Upasani Baba’s Unique Sadhana with Shirdi Sai Baba

Basket of Tolerance “Great Tradition” Series 
Upasani Baba: 
The”Probation Period” with Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi

(Long Post)

Born on the 5th of May, 1870, in Santana, Maharashtra, India, Kashinath did not exhibit the typically expected societal traits of a “normal” child from the beginning, although his deviations did not indicate an existence of any super-intelligence or excellence in him at all. Often ignorant people thought him “crazy” or even stupid. He often voiced extremely strong views about two vital aspects of life when in his teens. 

Firstly, he perceived and lamented that the formalized educational system seemed to him nothing but a conceptual mind-trap for gaining power over money, people and knowledge. After doing three years in a vernacular elementary school, he gladly left it; merciless caning (suffering) by his teachers became the gross apparent “cause” of such a profound and courageous realization. Secondly, he strongly desired transcendence of the constant focus on the body and mind forms (i.e. his own body-mind), intuiting that the separative belief in “a body-mind” was in fact the true creator of limitations and pain in his own life.

He spent all his time practicing Asanas (alignment of the gross body with the one divine Spirit-Energy), Pranayama (alignment of the breathing loop with the one divine Spirit-Breath), repetition of Mantra (alignment of the apparent speech-mind with the one divine spirit-sound), and Dhyana (alignment of the apparent being with the one divine spirit-Self). 

Choosing to spend his time like a renunciate, so devoted to real spiritual practice, he could earn nothing. To his family members and few friends, he was a simply a “problem”. To make matters worse, he was coerced to marry as a teenager by tradition, by his parents, with the “advice” of their Guru. They all “hoped that his ways would change”. But old habits (past-life impressions) die hard. Not only did Kashinath not change, but a few months after this forced marriage, he ran away from his new wife, family, friends and home (from the Dhulia district in Maharashtra), penniless, but feeling finally free from those entanglements, leaving only a short departing note (like Ramana). He headed intuitively for Nasik. 

However, two months later, anxiety over the worries and fears of his wife and parents “compelled him” to sadly return home. Shortly thereafter his young wife died, but before the cup of entangled sorrows could be emptied for him completely, Kashinath, still only fifteen, was convinced by others to marry a second time. He was now strongly encouraged to ‘get straight” and earn a livelihood “like everyone else”. 

He went to larger cities like Pune, but could not find a job due to his lack of any formal education. He was in a double-bind. Mostly he did the lowest menial labor for others and times, he even took to begging. He was in a miserable, confused and contracted state of life. He often had to sleep in the forest on narrow earthen footpaths or small clearings, building fires and living only on Margosa (Neem) leaves.

During this period of “trials and tribulations”, leaving Pune, he went to a place called Kalyan, where he began to beg again as a means of livelihood, often quenching his hunger only by drinking stream water. The “family plan” for him was not working out. Ironically, just a few days later, frustrated and exhausted, his “Karmic GPS” returned him to the seeming security of home once more, moving through the town of Nasik again. He reached home at Santana in July 1890. Soon after his return, his father passed away. This made him feel even more “compelled” to earn a “real” livelihood. 

Without any training or degree, he practiced medicine for some time, then took a job of Malgujari (tax collector for the king or ruler..IRS). However, he completely failed in all the worldly ventures he undertook. His health also started to deteriorate substantially due to the time-absorption and anxiety of “working”. Kashinath would try to engage his beloved spiritual practices but he had no energy left over. Pranayama was fruitless. His breath-cycle was clearly disturbed. Even his sleep (insomnia), digestion (reflux) and evacuation systems (IBS) were disturbed as well. All interventions by the medical and religious “establishment” having completely failed, he thought to get some sort of “occult” help from a Yogi.

A Yogi named “Yogi Kulkarni”, whom he’d met previously in Rahuri, “opened his eyes” by showing him that he had already entered into a high yogic state, and that all these disturbances were simply the result of him temporarily abandoning his practices for the “voices in his head”. He saw his Divine nature, and implored him to find the mysterious Reality Master (Sadguru) Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi. Thinking of Shri Sai as only a “Moslem”, as many did, Kashinath did not take the advice seriously right away. He kept wandering, looking for the Master, and at a certain place called Jajuri, he spontaneously entered the “state” of Nirvikalpa Samadhi while sitting in a lonely desert area surrounded by prickly-pear cactuses. 

When he emerged from this absorption, he felt very thirsty and went to the stream nearby to drink water. At that time an old man appeared at the stream seemingly “from out of nowhere”. The man approached him, and simply advised him to imbibe “hot water” as a curative measure for his ills, and to avoid taking the cold stream water. Kashinath didn’t seem to be listening, so he repeated his advice in an angry tone and then quietly moved on. Kashinath decided to take the mysterious old man’s advice seriously and found sudden relief in a nearby hot spring that he spontaneously encountered. In a realatively short time his bodily energy became more balanced and free by this hot-water therapy. He realized too that he had seen this man before.

Next he went to meet “Narayan Maharaj” of Kedgaon, a very famous saint, with thousands of followers, and a “big show” surrounding him. Nothing changed for him though. He didn’t share the enthusiasm of the saint’s numerous admirers. On his way back home, he again met Yogi Kulkarni at Rahuri, who once more insisted that he see Shree Sai Baba. Shirdi was on the way in fact. Finally Kashinath came to to the little town of Shirdi and met his Shri Sai on the 27th of June 1911. Little did he understand at that time that he had met the Sadguru (Divine Master), not just a saint or yogi, and that the course of his life would transform completely thereafter.

But amazingly his “family-program” was not fully erased yet. After only staying in Shirdi for about two or three days, Kashinath again desired the security of home, somehow even more so now. The spring was tightening for him. The societal program was clear: the happy “union” with spouse, family and society could be brought about by hard work, by following the moral cues, and by simply living with them “happily ever after”. 

However, his Master Shri Sai did not support this blind response at all. And all the other devotees in Shirdi knew if Shri Sai “did not permit” someone to leave Shirdi, there must be something tru;y Divine in it. Those who ignored his freely offered wisdom seemed always to just face more “problems”, which could have been avoided, had they heeded the Word and let their ego’s be ‘mastered” by Shri Sai. When Kashinath pleaded vehemently, Shri Sai seemed to “give in” (“I give them what they want, so….”), but on the condition that Kashinath should return to Shirdi in eight days.

Kashinath, stll doubting the Sadguru, not having full faith in Sai, again felt the familiar disturbance of anxiety, now extreme, as eight days seemed too short a time to give his “goodbyes to the world”.

Sai, knowing what his mental state truly signified, told him “Well then, go if you like, I will see what can I do.”

Very “happy” (excited) at the prospect of going home to the world, he made a quick departure. However, strangely enough, trying to move from place to place toward home, he reached only Kopergaon (a village 8 miles away from Shirdi) on the eighth day. He was utterly confused, not knowing how he could only cover eight miles in eight days of continuous walking . Then out of frustration and exhaustion of mind really, he returned to Shirdi with a group of fellow pilgrims and so met Shri Sai Sadguru again.

When he bowed before Shri Sai, the latter asked him:

Sai : “So you have come. And when did you leave this place?”
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. Today is the eighth day”.
Sai : “That’s 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, within you and around you for all these apparent “eight days”. Now go and stay in the “wada” (Kaka Saheb’s house, where devotees of Shri Sai usually stayed. ‘Wada’ means a building within a compound or ashram).”

From that day onwards Kashinath was put “on probation” by Shri Sai who told him to stay in the wada in continual silence. Kashinath did not really understand Shri Sai. Did anyone? He attempted to understand Sai by inquiring from other devotees and observing His daily activities. Shri Sai’s “lessons” were not the normal fare. His were very simple and utterly mysterious. His Divine presence was the point (…”what I have to give.”). 

For example, one day Sai conveyed a peculiar story in the form of self-experience to the assembled devotees. He said once he met an emaciated and pregnant woman whom he advised to take only hot water and avoid cold water, so that her child could be delivered early and to avoid further pain. She did not heed His advice and went on to drink cold water. He again came to her bedside and advised the lady not to take cold water but to take hot water only. When she finally agreed to take some hot water, she delivered the child relatively easily. 

While narrating the story, Shri Sai pointed his index finger frequently at Kashinath, who became filled with his Guru’s Spirit-Energy more and more each time he pointed at him. He was now “convinced” that it was Shri Sai who had appeared at the stream, not for water advice really, but to literally Save him. Love, bliss, joy and happy gratitude engulfed him so much that he started crying effusively. Sai told him boldly and clearly that He and Kashinath had “Rinanubandha” (Karmic obligations from previous apparent births) for many many centuries.

To protect his new “spiritual son” Kashinath from all the external worldly influences and distractions that effect actual spiritual growth, Shri Sai told him to go sit in continuous silence and inactivity in the “Khandoba” Temple nearby and do……. nothing. Only then would Sai be able to do his mysterious work, fill him with divine light and transform Kashinath into Him. Shri Sai told Kashinath that because of His strong love for him, Khandoba’s (God’s) full Grace would surely descend on him after a very short period of four years.

Wholeheartedly and openly, like both a strict father and a loving mother, Sai protected his child from the constant worldy onslaught of desires, distractions and the constant “presence” of “other” people’s egoic minds around Kashinath. Once before an assemblage of clearly jealous devotees, he was asked about the reason for this extreme attention to one devotee.

Shree Sai answered: “Yes, yes, it is true. Everything has been given to “him”. 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 himself still could not fully understand the words of Shri Sai.

Then Sai said: “Wherever you are, you are God – You will Realize everything.”

The grace of the Sadguru is immeasurable. The “philosopher’s stone” is said to change a stone to gold by mere touch. The Sadguru Principle (Perfect Master and perfect devotee) like a touch-stone can convert the fearful egoically contained disciple to a touch-stone herself, i.e. to the Sadguru’s own Perfect State of only Light. The Master, at this stage is responsible for everything, even the so-called duality of good and evil, experienced and expressed by the shishya. The Sadguru virtually remains at the mercy of the disciple. By this total sacrifice of Himself, the Sadguru carries the disciple to a state of Perfection i.e. His own Divine State.

Shri Sai, once told one of His close devotees that there should be a conscious endeavor by the Sadguru and his “en-lightened” (full of His Light) devotees to transform all prepared potential devotees into a society (gathering) of Perfect women and 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 “Original Light” (Ati Jyotish). To transform young 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 the same as the difference between an “ordinary man” and a “post-man” Sadguru. Like Rodin arduously turning a piece of stone by hammer and chisel into a beautiful piece of Art, the Sadguru can change a gross individual into the Perfect person-less Light. This is what Shri Sai was “doing’ with Kashinath. The methods he used were sometimes extremely harsh from the point of view of Kashinath and ordinary societal mores, but nonetheless were meant for his evolution to the only Perfect State of One-Light.

During His work Shri Sai always told Kashinath: “Sit quiet, …….somehow. Have nothing to do with anyone !”.

Shri Sai knew Kashinath should create no further “Samskaras’ or impressions for himself in attachment with other people, and their “situations” and “problems, the stuff of worldly life. Access to His Presence by the devotee was brought about through a still mind and quieted body, pure devotion or Sadguru Bhakti, and absorption in the Sadguru’s Presence or Sadguru Bhava. As he followed the Master, many mystic phenomenal reactions happened “within” Kashinath and “around him”, but all he yearned for was the Perfect ineffable Light of Shri Sai.

Kashinath started to realize the inherent Unity of All. He began to see the Sadguru as present in every living being, irrespective of the species. Shri Sai once told Kashinath, in the future He would visit him near the Khandoba temple (where Kashinath used to stay). He further said IF Kashinath recognized Him, He would be wearing the tattered clothes of a beggar and that he would have a chillum (earthen pipe for smoking hashish and tobacco) with him. 

About two or three months later, Kashinath was cooking some food for his Guru near that temple. (Sai was sitting in meditation at the DwarkaMai Mosque). A hungry black stray dog, who had been watching Kashinath cooking, followed him, hoping for a scrap of food. But Kashinath was in a hurry, and ignored the poor dog, going straight to Sai without giving him any food.

Shri Sai saw him he 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 his Guru say He was also at the temple. He answered that he did not know why. He told Sai that there was only a stray black dog near the temple.

At that, Sai said ‘Yes, yes, I was that dog”.

Upon hearing this Kashinath began crying like a baby, and resolved never again to commit such a blunder. On the next day, while cooking, he looked around consciously to see if the dog would come again, but the dog was no where to be seen. The following day, a “shudra” (so-called “lower-caste” by orthodox brahmins) beggar was found leaning against the wall of the temple and watching him cook. Kashinath the brahmin, who ‘grew up” in the orthodox tradition, asked him nicely to go away. Later the same day, when he approached Shri Sai,

Sai said: “Yesterday you did not give me food, today you ordered me not to stand there and drove me away. What’s next? You do not bring food for me anymore”.

These two lessons taught Kashinath that God and Shri Sai were indeed everything, and that the Light and Presence of God pervades everyone and everything.

On Gurupurnima day (Ashadha full moon day) 1913, Shri Sai asked a devotee Chandrabai, a very independent, intelligent and “strong-willed” lady, to worship Kashinath the way Sai was being worshiped. The lady reluctantly approached Kashinath in the Khandoba temple with Puja (worship) items for his worship. Kashinath refused to be worshiped and even yelled at her for her audacious act.

But Chandrabai relayed to him the message 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 “Upasani Maharaj”. The Sadguru officially installed him as Guru even during his probation period. After this incident, he started losing all sense of separative consciousness (Dehabhava).

Upasani Maharaj continued having internal 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 all other light sources looked dark to him. When in this state one day, he spontaneously started seeing circles of light, which expanded and then came near him. These circles of light would disappear when near his body. Then he started seeing spiritual visions inside these circles of light. 

One day, he saw himself as a circle of light in space and saw the whole cosmos including the earth, sun, moon, sky revolving within and around him. The whirling cosmos then slowly became smaller and smaller, came towards him, and entered into him through his Ajna chakra. After that all visions fell away for him, seen as illusory distractions too. Upasani Maharaj now experienced that the whole world was a play of One Light and that Light was him. But the experience wasn’t yet stable. This was a higher stage in his spiritual growth.

From his childhood Upasani Maharaj had identified the apparent bodymind-Spirit split as the cause of all evil (ego) in life and had made conscious attempts to transcend this separative awareness. For a spiritual aspirant, identifying the bodymind or even internal higher mind as a “self” or “Self” or “soul” is the big limitation for those who “seek” enlightenment. How Shri Sai removed this fundamental illusion is an interesting story.

One day Upasani Maharaj had a lucid dream-vision of him and Shri Sai inside an old building. Shri Sai beckoned him to bring his ear close to His mouth so that he could impart to him a divine mantra. When Upasani Maharaj leaned in to Sai, a shabby “shadow figure”, or “dark double”, which looked exactly like “him”, tried to pull Maharaj away from his Sadguru Shri Sai. Sai became filled with righteous anger, beat the shabby figure harshly, carried him outside of the old building and burnt him in on a funeral pyre. But Upasani still Identified himself with this figure. In confusion he complained to Shri Sai about this seemingly uncompassionate action of burning this “poor fellow” alive without warning.

Shri Sai told him: “What was burnt was nothing Real. It was your dark form, your evil twin, your ego-illusion of separative self or soul.”

A little later, Upasani had another lucid dream-vision, this time of “himself” as only Light, no self at all, and it terrified him. He asked Sai, “Why do I fear It so?”.

Sai replied: “There is no center to this all. What is left is your True and only form, the formless form of only Divine Light and Bliss, Satchidananda sages have called it , the unity or reality of Truth, Consciousness and Divine Love or Bliss. Everyone must enter though the gates of naked fear first to be ‘born-again’ as the Light.”

The fire of the Sadguru had reduced Maharaj to ash. He was surprised to learn he had an “evil form” and also a “virtuous form”, two seeming twins conspiring by mere habit to form a separate “you” out of nothing, and “creating” no beauty or love, only fear, doubt and sorrow. Shri Sai told him that Reality or Truth was beyond both these forms, beyond all forms, beyond even the cosmic realm itself. Reality was “made of” the same interconnected matrix of Light and Bliss that Shri Sai constantly radiated.

As Upasani Maharaj proceeded from this stage of unstable illumination to True Self-realization, occult powers and “Siddhis” (super-natural “powers”) still came to him. When an aspirant evolves in the spiritual path, higher-mind (overmind) psychic and occult powers often gradually grow in her, then just as gradually often disappear. For awhile Upasani could read the minds of everyone – his and their past, present and future were easily revealed without any effort. People started surrounding him and created a following. 

Often when he was in Satsang with his few devotees, a “crazy” Avadhoota named “Nanavali” would come and pull off Upasani’s robe and talk to him with disrespect and contempt, often using foul language. Once he even tied him up and beat him ! As Nanavali was a tough and seemingly dangerous person, no one could protect Upasani Maharaj. His cup of sorrow was now full but his Godly Light was still “marinating”, or evolving to perfection. He was getting ready for a new and bigger role. Every time he faced a “problem” in his mind, Sai simply assured him saying that He (Sai) was always with him and that the more he suffered at present, the better it would be for him in the future.

One night in July 1914 Upasani Maharaj left the womb of Shirdi with the full permission of his Guru for a role he was destined to play elsewhere. First he went to Shindi, then to Nagpur where he stayed for about a month, and finally on to Kharagpur. At all these places, people would start worshiping him spontaneously just upon the sight of Him (Darshan Yoga) even when he tried fervently to run away from such situations. He knew he was still “on probation”. 

Upasani tried to remain silent, alone and incognito, but people would not leave him in peace. At Kharagpur, he deliberately stayed in a very dirty condition (like Zipruanna), used filthy articles, even abused people in the most politically or socially incorrect language that he could. People still followed him everywhere, conducted Puja (worship) of Him, and always demanded worldly advice out of him. When a flower blooms and its aroma then spreads, the butterflies and bees naturally are drawn towards it.

Same was the case with Upasani Maharaj. Since He had become a “Satpurush” (Perfect One) people naturally flocked to Him, whether He liked it or not. All separate “persons” who come in any contact with the Satpurush get purified in some way, small or large, depending on the size and openness of their cup. Instead of just doing the practices recommended by the Sadguru, they want to repay Him with service through the form of endless activity. His following increased everyday, and his devotees became engaged in many activities like the feeding of the poor, kirtan, scriptural study, “Naamjap”, or the remembrance of the Name, etc. Upasani never wanted anything to ‘build up around him” (like yeshua). To Him it was all busy-ness and distraction. Although Upasani Maharaj would never agree to be the creator of these distractions, the devotees persisted and He “let it happen”. 

Like His Master, He would give them what they wanted until they wanted what He actually had to give to them. A number of “miracles” started happening around him, and many myths were spun by followers. After staying for about a year in Kharagpur, the gathered people tried to build a seriously permanent abode for Him (for Him?). He quickly left the place without any notice or any companions. Soon He reached Nagpur, where people also surrounded Him to have His Darshan. 

After two months of of that, he moved on to Poona and then back to his home in Santana. As the four-year period of “probation” was over, He returned to His Master in Shridi and stayed in silence at Khandoba temple for about seven months. From there He went to Ahmedebad for a short time, and then returned to Shirdi a third time where He stayed near His Guru for about two to three months. In 1917, He finally shifted to Sakori and started functioning as a Spiritual Master (Sadguru). Thousands and thousands of people, received His Light.



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