In chapter 21, Sai Baba told Anantrao Patankar a parable of Nine Balls of Stool (Nava-Vidha Bhakti). Baba said there are nine forms of Bhakti: 1. Shravan – Hearing 2. Kirtan – Praying 3. Smaran – Remembering 4. Padasevan – Resorting to Feet 5. Archan – Worship 6. Namaskar – Bowing 7. Dasya – Service 8. Sakhyam – Friendship 9. Atmanivedan – Surrender of the Self. If any of these is faithfully followed, Lord Hari will be pleased and manifest Himself in the home of the devotee.
Now let us see how Baba practiced all these Himself and gave us practical examples :
1. Shravan (Hearing Praises) :
Baba used to ask educated devotees like Kakasaheb Dixit and Bapusaheb Jog to read out Jnaneshwari, Eknathi Bhagwat, and Bharavarth Ramayana to others regularly and send other devotees to hear them. About Sacred text – Sai Satcharitra Baba Himself said,
“Hearing My stories and teachings will create faith in devotees’ hearts and they will easily get self-realization and bliss” – .Chapter 2 – Shri Sai Satcharitra
2. Kirtan (Singing Praises)
We have seen that Baba used to get Kirtans performed during festivals like Ramnavami (birth-anniversary of Lord Rama) and Janmashtami (birth-anniversary of Lord Krishna in the open space in front of Dwarkamai. In year 1914, Das Ganu Maharaj was permanently entrusted function of doing Kirtan. Even more, Baba made him dress like Sage Narada from whom the Kirtan Paddhati originated by wearing nothing on his torso and head, carrying a pair of Chiplis in his hand and a garland around his neck. Actually, it was Baba who made Das Ganu Maharaj give up his service in the Police department and take to singing God’s praises – Chapter 15.
Baba assures, “If a man earnestly sings about My life and My deeds, him I shall beset in front and back and on all sides. Believe Me that if anybody sings My Leelas, I will give him infinite joy and ever-lasting contentment.Chapter 2 – Shri Sai Satcharitra
In the same chapter, it was seen how Rohila used to recite, in a loud and harsh tone the Kalma (verses from Holy Quran) and shout “Allah Ho Akbar” (God is Great). The villagers suffered this nuisance for some days in silence, and when they could stand it no longer, they approached Baba and requested Him to check Rohila and stop the nuisance. Baba, instead of attending to the complaints of the villagers, in turn, took the side of Rohila and asked villagers to mind their own business. As Baba liked prayers and cries of God better than anything else, asked villagers to wait and bear with the nuisance quietly.
3. Smaran (Remembering Form and Name)
Smaran means naam-smaran which means constantly repeating name of Lord by remembering His form.
Chapter – 27 of Sacred text – Sai Satcharitra says – The efficacy of God’s name is well-known. It saves us from all sins and bad tendencies and frees us from the cycle of births and deaths. There is no easier Sadhana than this. It is the best purifier of our mind. It requires no paraphernalia and no restrictions. Thus in the same chapter, it is seen that Baba forced His intimate devotee Shama to accept Ramdasi’s copy of Vishnu Sahastranaam and learn to recite it.
Also in the chapter – 3 Baba says, “If a man utters My name with love, I shall fulfill as his wishes, increase his devotion. If you always say “Sai, Sai, I shall take you over the seven seas believe in these words, and you will be certainly benefited.” – Chapter 13.
4. Padasevan (Service of Feet)
Padasevan means salutation to the deity of worship or Guru by respectfully touching His feet with both hands and resting one’s head on them or massaging them. Padasevan also includes remembering and meditating.
In connection to this, in the Sacred text – Sai Satcharitra it is written as, “He is sitting with His legs folded, the right leg held across the left knee. The fingers of His left hand are spread on the right foot. On the toe are spread His two fingers – the index and middle ones. By this posture Baba seems to say – if you want to see My true form, by egoless and most humble, and meditate on My toe through the opening between – index and middle finger – and then you will be able to see My light”.
Similarly, in the picture Mhalsapati and Shama Baba are sitting with both legs spread out in front, as if making it convenient for devotees to salute or massage them. In short, Baba encouraged the method of Padasevan Bhakti.
To drink water used for washing the feet of one’s deity or Sadguru or to sprinkle it on one’s head as a symbol of a bath is also part of Padasevan. As seen in Chapter 4, under the title Das Ganu’s Bath in Prayag, Baba convinced not only Das Ganu but all of us that such water is as holy and meritorious as the waters of Ganga and Yamuna rivers at their confluence at Prayag. (Allahabad) which he proved by miraculously making the streams of water of these rivers flow through His toes. Similarly in Chapter 45 when Kakasaheb Dixit was surrounded by doubts about his own devotion after reading Chapter 2 of Eknath Bhagwat about the very tough Bhakti of nine Naths Siddhas of Rishabh family, Sai Baba arranged the narration of Anandrao Pakhade’s dream for convincing Kakasaheb that bowing to the feet of one’s deity or guru is a quite sufficient form of bhakti or devotion.
5. Archana (Worship)
Archana means worship of one’s deity or guru in person or through His picture or idol. This includes bathing feet, applying sandalpaste on forehead, decorating with clothes and flowers, waving of lights and offering Naivedya, etc.
in the beginning, Sai Baba did not allow His devotees to perform any such worship. But later on due to the insistence of devotees, He allowed them to do so, and even today Sai Baba’s worship is being carried on in the same manner daily in Samadhi Mandir at Shirdi.
6. Vandana (Bowing)
It was always otherwise for Sai Baba to make a person visiting Him bow down. However sometimes Baba did make some bow down to Him as Mulay Shashtri (Chapter 12), or a doctor devotee of Rama (Chapter 35), Kaka Mahajani’s master Sheth Thakkar Dharamsey by showing some miracles. But this was only to convince them and other devotees to present the importance of bowing down and surrendering completely before a saint and not for showing his own importance or greatness. Taking care of the author of Sacred text – Shri Sai Satcharitra Hemadpant, his experience when he first bowed down to Baba at Shirdi,
“I ran and prostrated before Baba and then my joy knew no bounds. All my senses were satisfied and forgot thirst and hunger. The moment I touched Sai Baba’s feet, I began a new lease of life” – .Chapter – 2 of Shri Sai Satcharitra
7. Dasya (Service)
Radhakrishna Mai was a beautiful young widow. She never came to Masjid during Baba’s presence and always covered her face with the end of her saree in front of Baba. She most willingly and regularly carried out the task of renovating the Masjid and cleaning the path from which Baba used to pass. With her toil and efforts, Shirdi took the form of Sansthan. Learned and most educated men like Kakasaheb Dixit, Vamanrao Patel, and Bapusaheb Buti were sent to her by Baba.
This Laxmibai Shinde was a good and well-to-do woman. She was working in the Masjid day and night. Except for Bhagat Mhalasapati, Tatya and Laxmibai, none was allowed to step into the Masjid at night. Once while Baba was sitting in the Masjid with Tatya in the evening, Laxmibai came and saluted Baba. The latter said to her – “Oh Laxmi, I am very hungry.” Off she went saying – “Baba, wait a bit, I return immediately with bread.” She did return with bread and vegetables and placed the same before Baba. He took it up and gave it to a dog. Laxmibai then asked – “What is this, Baba, I ran in haste, prepared bread with my own hands for You and You threw it to a dog without eating a morsel of it; You gave me trouble unnecessarily.” Baba replied – “Why do you grieve for nothing? The appeasement of the dog’s hunger is the same as Mine. The dog has got a soul; the creatures may be different, but the hunger of all is the same, though some speak and others are dumb. Know for certain, that he who feeds the hungry, really serves Me with food. Regard this as an axiomatic Truth.” This is an ordinary incident but Baba thereby propounded a great spiritual truth and showed its practical application in daily life without hurting anybody’s feelings. From this time onward Laxmibai began to offer Him daily bread and milk with love and devotion. Baba accepted and ate it appreciatingly. He took a part of this and sent the remainder with Laxmibai to Radha-Krishna-Mai who always relished and ate Baba’s remnant prasad. This bread story should not be considered as a digression; it shows, how Sai Baba pervaded all the creatures and transcended them. He is omnipresent, birthless, deathless, and immortal – Chapter – 42`.
8. Sakhya (Friendship)
In Sacred text – Sai Satcharitra the only unique example of friendly love is love between Sai Baba and Shama.
He had spent about 42-43 years continuously in Baba’s company. Baba used to address him out of love and fondness as “Shama” or sometimes “Shamya” and Madhavrao in return used to address Baba as “Deva” i.e. God. No one else could dare to talk to Baba in such a manner nor could anyone argue with Him so boldly. I would say it is indeed Baba’s wish that Shama behaved so.
In chapter 36, we see how Baba once jokingly even pinched Shama on his cheek, and in the same chapter, we see how Shama had said to Mrs. Aurangabadkar who had presented a coconut to Baba with the hope of getting a son, “Dear Madam! You are the witness to my words. If within 12 months you do not get any issue, I will break a coconut against this Deva’s head and drive Him out of this Masjid” What audacity! Who else could speak such words to Baba Who was known to get into sudden fits of anger and even hit devotees with His stick?
In Chapter 46, we had seen how Baba arranged for Shama’s comfortable pilgrimage to Kashi, Gaya, and Prayag free of cost.
9. Atma-Nivedan (Surrender)
Atma-Nivedan means complete surrender to God. Apart from worldly attachments a devotee surrenders his intellect and ego in this form of devotion. Without Atma-Nivedan or complete surrender of self, there is no escape from the chain of births and deaths. Smarana is the beginning and Atma-Nivedan is the end of Bhakti.
The case of Kakasaheb Dixit is the best example of Atma-Nivedan. It was known that Kakasaheb Dixit left his wife, children, and well-settled business and made Shirdi his permanent home. After the death of his loving daughter Vatsali in 1911, Kakasaheb Dixit isolated himself from worldly attachments. He decided to live on whatever he could earn with the grace of the Almighty. He brought all his wealth to Shirdi and placed it at the Lotus Feet of Baba. Sai Baba knew that Kakasaheb will need money in the future so He said, “O Keep the money with you only. It will be useful in your old age”.
Kakasaheb said, “Your blessings are with me. I do not need this money.” Kakasaheb emptied the bag of money before Baba even though He refused.
Baba did not keep even a single penny with Him and donated all the money generously among other devotees present in Dwarkamai.
Famous judge of Mumbai Shri Garade was also present in Dwarkamai on this occasion. He was surprised at this deed of Kakasaheb.
Kakasaheb did not mind Baba’s not accepting his gift and distributing it among the devotees. He wore the same smile on his face which was always present. Kakasaheb said to Baba while pressing His legs, “Baba this world is full of pits and falls, please have mercy on me and give me permission to sacrifice this Sansar.” What a great renunciation and what a complete surrender to Sadguru Shri Sainath!!!
Once Kakasaheb Dixit was asked to kill a goat with a knife and although a brahmin by caste had never known killing in his life, Kakasaheb not giving a second thought to his action got ready to do it. When stopped by Baba he said, “Your nectar-like word is a law unto us, we do not know any other ordinance. We remember You always, meditate on Your Form, and obey You day and night, we do not know or consider whether it is right or wrong to kill, we do not want to reason or discuss things, but implicit and prompt compliance with Guru’s orders is our duty and dharma.”
These are nine forms of bhakti that Baba Himself taught us. In a discussion in the last post about devotion, we had seen that Baba encouraged the Manifested (Sagun) type of devotion. But taking the example of Radhabai Deshmukh who was insisting on getting a mantra or updesh from Him, a very simple but most effective form of Bhakti, “Look at a Me wholeheartedly and I, in turn, will look at you similarly”. Later Baba said, Meditate always on My formless nature which is knowledge incarnate, consciousness, and bliss. If you cannot do this, meditate on My form, top to toe as you see here night and day. As you go on doing this, your virties will be one-pointed and the distinction between the Dhyata (meditator), Dhyana (meditation), and Dheye (thing meditated on) will be lost and the meditator will be one with the consciousness and be merged in the Brahma. s the tortoise feeds her young ones, whether they are near her or away from her on the other side of the river bank, by her loving looks.”
Now after reading details about devotion, how can we forget the main mantra given to us by Baba? The simplest method for devotion He gave us was to keep Shraddha (complete faith) and Saburi (patience). For His devotion and long-living love affair with Him, we need these two basic qualities and He is sure to make us sail over.