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X. The Same Baba: Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai

Bhagawan invariably refers to Shirdi Sai Baba as 'my previous body' when He speaks about Him; He often describes to His devotees how He, 'in His previous body' dealt with people and situations, what illustrations He gave to clarify a cerain point, what questions were asked, etc. While telling people about Shirdi Baba, He may be heard saying, "Just as you have seen me do now" or, "Just as I do while in trance," to make the point clear. When some one asks Him a question today, He starts His reply sometimes with the remark, "The same doubt was raised by a man who had come to Shirdi" and He will continue the conversation with the reply He gave that other man long ago in Maharashtra!

He recognises all devotees of Shirdi Baba as His own; in fact, He tells them, "I have known you since ten years," or, "Though this is the first time you see this Sariram (body) I have seen you twenty years ago, when you came to Shirdi." And, the person will find that he has been to Shirdi exactly twenty years previously! Here are some instances where devotees have had experiences that have convinced them of the identity of the two Sais

The Cure and the Confirmation
How Baba proved to Mr. Dixit that He is same Shirdi Sai come again

Mr. M S Dixit had the unique privilege of seeing Shirdi Sai Baba when he visited Shirdi in 1909 as a young lad and later Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 1961 when he was past sixty. Here’s how he realised that both the Sais are in fact the same, as related by Howard Murphet in his book, “Sai Baba: Man of Miracles”:

M S Dixit was born in 1897 to Sadashiv Dixit, an advocate who was at one time Diwan (Prime Minister) of the royal state of Kutch. Sadashiv's eldest brother, Hari S. Dixit, was a solicitor in Bombay and a member of the Legislative Council. Hari Dixit became a close devotee of Shirdi Baba.

In the company of his uncle Hari, M. S. Dixit told me, he made his earliest visits to Shirdi; first in the year 1909, and again in 1912. Before this second visit he had been suffering what he called "half-headaches".

At sunrise half his head would start to ache agonizingly; then a little before sunset it would stop. This would go on each day for about two months at a stretch; it was very distressing. His uncle took him to Sai Baba hoping for a cure of the strange headaches.

Mr. Dixit recalls vividly how he was sitting near Sai Baba one day when Baba suddenly said to him: "Why are you sitting here - go home!"

Young Dixit replied that he had a bad headache and the heat of the fire near which he was sitting brought him some relief. But Baba insisted that he must go. It was the custom when leaving to take some ash from the fireplace and put it in Baba's hand, so that He might with it give His parting blessing.

The fourteen-year-old boy did this. Baba held the udhi for a moment and then applied it to the lad's forehead with some force. Young Dixit felt that he had been slapped on the head as well as ordered to go away, so he told his uncle that he would not visit Baba anymore.

Hari Dixit replied: "Are you a fool? The slap means that your headache will not recur."

This turned out to be true. The strange and terrible headaches never came back after that day, and young Dixit understood that Baba had been in His enigmatic way ordering, not the boy, but the headache to go away.

Six years later, in July 1918, M. S. Dixit found himself ill again, this time with bad haemorrhoids and an anal fistula. The medical men of Bombay where he was living said he must undergo an operation, but he felt very nervous about having surgery and did not want it.

Yet he was suffering a lot and there was much bleeding. He felt very miserable about his condition. At one of the regular Thursday evening gatherings of Shirdi Baba's Bombay devotees, M.S. Dixit was somehow overcome by the devotional atmosphere combined with his own misery. Although a young man of twenty, he broke down and cried like a child.

That night he had a dream in which Shirdi Baba came to him and chided him for "weeping like a girl". Then the old saint told him what to use as a cure for his ailment.

After waking, Dixit could remember everything except the name of the medicine that Baba had prescribed. He was very distressed about this and decided to go to Shirdi as soon as possible and get the name from Baba's lips.

But before he could go he heard the news Baba had passed away."Now” he thought gloomily, "I shall never know the medicine’s name and must go on suffering."

The next Thursday evening meeting, following the news of Baba's passing, he found himself again overwhelmed with sorrow for himself, and wept once more. The same night brought him another vivid dream.

In this Baba stood before him again, still in the old Shirdi form. He said, "What! Crying like a girl again."

Then he told the young man to "take seven seeds of pepper, crush them to powder, and each day take a pinch of the powder mixed with udhi. All devotees, incidentally, kept some of Baba's udhi in their homes. M. S. Dixit remembered these instructions clearly next morning and carried them out. On the third day of treatment the pain stopped; on the seventh the bleeding stopped.

A complete cure took place and the complaint never returned. The years passed and the pages of Dixit's life turned over: he was in business; he got married; he was a major and Brigade Education Officer in the army during the Second World War and for some years afterwards. The year 1959 found him back in commercial life in the west-coast city of Mangalore.

During his leisure time he would read the ‘Guru Charitra’. It is said that if this book is read through completely within seven days, great spiritual benefits will ensue. On the evening of the sixth day of the reading he had a dream.

In the dream, he was walking along a broad avenue of trees, and felt that someone was following him. He looked back. There was a man, very distinctive looking, close behind him. Dixit asked: "Who are you and why are you following me?"

But there was no reply. The figure just continued to follow silently. After a few minutes Dixit looked back again and saw the man still following him. Neither said anything. Soon the footsteps drew closer, and Dixit felt that something was being poured over his head from behind. He realised that it was ash…

That was all of the dream he could remember on waking, but very clear in his mind remained the striking, unique figure and face of the man who followed him.

Some months afterwards - through an odd set of circumstances he heard that there was a reincarnatian of Shirdi Baba but did not believe it. Then later on he heard the same story again from another quarter and was shown a photograph of Sathya Sai Baba. It was the man who had followed him in the dream.

Now his interest was really aroused. He remembered his uncle's story that Shirdi Baba had once told him: "I will appear again as a boy of eight years."

Was this the boy, now grown to manhood? He decided to go as soon as possible to Puttaparti and find out all he could. It was early in 1961 when he managed to get there, as one of a party of about thirty people. The ashram was choked with the thousands who had arrived for the Shivaratri festival, and Dixit stood among them waiting for a view of Sathya Sai Baba on the high balcony.

When the little red-robed, dome-haired figure with the sweet, lovable face appeared, Dixit knew for certain that it was the figure of his strange dream. Yet, he thought, how can this be the old saint of Shirdi? With His coloured silks, hair like a woman and the big crowds around Him, this man is more like a film star. Shirdi Baba was rugged, homespun, simple: how can this possibly be the same man?, he pondered. Suddenly he wanted to go home.

But he stayed to watch Sathya Sai pour huge quantities of sacred ash from a small bowl over the statue of Shirdi Sai, and the same evening take nine lingams from his mouth. Then during a public discourse next day Baba said: "Some who have come here think I am too much like a film star; they object to my bright-coloured robes and the style of my hair…"

With consternation, Dixit heard all of his own unspoken critical thoughts being repeated from the platform. Then Baba went on to explain the reasons - good reasons Dixit felt - for the striking attire, the unique hairstyle and the other features of this incarnation.

Well, Dixit decided, He is certainly something very special. There is no doubt about His paranormal powers, but.... He is so different from old Shirdi Baba. Can it really be the same soul?

On his second visit to Prasanthi Nilayam three months later, he was called into a room with a group of half-a-dozen people for an interview. Baba came in, spoke to a few people, and then went up to M. S. Dixit who was holding a small photo of his uncle, H. S. Dixit, in his hand. Baba took the photo from him, looked at it, and said: "That's H. S. Dixit, your uncle, your father's elder brother, and my old devotee at Shirdi. Now have you any more doubts?"

His doubts were fewer because all that Baba had just said was true. And Dixit had told no one his name at the ashram. He was there incognito - just an unknown member of a crowd of visitors. But Baba had recognised the face of his uncle in the photo at first sight.

After that Dixit often made trips to the ashram and, through the years, enjoyed the wealth of Sai Baba's miraculous powers, great compassion and spiritual teachings.

Once, speaking of Shirdi Baba's remark to his uncle Hari about coming back to earth "as a boy of eight years", Baba told Dixit that what he had really said was he would return as a boy in eight years, that is, eight years after his death - which he in fact did.

Sathya Sai added that H. S. Dixit must have misunderstood him. But it was, the many, many little things, more than these big ones that finally, convinced him that the two Sais were one, Dixit told me.

He went on to describe these important little things: the similarities in the siddhis (powers), the parallels in the teachings and manner of instruction, the subtle echoes from the past in gesture, phrase and attitude. "Sometimes I even see on his face the same old smile that I saw long ago on the face of Shirdi Baba," he said.

Of course, the differences which he felt so sharply at first are indeed there, he admits. But there, is, after all, a different body, a different setting, a different period in time - a different environment for the Sai mission. And therefore the mission, while in spirit the same, cannot be precisely the same in form and style, and it is to be expected that the outer personality through which the message comes to the world will also be different.

Sai Baba himself comments that He is not as hard or angry now as he was in the earlier manifestation. He is more tolerant and gentle. He explains the difference by means of a simile: "The mother is usually hard when the children enter the kitchen and disturb the cooking; but while serving the food she is all smiles and patience. I am now serving the dishes cooked then. Wherever you may be, if you are hungry and if your plate is ready, I shall serve you the dishes and feed, you to your heart's content.”

At another time, concerning the controversy about whether He is the same Baba or not, He said: "When there are two pieces of candy, one square, another circular, one yellow and the other purple in colour, unless one has eaten and realised the taste of both pieces one cannot, believe that both are the same. Tasting, experiencing - that's the crucial thing for knowing the identity."

Reference: “Sai Baba: Man of Miracles” by Mr. Howard Murphet. Page: 62-66 (Paperback Edition). Published by Macmillan India Ltd, 1972.

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