THE LORD'S MY SHEPHERD
(A story of greed by Sri Narasimha Swamiji)
A brilliant and accomplished writer was invited to deliver a talk on Psalm 23 - "The Lord is My Shepherd." For over an hour he spoke feelingly on the thought content, the beautiful language, the lyrical verse and the poetic metaphors in the Psalm. At the end of the talk, an old pastor came up and shook his hands. His eyes were touched with tears, and he asked if he could recite the Psalm to conclude the meeting. The speaker requested him to do so.
The old man held his hands in devotion and with eyes closed in piety, recited the entire psalm from memory. A hushed silence fell on the audience.
The speaker said to his audience; "I know the psalm. But this gentleman here knows the Shepherd!"
Sai Baba occasionally narrated a few reminiscences of his own past births. These were never taken down and most are forgotten. But a few are still fresh in the memory of the hearers. One of these is given below, substantially as given out by Baba. The readers will note how every sentence of his brims with wisdom and virtue; and now, for centuries, Baba is the same Samartha carrying on his mission of helping humanity with his superhuman power, lofty principles and benign impartiality.
One morning Sai Baba strolled along till he came to a river bank. There he sat under a tree, admiring the dense foliage of an alley and lit his pipe with a pair of flints. A wayfarer came up and the hospitable Baba gave him a few puffs out of his pipe. Then a peculiar sound was heard.
Wayfarer: Let us see what the matter is.
Sai Baba: Matter! It is the croaking in pain of a frog seized by a snake. It is reaping the fruit of its own karma. What we have done in the past comes to us now as present suffering. And yet there is an outcry against Fate!
The wayfarer went out to see the frog for himself.
Sai Baba (without leaving his seat): The frog is caught by a huge serpent and is crying. But both the frog and the serpent were wicked in their past birth and have come into their present bodies to reap their reward.
The wayfarer, returning to Baba: Yes, I went and saw. A big frog, it is, in the mouth of a huge black serpent. In 10 or 20 minutes, it will be all over with the poor frog!
Sai Baba: No I am its father and am here. Will I let the snake eat it? Just see how I release it!
Then Baba walked on to the place where the frog was. The wayfarer who was going in advance suddenly took fright.
Wayfarer: Baba! let us go back. Do not go nearer. The serpent may fly at us.
Sai Baba: Do not fear.
Sai Baba then went near and thus addressed the creatures.
Sai Baba: Hallo! Veerabhadrappa! Even now, you have no pity for your enemy Basappa though he has now taken birth as a frog, just as you have turned into a serpent? Shame! Shame upon your hatred! Get rid of hatred and rest in peace!
These words acted like magic. The snake let go its prey, dived into the river and was lost to sight. The frog hopped away and hid in some tree.
Wayfarer: What a wonder! I cannot see why the snake dropped its prey at your words. Which of these creatures is Veerabhadrappa? And which Basappa? Give me their full history, please.
Sai Baba resumed his seat, shared a few puffs with his visitor at his pipe and spoke: Some 6 or 7 miles off my place, there was a village sanctified by a temple of Maheshwara. That temple was getting dilapidated. So the villagers began to collect funds for its renovation. The treasurer appointed was a rich miser. He spent but little of the collections on the renovation which consequently made very poor progress; and he swallowed much of the public funds. Seeing the work thus hampered, God appeared in a dream and told the wife of the treasurer: "If you spend any money in renovating this temple, Maheshwara will give it to you back a hundredfold". On waking, the wife communicated the dream to her husband. But he sniffed "expenditure" as the drift of her dream and this Shylock would launch into no such venture. He replied that this was no business proposition. Was he not the man in charge of funds? If God meant business, would He not have come to him? And how far was he from her?
Another night, God again came to the wife in her dream and said: "Do not bother yourself about your husband and his money. Give, if you like, out of your own." The wife then told her Lord that she was going to endow the temple with the value of her own jewels. They were worth Rs. 1000. Then this treasurer, not content with the amounts already embezzled by him, wanted to do Maheshwara, even in this transaction. He told the wife that he would take the jewels himself and give them to God i.e. the temple, his vast stretch of land as its endowment; and the simple woman agreed. But the land was not his. It was the property of one Dubaki, a poor widow, who was just then too poor to redeem it. But there was no period of limitation for exercising the right of redemption. And the present possession of the land was worth nothing. It was barren, saline coastland yielding nothing in the best of seasons.
Thus ended this transaction; and sometime later there was a terrific storm. Lightning struck down the house of the treasurer. He and his wife died. That lady was born in the same village, as the daughter of the temple priest, to whom the above land, had been given as service inam. And she was named Gowri. She had come back to enjoy the land and the priest who was very fond of her devoted the land to her use. Then he adopted a boy Basappa who was no other than Dubaki, the mortgager of that land in the previous birth. Basappa was to have the reversion after or a joint right with Gowri.
Gowri had to be married and the priest came to his great friend Sai Baba, living in a mosque in that birth also, and asked for advice. Baba told him to wait for the man destined to marry her would himself soon turn up. Then came a poor boy of their caste, named Veerabhadrappa, and he married Gowri. Who was Veerabhadrappa? That embezzler of public money, and God's money, the treasurer. He had been born of poor parents at Muttra and named Veerabhadrappa. Veerabhadrappa was at first devoted to Baba as the latter had proposed his marriage to Gowri.
But the old hankering for wealth was still working in Veerabhadrappa and he appealed to the Fakir Baba to get him wealth. Baba told him to wait, for the suitable time would be coming soon.
And it came. For that vast stretch of coast land, there was at last a demand and a sudden appreciation of value. It sold for Rs. 1, 00,000 (just 100 times the worth of the jewels) a moiety of which was paid down in cash, the rest being payable in 24 annual installments. Now was Veerabhadrappa's chance. He tried to clutch at that money. Basappa was naturally hostile to his claims and resisted his efforts.
Baba's intercession was sought and Baba pointed out that Gowri had the right to the entire money and that none else should interfere. Veerabhadrappa got angry with Basappa and Baba. He threatened to kill Basappa who, in his cowardice, sought refuge from Baba. Baba plighted his word that he would shield him from the wrath of his wicked foe. Then the parties to this feud died. Veerabhadrappa was born as the serpent and was still unrelenting in his hatred. The coward Basappa was born as a frog. Veerabhadrappa tried even in this birth to kill his enemy.
Winding up, Baba said, "Hearing the miserable croaking of Basappa, and remembering my pledge to save him, I am here. I have kept my word and saved him." Baba then changed his expression and said "God saved Basappa, his devotee, by sending me. All this is God's leela or sport."
This may be taken for a perfectly true history. For Baba never spoke anything but truth. This anecdote has been embodied in grand sonorous Olivares in Dabolkar's Sai Satcharitra Ch. 47.
That book is read for daily study, "Parayana" by numerous devotees of Sai Baba. One day, Mr. G. B. Dattar, B.A., LL.B., a Pleader of Thana, was reading it. A lady in the house was listening to it in a half drowsy condition. She suffered from periodical internal pains. As she listened, she burst out half involuntarily, in that drowsy condition, and said "Baba, you have such pity for a dumb irrational creature. Have you no pity for me, a human being?"
Then she heard a voice emanating apparently from a peg in the wall saying "Will you give me Rs. 5 Dakshina for the Dasara?" And she answered she would, if she was cured. At once she woke up from her dozing condition and had the money sent up to Sai Samsthan. She began to improve and in some hours, her agony considerably abated. This was in 1932.