Sai brother Umasreedasan ji says: Born in the late sixties in a small town near Madurai in South India in an ordinary family with a tradition of producing aspirants in knowledge cult, I didn’t evince any interest in any spiritual practice till nineties. Throughout the nineties my only spiritual practice worth the name was reading Srimad Bhagavad Gita.
In 1999, I happened to read a book on Shirdi Sri Sai Baba. Fascinated by the events in the life of Baba, which were, I thought, practical demonstrations of what I learned in Gita, I was instantly attracted to Baba as an iron dust to a gigantic magnet.
Disillusioned by the simple devotional practices, I started practicing Awareness Chanting in 2004. My prayer to Baba was unambiguous: You cannot satisfy me by giving me some colorful promises to be realized in my afterlife. I want the results of my practice right in this birth and right before my eyes.
Impatient with trickling of spiritual gifts from Baba over a long period of time, I begged Him, argued with Him and even scolded Him. However, when I tried to ignore Him, I found my life empty without purpose and so, I’ll return to Him within a day or two. I wanted more and more spiritual gifts from Him in less and less period of time.
It was the spring of 2004. I had gone on a personal visit to Madras. After finishing my personal work I went to the Mylapore temple of Shirdi Sri Sai Baba. I had visited that temple a couple of times earlier.
After worshiping the main deity, I was just strolling around the temple. Then I was casually reading the inscription in a pillar that listed the popular eleven promises of Baba. I knew it already but I was just passing time casually reading it.
Suddenly I heard a voice behind me: “You want this?” I turned around to face a six and a half feet tall, well-built man standing near me. I was too startled by the encounter of this rather strange visitor to answer him. But without expecting a reply he thrust a 3”x2” card into my right palm. Lowering my eyes I saw the card in my hand which had those eleven promises printed on its face. I felt I didn’t need it. But when I raised my eyes, he had already disappeared in the crowd of devotees.
I wondered why Baba gave it to me through somebody or perhaps He Himself came to do the job. After all I believed in Him and I didn’t require any promise of that sort. In fact throughout the previous year I was doing an extensive research in the doctrine of Saranagati (Surrender). I was spending much of my spare time in exploring the works of Sri Ramanuja and His disciples who lived in Srirangam for about five centuries. I was yet to get a satisfactory explanation and so my quest continued through 2004.
Therefore, the gift I expected from Baba at that time was to expound the theory and practice of the doctrine of Saranagati. And then I flipped the card that was thrust into my palm a few minutes before. I was thrilled to see the picture of the pair of holy Feet of Baba.
When I came back to Tiruchi from Chennai I felt I was accepted by Baba. And perhaps the reason was my quest to learn the doctrine of Saranagati. But later I understood that it is more important for one to accept Baba as one’s Guru rather than Baba’s accepting one as His disciple. In any case, my spiritual progress went at a break-neck speed since then.
It was the peak summer of 2005. From the winter of 2004 I had been pursuing vigorously a spiritual program; the program had its objective of single point agenda viz., to get Baba show me God in His discrete form.
I had been chanting as frequently as possible. I had been reading scriptures of the cults of Sri Ramanuja and Sri Chaitanya. I was getting impatient as summer of 2005 progressed since I got no signal whatsoever from Baba as far as getting darsan of God was concerned.
During this time I had built a model of God thus: ‘There is only one God. He resides in the spiritual sky. I prefer to call Him as Sreeman Narayana. But in Judaism He is called Jehovah. Christians call Him the Father and Muslims prefer the name Allah. It hardly matters. Truth is simple – there exists only one God Who resides in the spiritual sky which I prefer to call as Sri Vaikuntam. That only God has taken as many copies of Himself as there are sentient beings in this universe, and each copy resides within each being. That copy sustains and powers the corresponding soul. So, whatever I think is instantaneously known to Him and whatever I do is actually powered by Him.’ Something like this.
I considered Baba then as a saint. According to my definition, a saint can do many superhuman and herculean tasks without any effort. Yet, a saint cannot do whatever God can do. So, in my model, Baba stood somewhere between God and myself. I believed that any being could become a saint, perhaps not in the current birth but in a distant future birth; point is that it is possible. But nobody, I believed, could merge with God completely to share the knowledge and power of God.
Okay, now I was pleading with Baba to show me God in the form of Sreeman Narayana as described in Purana. But Baba was unrelenting for a very long time. In this situation one day I just opened the book ‘Shri Sai Satcharitra’ aimlessly. It opened on the page where Hemadpant discussed advaita instruction which a preceptor would impart to his disciple: ‘You are rich and opulent...’ Suddenly it struck to me that Baba could completely merge with Sreeman Narayana and assume the knowledge and power of Sreeman Narayana at His will at any time Baba chose. This was too much for my mind to accept. You won’t believe – Baba took one full year to convince my mind to reconcile to that fact so that He could bless me.
This discussion is finished with the above paragraph but for the sake of completion and your curiosity let me continue: Did Baba show me God in His discrete form? Not until today. I was disappointed then but later I understood why Baba declined my request. I have seen a couple of my friends, who have seen God in one of His discrete forms, struggling to get spiritual progress. Once you nail God to a particular discrete form and get some experience to that effect, it will be very difficult for your soul to merge into God residing inside you – after all your soul, which is a reflection of God, has no form. Or you should be a Ramakrishna to proceed to worship non-discrete form of God overcoming the experiences of darsan of discrete forms of God. Baba did the right thing – He showed me the non-discrete form of God instead, but much later.
It was the autumn of 2008. I was compelled to chant heavily warranted by the serious illness of a close relative. In a couple of months the main problem was blown over by the grace of Baba; still, I could not stop the habit of heavy chanting and it was going on for some time. Meanwhile one of my friends suddenly started supplying me with books, mainly on advaita vedantic philosophy by Sri Sankara, Sri Ramana and Sri J.Krishnamurti among others. In a couple of weeks a strong longing arose in my heart to see my soul in practice.
In the winter of 2008 one day I was concentrating on God with my eyes closed, and with my thoughts running hither and thither. I suddenly discovered a strange phenomenon inside me. My brain was casually recording, without any particular interest, what my ears were hearing from the environment; it was also enjoying the intermittent thought currents of mind; but – here is the key – it also recognized a third realm where no perceptible activity was going on.
Normally any person can exist either in the sense plane or in the mind plane. But I could exist in the third plane – the plane of God within, the source of one’s soul - anytime at my sweet will. That plane was full of extraordinary peace where no terrorists like anger, hatred or jealousy could ever hope to enter to plant bombs. It was completely like the peaceful feeling you’d have enjoyed during your dreamless deep sleep.
Now I understand how to surrender to the holy Feet of Shirdi Sri Sai Baba fairly well.
© Devotees Experiences with Shirdi Sai Baba