Mahlsapathy’s contact with Baba was on very close terms. By reason of the death of his only son (in the eighties of the last century perhaps) and his having only three daughters, he was detached with life. His land yielded nothing, and the goldsmith’s profession yielded also practically nothing. So, he was ready for the orders of his own Ishta Devata, Khandoba. Khandoba came upon him, that is, possessed his body, and gave him Drishtanta, that is, visions.
In the first vision, he was told that he was to take Khandoba (i.e., movable images) from the Khandoba temple to his own house, and worship him there with concentration.
In another vision, Khandoba appeared as an old Brahmin and said to him, “What? Can you not get your bread without your profession of goldsmith?” Then Mahlsapathy answered the vision. ‘Yes. I shall give up’. Then the vision said, ‘Touch my feet, and hold to my feet This meant evidently, ‘Hereafter, regard your subsistence as being dependent purely upon your holding to my feet and not upon your doing goldsmith’s work.
From that time forwards, he gave up goldsmith’s work in perfect trust (NISHTA AND SRADDHA) and lived by begging, that is, he became really a Sanyasi “Monk” or Bhikshaikari, though living with a family of a wife and three daughters.
Being disgusted with life, he did not care to sleep at home for that would develop his family cares and burdens, i.e., Samsara, still further. He enjoyed Baba’s company day and night and was greatly benefitted thereby.
At the Mosque and at the chavadi, Baba slept on alternate nights and to both places Mahlsapathy went and had his bed along with Baba. Mahlspathy’s main work was to be with Baba. But on one occasion, early in life, about 1896, Baba himself said, “Arre Baagat, listen to my fakiri words, which are always true. You are coming and sleeping here and not with your wife. But you have got only daughter (the only son he had must have died before 1896.) You go and take bed in your house, and you will then get a son.”
In spite of Baba’s pressure, he declined to go home as he did not want his family (samsara) to increase. But his friend Kasiram Simpi compelled him and took him home and left him there. Thereafter he took his bed in his house. He started it on the Janmashtami of 1896, and on the next Janmashtami (1897) a son was born to him. Baba’s words are ever true and never false.
After being father to a son, he resumed his old vow of not developing Samsara and ever afterwards slept only in the Mosque, and at the chavadi. Mahlsapathy would spread his own cloth and on that Baba (when not lying on the plank) would lie on one half, and he would lie on the other. Baba also gave him very hard duties which others could not possibly undertake.
Baba would tell Mahlsapathy, “You better sit up. Do not go to sleep. Place your hand on my heart. I will be going on with remembrance of Allah, Nama Smaran, that is, a half-conscious trance, and during that Nama Smaran, the heartbeat would clearly show you that I am still having Nama Smaran. If that suddenly goes away and natural sleep supervenes, wake me up.” The heartbeat during natural sleep would be evidently different from the heartbeat of the contemplative trance.
Thus, neither Baba nor Mahlsapathy would sleep at night. Both would keep awake, Baba for directly communing with God, and by that means doing service to numerous devotees in various places, and Mahlsapathy for sharing the merit (punya) by keeping the vigil with Baba and benefiting himself morally and spiritually by his pious service. His tapas were the same practically as the tapas of Baba, that is, vigil for holy purposes.
He also had great control over all his senses (Indriyas), over hunger and other urges and cravings, though he was not able to overcome sleep always. At times for a fortnight, he would go without food, purely by the power of his will, and sometimes his family also would suffer as shortage of food was the consequence of Mahlsapathy’s having no profession and no earning and his rejection of offers of money and goods.
This is a very important point to note about Mahlsapathy. His attitude towards acceptance of alms is one which very orthodox Hindus would understand. He regarded all acceptance of alms from others as a direct interference with his own perfection of power. Pratigraham manyamanah Tapas tejo Yesconudam i.e., “accepting gifts as destructive of austerities, power, and fame”.
His ‘Apoorva’ i.e., stored up merit was heightened by lasting, vigils, and other “punya karma,” such as reading of sacred literature, etc., and if he accepted gifts (dana) from others, he believed that his merit or Apoorva would be lost, “diminished, or transferred at least to some extent to the donor whose gift he accepted.
Therefore, he was strongly opposed to accepting any gifts (except Biksha food) even though he and his family might be starving. His family also completely accepted that axiom and they also would generally reject offers of help in money, materials, etc. Baba himself several times tried to press him to accept money.
When Baba was getting large incomes, (1880-1918) he was daily showering Rs. 30 on one, Rs. 15 on another, Rs. 10 on a third, and so on. Baba told Mahlsapathy several times; -‘Take this Rs. 3. Go on taking it’. Mahlsapathy invariably refused. Baba even added. ‘Go on receiving Rs. 3. I will make you well-to-do, and other people will come to you and depend on you and look to your favour; make your life comfortable.” Mahlsapathy invariably replied: ‘I do not want all that. I want only to worship your feet.’
He counted his avoidance of gifts and contentment with his lot as far above his attaining or retaining material wealth. He would not sleep on cots. He would not care to have comforts of any other sort, even though these were available or offered to him. He strongly reminds us of the holy poverty of St. Francis of Assissi, the Akinchanya, which is so highly praised in scripture (see especially M. B. Moksha Dharma Scanti P. ch. 165 Samyaka upadesa. 5-11, 16 & 22).
Baba had to offer inducements of “Abhaya” and support, etc. to various people to raise them to high spiritual effort. But in the case of Mahlsapathy, no inducements and assurances were required, as Mahlsapathy had already achieved the high, water mark of purity, virtue, austerity (tapas), and wisdom (Jnana), so far as that was possible in his circumstances.
Source: Life of Sai Baba, Vol 2, by Pujya Sri H H Narasimha Swamiji