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Sai Baba

Category: Mystic

 

Sathya Sai Baba was born as Sathya Narayana Raju (23 November 1926 – 24 April 2011). 

He was a mystic magician, a very unusual combination and thus a person of great interest to this site. 

Magicians usually have considerable abilities in the area of environmental influence and Sai Baba had mastered levitation and apporting, but he was also capable of healing and out of body travel. 

Sai Baba's materialisations of vibhuti (holy ash) and other small objects such as rings, necklaces, statuettes, and watches, along with ‘miraculous healings’, remote viewing and even bilocation, earned him considerable fame in his lifetime. 

He was a very striking looking man both when he was young and as he grew older.

Sai Baba - Man of Miracles by Howard Murphet
After a few minutes the door from the interior of the house opened and there entered a man the like of whom I have never seen before - nor since. He was slight and short. He wore a red silk robe that fell in a straight line from shoulders to feet. His hair stood up from his head in a big circular mop, jet black, crinkly to the roots like wool, and seemingly vibrant with life. His skin was light brown but seemed darker because of the thick beard which, though closely shaven, still showed black through the skin. His eyes were dark, soft and luminous, and his face beamed with some inner joy.
I had never seen a photograph of Sai Baba. Could this be he? I had expected someone tall and stately with a long black beard, and dressed in white robes. I had a preconceived image of what a great yogi or master should be like perhaps derived from early theosophical descriptions of the Masters.
He came swiftly and gracefully across the carpet towards me, showing white, even teeth in a friendly smile.
‘Are you the man from Australia?’ he asked.
‘Yes’ I said.

 

His magical abilities succeeded in attracting devotees, but it is clear that Sai Baba’s aim was to impart wisdom and help people. 

Every apport, every miraculous event was accompanied by wisdom and teaching. 

This also makes him special, as many magicians with the powers of Sai Baba stay as magicians enamoured of their powers, but Sai Baba appeared to recognise that his gifts had a purpose and had not to be abused.  In many ways he was keeping the mystic traditions alive, in a style not at all dissimilar to Jesus.

It is also incorrect to call him a Hindu.  Like all mystics, he was way above any religion, as was Jesus.  On 29 June 1968, for example, Sai Baba said:

 

"I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added lustre. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love."

The Sathya Sai Organisation

The Sathya Sai Organisation was founded "to enable its members to undertake service activities as a means to spiritual advancement".  Sathya Sai Baba stated that

The main objective of the Sathya Sai Organisation is to help man recognize the divinity that is inherent in him. So, your duty is to emphasize the One, to experience the One in all you do or speak. Do not give any importance to differences of religion or sect or status or colour. Have the feeling of one-ness permeate every act of yours. Only those who do so have a place in this Organization; the rest can withdraw.

Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital, Puttaparthi, A.P., India

The Organisation has over 1,200 Sathya Sai Centres (branches) in 126 countries. The number of active Sathya Sai Baba followers today is hard to determine. Estimates vary from 6 million up to nearly 100 million.

Through this organisation, Sathya Sai Baba established a network of free hospitals, clinics, drinking water projects, schools and colleges, and other charitable institutions in India and abroad, the total cost of which has been estimated at Rs. 400 billion (US$9 billion).  Estimates as high as 1.4 trillion rupees (about US$31.5bn) have also been made.  Some examples of the help he and his foundation gave include:

Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital, Whitefield, India

Hospitals

The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust runs several general hospitals, two speciality hospitals, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries and conducts medical camps in rural and slum areas in India.

  • In 1954, Sathya Sai Baba established a small free general hospital in the village of Puttaparthi.
  • The Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Whitefield Bangalore, was opened in 1977 and provides complex surgery, food and medicines free of cost. The hospital has treated over 2 million patients
  • The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Puttaparthi is a 300-bed facility which provides free surgical and medical care and which was on 22 November 1991.
  • The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Whitefield is a 333-bed hospital, which was inaugurated on 19 January 2001.The hospital has provided free medical care to over 250,000 patients.
Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, Puttaparthi, India

Schools and universities

Sathya Sai Baba's educational institutions aim to combine academic learning with an emphasis on human values, ethics and spirituality. 

His ‘Educare programme’ seeks to found schools throughout the world with the same goals. 

According to the Sai Educare site, schools have been founded in 33 countries, including Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Peru.
The Times of Zambia stated, 

"The positive influence of Sathya Sai is unprecedented in the annals of education in Zambia. Sai Baba's education ideals as embodied in his human values-based approach in education are an eye-opener to educationists in Zambia”

In Canada, the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research and educational organisation, ranked the Sathya Sai School of Canada as one of the top 37 elementary schools in Ontario.  In India the schools include:

  • The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning, for example, established in 1981, has four campuses, one at Puttaparthi for men, one at Whitefield, Bangalore for men, one at Anantapur for women, and one at Muddenahalli for men.
  • The Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School was founded on 15 June 1981 in Puttaparthi. This is a boarding school with separate hostel for boys and girls. In 2014, it was ranked in the top 10 CBSE schools of India.
  • A Sathya Sai Baba University and Medical School with a hospital and research institute was being constructed at the time of writing this, on over 200 acres (0.81 km2).
 

Drinking water

One of the most far reaching and wise aims he established was in trying to provide clean, fresh drinking water for the millions of Indians without access to this necessity of life.  Although the hospitals help in treating the sick, Sai Baba’s aim was to prevent sickness, and clean pollution free water is one of the most important keys to staying well.

  • Rayalaseema  - In March 1995, Sathya Sai Baba started a project to provide drinking water to the drought-prone Rayalaseema region in the Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh.  The project, completed in 1996, supplies water to 1.2 million people in about 750 villages
  • The Chennai drinking water project - completed in 2004, supplies water to Chennai through a rebuilt waterway named "Sathya Sai Ganga Canal”
  • The Medak District Project - benefits 450,000 people in 179 villages
  • The Mahbubnagar District Project - benefits 350,000 people in 141 villages.
  • Latur - In January 2007, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust said it would start a drinking water project in Latur, Maharashtra

Housing

In 2008, two million people in the state of Odisha were affected by floods. As a relief measure, the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization built 699 houses as part of their first phase in 16 villages by March 2009.

 

Detractors and opponents

As with all people showing apparently ‘supernatural’ abilities, Sai Baba attracted a number of people whose principle aim was to try to prove him an ‘ordinary magician’, or worse a fraud – although I am not sure what fraud means in this context, as the events had so many witnesses that the term fraud has no meaning.  It might be better to say they tried to prove that all the miraculous events had a straightforward materialistic explanation. 

Suffice it to say they never succeeded in doing so. 

In April 1976, Hosur Narasimhaiah, a ‘physicist, rationalist and then vice-chancellor of Bangalore University’, founded and chaired a committee "to rationally and scientifically investigate miracles and other verifiable superstitions". Narasimhaiah wrote to Sathya Sai Baba three widely publicised letters challenging him to perform his miracles under controlled conditions. The letters were [understandably] ignored. Sathya Sai Baba said that he ignored Narasimhaiah's challenge because he felt his approach was 'improper', adding that

"Science must confine its inquiry only to things belonging to the human senses, spiritualism transcends the senses.  If you want to understand the nature of spiritual power you can do so only through the path of spirituality and not science. What science has been able to unravel is merely a fraction of the cosmic phenomena ..."

There were other mean minded accusations from those whose motives were extremely suspect.  They can be dismissed.  Here is something far more important:

Letter jointly signed December 2001:
Atal Bihari Vajpayee - then Prime Minister of India and a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba,
P.N. Bhagwati - Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India
Ranganath Misra- Chair Person, National Human Rights Commissioner of India and Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India
Najma Heptulla - President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; UNDP Distinguished Human Development Ambassador
Shivraj Patil - Member of Parliament, India; Formerly of the Lok Sabha & Union Minister

We are deeply pained and anguished by the wild, reckless and concocted allegations made by certain vested interests and people against Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. We would normally expect that responsible media would ascertain the true facts before printing such a calumny – especially when the person is revered globally as an embodiment of love and selfless service to humanity.

 

Sai Baba also attracted some rather unpleasant followers within the midst of the thousands who were genuine. 

In a 1993 incident, for example, four intruders armed with knives entered his bedroom, either as an assassination attempt or as part of a power struggle between his followers. Sai Baba was unharmed but was left very shaken by the event. 

It may not be immediately obvious, but someone capable of producing solid gold statues, ruby rings and very large diamonds from thin air is both a 'goose laying golden eggs' and a threat to the livelihood of those who sell such things or speculate on them to make money.  Sai Baba's aim was not to destabilise the economy, but of course he had the potential to do so.  One detractor even tried to get him charged because no tax had been paid on the gold he materialised. 

Baba was 'good', but there were of course those that feared, if he turned 'bad'.  It is worth, however, providing this extract from his ‘will’.

I, Sri Sathya Sai of Parshanthi Nilayam P.O. Indian Inhabitant hereby declare as follows:-

I was born in the village of Puthaparthi District Anantpur …. I … gave up my  studies and dedicated myself to the spread of Sanatan Dharma.
I am unmarried and I left my parents house at the age of Twelve.
 I have taken up religious orders with saffron dress and I have no worldly/or family attachments.
 I declare that when I left my parents' place permanently and adopted Holy orders I had no intention to revert back.
I … do not own or possess any personal property, wealth or estate.
Whatever is given to me by my devotees is under my management, supervision and control as a Trustee to be used for public charitable purposes.

 

His Life

Sathyanarayana Raju was born in the village of Puttaparthi, in what was the Madras Presidency of British India.  As a child, he was described as "unusually intelligent and kind", he was even, when young, interested in things of a spiritual nature. He was uncommonly talented in devotional music, dance and drama.

Sai Baba Man of Miracles – Howard Murphet
At seven o'clock on the evening of March 8th 1940, Satya, whilst walking barefooted on the open ground, leapt into the air with a loud shriek, holding one toe of his right foot. In the area there were lots of big black scorpions and his companions immediately thought that he must have been bitten by one. But in the dusk they could not find the black culprit. ....
Satya slept that night without any signs of pain or sickness and seemed quite normal next day. Everyone was greatly relieved. Then at seven in the evening, twenty-four hours after the supposed scorpion bite, the thirteen-year-old boy fell down unconscious; his body became stiff and his breathing faint. His brother, Seshama, brought a doctor who gave an injection and left a mixture to be taken when the boy regained consciousness. But Satya remained unconscious throughout the night.
Next day consciousness returned but the boy was by no means normal in behaviour. He seemed at times to be a different person. He seldom answered when spoken to; he had little interest in food; he would suddenly burst into song or poetry, sometimes quoting long Sanskrit passages far beyond anything learned in his formal education and training. Off and on he would become stiff, appearing to leave his body and go somewhere else. At times he would have the strength of ten, at others he was "as weak as a lotus-stalk". There was much alternate laughter and weeping, but occasionally he would become very serious and give a discourse on the highest Vedanta philosophy. Sometimes he spoke of God; sometimes he described far-off places of pilgrimage to which - certainly during his life as Satyanarayana Raju – he had never been.

He went back to live with his parents until..........

Sai Baba Man of Miracles – Howard Murphet
On the morning of May 23rd Satya called around him the members of the household, except his father who was busy at his produce store.  With a wave of his hand the boy took from the air sugar candy and flowers and distributed them among those present. Soon the neighbours began to crowd in. Satya in a jovial mood "produced" more candy and flowers, and also a ball of rice cooked in milk for each person. The news that his son was performing apparent siddhis before a crowd of people reached Pedda.
Suddenly the father overflowed with anger and resentment. Wasn't it enough that the boy had caused them all this worry and strain over the last two months. Now he must be making a public show of himself with stupid tricks; hiding things and producing them by sleight-of-hand, no doubt - although where the boy had learned such legerdemain he had no idea. As Satya had for a long time been able to do inexplicable things, perhaps it was not just jugglery after all but something worse - black magic, sorcery!
Thus with bitter thoughts Pedda found himself a stout cane and went to the house. As he pushed through the crowd someone ordered him to go and wash himself before approaching the giver of boons. This incensed and angered him still more. Standing before his 13-year-old son and waving the stick threateningly, he shouted:
"This is too much! It must stop! What are you? Tell me - a ghost, or a god, or a madcap?"
Satya regarded his wrathful, distraught father and the upraised stick.

Then he said calmly and firmly, "I am Sai Baba."

Sai Baba of Shirdi

Sai Baba of Shirdi was an Indian guru, greatly revered as a saint, who became famous in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Maharashtra.  He died eight years before Sathya was born. 
The name Sathya Sai Baba, is used in most descriptions of Sathyanarayana Raju in order to distinguish him from Sai Baba of Shirdi, but also to indicate he is the ‘reincarnation’ of Sai Baba of Shirdi.  Technically speaking, it would be more accurate to say that Sathyanarayana Raju was ‘possessed’ by the Higher spirit of Sai Baba of Shirdi, however, it hardly matters which term is used as the two of them seemed to live quite contentedly in the same body.

During his long life Sai Baba helped and gave advice to millions. His help was always very personal and directed and was often given during his darshan, scheduled for morning and afternoon each day. Sai Baba would interact with people, accept letters, materialise and distribute vibhuti (sacred ash) or call groups or individuals for interviews. Devotees considered it a great privilege to have an interview and sometimes a single person, group or family was invited for a private interview for answers to spiritual questions and general guidance.

 

 He also founded three primary mandirs (spiritual centres) in India.  But in 1963, Sathya Sai Baba suffered a stroke and four severe heart attacks, which left him paralysed on one side. These events culminated in an event where he healed himself in front of the thousands of people gathered in Prashanthi Nilayam [his ashram] who were then praying for his recovery.

In 2003, Sathya Sai Baba suffered a fractured hip. After that he gave darshana from a car or his porte chair.  On 28 March 2011, he was admitted to the Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital at Prashantigram at Puttaparthi, following respiration-related problems. After nearly a month of hospitalisation, during which his condition progressively deteriorated, Sai Baba died on Sunday, 24 April, aged 84.

His body lay in state for two days and was buried with full state honours on 27 April 2011. An estimated 500,000 people attended the burial, among them the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and Union Ministers S. M. Krishna and Ambika Soni, as well as other political leaders and prominent figures.  Sathya Sai Baba's death triggered an outpouring of grief from followers who included movie stars, athletes and industrialists.

References

Harold Murphet

Sai Baba himself wrote a number of books which are listed below, but the book from which I have taken the observations is that by Howard Murphet released in 1971 and called Sai Baba: Man of Miracles.

Only a small selection of the examples of Sai Baba's numerous 'miracles' has been extracted from the book, as hundreds are described.  The book is very readable, with no hysteria or long rambling  attempts by Howard to rationalise what he saw.  Instead it is like a set of interviews with those all these miracles happened to, extracted from diaries or remembered.  Howard himself witnessed numerous extraordinary events and describes them in detail.

Sai Babas books are called the vahinis and are collections of talks, lectures and thoughts on various topics.  They are a very adequate testimony to his wisdom and show he was not just a magician, but a very wise man

  • Bhagavatha Vahini.
  • Ramakatha Rasavahini Part 1 [Ramayana Part 1, Stream of Sacred Sweetness].
  • Ramakatha Rasavahini Part 2 [Ramayana Part 2, Stream of Sacred Sweetness].
  •  Gîtâ Vahini [The Divine Gospel].
  •  Dhyana Vahini [Practice of Meditation].
  •  Dharma Vahini [The Path of Virtue].
  • .Jnana Vahini [The Stream of Eternal Wisdom].
  •  Leela Kaivalya Vahini [The Cosmic Play of God].
  • Prashanthi Vahini [The Bliss of Supreme Peace].
  • Prasnotthara Vahini [Answers to Spiritual Questions].
  • Prema Vahini [The Stream of Divine Love].
  • Sandeha Nivarini [Clearance of Spiritual Doubts].
  • Sathya Sai Vahini [Spiritual Message of Sathya Sai].
  • Sutra Vahini [Analytical Aphorisms on Supreme Reality].
  • Upanishad Vahini [Essence of Vedic Knowledge].
  • Vidya Vahini [Flow of Spiritual Education].
  • Chinna Katha 1, 2, 3, 4.

Observations

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