Though I am unborn, whole soul, Lord of all creatures, taking to my life-nature, I manifest myself by my powers. (Bh. Gita 4-6.)
The self same soul has transformed himself principally into the Sun, the Moon, Brahma the creator, Vishnu the protector, Shiva Shakti the Destroyers with his Goddess. I bow to that excellent light of lights.
My salutations to that Bhagwant, Lord who is free from anger, attachment, above Maya and devoid of three states of wakefulness, dream and sleep. The best of gods, ascetics do not know the farther end of your Maya Power. The demons were most powerful; you forced them to give up their egotism when the world is beset with worst calamities, you manifest yourself and come upon the earth, Oh Lord.
Vallabh Bhagwat IV, VIII Chs. 7&17.
The Primordial, original, perfect Reality, the thing In-itself beyond name and from inspired by the force of devotee’s religious merit automatically manifested itself as Sai Nath, Sai Baba for the purpose of leading the lost souls to the path of Truth. When asked, His only reply was "Brahma is my father, Maya is my mother and this Universe is my house." That He descended on this earth through some human mortals has not yet been established through reliable source. No conflict of opinion exists however as to His being an extra-ordinary incarnation of God or the highest of perfect beings.
Brahman by His Maya Power manifests itself as human being, when irreligion stalks unchecked in this world. He comes and places religion on sound foundations dispelling the clouds of doubts and dogmatism. He descends in particular to protect the good, the saintly and to destroy the bad and the wicked.
Though beyond (above) limitations of time, space, causation, body, mind, intellect etc. pure Brahman, has by Maya power the capacity of assuming such form male or female-as would satisfy the devotees’ desires and their ideals. It is ever ready to please its real devotee in this respect and even serves him incognito, Saints who have attained oneness with this Brahman that is who have ceased to be bodily minded, who have without their knowledge transformed themselves into Brahman by constant meditation on the same are Brahman with all its Powers. Etc. (Mundak UP. 3-2-9)
Shri Sai Baba falls in this category and so His devotees have seen in Him their ideal of God realised and so they have described Him in many different ways as their ideals of Guru or God have differed. To staunch devotees of Shri Ram, Shri Sai appeared as Ram, to those of Shanker, Maruti, Krishna, Vithoba, Akkalkot Swami, Gholap Swami and Ali irrespective of their race, caste, creed or religion. They all look upon Sai as their God, Saviour, or Prophet and worship Him as such in their own way, propitiate Him and crave blessings from Him. As an out-come of this propitiation each one of them feels and realises that he has been lucky enough to find in Him his benign father, protector, benefactor, a helper in distress, a safe refuge amidst the turbulent waters of this world. Each one has realised He is omnipresent, omniscient omnipotent.
Recipients of such experiences seldom care to ascertain how and whence this rarity descended upon this earth, who His blessed parents were, who His master or teacher was and yet there are amongst intelligent educated devotees some persons who have bestowed much labour and done a deal of research to hit upon proper and satisfactory answers on these points.
Vedanti devotees of Baba Shri Sai look upon Him as the manifestation of knowledge incarnate, the joyful Brahman, the giver of highest happiness, free from dualities, ether like knowable by the four Maha Vakyas (key-sentences) of Vedas, the sole, the permanent, the pure, non-changing, the Universal witnessing Intellect, the one beyond emotions and the three gunas-pure, mixed, and impure-tendencies, the Master, teacher of Reality. The non-Mohammedan devotees of this class firmly, believe that if Shri Sai Baba had adopted Hindu Mohammedan mixed ways of life and prayers it was simply for the purpose of drawing the attention of these devotees to the cardinal truth, the soul has no caste of race; that their object of proper worship is not of any caste; and what are castes? They are not skin, blood, flesh nor bones; but these castes are fixed for the purpose of the smooth running of this world. Hindu devotees of Baba particularly, Brahmins and other Dwijas believe that if Baba had donned Mohammedan garb and adopted some Mohammedan ways of worship (without giving of the ways of the purest of pure Brahmin sages) it was for the purpose of killing or removing the wrong interpretation of Veda and drawing attention to the truth that everything all without exception-is Brahman; that difference of diversity or duality does not exist; that if Veda says that Brahmins are God’s mouth, Kshatriyas His hands, Vaishyas his body and Shudras His legs, the intention of the Vedas is not to show the inferiority or superiority of any one of these castes but to draw attention to the fact, that each is these castes but to draw attention to the fact, that each is a part and parcel of the same Holy body of God. Similarly about the genesis of races’ if one Upanishad states that Non-Aryans came from the nether part of God, it is to root out the hatred and bitterness that might have been raging between these races and to rivet the attention on the oneness of the Holy Body from whom the Non-Aryans have also emerged. Vedas and Upanishads teach us to look at the unity in diversity and preach only oneness of soul, no difference, dissention. Discord but unity. Peace and accord is the burthen of the Veda, Upanishad and Vedanta. Veda and Upanishads have no doubt prescribed worships of different God’s but these are only for persons who hanker after material happiness and are not satisfied with mere realisation of Truth. Baba called upon persons of the latter class to follow His directions to achieve the ends of their material desires and they had their desires fulfilled. His guidance and His sole worship have obtained for these devotees what they desired and in this way also He encouraged one worship and not multiple worship, Viewing Vedas. Upanishads and Baba’s ways, Vedanti devotees have always believed that to root out the ego of castes pride and to teach them the oneness off all pervading all-knowing, all powerful god, irrespective of race, caste, or creed, Baba adopted the special ways of life that he did. In fact His life laid stress on the essentials of religions, discarding the non-essential parts thereof.
Most of the devotees of Shri Sai Baba fall under this class. The late Hon'ble Hari Sitaram Dixit B. A., LL.B., solicitor, the late Shri Nana Saheb Chandorkar, B. A., EX-District Deputy Collector, the late Shri Anna Saheb Dabholkar, the learned author of Shri Sai Satcharitra, the late Rao Bahadur Moreshwar Pradhan, J.P., ex-member of the Bombay Legislative Council, the late Shri G.S. Khaparde, B. A., LL.B., ex-member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly, the late Rao Saheb Yashvantrao G. Galvankar B. A. Shri M.B. Rege. Indore judge as also the Sai Baba Sansthan Committee members of 1953 held and hold and hold this view.
There are other devotees who have been worshipping some other deities or are followers of some other religious teachers-all these seen in Sai Baba their own deity, or their own religious teacher and worship Him for the realisation of truth through Him, Sai Baba. Worshippers of Shiva, Vishnu, Krishna, Vithal, Pandurang, Ramchandra, Goddesses, Guru Dattatraya, Swami Akkalkot Gholap etc. all come under this category, Baba actually assumed the form of these gods and goddesses. And satisfied the devotees of these gods & goddesses. For the disciple of Gholap Swami, he assumed the form of the Sanyasi Gholap Swami and of that intent of His. He gave an inkling to his other devotees by asking them to fetch for Him (Gerua) redochre Clay, Devotees of Swami Akkalkot identify Him with Akkalkot Swami from what He said to Shri Pitale of Bombay, "I have already given you Rs.2, take these three more, keep them safe.’ Pitale’s father had been given Rs.2/- by Akkalkot Swami; and so the reference that Baba gave those two rupees, unequivocally stating that He Himself had given him those two rupees, clearly goes to indicate that He Himself was none other than the Swami of Akkalkot. Some Devotees of Guru Dattartraya trace the pedigree of Akkalkot. Some Devotees of Guru Dattartraya trace the pedigree of Akkalkot. Some Swami to Guru Dattatraya through Nirsinha Swami, the last incarnation of Guru Dattatraya. Other devotees of Guru Dattatraya state that Shri Akkalkot Swami was the contemporary of Shri Manik Prabhu, the well-known incarnation of Guru Dattatraya and that it is an undisputed fact that Shri Sai Baba was none other that Swami Shri of Akkalkot. Shri Baba was therefore an incarnation of Shri Guru Dattatraya. We have nothing to state against this theory of Shri Baba being an incarnation of Dattatraya but we simply state that a person is what he is not because he can be shown to be a member of the high pedigree of certain Gods or gurus, since they are born great, the high pedigree could not in any way go to make them greater. Apart from this as well they are great, not only great but none in human form could be greater, none can surpass them. These remarks equally apply to devotees who trace Sai Baba to the Nine Masters, Matsyendranath, Gorakhanath and others. Some of Baba’s prominent devotees hold the same view.
One Shri Ganpatrao Dattarya Sahasrabuddhe alias Das Ganu actually seeing the holy Ganges trickling down from Shri Sai’s feet in a small stream, just when he desired to have a dip in the holy river, in the fervour of his love for Baba, composed a prayer describing Baba as Brahma Vishnu and Mahesh (i.e. Gods of creation, protection and destruction).
Another personage of this class is the great Upasani Maharaj. In the course of his three years’ stay at Shirdi, he was fully convinced that Shri Baba had not only realised Brahman but had been (become) perfect Brahman and so in the fervour of that enthusiasm he composed a prayer of several hymns on Sai Baba; the first verse of which said, "’Baba was the original Sat Chit Anand Swarup, the primordial cause of original existence and destruction of the Universe and that Baba had appeared (Manifested Himself) as human being as the outcome of the ardent desire of His devotees to see Him as such." The recurring burthen of the eight verses of this prayer is, "I bow to that God-Sadguru Sai Baba.’ In the eighth verse of the said prayer he declares Sai Baba to be "The unborn, The veritable Brahman.’ Looking to the most important task of moulding and regenerating the lives of thousands of males and females (by imparting to them godly knowledge) That awaited him in future Shri Sai Baba got him to practise severe penance for three years at Shirdi and awarded him in return powers of clairvoyance, assuming all forms at will becoming invisible at will etc. which subsequently drew to him people in thousands. He did appreciate all this and to show this, going to Benaras with his devotees he performed the obsequial ceremony of Baba and other bygone saints spending thousands of rupees.
Another great devotee is the late lamented Shri B.V. Narasimha Swamiji, a law graduate and an ex-member of the Legislative Council, author of the lives of several saints, who had dedicated the last 29 years of his life to spreading the name and fame of Shri Sai Baba throughout the length and breadth of Madras. He declares that Baba was born of Brahmin parents of Pathri-a village of Nizam Hyderabad and then he was given over to a Fakir for being trained.
Shri Sathya-Sai-Baba, who claims to be reincarnation of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, states that as Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, he was born at Pathri on the banks of the Godavari of very pious parents and that as a result of Shri Shanker’s boon they got Him; but that at the time He was, born, both the parents had got so much detached from the world that they left the Sai Baba child under a tree to the mercy of God and went away to practise penance. A childless Fakir couple passing by the way picked up and brought Him up as their child. When however the little Sai Baba grew up, He was found so much attached to the worship of Shanker’s Shivalinga that the Fakir drove him away; so he came to Shirdi and settled down there. (Life of Shri Sathya Sai Baba Part I by N. Kasturi; Pages 210 to 216, 2nd edition.)
Another personage Madhvnath a great saint also told his disciple that Shri Sai Baba was the eldest of the three sons of a Yajurvedi Deshasth Brahmin of Pathri and that he was handed over to a Fakir, for the parents thought that the sons born to them were the outcome of the blessings that the then childless parents had received from that Fakir in lieu of the services rendered by them for him.
Shri Sai Baba’s own utterances in this respect should also be considered.
The oldest, most pious and revered devotee of Shri Sai Baba the late Shri Mahlasapati, who had the unique honour of sleeping with Baba on every alternate night for 30 to 40 years in the Dwarkamayi said that Baba had once told him. "I am a Brahmin of Pathri and when, young, my parents gave me over to a Fakir for being trained under him."
In December 1912 when the writer went to Shirdi, he was anxious about his father’s life, as the father had dropsy and dropsy was in those days considered to be a fatal disease. Unasked Baba said, "Bring that big bellied man here." I said to myself. "Bring that big bellied man here." I said to myself. "How is it possible when he takes you to be a Mussalman?" This clearly shows Baba considered himself to be a Brahmin.
Another time in 1916 when one Shantaram Nachne Dehnukar went to Shirdi and he forgot to pay to Baba a two-anna paisa that his friend V.S Samant had given for Baba along with a coconut etc., and he asked Baba’s permission to return home giving him coconut etc., Baba had reminded him of the said two anna paisa by saying, "You may go, but why have you been retaining the two anna paisa of this poor Brahmin?" Whereupon Dehnukar at once paid the two-anna piece requesting Baba to pardon him for the lapse of his memory.
When on the behest of his master Shri H.V. Sathe one Megha came to Baba, taking Baba to be a Mohammedan, Baba became angry on seeing him and did not allow him to mount up the steps of the Dwarkamayee threatening him with a stone, that if he came up to see Him, He would assured kill him with the stone, and bawled out, "I am the lowest of the low, a Yawan (Mohammedan) and you are a Brahmin of the highest caste." This clearly shows Baba’s dislike for those who considered him to be Mohammedan.
Baba putting His hand on His chest said to Mrs. Kashibai Kanitkar of Poona. "This is Brahmin. This Brahmin will lead lacks of people to the Shubhra Marga (The White Path as opposed to the Black Path of demons and take them to the goal right up to the end. This is a Brahmin’s Masjid." (Baba Charters and Sayings Page 57. B. V. Narasimha Swami.)
All this clearly shows that if Baba was really born, He was born in a Brahmin family. Born or unborn Baba thought He was Brahmin and got offended with all those who thought He was Mohammedan.
We may therefore say with the late Shri Narasimha Swami "The birth and parentage of Sai Baba are wrapped in mystery. We have not come across a single person who has any direct knowledge of them."
It is however common knowledge that the people of all castes, creeds, races and religions Hindus, Mussalmans, Parsis, Christians and other come to Baba and soon become attached to Him. They all gradually recognise him to be their long-lost philosopher, friend and guide. They see in Him their God, their Prophet, their Son of God, their Saviour or their best and dearest friend. They realise that Sai Baba is always present. He controls their hearts and knows all their actions good bad or indifferent. They are also convinced that He knows their most secret thoughts and their wicked actions and yet He is full of mercy and never gives up those who remember him. He cares not to look at the family, caste creed or religion even the action of His devotees; but as soon as the devotees remember Him, he runs up at once with or without assuming a forms and defends them against fell diseases, calamities, worldly difficulties, ill-repute etc. etc. For instance, He assumed the form of a farmer for His devotee Balakram Mankar and banded over to him a rail ticket for his destination-Poona. For another devotee Nanasaheb Chandorkar, He became (assumed the form of) a tanga, horses and a coach-man, when Shri Sai Himself dispatched His Udi with one Ramgir. He had taken that Ramgir to Nana’s house and saved by that Udi Nana Saheb’s daughter from a mortal delivery. Even after He left His body, He has been helping devotees in the same way. Thus he put Dhumal’s hand-hand-signature on about a thousand municipal papers one night when Dhumal was unable to find time for the purpose. For another devotee Nachne, of Prabhu caste, he assumed the form of a peon called Himself Ganpatishankar. Attended on him till he reached Nasik and thereafter also he helped him in the performance of the obsequial ceremonies of his wife for three days and as soon as the ceremonies were over, He left him saving Him services were wanted by His Master. Persons visiting Shirdi have known that if only they would remember him, he would without fail stretch His helping hand and render such help as they would require. These devotees look upon Sai Baba as their own god, prophet, Saviour and as such they try their utmost to draw or attract Him to them by propitiating Him and by rendering such services as they can. They sole yearning of these devotees is to obtain His grace, for they know that therein only lies their material and spiritual welfare; they little care to know His parentage, family, race or His guru. They have ever believed that the kind and merciful God though ever formless has for their benefit assumed a form and so if they are wise they should without delay try their level best to obtain His grace, the root cause of all earthly and heavenly happiness, leaving all other matters about His family etc. to logicians, the worldly wise and wiseacres. They definitely believe and assert-God is only one; there are no separate Gods for the various races, castes and creeds and yet He has powers to assume such forms. as His devotees yearn for and ardently desire to behold with their material eyes. And the living testimony of this is Shree Sai Baba.