God sends yogis to different places in this world to propagate spiritual matters to counter the growing evils and balance this to a certain extent. This is the main aim of the yogis or religious leaders. Though they function at different places, they know each other and from where they are functioning. As Vasu Devananda Saraswathi said, Shirdi Sai Baba was like an elder brother to all such yogis.
We come in contact with yogis because of our good actions of the previous birth. Persons who did not do good in their previous births, will fall prey to desires and lead the lives of animals as they cannot put their minds to divine ways. Because of the good actions in our previous birth, today we are lucky to do Parayana of the Life History of Shirdi Sai Baba, who is the king of all yogis.
Appa - The Kannada Yogi!
Thakur was working as a clerk in the Revenue Department. Once he visited the Kannadiga Yogi Appa and touched his feet in reverence. Appa gave him a book on Vedanta titled Vichara Sagara and asked him to read it without fail as this would fulfil his wishes. He said, "Sometime in the future when you go in the northerly direction on official work, you would be lucky to come in contact with a great yogi. By his darshan you will have peace of mind and happiness. He will show you the proper way to your lifeís journey." After sometime Thakur was transferred to a place called Jinner. To reach it he had to cross a deep valley by riding on a buffalo. He suffered a lot while he was at Jinner. After sometime he was tranferred on promotion to Kalyan. There he learnt about Baba and his greatness through Nana Chandorkar. He came to Shirdi and by touching Babaís feet, he experienced a lot of happiness. Baba who is omnipresent told Thakur, "The road here is not as easy as what Appa told you. It is also not as easy as travelling on a buffalo in the valley. One should work had relentlessly. Walking on this road is like walking on a sharp-edged sword."
Without asking Thakur who he was, from where he had come and the purpose of his visit, Sai Bhagwan knew everything. After hearing Sai, Thakurís eyes were fully of tears out of joy and he experienced complete bliss. He found that what the Kannadiga yogi Appa had said was true. With complete devotion he prostrated at the feet of Baba. After putting his hand on Thakurís head in an act of blessing, Baba told him, "What Appa had told you is true. But you have to learn them and put them into practice. No useful purpose will be served by simply reading the holy books. The knowledge obtained from the books without the blessings of Guru will be of no use." Every word that came out of Baba was like nectar. The readers should not only take this nectar but also continue on their lifeís journey in a peaceful manner.
The Nine Forms of Devotions
Ananta Rao Patankar of Poona was a Vedic scholar. Though he read all the Vedas, Upanishads and the eighteen Puranas he had no peace of mind. He came to Shirdi and visited Baba. On seeing him he experienced a lot of happiness which he did not experience in his life till then. He fell at Babaís feet and pleaded with him to show compassion and bless him. Then Baba said, "Once a merchant came to me. He wanted to put some questions to me but could not do so. He was looking straight at me. Just then a mare in front of him passed stools in the shape of nine balls. The merchant collected all the nine balls and put them in his upper cloth by which he was able to concentrate his mind and thus have peace." But the scholar Patankar did not understand the analogy between peace of mind and the nine balls. A devotee, Dada Kelkar, at the instigation of Baba, explained the significance of the story as follows.
"Merchant means a person having special qualities not found in ordinary people, a Jnani. A mare means Godís Grace. Nine balls of horseís excretion means nine kinds of devotion. The devotee in search of God should fix his mind on the Sadguru, and serve the Guru sincerely. Then God will pity him and show him the nine devotional ways. The devotee can choose any one of the nine ways and reach God. The nine ways are :
1.Shravan - Hearing divine stories and reading the Puranas.
2.Kirtan - Singing devotional songs in praise of the greatness of God.
3.Smaran - To recollect what one had heard through Shravan, and- always remembering them.
4.Pada Seva - Worship of the feet and prostration.
5.Archana - Different kinds of rituals performed daily.
6.Namaskar - Bowing the head in respect, and salutation.
7.Dasya - Doing service to God like a servant.
8.Sukhyatva - Considering God as a friend and making friendship.
9.Atma Nivedan - Surrendering oneís life and Atma to God.
Devotion is of nine kinds. As we progress and the mind begins to settle down, we can worship God in all the nine ways. Let us make sincere efforts to reach God through the nine devotional ways like the Jnani in the story.
The Story of Avasthe
P.R. Avasthe was a judge at Gwalior. Hearing of the greatness of Baba through Rege, he wanted to see him. In 1914, on his way to Phandaripur, he came to Shirdi along with Rege. Those were the days of the First World War. These two were travelling by train from Gwalior to Manmad. When the train reached Mhow where there were a large number of troops, all the passengers in the train were asked to alight so as to enable the transport of the troops. Avasthe and Rege also had to get off the train. They prayed to Baba to help them. In the meantime the Military Commander came and after inspecting their carriage told them that this was too small to accommodate the troops and told them that they need not get down. The whole night Avasthe sang devotional songs and prayed to Baba. They reached Shirdi the next day morning. When they went to the mosque to see Baba, he asked Rege who the unstable devil with him was. He said, "They tried to disembark my children from the train. But I told the captain that you are my chldren and let them come to me. But this Avasthe was by my side the whole night, calling ĎBaba!Baba!"
From the above incidents we learn that Baba always protects the devotees who fully believe in him. Previously Avasthe had a yogini as his Guru. He thought that now if he started worshipping and serving Baba, he might be considered as unfaithful to the yogini who was his Guru. But Rege told him that his Guru was also integrated in Sai Baba who is considered to be the incarnation of God and Guru for the entire world ( Jagatguru). Hence, if he worshipped Sai Baba it amounts to worshipping his Guru yogini. But Avasthe desired to have some proof of this. For the afternoon arathi, he took a rice ball kept in a small vessel covered with a cloth. He thought within himself that if Baba personally asked and took the rice ball, then he would definitely belief that his Guru yogini was also in Baba. He started climbing the steps of Dwarakamai when the rice-ball fell down accidentally. What he had wanted to keep as a secret, became public. When he was picking up the rice ball from the floor, Baba called him and asked him to give it to him and said that he in turn would send it to the person for whom it was intended. Avasthe felt very happy. His Guru yogini had attained Samadhi long back. He decided to have Baba as his Guru. Even afterwards Avasthe used to come to Shirdi and consult Baba whenever he wanted advise in worldly matters; spiritually also he advanced much by seeking Saiís advise.
Accepting Sai Baba as Guru
From the above story, the moral we learn is - If the devotees of Sai have had some other Gurus previously, and so think that they are being unfaithful to them, if they treat Sai Baba as their Guru now, no such doubt need be entertained by them, since Sai Baba is the Guru of Gurus, Samartha Sadguru King of Gurus and yogis. He has powers to command the entire world and also to control the five elements. If any disciple of a Guru comes under protection of Sai, the Guru will be pleased. Some gurus with an eye on the welath and power of their disciples, will try to create some unpleasant situations with some concocted stories.
Baba also was not for changing Gurus. He always checked to see what type of disciple he was and under what circumstances he had left his previous Guru and come to him. There are a number of disciples who would worship a particular Guru or God for some time and if they did not gain anything, they would change their Gurus or Gods. They would run to the Guru or God who fulfilled their wishes. Such persons are after material benefits and not spiritual advancement, being without faith and patience. When they came to Baba, he would tell them, "What is required for you is not another Guru. If you cannot have undeterred devotion and gratitude towards your Guru, but come to me, no useful purpose will be served and you cannot benefit anything. Therefore, first of all you should learn how to serve your own Guru in the correct manner and do not keep changing your Guru." To those who approached Shirdi Sai Baba and saw his greatness personally, and were unable to surrender themselves completely, our appeal to them: "Previously there was no Guru equal to Sai Baba. In future also we cannot get such a Guru. Let us prostrate to this Satchidananda Samartha Sadguru, and request him to make us understand this true Avatar, before we complete the Parayana of his Life History. We will also pray to him to see that we have abundant devotion for him with his devotion lasting our lifetime. When the life goes out of our body our kith and kin and material things do not come with us. We also pray to Sai to be with us in our solitary journey and to give us moksha or higher form of life in the next birth and be with us in all the future births.