It all happened on 28th March, a delightful Monday. It was around 4.30am and we were in Baba's wondrous Samadhi Mandir for the Kakad Aarti (Morning Prayer). It was undoubtedly my life's most beautiful morning. I had never felt so close to Baba. I felt as if I was in paradise. I could sense Baba as though He was alive and physically present all around me… everywhere. I could see Him with my heart… I could hear Him with my soul. Words fail me, when I attempt to describe the fountain of emotions that drenched me to my core. All I can recall is that I was hysterical and so overpowered by my love for Baba that I just could not hold back my tears. I had brought along with me a bunch of roses, which I wanted to place at Baba's feet. And like every other time, I was very cautious, so that not even a petal, let alone a rose, broke off. Holding the bunch, cradled safely in both my hands, I cried my heart out throughout the aarti and even after. Baba awakens in us Soham (Thou Art That) consciousness. His mere presence burns away the physical body made out of matter and the subtle body created out of conditioned thoughts and karmic payoffs. He awakens in His devotees a feeling of Cosmic Oneness, where the identification with the physical and subtle body melt away, all barriers get shattered and all that remains is a Divine Soulful Oneness. Lost in the Soham state, all that I kept repeating with each breath was, “I love You, Baba.” I looked on at His life-sized idol without batting an eyelid, even though my vision was blurred due to tears. I was not crying because I was in any pain or sorrow, nor was there anything I wished to ask for: the only emotion that made me weep on and on was my overflowing love for my Baba Sai. Like I said before, the air of the Samadhi Mandir is so full of Baba that merely breathing it cleanses us of all negativity, washes away our sins and bad thoughts, and fills us with a feeling of Divine Oneness (Advaita or Non-Duality).
Once the aarti was over, we all moved forward in a queue towards Baba's life-like idol to seek His blessings. There was a huge rush of devotees and subsequently the management inside the temple got into action. They divided us into two columns so that we would quickly clear out of the temple and make place for other devotees who were awaiting their turn. In the confusion that followed, I was pushed away from the rest of my friends, into a separate queue that was moving out very fast. My tears gushed out when I realized that I was the only one out of my group who would be out of the temple in no time, while my friends had managed to stick to the inner queue that was moving very slowly and so they would get to spend a much longer time with Baba before they came out.
“Baba!!” I cried out. “I reached You with so much difficulty, overcoming so many challenges and I don't even get a peaceful moment with You? I must be a very sinful, bad child. Don't You love me, Baba? But despite everything, I love You, Baba. I really love You.”
As I sobbed my way out, holding my bunch of red roses in my hand for Baba and repeating my “I love You” without a pause, a very strange thing happened. A very tall person, robed in the livery of Baba's Uniformed Escorts (bhaldars) — those Escorts that stand right in front of Baba's idol in a red traditional dress and chant His praise in a very loud, high-pitched tone at the end of the aarti — walked up to me. He smiled at me, broke away a rose from the bunch in my hand and walked away with it. I was in a state of complete shock and disbelief. I was extremely hurt and upset as I couldn't understand why he had behaved in such a bizarre manner. When I tried to question him, all he replied was, “Baba.” I really could not understand what he was saying in his native language but, by this time, I was convinced that Baba was upset with me for some reason unknown to me. I was being pushed out without even getting an opportunity to spend time with Him or seek His blessings peacefully and, now, He didn't even want my roses and so someone had just walked up to me and ruined my little bunch of flowers!
As I moved on, still shaken by what had just happened, I reached Baba's samadhi, just before exiting the temple. “Baba, please say You love me too, before I leave. Else I will be shattered, Baba. Please, Baba; please say ‘I love you'.” When I was about to bow down at His feet, tearful and distressed, the same man in red clothes walked out of another door. This time he was holding something else in his hand. It was Baba's glorious gold crown. When he saw me looking at him in surprise, he gave me a big smile and pointing towards something, repeated his monosyllable “Baba”. What he now pointed at was my life's most unbelievable sight. I had repeated a hundred times by now, “I love You, Baba” and, here, right before my eyes was Baba's response. I had said it with tears and He said it with a red rose. Yes, unbelievable as it may sound, on the pinnacle of Baba's golden crown was my tiny little red rose. And right before my eyes Baba was made to wear His crown. And in the Samadhi Mandir, at Shirdi, Baba sat on His throne looking divine and adorned with a token of my love in the form of my tiny rose.
What more could I have asked for? In fact, what more can any devotee ask for? To understand the joy and bliss that I experienced that morning, devotees will have to step into my shoes and feel the gamut of emotions running through me. It was now that I understood why I had got pushed into the fast-moving queue. Had I not been in that particular spot, Baba's Escort would have picked a rose from some other devotee's bunch. He walked out of the office door and I was right in front of him. So he took away a rose from me. And not to forget, this emotional drama was written, directed and produced by none other than our dear Sai Baba! He goes out of His way to reaffirm our faith in His love.
When devotees visit Shirdi, we yearn for our little gifts to reach Baba's feet at the Samadhi Mandir. And my gift of love reached not only His feet but also His crown. I'm told that the rose that adorns Baba's crown each day, comes along with His clothes and garlands and is provided by the Sansthan (Temple Governing Body). Under normal circumstances, it is not taken from the devotees. But on that delightful day He accepted my love in the form of the rose and told me in His unique way, “I love you, too.”
Just seeing Baba's effulgent form in the Samadhi Mandir destroys all our sins. Shedding tears of love cleanses the impact of all negative samskaras and karmas. Merely being in His presence imparts the wisdom drawn from all the scriptures of the world. And then when the eyes meet and the soul connects, there is love, there is joy and there are divine miraculous experiences of Oneness. So, cherish and live to the fullest, every moment of joy spent in the Samadhi Mandir. See Him, feel Him, breathe Him and love Him, for there is no feeling more blissful, no place more sacrosanct than Baba's Samadhi Mandir.
Aum Sai Shri Sai Jaya Jaya Sai