சொன்னால் விரோதம்இது, ஆகிலும் சொல்லுவன் கேண்மினோ!
A controversy has erupted over the comments of Dwaraka Shankaracharya on Shirdi Sai Baba. Things seem to be escalating with Baba devotees going to court and Naga sadhus coming to defend the Shankaracharya who is facing a vilification campaign by Hindus and Bharatheeya writers. In my opinion this controversy was waiting to happen and it had happened now. With heavy commercialisation of bhakthi happening on one side and the growth of neo-Hindus on the other, who see themselves as revivalists and guards of Hinduism and think that they know Hinduism better than even the Shankaracharya, this issue was waiting to explode. What the Shankaracharya had said may have been new to neo-Hindus, but not many seemed to realise that he did not say anything new or different from what the numerous acharyas around India had been saying to their devotees. The only difference is that Dwaraka Shankaracharya had been more vociferous and his views were reported widely. Perhaps the high rate of depletion of Hindus from traditional practices in North India had an impact on the Acharya.
True to the tradition that he has to uphold, Dwaraka Shankaracharya has denounced the worship of anyone other than Rama or Krishna. Similarly any Shaivite acharya of Tamilnadu, would expect his followers to worship only Shiva. Any Vaishnavite acharya or acharyas of Madhwa sampradaya would expect their followers to follow their traditional Gods and not others. One may find fault with this trend saying that Hinduism is divisive and narrow minded. No, what these acharyas are saying is in tune with any one of the Shanmathas which ultimately lead one to the Brahman. These acharyas have the duty to uphold the tradition that they are expected to safeguard and preserve. All the six groups of deities of the Shanmatha are the manifestation of the all pervading Brahman and anyone following one of them can attain Brahman through the path he had taken. The fact of the matter is that Shirdi Sai Baba does not come under any of the Shanmatha concepts.
As if to overcome this, Baba devotees have started telling that he is an incarnation of Shiva. Some people say that he is an incarnation of Dattatreya. If all these spinning are acceptable why leave out Jesus who is described by his devotees as Purusha of Purusha Suktha ? It is a matter of acceptability by Hindus, one may argue. But one must remember that our ancestors did not even accept a Buddha or a Mahaveera as Hindu deities though they sprang from Hindu Thought. Buddha was initially regarded as an avatar of Vishnu due to his Godly attributes as those of Vishnu. But he was removed from the list of avatars of Vishnu when it came to be known that his ideas did not align with the Vedic concept. Those questioning the Shankaracharya must probe why Buddha and Mahaveera were severely rejected by all acharyas, azhwars and nayanmars. They must also probe whether they (Acharyas, aazhwars etc) would accept Sai Baba as a Hindu God if they are living now.
Looking on those lines, accepting Shirdi Sai Baba as a Guru by Hindus raises some basic questions. A Guru is one who not only removes the darkness of ignorance but also connects a devotee to God. A Guru is essentially a medium between a person and God. Which God is being shown by Sai Baba as the object of ultimate realisation? Are any of the deities of Shanmatha or their parivar deities pointed out by Sai Baba as a Guru to the Hindu devotees? In the absence of this, what people are doing by extolling him as Shiva or Dattareya are attempts at cult-formation and giving a Hindu status to him.
Giving a status as a Hindu Guru and Hindu deity to Sai Baba has no basis in the Hindu concept of deification. One may argue that numerous men and women who had lived or died for some cause had been deified as rural or local Gods in the past. So what is wrong in deifying Sai Baba who lived like a saint? It is replied here that the Godhead of those men and women were aligned with or as some parivar of one of the Shanmatha deities based on the attributes exhibited by them. Such deities were not elevated as main deities either. Even the Gurus of the Hindu fold who are worshiped are shown as subservient to the God who they worshiped and not as Gods themselves. But what is happening in the case of Sai Baba is that he is being elevated as Shiva which has the potential to mis-guide Hindus into believing what he is originally not. There were many siddhas in the Hindu cult who gained extraordinary powers through their meditation and did miracles. Even they were not elevated on par with Shiva.
Moreover there is the concept of 'Tatkratu" discussed in Brahma Sutras (4-3-14). Brahma Sutras are one among the three texts of authority for Hindu Thought. (The other two are Upansihads and Bhagavad Gita). It speaks about the ways to reach Brahman. In that context it talks about the law of Tatkratu which means that one becomes what one meditates upon. Of the different objects of meditation, only the meditation on one's own atman and the Paramatman (Brahman) make one attain Brahman-hood or Liberation. All the other objects of meditation land one into those objects. For example meditations on Sun as done in Madhu vidya makes one reach or attain Sun God. In the same way meditation on any entity would make one reach that entity upon death.
Among the deities only Shiva and Vishnu are identified as objects of Liberation from the cycle of birth. Description of them along with the concept of Tatkratu can be read in Tamil here. Worshipers of the Parivara devatas of these two Gods get elevated gradually over births and attain Moksha through either of these two deities. By this concept of Hindu Thought the devotees of deities of the other religions attain those deities which are anyway confined to created world, caught within the cycle of rebirth. The reason is that those religions have no idea of Brahman. In the similar vein, the devotion to Sai Baba would be limited by the rule of Tatkrutu. Any attempt to elevate him as Shiva would not benefit the devotee as Sai Baba was not connected with Shiva or Brahman in his life. With the goal of Sanatana Dharma being that of enabling one obtain the highest fruit of human endeavour, no one in the know of this knowledge would recommend a deviation from this path.
However, material quest and the urge for quick-fix solutions had overtaken people nowadays which are precisely the cause for deviating from the Hindu path. This has reached the heights of ignorance that people can be seen abusing the Shankaracharya without any thought. I do agree that people have all the liberty to pursue their own choice in seeking guidance from any person and worship him or her. But do they know what they are missing in the melee?
Many Gods of Hinduism - http://jayasreesaranathan.blogspot.in/2013/07/pralaya-in-kedarnath-some-musings-part_23.html