Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sri Sainathuni Sarat Babuji

Sri Sainathuni Sarat Babuji [7 Oct 1954 - Nov 2010]

A renowned devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, Sri Babuji lived and showed the beatific path of Sai to all who came to him. Thousands have been attracted by his great spiritual radiance and though he repeatedly said he was not a guru, they all found in him the divine qualities of love, power and knowledge, which together define a Satguru.

Sri Babuji’s personal principle was to be dependent on nothing and nobody other than Sai Baba. Even his auspicious birth date signifies the mystical link with his beloved Satguru, for Sri Babuji entered this world on Vijayadasami, 7 October 1954, the 36th anniversary of Baba’s mahasamadhi, and the very day the holy statue of Sri Sai Baba was installed in the Samadhi Mandir, Shirdi.

From a tender age Sri Babuji was driven by an intense quest to find meaning and fulfilment in life. Blessed by nature with a deeply enquiring mind and exceptionally sharp intellect, he followed a rigorous regime involving personal study, meditation, and service to his guru, Master Bharadwaja – a lecturer at the college where he took his degree and who had introduced him to Sai Baba. His endeavour bore fruit when he was barely twenty, and from then on, he was sharing his love of Sai with those drawn to him.

Sri Babuji’s constant immersion in Sai-awareness, impeccable integrity and clarity of mind, coupled with his vast erudition and wisdom, have made him the inspiration and guide for thousands of Sai devotees both in India and abroad. He would urge us to be clear about our needs and to depend on Sai Baba to fulfil them. His approach, always practical and down-to-earth, sparkles with originality and shows the way to tread this path of Sai free of prejudice and superstition – that which he termed “Saipatham”.

By their connection to Sri Babuji, numerous people experience the transforming power of his loving presence in their life – the relief of physical, emotional and mental troubles, a sense of protection and security, a shift in attitude or outlook, and a flowering of their spiritual life. The wonderful and awe-inspiring experiences of devotees attest to the power of his spiritual presence. Sri Babuji, however, was adamant in always ascribing such experiences to Baba’s grace alone.Sri Babuji had a great sense of humour and guided whoever came to him.

Sri Babuji once said that the whole gamut of spirituality could be summed up in just a few words: the experience and expression of love. It was the love which he embodied and continues to emanate so palpably that binds so many to him.

Sri Babuji followed the words of Sai saying that there is no need for you to know the procedures of puja or yagna, yoga etc. It is enough if you say Sai Sai wholeheartedly and I will make you cross this ocean of life(Bhavasagara).Sri Babuji, who would always enjoy and encourage Sai nama, says, “Don’t let the chanting of Baba’s name be mechanical; it is calling Baba to the tune of our being. Call, call out ‘Sai Baba! Sai Baba!’ from the depths of your heart to the heights of your soul’s yearning.” He emphasized people to participate in the satsang where devotees used to chant saibaba saibaba. Even today the followers of babuji regularly conduct saibaba namam satsangs at various places. Sri Babuji inaugrated Sai temples in various parts of India like Nellore, Tirupathi, Hyderabad etc.

From Andhra Pradesh, South India, Sri Babuji lived with his wife and daughter in Chennai and Shirdi, with frequent stays in Tirumala and Tiruvannamalai. He took mahasamadhi in November 2010. His tomb (samadhi) is in Saipatham, Shirdi and is a place of prayer and meditation.

 Babuji Samadhi at Saipatham, Shirdi

A Satguru uses his power with unconditional love and compassion to help us reach our destination.- Sri Babuji.

TimeLine of Events
Sri Babuji was born on Vijayadasami, Thursday, 7 October 1954, at St. Isabel’s Hospital in Mylapore, Madras. He was the eldest of the five children of Surendra Babu and Venkata Ratnamma and grew up in the Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh.

“My love for Sai Baba seems almost innate,” he once remarked. “Already when I was a little boy I had an indescribable attraction for Baba. At my grandmother’s house there was a picture of Sai Baba among the many gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon. To me Sai Baba looked different from the other deities; he seemed so real, human and tangible; yet, his whole demeanour seemed to emanate an ineffable sense of mystery. He was so familiar, yet so strange. Maybe, it was that ‘familiar strangeness’ that created the attraction. But I didn’t know anything about Baba. It was only later, when I met my Guru, that I came to know who Baba is.” Sri Babuji says, “Our life is a beautiful book gifted by nature. But we do not know how to read and understand the meaning of its content. So it remains an indecipherable enigma and we simply turn the pages until we come to the last leaf. We need somebody to teach us how to read and understand our book of life. Unless we learn how to read it properly, we cannot understand the aesthetics of its content and the nuances of its language.”

A major inspiration in the early years of Sri Babuji’s spiritual quest was the life of Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the renowned sage of Arunachala. His biography touched the young seeker deeply and awakened him to the possibility of realization in this human life. Sri Babuji spent various periods of time in blessed solitude at Arunachala in Tiruvannamalai, engrossed in the depths of spiritual enquiry. During that period he was inspired to do a thorough study of Sri Bhagavan’s life and teachings, resulting in a fascinating manuscript, full of revealing and endearing details which throw light on aspects of Sri Bhagavan’s life. After his graduation in 1974, Sri Babuji spent a uniquely fruitful month in the presence of the great Avadhuta Saint,Sri Poondi Swami, as a renunciate, though he did not take any formal sannyas. His perseverance and one-pointed quest for fulfilment, and his constant cry for Baba’s grace were answered during this, the most transformative period of his life. Much later, when asked what influence Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Poondi Swami and Sri Sai Baba had had in his life, Sri Babuji replied, “Maharshi made me see the vessel of my being, Poondi Swami emptied it clean, and Baba filled it.” It is to the grace of Sri Sai Baba of Shirdi that he attributed every nuance of his fulfilment, and each facet of his existence. It was the life and teachings of Sri Sai Baba which, above all, served as the catalytic backdrop for all his spiritual endeavours and their fruition. 

It was not until 1977 that Sri Babuji got his first opportunity to visit Shirdi, the home of his beloved Sai Baba, in the northern state of Maharashtra. In the same year he embarked on a journey to various holy places in North India and visited the Kumbha Mela. Upon his return to the south, Sri Babuji moved to Venkatagiri where his father was then working as the headmaster of a school. There, Sri Babuji set up a primary school which he closed after three years when he entered a period of solitude. Throughout his time in Venkatagiri he held daily satsang. 

On his Guru advise, he married Anasuya in 1982 at Ongole. Sri Bharadwaja assumed the role of the bride’s father and did the ceremonial kanyadan (giving away the bride) at the wedding ceremony. It was, indeed, a rare gift for a disciple to receive from his guru. Anasuya Ammagaru, who shared Sri Babuji’s profound devotion to Sai Baba and was deeply committed to her own sadhana, embraced his way of life and served him devotedly as her beloved husband and Sadguru. A daughter, Sruti, was born to them on 8 October 1987. Anasuya Ammagaru and Sruti have both been dedicated to implementing Sri Babuji’s principles and remain an inspiring testament to his profound love and wisdom. 
After the marriage, Sri Babuji moved to Ongole. There, he established Sai Baba Central School (1983), an English medium school which proved remarkably successful under his auspices. It is one of the best schools in Andhra Pradesh and has the prestigious recognition of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE). The school’s motto ‘Love of Learning – Learning to Love’ and the principle that ‘true education should ignite a spirit of enquiry in young minds’ have been the leitmotiv of the school. In 1988, Sri Babuji created Saipatham, the Telugu magazine which made a major contribution to spiritual study through its research of both published and unpublished material relating to Sri Sai Baba.

Sri Babuji was drawn again and again to the home of the great Saint Saibaba. In his many stays in Shirdi, both short and prolonged, he used to bask day and night in Sai Baba’s proximity. In 1988 he rented a simple room in a building consisting of a row of ten rooms covered with zinc sheet roofing. After his guru’s mahasamadhi, in 1989, Sri Babuji gave up all activities connected to the school and the magazine and made Shirdi, the sacred abode of his beloved Sadguru, his home. 

Despite being of a reclusive nature, Sri Babuji’s radiant presence steadily drew people to him. In the early days he used to dispense homeopathic medicines, as a free service, and was well known as Doctor Saheb or Dr. Babuji. Many experienced miraculous cures which he always attributed to the grace of Sri Sai Baba alone. Later, when he began travelling, he stopped giving medicines. More and more people started to come to Sri Babuji, seeking his guidance and blessings. They found their prayers being answered, their problems getting solved, diseases being cured and obstacles removed.

As the number of visitors grew, the practical situation became increasingly difficult. There was a dire lack of space for devotees to gather and participate in bhajan and satsang. During the heat of the day and the cold of the night, crowds of visitors used to stand and sit in front of the neighbours’ houses and occupy their verandas. Sri Babuji was concerned about the inconvenience to both the visitors and the tolerant neighbours. Seeing these difficulties, one of the devotees responded graciously and generously by purchasing a piece of land nearby and building a bamboo structure to enable the devotees to gather for parayana and bhajan. But after their satsang they used to go over to Sri Babuji’s home to have his darshan and, wanting to be close to him, they actually ended up being there most of the time. So the difficulties remained. In 1996, thisfinally caused Sri Babuji to move into a couple of small rooms, originally built as guest quarters, next to the satsang premises. After a few years a room was built on the first floor in the same building and Sri Babuji moved upstairs. The compound was named ‘Saiyana’, meaning ‘Sai vehicle’; Sai as the vehicle or path to fulfilment. To avoid erroneous association with various businesses which had taken the same name, Saiyana was later renamed ‘Saipatham’, the name of Sri Babuji’s old residence. Several other devotees bought sites on the surrounding land, which led to the organic development of a colony of privately owned houses. Sri Babuji himself never owned any property and continued to be a tenant at Saipatham. In 2003 he moved to Guru Charan, a local devotee’s house a little further down the lane, where he rented the apartment upstairs.  

To his devotees he was their Sadguru and God – but Sri Babuji was always clear in his attitude towards them. From time to time he used to articulate this in satsangs: “Sai Baba said, ‘Remember rinanubandha (the law of karmic indebtedness). If anyone comes to you, it is on account of rinanubandha.’ Baba is my rina (karmic indebtedness) and my anubandha (loving bond). It is because of Baba’s will that you come to me. So I look upon you all as Baba’s prasad. It is my duty to duly share with you whatever I have which Baba has bestowed.”

As to what a real guru is, Sri Babuji gave the following analogy in a satsang: “The guru is like a window through which we can see the limitless sky. We are conditioned by the four walls which enclose our existence, and our spiritual search starts when we recognize this. We need a window. First we look at the window, but when we start looking at the sky, do we actually look at the window? We look at the sky itself. The window is a see-through mechanism. The guru is like a window, through him, we look at the unlimited, unconditioned state.” 

In November 2010, Sri Babuji took Mahasamadhi and his samadhi is at Saipatham, Shirdi where he wanted to be in the lap of his beloved Sadguru Shri Saibaba. For the same reason, which he had made his home as Shirdi.

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