Shri Shirdi Sai Baba
He has no beginning
And he has no end.
All beings arise from him
And into Him they return.
Sai’s life is a literal example of non-duality. Baba embraced both the Hindu and Muslim faiths in his life and teachings.
During Baba’s lifetime, the devotees around him did not approach Baba as a teacher, or as one with a philosophy too profound. He was so powerful that the very experience of being in his presence was itself the teaching. The moment they went to him they saw the power, they were aware of their helplessness, they sought help and they got it. By getting the help they also got the message - the message which some other perfect masters / saints taught verbally. So every leela, every incident, every miracle that we see in Baba’s life, every experience that we read, conveys a message. Nobody felt any lack that Baba did not teach, because they were so fulfilled. Teaching is needed to get that experience of fulfillment, to get rid of our helplessness. When that is spontaneously achieved in Baba's presence, what is the need of any other thing. The only thing which runs throughout the gamut of Baba’s life and teachings, is love. Implicit love. Love is the principle. On the path of Baba, the experience of fulfillment of desires fuels the development of a bond of love. Once we know that it is through Baba that our desires are getting fulfilled he becomes very important in our lives. Our attachment towards Baba grows and which facilitates our transformation . Baba fulfils all our desires by his power. Then once we know that Baba is the source of our fulfillment, our focus slowly shifts from the actual object of the desire to one who gives that object – Baba.
We receive Baba’s kindness, mercy, protection and grace from the people around us. When we pray to Baba - say for example, “I am in dire need of money. Please help me Baba.” Baba does not place money under my pillow as I sleep. Someone will come at the right moment and advice me. If I follow his advice, circumstances turn favorable for me, my needs are fulfilled and the problem is solved. This is Baba’s approach when responding not only to our mundane everyday needs, but also to our spiritual needs. That is why he has said, “I have no spiritual heirs, I will answer the needs of my devotees even from my samadhi”.
Baba never gave discourses on Vedanta, or directly answered questions on philosophy, but when asked, Baba used to ask the devotee to attend devotional reading where his question would be answered. Just as the devotee went there and sat down, the question was addressed and answered.
Saibaba of Shirdi is renowned as the Master of Miracles, but few have been exposed to his diamond teachings of Advaita (non-duality). Sai Baba’s philosophy was based on Advaita Vedanta, which also included elements of Bhakti. However, the phenomenon and magnitude of miracles that occurred during, and even after, his lifetime was so overwhelming that his teachings have been largely overlooked, overshadowed and forgotten. Sai himself said, “I give people what they want in the hope that they will begin to want what I want to give them.”
Taken from Sri Sai Satcharitra, are some of the most lucid statements on Advaita made by Baba whose motto was “Sabka Malik Ek”, that literally translates as “Everyone’s God/Master is One.
• “Who is this Me? You need not go far in search of Me. Barring your name and form, there exists in you as well as in all beings, a sense of Being or Consciousness of Existence. That is Myself. Knowing this, you see Me inside yourself, as well as in all beings. If you practise this, you will realize all-pervasiveness, and thus attain oneness with Me.” (Chapter 43)
Saibaba clearly points out that we are not the ego – identification with name and form. We are that pure Consciousness that functions through everyone of us and brings about life as we know it, just as it is the same electricity that functions through different electronic gadgets. This understanding annihilates any notion of separation that exists between ‘me’ and the ‘other’. All there is, is only pure Consciousness. And it is not something to go in search of, as it is already there within us – only the veil of ignorance needs to be removed.
• “Why should you take the responsibility of the actions on you? Do not entertain the sense of doership in doing good, as well as for bad deeds; be entirely prideless and egoless in all things and thus your spiritual progress will be rapid.” (Chapter 50)
Here, Saibaba clearly states that all actions are Divine happenings and no deeds done by anyone. No pride or arrogance for our successes, nor guilt or shame for our so-called ‘bad deeds’.
• Saibaba goes on to say: “You see, mysterious is the path of action. Though I do nothing, they hold Me responsible for the actions which take place on account of Prarabdha (Destiny). I am only their witness. The Lord is the Sole doer and Inspirer. He is most merciful. Neither I am God, nor Master. I am his obedient servant and remember Him constantly. He who casts aside his egoism and thanks Him, and he who trusts Him entirely, will have his shackles removed and will obtain liberation.” (Chapter 34)
From the above statements, we can see that Saibaba is constantly giving us pointers to liberation, enlightenment or Self-realization. In the above saying Baba has covered some major milestones on the Advaita road – including being the Witness, the illusion of separation, the will of God, and enlightenment.
• “Let the world go topsy-turvy, you remain where you are. Standing in your own place, look on calmly at the show of all things passing before you. Demolish the wall of difference that separates you from Me, and then the road for our meeting will be clear and open. The sense of differentiation as I and thou, is the barrier that keeps the disciple away from his Master and unless that is destroyed the state of union or atonement is not possible, “Allah Malik”, i.e. God is the sole Proprietor, nobody else is our Protector. His method of work is extraordinary, invaluable and inscrutable. His Will be done and He will show us the way, and satisfy our heart’s desires. It is on account of Runanubandh (former relationship) that we have come together, let us love and serve each other and be happy. He who attains the supreme goal of life is immortal and happy, all others merely exist, i.e. live so long as they breathe.” (Chapter 18&19)
Clearly, the supreme goal of life that Sai Baba refers to is enlightenment or Self- realization. By ‘immortal’ he does not mean that we (the body) will live forever, but that we will realize our true nature is immortal, eternal Presence, beyond the pleasures and pains of life and, hence, the shackles of time; ever-shining; always there, never having been born and hence could never die.
• “Meditate always on My Formless nature, which is knowledge incarnate, consciousness and bliss.” (Chapter 18&19)
Whenever we bow down in front of Baba’s deity we should remember His formless form.
Baba’s way of living was a continuous teaching of perfect humility, purity, self-control, equality and generosity. The cardinal principles on the path of Baba are Nishtha (Shraddha) and 'Saburi'. Sai Baba asked for these two qualities in His devotees as dakshina. Let's see what these qualities are.
Nishtha is having a purposeful adherence to our own goal. Remaining steady and devoted to our purpose whatever comes, whether palatable or not, whether happy or unhappy, just persevering in it, that is Nishtha. So the moment love is there, the nishtha will automatically come. It is not that by nishtha, love will come, nishtha is a byproduct of love. It is a characteristic of it.
Saburi - it is usually translated as patience. However, the word “patience” connotes a sense of suffering. But saburi means happily waiting, waiting with a thrill, not complaining, waiting cheerfully, with patience and love, that is Saburi.
Baba's advice to spiritual groups or organisations. When there is a spiritual group or an organisation, after sometime people in the organisation often start to think,”When our views are correct, when our motivation is right, can we take any means to achieve the goal? Is the goal only important and not the means? In fact the goal is always out of our control. Only means are in our hands. The means are more important than the end. We can't achieve a pure goal through impure means. We can't reach a pure and noble goal through ignoble means. It is a trap, especially for those who have organisations.
The essence of Baba's teachings: “I will give my devotees what they ask for, until they ask for what I want to give them”. The experience of having our needs met, whether lofty or mundane, works as a catalyst for our growth and transformation.
The Dhuni at Dwarkamai has been burning ever since Baba’s passing over. May it consume our ignorance and burn brighter as Baba’s teachings blaze forth across the world in time to come, lighting up the road for all of humanity. For, truly, Sabka Malik Ek.