Sai Baba's Early Life – Part 3 of 4
Pilgrimage and announcement of Baba's coming
Once the Maharaj (Baba's Guru) started with his family on a pilgrimage to Kasi. The vast entourage of the palanquin carriers, cooks, servants, family friends and the vast number of relatives, friends who were his dependents, pundits and priests also accompanied him on the pilgrimage. Enroute they had to stay at a village for the night. The villagers provided them with a house, which had all the facilities for comfortable stay. But it happened to be a haunted den of the devil. All had finished their evening meal and slept. It was approaching midnight. The sky was moonless and dark. At that time, suddenly a grotesque shape came and stood in front of the Maharaj. It had vermilion smeared on its forehead and had long fangs. It had uncombed hair falling in a disorderly manner to its waist. It was pitch black in colour and it was making obscene gestures with its hands and shouting and jumping about. The Maharaj was seated in silence on a wooden plank and was immersed in contemplation of the almighty. The devil could not summon up the courage to approach him. From afar, it shouted at the Maharaj, "Why had you come to my house?" The Maharaj replied, "Where indeed is your house. It is your ego and the feeling of mine which has brought you to this dismal state. This house has been constructed with wood, mud and stone. Please let me know what have you created among these? Why are you claiming something which is not yours and in which you have nothing to be attached to?" The devil was annoyed by the words of the Maharaj. It took a burning brand in its hands and started raving and ranting. The Maharaj took some holy water, in which the god's images have been bathed, in his palm and threw the water on to the devil.
The devil immediately regained the memory of its past and clasping the Maharaj's feet begged him, "Maharaj, please release me from this state. I was a rich moneylender in the past. In the pride of my wealth, I never used to care for anyone. I was a miser and did not give even a paisa to charity. I had my wife aborted and I drove her away from the house fearing that it would be an additional expenditure to care for the children if she bears them. I was such a miser I drove my wife many times to her parents house fearing the expense of feeding and clothing her. I had a younger brother. I did all sorts of harm to him. I did not even want to spend for the ceremony of my father's death anniversary and made a big scene about it. In this way I earned a lot of money, hid it all in a pot, and died a miserable death craving for more and more money even in my last hours of life. I had entangled myself in that whirlpool of thirst for wealth and became a devil like this. Please save me from this miserable ending." The devil showed Maharaj the money it had hidden and requested him to use that vast wealth for charity and in doing good works. It said, "Maharaj please save me or it will be a black mark against your own fame. If one bathes in the vast ocean and body is still dry how insulting is it to the ocean? If the fragrance of musk does not spread to the dust too on one's body will it not besmirch its fame as a perfume?"
The Maharaj took pity on the devil. He consoled the devil and promised to spend the vast hoard on charity and thereby grant it relief from its wretched existence. He got all that buried treasure put in carts and readied for the journey the next morning. The villagers all came the next day and were surprised to find the Maharaj and his entourage still alive. They said, "Any one who stayed in this house had travelled straight to Hades the very night." "How has the Maharaj managed to stay alive," they wondered. They concluded that he was not an ordinary man but a great saint who had realized his Self and fell at his feet. Maharaj recounted to them the story of the devil and the villagers were happy that they were going to be rid of the devil very soon.
The Maharaj used all the money for charity at Kasi and released the devil from its wretched existence. The Maharaj visited Kasi, Prayag and later went to Ayodhya located on the banks of the Sarayu River. From there he went to Kurukshetra, Brindavan, Gokulam, Mathura, Dwaraka, Somnath, and Paithan and went to Junagarh to have darshan of Mehta. Later he went to Ahmedabad and had the darshan of Surag Shah's dargah. The history of Surag Shah has been written by Mahipathi in 'Bhakta Leelamrit' in chapter 43. I will relate to you the divine leela which occurred when the Maharaj visited Surag Shah's dargah.
As the Maharaj neared the dargah, the dargah started sweating, and then proceeded to speak. It said, "Salaam alaikum. You were Ramananda Maharshi in your past life. Oh ocean of kindness you have not forgotten me. I have been able to recognize you even though you are the desmukh of Selu village in the Nizam kingdom. About 10 miles from Selu village is the village Manawat. Your disciple Kabir has taken birth there as the son of a fakir. This is the truth. The Selu village is blessed by your residing there." The keepers of the dargah were surprised as to from where the words were coming. They realised later that it was a conversation between two mahatmas. The Maharaj started from there and visited Dakur pattan and Sidhapura and later reached Selu.
By the time he reached home, the Maharaj's son Lakshmanrao was dead. Gopalrao's wife and daughter-in-law were weeping as if their hearts would break. Gopalrao was unmoved.He told in his daughter-in-law, "My girl, a bubble has burst. It is futile to cry about it in this manner. We paint the walls of the house and over time, the paint fades. Do the wise cry because the paint has faded? Can anyone assuage his thirst from a mirage? This world is a mirage. Sheer delusion is this world. What you see all around you is purely temporary. This is all a magic show. In truth, who is born and who dies? All the relationships that we have, all these entanglements are the illusions in the city of magic located in the world of our dreams. As a lake dries up, the reflection of the sun in it vanishes. Does it prove that the sun is non existent? This too is the same. Cease this futile sorrow and tears. Look after your son Khanderao. There is no use of further tears." His daughter-in-law was comforted by these words of wisdom. The last rites of Lakshamanrao were performed.
That Maharaj was the abode of all good qualities such as shama, dama, the restraint of mind and organs and uparati. As his fame spread far and wide, many people came for his darshan. Some of them had long standing stubborn diseases cured by his darshan. Some got wealth and some were put on right moral path by the Maharaj.
(SRI SAIGURUCHARITRA - by devotee Ganpatrao Dattatreya Sahasra-buddhebetter known as Das Ganu Maharaj)