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Seeing God in a Dog: The Unity of the Two Babas - Shirdi Sai and Sathya Sai

Aravind Balasubramanya has spent more than 2 decades with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. He has studied under Baba and been His photographer.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba installed the first ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world on Feb 3rd 1949 at Guindy, Chennai. (this pic is taken at a later date).The temple still exists. Even the marble idol in the famous Shirdi shrine was installed only in 1954.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba installed the first ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world on Feb 3rd 1949 at Guindy, Chennai. (this pic is taken at a later date).The temple still exists. Even the marble idol in the famous Shirdi shrine was installed only in 1954.

The question of the two Babas being the same...

Mrs. Serene Yazidi Shroff ( birth name Sudha) is a long-standing devotee of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. In fact, she was completely devoted to Shirdi Sai Baba before she came to realize the oneness between the two Sais. Today, she leads her life in a divine romance with the Lord of her Heart, her Swami, and stays with her husband in the Indian state of Goa. It was during the Prasanthi Seva (service in the Prasanthi Nilayam ashram of Swami) that she became a friend to my mother who was also volunteering. The two worked together and enjoyed several experiences with Swami. Keenly interested in the connection between Shirdi Baba and Sathya Sai, I questioned her,

“Aunty, do you have any experiences which show you beyond doubt, the link between our Swami and Shirdi Baba?”

Her eyes lit up with nostalgia and love. It was clear that she was lost in a magical trance recollecting and reliving several experiences, all at once. Having come to Swami in the 1960s, she surely had a large number of experiences to share.

“There are so many. I am convinced beyond doubt that Sathya Sai and Shirdi Sai are one and the same. Actually, I am convinced that God is one though we give different names. So, for me, my Bhagawan is not only Shirdi Sai, but also Rama, Krishna, Yazidi, Jesus and Allah! Anyway, what kind of incident do you want me to narrate?”

“Aunty, tell me the ones that are the most dramatic.”

I was clear in what I was looking for! There is something about ‘dramatic’ incidents that seems to strike a chord instantly in thousands of devoted hearts. In just a few minutes, such incidents are able to strengthen the devotion and protect the tender saplings of faith in the hearts of people.

She smiled at me and said that there were two incidents that came to her mind instantly. One was something that happened in 1971. It was definitely dramatic but it was also funny. The second took place in 1978. Along with being dramatic, it was also a comprehensive proof of the unity of the two Sais.

(As shown in the first image, it was Swami who installed the first-ever Shirdi Baba idol in the world. On the day of the temple inauguration, when Baba's feet were applied with sandalwood paste and turmeric to take the impression of His tiny feet on a silk cloth, the impressions that appeared were not tiny in keeping with Baba's tender feet. Instead, they were gigantic and rough, keeping with the large feet of Shirdi Baba.)

Sri Sathya Sai Baba (beginning days) and Sri Shirdi Sai Baba (final days) - many have experienced the unity of the two Babas.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba (beginning days) and Sri Shirdi Sai Baba (final days) - many have experienced the unity of the two Babas.

Sweets for the Lord

In 1971, Sudha had arrived to Prasanthi Nilayam along with her brother. They were accommodated in one of the many small cottages that stood beside the Mandir where Swami used to stay. (This is the area where today the South-1 block stands.) The brother and sister had arrived to the holy hamlet to bask in the divine love and proximity to their Baba. As always, their mother had prepared a box full of assorted sweets to be offered to Baba. The box of sweets was packed safely in the bag.

As they settled in the spartan comforts that the cottage offered, they realized that they were hungry. They opened a packet of biscuits and began to munch on them. A few biscuits later, they saw that there was some commotion outside. Apparently, Baba was moving about in the Mandir and if they rushed, they could be fortunate to have a darshan (sighting of a holy/divine person). Quickly rising from their relaxed state, they got dressed and rushed out of the room. Sudha, being a woman, took more time to get ready and her brother was the first to leave the cottage. Soon, she followed suit after closing the bags and latching the room from outside. They were indeed in time to catch a glimpse of their beloved Swami!

After that rejuvenating darshan, as Sudha was walking back to her room in serene bliss, she heard another commotion. This time it was a dog barking. Soon, the barking dog emerged out of her very cottage whose door was now ajar! She was surprised seeing this. Following the dog closely at its heels was her brother brandishing a stick. He was beating the dog and chasing it out of the room. She wondered what was going on. She entered the room and saw it as neat as she had left it. The opened biscuit packet was still there, in the center of the little room.

When her brother returned, she asked him what had happened. With great anger, he asked back,

“Why didn’t you close the door properly before leaving?”

“Oh I did! I myself latched the door before rushing for darshan...”

“Then how did that idiotic dog get into the room??”

“I don’t know. But why do you make such a fuss? And why on earth did you beat the dog? It did not do anything in the room...”

“That is what you think,” fumed the brother, “but it had the cheek to pull out the box of sweets from your bag. It devoured every single sweet and now, there is nothing left there. That box was meant for Swami and that dog ate it all away. Why couldn't it just eat the biscuits that were lying in the room? I got very angry and beat it out of the room.”

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Now, Sudha flt sad. She would not be able to offer to Swami the special sweets that her mother had made. With no other choice but to accept what had happened as His will, she moved on with the day. There was no use crying over spilt milk - nor over eaten sweets! Hours flew by and it was darshan time again.

When viewed from another angle, even DOG becomes GOD

Swami came straight to Sudha and said,
“You have successfully cleared the exams but you did not get any sweets for Swami?”

At that point in time, Sudha had no idea that she had cleared her exams. In fact, it was only a day later that the results were announced after which her mother informed her the good news! But she still got up on her knees and thought of telling Swami that she had indeed brought sweets but a dog had eaten them all.

“Swami, Mithai Khaaya...” (Swami, the sweets were eaten...) she began when Swami interrupted her with a smile.

Swami Mithai Khaaya, Pitai Bhi Khaaya “ (Swami had the sweets... Swami had the beatings too)!

In an instant, the happenings of the morning flashed before her mind’s eye. She apologised to Swami on her brother’ behalf. Swami patted her lovingly and said that the sweets were very tasty and therefore He had eaten all of them! Then, He walked on.

How many times we miss God because He does not come in a form that we were expecting! How many times we miss what we want because of how we want it!

A rare image of Shirdi Baba feeding a dog before partaking His own food.

A rare image of Shirdi Baba feeding a dog before partaking His own food.

The Shirdi Connection

There have been multiple recorded instances of Shirdi Baba having partaken food while appearing to devotees in the form of a dog. In fact, all devotees of Shirdi Sai believe that if a dog partakes food kept for the Lord, it is indeed Baba in that form. The 9th Chapter of the Shirdi Sai Satcharitra records the episode of Mrs. Tarkhad wherein the lady offers bread to a hungry dog in her courtyard. Later on, when she is with Shirdi Baba, Baba tells her,

Mother, you have fed Me sumptuously up to my throat, My afflicted pranas (life-forces) have been satisfied. always act like this, and this will stand you in good stead. Sitting in this Masjid I shall never, never speak untruth. Take pity on Me like this. First give bread to the hungry, and then eat yourself. Note this well."

In several discourses, Swami has exhorted to everyone that one must see the Lord in all. He says that D-O-G (dog) becomes G-O-D (God) when viewed in the correct perspective.

Sudha aunty now tells me,
“This kind of teaching - of seeing God in a dog - is unique to the two Babas. Though all the messengers of God and different forms of God have exhorted us to see God in all, using the dog as an example is definitely unique. So, for me, this was one episode that shows the unity of the two Babas. But this incident, though dramatic, pales into insignificance compared to the other one which firmly entrenched in my heart the conviction that the two Baba’s are one and the same.”

“Wow! Pray what is that incident aunty...” I asked.

to be concluded in the next part entitled.

Sathya Sai fulfills a promise He gave as Shirdi Sai - go on; click it to read. :)

The Two Sais

If you enjoyed this article, you must read these too:

1. Shirdi Ke Sai Baba - The movie experience.

2. Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam.

3. Time travel to the days of declaration of Avatarhood by Sri Sathya Sai

4. Thus Spake Lord Sai - 4 (on importance of regular and intense sadhana or spiritual practice)

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© 2013 Aravind Balasubramanya


Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on December 13, 2013:

Lovely stories! More so because I had a very good (dog) friend for fourteen years - more like a sister, she was awesome! I also worked with dogs, trained them, slept on the floor with them outside, etc.

Thank You for sharing this story and pointing it to me.

Cheers! : )

P.S. Just thought I would let You know of a small mistype: "Now, Sudha flt sad." Missing an "e" in "felt" if I got this right. It's just my 'editing' mind ...

"Now, Sudha flt sad."

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on October 20, 2013:

@Rajesh Dora - Thank you for pointing that out. Now the end of the article carries the link to part 2. :)

The part 2 of the article is titled as

Sathya Sai fulfills a promise He gave as Shirdi Sai

Rajesh Dora on October 20, 2013:

can somebody guide me to the sequel of the first post, please?

Nandini Ramesh on May 05, 2013:

Chapter 4- Parthi Sai and Shirdi Sai are the same

January 31, 2013

I was very happy with the temple and the presiding deity (Shirdi Sai) at our home. But there was always this question in mind, as to how come suddenly this avatar had chosen our place to be installed, since I was so attached to the Sathya Sai form rather than the Shirdi form.My dad was here with us for a while after we moved in to the new house. He lives in Parthi serving in the ashram there. His reasoning was that since we were performing the rudrabhishekam at our place every year for the past 4/5 years including the abhishekam of Shirdi Baba, He blessed us thus. I was not fully convinced though that seemed to be a good reason enough.

So one Thursday 13th Sept 12, early morning, He decided to provide me with an answer.I had been reading this beautiful book titled “Swami” by Mrs Gita Paramahamsa. She is a great devotee of Swami (Sri Sathya Sai Baba) and Swami has graced her with His infinite blessings. HE considered her as HIS daughter and took care of everything for her. I was just thinking about how blessed she was ( though Swami has done everything for me, I felt something was missing- as usual the monkey mind desiring for more), when I went to bed on wednesday night. (12 Sept 12). I had a beautiful dream of Swami in which He took me and my husband through a flight of stairs to a big hall and was explaining to us about some arrangements to be done for some prayers and that He would decide where what was to be kept and arranged etc. I don’t recollect exactly what He instructed us. Meanwhile in my background Mrs Gita (the author) was around. Then Swami suddenly turned to me and gave me a whole lot of vibhuti (somewhere in my mind I had the feeling that He has never blessed me with vibhuti from His picture in my house). I was surprised to find that it was not the usual vibhuti, instead it was coarse udi (Shirdi kind of udi) with sugar crystals. Then Mrs Gita told me that He loves all of us equally and that He has blessed me with the vibhuti. The beautiful dream ended thus.

I got up very excited on Thursday morning. We had satsang that morning at our place and I was narrating this experience to my friends. I was pleasantly shocked when one aunty told me that in Shirdi the prasadam given is usually udi and white sugar. I didn’t know about that as I have just visited Shirdi once as a young girl of 7 or 8. On that divine Thursday, He provided this beautiful answer to me. He proved that both forms are verily the same. Again and again this mind needs convincing and assurance that He is that Lord Narayana who came first as Shirdi avatar and now as our beloved Swami.

SAishwarya on May 02, 2013:

ah! so beautiful! brought tears to my eyes!!!

Kevin Peter from Global Citizen on May 02, 2013:

The two incidents narrated in the hub are unbelievable. The concept of Swami to see God in each and every one is also very appreciable. Thanks for the wonderful hub.

saisarannaga from Chennai in Tamilnadu, India. on April 30, 2013:

This requires eyes of wisdom to perceive Swami in every being! Very nice to know that Swami ate the entire lot and got the beatings too!

Venkatesh Ellore on April 30, 2013:

Regarding this incident about D-O-G and G-O-D, during Shirdi Baba’s time, devotees used to invite HIM to grace a function and Baba used to visit their houses or functions in the guise of a beggar or a dog and be turned away rudely. The devotees later realizing their mistake were remorseful.

Knowing this, I invited Swami for my house Gruhapravesham by mailing the Invitation by registered post along with a letter. Subsequently I sent another Invitation with a dear Sai devotee who was going to Parthi a week before the House-warming. In Parthi, Swami did not take this Invitation and mentioned to the devotee by signs that HE had already received the Invitation which he was offering.

The request in the letter was for Swami to come and Grace the occasion which was on Nov 25th 2001. Also requested that HE should NOT come as a dog or a beggar and be turned away. Promised that if I knew of HIS arrival that I will not even tell my wife (Believes Swami to be a Holy person, not God , not get overly excited and not kick up a racket but enjoy HIS presence.

On the day of the gruhapravesham, rituals started early morning and by half past noon the cook requested me to send the remaining people for lunch as he could wind up. The request to Swami was forgotten in the process. I got the last few people including our EGK photographer to sit for lunch when I saw a muslim fakir talking to a group of my guests who had finished their lunch and were busy with the paan and gossip. On seeing me, the fakir broke away from the group, putting HIS hand around my shoulder requested to see the house. Atithee Devo Bhava. So, I politely took him along when HE said that looking at the house from outside alone was enough. SAB TEEK HAI was HIS comment. Requested the fakir to have lunch which was graciously accepted. The moment the fakir put a morsel of food into his mouth, I mentally bowed and offered my pranaams. ( Reason: It was the holy month of Ramzan and NO muslim will eat lunch) Baba’s MAYA working…. Nearly 30 to 40 of my guests not realizing that a muslim fakir is having lunch during Ramzan. Nobody questioning the oddity !!! All mu muslim friends visited me after sunset.

These were the days of film photography (no digital) and belonging to the photographic business family EGK, no one brought their personal camera. Our photographer had finished all his film and I could NOT do anything to get a picture. So, I personally served the Fakir(Baba) sweets like Holige and gave the Thamboolam after HIS lunch. The house was full of guests and was not in a position to do anything as I had promised NOT to get overly excited. So, I bade goodbye to SWAMI with a sorrowful heart. What a wonderful feeling I had for days together after this incident.


Aarthi on April 29, 2013:

I have another beautiful personal experience that I'd like to share here. I experienced this in Parthi and it showed me that Shirdi Sai and Parthi Sai are indeed the same.

I had been to Parthi for a 6-day visit recently and on the last day, April 21st, in the morning, I felt the urge to go to the beautiful Shirdi Sai mandir in the General Hospital campus in Parthi because 2 yrs ago when I did seva in GH, I used to go there regularly and the doctor aunty in charge there used to allow us to offer flowers for Baba and she would allow us also to take part in the prayer session. I somehow felt my trip this time would be incomplete if I did not make an attempt to go to this shrine and seek Shirdi Sai's blessings.

On April 21st morning, I bought a small garland of roses and also took 2 single roses and went. The thought I had was, "Swami, I want the garland to be taken for your Shirdi Baba idol in the GH. I will later offer these 2 single roses when I come for Samadhi darshan in Kulwant Hall. If it's not possible in the Shirdi Sai shrine, I will offer that rose garland also in Kulwant Hall."

As I went to the Shirdi Baba shrine in the GH, I must admit I had doubts whether the aunty wud still be there, whether things had changed, whether flowers wud be accepted, etc. I went around 7.30 am. I saw the gate was closed and I saw a Sevadal lady inside but since I didn't know Telugu, I was hesitant to speak and enquire. I waited for a few mins and just as I was thinking whether I should leave, that aunty came and I went forward and asked if she would take the flowers for Baba. I had a plastic cover from which I had taken out the rose garland. She took that and then looked into the cover to see what else was there. And she asked "For Shirdi Baba?" I was happy at the eagerness in her voice and gave her the 2 roses also saying she could take those also for Baba.

I waited and took part in the entire prayer session that morning in the shrine there. I felt that Shirdi Baba had accepted my offering.

In Shirdi, Baba used to ask some people specifically for dakshina and take it from them. In a similar manner, I felt He was asking and taking my flowers that morning because He took the 2 single roses which I had meant to offer in Kulwant Hall at the Mahasamadhi of His other form, Sathya Sai. :) This was a beautiful incident where Shirdi Baba showed me that He and Sathya Sai are one and the same. The best part was after putting the rose garland around His neck, aunty put those 2 single roses close to His heart by inserting them neatly in the long pearl necklaces that adorned His benign form. :) I felt blessed and my day was made!

Sreenidhi on April 29, 2013:

Beautiful! What an amazing time to read this hub! This week, it has been raining so heavily in Oman, something which is a rare phenomenon, specially during this month! It begain raining on the Aradhana Day. It was a gift in disguise from Swami because, a kiddo that I am, I prayed for something special from Swami. He gave rains, school was closed and I could watch the morning proceedings at PN. Today, we just concluded the Shej Aarthi at home and it is raining with same magnitude as it had on the 24th! And yes, this morning at school, I met a classmate of mine who came back late as she had been to Bombay for her sister's wedding and also went to Shirdi. Since she knew that I believe in Swami, she got me udi from Shirdi and asked me if I had got vibhuti for her from Parthi. I said yes and gave her some vibhuti I got from Parthi.(It was the vibhuti a friend of ours, staying at parthi, got from your home) It was then that we discussed how Swami and Shirdi Sai are one and the same ( I had no idea that this would be the topic of your hub today!) My day is made! Thanks a lot to the Swami in you, anna

Aarthi on April 29, 2013:

Mom and I have had many experiences to show us that Shirdi Baba and Sathya Sai Baba are the same, just that the forms are different.

Here is an incident that we experienced sometime recently. In February, Mom and I went to the Shirdi Baba temple in Mylapore, South Chennai on one Thursday morning and got back to our home in Perambur, North Chennai. For some reason, the table from which Udi could be taken wasn't there in the Shirdi Baba temple that day and amma felt bad about it.

That evening, I went to Sri Sathya Sai Nivas (in Perambur), the Sai mandir of our Lord Parthi Sai, which I regularly attend for bhajans and other activities. After bhajans, one of our samithi members gave me Vibhuthi prasad from Puttaparthi saying she'd gone there for a one-day visit a few days ago. I requested her and took some home to give my parents too.

When I got back home, amma was really happy and recalled how she felt bad about not getting Udi in the Shirdi Baba temple in the morning. She felt Swami was answering her prayer by sending Vibhuthi from Parthi. Was it a coincidence that Parthi Sai decided to send us Vibhuthi? No. He was just reaffirming that He is the same as Shirdi Sai. :)

mohan kumar on April 29, 2013:

This is long time back, in Prasanthi,and I was staying inside ashram, W5B15, first floor and just before leaving the room for morning darsan, I had my small prayer as usual, and walked in 'a dog' and remained there for a moment and left. I rushed out to the verandha, but 'the dog' has disappeared and I experienced "that God in a Dog"..........and I still do....

poornimasrinath from Midrand, Johannesburg, RSA on April 29, 2013:

I had two great experiences which showed that both Swamis are same. My sister in law who is a devout Shirdi swami devotee had lost both her fallopian tubes after two episodes of ectopic pregnancies. She lost all her hope and was so dejected. I had a dream in which Parthi swami wore a surgeon's blue dream gave her medicine in a place which looked exactly like the samadhi of Shirdi swami. On that day when I called home came to know that she had started her IVF treatment for the first time on that day the same time I had the dream. I enquired about the robe of the doc. I was told it was green. The treatment failed thrice with the same doc. She changed the doc and heard that the doc wore blue robe during the procedure. She conceived in the first trial and now has twins. There were quite a lot of revelations but I have shortened it.

The other was on Nov 23rd 2011, the first birthday after Parthi Swami's passing. A man who carried bag like Shirdi swami and looked perfectly Indian wanted to donate something to the centre. He had given few coins to my husband. He tried to find him when he realized it could be from divine hands. He was nowhere to be seen. I was reminded of 9 coins given by Shirdi swami gave to Laxmibai as soon as my husband told about few coins given by the person whom many of us saw as he looked different. When I counted at home there were exactly 9 coins.I was the one who took photographs on that day. He could not be spotted anywhere in the pictures taken.

Madhavi Alapaty on April 29, 2013:

As i came to know about Sri Satya Sai Baba during the years of 1996 on wards, i always prayed to HIM and believed always that both forms are same but never thought of having a Shirdi Sai picture in the house of my alter. Then one day one friend came to our house for bhajans and brought a Silver idol of Shirdi Sai. Before she was leaving her house for bhajans, she felt that Swami is telling her to take this idol to our house and keep in our house. Then another friend called one day and told me that she got a picture from Shirdi and she wanted to give that picture to me. So i went to her house to collect that picture and I Kept it in my alter. Then i made a marble status of Shirdi Sai in Jaipur and brought it my house and kept in my bhajan hall. Then i read your articles about your trips with Sai and saw the Shirdi Idol which Swami inaugurated. My idol looks exactly same like the one in your picture and also read the same article on Radio Sai. I always thought that none of the pictures i see these days of Shirdi Sai doesn't do justice to HIS original form so didn't think of buying from anyone. So i believe that to keep my faith grow, He himself came to my house in the form which i believe is HIS true form. Sairam.

Kokila Vaidyanathan on April 29, 2013:

Can't wait for 24 hours...loved Swami's sense of humour as always....Mitahi bhi Khaya and pitayi bjphi Khaya...

Meena Rajesh on April 29, 2013:

Thanks for sharing this wonderful experience :)) just a week back heard a dream of an elder devotee, where Swami had appeared in both forms sitting in 2 mosques where Shirdi Sai was wearing Parthi Sais robes and Parthi Sai in Shirdi Sais robe... that uncle had been reading "Tapovanam" for the first time during that week ...

Aravind Balasubramanya (author) from Puttaparthi, India on April 28, 2013:

@ Shruti and Padma -

I am working on the second part. Will publish soon . :)

@ Sai Grace - That is a common trait we share - "never let my God be anonymous"! :)

I loved the way you put it. Thank you.

Sai Grace on April 28, 2013:

Something happened just now .. I was reading your hub, was in the middle of the hub, n was smiling and laughing.. My mom said u always keep on smiling and laughing looking at your phone .. :p just narrated her the story till where SWAMI said, "Swami Mithai bhi khaya...aur pitai bhi..." :) .. At that point somebody rang doorbell.. N they didn't close the gate, so i went outside to close it, irritated of-course in the middle of my reading... i saw a black dog who entered inside.. Though afraid of dogs , he got special love from me today (due to fresh lesson learnt ) ..

Well i told this big story so that my dialogue will make sense," Co-incidence are miracles where God chooses to remain anonymous" ...and i will never allow MY GOD to remain anonymous :) :)

Maria on April 28, 2013:

I have experienced both over the years and they are one and the same but they also appear in separate forms. Shirdi Sai Baba incorporates into a deep trance medium regularly in South San Francisco for me in some way completely unexpected -creating goosebumps - Sathya Sai Baba also incorporated through Shree Lal during a Bhajan session right after his ascension in 2011-


Padma on April 28, 2013:

Wonderful narration by aunty and superb u have made in to such a gud article..Praying Swami to make this 24 hrs to just a minute for u to reveal that suspense..

Om kalaya namah

om kala kalaya namah

om kalaathitaya namah

Shruti on April 28, 2013:

Wow... you have the knack of building the suspense.... waiting for the 24 hrs to pass by soon! :)

Reading your post, I could actually hear Aunty narrating it....Only Swami can use such words and make a beating also sound funny "Swami Mithai Khaaya, Pitai Bhi Khaaya"

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