Tuesday, April 7, 2009

||chapter thirty-eight||

|| sri sai satcharitra ||

|| chapter thirty - eight ||

|| description of the handi ||

|| Sri Ganeshaya Namaha || Sri Saraswatye Namaha ||
|| Sri Venkateshaya Namaha || Sri Sai Nathaya Namaha ||
|| Sri Sadgurubhyo Namaha ||

In this chapter, Hemad Pant tells us about Baba’s Handi, disrespect of shrine, Kala or hodge-podge, the cup of buttermilk and other matters.


With Baba’s blessing we were able to witness the grand scene of the Chavadi Procession in the last chapter. We also saw that when everyone had gone and Baba was alone, He prepared His bed Himself by spreading 50 to 60 bed spreads, one on top of another and slept. We bow, once again, to the Sadguru who had given everything to His devotees. Baba had taken birth only for the purpose of doing good to others. His life was dedicated for the betterment of His devotees. It is only because of satkarmaphala of the previous births that one can get in contact with the divine feet of the Sadguru. Once we take recourse to the divine feet of the Sadguru, He removes all our afflictions and liberates us from all our bondages. Sai is the abode of all eternal bliss. He is the destination of our search. He is the ever blazing, radiating pure self. He is Atmarama Himself. Like a mother who knows what her child should eat, and what it should not, and then feeds her child with the required food, Sai knows what is best for us. Initially enticing us by giving what we ask, Sai finally takes us on to the path of spiritual progress and self realization.


The sadhanas for attaining spiritual progress, as described in various religious scriptures, depend on the age in which the aspirant is living. In Kruta Yuga, the prescribed sadhana was tapas (penance). When the Kruta Yuga gave way to the Treta Yuga, the sadhana became Jnana. In the Dwapara Yuga, the aspirant had to perform Yagnas. In Kali Yuga the prescribed sadhana for spiritual progress is Dana (charity). Among the various types of Dana, like Vitta Dana, Vidya Dana, Kanya Dana, Vastra Dana, Anna Dana, and other Danas, Anna Dana is the best and greatest. The Taittiriya Upanishad says:

annaadvai prajaha prajaayante |
yaaha ka cha pruthivi shritaaha |
atho anne naiva jeevanti | athainadapi yantyantataha |
annam hi bhootanaam jyeshtam |
tasmaat sarvaushadhamuchyate |
sarvavaite annamapnuvanti | yeh annam brahmopaasate |
annah hi bhootanaam jyeshtam |
tasmaat sarvaushadhamuchyate |
annad bhootani jaayante | jaataan annayena vardhante | adhyate atti cha bhootani tasmatannam taduchyata iti | tasmaadda yetasmaad anna rasamayaat |
Tai. Up. Br.Valli. Anu. 2

All beings that exist on earth are born of food; then they live by food, then again to the food they go at the end. So verily food is the eldest of all creatures. Therefore, it is called the medicament of all. All those who worship food as Brahman obtain all food. Food is indeed the eldest of all creatures. Therefore, it is called the medicine for all. From food all beings are born, having been they grow by food. Food is eaten by the beings and it also eats them. Therefore, it is called food (Anna).

For all Danas other than Anna Dana, the Data (giver) has to think of the eligibility of the receiver. Annadana can be made to any one - rich or poor, male or female, young or old, diseased or healthy. By Mid day, around noon, if we do not have anything to eat, we feel miserable. We have to think that all the other beings are also similar to us. If timely food is not available, they also feel utterly miserable. Feeding the guests, whether invited or uninvited, is the primary duty of a grihasta. Let anyone come to our doorstep at noon, he should be served with food immediately. The lame, crippled, blind and diseased persons should be served first and then the able bodied persons, our relatives etc.

Even other forms of Dana are incomplete, if not accompanied by Annadana. Any Dana without Annadana is compared to: a sky in the night with only the stars and no moon, or a necklace without its pendant, or a crown without its pinnacle, or a tank without a lotus, or Bhajan without any love for the God, or a married lady without the kumkum, or a song sung without a sweet voice, or a butter milk without salt. Just as Varan (soup prepared with dal) excels all other dishes, Annadana is the best of all merits.


Knowing that Annadana is the best of all merits, Baba also indulged in regular Annadana programmes. For Himself, he required very little food. And as we saw earlier, what little food He needed, He obtained by begging from a few houses. When He wanted to arrange Annadana, He made very elaborate preparations. If He had wished, the villagers would have got Him plenty of cooked food, but He did not depend on anyone and troubled none in this regard. He went to the market Himself, bought all the items He needed from His own money, by paying cash. He bought these items after comparing prices at different shops and carefully checking their quality. He even haggled for the best price and only then bought the items. He did all the required grinding alone. In the courtyard of the masjid, He had prepared a hearth. He had also built Himself the room where the firewood was stored. After keeping the firewood in the hearth and lighting it, He used to place a big Handi over it. Baba had two Handis with Him. The smaller one provided food for 50 persons. The bigger one could cater to 100 persons. Depending on the guests He planned to invite, He used to keep either the smaller or the bigger Handi. He knew the recipes for almost all the dishes He liked to prepare. At times, He prepared ‘Mitha Chaval’ (sweet rice) and at other times He prepared ‘Pulav’ with mutton. To enhance the taste, He used to drop small pieces of bread while preparing soup. For the soup, He prepared all the needed spices Himself. He ground the various spices on a stone slab and put the ground paste into the Handi. He was also very keen to make the dishes very tasty and palatable.

One of His specialties was preparation of ‘Ambili’. For this He boiled jawar flour in water and then added butter milk to the hot paste. Then He used to boil both together. He served this as a dessert to the main food. Once, when the broth was boiling, Baba wanted to stir it and could not find a ladle nearby. He rolled up the right sleeve of His kafni and put His bare hand inside the Handi and stirred the boiling contents slowly from side to side and top to bottom, without any thought of what would happen to His hand. And indeed, nothing did happen to His hand as He was the divinity personified. When the cooking of the items was over, Baba got the food duly consecrated by the moulvi. Only after sending the first part of the consecrated food to Mhalsapathi and Tatya Patil, Baba served the food to others. He followed this practice always. He used to serve the food to all the poor and helpless people Himself with His own hands. He made them sit in a row and after distributing plantain leaves, He first served ghee. Then followed other items He had prepared with love and care. At every stage of serving the items, He used to say, “Please have some more! Don’t hesitate. Eat slowly.” Blessed and fortunate indeed must be those people who got food prepared and served by Baba.

Some may get a doubt, “Did Baba distribute non-vegetarian food also as prasadam to all His devotees?” The answer is simple. Baba was very particular about respecting the conscience of the devotees. For those who were not accustomed to non-vegetarian food, He never allowed them to even touch the non-vegetarian food. As a matter of fact, He never even created a wish or desire in the minds of the devotees for such food. When a sishya implicitly follows the instructions of guru, the burden of responsibility lies on the guru to give only those instructions which the devotee can follow and about which a conflict does not arise in the mind of the sishya. Nobody understood this better than Baba. It was not just food alone; Baba did not allow His devotees to even worship any god other than the gods they were used to. He told time and again that one should worship only their family deities.


When the guru gives prasadam, with his own hands, the sishya does not think whether it should be accepted or not. He simply takes it and consumes it. Anyone who thinks about the propriety of acceptance ends up in perdition. An ideal sishya implicitly follows the instructions given by the guru. Though Baba did everything for His devotees, He occasionally tested the amount of faith the devotees had in Him. Only those who passed these tests could become His intimate devotees.
Once, on an Ekadasi day, Baba gave some money to Dadasaheb Kelkar and asked him to buy meat from a shop in Korhala. Dada was extremely fond of Baba and loved Him very much. In addition, Dada was a very orthodox, religious Brahmin who followed all the rituals prescribed in the scriptures. His mind was always steady and never wavered in loyalty to Baba. For him pleasing the guru was the ultimate in life. So, he immediately changed his dress and got ready to go in spite of the fact that he was a strict vegetarian and never even touched meat. When he was about to cross the threshold of the masjid, Baba called him back and asked him to send some one else. Dada sent his servant Pandu. When Pandu was about to go, Baba again called him back and postponed the purchase to some other day. Baba was really not interested in buying meat. He only wanted to know how Dada would react.

On another occasion, Baba had prepared Pulav without mutton. He asked Dada how was the taste of Pulav. Dada, assuming that it contained mutton, did not taste it. However as Baba had asked the question, for the sake of courtesy replied that it was alright. Then Baba said, “Neither have you seen it with your eyes, nor have you tasted it with your tongue. Then, how can you say that it is alright? Just take out the lid and see.” While saying these words, Baba caught hold of Dada’s arm and thrust it into the pot and said, “Draw out your arm and taking a ladle, put some quantity in the plate without caring for your orthodoxy and without blustering.” This was another occasion on which Baba had tested Dada. Baba knew very well what was inside the pot. Just as a mother pinches her child naughtily and then hugs it when it cries, Baba also had slightly pinched Dada. No saint or guru will ever force his disciple to do things he does not want to do. Leave alone eating, even touching mutton was unthinkable for Dada. How could Baba allow him to defile himself?

As seen earlier, till 1910 AD, Baba was not so well known outside Shirdi. It was because of Nanasaheb Chandorkar’s speeches and Dasganu Maharaj’s kirtans that Baba’s fame spread far and wide, including Bombay. Hence, people coming to Shirdi for Baba’s darshan prior to 1910 AD were also less in number. Subsequently, the number increased several times. The devotees brought with them various articles for presentation. They also brought several food items for offering as naivedyam to Baba. The quantity of naivedyam was so much that the fakirs and the poor in Shirdi could easily feed themselves to their heart’s content. Because of this, after 1910 AD Baba stopped preparing food in the Handis.


After arati, everyday, Baba used to give Udi prasadam to all the devotees and bless them individually. When everyone had left, Baba went inside and sat behind a curtain to take His meals. In addition, there were two rows of devotees sitting on either side of Baba for the naivedyam. All the offerings brought by the devotees, like Puris, Mande, Polis, Basundi, Sanza, fine rice etc were mixed in Handi and placed before Baba. Baba used to consecrate it by offering it to the God. Those who were waiting outside were offered part of this mixture as naivedyam. After they were fed, the devotees sitting inside were served this naivedyam. Baba sat in the centre and asked Nanasaheb Nimonkar and Shyama to serve those sitting inside and care for their individual needs. They did this job very willingly and efficiently. Every morsel was holy and auspicious. Every morsel was divine and consecrated. Every morsel had the extra ingredient of Baba’s affection and love for His devotees.


Once, Nanasaheb Chandorkar came to Shirdi with his ‘Sadu’ - husband of his wife’s sister, Mr. Biniwalle. They went inside the masjid and after prostrating at the feet of Baba; all the three sat together and started talking. Baba always advised that alms giving should be straightforward. When asked for alms, no one should utter falsehood and say 'I have not got it' (the money or other things asked for), when he has got it, but only decline to give it in polite terms and say that circumstances do not allow the giving. No crooked ways should be adopted. Yet after this advice was given, some time later, Nanasaheb, who had promised to pay Rs. 300 for charity to be done at the Kopergaon Datta temple, did not bring the money and therefore avoided a visit to the temple, which was on his way to Shirdi. With the approval of his relative, he took a detour through a very thorny path, as a result of which he and his relative ran thorns in their bodies. Baba was suddenly very angry with Nanasaheb.

He said, “Even after being with Me for so many years, how can you do like this?”

Nanasaheb was perplexed. He sat silently without talking.

Baba asked, “Tell Me, when did you come to Kopergaon? Where did you engage the Tonga and what happened on the way?”

Then Nanasaheb understood the folly he had committed. He said, “As Biniwalle was also with me, we engaged a Tonga at Kopergaon to come to Shirdi for Your darshan. We took bath in the holy Godavari. Biniwalle is a devotee of Bhagavan Dattatreya. He wanted to visit the Datta temple near the Godavari banks. As I was interested in coming here at the earliest, I told him that we could visit the temple on our way back. After taking bath in the Godavari, my foot trod on a big thorn and pained me very much throughout the journey.”

Being an Antaryami, Baba knew everything.

He said, “You evade seeing 'Sircar' (God Datta) and take a detour. Why? You thought that the sadhu will ask you for Rs. 300. Is this the way to remember my lesson? If you do not have the money, or if it was not easy to arrange to get it, you have only to tell him the fact. Will that saint eat you? But what device is this to avoid the temple of God for fear of the saint demanding money? Well then, have not thorns pierced your feet and body and the posterior part of your sapient friend?”

Baba definitely looked unhappy.
He said, “Being pricked by a thorn is a very small punishment. How can you ignore Datta Bhagavan when He is on the way?” Baba never liked ignoring the presiding deities.


Once, Hemad Pant had an opportunity to sit with the devotees for partaking of the naivedyam, described earlier. He had eaten his full share of the naivedyam and was even feeling slightly uncomfortable. Then, Baba offered him a cup of butter milk. The cool butter milk, rich with cream and froth, was very much tempting. Hemad Pant wanted to drink it but was not sure whether his stomach could accommodate it. As he could no longer resist the temptation, he took a sip and immensely liked it. Seeing his dilemma, Baba said, “Drink it all. You won’t get an opportunity later on.” Hemad Pant drank the butter milk but could not understand the import of Baba’s words. Two months later, Baba attained Mahasamadhi.

That cup of butter milk was not only cool, creamy and frothy; it gave immortality to Hemad Pant. His Satcharitra will be read as long as there are mountains in the country and rivers are flowing. Just as Valmiki wrote the first authoritative story of Sri Rama, Hemad Pant wrote the first authoritative story of Sai Baba. Several versions of Ramayana have come, several thousands may still come, but Valmiki Ramayana will always have its own pride of place. So is Hemad Pant’s Satcharitra. Every one of the Satcharitra which has come afterwards, and the multitudes which will definitely come later on, will always be indebted to Hemad Pant.

Let us prostrate, once again, at the divine feet of our beloved Baba, who has granted immortality to every one of His devotees, and pray sincerely to bless us always. Sri Sadguru Sainath Maharaj Ki Jai!!!

With this, the thirty eighth chapter, called as Description of the Handi, is complete. In the next two chapters, Hemad Pant tells us about Baba’s interpretation of a verse from Gita, construction of the Samadhi Mandir and other matters.

||Sri Sadguru Sainathaarpanamasthu || Shubham Bhavatu||
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

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