Moves in His Game


Death is our birthright, a gift everyone can claim. It is a relief for the tired and a refuge for the persecuted, a lesson for the wayward, a jolt for the epicurean, a milestone for the pilgrim, punishment for the poltroon and paradise for the faithful.

Baba's elder sister's husband died at a young age, when he was just twenty-five years old. Baba chided me for shedding tears. He asked, "If there is to be no birth and no death, how am I to spend My time?" Death is but a move in His game, an 'exit' in the divine play, at which the player has to leave the stage. Baba says that the finitude of the body and the infiniteness of the soul have to be stoically accepted. He creates ash and applies it to our brow to remind us of death, and the change of the body thereafter into a heap of ashes. That helps us develop detachment towards worldly things and turn our gaze towards lasting values.

Baba has come to assign death its legitimate place in the scheme of existence, neither more nor less. He brought Walter Cowan back from the region beyond death because, as He said, "he has not completed the work he has to do." Baba does not will the effacement of death. "Why do living beings die?" we ask. "For the reason they are born," He answers. Anything put together has to disintegrate; anything that originates has to end. But man can escape rebirth by cutting off the roots, namely the deposits of karmas[*], good and bad, that burden his account in the book of God. Achieve a nil balance not by the renunciation of your physical, mental and intellectual activity, but by the renunciation of the fruits thereof. Doing your righteous duty, be indifferent towards the fruit of your actions. God gave you body, mind and intellect; God also planted desire and designed the entire plan. Let the fruit of His grace belong to Him. Then, there is neither plus nor minus in your account. You need not come again to balance it. So long as your actions are not totally selfless and duty-bound, you must accoutre yourself in a physical body in order to transcend from the limited to the unlimited. Baba told Schulman, "I know how your past has shaped you and I watch you shaping your future. I know why you suffer, how long you have to suffer and when your suffering will end."



While gifting a rosary of 108 pearls to Indra Devi, Baba said, "Keep this on the sick person and help him to pray for recovery. He will be cured." "Of any illness?" asked Indra Devi. "No," said Swami, "not if the illness is a form of payment for karmic debt." A rosary was given by Baba to Shrimati Venkatamuni of Madras. When her aged mother-in-law approached the threshold of death, her bed surrounded by many of her kith and kin, she placed the rosary on her chest and prayed for her recovery. Her mother-in-law did regain consciousness and sat up to greet the dawn of another day, curious to know the reason why the house was so full of people. When her own son, afflicted with frequent fits since childhood, was dangerously on the verge of death, Shrimati Venkatamuni ran to her room to bring the rosary. But her fingers could not hold it; it slipped out of her grasp again and again. When she could at last hold it and take it to her son, it was too late. The illness was a form of repayment of karmic debt which, when repaid, gave him release. Baba told her later that her son was here to liquidate the balance of his debt and he had now attained the region of everlasting bliss. "If you have genuine affection for him," He said, "be happy that he has been relieved of the body that gave him no peace."

Father and Son

Shri Soundararajan, the renowned singer of South India, was pathetically distraught when doctors declared that his daughter's heart could be saved by an operation possible only in the USA. But Baba cured her in a remarkably short time. He created a Rudraksha seed and directed her to drink the water in which it had been ceremonially washed. Shri Soundararajan's son had been ailing from a malignant type of jaundice. When the doctors gave up all hope, he was brought home and placed before a portrait of Baba, at his own request. Shri Soundararajan put through a telephone call to Baba at Prasanthi Nilayam. He was able to contact Baba, but the line was subject to so much disturbance that neither could his prayer be conveyed to Baba nor could he catch the voice of Bhagavân. His son passed away with the name of Baba on his lips. Later, Baba told Soundararajan that his son was a great soul who had achieved liberation from the bonds of birth and death after paying off the little balance of his karmic debt.

Baba addressed a mammoth meeting at a football field at Rajahmundry. Two weeks later He received a letter from one who, with his son by his side, had heard Him speak that day. "My son was so inspired by the discourse and by the Bhajans that he became totally immersed in You. He was constantly doing Bhajan and reciting Your glory and Your majesty. He passed away while he was in that heightened consciousness. I am glad I could claim such a pure soul as my son. We gladly performed the last rites knowing that he had attained the highest goal attainable by man." There are cases of Baba conferring this boon directly, when prayed for.

The eight-year-old daughter of a lady known as Chincholi Rajamma, used to visit Puttaparthi with her mother in the forties. She skipped and ran, laughed and crooned, and flitted about like a ray of sunshine in the presence of Baba. One evening, while Baba was about to proceed with a small group of devotees to the Chitravathi sands, she brought His sandals and placed them on the ground before Him. Baba patted her on her head and said, "What do you want? Tell me." She surprised everyone and shocked her mother by her reply: "I want to be absorbed in You." Baba said, "You are a child; you have to get married, bring up a family and make your mother happy." But the girl insisted that these things were trivial when compared with mergence in Him. Where from did she learn all this, people wondered. Baba wiped her tears and said, "Your father is no more; you have to be with your mother." But she protested "If, as you say, I get married, I will still have to leave my mother. No, I wish You would shelter me for ever." Baba was silent for a while. His response to the agony of the tender heart was, "Good, Good," and He tweaked her cheek. Five days later at Bangalore, on a Thursday, she died peacefully with her eyes fixed on a portrait of Baba which she had herself adorned with garlands barely three hours before, while continuously reciting Bhajans. The mother is now grateful that the Lord has welcomed her daughter into His arms.

Sri Ranajodh Singh was for some years, in the thirties of this century, the inspector-general of police in Mysore state. His daughter was suffering from acute colitis which prevented her from taking food and drink. Her parents were devotees of Baba and she, too, had deep faith in His divinity. It was a Thursday when Baba surprised them with a visit. He spoke compassionately to the patient and, creating a dosa - hot, tasty and crisp, with the fragrance of fine ghee - gave it to the girl to eat. When Sri Ranajodh Singh prayed that He bless them with a visit the next Thursday also, Baba did not reply but left the house. On the ensuing Thursday, the girl sat up on her bed, had a bath and did puja before Baba's portrait. Then saying, "See! Baba is calling me!" she left her body behind. Baba had long ago created for her a silver plate with the markings of two feet which He called Vishnu Padam (the Feet of Vishnu), which was always reverentially kept under her pillow. When she died, the plate disappeared and was never traced again in spite of an intensive search. The parents were filled with supreme gratitude for, as some Americans who tended a young man named Steve at Whitefield, when he was nearing his end through cancer, declared, "If only people knew how resplendent it is to die in Baba." On his last day, Steve stopped 'reliving his days of drugs and alcohol' and emerged from the purificatory ordeal with an illuminating prayer on his lips and an expression of delight on his face, when his prayer was answered by Baba.

Dr. Kraemer of Honolulu writes in the same strain of gratitude, "This is to inform you of the sad yet glorious news of Meeke's passing away. She must have passed straight into the hands of Baba. She was so peaceful, so smiling, so completely without the slightest trace of apprehension or anxiety, and she could think of Baba's name until the very last moment."



On His Palm They Saw

A certain person was a captain during the second world war, but since he died of a commonplace disease in a civil hospital, his widow did not get much by way of pension. So she had to earn some money teaching music, in order to keep her three children - two daughters and a son - in elementary ease. The son passed his B.Sc. examination with a first class from the Madras University, while still in his teens. The army authorities gave him a job in their cantonment office at Bangalore. His mother, who was overwhelmed with joy, sent him to offer homage to the family deity, Venkatachalapathi [Venkateshwara, Venkateshwer or Venkatachalapathi,
is another form of Lord Vishnu who is also very popular as a Hindu deity
], in the temple on the Thirumalai Hills in Andra Pradesh, so that he could join duty at Bangalore with divine blessings.

However, what did happen was that the boy got drowned in the holy tank of the temple. His body was in police custody for two days as it was unidentified. The anxious mother was confronted by the photograph of her son's corpse which appeared in the daily papers. But, Baba appeared to her in a dream and directed her to come to Puttaparthi. There she was taken by a mysterious stranger to the Presence. Bhagavân called her and her children for the precious interview. "Don't weep," He said, "for your son who led a disciplined life and was full of devotion, has now merged with God. When he has found the lotus feet of Bliss, you should not indulge in grief." But she could not be consoled.

Then Baba said, "I know your heart is broken since you could not have even a last glimpse of his body. See, it is here." Saying this, He spread His palm in front of her, and she could clearly see the events of that fateful pilgrimage appear upon it: The son slipped on the steps of the tank, and a few people jumped in to save him. It was too late. Even first-aid could not revive him. A lotus-like bunch of flames rose from his body and proceeded towards the innermost shrine where the idol of Venkatachalapathi is installed, disappearing in a blaze of glory at the Lord's feet. Then she saw the idol come alive and change into a charming image of Baba Himself.

After some time Baba spoke to her, "Mother, the one you loved as your son was a staunch devotee of the Lord during his previous life. He was engaged in Tapas for twelve years on the steps of this very holy temple tank. His deepest desire was to attain Jala Samadhi (Water-mergence) in those sacred waters. To fulfil that desire he took birth again and, as your guru, has led you to Me. Remain in Puttaparthi, ever singing the glory of Venkatachalapathi, who has accepted your son into His fold."

Today is Thursday

Sri Ramakrishna, professor at the Victoria college, Palghat, was returning home during the afternoon recess, when an old man stopped him in the middle of the road. He appeared to the astonished professor as the very embodiment of the Sai Baba of Shirdi. He said in Tamil, "Today Is Thursday," as if that was a strange piece of news, "so I am taking Ramesh with me." Ramesh was the professor's fourteen-year-old son. He had left for school that morning. The professor hurried home to discover that Ramesh had come home from school with high fever. He kept himself alive only until he could see his father and mother together at his bedside. The father wrote to me, "How kind of Baba to tell me that He was taking Ramesh, whom He had given me as a boon, and that too on a Thursday, the day when He advises us to offer ourselves at His feet." Some weeks later, at Ootacamund, Baba called in the professor and his wife for an interview, and confirming His announcement, blessed the boy's picture in his bungalow with showers of Vibhuti.

The mother of Lynn, a girl from San Diego on the pacific coast of America, also had the consoling thought that it was a Thursday when her daughter fell from a tree and died, while attempting to save her younger brother from a dog. Lynn adored Baba. She was the brightest child in her Bal Vikas group. Her mother bore the calamity courageously and calmly, for Baba had granted her the wisdom to bear such blows of fate.

On 31st December 1973, I had a letter from New Delhi from a bereaved father. He wrote, "I know I will not get any reply from you, as you are very busy. But I must write what I feel, because it helps me in getting nearer to my Lord, Sai Baba."

"I lost my daughter in Safdarjung hospital on 21st December 1973. She died of burns. During the eight days I was with her, Baba was always 'with me'. His presence gave me so much courage and peace that I could face the ordeal without a tear or murmur, and could accept it as His doing. I know that her death was so ordained; that is why my prayers to Baba failed. But His blessings were constantly with us, and His Charanamrit and Vibhuti were given to her before death. You will be glad to know that her end was very peaceful. Her bodily agony was not anywhere as great as similar patients in her ward. Please convey my thanks to the Lord."

When an aged devotee, Raval Seshagiri Rao was on the last breath of life, Baba entered his room at Prasanthi Nilayam and revived him while helping him sip coffee. He was privileged to have been in charge of the shrine for over fourteen years. He was well-versed in the scriptures and very regular in japa and puja. As a matter of fact, he was passing out with the Upanishads on his tongue and Baba before his eyes. "The five fundamental elements which, in combination, became this body of mine, are now parting company," He said. "What a glorious death," I said to myself. But Baba knew that he had yet to pay the last instalment of his karmic debt. So He turned to him and reprimanded him saying, "Why did you embark on this journey without first securing a ticket from Me? Get down! Do your shrine duties as usual. Attend the forenoon Bhajans and perform Arati." [see also: Signs and Wonders, for the story of Raval Seshagiri Rao] There is no need to add that he did as he was told.

You Cannot Die

Let us consider the confession of a person living in Bangalore, who was preparing to die. Vrajlal P. Parekh wrote on 18th August 1972, "Six years ago, I sat in the Darsan line around the Sai Ram tree at Brindavan in Whitefield. Baba granted me a private interview. He exposed my private thoughts and worries and blessed me with the words, 'Be confident; have peace of mind. Baba's blessings are with you.' I was not blessed with vibhuti. My faith in Him strayed hither and thither when my luck ran down in business, and I was caught in much anxiety. Though I had secured a diploma in commerce in 1938, I found myself unfit in modern business techniques, and was financially completely ruined. I was sorely dejected, and decided to separate my soul from this body. I purchased a bottle of Tik-20 and kept it in a secret place. After having deeply thought over the matter, I decided to make use of the poison on 4th September 1970, the night of Ganesh Chaturthi.

"But my elder sister, who had been ailing for a few months, passed away suddenly that very day, as if bidding me to postpone my suicidal act. I could not understand the mysterious ways of Baba. I became more gloomy and finally fixed the date and time as 4 p.m., Friday, 11th September 1970, to swallow the poison with a pinch of vibhuti, so that I might have a peaceful end. I went to my shop early that morning with the bottle in my pocket. I was alone and no customer was expected in the afternoon. I was feeling happy as the time fixed for death was approaching. I was reading the Sanathana Sarathi which had come at noon by post, wondering how I would experience the miracle of Baba while dying into Him.

"At 1.30 p.m. two plainclothes men walked into my shop and wanted me to accompany them to the Seshadripuram police station. I could not imagine why I was wanted. In a terribly confused state, I closed the shop and went with them. The bottle was in my shirt pocket. At the station I was told that the inspector had gone out. I was told that there was a warrant for my arrest from a magistrate at Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh. Then I realised that a case had been filed by a Moradabad merchant for non-payment of a bill by me. I had explained my difficulties to him and pleaded for being allowed some time to make the payment, but he did not believe me and proceeded against me in court, charging me with cheating. The warrant was bailable, but I had to present a surety.

"Meanwhile I was asked to go into the 'lock-up'. The police officer said, 'Take out all the articles in your pockets and place them on this table before you go in.' I hesitated on account of the bottle. I said that it was only a civil case and prayed to him not to send me in. He sympathised with me and allowed me to sit on a bench beside him. I then sent for my elder brother, who arrived there very soon. I handed over the tell-tale bottle to him just as it was, wrapped in paper, and asked him to keep it at home without telling anyone. He was also to get someone to stand surety for me.

"Just on the stroke of 4 p.m. (!) the inspector of police arrived and ordered that I be put in the cell. He would not give ear to my pleadings or explanations. I recalled Bhagavân's assurance, 'Baba's blessings are always with you.' I felt most happy when I discovered that Baba had prevented my suicide. I saw Baba in the cell, laughing at me for my folly.

"I was in the cell for hardly four minutes. My brother came with the surety and I was released. My brother scolded me severely for having kept poison in my pocket. Baba had foiled my first attempt by causing the sudden death of my sister, simultaneously releasing her from the painful ailment which she could not endure in her old age. Again, he foiled my second attempt by causing a warrant from 1.800 miles to be served on me, and have me go into the cell without the bottle at the exact time fixed by me for suicide. It is indeed beyond human comprehension to gauge His mystery."

You Have Come

Many who have come within the horizon of heavenly grace have died in peace and joy, pronouncing the name of Baba or even declaring that they had been blessed by Baba's darsan. Baba says that we cry koham at the time we are born, puzzled by the problem, 'Who am I?' Likewise, when we die, we should draw the last breath in joy, uttering Soham, 'I am That.' "Baba is calling me," "Baba is here by my side," profess devotees before they pass away. On the day when Baba had the Cowans with Him at Whitefield to shower further grace on the resurrected Walter and his wife, He asked Walter to narrate his experience at Madras while ostensibly accompanying Baba to the Seat of Judgement. When Walter had finished his narration, there was a strange flutter in the minds of all present. Indra Devi spoke on the overwhelming compassion of Baba. She described how Baba had fulfilled a boon which He had granted years earlier to my mother: "I shall give you divine nectar when you leave this world," Baba had said. She left for her heavenly abode one noon, at Prasanthi Nilayam, when Baba was at Brindavan. But a few minutes before she died, nectar gushed from the idol of Shirdi Sai Baba kept near her bed, from the toe of the right foot that was placed over the left knee. She noticed it and held her cupped palm to receive the gift. Kasturi helped her sit up and drink the nectar, about two ounces of fragrance and sweetness. Then she lay down again and passed into Sai." Baba listened to her narrative and then said, "Yes, I keep My word to those who are steady in their faith. I also give Darsan when death calls on those who have dedicated their lives to Me."

While on the topic of deathbed darsans, I must also relate here the narration of my revered guru, Mahapurushji, of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission, about the 'shower of peace' from Ramakrishna Paramahamsa: A sweeper named Rasik lived at Dakshineswar. One day, as the Master was returning from the direction of Panchavati, absorbed in a spiritual mood, Rasik knelt before him and prayed, "Father, why don't you bless me? What will be in store for me?" The Master assured him, "Your wish shall be fulfilled. You will see me at the time of death." A few years later, as the moment of death approached, Rasik cried out in joy, "You have come, Father! You have really come!" and saying this, breathed his last.

When we find Sai devotees facing death or enduring the departure of their beloved ones, we are apt to judge them as insensitive and dull. No. They meet death heroically, for they are certain that Baba will be their guide, guardian, friend and teacher, through as many births and rebirths they may have to pass. He is at all times with us, in us, beside us, before us and behind us. So, instead of being anxious at the time of death, devotees approach this final act as children being led to school by loving parents, or as graduates attending the convocation, or as a mountaineer approaching the summit, or as rivers merging into the sea.

There was a doctor serving in the hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam. He was about 60 years old and appeared to enjoy good health in spite of a damaged heart. One evening Baba sent for him, and he left off eating his lunch. "Bhagavân is calling me," he said, and hastened towards the Mandir. Just as he neared it, he fainted and did not recover. Death was sudden and painless. His wife, who had imbibed Baba's teachings on karma, on the Atman and on the eventual mergence in Paramatman, bore the blow with courage and wisdom. She told the women who ventured to console her, "Perhaps you fear that I am a hardhearted woman because I do not weep. No. It is only because I know that weeping is futile and foolish." Mr. Sethu from Delhi, writes in a letter, "I believe that whatever Baba does, it is for our own good, though it may not immediately seem so to us."

'On the road, on the way to Sai' 

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[*] See Bhagavad Gîtâ, for example, Chapter 5:2 , Chapter 12:11 & Chapter 18:2-9.


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