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Thursday, September 11, 2014

The man who taught me Faith and Patience

Let’s not miss learning from fellow human beings, and being human, in our quest for God – a God who belongs to a (our) religion!

Picture Courtesy: Outlook/Internet
The latest issue of Outlook magazine, through its cover story, examines the “controversy” over Shirdi Sai Baba stirred by the Shankaracharya of Dwaraka Peeth in Gujarat. The Shankaracharya, Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati, says Outlook, believes that Sai Baba was neither a God nor a Saint, besides he was a Muslim who ate meat, and hence he should not be worshipped by Hindus. In response to a question from Outlook’s Prachi Pinglay-Plumber, Saraswati adds: “We are worried that if our devotees go there, they will stray from our religion. We believe one gets salvation by remembering God’s name at the time of death. But if people take Sai’s name, then what? He was not a god or a saint.

I don’t wish to either educate Swami Saraswati on secularism nor do I wish to ask Outlook why it has chosen to project, on the cover, personal opinions of a few and make the whole story “appear controversial”. To me Shirdi Sai Baba was one of the greatest human beings that lived on this planet. There’s no bigger religion than humanity itself – and Baba espoused the cause of humanity through his teachings and the way he led his Life.

My own encounter with Baba’s teachings was a sheer accident. One weekend night, about 10 years ago, I was bored switching channels on TV. I was drinking my favorite whisky and, for lack of anything else better to do, I glanced at my bookshelf. Our personal copy of Sai Satcharita had been there for many, many years. But that night I picked it up and started reading it. The volume we had was a poor English translation of the Marathi original. The sentences were badly constructed and reading it was struggle initially. But in the hour or so that I spent with my drink and the book, three key takeaways emerged: 1. (Keep the) Faith 2. (Practice) Patience 3. Sab Ka Maalik Ek (There’s only one Creator for all of us; one Higher Energy!). Over this past decade, Baba’s twin doctrines of Faith (Shraddha) and Patience (Saburi) have become the guiding posts of my tumultuous Life. They have not only helped me find my way each time I am lost, they have also helped me anchor within. Through Baba’s continuous championing of Sab Ka Maalik Ek, I have inferred that Life is the Greatest Teacher, the Highest Energy, that powers the Universe and keeps us all alive. This awareness has led me to stop seeking God outside of me and has helped me go within, to find my true Self. One of the most admirable qualities in Baba, which I learnt about from studying his Life, was his compassion for people – irrespective of who they were, what religion they followed and what backgrounds they came from. I salute him for the practice he followed of cooking for and feeding people – everyday that he lived. In fact, this is a best practice that all Sai institutions across the world follow even today.

To me, therefore, Baba’s religious background is irrelevant. I don’t even want to know if he was indeed a Saint or if he was an incarnation of God. What is important is that he was a great human being and taught us all to be humane.

Yes, he did perform miracles. I was born almost half a century after he left this planet. And I did not turn to learning from Baba’s teachings, until a decade ago. Even so, I have felt his presence in my Life – through the compassion and kindness of fellow human beings. Every time my family and I have needed something – someone has always walked into our Life and fulfilled those needs. I have recounted some of these experiences in my Book “Fall Like A Rose Petal – A father’s lessons on how to be happy and content while living without money” (Westland, August 2014). Now if you want to call them Baba’s miracles, so they are. But if you were to look at them as “the milk of human kindness”, Baba wouldn’t have a problem with you at all – for that’s what he championed. That we humans be there for each other, irrespective of our social and religious backgrounds!

A large mass of humanity is searching for answers to live Life better. Some of that search, as in my case, takes us to people, like Baba, who inspire us to be better human beings. Don’t you think we miss the whole point when we don’t salute a great human being just because we are obsessed with finding a God who belongs to a (our) religion!?  

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