An explanation about the role and greatness of Shri Sai of Shirdi
would remain incomplete without the understanding of the life
of Kashinath Govind Upasani Sastri, who later came to be known
as Shri Upasani Maharaj. Shri Sais deeds and
life was full of miracles, but the greatest miracle was His creation
of this once inconsequential person to the status of a Sadguru
within a period of four years! The methods used by Shri Sai to
completely transform Kashinath Sastri, the pain taken by him to
protect the neophyte and the assurance with which he grew this
unsure and confused disciple to the state of a Perfect Master,
would indicate where in the spiritual hierarchy of this world
Shri Sai remains.
Born on 5th may, 1870 at Satana, Maharashtra
(in India), Kashinath did not exhibit traits of a normal child
from the beginning, although his deviations did not indicate existence
of any super-intelligence or excellence in him. He held extremely
strong views about two vital aspects of life when in his teens.
First, he declared that the formalized educational learning was
only for bread winning and, therefore, after doing three years
in a vernacular elementary school left it; merciless canning by
his teacher becoming the immediate cause of such realization.
Secondly, he hated and condemned the body (i.e. his own body)
as the creator of limitations and pain in life. He spent all his
time doing in Asans (exercises as per Yoga), Pranayama
(Breath control exercises), repetition of mantras etc.
With such an attitude he could earn nothing and for his family
members he was a problem child. To make matters worse, he was
married with the hope that his ways would change. Old habits die
hard. Not only did Kashinath not change, but also a few months
after marriage he ran away from home (at the Dhulia district in
Maharashtra) leaving a departing note and reached Nasik. However,
two months later anxiety about the plight of his parents compelled
him to return home. Shortly thereafter his wife expired, but before
the cup of sorrow could be emptied, Kashinath, now fifteen was
got married second time. To earn livelihood he went to places
like Pune and could not find a job because of the absence of any
formal education. At times he did menial work for others and at
other times, he took to begging. He was in a miserable state of
life. Sometimes, he even had to sleep on footpaths (sideways)
and live only on Margosa (Neem) leaves.
During this period of trials and tribulations,
he met a saint who impressed upon him the virtues of Brahmacharya
(celibacy). Leaving Pune he went to a place called Kalyan where
he restored to begging as a means of livelihood, often quenching
his hunger only by drinking water. A few days later, frustrated
and exhausted, he decided to return home moving through Nasik.
He reached home at Satana in July 1890. Soon after his father
passed away. To earn livelihood, he practiced medicine for some
time, followed by a job of a Malgujari (tax collector for
the king or ruler). However, he failed in all the material ventures
he undertook. His health also deteriorated substantially due to
neglect and lack of comforts. While practicing Pranayama
(Breath control exercises), his breath-cycle also got disturbed.
Even his sleep, digestion and evacuation systems got difficult.
All efforts of medical and religious having failed, he tried to
get occult help of a Yogi. A Yogi called Yogi Kulkarni whom he
met at Rahuri told him that Kashinath had entered a high yogic
state and therefore, must take the help of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Presuming Shri Sai to be a Moslem, Kashinath did not take the
advice seriously. One day when Kashinath was walking in the streets
of Rahuri, an old man approached him to take hot water as a curative
measure and to avoid taking cold water. Kashinath did not take
this unsolicited advice given by a unknown person but continued
his search for a Hindu Yogi. While on such a move, at a certain
place called Jajuri, he went into a Samadhi state while sitting
in a lonely place surrounded by prickly-pear bush. When he awoke,
he felt very thirsty and went to the stream nearby to drink water.
At that time the same old man re-appeared from nowhere. He repeated
his advice in an angry tone and disappeared suddenly. Kashinath
took his advice (this time) seriously and found sudden relief.
In a short time his health became all right by this hot-water
therapy. Then he went to meet Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon a famous
Saint. On his way back he again met Yogi Kulkarni at Rahuri who
again insisted upon him to meet Sai Baba, as Shirdi was on the
way. Ultimately Kashinath came to Shirdi and met Shri Sai on 27th
June 1911. Little did he realize at that time that he had met
his Sadguru (Master) and that the course of his life would
undergo complete thereafter.
After staying at Shirdi for about two or three
days, Kashinath wanted to leave for home. Obviously he had been
wishing for a happy union with his family members and to live
with them happily ever after. However, Sai would not agree. Everyone
in Shirdi knew that if Shri Sai did not permit one to leave Shirdi,
there must be something more to it. Those who disobeyed faced
problems, which could have been avoided, had they heeded to the
words of Shri Sai. When Kashinath pleaded vehemently, Shri Sai
ultimately permitted him on the condition that he (Kashinath)
should return to Shirdi in eight days. Kashinath, at that time,
not having full faith in Sai, started worrying and fretting as
eight days was too short a time. Sai knowing his mental state
told him well, go if you like, I will see what can I do.
Very happy at the prospect of going home he made a quick departure.
However, strangely enough, moving from place to place, he reached
Kopergaon (a village 8 miles away from Shirdi) on the eighth day.
He was utterly confused and did not know that as to how in eight
days of continuous walking he could only cover eight miles. Willy-nilly
from Kopergaon, he came to Shirdi with a group of pilgrims and
met Shri Sai again.
When he bowed before Shri Sai, the latter asked
Sai : So You have come, when did you leave
Kashinath : Thursday
Sai : At what time?
Kashinath : At Three
Sai : What day of the week is this?
Kashinath : Thursday.
Sai : How long since you left?
Kashinath : A week. To-day is the eighth
Sai : Thats it. When you left, you
protested that you could not return within eight days!
Kashinath : I do not know how this has
happened. It is all your doing.
Sai : Man, I was behind you all these eight
days. Now go and stay in that wada (i.e. Kaka Sahebs,
where visitors of Shri Sai usually stayed. Wada means
a building within a compound)
From that day onwards Kashinath was put on probation
by Shri Sai who asked him to stay in the wada (a place
where the other pilgrims were put up). Kashinath attempted to
understand Sai by starting to enquire from other devotees and
observation of His daily activities. On one day, Sai as usual
narrated a peculiar story in the form of a self-experience to
the assembled devotees. He said that once he met an emaciated
and pregnant woman whom he advised to take only hot water and
avoid cold-water, so that the child could be delivered early.
She did not heed His advice but went on to drink cold water. He
again came and advised the lady not to take cold water but to
take hot water only. When she started to take hot water, she delivered
the child. While narrating the story Shri Sai pointed frequently
at Kashinath, who was convinced that it was Shri Sai who had appeared
at two places to save him. Love and gratitude engulfed him so
much that he started crying. Sai told him clearly that he and
Kashinath had Rinanubandha (Karmic obligations of the past,
including the previous births) for many centuries.
To protect Kashinath from all external factors
that effect spiritual growth, Sai asked him to go and sit in Khandoba
Temple and do nothing so that Sai would be able to do whatever
he wills to do i.e. to work within Kashinath and evolve him.
Sai told Kashinath that Khandobas (Lord Shiva) full grace
will come on him after a period of four years.
Like a mother protecting its child from the on-slaughts
of nature and people around even at the cost of her own life,
Shri Sai protected Kashinath whole-heartedly and openly. Before
the assemblage of jealous devotees who asked about the reason
of His extreme grace He said, yes, yes, everything has been
given, whatever he is, good or bad, he is mine. There is no distinction
between him and me. Now, the whole responsibility for him rests
with me. Kashinath still could not understand the import
of the words of Shri Sai. To further indicate his future, Sai
said wherever you are, you are God You will realize
The grace of the Sadguru is immeasurable.
It is said that whereas a touch stone can change a stone to gold
by mere touch, the Sadguru (Perfect Master) is such a touch-stone
who can convert a stone (disciple) to a touch-stone i.e. to His
own state (Perfect Master). The Sadguru, at this stage
is responsible for everything, good or evil, done by the pupil.
At this stage, the Sadguru virtually remains at the mercy
of the disciple. By this total sacrifice of Himself, the Sadguru
evolves the disciple to a state of perfection i.e. His own state.
Shri Sai, once told one of His close-associates that the endeavor
should be to create these perfect men so that they can, in turn,
spiritually uplift thousands and millions of other souls from
the state of Jivatma (bonded souls) to the state of Shivatma
(Perfect souls). To evolve Kashinath was no easy task for Shri
Sai. It is said that the difference in the state of consciousness
between a stone and an ordinary man is what is the difference
between an ordinary man and a Sadguru. Like a man turning
a piece of stone by the use of hammer, chisel to a beautiful piece
of sculpture, the Sadguru can change a gross individual
to that of a perfect soul. This is what Shri Sai was trying to
do on Kashinath. The methods he used were, sometimes, harsh from
the point of view of Kashinath, but, none the less were meant
for his evolution to that perfect state only.
To begin his work Sai told Kashinath Sit
quiet, somehow. Have nothing to do with anyone. Sai wanted
Kashinath not to create further Samskaras or
impressions for himself in attachment with other people but to
draw his mind inwards. As he followed the master, a series of
mystic reactions happened in Kashinath and around him.
To make Kashinath realize that, his Guru (Shri
Sai) was present in every living being irrespective of the species,
He once told Kashinath that he would one day visit Khandoba temple
(where Kashinath used to stay). He further said that would Kashinath
recognize Him, He would have chillum (earthen pipe for
smoking) with him. About two or three months later Kashinath was
taking some food to his Guru (Sai, who was sitting at the DwarkaMai
mosque). A black dog who had been watching Kashinath while cooking,
followed him. Without giving any food to the dog, Kashinath went
straight to Sai, who said, why did you take the trouble
to bring the food here, in this hot sun. I was sitting there (i.e.
near the temple). Kashinath was shocked to hear that his
Guru was at the temple and he did not know. He told Sai that there
was none in the temple except a black dog. At that, Sai said yes,
yes, I was that dog. Hearing this Kashinath could not stop
crying and resolved never again to commit such a blunder. On the
next day, while cooking, he watched around cautiously lest the
dog would come again. The dog was no where to be seen. A shudra
(lower-caste) beggar was found leaning against a wall and watching
him cook. Kashinath the Brahmin (Uppermost-caste) grown in the
orthodox tradition, immediately asked him to go away. Later when
he approached Sai, the latter asked him yesterday you did
not give me food and today you also ordered me not to stand there
and drove me away. Do not bring food for me hereafter. Again
Kashinath was surprised and again he was told that shudra
was Sai Himself. These two lessons taught Kashinath
that God and Shri Sai are in everything, and that the essence
of God pervades everyone and everything.
On the Gurupurnima day (Ashadha full moon
day) of 1913, Shri Sai asked a devotee Chandrabai, a strong willed
lady to worship Kashinath the way Sai was being worshipped.
This lady approached Kashinath in Khandoba temple with the Puja
(worship) material for his worship. Kashinath refused to
be worshipped and, even, threatened her for her audacious act.
But Chandrabai told him (the language of Sai said through her)
that even his body, which he thought was being worshipped, did
not belong to him. From this day onwards Kashinath was called
as Upasani Maharaj as officially Sai installed him as a Guru even
in his probation period. After this incident, he started
losing the sense of his body (Dehabhava).
Now Upasani Maharaj started having visions and
feelings of a highly psychic and spiritual nature. For example,
he lost his normal vision by looking at the sun constantly.
The sun and other light sources looked dark to him. When
in this state, one day, he suddenly started seeing circles of
light, which expanded and then came near him. These circular
specks of light would disappear coming near his body. Now
he started seeing spiritual visions inside these circles of light.
One day he saw himself standing at some place in the space and
saw the whole cosmos including the sun, moon, sky revolving.
The whirling cosmos slowly became smaller and smaller, came towards
him, and vanished near him or into him. Upasani Maharaj
now experienced that the whole world was illusory and revolving
and that he, as a soul, was outside it. This was a higher stage
in his spiritual growth.
From his childhood Upasani Maharaj had identified
the body as the cause of all evils in life and had made conscious
attempts to punish it. For a spiritual aspirant identifying
the body with the self is a big limitation. How Shri Sai
removed it is an interesting story. One day Upasani Maharaj
saw a vision that in an old building he (Upasani) and Sai were
there. Shri Sai beckoned him to bring his ear close to his
(Sai) mouth so that he could give a mantra. When Upasani
Maharaj tried to do so, a shabby figure, which looked exactly
like him tried to pull Maharaj away from Sai. Then Sai beat-up
that shabby figure carried him out and burnt him in a pyre.
Identifying himself with this figure when Upasani complained about
this action (of burning). Shri Sai told him that it was
his (Maharajs) evil form, which has been burnt. Little
later, he saw an illuminated figure of himself. Again on
being asked, Sai said that it was his (Maharajs) virtuous
form. Maharaj was surprised and asked if he had an evil
form and also a virtuous form who was he! Shri Sai told him that
he was beyond both these forms and was the pure soul the element
with which Shri Sai himself was made of.
As Upasani Maharaj proceeded from the stage of
illumination to self-realization occult powers and siddhis
came to him. When an aspirant evolves in the spiritual
path higher psychic and occult powers gradually grow in him.
He could read the minds of everyone his past, present and
future. People started surrounding him and he had some following.
Often, when he would be worshipped by a few persons,
a crazy ascetic called Nanavali, who stayed at Shirdi, would come
and pull out his cloth and talk with him with disrespect and contempt.
Once he tied him up and beat him up. As Nanavali was a tough and
dangerous person, no one could protect Upasani Maharaj.
His cup of sorrow was full but inwardly his Godly qualities were
evolving to perfection. He was getting ready for his new
and bigger role. Every time he faced a problem, Sai assured
him by saying that He (Sai) was always with him and that the more
he suffered at present, better it would be for his future.
One night in July 1914 Upasani Maharaj left Shirdi
quietly taking mental permission from his Guru for a role he was
destined to play elsewhere. First he went to a place called
Shindi, then to Nagpur where he stayed for about a month and finally
Kharagpur. At all these places, people started worshipping
him even when he tried fervently to run-away from such situations.
He tried to remain incognito but people would not leave him in
peace. At Kharagpur, he deliberately stayed in a dirty condition
and used filthy articles and even abused people in most unparliamentary
language that he could. People followed him everywhere and
conducted his Puja (worship) and demanded advice out of
him. When a flower blooms and its aroma spreads, butterflies
and insects naturally get drawn towards it.
Same was the case with Upasanji Maharaj.
Since he had become a Satpurush (Perfect one)
people naturally flocked to him whether he liked it or not.
All persons coming in contact with a Satpurush get purified.
His following increased everyday and his surroundings became a
place of activities like poor feeding, kirtan and Naamjap
remembrance of the name etc. Although Upasani Maharaj would
not agree to be the creator, but a number of miracles started
happening around him. After staying for about a year in
Kharagpur, when people tried to build a permanent abode for him,
he quickly left the place. Soon he reached Nagpur, where
also, people surrounded to have his darshan. After
two months of stay at Nagpur, he visited places like Poona and
also his home at Satana. As his four-year period was over,
he returned to Shridi and stayed at Khandoba temple for about
seven months. Thereafter, he left for a place called
Rahata where he conducted naam japs, poor feeding etc.
From there he went to Ahmedabad for some time. Returning
to Shirdi, a third time he stayed near to his Guru for about two
to three months. In 1917, he finally shifted to Sakori and
started functioning as a spiritual master (Sadguru).
This child of Shri Sai served thousands and thousands
of people, day in and day out with least regard for his personal
comforts and finally left his gross body in the early hours of
the 24th day of December, in the year 1941. Like his Guru,
Upasani Baba had given enough indications about his final departure
Upasani Baba was Shri Sais loftiest creation a stone
turned into a touchstone.