Q. What is the real offering to Shri Sai?
Answer by: Sai Devotee
Conversation between Baba and Hemadpant on offerings:
Once on a Sunday afternoon in Shirdi, the day of weekly bazaar or market, Baba was sitting in the masjid flocked by many visitors as it used to happen during Sundays. Hemadpanth was pressing Baba’s feet. Shama, Vamanrao Patel, Bapusaheb Booty, and Kaka Dixit were also present. Finding that some grains of grams were lodged in the sleeves of Hemadpanth’s dress, Shama and others wondered how grains of the gram were able to get into Hemadpanth’s dress without his knowledge, when Baba jovially remarked that Hemadpanth had gone to the bazaar, bought some grams and that he has the habit of eating food alone, without sharing with others. Hemadpanth was startled and replied that he had never even seen Shirdi bazaar and didn’t have the habit of eating without sharing with others. Baba said, “It is true that you give to the persons present; but if none be near-by, what could you or I do but do you remember Me before eating? Am I not always with you? Then do you offer Me anything before you eat?”
References regarding Offering (Niavedhya)
The offering of food to Sri Saibaba is one of the usual rituals of Sai devotees. A plate of food item, milk or water is offered to Baba as naivedya routinely. Some people do this every day, some on Thursdays and some during special occasions. Some may even cite the above episode and feel satisfied by “mentally” offering to Baba whenever they “remember” that the offering was not made. Lord Krishna in Srimad Bhagavad Geetha said, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it”, and this can be haphazardly and conveniently interpreted to mean that it’s OK to offer anything to a deity as offering! (naivedya)
There are several incidents in Sri Saibaba’s life story where Baba explicitly proved that he accepts the food offered to him, and he reminded those who failed or forgot what they intended to offer and made them offer again and accepted it. Offering food to Sri Sai every day is a means of connecting with him and a reminder of the connection between him and us. Importantly, it is the reminder of food and nourishment on our own plate that is provided by Baba. A Sai devotee thus needs to contemplate on the act of offering food to the Master with care and diligence, and discern its true significance as opposed to mere ritualistic offering of something convenient in the name of naivedya in front of a deity.
It is said that the real offering (Naivedhya) is when the devotee himself becomes a humble offering to the Master. Understanding our relationship with Sri Sai through the daily offering can perhaps be a good start towards becoming the real naivedya to Sai!