Sai Baba Bhajan Book

This blog is UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Expect philosophical and theological analysis of Sai Baba bhajans as and when released.

08 June 2006

Namostute Ganapathi Gananatha

When I was an SB devotee, I came across many theologically inaccurate bhajans, but one sticks out in my mind right now just as it always has:

Namostute Ganapathi Gananatha
Namostute Namostute
Hey Shiva-nandana Sai Gajanana
Sai Gajanana Namostute
Namostute Namostute

At least that's the way I remember it from an audio recording that I have.

In the Sai Org it is customary to begin a bhajan session with a bhajan in praise of Ganesh, although I haven't noted the same emphasis in other traditions. The specific lines that I object to have been highlighted in bold. It is well known within the Sai Org that Sai Baba is believed to be a combined incarnation of Shiva-Shakti as per his own words. As such I believe that, to be theologically inaccurate, bhajans in praise of him should be sensitive to ontological considerations.

If Sai Baba is believed to be the combined incarnation of Shiva-Shakti, then where is the sense in glorifying him as 'Shiva-nandana' (the son of Shiva!) and 'Sai Gajanana' (Sai Ganesh, the son of Shiva)?

The knowledgeable devotee would most likely retort that Sai Baba is an incarnation in which "every divine principle is manifest", and thus it is appropriate to glorify him in the mood of all such manifestations of God. In other words, since Sai Baba claims to be an incarnation of every form of God that ever existed, it is therefore OK to glorify him as such, even if they violate ontological considerations.

Such an intellectually dishonest consideration may be acceptable to the average Sai Devotee whereas it is (unfortunately) unacceptable when dealing with members of other religious traditions, who may be curious to enquire about the precepts of the Sai Tradition and find it to be a confused faith.

Copyright © Sai Baba Bhajan Book 2006.

Theological Inaccuracies of Sai Bhajans

One issue that has been on my thoughts now and then regards the theological inaccuracies of Sai Bhajans as comparable to other religious traditions. Here I'd just like to note how bhajans and padas in other religous traditions often have the hallmark of the author's (usually a famous saint) deep bhAva (feeling, inner aspiration) and this is what leads to their 'authenticity', religiously recited/sung by their followers. In some traditions, recital of a certain saint's bhajan is said to bestow the same result that the saint received. Another noteworthy characterisitic of such 'authentic' bhajans is that they embody the teachings of that particular tradition in a simplified form so that the divine message can be "preached"to people in a medium that is suited to their sensibilities.

In the Gaudiya Vaishnava tradition (which I happen to follow), the bhajans and padas of Srila Narottama das Thakura are a perfect example of what I am speaking of. Sri Narottama's padas happen to be so 'in tune' with the theological teachings of Gaudiya Vaishnava philosophy that it is quite appropriate to quote selected stanzas in the midst of a debate among Gaudiya Vaishnavas.

Just imagine; in a "normal" discussion or debate where advocates of a particular position refer to scriptures to make their points, is it not wonderful that in some traditions participants are able to quote stanzas of certain bhajans to prove their points? Obviously, the bhajans of Sri Narottam das Thakur have no authority within a debate between followers of two differing schools of philosophy, such as Sri Vaishnavism or Tattva-vada, but it is still a wonderful discovery to see how such bhajans are considered to be "scriptural evidence" in some circles. This is primarily because of the bhajan's resonance with the tradition's philosophy.

I noted that the same is not true in the Sai organisation. For a start, most if not all of their bhajans are theologically incomprehensible. If I was in a generous mood, I would say that because their bhajans have various names of God in them, that would be their only virtue. They are totally incomprehensible in other terms.

This is a theme that I'll be returning to often. It seems that I may have to go through the entire Bhajanamavali at some point in order to point out all of the inaccuracies in Sai bhajans. :-)

Copyright © Sai Baba Bhajan Book 2006.