Thursday, August 20, 2015

Shirdi Diary . . . July 2015 (II)

Shirdi Diary
Source: Google Images

There is no dearth of devotees’ experiences to re-affirm the belief that Baba is truly a ‘karuna-avtaar’ (abode of grace) and ‘bhakta-paradheen’ (slave to the devotees). After hearing the experience of Amma (shared in my previous post), Baba’s words echoed in my years as I debarked from the train, “If you take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you.” Every time I read or hear the experiences of the devotees recollecting Baba’s grace, I get goose bumps. A strange mix of feeling overtakes me making me restless, envious and wishful (all at the same time) & I aspire to be the one of many souls to experience similar miracles so as to feel further closer to HIM (is it what we call being human – the tendency to crave for things a bit more, I don’t know). Reading and listening to HIS divine leelas are always soothing to the soul, calming even the ever fickle heart by sprinkling fresh droplets of HIS name.

Debarking from the train, I walked out of the station towards the flurry of auto rickshaws standing outside. After speaking to a couple of auto drivers, I managed to get a seat in one of them. It was already dark outside, as the train was running late by about 4-5 hours it reached Kopargaon at about ten in the night. Baba’s Shej Aarti (night prayers) is held every night at 2230 hours, subsequent to which curtains are drawn and Baba goes to sleep. Hence, Baba’s darshan that night appeared improbable. Thus, I decided to attend the Kakad Aarti (morning prayers) next day and have early morning darshan of Baba.

It was about eleven or so when I finally reached Shirdi. There is surely something magical about the place and the moment one steps in on this pious land, the feeling of peace and serenity engulfs the soul and you feel a step closer to HIM. As I was tracing my random steps on the partly silent roads of Shirdi, my mind was racing back to Baba and HIS times - wondering this must be the path where HE would have kept HIS lotus feet, this must be the wall where HE would have rested HIS back, this must be the place where HE would have halted for some time, this must be the home from where HE would have asked for the alms, this must be air HE would have breathed once upon a time. . . and so on and so forth. The thoughts and notions thrilled me while filling my heart with the longing if I would have been fortunate enough to have witnessed HIS grace in the mortal self.

As I crossed the temple building (booti wada) which houses Baba’s idol and HIS Samadhi, I prostrated. After roaming for some time, I checked in one of the budget hotels and rented a room. As the midnight hour approached, my eyes felt heavy with sleep and at first I thought about taking a short nap before getting ready for the morning darshan of Baba. But the next very moment the realization dwelt upon me about my good old ‘wake-up call apathy syndrome’ and I decided against it. After taking some rest for about half an hour, I took a shower and headed towards the temple to join the queue for the ‘Kakad Aarti’ along-with many other devotees.

While I entered the darshan hall, I saw some familiar faces waving at me and signaling me to join them. They were about three - four people who were my fellow mates in the auto rickshaw while coming to Shirdi from Kopargaon. After exchanging initial pleasantries, we all sat at the floor waiting for the time to wake Baba up. The waiting hall was filled to its capacity with enthusiastic devotees who were waiting eagerly for the morning time. The exuberant feeling was easily visible on their faces that were lit up with the realization that they would actually be witnessing Baba’s morning aarti. As the time passed by one by one most of the devotees started dozing off – some sitting on the benches, some sitting on the floor and some lying thereon.

Suddenly a person amongst us spoke, “Baba rightly says, ‘However distant my people may be, I draw them to me just as we pull a bird to us with a string tied to its foot.’ He smiled and continued, “You know when last time I came to Shirdi, which was about a year back, I had Baba’s darshan in the temple and went to cloak room to get my belongings (mobile etc.). There was a heavy rush in the temple that day and darshan queue was also very long. When I came out of the cloak room, I saw a charging point outside and thought of charging my phone for ten – fifteen minutes. As I connected the charger, I sat there with my eyes closed and being exhausted fully, I snoozed. Perhaps I was half slept when suddenly I saw one big idol of Baba cooking something in a big vessel and I suddenly woke up in a jittery. I plucked out the charger and started walking. I didn’t know nor did I realize where I was going. And I also didn’t bother to find out as there some divine energy which was guiding me and my steps. About fifteen – twenty minutes of walking, I found myself standing infront of a large idol of Baba which was exactly similar to what I saw in my vision – it was the Prasadalaya building outside which that idol rests. I just can’t narrate how I felt. I am still getting goose bumps as I am narrating those moments.”

The idol which the person saw in his vision is actually situated in the Prasadalaya premises, an eatery located few minutes from the temple, where food is served as Baba’s Prasad to the devotees.

“Really” I was bemused, as I always am whenever I hear such divine experiences, “I mean you didn’t know about the place before! You were blessed, for sure.”

“Yes I didn’t know about the place before and I am sure I was blessed. Before that point of time, nothing of this sort ever happened to me” he smiled.

“You are right brother. I can also vouch for it. Baba’s assurances and statements are always true and fair. As HE says, ‘My people do not come to me of their own accord; it is I who seek and bring them to me’ spoke another person sitting near us.

“I also had a similar experience sometime back. Actually I was never an ardent follower of Baba unlike my wife who is HIS staunch devotee. This was when I was going to Mussoorie with my wife and we halted in Dehradun for a night with some of our relatives. When we woke up in the morning to continue our journey to Mussoorie, my wife shared with me a dream she saw in the night. She had the vision of Baba calling her to HIS temple. She persuaded me to look for Baba’s temple in Dehradun so that both of us can go there. I ignored her saying that it was nothing but a dream and we should hurry lest we would be late” he stopped in between and drank some water from the bottle. All of us were eagerly waiting for him to resume the narration.

He resumed, “And thus, dissuading her completely, we started our journey to Mussoorie and just when we were about to cross Dehradun our car broke down. I was aghast. I came out of the car asked about some mechanic from shops around. Fortunately, there was a car repair shop just nearby and we were able to arrange for the mechanic soon. As he was checking the car, my wife showed me a board just across the road which read ‘Sai Mandir – 1 Km’. While I was still contemplating, the mechanic said that there is no issue in the car per se, everything seems fine. He asked me to start it once again and when I tried to my utter surprise it started. The mechanic told me that at times it happens due to engine becoming hot and left. I sat there inside the car for about five minutes thinking hard about whatever just transpired and turned it towards the temple. We had a blissful darshan of Baba and post that we continued our journey to Mussoorie.”

“I don’t know whether breaking of car just near the temple road was a mere coincidence or HIS unique way of calling me to HIM. I am still baffled as to how can the engine become hot so quickly, considering we started just a while back when the car broke. But post that day, I had stopped searching for logic in HIS inscrutable ways.”

We all smiled and then everyone went silent, perhaps the drowsiness was overtaking each one of us. My mind was rushing towards both these incidents and also towards Amma’s story (which I had narrated in the first part of the post). Those all seem unbelievable, but as they say faith make it possible – HIS ways are truly inscrutable, especially for the simple beings like us. The person who just narrated his experience was right we should cease to see logic in God’s way.

At about four or so in the morning, suddenly the lights were switched on and the whole hall was filled with the chants of ‘Om Sai Ram’ ‘Sai Baba Ki Jai’. The environment which was moments ago dull and silent was suddenly oozing with chants and activities. The devotees who moments ago laid half cautious being conquered by the sleep queen were suddenly defying all lousiness and singing Baba’s slogan. The exuberance and enthusiasm overtook each of the soul present and everyone stood onto their feet waiting for the moment when they all would be before Baba’s idol waking HIM up.

And then the most awaited moment arrived and the queue started moving and just in few minutes we were inside the sanctum that house Baba’s idol and HIS Samadhi. Inside the temple the preference is given to the VIP pass holders and once they are accommodated the turn for general devotees like us comes. Since, we didn’t have any passes, we were seated in the hall just before Baba’s idol and as luck would have it, I managed to sit just in front of Baba. While there were people with paid passes standing on either side of the idol, there stood we with Baba’s pass sitting exactly in front of HIM.

The priest then started the Kakad Aarti (morning prayers) and it appeared that the whole premise was immersed into the aura of devotion and veneration. The verses of morning aarti are indeed soothing to the ears depicting the emotions of devotees attempting to wake Baba up from the sleep. The environment during aarti (prayer) time in Shirdi is beyond explanation. Though, the verses are predominantly in Marathi, which most of the devotees are not acquainted with; each one of them still enjoyed the same to the maximum. No matter where you see, everyone seems to be absorbed fully clapping and swinging his body. That’s what the language of love and devotion is all about. No matter what dialect you speak which manner you use the message does creep in the soul. Close your eyes and imagine amongst the one in that hall and see how people from all casts, races and creeds are ceasing their self, bound by that one string of love and devotion. The irony, however, is that the moment they step out in the outer world that string lays buried inside and cloaks of casts, races and creeds once again assumes supremacy.

The aarti was followed by bathing of Baba’s idol which was surely a sight for anyone to watch for. Shortly after that, the darshan resumed and devotees like me flocked in enthusiasm to offer their prayers.

After offering prayers, I headed to Nandadeep (which is one of my favorite places in Sai Dhaam Shirdi), wherein there is a small temple type structure under a need tree which houses a perpetually burning lamp. This is known as ‘Nandadeep’ (the lamp of bliss) or Akhanda Deep – the perpetually burning lamp. Baba Himself is said to have lit this lamp & later instructed Abdul Baba to see that it’s burning through-out. HE enjoyed spending time here meditating without preferring any interference. It is said that Baba liked to sit here in contemplation & introspection and was often seeing talking loudly with HIS face pointing towards the sky as if having conversation with someone up above the sky. Sitting below this tree and taking circumambulation around the tree gives inexplicable peace to the soul. 

After spending some time in Baba’s dwarkamai, I returned to my room. As there was about an hour left for me to leave for the station. I thought of taking some rest. But yet again that wake-up call apathy syndrome struck me and my incautiousness broke just five minutes before the time I thought to leave for the station. Hurriedly I packed my luggage and ran to catch an auto for Kopargaon. Luckily I (yet again) reached station in time and boarded the train back with a silent pray to Baba to continue to shower HIS grace upon HIS devotees.

~ Shubh Life . . . OM Sai Ram 

© 2015 Manish Purohit (Reserved)

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