By: Ramaswamy Seshadri
Sai Baba was fond of Ramayana’s Sundara Kanda, talked about Hanuman’s adventures, and offered valuable lessons.
Sai Baba advised devotees to read Sundara Kanda which is one of the most widely read sections of the Ramayana. It talks about the adventures of Pavanaputra Hanuman when he is entrusted by
Rama with the task of finding Sita, his wife, who had been abducted by Ravana, the king of Lanka. The entire episode is more than just a mythological tale. It offers invaluable lessons too and Hari Sitaram Dixit recorded them:
■ When asked to cross the ocean to reach Lanka to do a recce to rescue Sita, Hanuman behaves like many of us do when assigned a new task — full of doubts and apprehensions. We forget our
potential and need Satsang, the company of righteous well-wishers, to bolster our confidence. Only when he is reminded by Jambavanta, the king of bears, of his divine powers, does Hanuman take the leap of faith, crossing the vast ocean of uncertainty.
It was 1858. Sai Baba as a fakir meets in a forest a wealthy man Chand Patel ofDhoopkhed who is searching for his lostmare. Baba helps him in locating his mare. He goes to Dhoopkhed where he heals a lame person, a deaf and dumb woman, and performs miracles. Dhoopkhed villagers consider him ‘God who walked on earth. From Dhoopkhed along with a wedding group, he reaches Shirdi.
■ Often, while performing an important assignment, there is a chance of the ego of being ‘the
chosen one’ manifesting as Sursa the mountainous rakshasi, a demon, who surfaces from the ocean to devour Hanuman. He first expands his form, reminding himself of the important task at hand; it compels the rakshasi to open her mouth wide. Then he decreases his size in humility and flies out of her jaws, all thanks to his tatt-buddhi — the presence of mind, jnana, and dhyana — necessary to go through all challenges, unscathed.
Baba proclaimed that only if he wills people can visit Shirdi. Many doubted his religion. Those non-believers in his blessings became staunch devotees. Baba told his devotees that he had known them for several births.
■ When our actions are backed by the right intentions, Nature too assists by arranging things for us. In the heart of the enemy territory, Hanuman has a chance encounter with a like-minded Vibhishan, Ravana’s brother, who promptly assists him with whereabouts by revealing the location where Sita is held captive.
By 1900 Sai Baba was popular as God-man who had come on earth to lead mankind towards ‘God realization’ He had lighted wick lamps with water. He had given up life for three days. He had given relief to hundreds of sick and needy by administering Udi.
Still, he wanted to groom Nana Saheb Chandorkar, a Deputy Collector who would carry Baba’s
message among higher strata of Society, and a police constable, Ganesh Rao Sahasrabuddhe who with his talent as a Kirthankar, can carry Baba’s message to rural folk.
■ Arriving at Ashok Vatika, Hanuman witnesses Ravana haranguing Sita. But Sita stays firm in her resolve to ignore him and holds a blade of grass as a deterrent. This teaches us never to give undue attention and empower those who misuse their power. A firm faith in our beliefs, however
insignificant, is capable of fending off the greatest tormentor.
Sai Baba wanted religious harmony between Hindus and Muslims. Sai Baba had kept his religion and caste a secret. He could not be called a Hindu as he preferred to stay in a mosque. He performed ‘Namaz’ and taught the Quran to Abdulla, and would freely use Islamic terms –‘Allah Malik’, Mera Fakir, Yaad-e-Huque’, etc., Even the food he prepared was sanctified with Muslim rituals. While dining with Hindus, he would make Bade Baba sit with him to remove any communal tinge to the gathering.
If you consider Sai Baba a Muslim, he was burning fire in the ‘Dhuni’. He would have ‘Arathi’ waved in the mosque. Hindus recited the Gita, Bhagavatha, Ramayana, and other scriptures. While passing through the village, whenever he came across Hindu temples, Sai Baba would stop and fold his hands in reverence. Sai Baba made both the communities guess that he belonged to their community! Sai Baba made Hindus celebrate Rama Navami and on the same day, Muslims celebrate the Urus. Hindus and Muslims worked in total harmony for the success of this festival.
■ Having lost patience, at the very instant Sita decides to end her life, Hanuman drops Ram’s ring in her lap. It reflects Nature’s law that the harder we wish for a desire to manifest, the more it stays unfulfilled, repelled like two similarly charged magnets. Only when the polarity of one is changed, do they unite. So, instead of constantly focusing on desires, it is better to be indifferent to the outcome, doing whatever comes in dhyana, proficiently.
A Marwari family came up for Baba’s darshan. Charmed with the woman’s exquisite beauty, Nana Saheb fixed his gaze on her. Baba corrected him after the family left – “Now tell me, Nana, How was your Mother? ” This question instantly pulled up Nana Saheb’s fallen mind from the depth of mean thoughts to the crown of noble thinking! Nana Saheb realized that if only he had thought of that woman as his mother, he would have enjoyed the most sublime sentiment of Mother’s love! Baba’s mode of teaching brought tears of gratitude! No anger! No reproach! No exposure!
■ Going against the advice of his courtiers, Ravana orders that Monkey God’s tail be set aflame to teach him a lesson for his impunity. Anyone who has faith in his truth and remains centered will automatically have the courage to transform adversities into advantages, even when threatened with huge losses. Hanuman, with his tail on fire, does just that. He hops from roof to roof and sets Ravana’s Lanka ablaze, terrorizing its residents.
Baba interpreted the Gita to Nana, and everyone felt that Sai Baba was a cent percent Hindu saint! At that time, Baba called a person sitting in the crowd – “Come here, Anwar! Sit near me. Tell me why you intend to go to Baghdad leaving your family here?” Anwar Khan was surprised by Baba’s sudden question! Just then he had arrived from a village in Berar. He came with a secret desire to get initiated from Baba a passage from the Quran and then going to Baghdad. Baba read his mind and made him sit before him. He gave him the lesson – “Bismillah Kuliya Hilo Walka Firado Bhabudana……” Anwar Khan found it difficult and then Baba called Abdulla to teach it to him. Then he went near Dhuni and began to recite the Quran himself. Nana realized that Baba did not like to be branded as being Hindu! Baba was convinced that Ram and Rahim were two names of the same Almighty!
■ All through, Vibhishana tries to convince Ravana to
return Sita, but Lankesh Ravana, insults him, forcing
him to defect, with catastrophic results. Being
surrounded by ‘yes men’ can be detrimental to
growth and it is important to pay attention to
contrarian views too.
Once Baba asked Lakshmi to get him something to eat. She went home and brought three pieces of bread with onion. Baba took two pieces of bread and gave them to a dog. Lakshmi was annoyed and protested that if he was feeding the dog, there was no need for him to make her run home and bake the bread. To please her, he took the other piece of bread and ate it with the onions!
Seeing Baba eat onions, a visitor in the crowd was shocked! He was a Brahmin Pandit well versed in Vedas and he had come to Baba to seek a solution in the Vedanta! He thought in his mind – “How can this saint who eats onions solve my problem?” He wanted to return! Baba read his mind and told Madhava Rao – “Shama, one who can digest onion can eat it! Reading Vedas and Upanishads will not give you knowledge! You have to practice it! When Pandits do not understand it, how can Lakshmi appreciate my feeding this dog?” The learned Pandit knew that Baba was referring to his thoughts. He listened to Baba further. Baba turned to Lakshmi and said – “Lakshmi, am I different from this dog? I felt his hunger because the same divinity within him is also in me. I am one with everyone! Please do not consider anyone inferior or low, nor misbehave with anyone!”
On the pretext of feeding the dog with Lakshmi’s bread, Baba enlightened his devotees that he
pervades in all beings! This also solved the problem of the Brahmin Pandit!
■ And finally, when Rama requests the Ocean for the right of way to reach Lanka, it arrogantly
ignores him. Only after three days of trying, when Rama threatens to shoot an arrow to dry the
ocean, it complies and reveals that Nala and Neela, two monkeys in their army, can help them build a bridge across the ocean to Lanka, as they have a boon — whatever they throw in the water stays afloat.
Sai Baba visited five houses on his begging rounds. He shared this food with dogs the birds and the pigs. The dogs and pigs rushed and the birds swooped to feast on this free-for-all meal!
We conclude with a blessing of Divine Mother to Hanuman – “May you become a repository of
strength and virtue, dear son… and may the Lord of the Raghus shower his abundant grace on you.”