The Purpose Of This Work In the first Chapter, we witnessed Baba's leela in which He prevented the cholera epidemic from entering Shirdi by grinding wheat at the quern stone and having the flour strewn along the borders of the village.
As Hemadpant began to hear and experience these marvellous leelas of Sai, his heart overflowed with joy and love. This ecstatic devotion for Baba that he felt found expression in the sacred verses that he wrote. The thought came to Hemadpant that the sins of the listener would be mitigated by hearing the leelas of Sai. He felt that other devotees would experience the same joy that he and others who witnessed these leelas had felt from their firsthand experience. Documenting the life of a saint is, however, not an easy task, and it is certainly not possible unless it is ordained by the saint himself. Hemadpant thought to himself, "In trying to determine the true nature of the Self, the scriptures and all the four Vedas fall silent. How then will I know your true nature, O Sai?" In whatever manner a devotee may wish to serve the Sadguru, it is truly the Sadguru who Himself gets the service done. The inspiration comes from the saints, and the devotees chosen for the service are mere instruments and not the doers.
Having witnessed Baba's leelas for years, the idea of sharing these precious jewels for the benefit of the simple and earnest devotees was germinating in Hemadpant's mind and heart.
Those devotees who had not had actual darshan of Baba could gain merit by listening to the stories of His sacred life. It is indeed the one who is blessed who feels an urge to read these stories and is, in turn, blessed with an experience of joy and inner peace when he does so.
Baba Grants Permission For The Writing Of His Stories
Hemadpant, at the time, was nearly sixty years of age and doubted his own ability to write the book. He felt that neither his mind nor body would be able to support him and feared that the work might be compromised and might even lose its integrity.
Yet, despite these obstacles, he felt that instead of wasting time on something else that might be meaningless, he would rather be only in Sai's service. Hemadpant believed that the work would help him make some spiritual advancement, no matter how it would turn out, When the desire to write arose in Hemadpant, he did have the chance, but could not muster the courage to share it directly with Baba. So, when he saw Madhavrao (Shama), he immediately conveyed this wish to him. No one was around Baba at the time, and Madhavrao then took the opportunity to broach the subject. Said he, "Baba, this Annasaheb says that he wishes to write down your life story to the very best of his ability, if only you will grant him permission for it. Baba, please do not say 'I am but a fakir, begging alms from door to door, and merely subsisting only on bread, with or without any greens! Of such a one as Me, why would you want to write a life story?' – For you are the diamond which has to be set in its socket."
Hemadpant then thought to himself, "Oh, if only Baba, You give Your permission and blessings, the book will then write itself, and You will get it written, and will remove all the obstacles in its way."
Baba, who knew everything, was moved to compassion as He felt the sincerity of this prayer. He said, "Your wish will be fulfilled." Hemadpant at once placed his head on Baba's feet. Baba placed His hand on Hemadpant's head and gave him udi as prasad. Hemadpant's anxious and impatient mind began to feel a sense of peace and calm.
Knowing that the wish of my heart was sincere, Baba said the following, indicating His consent for the work. "Collect and make a record of all the stories, conversations and experiences."
"It is good to keep a record. He will have my full support. He is merely the instrument; for I Myself will write My own story."
"I Myself will narrate My own story, and fulfil the wishes of my devotees. He should only dissolve his ego and surrender it at My feet."
"He who conducts himself in this way, will get from Me complete assistance. Not only for the writing of this book shall I labor, but for all the needs of his home."
"When one's ego totally dissolves, and not even the slightest trace of it is left behind, it is then when 'I' will dwell in him, and by My will the book shall be written."
"When the work of listening, contemplation or writing is begun and this thought is held firmly governing it, then such a one will only be the instrument."
"Certainly a record must be kept, wherever you are, whether at home or outside, keep remembering these stories, and you will experience contentment and peace."
"Listening to my stories, singing them as a kirtan, contemplating them, will increase love and devotion for Me, and all ignorance will be dispelled instantly."
"Where faith and devotion are, there I remain forever enslaved. Of this, have absolutely no doubt. For else, I forever will be unattainable."
"When heard with truthfulness and earnestness, these stories will instill devotion in the listener's heart. Easily one will experience the Bliss of the Self. The state of peace will thus be attained."
"The devotee will attain Self-realization, by the unison of his Jeeva with Shiva(Supreme); the incomprehensible will thus be comprehended, and the attributeless Supreme Spirit shall then reveal Itself."
"Self-realization is the reward of My stories. What else would one want? This is even the ultimate aim of the Shrutis, and so by this, the devotee will attain the ultimate state of completion."
"Ignorance and Maya abound in abundance in the mind that is embroiled with conflict and argument. There is no possibility for self upliftment for such a one, for his intellect is engaged in foolish speculation."
"For one who is rooted in ignorance, he is not eligible for attaining Self Knowledge. He is but perpetually unhappy."
"Remember these words carefully, do not ever get entangled in arguments, being obstinate about one's own viewpoint and refuting another's. Do not engage in such futility."
How Hemadpant's Good Fortune Brought Him To Sai Baba Before coming to Baba, Hemadpant had been a talkative and outspoken man. Unaware of the true significance of the Sadguru, he took a deep sense of pride in his own wisdom and was quite argumentative by nature. It was his good fortune that destiny brought him to Sai Baba. It was Hemadpant's Rinanubandh and indebtedness to two of Baba's great devotees – Kakasaheb Dixit and Nanasaheb Chandorkar – whose association took him to Shirdi. Upon Kakasaheb Dixit's insistence that Hemadpant visit Shirdi, travel plans were finalised, Unfortunately, on the day that they were scheduled to leave, a close friend of Hemadpant's who lived in Lonavala was caught in the middle of a difficult personal crisis. This man's son was afflicted with very high fever and the child had taken seriously ill. The family, after trying out all kinds of medical remedies, offered religious rites and prayers. The child's father was very devoted to a Guru who had initiated him. The Guru was invited home and was requested to sit by the boy's bedside during the critical moments when the child was trying hard to hold on to life. But alas, as fate would have it, the boy succumbed to the illness and passed away. When Hemadpant heard the news, his mind became greatly dejected and agitated. He thought to himself, "Is this all that a Guru can do? That he could not save their only child?" Hearing the tale of such an overwhelming power of destiny and karma weakened Hemadpant's desire for having Baba's darshan, and it eventually became an impediment, keeping him from visiting Shirdi. He ignorantly asked himself, "Why go to Shirdi at all? Just see the condition of my friend! What is the use of a Guru's company? What can a Guru do before one's destiny? If everything that happens is destined to happen, then where is the need for a Guru? Let us accept whatever happens as one's fate – good or bad."
And, much as one may wish for something to be different, events will unfold according to one's prarabdha. Nothing can stop the unwinding of one's Destiny. And it was this – his destiny – that eventually pulled him to Shirdi.
Nanasaheb Chandorkar, who was a sub-divisional officer, travelled from Thane district to visit the suburb of Vashi, which was on the outskirts of Bombay. While at Dadar station, there was an hour's wait for his train and he suddenly had this impulse to utilise the spare time for a good purpose. At that very moment, a train travelling only up to Bandra station arrived at his platform, which he then boarded.
Upon reaching Bandra, Nana sent a message for Hemadpant, who immediately came to see him. Nana at once brought up for discussion the question about Shirdi. "So when do you propose to leave for Sai Baba's Darshan? And why all this hesitation about visiting Shirdi? Why delay one's departure? How is it that there is no firm resolve of the mind?"
Nana's eagerness and enthusiasm made Hemadpant feel quite ashamed of himself. Very honestly, he told Nana about the wavering thoughts stirring through his mind. Upon hearing this, Nana patiently and very lovingly gave Hemadpant some sound advice, and the desire and enthusiasm to visit Shirdi was rekindled in him. After Hemadpant promised to immediately travel to Shirdi, Nana left.
Hemadpant went home and immediately started packing, made the necessary arrangements, and set out that very evening for Shirdi. Believing that the Evening Mail, his train to Shirdi, would halt at Dadar, he purchased a ticket to Dadar.
As he boarded the local train from Bandra, a Muslim man got into the compartment just as the train began to move. Seeing all the luggage, the man asked Hemadpant, "Where to, on this journey?" Hemadpant replied, "I will go to Dadar and then take the train to Manmad." The man at once alerted Hemadpant, "Do not get off at Dadar. The Evening Mail will not halt there; go instead, straight to Victoria Terminus."
Had this warning not come in good time, Hemadpant would have missed the train had he got off at Dadar. And then he would have had second thoughts about making the trip. But on that day, he was graced by Baba to seize that chance to go to Shirdi. He arrived in Shirdi at about nine or ten o'clock, the next morning. Bhausaheb Dixit was already waiting for him over there.
As Hemadpant stepped down from the tonga, he felt a deep sense of joy in his heart for Baba's darshan, and could hardly wait to fall at His feet. At that moment, one of Sai Baba's well-known devotees, Tatyasaheb Nulkar, had just returned from Dwarkamai, and he said to Hemadpant, "Hurry up, hurry up, go quickly and take darshan. Baba, along with His devotees, has already reached the corner of the wada. Come as you are and have darshan first, even if from a distance, for Baba will then set out for the Lendibaug. You can take a bath afterwards, and when Baba returns, you can then go to the mosque once again and have a leisurely darshan."
On hearing this, Hemadpant rushed for Baba's darshan, and as he prostrated at His feet, he could barely contain his joy. Nanasaheb had told him about Sai Baba, but now, when Hemadpant saw Him in person, he felt overwhelmed and considered himself blessed; he truly felt that his eyes had achieved their purpose.
Never before had Hemadpant seen Baba's divine figure or heard it described by anyone. Now, having cast his eyes upon Baba, all senses stood still, his eyes were calmed; his hunger and thirst forgotten.
The divine touch of Sai Baba's holy feet, and the kind enquiries that He made after Hemadpant were the most precious and treasured moments of his life. Hemadpant felt a deep sense of indebtedness towards those to whom he owed this divine saintly association. Only those who help in one's spiritual progress are the true kith and kin; no relatives can ever be like them. This is what Hemadpant felt. So great was his obligation towards them that he did not know how the debt could ever be repaid. So he bowed his head, lowering it at their feet with deep reverence, and with folded hands.
Hemadpant was finally blessed with Sai's darshan. All his doubts were resolved. To add to it, he had Sai's sacred company and experienced that greatest joy for himself. Such was the marvel of being blessed by Sai Baba's darshan! His mere glance was enough to bring about a total transformation in one's being. All the past karmas that remain would be rooted out, and an aversion for sensual pleasures and worldly life would gradually take over. Sai's kindly glance uprooted the sins accumulated from past births, and gave rise to the hope that by simply holding on to Baba's holy feet would bring eternal bliss.
This meeting with Sai Maharaj was certainly the fruit of Hemadpant's accumulated merit over several past lives. Once Sai pervaded your vision, the entire manifestation would then appear to you as willed by Sai.
How Baba Bestowed The Name 'Hemadpant'
On the very day that they arrived in Shirdi, a heated argument arose between Hemadpant and Balasaheb Bhate on why one needed a Guru, if at all. Hemadpant put his view forward, for which he had a deep conviction at the time. He wondered why one should ever subjugate oneself to another and lose one's sense of independence. Each individual must strive for himself and if he does not make the effort, how can a Guru be of any help? Balasaheb thought differently about the matter, and both were equally and firmly convinced that their own points of view were correct. This was the perfect recipe for an argument to ensue, which then moved on to the subject of Destiny and Free Will. Hemadpant said, "When you leave everything to your destiny, what can ever happen then?"
Balasaheb, in turn, argued that, "Whatever one's fate, it is sure to befall and cannot be resisted. What is destined to happen is going to happen. What can work against fate? One may do one thing, but the result can be something unexpected. So it is best to leave one's clever intellect aside!" But Hemadpant's ego would not accept defeat so easily.
The debate continued with more arguments and counter-arguments but remained inconclusive. Nothing of value resulted from it. If anything, Hemadpant lost his peace of mind in the bargain. Neither side was willing to relent and nearly an hour had passed; so at last, it was put an end to. Later in the day, when they went to Dwarkamai along with other devotees, just listen to what Baba asked Kakasaheb Dixit:
"What was going on there in the wada?" He further questioned, "What was all that argument and fight about ? And what did this Hemadpant say?"
He looked pointedly at Hemadpant, as He asked the last question. The wada where the argument took place and the mosque, were quite far apart. How then, did Baba know about this incident? Hemadpant was quite astonished by the very thought of it. All the same, he was dumbstruck by Baba's piercing words and hung his head in shame, for behaving the way he did in the very first meeting! Ironically, while visiting his Guru for the very first time, he argued away about why one needed a Guru. But one can see how Baba compassionately transformed him!
The name 'Hemadpant' which Baba gave him was the direct result of the morning's heated argument. Hemadpant believed that this incident reminded Baba of the famous author Hemadri who was a minister to the Kings of the Yadav Dynasty in Maharashtra in the 13th century.
Hemadri was the author of a treatise on Dharmashastra. A most munificent benefactor to the Brahmins, Hemadri was the first composer to systematically arrange the code of conduct, which was consistent with the Shrutis and Smritis. Hemadri was proficient in the art of writing, while Hemadpant felt that he was gravely ignorant. But this title that Baba bestowed, no doubt, was a tribute to Hemadpant's cleverness, and was not conferred on him without a purpose. Baba's incisive and piercing words were aimed at Hemadpant's deeply argumentative nature, and to shatter his egotism.
"Strutting about with my meagre knowledge, mine was but empty babble. Baba opened my eyes to my deep ignorance by the timely collyrium of admonition," wrote Hemadpant, later..
The name 'Hemadpant' that Baba had bestowed upon him was so deeply significant and well-timed that it was accepted gratefully as an ornament. All the time, Hemadpant felt the need to learn his lesson and to root out the quality of being contentious, for it was very harmful to himself and to those around him.
This name – Hemadpant – must surely have been given to him so that he may shed his conceit about his argumentative abilities and that he may remember to be humble always, until his last breath.
The Importance Of The Guru
While visiting his Guru for the first time, Hemadpant had questioned the very need for having a Guru, and Baba – the all-knowing, all-pervasive – taught him and all of us the great lesson of being humble.
Out of sheer ignorance and perhaps with a taste for some superficial experiences, some of us may wonder why there is a need for a Guru. Even Lord Shri Ram – the son of King Dasharath, who was the very incarnation of God; an embodiment of knowledge itself; He, who took Form to protect the Universe, and in whose name the sages meditated all the time – He Himself had a Guru and would surrender at the feet of his Guru, Vashishtha. Lord Shri Krishna – the very embodiment of the Brahman Itself – even He had to have a Guru and face great hardships, as he carried logs of wood and served in the home of His Guru, Sandipani.
"Compared to them, who am I? What is there, then, to argue and debate about at all?There is no Knowledge without the Guru, nor any Deliverance," contemplated Hemadpant, as he felt this truth which was then firmly established in his heart.
Contentiousness is the greatest of vices; as is the desire to argue with another. If there is no faith, courage, and patience, then being established in spiritual life is not even remotely possible. Hemadpant himself experienced this in the days to come. In this manner, with love, surrender and reverence, he humbly accepted the name Baba bestowed upon him – Hemadpant – as an honour and a blessing.