The Eternal Sai Phenomenon attempts to unravel the nature of Sai phenomenon primarily in the timeless Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. Sai path been analysed from the standpoint of various yogas, like karma yoga, Ganan yoga, Dhyana yoga and Bhakti yoga. Anecdotes from Shirdi Sai Baba’s life have been narrated to bring home the unique confluence of universal truths of world religions the teachings and conduct.
Shri Nanda has brought in the eternal nature of the unique phenomenon of Sai linking it to the earlier prophets and Sadgurus. The appearance of Shirdi Sai, the events in His lifetime and after His Mahasamadhi in 1918 have been recorded in the chronological time period with due acknowledgement to the sources. The historical recording starts from 1854 and comes up to year 2010. Arrangement of selected events year-wise is expected to familiarise the readers to the unfolding of Sai phenomenon in an orderly historical perspective.
This book could serve as a reference document for Sai devotees, researchers and students of spiritual themes, who wish to explore further the nature of Sai Phenomenon and Sai Consciousness.
Amulya Ratna Nanda was born in Orissa, did his post-graduate study in Allahabad and U.K. and worked as a member of Indian Administrative Service from 1965 to 2002. During his service career, he worked with State Government of Orissa and Government of India where he held important positions of Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India and Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Since his retirement from IAS he held the position of Executive Director of Population Foundation of India till 2010. His inner search for peace and spirituality took him to Shirdi Sai Baba and since 1990 he has been reading books and writings on Sai Baba. He started writing on Sai Baba and spiritualism from 2003, and some of these came out in sai journals. He lives in New Delhi since 1997.
I had the pleasure of going through the manuscript of this book The Eternal Sai Phenomenon by Shri A R Nanda, a true devotee of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi. I have known Shri Nanda since the last thirty five years. I had met him for the first time in the year 1975 at Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath, where he was posted as the Collector and District Magistrate. Shri Nanda, as an officer of the Indian Administrative Service, not only has held very important and responsible assignments under the state Government of Orissa and the Government of India but also is unequivocally respected as a personality endowed with the qualities of simplicity and a high level of integrity. He retired as Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India in the year 2002 and functioned as the Executive Director of The Population Foundation of India (Delhi), a body dedicated to human welfare through family planning, etc. till 2010.
At heart he has always been a God loving man and has maintained a high standard of conduct throughout. During his wife's illness we came in close contact at Delhi where I was posted on deputation to the Govt. of India. From 1989, I had started believing in Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi as a perfect spiritual soul and had accepted him as my spiritual mentor. Before I entered the Sai path, people used to visit me regularly, mostly on Saturdays, to consult on Astrology, general religious matters and for treatment through a pyramidical structure. I had constructed in the lawn of my house at Netaji Nagar, Delhi. Having entered the path of Shri Sai my approach to spiritualism went through a sea-change. Hence forth, I started advising people who used to visit me to read the available literature on Shirdi Sai, visit His Samadhi at Shirdi and also to hold-on to Him as a Spiritual Master. Shri Nanda is one of the earliest co-travelers in this path with me. During the decades, 1990-2010, his faith in Baba has remained steadfast. Our contact with each .other has been constant and with me, he has seen the history of the growth of Sai movement in India. After retirement, he accepted an assignment, basically with a motive to be useful to an important social cause like health management with a social welfare theme.
Simultaneously, he has been writing on Shri Shirdi Sai Baba having gone through a lot of literature and discussions on the subject. Besides the Sai literature, he has studied all possible literature on Hinduism like the Vedas and Puranas. He has contributed a number of articles in an English magazine captioned "The Heritage of Sai". He has reviewed a number of books written by devotees on Baba. At his native village Tigiria in the Distt. of Cuttack in Orissa, he has enthused his relatives and others to come up with a temple (Shree SAl Gita Peeth). Being an egoless and good natured soul, he is an extremely popular and respected person among the Sai devotees all-over.
When such a person creates his magnum-opus, like this book, it has to be viewed with a different perspective from what is usually done when reading any book. This book contains the quintessence of his life's spiritual experience. He has been writing this book for the last four years, even when he was in an extremely adverse physical condition. It is ordinarily not possible for a human being to write on such a serious theme in such a scholarly manner when one is down with a serious health condition. The required period of time, the quantum of energy and the right mental state to write such a book are factors which cannot be put into optimal use in such a condition. But Shri Nanda has done it due to his unflinching faith in Baba and his sheer will power.
The first thing that is likely to attract a discerning reader is the very title of the book. Shri Nanda has very clearly explained the meaning of the title of the book and that too quite justifiably. Shri Nanda has at first tried to bring out the principles in the conduct of the spiritual, religious and social affairs of human beings, functioning as individuals and as groups as enunciated in the Bhagavad Gita. Then he has examined the various acts/ conducts and sayings of Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi in the light of the principles of the Bhagavad Gita. Many prominent devotees of Baba like Annasaheb Dabholkar, Shri Narasmiha Swami and others have written on this aspect too. However, to the best of my knowledge, so far, no such book has been written which exclusively explains the life and preachings of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba in the light of the Bhagavad Gita. I am sure that for serious readers, scholars and researchers, this book will be of great help. Such research material is the real need of the hour. Further, Shri Nanda has done a very useful exercise in preparing a chronological date of events related to Baba's life.
The period of time through which Baba passed was an extremely important phase of Indian history that is between the Sepoy Mutiny (1857) to the end of the First World War (1918). Baba used to be visited by Magistrates, Judges, Revenue and other officials of all levels of the British Government regularly. Also lawyers, political personalities like Shri Bal Gangadhar Tilak, freedom fighters, businessmen, doctors and others used to visit him at Shirdi. Given this backdrop, any serious research or writing on Baba has to apply historical-religious-autobiographical research methodologies collectively. Further, etymological and hagiographical viewpoints have to be taken into consideration.
A large number of books on Shri Shirdi Sai Baba have been written in different Indian languages and some books have also been written by foreign scholars and researchers. In some of these books, Baba's personality has been interpreted in the light of various religious cults like those of the Sufis, Naths, etc. Baba has been related with Hindu deities such as Shri Vishnu, Hanuman, Shiva, Ganesh and others. I am of the view that Baba's universal and magnanimous personality cannot be explained purely in terms of any single cult. No doubt that he was a Fakir, but his acceptance and maintenance of fundamental Hindu way of life, does not justify a monotheistic approach. Baba's life and conduct can be best explained with reference to the universal and time-proven principles of the Bhagavad Gita.
To that extent the book of Shri A R Nanda can be valued highly. When the principles of the Bhagavad Gita are merely reproduced to prove any aspect of a literary work, at times, it is not easily understood. When such concepts are linked or qualified with anecdotes, it is better understood and generates continued interest in the readers. Shri Nanda has referred to a number of events from the life of Baba and thereby has made it easy for the readers to have a better understanding of the subject. The use of words in this book is economical but apt. The style is scholastic and the flow is lucid. Shri Nanda has taken meticulous details of names and numbers he has collected from the available sources. I highly appreciate hard and sustained labour he has put-in to bring out this boo.
Thousands of devotees of Baba, who want to know more; more about Him would be benefited by reading this book and derive joy. I am sure that this valuable book will be of immense help both to the devotees and scholars alike, who would choose to undertake any serious research on Baba. I also foresee that book will be translated into other Indian languages in future. Iwould request Shri Nanda not to stop the flow of his writing v this book alone, but to continue to write on Baba and other related subjects. I pray to Shri Shirdi Sai Baba to bless Shri Nanda v good health and enable him to write more books and articles.
Writing a book on Shri Shirdi Sai Baba was never in my mind, much less within my capacity until 2007, when serious health problems decimated me physically. But the Grace of Baba drew out positive energy, will-power and mental strength inside me to overcome the fear of the unknown and to concentrate on Him- the Samarth Sadguru. An ardent Sai devotee, Shri C.B. Satpathy, who has been my friend, philosopher and guide for the last twenty years, ushered me to the Sai path. My progression on this path has been very slow, despite many opportunities and pushes given by my guide. In 2002, soon after my retirement from Government service, Shri Satpathy requested me to write reviews of books written on Baba and articles on Shrimad Bhagawat Gita about the life and teachings of Sai Baba, for the English journal Heritage of Shri hirdi Sai Baba. I did not have a clue as to how to begin and kept on procrastinating. I tried to write but did not succeed. I read many books written on Baba, including Shri Sai Satcharita again and again, made notes from Bhagavad Gita but the flow did not come, I wept silently, prayed to Baba, visited the temple and enquired from Sri Satpathy. He always encouraged me saying that Baba would give me the strength to write. Sai Baba stood before me in a Vision one night, along with His Ankit Santan, and I was too stunned to even bow down and offer my prostration. However, I started writing and my flow did not stop - a few book reviews, followed by writings on the nature of Sai phenomenon and Sai path linking it to Vedantic and Upanishadic teachings, particularly Shrimad Bhagavad Gita. The writings ranged from simple to abstruse philosophy around Baba. The Heritage of Shirdi Sai Baba carried some of these articles.
Then came a sudden urge to attempt a compilation of the chronological account of the events of Baba's lifetime from 1854, the period of His first advent at Shirdi to 1918, and the growth of the Sai movement after His Mahasamadhi. Shri Satpathy gave me a copy of the combined edition of the 4 volumes of the book Life of Sai Baba written by Shri Narasimhaswami for attempting a review. I came across Satpathyji's writings at the end of this book, directing a chronological account of events. I do not know whether this direction was meant for me, but it started my urge to compile from available books and documents, a historical narration of Sai phenomenon. Much of the hagiographical accounts were excluded in this process, even though these were equally important. These accounts have come out in successive issues of Heritage, starting from January 2007, and ending with the Ramanavami issue April, 2009. During this period Baba diverted my attention from the physical pain and mental sufferings I was going through. Towards the end of 2008 I began to feel better and was also able to use my legs, This is when I dared to delve in to the history of last 90 years post-Mahasamadhi. I still do not believe whether any useful purpose would be served by such a compilation! I felt more study and research was needed for bringing out the important facets and dimensions of Sai phenomenon, which I could have missed in my attempt. I told myself, "Baba will probably choose the right time and person for that."
This is not an exercise in intellectualism, knowledge or intuition. I know I have very little of all this. If at all any useful or good thoughts are felt by the readers, it is all the play of Sai phenomenon and Sai leela. I hope that I may be excused for any deficiencies or faults that I may have made in writing this book.
The title of Chapter one "Effervescence Sai phenomenon" came to me spontaneously. I was never a student of Chemistry and did not know the meaning of effervescence till I wrote it. Later, I consulted dictionary and found that' effervescence' signifies bubbling up, vivacity, high-spiritedness and exhibition of great excitement. I felt satisfaction that I had conveyed my feelings on 'Sai' appropriately. All that was happening to me as I wrote on Sai Baba or compiled extracts from writers on events during and after Baba's life time, was nothing but bubbles of excitement on Sai phenomenon in my heart and minds. I am sure such ‘effervescence’ must be taking place with much greater force in the hearts and minds of millions of Sai devotees, as they experience and visualise the Sai phenomenon.
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