With few technical observation of this blog, i have noticed some traffic landing up here by searching "How to pray Shirdi Sai Baba" I was at first reluctant to write anything on this topic which can be inferred upon as a very casual topic, but a thorough thought makes one realize its importance. I also had a same feeling.
Disclaimer : Whatever i would be writing is an inspiration of Sai Baba firstly. The ways prescribed here are not at all written or advised in any book of Sai Baba by any author nor it has been copied/translated through. All the points collected and noted are generally followed practices which i have seen my parents doing, observed from few Sai Baba devotees and most of all taken hints from Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra. It is reader's/devotee's discretion to follow them or not. It has not been written to confuse, mislead or misguide anyone nor i would like to claim any authority over this and ask anyone to follow only this method. Reader/devotee can add any of the points below to his/her present way of worship whether belonging to any caste or religion.
Shirdi Sai Baba's worship can be done from two standpoints - Physical worship and Spiritual Worship. We will be discussing both the methods at length here.
Let us first remember few lines from Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 11, "There are two aspects of God or Brahman : (1) the Unmanifested (Nirgun) and (2) the Manifested (Sagun). The Nirgun is formless, while the Sagun is with form, though both denote the same Brahman. Some prefer to worship the former, some the latter. As stated in the Gita (chapter XII) the worship of the latter is easy and preferable. As man has got a form (body, senses, etc.), it is natural and easy for him to worship the God with form. Our love and devotion do not develop unless we worship Sagun Brahman for a certain period of time, and as we advance; it leads us to the worship (meditation) of Nirgun Brahman. So let us start with Sagun (Physical) worship".Beyond all this, let me share some of my views. No necessity has been felt to me till today to pray to Sai Baba in any formal means. Baba has never tied us in clutches of formal worship. In fact He wanted to away from all this. But to please His devotees, He allowed them to worship in any way they wished to. Thus there are no hard and fast rules in any worship of Sai Baba and we can worship, pray as we please.
1. Physical worship :
Physical worship contains vast range of procedures which vary from person to person and is not limited to anyone's discretion, intellect or thinking.
(a) Lighting Lamps :
Lighting lamp can be considered as living image of God. It makes one feel presence of God or Guru. The flame of lamp is its proof. Lightning lamp in morning and evening is sufficient. If at all it is not possible to light lamp in evening you can opt for morning only. Alongwith lighting lamps, one can prefer to light incense sticks or dhoop sticks too. Dhoop stick can be avoided if one wishes.
According to Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 4 "It is believed, that he who burns incense there, on Thursday and Friday evenings will, by God’s grace, be happy".So if Dhoop sticks are lighted on Thursday and Friday evenings it may please Sai Baba.
(b) Doing Abhishek (Holy Bath) and Applying Sandalwood Paste :
In Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 28 we have read about Megha's worship to Baba on Makar Sankranti day by giving bath of Ganges water.This can be followed even today. Sai Baba can be worshiped in the form of His Idol. We can devotedly do Abhishek to Baba's Idol and with plain water and then with rose water (gulab-jal) which is readily available.
Again referring to Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 11, we know Mhalsapati used to apply sandalwood paste on Sai Baba's neck. Dr. Pandit applied the paste of Baba's forehead which was an exceptional case.We can apply sandalwood paste to Baba's idol and that can be considered as our worship.
(c) Chanting Arti :
The original arti composed by Sai devotee Madhav Adkar can be recited. Along with it Ghalin Lontangan hymn can also be recited. Devotees who do not know marathi arti can learn if they wish by listening the audio. If this is not possible any Sai Baba arti can be chanted provided it is done with pure hearted devotion.
(d) Offering flowers and perfumes :
Flowers and fragrance were dear to Baba. Baba with His own toil and efforts made a beautiful garden in Lendibaug. This garden now adorns present Samadhi Mandir premises. Roses are found in plenty in Shirdi. In a way we can think that Baba likes roses. So roses can be offered to Baba as a part of pooja. Jasmine and Bakkal flowers are also dear to Baba.
Chapter 42 of Sacred Text - Sai Satcharitra states, "When Baba attained Mahasamadhi, He appeared in dream of Dasganu and said, "The Masjid collapsed, all the oilmen and grocers of Shirdi teased me a lot, so I leave the place. I therefore came to inform you here, please go there quickly and cover me with 'Bakkal' flowers."In Samadhi Mandir, perfumes are used for Abhishek of Baba's Idol. So perfumes can be used by us too and its fragrance can be of rose, jasmine or bakkal flowers. Also incense sticks and dhoop sticks can be used of the same fragrance.
(e) Offering Naivedhya/Food you eat :
Again i am reminded of an incident from Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 24. Baba made Hemadpant a medium of wit and humour but imparted a very meaningful message to us. He advised us that, before the senses, mind and intellect enjoy their objects, first He should be remembered, and if this be done, it is in a way by making an offering to Him.Bearing this advice in mind we should offer food to Baba before eating let it be anything. It is not necessary that you serve Him with only two time meals as naivedhya, but anything can be offered provided it is offered with love and devotion, then it is sure to be accepted. One refer to Sai Satcharitra if he wishes to find out favourite food of Sai Baba.
(f) Listening Sai Baba Bhajans :
Numerous bhajans are written in praise of Sai Baba and many singers have sung them. So listening bhajans can be a part of your worship which does not have any limits. Baba bore love for singing and dancing. In
Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 5, it is stated that before Sai Baba came to live in this Masjid, He lived for a long time in a place Takia, where with Ghunghru (small bells) on His legs, Sai Baba danced beautifully sang with tender love.Listening bhajans also can away you and help to get more close to Baba. A very huge collection of bhajans can be found on bhajans blog for free downloading.
(g) Feeding Poor and Helpless :
Last but the most important point which can be considered as a part of our worship is to feed poor and helpless. Sai Baba Himself set this example on us by preparing food for villagers of Shirdi with His own hands in earthen pots. We must also try to feed poor and helpless taking it be foremost teaching of Baba and making it our duty to follow it.
(2) Spiritual Worship :
The first step in spiritual worship constitutes a very simple practice of remembering Baba every moment. It is not at all sufficient to remember Baba only at the time of physical worship. Real worship necessarily lies in the fast of remembering Baba 24x7.
General tendency is that we remember and pray to Baba wholeheartedly when we are surrounded by adversity and in happy days our prostration becomes mere formality. So necessarily, it follows that spiritual endeavor can be attained by constantly taking name of Baba, even in waking and sleeping states.
Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 5 lines can be remembered here, "I am the Inner Ruler of all and seated in their hearts. I envelope all the creatures, the movable and immovable world". Also in Sacred Text - Shri Sai Satcharitra Chapter 10 it is quoted, "He told them to leave off all cleverness and always remember 'Sai' 'Sai'. If you did that all your shackles would be removed and you would be free".Now let us move on very interesting way of worship as suggested by Hemadpant, "Let us, he says, use hot water in the form of tears of joy to wash the Sad-guru's feet, let us besmear His body with sandal-paste of pure love, let us cover His body with the cloth of true faith, let us offer eight lotuses in the form of our eight Sattwik emotions and fruit in the form of our concentrated mind; let us apply to His head bukka (black-powder) in the form of devotion and tie the waistband of Bhakti and place our head on his toes." This method can be followed in order to get closer to formless form of Sai Baba.
More than this we can always talk to Baba, share everything with Him and express our feelings. This is very easy to take into practice. If this is constantly practiced a feeling of love bonding will arise in us and it would be easy for us to remember Him 24x7.
Another method which can be followed for spiritual worship of Baba is meditation. Various meditation techniques are found on internet and that can be practiced as per convenience.
Again let us peep in few other teachings of Sacred Text - Sai Satcharitra Chapter 48 given by Baba to Mr. Sapatnekar, "One Namaskar offered with love and humility is enough. Now another instance can be referred from Sacred Text - Sai Satcharitra Chapter 45, Kakasaheb Dixit has doubt about his devotion towards Sai Baba when there was a comparison of discourse of the nine Nathas on Bhakti or devotion. Baba removed his doubt by appearing in vision to Anandrao Pakhade explaining the characteristic of devotion and showing that, the devotion, in the form of bowing down to or worshiping of Guru's feet is sufficient.Thus only one Namashkar and bowing down is a very simple means of worshiping Sai Baba spiritually.
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