Friday, July 4, 2014

Sai Baba – Shankaracharya controversy.

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? 


Related article:

Many Gods of Hinduism -








narayana said...

Namaskara Smt. Jayasree,

Thank you for this timely and well analyzed article. Off late, I have been noticing a tremendous increase in Sai worship in South India (not sure about North India), more so in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. This has reached such maniacal proportions that Sai temples are springing up everywhere and Sai is perhaps now the most common first name at least in the Telugu lands. This perversion has gone to such extreme levels that now there is a Sai Gayatri, Sai Chaleesa and Sai Saptaaha. It is so unfortunate and shameful that these worshippers of Sai are questioning the motives of Shankaracharya himself. Shankaracharya is not conveying his personal opinion, he is merely stating what is in Shruti, Smriti, Itihasa, Purana and what has been the Sishtaachara of our glorious acharyas. Every ritual and every form of worship is valid if and only if it can be traced to the Shruti or Smriti. Saibaba has no connection whatsoever with our Vedas and hence he can't be a diety forget even having the status of a Guru.

To be a Guru, one has to have the following qualities according to Shrimad Bhagavata, which is the crown jewel of Purana literature:

tasmād guruṁ prapadyeta
 jijñāsuḥ śreya uttamam
śābde pare ca niṣṇātaṁ
 brahmaṇy upaśamāśrayam 11.3.21

According to this, a Guru is one who has realized the conclusions of all the sacred scriptures and is able to convince others of these conclusions. The Guru must be a Brahma Nishta, someone who is constantly absorbed in the thought of Brahman.

Saibaba often used to say Allah malik. Allah is not the Brahman espoused by Vedas and not the Brahman worshipped by our ancestors. In Varaha Purana, Bhagavan tells Dharani devi that one of the biggest sins (a sin on par with Brahma hatya) is equating other deities with Vishnu. The essence of all our Shastras is that you can worship other deities for material comforts, but only Narayana can bestow Moksha. The strangest thing though is although Sai himself was most likely a muslim and definitively used to say "Allah Malik", very few muslims even consider him a saint. It is again the Hindus that have a misconstrued notion of who God is or who Acharya is.

In my view, the following are the biggest reasons why Sai worship has picked up off late:

1. No procedures, no rules and regulations. No vratas, no niyamas and no Sishtaachara. Sai worship does not require any of this.

2. Hindus losing touch with Sanatana Dharma. The biggest ones to fault are Hindu parents who have no interest in learning Aaachara and Dharma from Acharyas. As a result, families are moving away from Sanatana Dharma

3. A false belief that all religions lead to the same God and thereby a misguided benevolence towards other paths that are not in accordance with Vedas.

K V Narayana Achar

jayasree said...

Thanks Mr Narayana Achar for the informative comment.

You made a valid point that Hindu parents are to be blamed for the deviation from Hindu path and for not guiding their children well. Greed, urge to get quick material benefits, belief in miracles, failure to inculcate faith in Hindu Gods at young age are some of the reasons for the deviation from Hindu path. The awareness must start from family level.

As far as I have noticed and heard from Shirdi Sai Baba devotees, one of the most feel-good factor about their devotion is that they need not give up non-veg except on Thursdays! For Puttaparthi Sai Baba devotees, Thursday is a proud day for them for, that is when they go out to do 'service' as part of their devotion. I have seen these people (women) extract work from their domestic servants ruthlessly at home, but come Thursday, they will be visiting some orphanage to bath the kids and clean the kitchen! My friend used to tell me that we must praise Baba for making these people behave as better persons at least once in a week!

IS said...

Smt Jayasree Ji,

Thank you for sending me the link to the article 'Sai Baba - Shankaracharya controversy'. It is very well analysed and makes good points. I have reproduced it on Bharata Bharati (with a link back to you). If you object, say so and I can take the article down. The link is

jayasree said...

Dear Ishwar Sharanji,

I am happy to note that you agree with my points. Please go ahead posting it in your website.

Hariharan Parasuraman said...

Shankaracharya's fatwa on Saibaba worship is condemnable. If the concern is about elevating Shirdi Sai baba to the level of Shiva, they why don't you start with this, (How many "bhakthi" magazines printed the image of Nataraja with previous Kanchi seer's face?). Thank God my religion has long moved away from the hands of elite religious fatwa issuing Gurus.

Romesh said...

Dear Mrs Saranathan

I have a related question. From an astrology point of view, what is the significance of the worship of Kali. She is much venerated in Bengal, Assam and Nepal. What are your views?

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Romesh,

I think the more appropriate question for the current blog will be about who to worship for Jupiter's position in the horoscope. Before answering your question let me say a few things about this.

Jupiter is associated with Guru or teacher. The most common objects of veneration or propitiation for Jupiter are Teachers, Brahmins and cow. Of them, feeding the Brahmins is part and parcel of most remedies. But in today's condition, in a place like Tamilnadu, we have to think twice before suggesting this to the people who come to us because Brahmin hatred still continues to be present in the minds of many many people in Tamilnadu. Added to this is the fact that it is rare to come across a shreshta Brahmin nowadays. Few such Brahmins hesitate to take daanam is also a fact we see today.

We also recommend worship of one's Kula Guru. Though every family has a Kula Guru for generations, it is forgotten and lost about 2 generations ago in most families. When they don't know who their Kula Guru is, we leave it to them to say whom they think they can easily connect with. Some people do mention Sai Baba of Shirdi or Puttaparthi. We don't interfere in their choice they already have. Accordingly we tell them to continue to worship them.

Among Tamils, there are many who say that they have no Kula Guru but are willing to adopt one. We suggest them to take up Ramanujacharya as Guru. To those who are interested in getting connected with some Guru parampara we direct them to meet Sriperumbudur Jeer Swamy who is known to be embracing people from any caste and guiding them into worship and surrender to God.

Some people say that they cannot connect with any Guru. We tell them to worship Guru Graha among the Navagrahas. Most times we suggest worship of specific deities depending on the planetary position and dasa- bhukthi.

What I have said here is a basic thing. What I am conveying here is that we don't interfere with or influence a Baba devotee. It is because one has to meander through many paths across Time and many births before one finally gets fixated with the Ultimate path of Vedantha. Destiny must favour one to even choose an appropriate Guru and path.

Having said this let me go over to deities mentioned in astrological texts for worship of Jupiter. After saying this, I will take up your question on Kali worship.


jayasree said...

Jupiter represents Dakshinamurthy and also Vishnu. Jupiter governs divinity and hence represents both Shiva (as Dakshinamurthy) and Vishnu. People are advised to follow any one of them depending on their sects or preferences.

There are subsidiary deities represented by each planet which is found out from the sign where the planet is posited.

Propitiation for these deities is done when a person undergoes adverse period or sub period of the planet. This was in vogue until a few centuries ago.

For Jupiter, if it is posited in Martian signs of Aries and Scorpio, it represents Shiva Bhuthas and Durdevatha respectively. Remedies are suggested to them.

In the signs of Venus, Jupiter represents Yakshi in Taurus and Yaksha in Libra.

In the signs of Mercury, Jupiter represents a neutar devatha formed by the wrath of Gods in Gemini and the devatha formed by abhichara of Brahmins in Virgo.

Jupiter in cancer represents Devatha in a Brahmin’s house caused by his Agnihotra or a Gandharva.

In Leo, Jupiter represents a Devatha caused by the abhichara of a king’s servants or caused by abhichara of a woman performed against her husband.

In Capricorn and Aquarius, Jupiter represents Bhasma Pisacha, Jala Pisacha and Adhama Gandharva.

In Sagittarius and Pisces, Jupiter does not indicate any devatha.

In addition to the above, the exalted, debilitated, enmity etc position of Jupiter and the avasthas suffered by Jupiter are also assessed to arrive at the deity that one will follow in a birth and / or in the period of Jupiter.

From the above, it is possible to derive the position of Jupiter to be suitable for one to be a Baba devotee though born as a Hindu. Let me not do that derivation here.


jayasree said...

If Jupiter happens to be the Baadhakha (for Gemini and Virgo ascendant) and is posited in 6th, 8th or 12th housed and these happen to be kendras (1,4,7,10) to Rahu, it indicates Naga devathas and remedies must be done to them.

I think the above information had revealed how a variety of sub deities are also part of the Hindu pantheon. Many of them are found in temple walls or pillars to enable people do the worship or remedies. Like Jupiter, there are sub deities revealed by all the planets. Among them let me give here those pertaining to Kali or any form of Kali.


In the signs of Venus, Sun represents Yakshi in Taurus and Bhadrakali in Libra.
Sun in Saturn’s sign of Capricorn represents Ayyappa.
It represents hunter’s deities in Pisces, the sign of Jupiter. Hunter’s deity is Mahishasuramardhini. Read my blog here:


In the Martian sign of Aries, if moon is posited, it represents temple God Chamundi. In Scorpio, it represents the same Goddess worshiped by low class people. If weak in these signs, both types of deities.

In the sign of Venus, Moon represents Yakshi in Taurus.
In the signs of Mercury, Moon represents Vimana Sundara in Gemini and Vimana Sundari in Virgo.

In Leo, Moon represents Bhagawathi worshiped by others.
In Pisces, Moon represents Akasa Gandharva female.


Usually Mars signifies Subramanya in odd signs and Chamundi and Bhadrakali in even signs. Further fine-tuning can be explained as follows with specific reference to Kaali- group deities.

In its own sign of Scorpio, Mars represents Narabhojini, Balaprabhakshani etc.
In Taurus and Virgo, Yakshi.
In Cancer, Bhagawathi and Chamundi.

In Leo, vana devathas in addition to Shiva Bhuthas such as Aghora.


In Leo, Mercury signifies Naga kanya.
In Sagittarius and Pisces, Chamundi charged with mischief by an angered Brahmin.

Explained above. Signs of Venus namely Taurus and Libra indicate worship of Yakshi.

In its own houses (Taurus and Libra) Venus signifies Annapurna.
In the house of a benefic, it signifies Lakshmi.
In Leo, it indicates temple Yakshi.
In Pisces, Durga Bhagawathi.
In other signs, Yakshi.

In the signs of Venus, it signifies Yakshi in Taurus and Ayyappa in Libra.
In Gemini, Vana devatha.
In cancer, devathas worshiped by low class people.
In Leo, devathas worshiped by hunters in addition to temple Sastha and Kirata.

jayasree said...

Dear Mr Romesh,

For the specific question why Kali is venerated in Bengal, Assam, Nepal etc, my opinion is that it was an old system of worship by hunters (hunter's deity) that was prevalent throughout the hunter community in the western ghats that spread further north to these regions. I am saying this based on Silappadhikaram sources. It is written in the link I quoted above. Let me give it here again:

Kali worship is too vast to express in a comment section. You may refer to my earlier articles here on the triangular symbol entrapping Kali's energy.

You can even find the same form of Kali of hunters (Silappadhikaram and Nepalese Kali) having gone to pre-Greek society through Etruscans. In my opinion, Etruscans were Eyittriyas of Silappadhikaram. Read here:

For further inputs on on how the mother goddess or Kali concept spread in ancient world read the 4 part articles here:

Romesh said...

Dear Mrs Saranathan

Thank you for the detailed line by line explanation. I often revisit your site and its comments section to reread your explanations and imbibe the knowledge, sometimes months after the post.

May I repeat my earlier suggestion that you publish you vast knowledge of the subject over the next few years. This should be in English and Tamil. It needs wide dissemination.

Thank you once again for your efforts.

Redheartkid said...

Thank you madam, I was actually confused about this issue before reading your blog. But now I am clear.

sriram said...

I have also seen so many sai devotees (good orthodox brahmins)who have left doing essential rituals like sandhya vadanam and sing bhajans thinking it would compromise for not following the vaiddheeka marga.. Alas .. Vedas declare any activity done without the performance of Sandhya will fetch you no results however selfless it may seem. If you observe carefully, you will find out that these devotees are those who are afraid/reluctant/lazy/having no faith to perform our main duties... but they believe in their own created God and His own created Rules...
Hinduism has become such an affair where anybody can become God...
This is just yet another religion taking people from Hinduism and converting... (Can this happen in any other religion??)
That's why the Shankracharya had boldly commented... Dharma sthapanam is one of their important duties... whenever there is a mishap to our religion, they have to see to that it does not disturb the religion..
I would like to quote VIvekanada also "YOu may be a christian, muslim, sikh , name it... But know for sure your forefathers were once HINDUS... Because that was the only way of life existed on earth (Hinduism is just a name ; it essentially is a set of rules and regs to lead to Brahman)...

Unknown said...

Worship of Kali is related to hunters ? I did not know that ! Look it the other way. Most of the Shakti/Shakthi Peetha are located from Maharashtra - Gujarat - Rajasthan -Himachal-Nepal-Bnegal/Assam. It is a belt that has continuity. One point also in Pakistan (Hinglaj). All these are also related to Shiva and his Tandava Nrutya. Just imagine - A group of Matrilineal people join followers of Shiva and create a strong presence. The head of the Matrilineal section gets killed (Sati). The combined group creates destruction. Vishnu just disperses the matrilineal group to quell the unrest. The dispersed group carries their deities and myths to the places they go. It is not necessary that all histories or Purana were written with explicit meaning.

Sriram Padmanabhan said...

Before commenting on shirdi sai baba please read Sai Satcharitra. Secondly it's said guru brahma guru Vishnu guru devo maheshwara guru ...he is a Guru...

jayasree said...

@ Unknown.

//Worship of Kali is related to hunters ?//

Yes I have given the links in my reply to Mr Romesh. Please read them. There is answer to all your views in those links.

There is more into it which I will write in future posts. It is about Mt Pangrago in Indonesia which is likely to be the location of Tripura samhara at the end of which the first dance of rudra as per Tamil texts as Pandarangam was enacted. It means the dance of Shiva with volcanic white ashes settled all over the body when death was all around due to the volcanic burst. The volcano by name Mt Pangarago in Indonesia which fits with vasthu grid with Sukhabhumi in Brahmasthan and Mt Padang in south east is there in Indonesia. The structures in Mt Padang(Pathang is sun in Tamil and Sanskrit - perhaps same as Mt Suryavan described in Valmiki Ramayana) show that they were upto 20,000 years before present. Kali dance started then itself. Names of places with Kali prefix is there in Indonesia.

A previous Hindu civilization had existed in Indonesia before it shifted to India via Dwaraka into saraswathi river. Shiva and kali were deities of that previous location which perhaps was known as "Shaka Dweepa". As per Mahabharata, Shiva was the patron deity of Shaka dweepa. For Bharata, it is Narayana. Perhaps Dwaraka Shankaracharya had told in that sense.

On Puranas you wrote // It is not necessary that all histories or Purana were written with explicit meaning. //

All the info in Puranas carry some meaning. It could either be symbolic, or historical or geological and so on. I have written on some of them in this blogspot. You have to search and read.

jayasree said...

@ Sriram Padmanabhan,

I think you have not understood the article. Read again to understand why I am saying Sai Baba can not come within Hindu matham. Also read the Ishvar Sharanji's article having the material from Sai charitra. The link is here:

Pagan said...

sarvam khalvidam brahma

For someone who is receptive, everything is Divine. For several centuries now, narrow-minded Brahmins have been viciously attacking Advaita core of Hinduism, narrowing the meaning of God and seeking to limit it to certain names and forms.

There was a GaNapAti by name GaNapati SAstry living with Ramana Maharshi. When he died, devotees ask Sri Ramana if he attained Nirvana. "Nope", was the reply. All this scholarship is a big waste when it comes to realizing the Truth.

The definition of knowledge itself is "advaita darsanam jnaanam". Not being able to see the Oneness, the Divine in all is a BIG failure of scholarship. Love sees Unity, the Mind sees Separation.

nagoo said...

. The Sai devotees see Sai Baba as an incarnation of Shiva and Dattatreya . In the same way, followers of mahaperiyavaa see him as an incarnation of goddess kamakshi can you please explain it? In what way the followers of Mahaperiyavaa different from the Sai followers?

jayasree said...

@ nagoo

Read the Response section of Ishvar Sharanji's blog: