Miraculous powers od Shirdi
are kept in mosques for people to wash their feet before
entering the sacred precincts. In the dusk the villagers saw
Baba take water from the jars and pour it into his lamps. Then
he lit the lamps and they burned. They continued to burn, and
the watchers realised that
the fakir had turned the water into oil. In consternation they
fell at his feet, and prayed that he would not put a curse on
them for the way they had treated him.
This was the first miracle Sai Baba performed before the
public, and it was the match that lit the fire which became a
beacon drawing thousands of men to him from afar. Many became
his devotees. He used his miraculous powers to cure their
ailments, to help them in their day-to-day problems, to protect
them from danger wherever they happened to be, and to draw them
towards a spiritual way of life.
A great many found their sense of values changing. Some
surrendered themselves entirely to the divine will which they
saw in Baba, gave up their worldly lives, and came to live at
Shirdi as close disciples. Sai Baba taught them according to
their needs and capacities. Learned pundits who thought him
illiterate found that he could discourse on spiritual philosophy
and interpret the sacred writings of India more profoundly and
clearly than anyone else they had ever known. But always he led
his disciples along the Bhakti marga, the radiant pathway of
divine love, self-surrender and devotion.
Loving care of his devotees was the ruling motif of all
Baba's actions and many of them have stated that in his presence
they always felt a spiritual exaltation. They forgot their
pains, their cares and their anxieties. They felt completely
safe and the hours passed unnoticed in blissful happiness.
One devotee, a Parsi woman, wrote: "Other saints forget their
bodies and surroundings, and then return to them, but Sai Baba
was constantly both in and outside the material world. Others
seem to take pains and make efforts to read the contents of
people's minds, or to tell them
their past history, but with Sai Baba no effort was needed. He
was always in the all-knowing state."
Many quaint, amusing and illuminating stories are told about
him in the volumes on his life and teachings. But for our
purposes there are just a few points we might note. One object
of the fire he kept burning always at the mosque was to provide
a ready supply of ash. This he called udhi, and used it for many
kinds of miraculous purposes, particularly for curing ailments.
The miracles he performed cover the full range of siddhis, or
supernormal powers, as expressed in such spiritual and yogic
classics as the Srimad Bhagavata and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras.
Many times he proved to his devotees that he knew what they
were thinking and saying and doing when hundreds of miles away
from him. Frequently in crises he appeared wherever he was
needed, either in his own form or apparently in some other body
- a beggar, a hermit, a workman, a dog, a cat or something else.
There was plentiful evidence that he could project himself
through space and take any material form he chose. Those who
were in the best position to know, his nearest disciples, had no
doubts whatever on this point.
Baba gave visions to people, as for instance, the visiting
high Brahmin who was dubious about going into the Moslem mosque.
From outside the mosque the Brahmin saw Sai Baba as the God-form
he worshipped, Sri Rama. So convincing was this vision of Rama
that he rushed in and fell
at Baba's feet. Other types of miracle include the giving of
protection at a distance - protection against accident, plague,
ill-fortune and imminent death; the granting of issue to those
who were childless or desired to have a son; appearing to people
in dreams with advice and help in their problems.
Like Jesus, Baba was able to cast out evil spirits from those
obsessed and cure the most terrible diseases, such as blindness,
palsy and leprosy. For instance he allowed Bagoji, a man with
advanced leprosy, to come and shampoo his legs. People were
afraid that Baba would himself be infected, but on the contrary
Bagoji was completely cured of his leprosy, only scars and marks
By the end of last century, in spite of India's primitive
communications at that time, Sai Baba's fame was snowballing
rapidly. The high peak was reached by about 1910 when an endless
stream of visitors began to flow in from Bombay and other
places. Pomp and ceremony were thrust upon the rugged,
unsophisticated old saint. Loaded down with jewellery, seated in
a silver chariot with fine horses and elephants, he was taken in
grand and colourful procession through the streets.
Baba, it is said, disliked all this show, but he submitted to
it to please the people. Yet despite the royal treatment and the
riches offered him, he continued to beg his food as of old;
perhaps this was to show that humility is more than ever
necessary when wealth and pomp and power are striving to seduce
the soul of man.
Extracts from: The Incredible Sai Baba, by Arthur Osborne.
(Rider & Co., London).
December 24, 2004