufficient, because Sai Baba insisted on feeding all who came to see Him; huge dining halls became necessary.

An old lady who was in the accountant's house during those months said that very often when the food cooked threatened to be insufficient. Baba was quietly informed and He asked that two coconuts be brought. When they were given to Him, He struck one against the other and both broke exactly into halves. He then sprinkled the coconut water on little heaps of rice and the vessels containing other items and gave the signal to proceed with the task of serving all who came that day!

Sai Baba has spoken about the untiring devotion of Subbamma, the accountant's wife. This aged lady looked after the comforts of the pilgrims and had Baba Himself in her house for some years until the building now called "Old Mandir" (or Old Temple) was built in 1944.

Sai Baba composed a number of songs and verses of praise to be used for the occasions of singing and chanting, for Sai Baba of Shirdi was unknown in those areas; these songs refer to Dwarakamayi, Puti Temple, Udi and the Margosa tree, and other details which were strange to the devotees who assembled at Puttaparthi. Many of them are sung even today at the Prasanthi Nilayam, "Place of Peace," the name of the Center of Prayer now in Puttaparthi directed by Sathya Sai Baba.

He used to complain off and on of the "family atmosphere" in the places where He stayed. Young boy that He was, He would disappear during day or night into the mountains that surround the village. Whenever He was found absent, Subbamma and others would search every hill and dale within walking distance. They generally found Him sitting quietly on a rock overlooking the valley, in a cave like hollow or crevice, or on the sands of the river. These disappearances and wanderings gave the people anxiety, for they were ignorant of the true significance of His absences. Some of them were afraid that He would go away to the Himalayas or waste Himself in asceticism, for they did not understand the Nature of the Incarnation or the Purpose for which It had come. Even today, these people continue talking of the spiritual practices of the young boy on the hills, not knowing that He has come to restore the inner path of the Spirit in Man! 

One day when a party of devotees was accompanying Baba in a caravan of bullock carts to Uravakonda, He got down from His cart and went into the hills and disappeared. The entire area was searched but there was not a trace of Him. Everyone was in great distress until Baba appeared at about six o'clock in the evening, fresh and smiling, and restored everyone's drooping heart.

In connection with journeys Sai Baba made by bullock cart, an incident occurred which is even now described by Baba with a twinkle of merriment. In spite of occasional moods of solitude which took Him away from His devotees into the hills and dales, He was always a sprightly joyous boy full of practical jokes and fun. Once when about twenty devotees were proceeding along the road to Dharmavaram, Sai Baba and a group of young men were walking behind the bullock carts in the moonlight. Suddenly He moved a few yards away, unnoticed by the rest, and hastened to the cart leading the other carts. There He appeared as a girl of sixteen; she appealed to the persons inside the cart for a lift because her feet were sore. She was to go to Dharmavaram where her husband had been admitted to the hospital. Baba acted the part with so many sighs, rubbing of eyes, and even tears, that the ladies in the cart took pity on the unfortunate "girl" and took her in. After about a mile or so, news came from the end of the line that Sai Baba was missing, and all the carts were brought to a halt; each of the occupants got down and joined the search. They found Him at last, just a few yards ahead of the foremost cart itself. Some of the older men even dared chide Baba for playing hide and seek in strange places in the dead of night! The journey resumed, but another person was now found missing! Where was the girl whose husband was a patient at the Dharmavaram Hospital? Where could she have gone?

Perhaps in her anxiety to be by the bedside of her husband she ran on when the carts stopped to search for Bala Sai. So some fleet-footed young men ran forward, only to bring back the report that the road was deserted for at least two miles ahead! Finally they asked Baba, for they knew He would certainly know the where-abouts of every missing person. Of course He knew! The "girl" was there before them in the form of Baba Himself, the Great Actor.

Venkamma, the sister, pestered Baba for a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi about whom so many hymns were composed by Baba. Baba told her He would give it to her by a certain Thursday, but He went to Uravakonda on the day previous to the Thursday indicated. She forgot all about it, for she was sure she would get it some day and was not very concerned as to the exact day. Night fell and all were asleep at Puttaparthi. Someone called out "Ammayi, Ammayi" outside the front door. The sister did not go and open the door since the call did not persist. She reasoned that it must be someone calling the neighbor. As she lay in bed, she heard a grating sound behind one of the bags of corn in the same room. She imagined it to be a rat or a snake; it was distinct and loud. She lit a lamp and searched, and lo, something white, stiff, a piece of rolled paper, a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi was mysteriously presented to her by Baba who was at Uravakonda at the time! She still has the picture.

At that time, because there was no large building in which all could be accommodated, Baba generally went every evening to the sands of the river with the devotees and the chanting was carried on there.

Sai Baba has said many times that in His life the first sixteen years will be marked mainly by Lila ( sport and play), the next sixteen by Miracles, and the subsequent years by Teaching. He has said that although Lila would be the main note of the first period, it would continue to be a part of every stage of His life; so also with Miracles and Teaching. True to this statement, Sai Baba performed various miracles before the devotees who attended those evenings of chanting and worship on the sands by the river. It was then that the Tamarind tree that grows solitary at the crest of the hill on the left bank of the Chitravathi near its meeting place with the road, got the reputation of being a "Wish-fulfilling Tree," for Baba used to take the devotees to the tree and pluck from it many different varieties of fruits - apple from one branch, mango from another, orange from a third, pears and figs from a fourth and fifth. As Sai Baba says, He can make any tree at any time a "Wish-fulfilling Tree," for He is Himself "Wish-fulfilling."

He would climb up the rocks very quickly, and sometimes to the surprise of everyone He did not climb at all; yet He would be talking to the devotees on the sands one moment and hail them from near the Tamarind tree the next. He usually assisted the older and stouter devotees, and when they held His Hand, He pulled them up as if they had no weight at all.

A number of very fortunate devotees of those days experience joy even now when describing the miracles they were privileged to witness. Baba would call to them in a clear commanding voice from the top of the hill while standing by the side of the "Wish-fulfilling Tree" - "Look up and see"; and they saw a wheel of circling light with Baba's Head in the center, or a blinding jet of light emanating from His Forehead. Instances are related of a few devotees who fell down in a swoon at the sight of these strange phenomena. Some have seen, looking up from the sands, "a huge Sai Baba of Shirdi," illuminated by a mysterious effulgence. Some have seen Sathya Sai Baba's Face appear inside the full-circled moon, and have seen a pillar of fire appear also.

A college student, C. N. Padma, who was present one evening when Sai Baba ascended the hill on which the Tamarind tree can still be seen, writes, "The next day Baba took us again to the sands. In fact He went out every day, sometimes to a cluster of trees near a tank on the other bank of the river where He delighted in swimming and diving, or sometimes to the sands. After some little conversation He challenged a few young men of His physical age, that is to say same teenagers, to run a race with Him up the rocky path from the sands to the Tamarind tree. Off they went, but before one could close one's eyes and open them, Baba was calling out in great glee from the very top! He asked the others to stop where they were and He called out to everyone, 'Be watching Me; I am giving you the Darshan of Flame, the Vision of Light.' Suddenly there was a great ball of fire, like a sun, piercing the new moon dusk. It was impossible to open the eyes and keep looking. About three or four of the devotees fainted and fell. The time was a little past seven."

While mentioning the cluster of trees near Saheb Tank, another incident should be recorded. One day Baba had tied a swing to the overhanging branch of a tree there and was sitting on the contraption, swinging fast up and down in great joy to the delight of all. Suddenly He said, "Look!" to the devotees sitting on the ground. They looked up and saw the channing Cowherd Boy of Brindavan, Krishna, sitting on a magnificently decorated, flower-bedecked swing. Some lost consciousness and had to be revived by Sai Baba's scattering on them the rice grains that He secured by a Wave of the Hand. When they awakened, dazed and weeping with joy, Baba told them, "Calm yourselves! Do not get excited! This is why I do not grant you many of these Visions."

Later when Sai Baba was visiting a family in Mysore, He quite unexpectedly granted their priest a Vision of Narasimha, the "Man-Lion" Avatara of Vishnu, whom he adored all his life. The Brahmin priest swooned and did not recover consciousness for several hours. Similarly, once while Baba was talking to a retired health inspector about God and Godhead, He showed him the Flame emanating from His Forehead. The inspector was so overcome with the strange magnificence of the experience that he could not regain consciousness for fully seventy hours, and his children began chiding Sai Baba for taking him so near the door of death!

A devotee from Kamalapuram was asking Baba to show him some miracle. One day Baba called him and the members of his family, including his mother, and offered to show them the Vision of the ten incarnations of God! The Visions of Matsya the Fish, Kurma the Tortoise, and Varaha the Boar, passed off without any incident, but when the terrible form of Narasimha the "Man-Lion" appeared, they shrieked and yelled, fearing that the house might collapse on their heads. They clamored, "Enough, enough." Other persons, although there, did not see the Forms, because the miracle was not intended for them. However, when they witnessed the distress of the family, they performed a magical incantation for bringing auspicious delight, and Baba calmed down. The ten incarnations were revealed to another gentleman, now deceased, a relative of the accountant's family. The fact was that he passed away because his physical frame was too weak to contain the joy of the Vision. Baba took him to the river and asked him to watch His reflection in the water. The man announced later that he saw at first Sathya Sai Baba Himself, then only the halo of hair that surrounds His Head, and then all the ten incarnations in the order in which they are mentioned in the legendary histories of India; the tenth and last incarnation on a white horse, had the form of Baba Himself!

Baba will bless only those who have reached that stage in which they deserve the Vision that He grants. He is the judge of the time, the recipient, and the nature of the Vision. If the person so blessed is so overwhelmed with joy that he cannot survive in this physical framework because it is too weak a container for that type of Bliss, one has only to be thankful for the glory and the blessedness of such a death.

One can well appreciate the hesitation of Sai Baba to present these Visions when he learns of the experience of Krishnamurthy, a Civil Service clerk at the Mysore Secretariat.

Baba was then at Bangalore, ostensibly a youth of seventeen. He wore a white half-arm shirt and a dhoti cloth around His waist. Krishnamurthy was a frequent visitor and an enthusiastic member of the chanting group that sang hymns of praise. He was closely watching Baba and following Him for a few days. One day at about eight in the morning he confronted Baba and said rather excitedly, "I know you are God; show me Your real Form!" Sai Baba tried to avoid him but couldn't. He gave him a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi which He materialized on the spot, and directed him to meditate on that, keeping it against the wall. "Be looking at that picture," He commanded, and left the house to give the blessing of His Presence to some devotees in their homes.

Sai Baba returned when the clock struck twelve. Just when He crossed the threshold, Krishnamurthy sent forth a huge cry of joy and fainted in the inner room! When he revived he was shivering and shaking and breathing heavily. He kept his eyes tightly closed and was pursuing Baba from room to room, asking sometimes plainly, sometimes authoritatively, "Let me touch Your Feet!" He seemed to know exactly where Baba was, by the sense of smell, and he was sniffing his way towards Him! But Baba pushed him gently off or hid Himself or kept His Feet firmly under Him when seated, and never acceded to Krishnamurthy's wishes.

When Krishnamurthy was asked to open his eyes, he refused, saying that he did not desire to cast his eyes on anything else; he wanted only to see and touch Baba's Feet. His excitement and joy continued unabated for days, and Sai Baba said that if he touched His Feet while in that ecstatic mood, he would pass away. So Sai Baba quietly persuaded him to go home, saying that He would give him the pleasure of His Presence there.

Baba then moved to a house in the Civil Station. But Krishnamurthy could not contain himself. With his eyes still closed, he somehow sniffed his way. He got on a horse cart and directed the driver to the house where Sai Baba was staying! He slid down from the cart and ran into the compound, roamed round the building, and began to bang at the very window of the room where Sai Baba was at the time! Baba still spoke of the danger to Krishnamurthy's life because of the overpowering joy of his experience. Relatives who came for him forced his return home. He still kept his eyes closed, praying for Baba's Feet.

Some people took him to the hospital because he had become weak through fasting and would not even drink water. Baba sent to him at the hospital a little water in which His Feet had been bathed. When Krishnamurthy drank it, he became fit enough to be taken home. At home he asked everyone to sing hymns in praise of Baba while he lay on a cot in the same room. When the session was over, they found he did not rise. He had touched the Feet of the Lord; the river had found the Sea. What a highly evolved soul to deserve that indescribable Bliss!

In later years too, Sai Baba has granted Visions of a devotee's Ishta Devata, "the form of God chosen for worship," and to many others He has revealed His own manifold Forms. Each one so blessed cherishes the memory of that moment of Bliss! Baba has often said that the Lord, has to come in human form in order to speak to people in their own language, just as a person desirous of saving drowning man has perforce to jump into the very same tank or well. No one can benefit from a Divine Incarnation, an Avatara, if the Lord comes down as He is, with His effulgence unimpaired, for then the gap between man and Godman would be too great for man to comprehend. Therefore God must take on a form similar to that of an ordinary man.

On another occasion Sai Baba asked some persons who had come from Kamalapur whether they would like to hear the flute of Sri Krishna. Who would say no? He asked them to lay their heads on His Chest, and lo, they could hear the enchanting melody of the flute of Krishna that brought even the Yamuna River to a standstill. Easwaramma, His mother , speaks of another thrilling experience when Baba said, "Listen, Shirdi's Presence is here." She and everyone in the room could hear steps advancing as if made by feet in heavy wooden sandals. The steps ceased when they reached where Baba was sitting! When first the sound was heard, the mother asked with a little anger, "Who comes in with sandals on?" - so real was the sensation, so true was the Vision!

While this was the experience of the mother, the father Pedda Venkapa Raju, had another incident to narrate. One evening some people came from Penukonda to Puttaparthi; among them was Krishnamachari, who, though a native of Puttaparthi, had long ago settled down at Penukonda as a lawyer. He and some others came to the accountant's house and Subbamma gave them coffee. The talk naturally turned to the latest phenomenon of Baba, and they asked Pedda Venkapa Raju, who was there, what it was all about and how true it was. He replied that it was all a mystery to him and that he too was equally in the dark. Then it seems, the lawyer called Venkapa a cheat, and charged him with misleading innocent village folk with tall stories. This upset him so much that he went to Sai Baba and challenged Him to convince the doubters about His Divinity so that they might not accuse him as the lawyer had done. Baba coolly asked him to bring everyone who had any doubt directly to Him.

Subbamma and the party from Penukonda were taken to Pedda Venkapa Raju's house where Sai Baba was. Baba asked Subbamma if she would like to see the Shirdi Samadhi, the Holy Tomb of Sai Baba at Shirdi. On her saying, "Yes," He took her to an inner room in the house and said, "Look!" There Subbamma could see the Samadhi with all the flowers, the fragrant incense sticks and smoke, and an attendant sitting in one corner chanting to himself. Baba told her, "On this side, see the Temple of Hanuman, the Monkey-Saint, and in the far distance see that Margosa tree." It appeared to her as if she were in some vast open space looking at the scene in Shirdi, the entire landscape spreading out before her for miles and miles to the horizon in the distance.

When she was brought out after this thrilling experience, she persuaded Krishnamachari to follow Sai Baba to the same inner room. Baba took them, one by one, and revealed to each the same Vision, a panoramic view of the Shrine at Shirdi and its locale. Pedda Venkapa Raju says that he was taken inside after all the rest, and when he came out, he was a changed man. His doubts had vanished. The friends from Penukonda apologized for their slighting remarks and said that in order to explain such a divine phenomenon, the sanest explanation to give would be that it was "a mystery beyond understanding." Easwaramma and Pedda Venkapa Raju, the mother and father, were convinced that day that the young lad of sixteen was really an incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Pedda Venkapa Raju says that he then instructed his family to consider Baba as Divine and not bother Him with any more pettiness, neglect, impatience, temper, or meanness.

Sai Baba was engaged even during those early days in teaching. His life is one continuous instruction. A clear example of this was when He spoke to a naked sage when the latter came to Puttaparthi in 1941. The town of Bukkapatnam was agog with the visit of this ascetic who had lost the use of both his legs, who had discarded clothes, and therefore was looked upon by the masses as a perfect example of a great sage. His admirers were eager to watch the reactions of Sai Baba when pitted against a veteran of many hardships. The naked sage had also taken a vow of silence; thus the curiosity of the people became greater. The sweet young divine lad met the "lofty hero" who was carried to the village and deposited in front of Subbamma's house. Baba gave the unclothed sage a big towel and some advice, the like of which he would not have been given anywhere else.

"If you have cut off all relationship with society, as your nakedness indicates you have, then why do you not go to a cave in a forest away from human society? Why are you afraid? On the other hand, if you have a craving for disciples, for fame, and for name, and the food available in cities and towns, why do you allow yourself to be a mistaken for a man with no attachment"? These were the words that fell from the lips of the young Baba. They struck everyone with wonder and admiration.

The naked sage looked crestfallen, for he was evidently not sincere enough to live up to his nakedness and his vow of silence. But Sai Baba was not sarcastic - far from it. He was ready to help, to assure, to guarantee! Patting the cripple on the back, He said, "I know your difficulty. You are afraid you may not get food and shelter if you retire from the company of men, isn't it so? Well, I assure you, anyone taking the Name of the Lord, wherever he may be, will get his food; I shall see to that. You may be in the deepest Himalayas or the deepest forest and I shall give you food regularly there! But, if you have not that faith and that courage, you can meditate on Him right here; but don't wander about naked and give all this bother to these people to carry you about from place to place." What a grand teaching that was! If only people would grasp its meaning! That was the Authentic Voice. Only the Lord could give that assurance!

This assurance is being given even today by Sai Baba to all aspirants. In 1958 when Swami Satchidananda met Him, Baba told him to cultivate his Yogic proficiency and not fritter away his time organizing movements. He added, patting the seventy year old monk on the back, "Your Yogic attainments will themselves penetrate the rock of the cave where you sit and bring auspiciousness to the world. Go to some Himalayan solitude. I shall provide you food and shelter wherever you are!" The same Authentic Voice, come to guide and guard all spiritual aspirants practicing Yoga or union with God, whatever the religion, the race, the clime!

With the arrival of devotees from all around at the news of the manifestation of Sai Baba of Shirdi at Puttaparthi, Baba was kept busy curing their physical and mental ills. He says that even this forms part of His Mission, for no one can have the urge for spiritual discipline when pestered by physical and mental ills. Many cases of chronic illness, lunacy, hysteria, possession by evil spirits and ghosts, and other maladies were brought to the presence of the Great Healer. People who had been worshipping Sai Baba of Shirdi also came out of curiosity to examine the new manifestation of their Lord. Many persuaded Baba to visit their places. He went to Bangalore, Mirzapur, Kolapuram, Pithapuram, Sandur, Madras, and other towns. Also visiting Him were devotees from families connected with the Royal Line of Mysore. At Bangalore, Sai Baba operated on a person with a duodenal ulcer and the patient got complete relief ; the instruments were all materialized mysteriously.

The stream of pilgrims increased considerably. This highlighted the need for a bigger temple where Sai Baba could reside and the devotees be accommodated. This was how the first temple was planned by Thirumala Rao of Bangalore and others in 1945. The place selected was a short distance from the village between the Satyamma and the Gopalakrishna temples, the very site on which sheds and large tents were put up for some years during the Dasara and other festivals.

When the servant, Gooni Venkata (Venkata with the hump) , dug at the spot indicated by Sai Baba, so that consecrated stones could be laid as foundation, a large number of stone bases used as stands for lingams  (emblems of the Form merging in the Formless, or emerging from the Formless) were discovered! But strangely enough, no lingams could be found, though a vigorous search was made. Dozens of bases - but not a single lingam. People gathered round Baba and sought the answer. Sai Baba told them cryptically, pointing a finger at his stomach, "The lingams are all here." Those who have witnessed the emanation of lingams from Baba's Mouth on the night of the Festival of Mahasivaratri might be convinced of the correctness of the answer; others will have to be satisfied with the consolation that the ways of the Lord are beyond the categories with which we measure and weigh, infer and judge. (After the completion of the building, Sai Baba came over from the accountant's house and lived in the room to the left of the front veranda, a small room about eight feet long and six feet wide. )

Meanwhile Sai Baba had gone to Madras and had given the blessed pleasure of His Presence to thousands there. He also went as far as Masulipatam. Wherever He went He granted people peace of mind and spiritual advice, and assured them that He would guide and guard them. One day while on the sands of the seashore near Masulipatam, Baba walked straight into the sea! The devotees were sometime realizing the situation. 

Then they heard a voice and turned toward the waves. They saw a Vision of the Lord on the Serpent Sesha, reclining on the waves! Within a moment, Baba was by their side. They were struck by the fact that His clothes were not wet at all. Another day He walked toward the sea, up to the very edge and threw a silver cup far into the waves. Everyone wondered why. In an instant the cup came back and was deposited near them by a wave. Sai Baba lifted it up along with the "salt water" it contained; he poured the water onto the palms of the devotees, a few drops for each to be swallowed religiously. Each one found it to be fragrant and sweet beyond compare! The sea had offered Him the "nectar of immortality," just as years later it placed round His Feet a garland of pearls.

People who witnessed these miracles and partook of the nectar are now at Prasanthi Nilayam, His place of "Tranquil Peace" at Puttaparthi, and are ardent devotees of the Lord.

It would be a mistake to infer trom these incidents that Baba was attempting to impress the people around Him by the manifestation of His Divinity. His very nature is of the miraculous. His actions are beyond our ken, our arithmetic and physics and chemistry. Plato called the inquiry into the nature of the relationship between the "here and now" and the "hereafter and ever" as meta-physics, or "after physics." Sai Baba's actions are all meta! He presents the miracles because He is He, not because of any desire or purpose or want, for what can He ever want or wish for?

Whenever anyone came into the Presence, even in those days, Sai Baba immediately took him in hand, and by advice, suggestion, satire, sarcasm, or even reprimand, He slowly shaped him into a humble, silent, pious, and thereby efficient, enthusiastic limb of society. That is the alchemy of His Touch. Even when He addressed groups of devotees He emphasized the need for an inner transformation in every individual. He told everyone to have courage and said that courage can come only by faith in the Infinite Power, the Infinite Mercy of the Lord. Anyone inclined to doubt this need only watch Him and taste His Infinite Power and His Infinite Mercy.

An incident regarding His Mercy happened at Bangalore when He was still in His teens. A cobbler, plying his trade on a corner of a road in the Civil Station, saw Baba in a bungalow opposite the place where he sat. Many cars were moving in and out of the house grounds. Flowers and fruits were being taken in and the faces of those who came out on the road were bright with joy and contentment. They were talking of an Incarnation of Lord Krishna, of the Lord Sai Baba, and so forth. The cobbler too ventured to enter the gate and peep nervously into the hall where Sai Baba was seated on a special chair with men on one side and women on the other. His eyes fell on Baba just when He too looked at him. Sai Baba immediately arose and came forward to the door where the cobbler stood. He approached him, took the little dried up garland of flowers that he held in his hand, even before the man offered it, and asked him in Tamil, the only language the cobbler knew, what he wanted from Him! The temerity to formulate his wish and express it in so many words must have been granted to that aged "untouchable" outcaste by Baba Himself, for how else can one explain the astounding request that he dared to make? He said quite confidently and without hesitation, to the surprise of everyone who heard him, "Please come to my house and accept something!" Baba patted his back lovingly and said, "All right, I shall come," and resumed His seat at the other end of the hall.

The cobbler waited for a long time because he wanted to tell Sai Baba where his house was and to know when Baba would visit it so that he might clean it and be ready to receive Him; but he finally had to hurry back to his corner to keep watch over his heap of leather pieces and old shoes. He was pushed and jostled by the rush of visitors. No one listened to him when he said that Baba had promised to pay a visit to his hut. The cobbler wanted them to find out from Sai Baba when He would be coming. Some laughed at him and his audacity; some said he was drunk or mad. Days passed. Sai Baba spent His days with other blessed hosts and did not visit the bungalow opposite the cobbler's corner. So the cobbler gave up all hopes of meeting Baba again!

Suddenly one day a fine car was driven right up in front of the aged cobbler. He was taken aback; he was afraid it might be the police van or some City official intent on prosecuting him for plying his trade on the pavement. But it was Sai Baba! He invited the cobbler to get into the car; the man was too confused even to open his mouth to direct the driver to his hut, Sai Baba seemed to know. Stopping the car on the side of the road, Baba got down and hastened over the cobblestones in the by-lane to the exact hut in the midst of the slum! The cobbler ran forward to warn his family. Sai Baba created some sweets and fruits and gave them as consecrated gifts to the members of the cobbler's family and sat on a plank near the wall. He blessed the aged man who was shedding tears of joy and took with Him a few bananas the cobbler had brought from a shop nearby. He then left the hut which was thereafter made a place of pilgrimage for the entire neighborhood! Such was Sai Baba's love.

Some people in their foolishness attempted to poison Baba. The incident reveals more than one facet of Baba's Divinity. Even today Sai Baba will not allow the attempt to be called an attempt to kill. Since His words are Truth, let it be remembered that it was an attempt to test whether He could survive the eating of poison; it was more the result of scepticism than of wickedness.

It was festival day and Sai Baba with two devotees visited a few houses in His native village. In each house He partook of something, and when He entered the house where the fatal food had been prepared, He showed extra enthusiasm and demanded more of the special dish; but He saw to it that His companions did not consume the deadly mixture. When He returned to the accountant's house, He confided to several people the secret of the invitation from that particular house, talked about the utter futility and foolishness of it all, and had a hearty laugh over the incident. After sometime He vomited the whole stuff. People near Him secretly tested whether it was poisonous to living beings. It was!

Sai Baba takes delight in doing just what we mortals dread to do. For example, the night of the snake bite. This incident is described in the chapter on "The Wave of the Hand." That night, after the recovery of Baba from the snake bite with the application of the Talisman produced miraculously through His Grace, everyone in the village pleaded with Him not to have any supper, for food might aggravate the poison; but He audaciously ate a little more than usual. He was asked by the elders to avoid cold water, but He purposely swam about in a well just to spite human nervousness and human precautions!

Subbamma was the person most anxious about Baba's health and most worried about feeding the hundreds of pilgrims who gathered at Puttaparthi. Baba even now says that the grinding stone in her home was always busy preparing chutney out of the heaps of coconuts for the hundreds who stayed at her house. Subbamma was grinding and grinding, besides boiling rice and preparing dishes almost eight hours of the day! She had immense love and devotion for the Lord, and Sai Baba had said that He would satisfy her one great desire - to have the Darshan, that is, the blessing of seeing in person the Vision of Sai Baba in her last moments. It is indeed a thrilling story, the story of those moments and that Darshan.

Subbamma fell ill and was taken to Bukkapatnam, but in spite of her illness, she came over one day in a bullock cart to see the Prasanthi Nilayam, which was then under construction. She was soon bedridden and could not move; her condition worsened; and Sai Baba was away at Bangalore! Subbamma in her delirium talked about Baba and the Vision of Sai Baba of Shirdi which she had been privileged to see. She spoke of the many "miracles of Lord Krishna " which she had witnessed. When normal consciousness returned, her talk concerned the same incidents and the same Person. She was in the midst of relations who had little sympathy with these sentiments, for they felt that her love for the strange miraculous young boy had taken her away from attachment to her kith and kin. They told her that her Baba was a hundred miles away, and it would be better for her to concentrate her final attention on her family gathered around her. But her faith in Sai Baba did not falter.

Meanwhile Baba left Bangalore for Tirupathi. He knew that Subbamma's soul was struggling to free itselt from the mortal coil, and that she was rolling in her deathbed at Bukkapatnam. The people around her announced that she had breathed her last. But a peculiar glow on her face made them hesitate to take the body away for cremation. A few wise people shook their heads when it was suggested that she had died. They advised patience, and admonished the relatives, "The bird has not yet flown." How could that bird fly, even though the doors of the cage were wide open? She must have the Darshan, the promised Vision, and she must wait until Baba came.

Baba was hurrying toward her bedside. He left Tirupathi by car, and arriving at Puttaparthi, proceeded to Bukkapatnam three full days after the announcement of Subbamma's end! Her eyes had lost the glint; she was placed on the floor; for no Hindu should die while on the bed, and people were evincing an uneasy impatience. Sai Baba sat by her and in a low voice called out, "Subbamma, Subbamma," just twice! To the evident wonderment of everyone crowding around, Subbamma opened her eyes; her hand extended toward Baba and grasped His Palm firmly and began to stroke it lovingly. Baba put His Fingers to her lips; her mouth opened a little, as if she knew that Baba was giving her something to slake the thirst of the soul. From the Fingers of Baba there poured into her mouth a small quantity of water which He said was from River Ganges. Subbamma then joined the ranks of the released!

About this time Sai Baba was approached by the Muslims of a neighboring village on a matter of importance to them. Their ranks had been reduced by a fatal disease.

The worship of what are called Pirs is traditional in these parts during the month of Mohurram. The installation, the worship, the ceremonial procession and the immersion are all celebrated by Hindu as well as Muslim communities. Pirs are hand-shaped objects made of brass and other metals which are held sacred as mementos of the sacrifice of Hassan and Hussein on the memorable battlefield of Kerbela. Sai Baba told the Muslims who came to Him that Pirs had been installed in their village for hundred of years, but lately the practice had stopped. He asked them to continue the worship and revealed to them that if they dug at a certain place which He pointed out, they would get the very Pirs which their forefathers consecrated. They dug at the place and the Pirs were exposed to view! Everyone was so surprised and stunned at Sai Baba's Omniscience and the sudden appearance of the sacred objects that none had the ability to descend and pull the Pirs into the open. So Sai Baba Himself got down into the pit and took out the Pirs. There were four of them at the place! For many years thereafter these were kept at the temple, rolled up in a mat and packed neatly away. They were issued to those villagers for the Mohurrum celebrations only, and they were duly returned after the functions were over.

One curious circumstance witnessed by the author was when the Muslims were proceeding from the temple after accepting the Pirs from Sai Baba's Hands. The person carrying them began to act as if he were "possessed", and all gathered around him to watch the holy man in that elevated mood. He danced a few steps, ran round in circles, muttered to himself a few verses from the holy Koran, the Muslim Holy Book, and walked back to Sai Baba. Baba said, "Go! Go and come back after the festival," and quickly, quietly, the "possessed" man sped forward with the Pirs in the same tense condition of prayerful joy. Only those who have had the privilege of witnessing such moments can grasp even in a small way the mystery that is Sai Baba.

Many devotees came to Puttaparthi from far and near during those days. Each one was drawn by some inexplicable circumstance and kept steady by a glimpse of Sai Baba's Omnipresence or Omnipotence. A gentleman from Udumalpet who first refused to join the party of pilgrims, but who later was persuaded against his will to go along, offered a flower garland to Baba as others did as soon as Puttaparthi was reached. Baba did not accept his offering. He said, "You had no mind to come!" That remark brought Sai Baba closer to the unbeliever.

A gentleman who was from Madurai came because his sister at Vellore agreed to have an operation performed on her only if and when Sai Baba said it was essential. He came to Puttaparthi, but Sai Baba did not speak to him for some days. When at last He spoke, He only asked him to go to Vellore by the next available bus. The doctor at Vellore was getting more furious all the time because the silly patient was endangering her life by waiting for permission to undergo the operation from a mere boy, who, she said, was her Guru and God! The brother came at last. Another examination was made. Wonders of wonders, there was no need for an operation! "Is it the same 'she'?" the doctor asked in amazement.

It would make very inspiring reading if a book were composed of the answers from devotees to the question: "How did you first come to Puttaparthi, and why?" If such a volume were ever produced, the story of the coming of Sakamma, the well known owner of coffee plantations, a philanthropist of Coorg, and the lady who was honored with the title of "Dharmaparayani" (ever engaged in charity) by the Maharaja of Mysore, would make an interesting chapter. Not because she was rich or famous in the field of business and industry. Sai Baba does not mind whether a person is rich or poor. He cares for the richness of character, the wealth of spiritual discipline and the treasures of the spirit, no matter what the bank balance may be!

The late Sakamma used to tell this strange experience. One day at her bungalow in Somwarpet, Coorg, when she was engaged in worship, a servant disturbed her and announced that a car had come into the compound, and that the person inside insisted on seeing her immediately. She was rather upset, but nevertheless went to find out who would take such liberty with her time. She found in the car a tall, fair, old man with a very reverent looking beard, sitting on a deerskin, his whole body bathed in ash. She was struck by the age of the car also, for it matched the age of the owner or occupant. It was driven by a weak little boy in his teens, and Sakamma wondered how he could have managed to secure a license or whether he had one at all. The car had a name plate in front reading, "The Kailas Committee." She invited the old man inside, did homage by touching his feet, placed a newly plucked rose at his feet, and offered him some fruits. He said he would not eat the fruits there, because he did not cater to the tongue at all times and all places. "Jihvachapalya" - that is, tongue cravings - was the word he used. He wanted her to contribute to the Kailas Committee and become a member by donating a thousand rupees. She signed a paper on which the sum and her name were written, and when she proffered the amount, the old man said, "Keep this also with you. I shall come and take it later." With those words he put the signed sheet on the table, got into the car and drove away. The teen-age driver did his work remarkably well, for the car was out of sight in a moment.

Years later, when she saw Baba in a house to which she had gone, He appeared to her at one moment like the young driver of that mysterious car, and in the next moment like the hoary occupant who had taken so much pains to make her contribute to the Kailas Committee, and then had asked her to hold the cash in her own keeping! Sai Baba surprised her when they met by telling her, "Come on, give the one thousand rupees you promised that day!" and then described in her presence the entire story, correct to the minutest detail.

Sai Baba once went to Mysore City during the Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, and stayed with a devotee of the Maharaja. While there, He granted the devotees who were at Puttaparthi the Vision of a serpent, a phenomenon not unknown to the devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi and to the citizens of Coimbatore and other places. The interesting fact about this Vision is that at the same time, or rather, for the entire period that it lasted, Baba was "outside" His physical frame which was at Mysore. The Prayer Sessions at the old temple were performed during the absence of Sai Baba on the steps leading up to the front door, where a decorated photograph was kept with a pair of lamps which burned both day and night. Deepavali Night passed, and in the early dawn a number of devotees at Puttaparthi saw the lights of a car coming up the curve of the hill beyond Karnatanagapalli. That was later found to be just the impression of a few. When the people who had seen the car lights and had run forward to the river bank returned to the temple, they were surprised to hear that a cobra was coiled around the portrait of Sai Baba in the temporary shrine. It was seen by hundreds of villagers and others until three o' clock that afternoon. They offered worship to it, sang the usual Prayer Songs at noon, and broke coconuts to propitiate it. But it did not stir from its place. Emboldened by this, some women threw saffron powder on it, pronouncing the Name of the Lord and calling upon Sathya Sai Baba. They placed milk in bowls before it; it only swayed its raised hood from side to side. One reverent female of the village, who got the two halves of the coconut given back to her after the ceremonial offering, protested loudly, saying that the nut she handed to it was definitely larger in size and that she would be a loser if she quietly accepted the halves of a smaller specimen. At this the cobra, as if it were keenly watching the proceedings, turned sharply in her direction and hissed loudly! Everyone had a hearty laugh at her fright! At three o'clock that afternoon the cobra slid down and within a yard or two became invisible, and Sai Baba at distant Mysore brought joy to all by getting up as He returned to His Body.

After Sai Baba went to Mysore, He visited Hyderabad, and because He recognized a number of places as those which He had once seen, the Rani of Chincholi became convinced that He was the incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi Himself. Baba also went to Kuppam and from there to Karur and to Trichinopoly. Everywhere He was welcomed with great enthusiasm by devotees and citizens. At Trichinopoly the procession was led by a richly caparisoned elephant, followed by parties reciting ritualistic chants and carrying consecrated water in silver pots as an offering of homage. Everywhere He advised the people, "From now onwards, purify your  hearts and make them fit tabernacles for the Lord. Do not fall deeper and deeper into evil by yielding to temptations. Take courage. Believe in the Lord who is within you, who is your nearest kith and kin."

While the cars of Sai Baba's party were traversing the streets of Trichinopoly, one of the vehicles accidentally ran over a little boy; he was badly injured. A crowd quickly gathered around him. He was carried to a house nearby and lay bleeding and hurt on the porch. The police came to investigate, but meanwhile Sai Baba had come and touched the boy. They had nothing to report, for the boy who had been hurt was now running about telling everyone how one touch from Sai Baba had made him whole. Long after Baba left, that boy was fondled and fed by an admiring crowd which was amazed at his miraculous experience.

There was another boy who was similarly honored by an admiring crowd and who perhaps even today is thankful for the intervention of the Lord. At a public meeting near Trichinopoly, held to honor Sai Baba, someone doubted His Divinity. Sensing this from the platform, Sai Baba immediately called up a deaf and dumb lad who was standing near the aforesaid person; making him stand in front of the microphone, He asked him, "What is your name?" Immediately the boy spoke into the microphone for all the thousands to hear, "Venkatanarayanan!" The doubter kept silent and hung his head in shame. There was another consequence. Baba often speaks of this incident with laughter. When morning dawned, the entire length of the street where He was residing was packed with deaf and dumb! It had become a silent lane of pain! No one knew until then that Trichinopoly had such a large number of people with that unfortunate malady. Sai Baba moved out  of the bungalow to avoid the clamor of the relatives seeking more miraculous healings.

The devotees at Karur and Trichinopoly vied with each other in decorating their houses and streets and in the magnificence of reception arrangements. But Sai Baba was unaffected by all the pageantry. He moved freely among the people, both rich and poor, sometimes more among the poor than among His hosts. He cared more for the prayerful heart and the heart filled with remorse than those puffed with pride and contaminated by greed. The mantapams, the many pillared open halls built for festive occasions, which were erected for seating Him and offering worship to Him, were gems of artistry, bedecked with flowers of variegated hues. Sai Baba told the people countless times that He attached value only to the unsullied blossom of a pure heart and the fruit offerings of good deeds.

Once at Mysore, seated on one such floral bedecked mantapam, Sai Baba was receiving the adoration and homage of a family of devotees when a cobra appeared from nowhere and crept onto the heap of flowers at His Feet. Shortly it was accompanied by another cobra. Baba assured the family that there was nothing to be afraid of, and after a while, the cobras disappeared into the "nowhere" from whence they had mysteriously emerged.

Sai Baba is not content merely to instill faith in His devotees through these miracles. He is a hard taskmaster who is satisfied with nothing less than absolute integrity and a sincere striving for spiritual discipline. This explains why, of the very large number of men and women who are drawn to Him by the stories of His miracles and who even get their first impressions of His Divinity confirmed by many subsequent miracles, some fall away from Him, unable to cope with the demands He makes in character reform, renunciation, spiritual practice, repeating the Name of God in prayer, and in meditation on the Form. Baba reiterated even in those early days that He wards off physical calamities, cures bodily ills, heals, consoles, and gives solace, only as a first step towards spiritual practice which must automatically follow the experience of His Presence. Many monks and ascetics have fallen into the mire because of their anxiety to keep themselves in the good books of rich and influential patrons. But Baba, who has come to illumine the paths of holy men and great seers, has never minced words when He has had to correct the faults of those around Him. His Grace is so overpowering that it disregards the obstacles of age, scholarship, or length of association. He blesses everyone with His correctness and evaluation. Complete resignation to His Divine Will alone can make each one full and free.

The Dasara Festival soon became an event par excellence at Puttaparthi. Even if Baba had to journey to Madras or Trichinopoly or Masulipatam for other festivals, He was invariably at Puttaparthi for Dasara. Sakamma and other devotees were privileged for many years to make arrangements for this "Festival of the Mother." Baba is the Supreme Mother, manifesting Herself as the Goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati, the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, Goddess of Spring, Sarada, Goddess of Growing Food, Annapurna, and even Goddess of Powerful Inner Purification, Kali. Baba has said that Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Wisdom, is the Divine Mother of Humanity. As the Divine Charioteer, He brings His Message of Truth, Divine Law of Righteousness, Peace, and Love, the four cardinal principles of spiritual culture. His devotees feel that He is their Mother more than all others, and so there is a special appropriateness in Dasara being the outstanding festival at Puttaparthi. Many among His devotees have been blessed with Visions of Him as the Mother. In fact, one of them insists on addressing Him as Siva, the Mother - a name reminiscent of the sublime conception of God as Father-Mother, masculine-feminine, and Siva-Sakti

saichildren.jpg (12134 bytes)He enjoys the company of children, and even the most recalcitrant is brought round by Him through an inexhaustible repertoire of tricks and games and ventriloquial achievements. He makes shadow figures and gives them presents of sweets, materialized by a Wave of the Hand. He twists and turns His Fingers, and when the shadow falls on the wall opposite, the children are astonished to find snakes, eagles, horses, stags, dogs, peacocks, crows, cats, and buffaloes jumping about in great glee. He offers the child a ball of sand; it reluctantly extends its tiny hand to receive the Laddu - the delicacy children relish most. The sand actually becomes sweet fragrant Laddu the moment it reaches the palm of the child. He says that children are indeed lucky, since they have the good fortune of Baba's Darshan (experiencing His Presence) much earlier than the adults, and they are privileged to have Baba as their Teacher, Protector, Guide and Guardian for many decades to come. When Sai Baba agrees to name the children of His devotees, the names He gives them are redolent with His Grace and His Mercy. He also initiates the little ones in the alphabet. He holds their tiny fingers in His Hand and scribbles the letters along with them in honey or milk or rice.

Akshara means also "the imperishable," and Baba, when He inaugurates the Aksharabhyasa, the study of the alphabet, also initiates the children into the Imperishable. Each one must pronounce Mahamantra - (the great formula of power - text); Om Namo Narayana - "Honor to the God in Man!"; Om Namasivaja - "Honor to the God Siva"; or Om Srinivasaya - "Honor to the abode of Sri, the Goddess of Fortune," or any mantra that is suited to the traditions of the child's family, thus giving the child the key to ultimate spiritual victory. There is a song sung in Tamil about Sai Baba which refers to Him as the Sayimata, the Mother who suckles Her children on the milk of Wisdom. The study of the alphabet is the occasion on which the fortunate child gets the chance of receiving Divine Wisdom. During Dasara Baba shines forth as the patron of Music and Letters and as the Giver of Food and Sustenance, so that Dasara has become a memorable festival since the very beginning of His manifestation. The devotees delight in discourses, musical performances, dramas, and sumptuous feasts. Every evening there are processions along the narrow roads of the village with Baba being carried on a flower-bedecked vehicle. Decorated differently on each day, the palanquin is carried on the shoulders by eager relays of devotees. During the progress of the procession, the author has seen Baba plucking from the garlands around Him odd flowers and, with a palm full of petals, scattering them among the crowd. They all fall with a jingle, for each petal has become a small medallion with Baba's portrait on one side and Sai Baba of Shirdi's portrait on the other! Or it has often happened that the petals were turned into peppermints, which rained among the crowds around the palanquin! While on the palanquin, Sai Baba's Forehead has often been covered with Vibhuti, the Sacred Ash that emanates from within. Devotees have seen on Sai Baba this as well as Kumkum dots that emerged.

Soon the temple was found to be too small for the gathering of devotees. Many worshippers of Sai Baba of Shirdi, on hearing that He had incarnated in human form in the village of Puttaparthi, hurried there. Many who went on pilgrimage to Shirdi as usual were "directed" when they arrived there to go to Puttaparthi. Others came to know the Baba of Shirdi through Sathya Sai Baba Himself. The afflicted, the inquiring, the seekers of comfortable life, and the wise are four types who approach the Lord with their varied motives, but the Lord welcomes all and satisfies all. The afflicted He relieves. His Ash acts as a charm to drive away evil spirits from hundreds of unfortunates. The critical, the inquisitive, the doubting, the sceptical, the agnostic. He satisfies and attracts and attaches to Himself. The persons eager to get a comfortable life, He blesses, provided they are educated enough to use the peace of mind they get for cultivating the Spirit and contemplating on the ultimate goal of life itself. The wise one, purified and clarified by steadfast discipline, is dearest to Him, for He reveals Himself in all His Glory. People belonging to all these groups come to Puttaparthi, the first and the third groups naturally in much larger numbers. He revolutionizes the lives of all who come to Him.

The transformation of a gang of thieves into God-fearing agriculturists is worth recording. One night when Sai Baba was on the hill on the other bank of the Chitravathi, He came upon a group of thieves engaged in the rather ticklish task of dividing their spoils. But when they saw Him and accepted from His Hand the Divine Ash, they knew they were face to face with the Eternal Witness. Sai Baba spoke to the seventeen black hearts, and by His Alchemy He brought them over to the village of Puttaparthi. They all took up various honest ways of living.

Within a few years in order to accommodate the huge gatherings, a long shed with a roof was erected along the entire front of the temple. But even that addition proved too small. A separate block with one living room and bathroom was put up for Baba behind the temple. It was in this room that Sai Baba operated on Dr. Padmanabhan's brother for hernia! It was in that shed behind the screen in front of the Shrine that Baba operated on Appish of Puttaparthi for appendicitis. It was while sleeping in the open space between the temple and the block behind, that Baba one night announced that one of His devotees had lost a Talisman which He had given him, for it had come back into His possession! The author remembers Baba saying that He would have to go to Madras immediately to tie it to the wrist of the patient. But all the people around Him prayed that He should not undertake the "journey", at that hour, going out of His Body and coming back into it. He agreed to send it with someone proceeding to Madras. So He placed the Talisman in the custody of Sri Seshagiri Rao, an old devotee, with the warning, "Keep it tight; tie it in a towel and wind it around your waist." Seshagiri Rao obeyed the command implicitly and slept with the Talisman wound around his middle. About two hours later, all of us were awakened by the loud laughter of Sai Baba who was sitting up in the bed. We gathered round him and wanted to join in the joke. Seshagiri Rao was unaware of what was going on. Baba woke him up and asked for the Talisman. He unwound the towel, unrolled it, and lo, the Talisman had disappeared! Sai Baba chided him in fun and said that He had "gone" and tied it around the wrist of the patient who had to be continuously guarded by it! Yes, He had gone to Madras and returned.

Devotees will never forget the Old Temple, for Sai Baba was always moving right in the midst of the people there. He composed many songs and hymns portraying the Love of God which He taught while there. He trained the people with great love and attention. Since the number of  devotees who were present was not large, Baba used to go out more frequently to the sands on the river bed, or to the hills nearby, or to the gardens across the river. While some were engaged in cooking the feast, He showed them miracles, or signs of His Divinity .

In teaching and admonishing the devotees in relation to their troubles, He told them that they must concentrate on the recitation of God's Name, that it was the best means of earning Peace. Once He suddenly turned to a devotee with the question, "Don't you do recitation?' She started to say something in reply, but Baba did not wait to hear it. "Oh, you have lost your Japamala (rosary), haven't you?" He asked. Then, thrusting His Hand into the sand, He took out a rosary and said, "Here, come and take this." The lady rose reverently and came forward with folded hands to receive. Sai Baba signed her to halt, and told her with a smile illuminating His Face, "Wait! First, tell me whose rosary this is." She looked at it and gasped. "Mine, Baba! Or rather, my mother's". She was so happy to get back her rosary, the one given her by her dying mother. Baba told us all about her mother's piety, her brother's rigorous Tapas, austerity, and her own Sadhana, spiritual practice. He asked her when she had lost the precious rosary. We were all dumb-founded when she declared she had misplaced it four years previously at Bangalore!

The gathering of devotees increased in number from month to month. The Old Temple was found inadequate, and it was not possible to meet every day on the sands. The devotees felt that Sai Baba's room was too cramped and low, and He was being forced to live in the very midst of noise, dust, and confusion. On festival occasions the area around the temple was too small to accommodate the people who came. A number of devotees prayed to Baba to agree to the construction of the present spacious building which Baba named "Prasanthi Nilayam" or "Abode of Tranquility".


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Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.