Sai Baba of Shirdi did not write any books. All that is available to us is records of a number of conversations between him and his devotees preserved in various biographical accounts. The following is a conversation which a devotee, Nana Govind Chandorkar, a Deputy Collector who was a traditionally well read orthodox person, had with Shirdi Sai Baba.
Nana: Baba, I am fed up with this samsAra. It is only nissara (that without content). Please help me cut the bonds which bind me to it. What appears as pleasant in the beginning ends in misery. Fate tosses us hither and thither. I don’t see an iota of happiness in this samsAra.
Baba: Nana, you are prattling like a mad man. What you say is only partially true. You have misunderstood the truth. The samsAra will exist as long as the body exists. No one can escape from it. How can you? Even I am under its clutches. The samsAra is varied and different. It is the work of Desire and Anger. All the vagaries of the mind and the body constitute samsAra. By running away and hiding in a forest you cannot escape it.
What you are now has been brought on you by yourself. You are only experiencing the fruits of your actions done by you in your previous lives. It is by that cause the effect of the appearance of this body has taken place. This is called deha–prarabdha. The soul gets a body just to experience the consequences of actions of its own previous lives. Without experiencing the consequences of prArabdha karma one cannot leave this world. Why do people look different? Why, in fact, do various living beings look different? It is all because of the karma of previous lives. A rich man’s dog rolls in joy on a cushioned sofa. A poor man’s dog rots at the street corner. The difference is because of prarabdha.
Nana: Since pleasure and pain do any way alternate in this samsAra, one feels like hating it and renouncing it. Is it not good to renounce?
Baba: Pleasure and pain are both Maya. What appears as pleasant is not really a pleasure. People in the clutches of samsAra take the appearance of pleasure as real pleasure and are drawn towards it. As a result of prArabdha karma, one fellow gets tasty, dainty and rich food while another fellow has only stale bread to eat. The former thinks that he has no wants and the latter thinks he is a failure. Think well. Whatever you may eat, the result is the same. Appeasement of one’s hunger. One fellow covers his body with costly cloth with zari and all. Another does the same with a torn old rag. Both serve the same purpose. Pleasure and pain depend on the attitude of your mind. This is the effect of Maya. Do not give place in your mind to thoughts of pleasure and pain.
Maya manifests itself as the six enemies of Man: Lust, Anger, Greed, Delusion, Pride, and Envy. They make non-real things appear as real. A poor man, seeing the rich man wearing a gold ornament, wishes to have one like that for himself. This is greed. The others are similar to this. Conquer all six of these foes of Man. No desire will then rise in the mind. Otherwise, you will become a slave of these six rogues. Use your discretion and kill them. You will not be affected by pleasure and pain caused by Maya.
Let me tell you how you should go about in this samsAra. A wise person will be content with whatever he has, knowing full well that it is his prArabdha. If you have riches, be humble. A tree with more fruits in it will bend. But do not bend before all. One should certainly be firm and stern with wicked people. But with sAdhus and the devout, you should show humility and modesty.
Spend your wealth in charity and dharma. But do not be extravagant. This body is certainly impermanent but so long as it is there, wealth is necessary to a certain extent. Even bile is necessary for the health of the body. But do not become greedy as money is the be-all and end-all of life. Be charitable. But do not do wasteful expenditure.
Observe happily all the goings-on in the world. Do not forget God. Remember always: ‘This samsAra is not mine, it is God’s.’ Show your sympathy with the poor and the down-trodden. Do not hurt them by showing hate or disgust. Keep a constant mental analysis of the question: ‘Who am I?’
Nana: Baba, Who is God? How will He look? Where is He? How can we see Him?
Baba: Those who toil in samsAra neither understand what is right and wrong nor do they comprehend the nature of God. Pure thoughts are absent in them. Constantly being immersed in the ocean of samsAra they do not have faith in devotion or in the scriptures. They don’t reach God. They go towards hell.
On the other hand, those who are eager to rise higher towards salvation, discard this state of bondage and begin to enquire with discretion and intelligence. They are always itching to see God. They develop bhakti towards Him and observe the laws of the scriptures. They adopt Nama-Japa and dhyAna and become a sAdhaka (an aspirant to reach God). They continuously move with the devout. When they reach a mature stage in their Japa and dhyAna they become saintly. In that stage God and Man are alike. Praise and blame are one and the same for them. Desires have left them. The thought of ‘I’ and ‘Mine’ are not anymore there. They begin to see that their own Atma and God are the same. They realize ‘I am Brahman“.
Observe how each one of them has reached God. You will yourself then understand that God permeates all animate and inanimate objects in the world.
God is everywhere. There is no place where He is not. What prevents us from seeing Him is the power of Maya. I, you, this world, all are part of Isvara. Therefore no one should hate another. Never forget that the Lord is everywhere. That will generate Love in you. When love overflows, everything is obtained.