How often do you get to immerse yourself in another religion or culture? I had the opportunity a couple months ago to visit the Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan LA in Montebello. Raj Pandita, director of the Aahaara Group and owner of The Spice Factory Restaurant in Pasadena, was gracious enough to invite me to have lunch with him at the temple.
Raj donated a selection of his restaurant’s Kashmiri Indian foods, which were served following the afternoon prayer service, under a veranda on the temple grounds. When I arrived, Raj and his wife greeted me warmly and invited me to sit with them.
I learned more about the origin of the temple’s name that afternoon. The swami and Raj told me some of the history of Sai Baba, who lived in Shirdi in the state of Maharashtra, India, for 60 years. Sai Baba spent his life helping the poor and giving to others, until he took Samadhi (discarded his physical body) in 1918.
I witnessed the swami perform a ritual blessing of a young family’s new automobile. Slices of lime were placed under each of the car’s tires, and the husband and wife drove the car slowly over the slices. The lime slices represent a ritual sacrifice to the Hindu gods.
Inside the temple, I saw many photographs and drawings of Sai Baba. I then viewed the beautiful centerpiece of the temple: a statue of Sai Baba that is adorned by a golden crown.
As I prepared to leave the Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan, the young woman whose automobile had been blessed introduced me to her husband and her two beautiful children — a girl and a boy. She then told me something extraordinary.
Several years ago, she was visited by Sai Baba in a dream. He told her: “It will be all right. You and your family will be safe.”
She was puzzled by the dream until a few days later, when she and her family were involved in a horrible car accident on the freeway. Their car was destroyed, but incredibly everyone emerged unscathed.
“None of us received even a scratch,” she said. Her husband and children nodded to confirm this miracle.
I thanked the young woman and told her I believed her story. And why not? I, too, have witnessed the unexplainable.
I told her that soon after my mother died, my cousin told me that Mom visited her in a dream.
“Take care of Dan,” my mother warned. “He wakes up choking at night.”
My cousin had not known that I was experiencing sleep apnea at the time. My mother then sang a song about the numbers four-two-three in my cousin’s dream. My cousin awoke to find that it was 4:23 a.m., according to her digital clock.
William Shakespeare reminds us that there are more things in heaven and Earth than mortals can imagine. The young family I met that afternoon was rescued from the hand of death by Sai Baba.
Thank you to my new friend I met at the Shri Shirdi Sai Baba Sansthan LA for sharing her family’s miracle.
Dan Lambert is an Inglewood resident and an English lecturer at Cal State Los Angeles.