How shall humanity arise and awake to that supreme vision of Truth which alone gives a meaning and purpose to life and its leelas? This life as it is lived on the material and physical level is barren and unproductive until it finds its focus in the Eternal; then alone does it burst forth in a grand symphony, for its creative energies are loosened by this contact with the light “that shines forth from beyond the darkness”.

The assumption of imperfection by the perfect is one of the most extraordinary leelas of the Divine as He manifests himself in the universe. How the Divine reconciles and unites in itself all the variegated and even the opposite and opposing facets of its manifested being is a secret known to the Divine itself. We can only call it a leela, and accept it as we accept many other fundamentals of existence.

Among the many wonderful miracles of Shri Sai Baba -- and truly the amazing and supreme quality of these miracles has not yet been duplicated since the days of Christ -- the most profound and important miracle is that of his being and existence on earth. With the recognition of this fact we are inevitably led into a close analysis of the distinction between sainthood and avatarhood.

It is necessary to discriminate between these two concepts before we are able to declare that Sai Baba was not merely a saint but also an Avatar. Clearly, since the purpose of life is the liberation of oneself from the thralldom of the ego, in an infinity of release and freedom, the individual who achieves this ineffable state commands our homage and we rightly call him a saint. All realized beings -- and happily our world can boast of many such -- are our saints, but not all saints, not all those sages who have attained self-realization are necessarily Avatars. Avatarhood has a deeper significance.

Avatarhood is a concept peculiar to the Indian scriptures, grounded as it is on the vedantic concept of the Brahman, other than whom and different from whom there is not, nor can be anything else. So that whereas other religious have talked of God sending prophets or saints to redeem the world, the Hindu Shastras have gone beyond this in exclaiming that God himself comes sometimes to the earth to sport with his devotees. These special incarnations assumed by the Supreme Being in order to help on the processes of evolution are termed Avatars. As declared in the Bhagvadgita, “The Lord manifests Himself as a human being and acts like a human being, in order to bestow His grace on the jivas, so that hearing of his sports they may attach themselves to Him.” A further elucidation of how, though the Divine is unborn and infinite in its own true nature, it can yet assume finite existence by supreme resort to the forces of his self Maya, is contained also in the following pregnant line of the Geeta: “Standing upon my own nature, I am born by my self-maya.” This, as hinted before, is the Divine’s most significant leela or miracle. The divine takes birth in human shape and form with all the limitations common to humanity, as one of us, so that he can fulfill his self-allotted mission within some particular self-allotted period of time. Whenever there is the fading of dharma and the uprising of evil, then the Divine loses forth Himself into birth. This is of course no ordinary birth into ignorance as we understand it, but the descent of the illuminated Light with all the semblance of ignorance and finiteness. But though the Divine does so limit itself, it does not at the same time get entangled in the inevitable mechanism of karmic laws known to ordinary human births. The very word avatar itself means a descent: “A closing down of the Divine below the line which divided the divine from the human world or status.”

Now the purpose of such a descent is two-fold. Not only does the Lord take birth in human form to uphold Dharma, but he further arranges that by impact with His presence on earth, man also becomes conscious of his divinity and seeks to ascend to the God-head above him. So that with every birth of the Avatar into the world, millions of people are born anew in the sense that they are made actively conscious of their divine potentialities. It is only an Incarnation of this type that declares about himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life”, and holding forth before man the example of his pure and blameless life on earth can inspire men to adopt and assimilate it.

Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was no ordinary saint, but an Avatar even as Christ and Krishna and Buddha were. His sayings charters are replete with this assertion of himself as the supreme Godhead. This is proof enough with Vithoba, with Dattatreya, with Laxmi Narain, with Shri Krishna and many other such Avatars known to Hindu scriptures. Not only was this identification verbal, but it has been the experience of many devotees that Baba often took on the form and appearance of these several Avatars. In fact, to assume the very image and likeness of that particular Godhead for whom a devotee had veneration was Baba’s favourite method of effecting that devotee’s transformation. He often enough declared that he is in his visible human form and the supreme invisible Lord were one and the same and that he was another revelation of the same Divine Purushottama. “I am in every bit of the globe. All the Universe is in me”, he said. On one occasion when a devotee named Uddhava asked him from which Purana he should study, Baba replied significantly, “from that in which I have already spoken to you”, and it transpired that he was referring to the Bhagvadgita. It is abundantly clear from all these declarations that Baba was no ordinary sage or prophet, but Divinity itself made manifest in order to mould the thoughts, feelings and actions of man according to his shinning example. For it is not given to ordinary realized beings, great souls though they are, to speak of themselves in this absolute vein, nor indeed have they ever been known to do so. These supreme declarations are the prerogatives only of those Divine Incarnation who are termed Avatars.

Shri Sai Baba’s divine Avatarhood is a certain conviction in the minds of each and everyone of his devotees. This conviction is based not only on the declarations of the master as cited before, but also on the wondrous quality of his deeds and doings. Not the least among these are the miracles of Sai Baba, the experiences of devotees in all walks of life, super-physical experiences that have astounded even the confirmed skeptics among men. Wonderful as these experiences are, it would be more profitable to view them calmly and in their proper perspective. For when these miracles of Sai Baba assume a sensational value in the minds of devotees they are apt to confuse these persons and make them forget the great perpetrator of the miracles in the unusual character of the miracles themselves. If the master’s miracles become more important than the master himself, then surely they defeat their own purpose. These miracles, these experiences, should rather be evaluated as signs of the great Guru’s Omnipotence. and as a sure proof of his divine descent. They should act as an incentive to a further understanding of his divine nature and message. Even so it is also equally true that to reject this phase of Baba’s manifestation is to limit oneself and to arrest one’s spiritual growth. A gathering together of all these wonderful miracles of Sai in an integral understanding of the Master is the correct approach.

In view of this understanding it would be in the fitness of things to substitute the word miracles by the more comprehensive term -- leelas. This exquisite denomination at once gives to these uncommon experiences of Sai bhaktas the correct touch of dignity which places them far above the trivialities of a soothsayer or even above the lesser miracles of a prophet who is not an Avatar. The Divine leela is one of the most aesthetic aspects of the religious philosophy. It lies in the nature of the supreme Purushottama to reveal Himself in the way he does. His leelas are His manifestations, and since the Lord is all in all, there can be no miracles from the point of view of the eternal. Sai Baba, therefore, does not perform any miracles in this sense. He simply manifests his leelas in order to sport with his devotees.

Nevertheless, from our limited level of comprehension the marvelous experiences of many of Baba’s cherished devotees are miraculous enough. Quite a collection of these tokens of the great master’s grace have been compiled in the excellent volumes of the revered Narasimha Swamiji, and in the authentic efforts of ‘Hemadpant’ in his Sai Charita. All the same, it would not be amiss to mention here a few of these remarkable instances of Baba’s great powers. The story of how the master once lit his wicklamps by feeding them with water instead of oil is a very well-known testimony of many of his devotees who actually saw the miracle. Baba was in the habit of borrowing oil from the shopkeepers of the village for his little lamps which he kept burning the whole night, both in the masjid and the temple. Once these merchants who were wont to supply him oil gratis took it into their head to refuse this little service to the master. Quite unperturbed, the saint filled his lamp containers with water and lighted the wicks -- and lo, they started burning all throughout the silent watches of the night as if in defiance of the ungracious behaviour of the shopkeepers who later repented and became his disciples. Instances abound too of Baba’s control over the elements. Christ-like he could command the winds and the rain and the lightening to obey his behest. One evening there was a terrible and destructive storm at Shirdi, and the little village was flooded with incessant rain. The many local deities were sought to be appeased but in vain. At last the people flocked to the masjid and prayed to Baba to quell the storm. The great Yogi came out to the edge of the masjid and ordered the storm to cease. At once the winds and the rain and the lightning obeyed his sweet will and became still.

These wonderful miracles have not ceased to take place today though the master is not visibly present. The curative impact of his personality on the sick and ailing and even those suffering from so-called incurable and grave maladies are too well known and too amny to recount in this little volume. Under the aegis of our beloved Guru the lame have indeed walked, the blind have recoved their sight and the deaf their hearing, an in his infinite mercy he still goea about healing the sick and giving succour to those that are otherwise bruised and unhappy.

Baba’s ways are indeed inscrutable. Only those whom he wishes to accept as his own are able to reach him or go to Shirdi. In those days some visitors were summarily dismissed by the Master, others who had gone for a short visit out of mere curiosity were made to stay on until they became his devout followers.

It is interesting to record one more experince of a living devotee as an example of one of the most extrodinary leels of the Shirdi Saint. Dr. Rustomji, a homeopath who was once engaged in mediacal work in the homeopathic despensary in Shirdi, tells us of this wonderful miracle. It appears that the doctor was owing a sum of Rs. 300/- to a certain party in Bombay. The doctor came down to Bombay and made out a cheque for that amount and passed it on to his friend, telling him that he could cash it when he liked. On returning home, however, the doctor found much to his dismay that his pass-book showed that he had not that much balance in his account. The thought that his cheque might be dishounored, and what his friend would think about him in consequence upset the doctor very much. In this predicament, with his usual implicit faith in his Guru, Dr. Rustomji pleaded with Sai Baba to get him out of the impasse. His prayer was answered in a strange way. A couple days later a casual acquaintance called on the doctor and asked him if he would keep a small packet for him which he would come and claim after three months. Dr. Rustomji was surprised at this unusual request and the man what the packet contained. “It contains the sum of Rs. 300/-”, was the amazing reply! “Do you mind if I use the money”, asked the doctor promptly. The gentleman said he would not mind what the doctor did as long as the money was returned to him when he came to claim it after three months. One can imagine the doctor’s reaction! Surely this was Baba’s leela, he felt. He rushed to the bank with the amount and after ascertaining that hischeque had not yet been presented he paid in the amount into his account with a sigh of relief. His honour was saved. Three months passes by, but the man who had given him the money to keep did not turn up. Nor did the doctor know about his wherabouts. After six months Dr. Rustomji suddenly saw his benefactor walking down the road. The doctor at once went up to him and after greetings were exchanged said, “Why did you not claim your money all these months? You can take it back now.” But the man so addressed looked blank and said he had not given any money to the doctor. Thinking that the man was joking, the doctor tried to press the packet of notes into his hands. But the gentleman

I would like to add two from among the many remarkable miracles that I actually experienced as a token of Shri Sai Baba’s infinite love and protection. I somehow feel an urge to reveal these miracles here as a gesture of gratitude to my great guru.

Round about the year 1950, I started suffering from a peculiar ailment of the throat, a severe irritation and congestion which prevented me from indulging in my cherished hobby of singing. As a sincere student of vocal Hindustani classical music, I was apprehensive and miserable. In about 10 minutes, my voice would become hoarse, and I would have to put down my tanpura with a feeling of frustration. I consulted many doctors, both allopathic and homeopathic, but no one was able to give me the slightest relief. After six months of unremitting torture, I went to Shirdi. As I stood before Sai Baba samadhi, my heart and eyes suddenly welled up with tears, and in an impassioned outburst I poured out my protest to my Guru. Having thus relived my pent-up feelings, I came out of the Samadhi Mandir and went over to visit a friend of mine who at that time stayed in the precincts of the sansthan. My friend and I discussed and talked about several topics of interest, and in her pleasant company I almost forgot my misery and my recent outburst at the Samadhi. At about 7.30 p.m. I took leave of my friend to go to the room that had been allotted to me. It was one of those old rooms, on the ground floor, just behind the Guru Sthan. I opened the lock and entered the room which was absolutely vacant and unfurnished except for my bag and bedding which lay still unopened in a corner of the room. Thinking that I would make myself comfortable, I started removing my sari from my left shoulder by unfastening the pin that held it up. As I removed the folds I heard something rustling in the sari; and a small packet about two inches long made up in a white paper fell from my sari to the ground. For a moment I was perplexed and looked around me, wondering what had happened. But the door and windows of the room were shut, and there was no one there but me. I picked up the little packet. It was neatly folded as if by a compounder or a chemist and as I carefully unfolded it I discovered to my amazement that it contained 6 or 7 tiny white tablets such as are commonly used in Homeopathy. When I realized the significance of this, I draped my sari again and rushed out to my friend with the tablets in hand. My friend was devoted to Baba and had had experiences of Baba’s leelas. She said, “You understand, don’t you, that this is Baba’s prasad. What are you going to do about it?” I replied: “I am going to take all these tablets right now”, and I put these pellets in my mouth. Strangely enough, I did not then somehow connect this miracle with my urgent prayer for my throat. It was when I returned home and that all the congestion in my throat had entirely disappeared that I relaxed the magnitude of the miracle with which I had been blessed. The medicine, whatever it was, literally dropped like manna from heaven and healed me, perhaps, of some serious malady. My heart overflowed with gratitude.

A year or so later I experienced another incredible manifestation of Baba’s Grace. I was to go to Poona alone for some work. My husband could not come even to see me off because he was busy attending a meeting. Anyway, he had reserved a seat for me in one of those cubicles in a corridor train in the Deccan Queen. There was still half an hours time for the train to start. As I sat in my seat near the window, sipping tea, I soon noticed that a well-dressed middle-aged gentleman was pacing up and down the platform of the V.T. Station. Every time this man passed my window he looked at me with interest. I must explain here that I suffer from a curious lapse of memory in recognizing faces. I may be introduced to a person and then meet him or her several years later, I cannot recall it. Due to this defect, I was often misunderstood which made me miserable and ultra-sensitive. Seeing this gentleman looking at me with interest, I now felt that this perhaps was another of those persons I had met and did not recognize. I, therefore, smiled and wished him, whereupon the gentleman came rushing up to me and with great familiarity enquired where I was going and whether I was alone, etc. This put me off my guard and thinking that he was indeed an acquaintance whom I had failed to remember, I readily agreed to his suggestion that he should join me in my compartment. The gentleman rushed in with his suitcase, just as the train was about to start and sat opposite me. But we had hardly gone a 100 yards when the stranger started showing himself in his true colors. From his speech and deportment I discovered to my horror that he was not a gentleman, and that I had placed myself in a nasty situation. Suddenly I found that he had bolted the door of our compartment! With courage, however, I got up and unlocked the door. I dared not go out into the corridor because I had with me my suit-case a rare sari costing more than a thousand rupees, belonging to someone else. In this predicament, I sat down again and concentrated with all my heart on my Master and prayed to him to rescue me from this precarious situation. No sooner had I uttered this prayer mentally, a unique miracle manifested itself! As I turned my eyes to the door, I saw a porter standing there, looking at me quizzically. How can a porter have appeared just at that identical moment in my compartment and this too in a running train which had not stopped at any station! Was he indeed a real porter or was he a projection of my Master’s thought of protection for one who took refuge in him? Anyway I sprang up from my seat with alacrity, told the porter to remove my luggage and cleared out into the open corridor bogie. As I left the compartment I cast a glance at the miscreant and saw a look of utter disconcerted surprise on his face. As I occupied another seat, I tried to tip the porter, but looking at me with indulgence he refused to take the money. I took his hand and pressed a coin into it, whereat the Divine messenger quietly took it and went away. Now very strangely enough all this time I did not realize what a miracle I was experiencing. It was only a minute after the porter went away that I understood with a shock the significance of it all. I rushed up and down the whole corridor looking everywhere for my savior, but there was no sign of him. I got down at Poona thrilled and chastened.

Since both these miracles are extraordinary, I relate them in detail, without the slightest exaggeration. These miracles may seem incredible to skeptics, but it is not our concern to convince the non-believers. Faith is a gift, and it is only those who have the faith and vision who are able to achieve. Much of life’s secret beauty and fascination would be lost without the basic attitude of faith. To be responsive to the hidden powers and charm of mysticism is an enlightened approach. It confirms man’s humble realization of his very restricted knowledge and thus lays him open to lovely glimpses of the Eternal. Faith, therefor, is a conquest, as it renews our vision and redirects our energies silently towards the enigma of creation.

These and many miracles occurred in my life in the early years of my attachment to my Guru. Every time I experienced a miracle, I was drawn closer to my Master in wonderment and gratitude. But a stage came when the miracles stopped completely and abruptly. Sai Baba had achieved his purpose. Through this very human medium he roused me from apathy and won me over to God, as it were, and when he knew that I was securely transformed and loved him for his own sake, then Baba stopped these spontaneous expressions of his infinite compassion. The miracle is not an end, it is the means for securing the sadhaka’s interest in his own ultimate purpose and destiny. Thus, God and Gurus fulfill themselves in strange and varied ways.