Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future - Part 2

Dissatisfaction is the nature of the world

In the art of storytelling, it is important to know where detailed descriptions have to be given and where they should be avoided. The story should be long enough to cover all points but short enough to keep it interesting. Having gone into all the details of that momentous single day of Mohammad’s life in Part 1 of this story,  I shall avoid the mundane details of the next 3 months. But there is one detail that has to be narrated because it inspires interest and also conveys a lesson. And that is the fact that Mohammad, in those 3 months, often kept thinking about his benefactor at the Arabian sea. As he thought more and more about him and the episode, he began to realize more and more that  there was no peace or joy in the world that he was acquainted with.

There is a feeling of emptiness. A sense of dissatisfaction that engulfs us without exception. It rises and ebbs, perhaps, depending on the phase of life we are in. I doubt if this hollowness will ever be filled. It was there when we were born and it continues to grow as we age. Filling this emptiness, this dissatisfaction is possible only by spiritual means.
Though he began to make a decent living catching fish in the new motor boat, his inner world was in total turmoil. He now began to smoke even more than before in search of an escape from his mundane existence. But whatever he did, a strange sense of dissatisfaction plagued him. He remembered his fakir friend so much that he got an irrepressible urge to meet him. He decided to undertake another journey to Bombay and seek him out.

If one makes a close enquiry, one will notice that at some point in everyone's life, a sense of dissatisfaction sets in. The actual point of this dissatisfaction setting in might vary but this definitely happens irrespective of one's wealth, position, relationship status and age. This is a dissatisfaction that can be 'cured' only by spiritual means because true happiness lies only in union with God. That union can come about only when one drops one's desires and one's false sense of identification with one's body. That is precisely the reason why when anybody asked Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, "I want peace", His reply was,
"Drop the 'I' and drop the 'want'. You have peace automatically."

These statements are not only high in literary  value. They are profound spiritual truths packed in a very concise manner. In that sense,  though not in Sanskrit, they are mantras indeed.

The address that the fakir had given lead Mohammad to a temple in Bombay.  

[Note: The building indicated by the fakir friend was a Shirdi Sai Temple known as Shri Sai Dhaam Mandir located near Congress House on Vithalbhai Patel Road in Girgaum. A Christian lady, Mrs Valentine, sold the house to the Trustees of Sai Dhaam for Rs.50,000/-. The house was then remodelled as a temple for another Rs.20,000/- and was inaugurated on Gudi Padwa day in 1960 by Shri Yeshawantrao Chavan, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra. The statue of Baba, in sitting posture, was carved by Shri Balaji Wasant Talim]

Not finding any house, he began to make enquiries about the fakir's whereabouts. He regretted that he had not asked the fakir his name which made the task of finding him very difficult. He had to go around describing him to the people there. Finally, somebody directed him to go into the temple. (Mr. Venkatesh Prithviraj, the narrator and witness to whom Mohammad told his remarkable story, personally visited this Shirdi Baba temple in the later years.) Mohammad had never entered a temple in his life. But today, nothing would stop him from doing so. Strangely, nobody seemed to be surprised to see a Muslim enter a temple. It was as if that was normal! Walking in, Mohammad got a shock of his life. He fell on his knees and began to sob uncontrollably.

Mohammad landed in a temple like this and concluded that his dear friend was 'famous' and that he had died
A kindly gentleman walked to him and consoled him. He asked him what the matter was.
Yeh Admi Apan Ka Dost Hain (This person is my friend). A few months ago, I met this fakir friend when I was all at sea, the Arabian Sea to be precise. Today, I realize that I will never be able to see him again... When did this happen?" he continued to sob.
Now, tears welled in the eyes of the consoling gentleman. It was 1984 now and this gentleman did not seem to know that Shirdi Baba had left the physical in 1918!
"You are indeed blessed sir! This 'friend' you speak about is our Baba, our God. He lived in Shirdi where he gave up His body in 1918. And so, I want to assure you that if you saw Him a few months ago, there are all the chances that you can see Him again."
Mohammad's eyes grew large in wonder as the gentleman said this. He was eager to know  more and more about Shirdi Baba and His wonderful leelas. He realized that the fakir who had saved him years ago had the potential to save him from his mundane living and help him find meaning in life. Wiping away his tears, he walked up to the idol of Baba and stood in prayer. Completing his prayer, he walked out of the temple, to his boat and back to Kerala.

The final odyssey

Onam is a very special festival in Kerala and the people of that state believe that their king and God visit them during those three days of festivity. For the devotees of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the state, it is a time when they carry out their annual pilgrimage to Puttaparthi; a time to travel from God’s own land, Kerala, to God’s home at Prasanthi Nilayam. It was a couple of weeks before Onam that Mohammad spotted a procession on the road.

He saw a photograph of his fakir friend, Shirdi Baba, being paraded in a palanquin. He also saw another photograph next to the Shirdi Baba one. The man in that photograph had a thick mop of curly hair and wore a saffron robe unlike the white one of Shirdi Baba. Inquisitive, he moved towards the procession and asked someone,
Yeh Chotu Kaun Hain? (Who is this little guy?)”

A revelation followed wherein Mohammad was told about how Swami, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, was considered as Part 2 in the ‘Sai series’ of incarnations. A lot of emphasis was also laid on the unity of the two Babas. Mohammad was fascinated no doubt and he began to make a lot of enquiries. His efforts led him to procure a seat in one of the buses that would be part of the Onam pilgrimage to Puttaparthi. During the journey, he was ‘initiated’ into the rules and regulations at the ashram. That was when he realized that Sathya Sai and Shirdi Sai seemed so different. Smoking and eating meat were strict no-nos at Puttaparthi. Being a chain smoker, Mohammad wondered how he would be able to manage. He was forced to throw away all his cigarettes. Wondering what else was in store for him, he continued towards Puttaparthi.

Mohammad found himself in the darshan grounds at Prasanthi Nilayam. He watched in awe at the devotion and reverence of the thousands gathered there towards the orange-robed form of their Swami, Bhagawan Baba. The Kerala group was in for some special treatment as Swami called them separately to bless them and speak to them. And out of all those devout thousands from Kerala, Swami beckoned to Mohammad to go into the interview room.

An interview to remember

In the interview room, Mohammad was seated close to Swami who was on a chair. Looking into his eyes, Swami told him,
“You are smoking a lot. That is why you have no children of your own.”
The words hit Mohammad and he knew that he had heard similar words in the past. But the reason ascribed then was the drugs he was smuggling. Today, he was being told that smoking was the cause for his childlessness. How could one give up something that is an addiction today?
“Give up smoking and you will have children. I will help you.”
Then, coming closer to his face and looking deep into his eyes, Swami asked him,
"Do you recognize me?"
Mohammad stared blankly back at Swami. He had no recollection of having met this crinkly-haired Baba ever before. With a smile, Swami placed His right hand on Mohammad's head, right on the spot between his eyebrows, and he was transported into another time-space in an instant.
He was in the body of a person who was roaming over large tracts of land in search of his lost mare. Suddenly, he hears a voice calling out to him,
"Chand! My dear Chand. You have lost your mare and are worried right?"
"Yes sir...", he replies to the fakir wondering how on earth he knows his name, "She has wandered off somewhere today morning and I don't seem to be able to locate her at all." That is when he realizes that he has seen the fakir somewhere else - on his boat. But wasn't that another life? Or was it?
"She is just beyond this little hillock. She is safe and is awaiting you."

Chand Patil bows to Shirdi Baba after the fakir helps him locate his mare. 
Rushing, he locates the mare and returns gratefully to the fakir, bowing to him. The fakir says, "Come, join me for a smoke." With those words, he lifts a metal rod and strikes it to the ground. Water starts oozing out from there with which he wets the chillum (a kind of smoking pipe). He strikes the ground once more with the same rod and now, there is a brightly burning ember at that place with which he lights the chillum. Both, the fakir and himself enjoy a smoke together after which he invites the fakir to his daughter's wedding.

Chand Patil's samadhi at Dhoop Kheda.
Courtesy: Sai Prema's blog
The scene now begins to fade and Shirdi Baba too begins to dissolve. And in his place now, is this crinkly-haired Baba! Before Mohammad is able to understand that the vision is complete, his eyes are open and he is now looking into the eyes of Swami. And then realization dawns. It comes gushing over him in torrents! Mohammad recognizes his association with Shirdi Baba and sees how his master has been seeking and guiding him over lifetimes.  In spite of his wayward ways, He had guided him back to the shores of peace and tranquility when he was flailing wildly in the rough seas of worldly life.

For old times' sake
Mohammad looked at Swami. He had tears in his eyes. Without wasting another moment, he held His feet and cried out,
"Swami! How I have faltered! How I have moved away from you. Please hold on to me as you have done so far. I want to reform. I want to change. I don't want to get stuck in the mire that I have wallowed in for so long. Please, my dear Lord, my Allah, keep me with you."
Who would have thought of 3 smokes as the 3 ways to
Ah! That was the moment for which dissatisfaction seemed to have been implanted in Mohammad - a moment which gave him the realization of the true source of peace and happiness. Even as he made that prayer, Mohammad could feel all his dissatisfaction melting away. He felt a surging joy at his self-discovery. Whatever be one's achievements in life, man will never find peace and joy till he realizes his unique relationship with God - the relationship of oneness!

Swami now did something that cemented the relationship over the ages. It was via a smoke that Shirdi Baba had bonded with Chand. And now, Swami waved His palm and, much to Mohammad's surprise, materialized three cigarettes! Handing it over to him, Swami blessed him and said,
"Three smokes and all will be well. Through these three cigarettes, I grant you the three greatest gifts of Karma, Jnana and Bhakti. "

As many ways to God as there are people on earth
"It is that third and last of those cigarettes that I finished smoking now. When Sai Baba, the top-shot of this place, has permitted me to smoke, who are these people to stop me?", concluded Mohammad.
A dazed Prithviraj paid for the tea and the duo walked out of the Kumar Vilas hotel (which no longer exists in Puttaparthi today.). He had heard that there are as many ways to God as there are people on earth but this was something beyond his most fantastic imagination. Truth indeed is stranger than fiction.

And now, that Mohammad was greeting him in the canteen. He had definitely turned over a new leaf.
“How are you Mohammad? It is so nice to see you.”
“I am a regular Seva Dal now. When I saw you, I remembered that you were the only person who allowed me to smoke that day. I can never forget you and the tea that we had that day.”
“Has your smoking reduced now?” asked an eager Prithviraj.
“Reduced? I am allergic to cigarettes. The Bhakti cigarette that I smoked in your presence has been the last one of my life. From that day, I am just unable to stand the smell or even the sight of a cigarette. That is Swami’s leela.”
“Four years without a smoke - wow! That is really Swami’s grace. So, you are a happy father now?”
“What shall I say? Every year, in the last four years, I have had a child! If I get an interview this time, I shall tell Swami that its enough - I don’t want any more children.”

Prithviraj was lost in joy now. What a tale the Lord had scripted. He wished that he had picked up at least the butt of the Bhakti cigarette which Mohammad discarded and had taken a puff. But well! It was not possible now.

Suddenly, there was commotion. Mohammad was gone and everyone seemed to be in a tearing hurry.
“Swami is coming to the canteen.”
That was the hurried talk going on. A few minutes later, the beautiful form glided into the canteen. Among the other things that Swami did, He spoke to Prithviraj when He came near him. Looking at him, Swami asked,
“You want to smoke? To get devotion? That was only for him. No shortcuts!”

So saying, Swami glided away. Prithviraj understood that in His love and boundless grace, Swami had created a new and unique way for a devotee to reach Him - via three cigarettes!

For all readers:

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  1. Stupendous - what a finale! Thanks brother! It was well worth the yearning and the intense anticipation! Waiting eagerly for the next article!


    1. Thank you for all the eagerness and anticipation...

  2. Incredible! My favorite story yet!

  3. Amazing! God Bless you ! Thanks for sharing

  4. His Leelas...His Mahimas.....Tears well in my eyes.....Jai Sairam. Thank you so much Bro. Aravind for sharing this History.....

  5. ohhh!! we expected a happy ending of course, but could NEVER have guessed the Chand Patil connection. What a story, boy what a story! Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. ufff... thanks Arvind. speechless.

  6. Awesome Barru and too good. Really mysterious are His ways and the way He transforms each of us. Simply superb and thanks for sharing the Chinese proverb too. The Chand patil connection rather "re-connection" is too good.

  7. My dear brother Aravind, it is indeed a treat to read your narratives, they are simply incredible.. incomparable, unspeakable..
    Let me also share with you but that this uncanny blessing seems to have descended upon you unasked, may be as causelessly, as it happened in my case when a special gift of effortless surgical craft was bestowed upon me many years back with Swami specifically telling me that i need put-in no effort towards it what so ever... "it shall be showered upon you as My special blessing"..

    1. Sairam brother Rajnish,

      Thank you for your kind and loving words. They make me feel grateful to Swami. It is also wonderful to know about your special gift. It was a pleasure meeting you at Puttaparthi, when you visited Radiosai.

      Thank you for your love, prayers and good wishes.

  8. Raghu Ketharam Iyer11 June 2014 at 11:25

    Jai Sai Ram!
    thanks for posting the second part soon (while reading, I was just hoping that you don't stop it again midway telling us it would be concluded in part 3 ;-)

    one humble request:
    I have heard that Swami used to tell HIS students about interesting incidents, may be small but profound, that happened during HIS earlier avatars like Sri Rama, Sri Krishna & Shirdi & incidents involving Rishis & saints that we do not get to read anywhere else. could you please share with us such gems OR if any such site(s) already available on those subjects, could you please provide us the links?
    once again, thank you very much Aravind.
    With Love & Best Wishes,

    1. :)
      The joy that comes after a wait is more I have heard! :)

      Anyway, as and when these beautiful incidents present themselves to me (by His will alone) then, I shall definitely share them.

  9. Swami and cigarettes, I have an interesting dream to share. About 20 years ago, when I suddenly felt an urge to continuously read Shirdi Sai sat charitha. I was constantly put off reading that Shirdi sai baba would smoke, I told myself thank goodness atleast our swami doesn't smoke. One night during my sat charitha reading week, I had a dream of swami. I am seeing him seated in Sai Kulwanth hall, amongst his students and I zoom in on his face. What am I seeing swami is having a cigarette on his lips. As he is talking to his students the cigarette is moving up and down and his face is still all that bliss and love. I just couldn't stand that sight. I just closed my eyes and looked away that was the end of the dream. It was quite funny IMO, but now with this article i realize that swami was telling me that it was his way to grant bhakthi gyan to some devotees, though not for many. - Jai sairam

    1. That is interesting indeed. But I personally feel that there is much more to the dream apart from just this. Don't ask me for it. i don't know. Maybe it will occur to you when the time is ripe! :)

    2. wow!! you do? 20 yrs and i still don't know, hopefully swami will let me know at the right time!

    3. I dont know may did i exist at the time of shirdi sai and i dint like him for smoking. I feel like sharing another dream of swami, this is also almost 20-22 yrs old. I am seeing myself participating in a typical sai bhajan am seated on sandy floor and the altar is on the stage with our swami's photo and there are barricades put all over just as they would put on the grounds at open air stadium at parthi during swami's bday. As it was my turn to sing, i just start playing harmonium and I see swami the young swami only 20-23 yrs old jumping across the barricade and sits next to me and watches me gleefully as I sing. Then he says do you know for how many births you have been singing my bhajans.. I dont answer him just looking at him blankly and the next I see is our swami, shirdi sai baba and what looks like prema sai baba on the stage in physical forms. For some reason the whole dream sequence was in black n white.

  10. Wow indeed words at all to describe the Ways of our Beloved Lord!!!
    It is truly humbling that we had the amazing chance of living when He gave physical access and we still have the chance to hear Him. He has left guideposts like these to urge us on back to Home to Him on the right path instead of getting lost in the by-lanes lured by worldly attractions.

  11. Goosebumps and tears :'( really sucha beautiful story. Specially Chand Patil connection. "ye chotu kaun hai?" was extremely sweet. Its unimaginable that Swami can reform a chain-smoker thru three cigarettes. Wish we could also just take a puff ;-) n Voila! Karma...Gyana...Bhakti would be ours. But no shortcuts. Let's strive to learn from this and cultivate them instead. Excellent fast paced, tight narrative.
    Incidently my dad also quit smoking after a single visit to Parthy :) Strange yet loving ways of d benevolent Lord <3 ThankU n Loving Sairams!

  12. Oh my God! What a twist !! great to know about Chand Patil's next birth. and how Swamy teaches and brings transformation in one's life is so amazing....and it would only suit that chosen individual and if we try the same thinking it to be Swamy's prescription for all, then we would be completely bowled over.
    Thank you for the article, it was worth the wait and more. Love you Swamy.

  13. Mind blowing. So mysterious are the ways of Lord to bring the devotes close to Him. A wonderful rendition brother. Thank you! Sairam :-)

  14. Sairam. what a great revelation the Muslim devotee received,Thanks brother for sharing.Looking forward to more such Sai Leelas.

  15. Sairam Wow gr8 to read such an interesting Sai Leela-About two Babas.Looking forward to more such episodes,

  16. Sairam, what an episode, monumental in experience. Three cigarettes to a devotee is as unexpected as Chand Patil connection. Swami visiting the canteen to make it clear to a seva dal that every cure is tailor made, thereby putting the matter to right perspective. Coming all the way to make this clear, wow only Swami can do this in his infinite love towards all. Reading this I recollected a book written by a muslim sai devotee from Maharashtra. The name is Sathya Sai Sakha and the link is Viswanathan

    1. Raghu Ketharam Iyer16 June 2014 at 17:39

      Jai Sai Ram!
      wonderful book, thanks a lot for sharing, Mr. Vishwanathan.
      With Love & Best Wishes,

  17. Sairam I am so blessed to read about Swami and such Devotees, and those comments you all post, feeling so wonderful with all of you here, thank you all

  18. Thanks Sai Ram. Amazing way of the Bhagwan. Can only pray "Bhakthi Do Bhagwan' and wait.

  19. Wow!wat a story...stumped totally!swami and his ways♥Thanks for carrying us along in tis beautiful journey

  20. even when i was reading this .....ata point where shirdi baba calls chand (intervierw room ...with Swamy) ...i got a most unexpected phone call from a friend (sai baba?) saying that he is at all india sai samaj , mylapore Chennai and makes me shridi 9 p.m
    my heart skipps a beat ...with HIS ways of showing His presence to us !!

  21. Sai Ram Aravind, when I was about 13yrs old my aunt sent me a purse with a pendant in it. We lived in Trinidad at the time and my aunt in Gujarat. There was a picture in enamel on either side and since I didn't know who they were of I asked my mum. One was of Jelaram Bapa a Gujarati saint and the other was an old man with a white beard and a white cloth round his head. Neither parents knew who he was since they'd left India in the '40's. Anyway I left it in the purse and stored it away but never forgot the old man. Came to England and brought the purse with me still new in 1970 and attended my first house Sai bhajans in 1982 weekly. There I saw a coloured photo of the same old gentleman. I couldn't stop looking at him and after bhajans was so excited that I had to ask who he was. Just Imagine that all those years passed by and I still remembered his appearance. I went home and straight away dug out the still unused purse to check the pendant. Oh yes it was Shirdi Sai Baba all right and I know Swami has been with me and looking after me all those years. Imagine how special I felt. The Other Sai- incidence is that the pendant was sent by my father's younger brother's wife and the bhajans were held in my father's older sister's son's home. Off the family members mentioned except for myself and my mum only the aunt who sent me the pendant is still alive. Loving regards, chandan aunty. my ip address is I have another story/dream to tell you but it also involves someone else may I have an email address I can send it to please? Jai Sai Ram.


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