Sai Baba was about five feet six inches tall, neither stout nor lean. His complexion was golden yellow, his eyes bluish, which shone bright mysteriously in darkness. Indeed, his eyes were the object of wonder to devotees. Baba never drink any tea or coffee but did not ask his devotees to abstain from them.
Baba never told anyone how he got in the habit of smoking a pipe. He always used the same clay pipe although the devotees offered him many pipes which he did not use but stocked them in a hollow of the masjid wall.
The piece of cloth tied around his head was very rarely changed and never washed. When he decided to change his Kufni he sent for the tailor and said “ Get me a Kufni “ when it was given to him he always paid the tailor more than its worth.
Left to himself Baba spoke very little. Mostly he was calm & quiet, speaking only when absolutely necessary. He never laughed loudly but smiled quietly. Most of the time he sat with eyes closed. When a devotee approached him for darshan he glanced at him. Sometimes he did not even do that. He was always playful in the presence of children. He never sat leaning against the wall in the mosque. Even when he sat with his legs outstretched he always sat few feet away from the wall. He did not lie down during the day.
Marthand, son of Mahlsapathy, has said that on certain occasions Baba sent for a barbar, Balanari, and had his head shaved. After the haircut baba would put his hands in his pocket and pay the barber whatever came in his hands. But it was always much in excess of the normal payment for a shave.
Baba wore a plain kufni.
Khaparde notes in his diary: Today I shampooed the legs of Sai Baba. The softness of the limbs is wonderful.”
“ A women devotee has recorded this impression of Baba’s personality : “There was such power and penetration in his glance that none could continue to look into his eyes. One felt that Sai Baba was reading him or her mind through & through. Soon one lowered one’s eyes & bowed to him. One felt that he was not only in one’s heart but in every atom of one’s body. A few words, a gesture would reveal that Baba knew all about the past and present and even the future and about everything else.
There was nothing else to do for one except to submit trustfully and to surrender to him. And then he was to look after every minute detail and guide one safely through every turn and vicissitude of life.
In Baba’s presence, no doubts, no fears, no questioning had any place and one resigned oneself and found that was the only course, the safest and the best course.
After Aarti, Baba sat down for lunch. During the mango season Baba took one mango daily, just tasted it & have it to the devotees. Just before everyone started eating Baba mixed a deer of milk, one seer of sugar and one seer of roti in a bowl and distributed it to all his devotees as Prasad.
M.V. Pradhan, describing the noon meal, wrote: “ Baba with his own hands put the food on our plate & cups in large quantities. Instead of throwing away such valuable Prasad I asked my niece to take away three – fourths of what was served to me and that sufficed to feed my family. What I ate warded off all hunger or appetite for a night meal.” Baba almost always have dessert at the end of the meal. By the time everyone completed their meal many more waiting outside were given the Prasad. After the meal Baba was given betel & nuts to chew and he later drank a glass of water.
Baba’s method of imparting spiritual benefit was hardly noticeable. His religious practice could hardly be discussed with anyone. But his purity, strength, regularity and self-denial were prominent.
He would always go & beg for food even if ill. He would eat only a portion of what he got through alms and the rest was distributed. He was indifferent to comforts.
There were three general or common sittings or Durbar during the day. The first was in the morning after breakfast, the second after Baba’s return from Lendi and the third at 5 pm. During all these sittings Baba spoke to the devotees on how to improve their lives.
Baba’s daily routine was well structured and disciplined. He performed no rituals and read no books. Nor did he even write. His instructions were oral. It is said he would wave his arms about, or point his fingers making gestures and saying what he wanted done.
His attendants would carry out their duties of sweeping the floor and replenishing the Dhuni without a word spoken.
At about 8 pm daily Baba started distribution of Money. There was a large retinue of people who regularly received alms at his hands & they gathered in the front yard of the mosque. Baba would thrust his hand into his pockets to pick the money for each recipient and strangely enough the precise amount he wanted to give each one of them would come into his hands without the need of counting. If it was a new recipient the money he really needed would come into Baba’s hands from his pocket. He gave the money gratis and did not expect anything in return. Why he gifted the money no one knew. To newly married couples who came to receive his blessings he gave one rupee each. This daily distribution of money continued till his death.
During the Shri Ram Navami festival he gave two bundles of one rupee currency notes to two of his devotees to be distributed to the poor after the celebrations. The Naivedya offered to him by devotees daily was given away to fakirs and beggars and bairagis who lived nearby. To each of them Baba gave a 25 paisa coin daily.
Narasimha Swami Ji has written: “ with the advent of a flood of visitors a large stream of wealth and materials for pompous display poured in. The former fakir was turned ( against his wishes) into a maharaja or prince with a silver planquin, State umbrella, a chariot and a horse preceded by a procession of beaters of silver mace and all other princely paraphernalia. The money that flowed ( chiefly by way of Dakshina ) was during the last decade of Baba’s life many thousands of rupees every month. But all this pomp and all this wealth served only to set off Baba’s humility, holy poverty, non attachment and purity of life. He literally scattered all the money that flowed into his hands among those who gathered around him. Every morning he began and every evening ended as a pauper fakir. Till the very end of his life Baba’s sustenance was a begged bread and vegetable, his raiment was a tattered kufni and a skull cloth and his residence was the bare floor of a dilapidated mosque of two room dimension where all his devotees came and had his darshan.”
Excerpts from the book “ GOD WHO WALKED ON EARTH” by Ranganathan Parthasarathy