Apart from the villagers of Shirdi, people residing in distant places also began to consider Baba as God-Incarnation. After seeing Baba in the state of Samadhi for three days, those who used to criticise him became great devotees and those saw him as a mad fakir and threw stones at him in the beginning, started coming with garlands in their hands to worship him. They chanted emotionally "Sri Satchidananda Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai". Bhagoji Shinde who was cured of leprosy by him, served all through Baba’s life, and he was the only person who was with him at all times. He did not get into family bonds and dedicated himself to Baba’s service.
Practice of ‘Yogas’ by Baba
There was big banyan tree, far from the mosque, towards the north, There was a well near the tree once in two or three days Baba went there to take his bath. One day Baba brought out his lungs from his inside by vomiting, cleared them with water and dried them in sunlight; this was acually seen by some villagers of Shirdi. He also used to practise dhouti, which means cleansing the intestines. He used to swallow a piece of cloth measuring 3 inches in width and 22-1/2 inches in length, keeping it inside the stomach for half an hour. Then the cloth would stretch fully into the intestines. Afterwards, he would slowly pull out the cloth, thus cleaning the inside of the intestines.
Similarly, Sai Baba used to separate all the limbs from his body and put them in different places in the mosque. One night, a devotee saw this and feared that someone might have killed Baba. He wanted to report this matter to the village munsif, but later he kept quiet fearing that as he would be the first to complain, the authorities would think that he had something to do with it. Unable to suppress his curiosity, he went to the mosque early in the morning and to his astonishment found Baba sitting as usual there. Then he prostrated before him. The act of separation of all the limbs of the body is called "Kanda Yoga". Similarly, he once treated some nervous ailment in the right leg, by removing the flesh over that part, rectified the affected nerves and again put back the flesh which he had cut. Perhaps, Sai Baba used to wear the long shirt covering his entire body, with a view not to exhibit such things on his body.
He used to practice all kinds of ‘Yogas' from his younger days. But he had never exhibited them before anyone publically. Now and then piercing light rays used to emanate from his eyes and hand (Abhaya Hastha). These light rays were very powerful and capable of curing all ailments. In the 14 years between 1886 and 1900, Baba dragged several persons to Shirdi just like tying a thread to a sparrow and dragging it. He taught them Bhakti,Jnana and Vairagya. The tashildar of Kopargaon named Bharva, used to visit Baba frequently and got relief for several of his ailments. In this way, several persons, from high officials to ordinary people from all religions and nationalities used to come to Baba, and Shirdi became a holy place of pilgrimage. For some devotees, the moment they thought of visiting Shirdi, their problems got solved. In those days, there were no proper facilities for the devotees at Shirdi. For those who wanted to stay for a couple of days at there, the only place for their stay was the open place in front of Dwarakamai and under the neem tree in Gurusthan.
Construction of Sathe Wada
It was in the year 1904, Hari Vinayak Sathe was the Deputy Collector of Ahmednagar. Once he came on an official work to Kopargaon. He had heard about Sai Baba’s greatness and so he went to Shirdi as he was attracted to Baba. He purchased a piece of land near Gurusthan in the year 1906 and constructed a wada (resting place) for the devotees, naming it Sathe Wada, which still remains with some changes.
From the year 1904, devotees had started giving aartis three times a day in Dwarakamai. Nana Chandorkar, a great devotee of Baba, had finalised the procedure and the songs to be sung during the aartis. For the afternoon aarti all the villagers assembled near the mosque and sometimes the mosque overflowed with the devotees. Even though thousands flocked there, Baba blessed them. No true devotee ever left Shirdi empty-handed. Some devotees thought that since Baba had not seen them nor heard their problems, how could they get relief? Baba knew their doubts and announced publically, "Oh my devotees! You will get rewarded for the devotion and confidence you reposed in me. The moment you enter Shirdi village all your worries and difficulties will be over. Those who step into Dwarakamai, irrespective of their status, will get happiness. This ‘mother’ is very benevolent."
Rescue of Shama from Snakebite
Once when Shama was walking on the outskirts of Shirdi village, a poisonous snake bit his little toe. Poison started to spread in his body. He was very much afraid . His friend Bala Saheb and others wanted to take him to the temple of Vittoba, where snakebites got cured. But Shama, for whom Baba was everything, wanted them to take him to Baba. On seeing Shama, Baba became furious and uttered, "Do not go up. If you do so, see what I will do!" and again said, "Get out, climb down and get out!" Shama, hearing these words, thought that Baba asked him not to go up the stairs of Dwarakamai,but to get out. He was disappointed very much, since Baba who was everything to him had uttered these words. But the truth was that these words of Baba were meant for the poison inside Shama’s body and not to Shama. Even before Shama was taken inside the mosque, and Baba told about the snakebite, Baba knew everything and ordered the poison to get out of Shama’s body. Afterwards he went and sat near Shama and told him, "Do not fear. This fakir will definitely save you. Do not go here and there but go home and take rest. But do not sleep." Within a few minutes Shama got cured. The important thing we have to learn from the above incident is that Baba’s words are more powerful than mantras. His word itself is a Mahamantra. So, Sai devotees who prefer to cure by mantras need not run after any astrologers. The astrologers can only indicate the coming difficulties, but Sai Baba, through his blessings, can get rid of those difficulties and bring happiness.
Cholera in Shirdi
In the year 1905 cholera spread to Shirdi village. Visits to and from other villages had dwindled. To eradicate cholera, the village elders had put two stipulations (1) Carts carrying firewood should not enter the village, and (2) No one should kill anyone in the village. Baba knew that these two were useless stipulations. One day, a cart carrying firewood was entering the village. The villagers tried to stop it. Knowing this, Baba came to the place, and instructed the cartman to take the cart to the mosque. No one had the courage to go against Baba’s instructions.
Testing the Devotion towards Guru
Baba broke the second stipulation of the village elders- that no one shall kill a goat in the village. Someone brought an aged goat to the mosque. Bade Baba was at that time present there. Sai Baba who had special regard for Bade Baba ordered him to kill the goat with one stroke of the knife. Baba gave him a daily portion of the amount he received by way of dakshina from his devotees. He used to make him sit by his side at the time of smoking the pipe or taking food. Whenever Bade Baba went to other places, Baba used to accompany him up to 100 footsteps and then return to the mosque. The real name of Bade Baba was Mohammed. Such a close associate of Baba declined to kill the goat when asked by Baba. The Baba called Shama and told him to kill the goat. Shama went to the wada to bring a knife, but delayed much in coming back. Thereupon, Baba ordered Kaka Saheb Dixit to kill the goat. Dixit was an orthodox Brahmin. In spite of this he took a knife, lifted and got ready to kill the goat. Immediately Baba asked him to stop and told him, "What a merciless Brahmin you are, you are getting ready to kill the goat" Hearing this Dixit kept aside the knife and told Baba, "Your nectar-like words are like law to us. Those words are treated as the orders of God. We always remember you. We always pray to your form. Day and night we obey your orders. We do not go into its merits when once you give an order. It is our duty to follow your orders to the last word. This is our Dharma. For your sake, we are prepared to sacrifice everything, including this body and wealth."
Baba had done all this just to test the devotion of his pupil’s towards their Guru. He also showed how many kinds of pupil were there . There are three kinds of shishyas or disciples. The best kind of disciples are those who guess what their Guru wants and immediately carry it out and serve, without waiting for an order from him. The average disciples are those who carry out the orders of the Guru to the letter. The third kind of disciples are those who go on postponing carrying out the orders of their Guru and make mistakes at every step. The first two categories of disciples only can get benefits from their Guru. Nowadays there are a number of persons who feel that they are the disciples of so and so God. But they belong to the last category. Once we go to Baba, we must surrender ourselves completely and offer everything we have. Then only will we come to know the real powers of Sai Baba who has come down from Kailash. Sometimes, the firm confidence we have in Baba may become shaky. That is why we should also exericse Saburi (waiting with utmost patience). This is also necessary for the devotee. Prayer without faith and devotion without patience are not at all useful and nobody can benefit by such type of devotion. May Sai Baba remain in the hearts of our readers permanently! Let Sai Baba be one of their family members. Let the Sai Devotees have shradda (respect) and saburi (patience). In those who read this chapter with devotion, let the tree called Sai Bhakti grow in their hearts into a big banyan tree which gives shade to all who come to it, without differentiation between caste and creed, rich and poor.