Mhalsapati, who had the benefit of forty to fifty unbroken years with Sai Baba, may be considered among the foremost of his devotees. He was the first to worship Baba, the first to greet him on his arrival in Shirdi and to address him as "Sai" (Saint). Only Mhalsapati and one other (Tatya Kote Patil) were allowed to stay with Baba in the mosque at night.
In 1886 Mhalsapati was entrusted with a very important responsibility that was literally a matter of life and death, and which had far-reaching implications. Baba, who had been suffering from breathing difficulties, told him that he was "going to Allah", and that Mhalsapati should look after his body for three days. "If I do not return," said Baba, "then get it buried near the neem tree." On uttering these words, Baba passed out. Mhalsapati sat for three days with Baba's body on his lap. When village officers held an inquest and declared Baba dead, Mhalsapati remained steadfast and refused to allow them to take the body for burial. After this, Baba revived to live for another thirty-two years!
In such ways, Mhalsapati gave continued and devoted service to Baba throughout. In return, Baba guided and protected him, and kept him on a high moral and spiritual course.
Mhalsapati survived Baba by four years. During that time he continued to sleep in the mosque, perform daily worship of Baba and Khandoba, observe mouna (silence) and sit in meditation. Baba had moulded this simple and conservative yet dedicated priest into a paragon of spiritual excellence.
Notable Disciples of Sai baba
Once at the time of Deepawali Sai Baba was sitting near the ‘Dhuni’ (a sacred site represented as a cleft in the ground). Sai baba was warming himself by putting the wood into the dhuni. High flames were coming out from the dhuni and warmness was spread around it. After a while instead of putting wood, Sai baba put his hand inside it. His hand was severely burnt and his disciple Madhav and Madhav Rao Deshpande were shocked to see the sight. They immediately pulled Baba back and became worried for his hand.
They started asking Baba- “Deva, why did you do so?” Baba became attentive and told his disciples that at some distance from Shirdi a lady iron-smith was airing the oven. The lady forgot that her child was tied to her waist and she overheard her husband’s sound. Unfortunately the child slipped and fell into the oven.
Sai baba said that I put my hand into the oven and immediately saved the child from burning. He said that he is not concerned about burning of his own hand instead he is contented that he saved the life of an infant.
After the incident Madhav Rao Desphpande immediately went to call the famous doctor Shri Parmanand along with medicines and bandages. Baba did not let the doctor examine his hand, instead he said that God is the healer of his wound and he will get well by the love of his disciples.
Sai Baba left behind no spiritual heirs, appointed no disciples, and did not even provide formal initiation (diksha), despite requests. Some disciples of Sai Baba achieved fame as spiritual figures, such as Upasni Maharaj of Sakori. After Sai Baba left his body, his devotees offered the daily Aarti to Upasni Maharaj when he paid a visit to Shirdi, two times within 10 years.
Shirdi Ke Sai Baba : The Warrior Saint
Many of us do not know that the wise man from Shirdi, Sai Baba, is the most popular non-Zoroastrian saint that the Zoroastrians worship. A modern-day wonder who combines old-world values and secular practices with a 21st century broad-mindedness, frankness and generosity, Shirdi ke Sai Baba is a saint, warrior and philosopher of the highest order. His dwelling place, Shirdi, has attracted tourists from the world over in huge numbers ever since his death in the second decade of the last century.
The young lad who lived under trees, practicing hard penance for days on end, was finally seen leaving the village. Nobody knew whether the continuous taunts of the children had driven him away, because they jeered at him for his ‘peculiar’ ways. When he returned, he was a devotee of the one true God in who he believed, keeping love, gratitude and mercy above all deities and frequently saying things like ‘Sab ka Maalik ek’ ( Everyone has just one God ), to emphasise his secular outlook. He never made it quite clear if he were a Hindu, Muslim or Christian. He quoted liberally both from the Bhagavad Gita and the Quran during his talks with his disciples, and asked everyone to read religious scriptures irrespective of whatever religion they followed, or believed in.
He was strictly against both caste and religious differences, greeting Hindus with ‘Bismillah!’ and Muslims with Hindu words of devotion. This truly modern view of the world prompted many to start visiting him, and Shirdi began to be venerated as a religious shrine in India, though Sai Baba has temples in England, USA, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia, Pakistan and Kenya. Much beyond the one-piece robe wearing fakir that he was mistaken for, Sai Baba has become a religious figure of international repute and popularity. Thousands of foreigners frequent the hallowed precints of the place where his mortal remains are interred.
Sai Baba’s devotees and disciples credit him with miracles and wonders, but the truly wondrous event surrounding him is his lifestyle and the knowledge he has bequeathed is rich and lively.