Often during my visit to the temples of Shirdi Sai Baba and also in the
functions relating to Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi, I at times observe certain types of
conduct of devotees of Baba as also the general visitors to the temples, which to my
mind does not seem appropriate for the place or the occasion. Far to speak of higher
spiritual senses and sensibilities, even the common sense of an ordinary man dictates
that certain dress and behavioral codes are required to be adopted in a certain
situation. Let us think of a few such situations i.e., a marriage party, an official
conference, a funeral procession and a golf tournament. Can any one think of
attending a marriage party in attire meant for playing golf or an official function in
attire befitting a funeral procession? The dress codes prescribed for each of these
occasions are different. Such dress specifications have evolved gradually over a long
period of time in our civilization, because they are appropriate to the occasion. The
idea is to keep the environment comfortable and non‐intimidating for everyone and
take into consideration the sensitivities of other human beings around. Since to be
civilized means to make compromises to accommodate the human sensitivities and
sentiments of others, it is essential that while in a place meant for group activities
one must be dressed appropriately.
Now let us examine the way the devotees of some religions dress or conduct
themselves while in a religious congregation. While in the church the Christians are
fully and appropriately dressed. So also is the case of Sikhs, Muslims, and Buddhists
etc. When inside the temple premises, devotees are supposed to concentrate all their
faculties for a definite purpose and in a certain manner i.e., eyes (through which they
concentrate and meditate on the image of the deity), mouth (through which they
recite mantras or aartis and bhajans in praise of the deity), ears (through which they
listen to mantras, aartis, discourses etc.), nose (through which they smell the sweet
smell of flowers and incense offered to the deity) and skin (through which they
touch the feet of the deity). One can imagine the serene atmosphere of a temple,
which gives a feeling of expansion of the thought horizons and a sense of ecstatic
upliftment of the soul. The most desirable situation in the temple is where one can
listen to the prolonged euphoric notes of somber mantras, there is no hustle bustle,
no high pitched and abusive ruckus mingled with diatribes with choicest invectives.
It should also not give a picture of a depressed and melancholic place with tearful
devotees with sulking faces. Such devotees sulking in the temple due to nonfulfillment
of their purely material desires spoil the pleasant and peaceful atmosphere of the temple. It needs to be a place of unison of minds and souls of
devotees, while focusing on a deity, in chanting mantras and also singing the aarti
together. When the purpose, the thoughts, the sentiments and the activities of the
devotees are merged in a prayer in invoking the deity or the master, the love of the
master or deity flows down to the devotees. This then is the method and the purpose
of going to a temple or a religious congregation.
On the other hand, imagine for a moment, when such a pristine atmosphere is
about to raise the souls of the devotees to a state of sublime ecstasy, impropriety in
dressing and conduct such as talking or laughing loudly by a devotee may
knowingly or unknowingly disturb the other devotees and vitiate the atmosphere.
The focus is shifted from the deity, in our case, the holy image of Shri Sai Nath
Maharaj of Shirdi towards such individuals. Then the whole purpose of visiting a
temple is defeated.
Shri Sai Baba of Shirdi was never in favour of his devotees and workers
wearing such clothes. Once poet Dasganu the famous ballad singer on Baba and
other saints came to Baba on his way to a religious function, where he was supposed
to give a rendition of songs on Baba. He was donned in dazzling and colourful attire,
which Kirtankars and Kathavachaks usually wear in Maharashtra and elsewhere.
Baba asked him not to decorate himself in such lavish style and attend the function
in the simplest possible dress.
In the light of what has been explained above, it is desirable for the Shirdi Sai
devotees to worship Baba in the temple or to participate in a congregation of Sai
devotees in modest and simple attire. Baba’s teachings show that lavish display of
material aspects of life including dazzling dresses never impressed Baba. Shri Sai
Baba the Fakir with the torn clothes perhaps finds it more comfortable to be with
simply dressed but truthful people.
In this context I have also observed many devotees trying to wear clothes in
the style and manner of the Master, wearing Kafnis (long flowing cloth covering the
entire body) and patka (headgear). Some of them carry a satka additionally in their
hand. The famous Gurugita asks the devotees not to copy the look or the behaviour
of the Master. And this is the accepted rule of law, in the master-disciple relationship
in the spiritual world. Even the famous Shri Vivekananda never imitated the attire of
his Guru, Sri Ramakrishna Paramhansa. Although some Sai devotees tend to dress
like Baba out of ignorance and simply as a feel good factor, there are other
fraudulent ones who try to impress the gullible devotees in order to extract money
and other advantages. It is therefore correct on the part of the temple trust to surely
but politely impress upon the visitors to the temple to be properly attired and
behave while in the temple premises.
On the day of Mahasamadhi of Baba, I invoke Shri Sai Baba’s blessing for the
devotees and readers in helping them to evolve in the spiritual path.