This article was written at the time of the statement of Shankaracharya
SHANKARACHARYA ON SAI BABA
Let me confess at the outset that I am not a follower of Sai Baba, but I have reservations on the views expressed by Sri Shankaracharya Svaroopanand Sarasvati Svami Ji. Shankaracharya said that worshipping Sai Baba was a conspiracy to divide the Hindus. Sai Baba should not be worshipped as he was a human being and not a God, and his temples should not be built. The Samadhis (burial place) of Saints or Sannyasis are being worshiped and this tradition is in vogue since the time immemorial. In Sri Vaishnava Sampradaya (Tradition) of Sri Bhagavad Ramanuja, the Samadhis of Saints which are known as Brindavanams are being worshiped since the time not known to History. And the methods of Brindavanam worship are also enshrined in scriptures. In Madhva Sampradaya also the system exists. The famous Mantralaya, a place in Andhra Pradesh on the bank of River Tungabhadra situated on the borders of Karnataka, is the holy place where the Samadhi of a renowned Madhva Saint is located. In the Advaita Sampradaya, which was established rather brought to light basing Vedic system also has a practice of worshiping the Samadhis of their Saints. This system is followed by Sringeri Sri Sharadapeeth and Kanchi Sri Kamakotipeeth etc. This system is being followed by a number Sampradayas established or advocated in India by various Hindu Religious orders. The Samadhi of Saint Sai, which is at Shirdi also being worshiped by his followers. When this is the case, How Sri Shankaracharya opined like this? Even all Shastrajnas (who studied Shastras) would not have any objection for Sai System of worship. At the time of religious blow, when others are accusing the whole Hindu religious system, one should not object the system of worship that is being followed by a group of devotees. We must satisfy our selves even if we have any reservation against a system of worship that the people instead of going against the Hindu religious Faith, at least follow some kind of religious system.
If Sri Shankaracharya says that Sai is not a Saint, then who is Saint. What is the description for Saint? Shastras talk about the Fourth Institution (Hermithood) i.e. Tureeya or Sannyasa Ashrama among the four Ashramas prescribed, which categorically states about renouncing worldly desires including one's Family. At the same time the aspirant of Sannyasa Ashrama cannot leave or renounce his Family all of a sudden. He has to make arrangements for the livelihood of his Family, and then only he is permitted to leave his Family. In certain exceptional cases, there is exemption for this rule. Hence, who is Saint, for this; there is no 'this & that' definition in Shastras. Sri Shankarachrya reportedly said that In Sanatan Dharma (the Eternal Faith), there are said to be 24 Avataaras (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu. In Kalyuga, there is no mention of other Avataaras than Kalki and Buddha. Hence, Sai Baba can certainly be not an Avataara, and Sai Baba should not be considered a guru and an ideal because he was a non-vegetarian and advocated the practice of circumcision. Simply because a person was a non-vegetarian and the follower of circumcision, one cannot deny his preaching to be followed or prevent the followers from worshiping Him. We Hindus also follow non-vegetarianism in performing Yagas (Sacrifices) and getting the Prasada of the Yaga-shesha (the remains of sacrifice of Yaga). Followers of Sai do not adopt circumcision, though it might have been advocated by Him. In this circumstance, how can Sri Shankaracharya claim that Sai was not a Saint or Guru? And Sai did not belong to a path of Faith. If Sai belongs to Hindu path of Faith, then it is the right of Sri Shankaracharya to say something about Him. If Sai did not belong to Hindu path of Faith, where is the right of Sri Shankaracharya to opine on this issue? Even If Sai belongs to Hindu path of Faith, it cannot be claimed that Sri Shanakaracharya alone has right to opine. There are other systems of Hindu Faith; the followers of such system have equal right to express their views. As the case is like this, How did Sri Shankaracharya who supposed to preach peace and welfare of the Society opine like this and create chaos and turbulence in the society. Is this the Sainthood rules or orders prescribed in Shastras? If so, he can do so. But as far the Shastras are concerned, they do not prescribe such violent or disturbance or discriminative preaching.
If Sri Shankaracharya says that Sai is a human being and not Avatara. Yes it is true that Sai was a human being and not Avatara of God. And He neither claimed that He was a God nor an Avatara of God. If the Devotees regard Him as God and Avatara of God, then it is not the fault of Sai. For instance, Sri Shankaracharya Svaroopanand Sarasvati is also worshiped by his devotees as Avatarapurusha or even a God. This is not the fault of Sri Shankaracharya. For not worshiping Sai as their God or their Messiah by the followers of Islamic Faith cannot prevent worshiping Sai by the followers of Hindu path of Faith. It is a personal issue of the followers of a certain Faith. Further, Shankaracharya reportedly said that Sai Baba used to say Sabka Malik Ek Hai (God is one for all). If so, why do Buddhists and Jains worship separate gods? if Sai said that there is only one God; it is his personal opinion, by this How did the Jain and Buddhist followers bound? There is no logic in this argument. It is the faith of the followers of particular Religious System to accept or not a particular preaching according to their Faith. We Hindus neither accept the System of worship or System of philosophy of Islamic Faith nor Chritianity, because those are against our Hindu Faith. Likewise, Buddhists and Jains do not agree with the preaching of Sai, hence, they do not follow his preaching. Further, Sri Shankaracharya said that the followers of Sai Baba should stop worshipping Lord Rama, taking holy bath in river Ganga, and chanting Har Har Mahadev. The followers of Sai system of worship can neither be prevented from worshiping Sri Rama or Sri Krishna nor taking a dip in Ganga nor chanting a name of God, simply because they worship Sai. This is not the preaching of our Shastras. Moreover, Shankaracharya stated that the building of Sai temples would come in the way of building Sri Ram temple in Ayodhya. One cannot prevent the construction of Sri Ram temple in Ayodhya just because of the increasing number of Sai temples in India. Hence, this is the apposite time that Saints in a responsible and revered position shall not engage in giving such statements that hurt the feeling of the followers of a particular system of worship. They should hold their tongue and realize their position in the society and their responsibility.
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