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- Sathyam Sivam Sundaram - Part I
The Life of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba
Written by N. Kasturi M.A., B.L.
Words of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba taken from this Biography
The Author Writes
The Wonderment of Sai Baba
The Jasmine Bud
The Rhythm of His Feet
The Cattle Fair
The Serpent Hill
Sai Baba Again
From Cape to Kilanmarg
The Wave of the Hand
The Same Baba
The Rain Cloud
"I am Here"
For You and Me
Words of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba taken from this Biography
He is the sub-stratum, the substance; the separate and the sum, the Sath; the SATHYAM
He is the awareness, the activity, the consciousness, feeling, the willing and the doing, the chith; the SIVAM
He is the light, the splendour, the harmony, the melody, the Ananda; the SUNDARAM
"MY MISSION is to grant you Courage and Joy, to drive away Weakness and Fear. Do not condemn yourselves as sinners; sin is a misnomer for what are really errors, provided you repent sincerely and resolve not to follow Evil again. Pray to the Lord to give you the strength to overcome the habits which had enticed you when you were ignorant."
"Worry, greed and needless agitation and anxiety, these cause even bodily disease. Mental weakness is the biggest cause of disease. Dis-ease is a want of ease; the contented mind is the best drug."
"Be good, be joyful, be bold, be honest, be temperate, be patient. These are the rules of good health."
"I refuse to call anyone an athiest or an unbeliever, for all are the Creations of the Lord and repositories of the Grace. In everyone's heart there is a spring of Love, a rock of Truth. That Love is God, that Truth is God. Divinity is there in the depths of everyone's Inner Being."
"The Lord is above and beyond all limits of caste and color, of wealth and poverty; it is foolish to believe that the Lord asks for this gift or is angry when it is not offered."
"I have come to guide and bless those who undergo the discipline and practice leading to Divine union. I am neither man nor woman, old or young, I am all these."
"Do not praise Me. I like you to approach Me without fear, as a right. You do not extol your father. You ask for something from him, as a right, is that not so?"
"You may be seeing Me today for the first time, but you are all old acquaintances for Me. I know you through and through. My task is the spiritual regeneration of Humanity through Truth and Love. If you approach one step nearer to Me, I shall advance three steps towards you."
"I am happiest when a person carrying a heavy load of misery comes to Me, for he is most in need of what I have."
"It is not mentioned anywhere that the Grace of God is available only for certain classes or races or grades of people. From the smallest to the biggest all are entitled to it. The Lord is everywhere, everything."
"The world can achieve prosperity and peace only through such persons whose hearts are pure and whose minds are free of prejudice and passion, lust and greed, anger and envy."
"I have not started the work for which I have come for I am still in the stage of preliminary reconnaissance. When I start my campaign the whole world will know of it and benefit by it."
"Whensoever there is the fading of the Dharma and the uprising of unrighteousness, then I loose myself forth into birth. For the deliverance of the good, for the destruction of the evil-doers, for the enthroning of the Right, I am born from age to age." The Gita - Fourth Chapter. (verses 7&8)
These verses in the Bhagavad Gîtâ of Order, sanskrit, word for word and translation:
yadâ yadâ hi dharmasya
glânir bhavati bhârata
tadâtmânam srjâmy aham
yadâ yadâ -- whenever and wherever; hi -- certainly; dharmasya -- of religion; glânih -- discrepancies; bhavati -- become manifested; bhârata -- O descendant of Bharata; abhyutthânam -- predominance; adharmasya -- of irreligion; tadâ -- at that time; âtmânam -- self; srjâmi -- manifest; aham -- I.
Whenever and wherever it is sure that one weakens in righteousness and a predominance of injustice does manifest, o descendant of Bharata, at that time I do manifest Myself.
vinâsâya ca duskrtâm
sambhavâmi yuge yuge
paritrânâya -- for the deliverance; sâdhûnâm -- of the devotees; vinâsâya -- for the annihilation; ca -- and; duskrtâm -- of the miscreants; dharma -- principles of religion; samsthâpana-arthâya -- to reestablish; sambhavâmi -- I do appear; yuge -- millennium; yuge -- after millennium.
To liberate the seekers of truth, to take the power away from the wicked ones and to reestablish the way of the human principles I do appear age after age.
The Author Writes
I was born in an obscure village in North Travancore when the nineteenth century had still three years and a few days to run. I had my schooling in the Cochin State under a great Headmaster who had met Swami Vivekananda and who lit in our little lamps the flame of prayer and contrition. I attended College at Trivandrum and, after finishing my M.A. and B.L., I secured a job as Lecturer in History at a college in Mysore.
The country boat in which I, my wife and my mother journeyed along the canals and backwaters of the West Coast on the first lap of the trip to catch the train at Ernakulam, was halted past midnight in the middle of a dark backwater by a Coast Guard, who shouted orders from the shore. He called out in the black night, "Where are you going?" and waited for an answer. My boatman had a fine sense of humor. He shouted back, "We are going to Mysore!" (We all knew Mysore was inland!) The Coast Guard did not reprimand him for his impertinence, for he, too, was in a humorous mood. He laughed and asked, "Why do you say Mysore? Don't you know a place beyond Mysore?"
Little did we know then, that there was a place beyond Mysore, a couple of hundred miles to the north of that City, a place called Puttaparthi which was to provide us harborage from the turbulent storms of the sea. There I was to get the Teacher I wanted, when my career as a university teacher and principal was about to come to a close.
Yogi Suddhananda Bharathi, the famous mystic poet of Tamilnad, said, in April 1959 when addressing a religious conference at Venkatagiri Town over which Sri Sathya Sai Baba presided, "I have practiced Yoga for over 50 years; I once observed the vow of silence continuously for over 20 years; I have come in contact with Sri Shirdi Baba, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Sri Meher Baba and others; now, as a result of all this discipline, I have met Sri Sathya Sai Baba."
I served as the Secretary of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission at Mysore for over seventeen years; I came in contact with Sri Siddharooda Swami, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Sri Meher Baba and Sri Narayana Guru; I was initiated into Japam, the recitation of the Name of the Lord, by Mahapurushji, the direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, and President of the Mission; and I am now convinced that, as a result of all this, I sat at the Feet of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in 1948.
After I retired from the service of the University of Mysore, I have since rejoiced in Baba's Presence, except for a short period when I worked with All India Radio as a producer. I have had the good fortune of mingling with many of His devotees who have had longer and closer associations with Him. I have availed myself of every opportunity of witnessing events illustrating His Divine Power and listening to His discourses. I trust this book will reveal to the reader some of the reasons for the extraordinarily intimate loyalty that binds me and others to Him. Baba is an open book, with no mystery or pomp or abstruseness about Him. Everyone can approach Him and secure His Grace.
I have great sympathy for those who are unaware of Baba's stature, for I, too, demurred, doubted, and disbelieved Baba's validity with all the sarcasm and satire found in the novels, dramas, and essays which I wrote and published on various subjects. For many years I, too, in my stupid pride, did not make any effort to meet Him. I invite everyone now, to come and share His Grace and Mercy and stand witness to the Divine Power that He personifies.
The Wonderment of Sai Baba
This is the story of the Lord, come in human form. He was born at sunrise on November 23, 1926, in a quiet little village called Puttaparthi in Southern India. Puttaparthi has carved a niche for itself in the hearts of the people of the area because of the inspiring legends that sanctify its memory and surround its name. Putta is the native word for "an anthill in which a snake has taken up its abode," and Parthi means "multiplier." These words are part of an exciting legend that explains the origin of this place-name.
Long, long ago the village was known as Gollapalli or "Home of the Cowherds," a designation reminiscent of the playful boyhood of Krishna, the Cowherd Lord. Gollapalli was a place redolent with the music of the flute and the laughter of the cowherdesses. It was the abode of prosperous cowherds, for, the cattle of this place where sleek and strong. The cows yielded copious quantities of milk, thick and sweet beyond compare; every home was rich in butter and ghee. However, one day a cowherd noticed that his favorite cow had no milk in her udder when she returned from the grazing grounds on the hills. He became determined to find the solution to this mystery by watching the cow's movements. Later, hiding himself from view, the cowherd observed the following astonishing behavior. The cow, leaving her calf to wander about with her sisters, walked out of the shed and proceeded in a beeline to an anthill on the outskirts of the village. The cowherd followed her to this rendezvous, only to witness an even more astounding spectacle. A cobra issued forth from the mound, raised itself on its tail, applied its lips gently to the cow's teats, and gleefully drank all the milk! The cowherd, enraged at the loss to which he was subjected by this wily trick, lifted a large stone over his head and, taking good aim, heaved it directly on the cobra. Writhing in pain, the serpent threw an angry curse on all the cowherds of the village; the cobra's last words foretold that the place would be full of anthills which would multiply endlessly and become the homes of snakes.
And so indeed it happened! The cattle declined in health and in numbers; they could no longer be raised successfully at Gollapalli. Anthills spread all over the place and the name was soon changed to Valmikipura, meaning "anthill city" in Sanskrit. This gave some satisfaction to the elders of the village since Valmiki is none other than the immortal poet and saint who wrote and sang the great epic poem of Sri Rama and showed mankind the Path to Perfection. The "anthill city" is called Puttaparthi in common parlance. The villagers still show, as proof of this tragic legend, the very stone, thick and round, with a slight jam on one side, which the enraged cowherd aimed at the wonder-snake. The stone has a long reddish streak which is pointed out as the mark of the cobra's blood. This stone became an object of worship, probably in an effort to avert the curse and help the cattle to prosper. It is looked upon as a symbol of the Lord of the Cowherds, Krishna. The village chieftains built a temple where this stone is installed, and generations of men and women have reverentially bowed before it.
Strangely enough, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed a feature of the stone some years ago. He directed some people to wash the stone and to smear sandal paste on the jammed side. When this was done, they could discern the clear outline of a sculptured picture of Krishna leaning on a cow, with the captivating flute at his lips. Local rustics swear that they can hear the melody of Krishna's Breath passing through the straight and hollow reed in the sculpture. From that day the curse lost its evil power and cattle began to thrive once more at Puttaparthi! The bastion of the old Fort, which still raises its hoary head in the eastern part of the village, is evidence of Puttaparthi's mastery over the surrounding area and the power and majesty of the chieftains of the place.
"With the Chitravathi River descending the gorges and flowing as a moat on one side, set like a green gem in a ring of hills, with temple bells pealing on all the eminences around, enriched by the reservoir built by King Chikkaraya, adjacent to the town that bears the name of Bukka (the far-famed Emperor of the City of Vijayanagara), Puttaparthi is the abode of the Goddess of Fortune and the Goddess of Eloquence." Such is the eulogy showered on this place by an anonymous poet of the past. Puttaparthi was the cradle of poets and scholars as well as heroes and philanthropists.
The Raju family to which Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba belongs was noted for its piety since the days of the renowned sage Venkavadhootha. Not only did the Rajus build and endow Gopalaswami Temple, but the devout Sri Ratnakaram Kondama Raju, grandfather of Sathya Sai Baba, dedicated a temple to Satyabhama, a consort of Lord Krishna. This homage is seldom offered in any part of India to such a deity. Kondama Raju used to say in explanation of this unusual tribute to Satyabhama, that he was inspired to erect the temple because of the events that occurred during a strange dream. Tears of joy would run down the wrinkled cheeks of this centenarian, Sri Kondama Raju, whenever he recollected that enthralling dream experience.
In his dream Kondama Raju saw "Satyabhama alone, expectant, and forlorn, waiting anxiously for her Lord who had gone on an errand to bring to her from Paradise the much coveted Parijatha flowers. The minutes increased to hours and the hours to days, but still there was no sign of Krishna! Satyabhama broke into tears. There ensued a raging storm bringing thunder, lightning, and a heavy downpour of rain. Fortunately her eyes fell on Kondama Raju who was passing near the place where she stood. She asked him to provide some shelter." This dream led to his determination to build a temple for the Consort of the Lord.
Kondama Raju lived out his hundred and ten years of earthly existence in the contemplation of the Lord. He was a master of music and the histrionic art. He knew by heart the Lepakshi version of the entire Ramayana, the Great Epic poem in Sanskrit about Rama. This version was a series of songs composed by a poet from the City of Lepakshi. They depicted the incidents in dramatic imagery and artistic luxuriance. Kondama Raju played the role of Lakshmana, the devoted brother of Rama, in all the Ramayana plays enacted at Puttaparthi and other villages. Requests for him to play this role were received even from far-off places. His depiction of the steadfast devotion and unquestioning dedication of Lakshmana touched the hearts of all who witnessed his performance. He appeared hundreds of times on many stages until age prevented him from further repetition of the role. He was a strict vegetarian, prone to observe the holy vows of the Hindu calendar. His cottage, a short distance from his sons and grandchildren, was a veritable abode of holy homage. He took delight in gathering around his cot the children of his sons and relating to them the tales of Gods and God-men. The children loved to be with him, for he made every character and adventure live before their eager eyes through the enchantment of song and drama.
We can be certain that among those children it was his grandson Satyanarayana (the birth name of Sathya Sai Baba) who was his favorite, for the little boy could sing in a charming musical voice and could give even the venerable old gentleman a lesson or two in the art of drama!
There was another reason why Kondama Raju exhibited special affection for Satyanarayana. The little boy disliked non-vegetarian food and would not stay even in the neighborhood when such dishes were being prepared. At the tender age of seven, he was also a remarkably good cook! He was so intelligent and resourceful that he was able to prepare the most tasty dishes from the meager larder of his grandfather's cottage. All this he did most willingly and very quickly! (Sai Baba says that He would go into the kitchen of the old man and complete the cooking - rice, curries, chutney and all - in much less time than was needed by the mother, even when she had her daughters helping her to finish her cooking assignment at her own place!)
In his later days Sri Kondama Raju was visited by all the devotees who came to seek the blessings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, and when the revered old man struggled to stand erect to accept their homage, one could see a twinkle of joyful gratitude in his eyes that the Lord had taken birth in his family. He lived until 1950 and passed away peacefully singing to himself aloud stanzas from the Ramayana. Truly a life worthy to be recorded in the annals of saints.
Sri Kondama Raju's wife, Sri Lakshamma, had died about twenty years earlier. Her life was regulated by the religious calendar with its rotation of Holy Fasts, Vows, and Vigils. She observed these very punctiliously, despite the worry, expense, and inconvenience. Her aim was only to become worthy of the blessings of the Divine Forces which the scriptures promised in return for the regimen.
Sri Kondama Raju had two sons named after the sage Venkavadhootha. They were called Pedda Venkapa Raju and Chinna Venkapa Raju. They inherited their father's musical, literary, and dramatic capabilities, as well as his piety and simplicity. Of the two brothers, the younger was gifted with a greater variety of skills which covered the fields of literary composition and the preparation of drugs and talismans with the aid of traditional formulas.
Once Pedda Venkapa Raju was taken by his parents to a village named Kolimigundla, in the Kurnool District, where they had some lands which had been given on long lease. While enroute, and as they were entering the Parlepalli Forest, some good men warned them to take a strong protective escort, because two days prior a family of six had been murdered in the forest by robbers and assassins.
The visit was primarily intended to acquaint Pedda Venkapa with the area and the tenants, but his father had a second aim in mind. He desired to bring his distant relatives, Subba Raju and family, nearer to Puttaparthi where they would be safe from the danger they faced daily as they went to earn their living near the forest. In order to persuade Subba Raju to move to a village on the bank of the river Chitravathi, opposite Puttaparthi, it was necessary for Kondama Raju to offer him a substantial "bribe!" This was nothing less than the "acceptance" of Subba Raju's daughter, Easwaramma, as bride for Kondama Raju's elder son, Pedda Venkapa. Thus came about the auspicious marriage of Pedda Venkapa to Easwaramma.
This divinely inspired union was blessed with a son, Seshama Raju, and two daughters, Venkamma and Parvathamma. Some years passed and Easwaramma longed for another son. She prayed to the village gods and observed Satyanarayana Puja, a special vow to win the favor of the Lord, in the Name and Form of Satyanarayana, and she faithfully kept a number of other rigorous vows which required vigil and abstentions from food.
The Jasmine Bud
It came to pass that the material sheath which the Lord once again willed to wear was formed. Mysterious intimations of the impending great incarnation disturbed the even tenor of Pedda Venkapa's life! For example, there was the unusual twang of the stringed tambura in the night. Because the brothers and the father were all extremely interested in the village operas on the legendary histories of India, and since plays were very often rehearsed at home, there was a large tambura hanging on a nail on the wall and a maddala, or drum, on the floor beneath. These two were silent only when the family retired for the night. But as the birth of a son for whom Sri Easwaramma prayed announced itself as imminent, the household was awakened at midnight and sometimes early in the morning by the tambura twanging melodiously and rhythmically and the maddala softly beating, as though they were in expert hands! Various theories were advanced by the wise men of the village to explain this phenomenon, but they only added to the mystery.
Seeking an answer, Pedda Venkapa hurried to Bukkapatnam where there was a Sastri, an authority on signs of this nature and on whose interpretation he could place faith. He was told that it was an auspicious occurrence; the unbidden music meant the presence of a beneficent power, conferring harmony, melody, order, symmetry, spiritual elevation, and joy.
On the twenty-third day of November, in the year 1926, the son was born. The villagers were chanting the names of Siva, the cosmic rhythm personified, in remembrance that the day was a Monday of the Holy Month of Karthika devoted to the worship of Siva. That day was even more auspicious because the ascendant star was Ardra, and on such rare occasions when the month, the day, and the star coincide, special worship is performed in the temples of the Lord. The year was Akshaya, the "Never declining, the Ever-full!"
While the mother was going through the final rituals of her Satyanarayana adoration in accordance with her vows, the birth pangs forewarned her. When she revealed this, messengers were sent to inform the mother-in-law, Lakshamma, the pious old lady of the house. However, she had gone to the house of the priest to perform her own Satyanarayana Prayers. The messengers went there and urged her to return. She was so confident of the Grace of Satyanarayana, so steadfast in her devotion, so disciplined in her religious adherence, that she refused to be hurried! She sent word that she would bring with her to her daughter-in-law, Easwaramma, the sacred offerings after the worship, and that on no account would she interrupt her prayers. She finished the entire ritual with full concentration, came home, gave Easwaramma the flowers which had previously been placed on the idol and the sacred waters with which it was washed. Easwaramma partook of the blessings of the Lord, wore the flowers in her hair, and sipped the water. In the next moment the Lord was born. And the sun rose above the horizon!
Sai Baba has said that one special point to be noted about this manifestation is that the incarnation has not been transplanted away from the place where the body was born, for He had chosen that very place as the center of His alleviatory Mission. Puttaparthi was doubly blessed that November morn, for the Lord had chosen that happy village not only for His Birth but also for His Habitation.
Indeed the village, which bears the name "Ant Hill Prosperity", gave the child an appropriate welcome. A snake was found in the lying-in room! The women did not notice it for some time, but suddenly they saw that the baby, lying on a bed of clothes, was being moved gently up and down in a peculiar way be something underneath the bed. They watched with baited breath for a few moments, and when at last they searched, they found a cobra under the bed!
The baby was charming beyond description. Little wonder, for even in the cradle He had all the Yogic spiritual powers which Sage Patanjali, author of Sanskrit Yogic Scriptures, says come with rare souls and accompany the birth of an Avatara, a Divine Incarnation. Sai Baba has declared that He knew even prior to His Birth where He would be born. He has also said that He was born with all the miraculous powers which He is manifesting one by one out of His Divine Will, as and when He feels each can be so announced. As a baby, He must have had a halo of splendor around His head, a smile which reflected an other-world beauty, and a heavenly power to captivate the heart.
Some years ago Sai Baba told the author, "I do not sleep at night; I remember then the events of my past appearances, and I laugh within myself as memories pass across." It can therefore be surmised that the little lilies of laughter and red rosebuds of joy which lit up the cradle of the baby bloomed from the reminiscence of previous arrivals and adventures!
The baby was named Satyanarayana since the relationship between the worship of God in that Form and the realization of the mother's cherished desire for a son seemed very important to her. When the rite was performed and the name was whispered in the bud-like ear, it seems the baby smiled, for was it not He Himself who must have unobtrusively suggested that name be given? How else can we explain the fact that the first requisite for spiritual advancement, now propounded by Sathya Sai Baba, is Satya or Truth and Narayana or "God in man?" The embodiment and exponent of Truth could not have given Himself a more appropriate name.
The child became the pet of the entire village of Puttaparthi, and the farmers and cowherds vied with each other in fondling and feeding the infant and playing with his lovely silken curls. His charming smile attracted everyone. Pedda Venkapa's house was always filled with visitors who came on any pretext and lingered around the cradle singing lullabies, showering caresses, and forgetting their humdrum lives.
Soon the fragrance of "the Jasmine Bud" filled the air. As a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house, and laughter tinkled in the street when he lisped his vocabulary of sweet sounds. It was noticed by all with wonder that he delighted in having broad Vibhuti (Sacred Ash) markings worn by men on his forehead, and that he insisted on the marks being renewed as soon as they wore off. He also desired to have a circular Kumkum dot, the red saffron dot worn by women in the center of his forehead. The mother seldom satisfied this desire; so he had to seek out his sister's box of Kumkum and dab it on himself. He was Siva, he was Sakti, "God and the Power of God." He must have both the Sacred Ash and the saffron dot of the Consort.
He kept away from places where pigs, sheep, cattle, or fowl were killed or tortured, or where fish were trapped or caught. He avoided kitchens and vessels used for cooking flesh or fowl. When a bird was selected to be prepared for dinner, little Sathya would run to find the bird, clasp it to his bosom and fondle it, as if the extra love he poured on it would induce the elders to relent and spare the fowl. He was called by the neighbors Brahmajnani, a "Realized Soul," because of this type aversion to killing and this measure of love toward creation. At such times Sathya would run to the home of the village accountant nearby, for they were Brahmins and vegetarians; he would take the food offered by Subbamma, the aged lady residing there.
He rarely retaliated when he was handled roughly by playmates. Information of such ill-treatment came to the parents through other toddlers who witnessed the affair, never from Sathya, who seemed not in the least to suffer pain or discomfiture. He spoke the truth always and never resorted to the usual subterfuges by which ordinary children try to cover up their mistakes. So distinct was his behavior that a youngster once nick-named him "the Brahmin child!" It was a fitting description. Little did this youngster know that, while in the previous body, this child, at whom he now laughed, had declared at Shirdi, "This Brahmin can bring devoted men onto the White Path and take them to their destination!"
At the tender years of three and four, "this Brahmin" showed that he had a heart that melted at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry, Sathya left his play and rushed inside to force his sisters to hand out grain or food. The adults were naturally irritated by the endless procession of outstretched hands. They easily lost their tempers and sometimes turned the beggar away before Sathya could bring relief. This made the child weep so long and loudly that only by bringing the dismissed beggar back could the elders stop the wailing. On occasion in order to put an end to what the elders thought was expensive and misplaced charity, the mother caught hold of Sathya, and with a finger raised in warning said, "Look here! You may give him food, but mind you, you will have to starve." That did not daunt the child. He would run inside and bring out food to the hungry man at the door and later stay away from lunch or dinner himself. Nothing and no one could persuade him to come for his food which was left untouched!
Sathya had a mysterious visitor who was feeding him. Whenever he refused food and persisted in the refusal for some days, he showed no sign of starvation in his appearance and activities. He would tell his mother that he had eaten and would say that an Old Man had fed him sumptuously, giving him milk-rice. The full stomach was proof of that. Besides the child volunteered to give another indisputable piece of evidence. He would hold out his right hand for his mother to smell, and lo, she inhaled from that tiny palm the fragrance of clarified butter, milk and curds of a type she had never before enjoyed! The wonder remained, however. Who was this unseen visitor, this strange nourisher of this little child?
When Sathya began running about in the streets, he sought out the maimed, the blind, the decrepit, and the diseased, and led them by the hand to the doorstep of his parents. The sisters had to secure from the store or the kitchen some grain or food and put it into the beggar's bowl while the little master looked on happily.
Satyanarayana was held up so often before the children as the ideal child by every mother and father that the children of the village started referring to him as Guru, meaning Teacher or Master. The parents and others came to know of this under strange circumstances. It was late in the night of Ramanavami, the Holy Day of Devotion to Rama, when a procession wended its way round the village. A huge picture of Sri Rama was placed on a flower-bedecked bullock cart upon which the priest sat in order that the flower garlands offered by the householders could be placed on the picture and the camphor they presented be duly burned and waved in front of the picture. The pipers and drummers awakened the sleeping villagers, and thus the cart proceeded along the uneven roads.
Suddenly the two sisters discovered that little Sathya was not at home. A search was ordered. Everyone in the house ran about frantically, for it was already past midnight. All at once their attention was diverted by the arrival outside the door of the bullock cart carrying the large picture of Sri Rama. When they went to the doorstep, they were surprised to see the five year old Sathya sitting nicely dressed, and with evident authority, underneath the picture! They asked his companions why he was seated on top and not walking with them on the road. Promptly came the answer, "He is our Guru!"
Indeed He is the Guru of children of all climes, of all ages!
There is a small primary school in Puttaparthi which Sathya attended with his contemporaries for something nobler than learning to spell and write. The school at that time had a very harsh scheme of punishment to ensure punctuality. The lucky child who came in first and saluted the teacher, as well as the student who arrived next and also saluted, were exempt from punishment. Every other boy, for whatever reason, legitimate or not, who arrived late, was given a taste of the cane. The number of cuts across the hand depended on his place in the list of late-comers. In order to escape from this torture, the children gathered under the eaves of the schoolhouse long before sunrise in rain or in fog. Sathya saw the plight of, and sympathized with, his shivering playmates. He visited them under the eaves. Bringing shirts and towels from his home, he covered the boys and made them warm and comfortable. The elders at home discovered this and locked up all the clothes they could not afford to lose!
Satyanarayana was a precocious child, learning by himself more than anyone else could teach him and much quicker than most other children. He could sing all the songs rehearsed at home for the village operas and mystery plays. He even composed at the tender age of seven some touching songs which were gladly accepted by the cast for public presentation.
The Rhythm of His Feet
When he was eight, Sathya was declared ready to proceed to the Higher Elementary School at Bukkapatnam, two and a half miles from Puttaparthi. He had to trudge the distance in hot sun or rain over stony mounds or slushy fields, wading through neck-deep water, as the season dictated. His bag of books would be securely held above his head. He had to start early in the morning after a meal of delicacies such as cold rice and curds or cooked rice and chutney. He trekked regularly to Bukkapatnam with companions, carrying his afternoon meal in a bag.
Sri B. Subbannachar writes in a book published in 1944, "He was my student in the eighth grade. He was a simple, unostentatious, honest, and well-behaved boy." Unostentatious! With what great self-control must Sai Baba have suppressed His manifold divine powers in order that the world might become ready for the Announcement!
Sri V.C. Kondappa, another teacher, who later revered the student as divine, writes in the same book, "He was very obedient and never spoke more than necessary. Coming early to school, he would gather the children and install an image or picture in the schoolroom. With the flowers he brought with him, he conducted worship, waved burning camphor, and distributed Grace in one form or another. The boys, gathered around him for the things he 'took' out of his empty bag! When asked about it, he said that a certain 'Angel' obeyed his will and gave him whatever he wanted!"
One of his teachers was personally to experience the force of that "Angel" on one occasion. Sai Baba was generally listless in class, engaged most of the time in what he later described as composing chants and copying them for distribution among his classmates. One day the teacher discovered that Sathya was not taking down the notes he dictated. "He is setting a bad example for the whole class," thought the teacher, and shouted, "All those who are not taking notes, stand up!" Sathya was the solitary culprit and was asked why he was not taking notes. He answered in an innocent and straightforward tone, "Sir why should I take notes? I have understood what you dictated. Ask me any question on it and I shall answer correctly." But the teacher's pride was injured, and the boy must suffer. He ordered Sathya to stand upon the bench and remain standing until the last bell of the day. Sathya obeyed. All the boys hung their heads in sorrow. None of them could feel happy that day sitting down while his Guru was poised uncomfortably upon a bench.
When the hour-bell rang, the teacher for the next class came in. It was Janab Mahbub Khan, who loved and respected little Sathya beyond words. He taught English, and his approach and method were so earnest and appealing that every boy learned every lesson thoroughly. He was an elderly bachelor, and he treated Sathya with a unique affection. (Sai Baba even today extols Mahbub Khan as a highly evolved soul.)
Mahbub Khan would offer sweets and savories to Sathya, enticing him to eat by means of a hundred different artifices. He told Sathya that his house was specially cleansed for the preparation of the food, because he knew Sathya would not eat food having the remotest contact with non-vegetarian dishes. He would say that he had not eaten, as he wanted Sathya to partake of the food first. He would sit quietly for long periods, stroking Sathya's hair and whispering, "Oh, you are a wonderful boy! You will help thousands; you are a great power."
When Mahbub Khan entered the classroom, he was shocked to find Satyanarayana standing on the bench and the teacher still sitting on the chair. He asked the teacher why he was not vacating the chair for the next class. The teacher whispered that he could not get up because when he tried to get up, the chair, too, rose up with him! The whisper was caught by the boys who quietly laughed at the teacher's plight and said it must be due to Sathya's "Angel." Mahbub Khan also suspected this was so, and suggested that the teacher ask Sathya to come down. The teacher acquiesced. Immediately the chair fell away, and with great relief he moved about unencumbered!
Years later, while relating this story, Baba said that He willed it to be so, not out of anger - for He had no anger in Him - but purely to demonstrate Himself and gradually prepare men's minds for the Announcement of His Mission and Identity.
True to the nickname Brahmajnani, or Knower of God, which he had earned by his true and pure nature, Sathya showed by precept and example that the little joys of this limited world were quite inferior to the Supreme Bliss attained through prayer, concentration, renunciation and contentment. He delighted only in stories of saints endowed with these qualities.
As Kondama Raju's sons and one of his daughters shared the same home, Sathya grew up in the midst of about twenty children. It was necessary that a child be clean and honest in order to win Sathya's approval and get the peppermints he "took" out of empty bags. Sathya was always the example they sought. Kondama Raju once said that, when the tailor called to make the children's shirts out of various types of dyed cloth which had been brought from a Bukkapatnam market, Sathya would say, "Let each one be given the cloth he selects; what remains is good enough for me."
In later years at the Prasanthi Nilayam, where Sai Baba lives when at Puttaparthi, He said, "I have no lands to call My own and on which to grow My food; every bit is registered already in the name of someone else. Just as landless people wait for the village tank to get dry so that they may scratch the bed with a plough and quickly grow something for themselves, I too grow My food, namely, joy in the dried tank-beds of afflicted hearts."
Kondama Raju did not realize at the time the significance of Sathya's attitude of renunciation; he just felt proud of the boy!
Even as a child, Sathya was against all sports and games which caused cruelty or pain. He would not allow his companions to witness the annual bullock cart race held on the sands of the river bed during one of the village festivals. He objected to the twisting of the tails of the bullocks and the flaying of their backs with sticks for the vicarious glory of the owner.
Years later Sai Baba summoned back to the Prasanthi Nilayam, a party of devotees who had left by bullock cart. They were proceeding across the river to their cars which were parked at a village on the other side of the bank. Sai Baba waved His Blessings when they got into the cart; it crept out of the main gate into the road beyond. Suddenly he sent someone running to bring the devotees back to Him. He commanded them, "Listen! When you reach the sands, you must all get down and walk across. The bullocks should not be forced to drag all your weight through the sands; do you understand?"
Bear-baiting, cock fighting, and other similar village entertainments Sathya condemned, and his group of boys did not attend such activities.
Whenever a touring "talkie picture show" pitched its tent in those days at Bukkapatnam or Kothacheruvu, it caused a stir for miles around. Village folks sacrificed their small earnings to meet the expense of seeing as many films as they could. Pedda Venkapa Raju often tried to take Sathya, together with the other children, but Sathya protested and refused. He spoke of the degraded standards of the films, how they vulgarized the Gods, and made a muddle of music. He said they only exhibited the seamy side of family life and praised cruelty, cunning, and crime.
Even to this day, Sai Baba is a relentless critic of the arts, especially of literature and films which willfully drag ideals down in order to make money.
When he was ten years of age, Sathya formed in Puttaparthi a Pandhari Bhajan Group, or a group of carollers, for the presentation of songs of love and devotion to God. The group was modeled after similar groups which existed in the neighbouring villages. It consisted of about eighteen boys, uniformly dressed in ochre robes. Each held a flag and wore jingle-bells as anklets. They danced to the tones of folk songs and ballads depicting the yearning of pilgrims for Darshan or the blessing by sight of the Panduranga Shrine. Sathya taught the children in poetry and song the ordeals of the long pilgrimage, the pilgrim's anxiety to reach the shrine quickly, and their joy at the sight of the pinnacle of the temple.
He composed some songs from the legendary Life of Krishna known in India as the Bhagavatha Purana. In these songs the milkmaids complain to Yasoda, Krishna's foster mother, of the unceasing pranks of Krishna. Yasoda chides the boy for his thievery and mischief, but Krishna pleads innocence. With actresses and actors of Sathya's group performing the parts of Yasoda and Krishna in the center of the circle, and with others playing the role of the milkmaids dancing on the circumference, the scene was a great attraction in the village. Sathya played the role of either the mother or the child. His dance, dialogue, and music added to the charm of the devotional songs.
He also included with the traditional themes, songs concerning a pilgrimage to a new Deity and new shrine of which no one had yet heard. No one had the faintest idea who the new Deity was. The shrine, Shirdi and the Deity, Sai Baba? Sai Baba of Shirdi? Who could it be? How did this little boy know of that Mohammedan ascetic of Shirdi? The elders wondered as the children danced in the streets.
The Bhajan Group collected a subscription of an anna per month from each house for oil, parched rice, joss-sticks, camphor, and other sundries needed for worship. The oil was used for the lamp which they carried with them when they walked around the village. The parched rice was given to everyone as Grace. On festival occasions they collected larger amounts, perhaps two annas, and proudly bought a petromax light which they brought all the way from Bukkapatnam. The children of the Raju family and others provided the musical accompaniments.
Sathya was the central figure of the group as organizer, treasurer, teacher, composer, and leading singer. He portrayed every role so wonderfully that the villagers could envision before their eyes Mathura and Brindavan where the Lord lived as Krishna, and boy Krishna as a cowherd with His flute enchanting the milkmaids, the cows, calves, the trees, and the river Yamuna.
Once, while a song describing the prowess and achievements of Narasimha, the "Man-Lion Avatara of Vishnu," was being enacted and the line, "From out the pillar of steel the giant Lion jumped," was sung, Sathya suddenly leaped like the Lion-Man manifestation of the Lord personified. His face was transformed into such ferocity, indignation, and benediction that the entire village was frightened. No one, not even experts in wrestling holds, could control the boy. At last, after a number of people had offered worship and waved camphor and broken coconuts before the manifested Lord, Sathya became normal and resumed the song. [ Bhajan: Sri Nrsimha Pranama]
This incident spread the fame of the Pandhari Bhajan Group. Word was spread that God actually manifested Himself when this group sang and danced - as the people of Puttaparthi witnessed! When cholera swept like a poisonous simoom over the area and killed entire families in the surrounding villages, Puttaparthi did not feel the blast of death. Wise men told one another that the divine atmosphere generated by the Bhajan Group was responsible. Thereafter the group was invited to many villages to sing in order to protect these places from the anger of the Gods. Very often carts were sent as transportation for the group, but sometimes the little saviors, carrying their food with them, had to walk ten or twelve miles, resting during the hottest part of the day in some grove along the way. The people in these villages also heard the strange names of Shirdi and Sai Baba and wondered what and who they were. Because they did not understand, they plunged into their routine tasks again.
There were dramas and open-air operas where Puranic (Indian legend) themes were represented by dialogue, dance, and costume, and where Rakshasas (demons), Asuras (ungodly ones) , and the powers of evil were defeated by the forces of Good. These dramas were written, rehearsed, and produced in various households in which Sathya visited.
Sathya's father also became a celebrity on the popular stage, mainly for his role of Banasura, a famous Titan of mythology, then even more for his inimitable depiction of Yudhishthira, the eldest of the five sons of Pandu, the holy follower of divine law and the never wavering adherent of the Lord.
A number of plays were produced at this period in order to collect funds for famine relief. "Banasuram," "Ushaparinayam," "Draupadi Manasamrakshanam," and "Kamsa Vadha" were the plays most preferred. These plays were concerning mythology, the protection of the honor of Draupadi, and about Kamsa, the tyrant king and persecutor whom Krishna finally killed. Young Sathya selected several roles, especially those of Krishna and Mohini. The audiences applauded his acting, singing, and above all, his dancing. There was a rhythm in his feet, a sense of time and tune, and a litheness and loveliness they had seldom seen. To them it seemed that he never touched the earth and that he belonged to an ethereal sphere.
Within a short period he was enacting more and more roles. In the popular story of Kanakatara, he played the role of the mythological Tara so effectively one night that his mother, who was present in the audience in the tent, rushed onto the stage to prevent what she believed to be the "execution" of Tara. She forgot that it was all make-believe!
Sathya sometimes assumed more than one role in the same play to satisfy the audience. In the drama Krishna Lila, the sport of Krishna, he was Devaki, the mother, the boy Krishna, and also the danseuse regaling King Kamsa with her dances in Durbar Hall! At other times he played the role of Draupadi, wife of the five Pandava Brothers.
Soon a professional dramatic troupe visited the area and presented a number of musical plays which attracted large audiences. They put up their stage at Bukkapatnam and later moved to Puttaparthi, Kothacheruvu, Elumalapalli, and other large villages. Their performances became the talk of the entire district. Their group included a girl dancer whose stage name was Rishyendramani, who performed a series of gymnastic dances with music. Her highlight was a dance in which she kept time to the music while balancing a bottle on her head. She would bend low, sit down, lay herself on the floor, raise her back up, and clasp with her teeth a kerchief placed on a match box on the floor. With the kerchief between her teeth, she would then sit up, rise, and stand-still balancing the bottle on her head! A challenging assignment! By a great deal of practice she had trained herself for this difficult feat. No wonder she won the acclaim of her audiences.
Sathya went with others to witness the plays of these professionals and saw this act. After he came home, he tried to do it himself. To the surprise of all, he could do it easily! When the elders asked to be shown this new item in Sathya's repertoire, he withdrew within himself and hesitated. But the news spread, and some enterprising young men persuaded him to agree to perform this feat at Kothacheruvu during the village carnival. They had the timerity to announce that the famous Rishyendramani herself would appear, for they felt very confident that Sathya could succeed in the impersonation and would not disappoint them. Sathya's sisters dressed him as Rishyendraman, complete with hair-do and personal decoration, and took him to Kothacheruvu. When Sathya's father heard about it, he feared the consequences of this foolhardy adventure into which Sathya had been inveigled.
The day of the performance arrived. The curtain rose, "Rishyendramani" tripped her way into the Durbar Hall of Kamsa. The audience was too wild with excitement to notice any difference. The famous dance number began. Sathya had improved upon it and substituted a needle for the kerchief. The needle had to be lifted by the eyelids! The "Rishyendramani" of that day accomplished it, but not without dire consequences!
The carnival president insisted on pinning a medal on the dancer's person. Sathya's mother and others who were at first thrilled with the tributes of praise, the invitations to repeat the feat at other places, and the silver cups and gold medals being pressed into Sathya's hands, became afraid of the "evil eyes" which the boy provoked. Their tears proved true. His eyes developed a dreadful affliction. They swelled, became red, and exuded tears profusely. His temperature rose.
One night his mother heard heavy footsteps, as of one wearing wooden sandals, entering the house and proceeding straight to Sathya. It was all very mysterious. She got up, went to her boy's room, and placed her hand on his brow to check his temperature. She found the fever gone! She brought a light and looked into his eyes. They had improved beyond all expectations! Sathya was quite well the next day.
The Cattle Fair
Since Sathya had to go outside Bukkapatnam for his education, it was decided that he should go to be with his brother, Seshama Raju, who had married the daughter of Sri Pasupathi Subba Raju of Kamalapur. This arrangement seemed satisfactory to his parents, who planned to give Sathya a college education so that he might become an officer. Hence they were prepared to part with him and send him to far off Kamalapur where his studies could be continued. There he attended school regularly as he had at Bukkapatnam. He was a quiet well-behaved boy, a favorite with the teachers.
Whenever a drama was performed in town, Sathya sang the opening prayer before the curtain went up. Those who heard his sweet voice spread the news that a fine singer had come to town. Soon he was the only one called on to sing at all public functions.
Even now Sathya Sai Baba speaks of a drill instructor there who commanded the respect of the entire school by his instinctive love for children. He was also the scoutmaster and was eager to have Sathya in his troop. Through friends and directly, he began persuading the boy to join. There were two other boys, children of the head of the Revenue Office, who sat at the same desk with Sathya and who were very friendly to him. They pleaded with him and even thrust a nice new scout uniform into Sathya's desk to encourage him to join. They all knew that Sathya would be the life of the troop, and if he joined it, the elders of the town would sponsor the troop. Otherwise they might mistake it for a group of idlers and do-nothings intent only on hikes and picnics.
Sathya joined at last, just in time to attend the Fair and Cattle Show at Pushpagiri where the scoutmaster planned to take his troop. There was opportunity enough for the boys to earn merit because of the huge crowds that attended. Children could get lost, pilgrims had to be supplied with drinking water, sanitation had to be supervised, and first aid provided on the spot. The camp fee was fixed at ten rupees per boy.
Sathya had no money! He had to demonstrate that service is its own reward, that a loving heart conquers everything. He decided that the chance to teach and inspire his companions should not be lost. He determined to walk to Pushpagiri, thus saving bus fare. He told the scoutmaster that his people were coming for the Fair and that they would look after him. (The people who came for every pilgrimage were his people!) He calculated that five rupees would be enough for him at Pushpagiri. He sold to a needy boy the books of his previous year's class, which he had seldom read, and which therefore were as good as new. He accepted not the twelve rupees the boy offered but just the five rupees he required. Then he walked to Pushpagiri, reaching there about 9:00 o'clock of the night previous to the inauguration of the Fair.
He was very tired. With a small bag containing his clothes and money, he lay down and slept on the sand of the river, together with the multitude gathered there. When he awakened the next morning, both the purse and the bag had disappeared!
When relating these incidents, Sathya Sai Baba often tells those around him that he was not worried at all. He says he moved about the place quite unconcerned and found on a stone trough a coin and a packet of cheap handmade cigarettes. He took the coin and proceeded to the market place. There he found a man sitting in front of a contraption, promising profit to men with luck! On a circle drawn in white paint on a piece of black cloth were some hieroglyphics. He had attached some monetary value to a few figures and no value at all to the rest! He had an iron rod sticking up from the center and a movable pointer on the top. He asked his customers to place a coin beside him and give the pointer a quick turn. If it stopped on top of a section which had a figure such as 2, 3, or 4, he would give the customers two, three, or four times the amount of the stake. Otherwise he would keep the stake. Sathya had to try his luck. He turned the pointer a number of times. Each time he won, thus collecting twelve annas in all. He says that he could have won more, but he sympathized with the poor fellow whose earnings were slim!
Those twelve annas sufficed for one week. As previously mentioned, he had a miraculous power not only of providing food for himself but also of proving by the scent of his hand that he had eaten. (On occasions even now when people doubt he has eaten, he may be heard to say, "I have had lunch," and allows them to smell his palm, thus quelling their doubts.) Thus the scoutmaster was led to believe that Sathya was being well fed by some of his relatives at the Fair; therefore he made no distinction between Sathya and the other boys in assigning work. Sathya entered enthusiastically upon his task of inspiring his classmates to do selfless service. (Today this is still the theme of Sai Baba's teaching of service: Service to others is service to oneself, for the other is only oneself in another form with another name!)
When it was proposed that the scouts return to Kamalapur by bus, Sathya quietly slipped out of the camp because he had not paid his share of the bus fare. He walked back the entire distance as a matter of principle.
While Sathya was at Kamalapur, he was not only separated from his parents but also from his brother who had gone away to undergo training as a teacher. When Sathya needed clothing and other items, he wrote popular ditties for the use of a merchant, Kote Subbanna, who had a shop featuring medicines, tonics, glassware, articles of fashionable wear, umbrellas, etc. Their arrangement was that when Subbanna desired to promote a new article on the market or boost the sales of a patent drug, he would stop Sathya on his way to school and give him the necessary information. By evening Sathya had prepared an attractive song praising the merchandise in well written poetry. In return for the songs, which soon became popular, Subbanna gave Sathya cloth, books and other articles he needed. The songs were full of verve and lilt, capable of catching the ear when sung in chorus by a band of hired urchins who would march along the streets, with the name-boards in their hands, singing the slogan-filled songs and apparently enjoying their task! (Even now Sai Baba regales those around him with the recitation of these old time "commercials.")
There is a saying current among the older devotees of Sai Baba: "He manifested himself at Uravakonda, but spread the glory from Kamalapur." This statement is a tribute to the quickness with which the people of Kamalapur responded later to the Call without the cynicism of ignorant conceit. After Sathya returned to Puttaparthi, they organized public receptions and gatherings for worship of "Bala" Sai, the Child Sai.
Seshama Raju completed the training prescribed to qualify him as a teacher of the southern Indian language Telugu and was assigned a post at the High School at Uravakonda. He welcomed this as a good omen, for he could have Sathya with him and give personal and immediate attention to his progress in higher studies.
The Serpent Hill
Uravakonda derives its name from the hill that dominates the place. At first the name was Uragakonda, uraga meaning serpent and konda meaning hill. The promontory on the hill, formed by a single huge boulder about 100 feet high, is in the shape of a many-hooded serpent.
The High School at Uravakonda will be ever famous because of Sathya's attendance there. The fame of the boy preceded him. The students told each other that Sathya was a fine writer, a good musician, a genius in dance, a student wiser than any teacher, and one able to peer into the past and peep into the future. Authentic stories of his achievements and divine powers were on everyone's lips. They were circulated by the people who had come into the town from places such as Bukkapatnam, Penukonda, Dharmavaram and Kamalapur. It was related and heard with wonder that, even as a toddler, he had the unique power of getting from nowhere and nothing, fruits, flowers, and sweets by a mere wave of his hand! "What a wonder!" they said.
People gathered around Sathya's brother, the new Telugu teacher, eager to hear stories of the boy's capabilities. Every teacher wanted to be assigned some work in the section in which Sathya was admitted - some out of curiosity, some out of veneration, and some out of a mischievous impulse to prove it all absurd.
Sathya soon became the pet of the entire school and the cynosure of all eyes in the town. He was the leader of the School Prayer Group and ascended the dais every day when the entire school gathered for prayer before classes commenced. It was his voice that sanctified the air and inspired both teachers and students to dedicate themselves to their allotted tasks. He was the life and soul of the school's dramatics and the backbone of the athletic team, for he was a fast runner and played gudugudu, an outdoor running game, exceedingly well. He excelled in the school scout movement.
The teacher in charge of the drama department, Sri Thammi Raju, once asked Sathya to write and produce a play, and Sathya plunged into the work enthusiastically. The drama was a great success, not only because the hero of the play was a little boy, a role enacted by Sathya himself, but also chiefly because it had as its theme the eternal sin of man, hypocrisy. The title of the drama was, "Do Deeds Follow Words?".
The scene opens revealing a lady reading and explaining to a number of women some verses from the Bhagavatha Purana, a legendary history. She is telling them that it is the duty of a housewife to give charity only to the deserving and to the defective who cannot earn a living, not to the stalwarts who lead idle parasitic lives. The women then disperse and the lady is left alone with her little son, Krishna, who has been an interested listener. Sathya plays the role of Krishna.
Presently a blind beggar enters and seeks to attract attention, but he is rebuked and sent away. Then there appears a hefty priest with a pompous paunch and a polished copper vessel filled with grain. On his arm is a richly ornamented musical instrument, the tambura. The mother respectfully welcomes him and offers him rice and coins. She falls at his feet, asking for his blessings. Krishna is non-plussed. He asks his mother why she did not follow what she herself had extolled a few minutes previously. The boy is dismissed with the curt answer, "Can we act as we say?" The mother is irritated by the impertinence of the son who dared question the ethics of adult behavior. She drags him to a room where his father, an accountant, is busy with files.
He gives Krishna a long lecture on the value of education and how people should study and be promoted from class to class, whatever the difficulties. Suddenly a schoolboy pops in and asks for just one rupee to pay his school-fees to avoid having his name dropped from the rolls and thereby failing to have the record of attendance required for promotion. The father says that he has no money with him and shows the boy his empty purse as proof. A few minutes later a group of young accountants belonging to his firm rushes in. They hold out a subscription list requesting contributions for a welcome dinner in honor of an officer who is to take charge of their office in a few days. The father is jubilant at the idea, says that it must be done aristocratically so that the new man may be p!eased. He offers to make a speech at the dinner and, pulling out the drawer of the table, gives them the large sum of twenty rupees!
Krishna is aghast at this behavior and asks the father why he went against his own words and why he uttered a lie to the schoolboy. The father turns angrily to him and asks, "Should deeds follow words?" He rages at the child and commands him to go to school without delay.
The scene now shifts to the school. Krishna enters. The teacher is in a mood of great excitement because the inspector of schools is to visit the next day. He coaches the children intensively for the occasion. He explains that the inspector may ask, "How many lessons have been done? They are all to say not twenty-three, the actual number, but thirty-two. He says that when the inspector comes he will teach lesson number thirty-three on Harischandra, the king who never uttered a lie. He drills them on that lesson so that the next day the answers may come quickly, and threatens them with severe punishment should anyone whisper that the lesson had already been reviewed in class. He says, "It must appear as if I'm doing it for the first time tomorrow." When the class is over, all the other boys leave. Krishna alone remains. He asks the teacher the question he has already asked twice that day. "Why do you not follow the advice you give? Why do you tell us of the nobility of the king and then yourself not follow his footsteps?" He gets the same rebuff as previously, "Do you mean to say that the adviser should follow the advice?"
"Hypocrisy, hypocrisy everywhere!" thought Krishna.
The scene is changed to Krishna's home. It is the next day, schooltime, but Krishna refuses to go. He throws away his books, says that going to school is a waste of time, and states his resolve not to study in school. The distracted parents send for the teacher who comes rushing in. Then Krishna says, "If all that you instruct as mother, father, and teacher is only to be spoken and written; if all that one learns is to be discarded when it comes to action, I do not understand why I should learn anything at all." This opens their eyes to their shortcomings. They praise Krishna as their Master and decide henceforth to speak and act only the truth.
This was the theme of the drama Sathya wrote at the age of twelve and presents a glimpse into his farsightedness, intelligence, and enthusiasm for true education.
Sathya was often sought after by people who had lost articles of value, because he was known for his intuitive perception which revealed to him their whereabouts. Sai Baba now says that in those days he used to give his friends only the first and last letters of the names of the persons possessing the lost articles. He would leave them to their own resources to recover the goods.
A typical incident was that of a teacher who had lost a valuable pen and persuaded Sathya to disclose the identity of the person who had taken it without permission. In this instance Sathya revealed the name of a servant, but the teacher dismissed the idea because of the servant's faithfulness and honesty. Furthermore a search in the servant's room did not disclose the lost pen. Sathya persisted in his statements. He said that the man had sent the pen to his son who was studying in Anantapur and offered to prove this fact. He had a letter written to the son as if from the father, who was illiterate and always needed the services of a letter writer. After the usual inquiries about the son's health and welfare were made, the son was asked how the pen the father had sent was writing. The father advised him to be careful when using it because it was costly and might easily be "stolen!" There was enclosed a self-addressed card for reply. Within four days the reply came into the teacher's hand! The card read that the pen was writing magnificently, would be carefully kept because of its value, and was considered as a precious gift from the father. Thus Sathya's miraculous power was vindicated. Everyone concerned complimented him.
Sathya also won the respect of the common man in Uravakonda by an incident similar to one in the life of Sai Baba of Shirdi. A Muslim was frantically searching for his horse which had either strayed or been stolen. The horse was used to pull a cart transporting men and goods and was the Muslim's sole source of livelihood. Now he was desperate, for he had searched the entire area and his friends had combed the countryside far and wide. There was no trace of the animal. At last someone told the Muslim about Sathya. He came to the boy and poured out his grief.
Sathya immediately told him to go to a certain grove a mile and a half away from the town. When he did so, the horse was found grazing all alone, quite unconcerned at the furor its disappearance had caused. This made Sathya famous as a wonder boy in the Muslim community. Many times thereafter drivers of carts stopped when seeing Sathya and insisted on giving him a lift to or from school, for they felt his presence would bring them good fortune.
Incidents such as these continued, with an occasional glimpse of wonders, a tiny indication of the might and majesty hidden in the slender body of the young lad now thirteen years old.
On March 8, 1940, the entire town was shocked to hear that a "big black scorpion" had stung Sathya. It was at dusk, about seven o'clock, when Sathya gave a shriek and leaped up grasping his right toe as if he had been bitten! Although no scorpion or snake was discovered, he fell as though unconscious and became stiff. He did not speak and his breathing became faint.
When such an occurrence happens to Sai Baba now, devotees do not feel shocked, for they are accustomed to His leaving His gross body and going out in the "subtle body" to other places.
As they were then as yet unaware of the reason for these divine instances, brother Seshama and others became alarmed.
There is a belief current in Uravakonda and the surrounding country that no one can survive a snake bite or scorpion sting received in that vicinity. It is primarily because of the many-hooded "serpent stone" that has given its name to the area that the dread superstition has spread, for the rock looks as if a serpent has raised its head to strike with its poisonous fangs.
Seshama brought in a doctor who gave Sathya an injection and left some medicine. Sathya was "unconscious" throughout the night. However, an incident occurred in the night which clearly showed that he was not unconscious at all. On the contrary, he was actually supraconscious! Thinking that the condition of the boy might be due to some evil spirit's possession of him, someone suggested that Muthyalamma, a spirit in a cave near the hill, should be propitiated. Volunteers hurried to the temple, climbed down a ladder into the sanctum sanctorum, and offered worship by placing flowers, burning incense, and breaking a coconut. Just when they were doing this in the cave, Sathya, who was to all intents unconscious, said, "The coconut has broken into three pieces," and when the volunteers came home with the offerings, they had with them three pieces of coconut instead of the customary two!
The doctor came again the next morning and declared that the boy was out of danger. Sathya revived in a day or two, then began to behave in an extraordinary manner. This was sometimes explained as "a complete transformation of the personality - the occupation of Sathya's physical frame by Sai Baba of Shirdi."
Nothing could be further from the truth. Sai Baba has said that He Himself initiated the process of manifestation, for he could not wait any longer playing about as a mere boy with "brother," "sister," "classmates," and other secular bonds. He wanted to demonstrate that he was unaffected by poison or the poisonous objective world.
Seshama had informed the family at Puttaparthi about the state of affairs at Uravakonda. He wrote his parents that Sathya was not answering anyone who spoke to him and that it was a Herculean task to make him accept food. He told them Sathya was spending his time mostly in silence, sometimes bursting into song and poetry, sometimes reciting long Sanskrit verses, sometimes expounding the philosophic wisdom of ancient India. Because of unforeseen and inexplicable difficulties which arose to delay them, the parents did not arrive for about a week. Seshama's anxiety increased. He found a man who agreed to travel to Anantapur on a bicycle and to proceed from there to Bukkapatnam and Puttaparthi. While he was describing to the man the route he was to take to reach his parents, Sathya interposed and said, "Why, you need not send for them now; they will be here in half an hour." True to his word, they arrived in exactly one half hour!
The parents caught the infection of fear upon seeing the condition of Sathya, for he sang, spoke, and behaved in a strange manner. Also his body would become stiff intermittently, and he appeared to leave the body and go elsewhere. It was all so mysterious!
One day while Sathya was reposing, seemingly without any awareness of his surroundings, he made reference to the Scripture Reader next door, saying to his parents, "He is reading the Sanskrit book all wrong; he is explaining it in the wrong way. Go and bring him here," he commanded.
The Reader would not come. "What does that boy know about this holy book and the right or wrong of the meaning which I give? How did he hear it, by the way? Tell him to mind his own business," he said, and continued his exposition. But Sathya persisted, and the Reader had to come at least to satisfy the parents, who pleaded, "Please come and teach the boy a lesson in humility. Lately he has become uncontrollable."
When the learned man arrived, Sathya asked him to repeat the exposition, pointed out to him wherein he erred, and poured out in rapid succession a series of questions on the epics which overwhelmed the scholar. Finally he fell at Sathya's feet and asked pardon for not immediately obeying his summons.
The District Medical Officer from Anantapur, who was at Uravakonda at the time, was asked for his opinion by the doctor who was treating Sathya. He judged that the illness was allied to fits, that it was a type of hysteria unconnected with the alleged scorpion sting, and in his wisdom advised a course of medication. This was strictly adhered to for three days, but the symptoms of laughing and weeping, eloquence and silence continued as before. Sathya sang and spoke about God; he described places of pilgrimage to which no one had gone before; he declared that life was all a drama! Astrologers said it was a ghost that possessed the boy, an old occupant of the house - in fact, its first tenant! They chided Seshama for not being more circumspect in his selection of a house. Magicians ascribed the condition to a sudden fright which must have set Sathya's nerves awry. The priest advised Seshama to arrange for a consecration rite in the temple. Wiser men shook their heads and whispered that the ways of God are inscrutable.
Seshama was besieged by a large throng of sympathizers each of whom had his own specific cure for the affliction of his brother. At last he brought an exorciser into the house. On seeing him, Sathya challenged him, "Come on! You have been worshipping me every day, and now that you have come here, your only business is to worship me and clear out." The "ghost doctor" heard the warning administered by the very deity he had chosen for his own personal worship. He left in a hurry, forgetting to collect his fees! He advised Seshama to treat the boy very reverentially, for he was "in touch with God" and certainly not afflicted by the devil.
The parents were disheartened. They took Sathya to Puttaparthi and watched his behavior with increasing fear. The boy himself was heightening the effect by bouts of quietness, song, or discourse. He would suddenly ask his sister, "Here, wave the sacred lamp; the gods are passing across the sky." He would say that his school studies had been disturbed and sing a song composed impromptu on the value of reading and writing and how villagers are duped by the wily moneylender if they are illiterate.
While travelling from Uravakonda, they had taken Sathya to a doctor at Bellary and to another at Dharmavaram. But what could the practitioners diagnose? Their stethoscopes could not decipher the beats of Godhead or reveal the pulse of a soul, much less a Divine Soul determined to transcend the bonds of human convention. Sathya asked his parents, "Why do you worry like this? There will be no doctor there when you go; even if he is there, he cannot cure me."
Since the first reaction to an illness in any village is usually to fear that it is the result of someone's black magic or some evil spirit's taking hold of the patient, two exorcists were called in at Puttaparthi. When one came and sat in the room and drew up a list of the articles necessary to invoke the spirit and transfer the dire symptoms to a lamb or fowl, Sathya laughingly reminded him of some items he had forgotten. He seemed determined to undergo all the travail resulting from their ignorance and superstition, taking it all as fun!
It is almost impossible to understand how the fourteen year old boy passed through the terrors of the treatment at the village of Brahmanapalli near Kadiri. This is a saga of fortitude.
Someone gave information to the worried parents about a powerful practitioner before whom no evil spirit dared wag its poisonous tail! They declared that he would cure Sathya completely and make him fit to go to school again. The bullocks and cart were readied in preparation for the journey, but the bullocks refused to move! There were all kinds of difficulties and sicknesses on the way. At last the place was reached and the "case" handed over to the famous expert in devil-craft.
He was a gigantic figure, terrible to behold, with bloodred eyes and untamed manners. He tried all his devil-craft sacrificing fowl, then a lamb, and making Sathya sit in the center of the circle of blood. He chanted all the incantations he knew. He did not allow the parents to take the boy away, for he assumed it was a case entrusted to him and that it was a trial of strength between his power and that of the young boy who was smiling at his failures! He even attempted desperate techniques with which he had not dared experiment even on his adult patients! For example, he shaved Sathya's head, and then with a sharp instrument scored "x" marks on his scalp from the top of his head all the way to his forehead. Sathya sat through the pain without flinching. The witchdoctor poured on the open wounds of the bleeding scalp the juice of limes, garlic and other acid fruits. The parents, who were watching the proceedings in utter despair, were surprised, for there was not even a tear or a gasp of pain from the young boy! The "torture-specialist" was furious! He arranged that every day for some days, early in the morning, one hundred and eight pots of cold water were to be poured on the scalp. That, too, was done. His armory was now almost empty, and the "evil spirit" that possessed the boy had not admitted defeat; it had not shouted that it would leave him and go elsewhere! He then beat Sathya on the joints with a heavy stick to drive out what he called "stag fever" when the boy moved about, and "rock fever". when the boy was quiet!
Finally he decided to use his strongest weapon which the toughest spirit cannot withstand, the "Kalikam." This is a magic collyrium, a mixture of all the fiery abracadabra in the repertory of torture. He applied it to Sathya's eyes. The parents were aghast at the consequences. Sathya's head and face swelled beyond recognition; they became red, and the burning sensation could be felt even by those who went near, according to the sister Venkamma. His eyes exuded tears and his entire body shook under the impact of pain.
The master of devils was happy that success was in sight, that the spirit would soon take formal leave. Sathya never spoke a word or moved a finger. Those around, especially the parents and sister, felt guilty to be merely helpless onlookers of all this torment. They wept in uncontrollable anguish and tried to console Sathya without the knowledge of the magician, who did not allow anyone to approach his patient. Meanwhile Sathya was making some signs to his parents, off and on, asking them to be quiet. By means of gestures he told them that he would get out of the room under some pretext, and he asked them to be ready for him outside. There he told them to bring a remedy he knew. It was brought and applied to his eyes; the two eyes which had been reduced to the size of thin slits opened wide and the swelling subsided!
He asked later, "Even after seeing all that fortitude and that miracle of a young boy passing unscathed through all that terror, you are not now convinced that I am Sai Baba. How then would you have reacted if I just made the Announcement one fine day? I wanted to make known that I am Divine, impervious to suffering, pain, or joy."
The "doctor" was angered by the interference with the normal course of his treatment; he fretted and fumed as a wild animal balked of its prey. "I was within an inch of victory," he raved. The parents wanted to save their boy from the jaws of that "God of Death" in human form; they had seen and suffered enough. They paid the practitioner full fees, gave him some unasked gifts, and thanked him for all the "learning" he had utilized; they cursed only their fate; they promised to build up the boy's stamina a little more so that he could stand up to this wonderful course of exorcism and then bring him again for the continuation of the "doctor's" attentions. Somehow, they won! The bullocks and cart moved away from the house of horror, and eventually they reached Puttaparthi.
Sathya was still far from normal. Frequently he seemed to be another personality. He recited verses of praise to God and poems far beyond the knowledge of any teen-age boy. Sometimes he evinced the strength of ten; sometimes he was as weak as a lotus-stalk. He argued with adults on the correctness of their conduct and behavior and put them to shame when he proved them wrong.
One friend of the family advised that the boy should be taken to a village a few miles away where a clever "doctor" cured exactly such types of cases by giving some green leaves as a drug.
The bullocks were brought and the cart made ready. Sathya was lifted onto it and the bells started jangling along the fair-weather track.
About half an hour later, Sathya seemed to realize that he was being taken somewhere. He said emphatically, "I do not want to go anywhere; let us go back." Upon saying this, the bullocks came to a halt and could not be persuaded to take a single step forward in spite of the most vigorous tail-twisting. The struggle went on for over an hour, but they refused to budge! Finally their faces were turned home-ward, and immediately the bells jingled merrily once again.
Sri Krishnamacharya, a lawyer and friend from Penukonda, heard of these occurrences in the Raju household and came to the village to study the situation and offer what help he could. He took a good look at Sathya and pondered long, alone on the river bank. Then he told Venkapa Raju, "It is really more serious than I thought. Take him immediately to the Narasimha Temple, the shrine of 'God as Lion-Man'; that is the last chance."
Sathya heard his words and, suddenly turning to him, said, "Funny, is it not? I am already there in that temple and you want to take me to me!" The lawyer had no inclination to cross-examine.
On the twenty-third of May, 1940, the fourteen year old Sathya rose from bed as usual, but soon afterwards called the members of the household round him and presented them with sugar-candy and flowers taken from "nowhere." At this the neighbors rushed in. He gave each a ball of rice cooked in milk, also flowers and sugar-candy, all manifested by a mere wave of the hand. Sathya seemed to be in such a very jovial state that Venkapa Raju was sent for to see him in this welcome happy mood. Venkapa Raju rushed in and had to squeeze his way through the crowd. The people asked him to wash his feet, hands, and face before approaching the Giver of Boons. This incensed Venkapa Raju. He was not impressed at all, thinking it was a trick and that Sathya was hiding things somewhere and producing them by sleight of hand. At least that was what he confessed to the author many years later. He wished that this confusing chapter in their lives be closed before it developed into a tragedy. So he laughed a bitter laugh and accosted the boy within everyone's hearing, "This is getting too much; it must be stopped." Arming himself with a stick, he moved a step nearer and threatened to beat it out of him. "Are you a God, or a ghost, or a mad- cap? Tell me!" he shouted. Promptly came the answer, the Announcement that had been held back so long, "I am Sai Baba."
Further argument became impossible; Venkapa Raju was stunned into silence; the stick fell from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya, trying to grasp the implication of that Announcement, "I am Sai Baba." But Sathya continued, "I belong to Apastamba Sutra, the school of Sage Apastamba and am of the Spiritual Lineage of Bharadwaja; I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure." He repeated the two names again and again that afternoon. Brother Seshama went near him and asked, "What do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only said, "Your Venkavadhootha prayed that I be born in your family; so I came."
Who was this Venkavadhootha? When Seshama was asked who he was, he told of a tradition in the family that a sage called Venkavadhootha, who was looked upon as a Guru by the people in hundreds of villages around, had been born in the family years ago.
The villagers heard the name "Sai Baba" with fear and amazement. When they made inquiries, they came to know that a certain officer who was an ardent worshipper of the Muslim recluse, Sai Baba of Shirdi, had come to Penukonda sometime ago. So they proposed that Sathya be taken to him, for he was reputed to be well-versed in the lore of Sai Baba of Shirdi. He must know what Sathya was suffering from and would suggest a way out. He condescended to see the boy but was in no mood to examine his history. He pronounced it as a clear case of mental derangement and advised them to remove Sathya to an institution. Sathya interposed and said, "Yes, it is mental derangement, but whose? You are but a blind servant. You cannot recognize the very Sai whom you are worshipping!" So saying, He took from "nowhere" hands full of Vibhuti, the Sacred Ash, and scattered it in all directions in the room where they were.
The father felt that Sai Baba was speaking through the boy, and asked, "What are we to do with you?" Sathya answered promptly, "Worship Me! When? Every Thursday! Keep your minds and houses pure."
Later, on one Thursday, someone challenged Sathya, asking Him, "if you are Sai Baba, show us some proof now!" They asked in the same spirit that the rustics question the priest of the village temple when he dances in ecstasy while apparently possessed. Baba replied, "Yes, I shall." Then everyone came nearer. "Place in My hands those jasmine flowers," He commanded. It was done. With a quick gesture He threw them on the floor and said, "Look." They saw that the flowers had formed while falling the Telugu letters, "S A I B A B A."
It can be seen that Sathya was preparing the people, step by step, for the new era of Sathya Sai. His unconcerned coolness during all that torture at the hands of the magician made everyone feel that He was no ordinary boy, that He was indeed some superior manifestation. Occasional glimpses of His Divinity had been revealed through an extraordinary precocity in song, dance, music, and poetry. He had demonstrated His Power of journeying outside His Body, His freedom from pain and suffering, and now He had resolved to announce to the world His Reality.
Seshama still had not given up his plans to push Sathya through the High School Course, regardless of everything. He took Him back to Uravakonda in June and had Him admitted to the school. Now Sathya attracted the attention of everyone, for they had all heard of His "madness" and of the frantic efforts of the parents to "cure" Him. The boy was acclaimed as a mysterious prodigy, a tiny "prophet," and was looked upon as a rare curiosity. On Thursdays the house was full of pilgrims from various villages who stayed until the small hours of the night sitting around Sai Baba, offering Him flowers and sweets. He used to point out Seshama to them and say, "Senseless man, he does not believe!" The headmaster of the school bowed before the young pupil; assistant masters, Tammiraju and Sesha Iyengar, saw through the veil and listened to His inspiring words.
Thursdays became big events in Uravakonda. Sathya surprised all when He materialized pictures of Sai Baba of Shirdi, pieces of orange cloth that He said were from the kafni that Sai wore, date fruits that were the offerings at the Shirdi Shrine, as well as flowers, sugar-candy and "Ash." The "Ash" was not the kind taken from a fireplace, but taken straight from "nowhere." One day the teachers of the High School came in a team intent on testing Him, bringing a number of questions which they cast at Him from all angles, helter-skelter. He gave them the answers in the same order as they were put to Him, calling upon each individual teacher to listen carefully to the answer to his particular question. Apart from the aptness and correctness of the answers, the performance was remarkable even as only an intellectual feat!
It was then that an invitation from some townsmen from Hospet gave an idea to Seshama. Hospet is a few miles away from the ruins of Hampi, the capital of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire. The deputy inspector of schools, the health officer, the engineer, some municipal councilors and merchants wanted Sathya to be brought to their town. The brother took the opportunity to go, thinking the long journey and a picnic enroute might improve the mental health of the boy. The Dasara holidays in October came in handy for the trip.
The group arrived at the Hampi ruins. They trudged along the roads once lined by men and women of all the nations of the East as well as travelers and traders from the Middle East and the Mediterranean shores. They saw the elephant stables, the Palace of the Queens, the Coronation Mound, and the Vittalanatha Temple. They proceeded to the huge stone chariot. Finally they came to the Temple of Lord Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara Emperors, who protected and cherished Hindu culture for almost three centuries from 1336 A.D. to 1635 A.D.
It was noticed that throughout the morning Sathya was moving among the ruins unaware, as one in a dream. A reverend sage sitting in front of one of the temples said of him, "This boy, believe me, is Divine." When the party went into the Temple of Lord Virupaksha, Sathya too went with them, but he was more interested in the height and majesty of the Temple gate than in the worship at the sanctum sanctorum. He stood outside and no one pressed him to enter with the others. After a while the priest waved the flame of camphor before the idol of the lingam. (The lingam is the representation of the Formless emerging into Form or the Form merging into the Formless. It is usually oval in shape.) He asked the pilgrims to see the illuminated shrine as the flame lit the interior. Inside the shrine they saw to their utter amazement none other than Sathya! He was standing in the place of the lingam, smiling and erect, accepting their reverent greetings. Everything about the vision of the boy was so thrilling and unexpected that Seshama wanted to verify whether He had not perhaps actually strayed into the shrine evading everybody's notice. So he hurried outside only to find Sathya leaning against a wall, staring at the distant horizon!
The amazement of the members of the party can be better imagined than described. They offered special worship for Him that day, though it was not a Thursday, for their faith in Him as a Manifestation was confirmed. The people of Hospet were alive with expectation and excitement. The story that He was seen in the shrine of Virupaksha while really outside it had spread to the town long before the party's arrival. The next day, Thursday, Sathya, as Sai Baba, cured a chronic tuberculosis patient by His touch and made him get up and walk a mile. He created from "nowhere" a variety of articles for the devotees, and the enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. Bhajan and Namasamkirtan, chanting and singing together the praises of the Name of God, continued far into the night; no one was in a mood to stop.
One could sense that the young Sai Baba was getting more and more reluctant to be bound by routine. He was tugging at the bonds, for history was whispering in His ear to break away and reach out to the four quarters! The period of probation which Sai Baba had allotted to the people around Him was over. He saw that the moment had come to renounce the family name and declare Himself to be always Sai Baba.
On the twentieth day of October, 1940, the day after they all returned from Hampi by a special bus, Sathya started for school as usual. The Excise Inspector of the place, Sri Anjaneyulu, who was very much attached to the young Baba, accompanied Him as far as the school gate and reluctantly went home. He seemed to see a superb halo around the face of Baba that day, and he could not take his eyes away from that enchantment. Within a few minutes Baba also turned back to the house. Standing on the outer doorstep, He cast aside the books He was carrying and called out, "I am no longer your Sathya. I am Sai." The sister-in-law came from the kitchen and peeped out; she was almost blinded by the splendor of the halo which she saw around Sai Baba's Head! She closed her eyes and shrieked. Baba addressed her, "I am going. I don't belong to you; Maya (illusion) has gone; My devotees are calling Me; I have My Work. I cannot stay any longer." So saying, He turned and left in spite of her pleadings. The brother hurried home on hearing of this, but Sai Baba only told him, "Give up all your efforts to 'cure' Me. I am Sai. I do not consider Myself related to you." Neighbor Sri Narayana Sastri heard the noise; he listened and realized that it was something serious. He ran in. Seeing the splendor of the halo, he fell at Sai Baba's Feet. He too heard the historic declaration: "Maya has left; I am going; My Work is waiting."
Seshama Raju was non-plussed. He could hardly collect his wits to meet the new situation. A boy, just fourteen, talking of devotees, work, illusion, and the philosophy of "belonging!" He could think of only one plan. Sathya was entrusted to him by his parents, and it was therefore his task to inform them and keep Sathya in the house until they came to Uravakonda for Him.
But Sathya would not step into the house again. He moved out into the garden of Sri Anjaneyulu's bungalow and sat on a rock in the midst of the trees. People came into the garden from all directions bringing flowers and fruits. The grove resounded to the voices of hundreds, singing in chorus the lines that Sathya Sai taught them. The first prayer that He taught them that day was, as many still remember:
"Meditate in thy mind on the Feet of the Guru. This can take you across the difficult sea of existence in birth after birth."
His classmates wept when they heard that Sathya would no longer attend school, that He was much beyond their reach, that His company was hereafter only for those upon whom He showered His Grace. Many came to the garden with incense and camphor to worship Him. Some came to sympathize with the family, some to congratulate them. Some came to learn, and some, alas, even to laugh!
Three days passed thus in that garden, three days of worship. A photographer came who wanted Sai Baba to remove a crude stone that was right in front of Him, but Baba did not pay heed to that prayer. The photographer took the picture nevertheless, and lo, the stone had become an image of Sai Baba of Shirdi! But only in the photograph, not for all the people who had assembled there.
One evening while chanting, Baba suddenly said, "0 Maya has come!" ("The illusion is presenting itself.") He pointed out Easwaramma, the mother, who had just arrived in hot haste from Puttaparthi. When the parents pleaded with Him to come home, He retorted, "Who belongs to whom?" The mother wept and prayed but she could not shake the resolve of the boy. He was constantly repeating the statement, "It is all illusion-untrue."
At last He asked the mother to serve Him food. When she served some dishes, He mixed them all up and made the whole lot into a few balls. She handed Him three of these. Swallowing them, He said, "Yes, now False Appearance has failed. There is no need to worry," and He re-entered the garden.
A few days later Sai Baba left Uravakonda. The parents were able to persuade Him to make His way to Puttaparthi by assuring Him that they would henceforth abstain from ridiculing Him or disturbing His task of meeting devotees. Sri Anjaneyulu worshipped His Feet. The townsmen arranged a procession to the very boundary. Lamps were waved in reverence, and music was sung at many places enroute.
Sai Baba was first welcomed at Puttaparthi into the village accountant's house by Subbamma, the accountant's wife. Then Baba stayed for some time at the house of the aged Pedda Venkapa Raju and later moved to the residence of Subbaraju, the brother of Easwaramma. But soon He moved to the house of Subbamma, who tended Him with love and affection and welcomed all the devotees into her spacious home. She spared no effort to make their stay happy and comfortable.
Sai Baba Again
Having declared Himself as Sai Baba of the Bharadwaja Gotram and the Apastamba Sutra, Sathyanarayana Raju was hereafter commonly known either as Bala Sai (Boy Sai) or Sathya Sai Baba, an appellation which He Himself accepted. Singing to God was done in His Presence not only on Thursday evenings, but gradually on every day and sometimes even twice a day, for the pilgrims who began to arrive could not wait until the ensuing Thursday to pay their homage to Him. At first a small room, eight feet by eight, facing the road that led to the house of Pedda Venkapa Raju was utilized as a Hall of Prayer. But it could accommodate only a dozen at the most. Even the road was overflowing with people. A Recruiting Officer from Hindupur came in a jeep for Baba's Darshan (Holy Vision), giving the villagers their first contact with a motor vehicle. Others too came in large numbers. The village accountant's family put up a shed which was enlarged as the months passed. A tent also was rigged up, and some devotees who came from Bangalore and Anantapur pitched their own tents. Finally even the spacious house of the accountant became insufficient, because Sai Baba insisted on feeding all who came to see Him; huge dining halls became necessary.
An old lady who was in the accountant's house during those months said that very often when the food cooked threatened to be insufficient. Baba was quietly informed and He asked that two coconuts be brought. When they were given to Him, He struck one against the other and both broke exactly into halves. He then sprinkled the coconut water on little heaps of rice and the vessels containing other items and gave the signal to proceed with the task of serving all who came that day!
Sai Baba has spoken about the untiring devotion of Subbamma, the accountant's wife. This aged lady looked after the comforts of the pilgrims and had Baba Himself in her house for some years until the building now called "Old Mandir" (or Old Temple) was built in 1944.
Sai Baba composed a number of songs and verses of praise to be used for the occasions of singing and chanting, for Sai Baba of Shirdi was unknown in those areas; these songs refer to Dwarakamayi, Puti Temple, Udi and the Margosa tree, and other details which were strange to the devotees who assembled at Puttaparthi. Many of them are sung even today at the Prasanthi Nilayam, "Place of Peace," the name of the Center of Prayer now in Puttaparthi directed by Sathya Sai Baba.
He used to complain off and on of the "family atmosphere" in the places where He stayed. Young boy that He was, He would disappear during day or night into the mountains that surround the village. Whenever He was found absent, Subbamma and others would search every hill and dale within walking distance. They generally found Him sitting quietly on a rock overlooking the valley, in a cave like hollow or crevice, or on the sands of the river. These disappearances and wanderings gave the people anxiety, for they were ignorant of the true significance of His absences. Some of them were afraid that He would go away to the Himalayas or waste Himself in asceticism, for they did not understand the Nature of the Incarnation or the Purpose for which It had come. Even today, these people continue talking of the spiritual practices of the young boy on the hills, not knowing that He has come to restore the inner path of the Spirit in Man!
One day when a party of devotees was accompanying Baba in a caravan of bullock carts to Uravakonda, He got down from His cart and went into the hills and disappeared. The entire area was searched but there was not a trace of Him. Everyone was in great distress until Baba appeared at about six o'clock in the evening, fresh and smiling, and restored everyone's drooping heart.
In connection with journeys Sai Baba made by bullock cart, an incident occurred which is even now described by Baba with a twinkle of merriment. In spite of occasional moods of solitude which took Him away from His devotees into the hills and dales, He was always a sprightly joyous boy full of practical jokes and fun. Once when about twenty devotees were proceeding along the road to Dharmavaram, Sai Baba and a group of young men were walking behind the bullock carts in the moonlight. Suddenly He moved a few yards away, unnoticed by the rest, and hastened to the cart leading the other carts. There He appeared as a girl of sixteen; she appealed to the persons inside the cart for a lift because her feet were sore. She was to go to Dharmavaram where her husband had been admitted to the hospital. Baba acted the part with so many sighs, rubbing of eyes, and even tears, that the ladies in the cart took pity on the unfortunate "girl" and took her in. After about a mile or so, news came from the end of the line that Sai Baba was missing, and all the carts were brought to a halt; each of the occupants got down and joined the search. They found Him at last, just a few yards ahead of the foremost cart itself. Some of the older men even dared chide Baba for playing hide and seek in strange places in the dead of night! The journey resumed, but another person was now found missing! Where was the girl whose husband was a patient at the Dharmavaram Hospital? Where could she have gone?
Perhaps in her anxiety to be by the bedside of her husband she ran on when the carts stopped to search for Bala Sai. So some fleet-footed young men ran forward, only to bring back the report that the road was deserted for at least two miles ahead! Finally they asked Baba, for they knew He would certainly know the where-abouts of every missing person. Of course He knew! The "girl" was there before them in the form of Baba Himself, the Great Actor.
Venkamma, the sister, pestered Baba for a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi about whom so many hymns were composed by Baba. Baba told her He would give it to her by a certain Thursday, but He went to Uravakonda on the day previous to the Thursday indicated. She forgot all about it, for she was sure she would get it some day and was not very concerned as to the exact day. Night fell and all were asleep at Puttaparthi. Someone called out "Ammayi, Ammayi" outside the front door. The sister did not go and open the door since the call did not persist. She reasoned that it must be someone calling the neighbor. As she lay in bed, she heard a grating sound behind one of the bags of corn in the same room. She imagined it to be a rat or a snake; it was distinct and loud. She lit a lamp and searched, and lo, something white, stiff, a piece of rolled paper, a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi was mysteriously presented to her by Baba who was at Uravakonda at the time! She still has the picture.
At that time, because there was no large building in which all could be accommodated, Baba generally went every evening to the sands of the river with the devotees and the chanting was carried on there.
Sai Baba has said many times that in His life the first sixteen years will be marked mainly by Lila ( sport and play), the next sixteen by Miracles, and the subsequent years by Teaching. He has said that although Lila would be the main note of the first period, it would continue to be a part of every stage of His life; so also with Miracles and Teaching. True to this statement, Sai Baba performed various miracles before the devotees who attended those evenings of chanting and worship on the sands by the river. It was then that the Tamarind tree that grows solitary at the crest of the hill on the left bank of the Chitravathi near its meeting place with the road, got the reputation of being a "Wish-fulfilling Tree," for Baba used to take the devotees to the tree and pluck from it many different varieties of fruits - apple from one branch, mango from another, orange from a third, pears and figs from a fourth and fifth. As Sai Baba says, He can make any tree at any time a "Wish-fulfilling Tree," for He is Himself "Wish-fulfilling."
He would climb up the rocks very quickly, and sometimes to the surprise of everyone He did not climb at all; yet He would be talking to the devotees on the sands one moment and hail them from near the Tamarind tree the next. He usually assisted the older and stouter devotees, and when they held His Hand, He pulled them up as if they had no weight at all.
A number of very fortunate devotees of those days experience joy even now when describing the miracles they were privileged to witness. Baba would call to them in a clear commanding voice from the top of the hill while standing by the side of the "Wish-fulfilling Tree" - "Look up and see"; and they saw a wheel of circling light with Baba's Head in the center, or a blinding jet of light emanating from His Forehead. Instances are related of a few devotees who fell down in a swoon at the sight of these strange phenomena. Some have seen, looking up from the sands, "a huge Sai Baba of Shirdi," illuminated by a mysterious effulgence. Some have seen Sathya Sai Baba's Face appear inside the full-circled moon, and have seen a pillar of fire appear also.
A college student, C. N. Padma, who was present one evening when Sai Baba ascended the hill on which the Tamarind tree can still be seen, writes, "The next day Baba took us again to the sands. In fact He went out every day, sometimes to a cluster of trees near a tank on the other bank of the river where He delighted in swimming and diving, or sometimes to the sands. After some little conversation He challenged a few young men of His physical age, that is to say same teenagers, to run a race with Him up the rocky path from the sands to the Tamarind tree. Off they went, but before one could close one's eyes and open them, Baba was calling out in great glee from the very top! He asked the others to stop where they were and He called out to everyone, 'Be watching Me; I am giving you the Darshan of Flame, the Vision of Light.' Suddenly there was a great ball of fire, like a sun, piercing the new moon dusk. It was impossible to open the eyes and keep looking. About three or four of the devotees fainted and fell. The time was a little past seven."
While mentioning the cluster of trees near Saheb Tank, another incident should be recorded. One day Baba had tied a swing to the overhanging branch of a tree there and was sitting on the contraption, swinging fast up and down in great joy to the delight of all. Suddenly He said, "Look!" to the devotees sitting on the ground. They looked up and saw the channing Cowherd Boy of Brindavan, Krishna, sitting on a magnificently decorated, flower-bedecked swing. Some lost consciousness and had to be revived by Sai Baba's scattering on them the rice grains that He secured by a Wave of the Hand. When they awakened, dazed and weeping with joy, Baba told them, "Calm yourselves! Do not get excited! This is why I do not grant you many of these Visions."
Later when Sai Baba was visiting a family in Mysore, He quite unexpectedly granted their priest a Vision of Narasimha, the "Man-Lion" Avatara of Vishnu, whom he adored all his life. The Brahmin priest swooned and did not recover consciousness for several hours. Similarly, once while Baba was talking to a retired health inspector about God and Godhead, He showed him the Flame emanating from His Forehead. The inspector was so overcome with the strange magnificence of the experience that he could not regain consciousness for fully seventy hours, and his children began chiding Sai Baba for taking him so near the door of death!
A devotee from Kamalapuram was asking Baba to show him some miracle. One day Baba called him and the members of his family, including his mother, and offered to show them the Vision of the ten incarnations of God! The Visions of Matsya the Fish, Kurma the Tortoise, and Varaha the Boar, passed off without any incident, but when the terrible form of Narasimha the "Man-Lion" appeared, they shrieked and yelled, fearing that the house might collapse on their heads. They clamored, "Enough, enough." Other persons, although there, did not see the Forms, because the miracle was not intended for them. However, when they witnessed the distress of the family, they performed a magical incantation for bringing auspicious delight, and Baba calmed down. The ten incarnations were revealed to another gentleman, now deceased, a relative of the accountant's family. The fact was that he passed away because his physical frame was too weak to contain the joy of the Vision. Baba took him to the river and asked him to watch His reflection in the water. The man announced later that he saw at first Sathya Sai Baba Himself, then only the halo of hair that surrounds His Head, and then all the ten incarnations in the order in which they are mentioned in the legendary histories of India; the tenth and last incarnation on a white horse, had the form of Baba Himself!
Baba will bless only those who have reached that stage in which they deserve the Vision that He grants. He is the judge of the time, the recipient, and the nature of the Vision. If the person so blessed is so overwhelmed with joy that he cannot survive in this physical framework because it is too weak a container for that type of Bliss, one has only to be thankful for the glory and the blessedness of such a death.
One can well appreciate the hesitation of Sai Baba to present these Visions when he learns of the experience of Krishnamurthy, a Civil Service clerk at the Mysore Secretariat.
Baba was then at Bangalore, ostensibly a youth of seventeen. He wore a white half-arm shirt and a dhoti cloth around His waist. Krishnamurthy was a frequent visitor and an enthusiastic member of the chanting group that sang hymns of praise. He was closely watching Baba and following Him for a few days. One day at about eight in the morning he confronted Baba and said rather excitedly, "I know you are God; show me Your real Form!" Sai Baba tried to avoid him but couldn't. He gave him a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi which He materialized on the spot, and directed him to meditate on that, keeping it against the wall. "Be looking at that picture," He commanded, and left the house to give the blessing of His Presence to some devotees in their homes.
Sai Baba returned when the clock struck twelve. Just when He crossed the threshold, Krishnamurthy sent forth a huge cry of joy and fainted in the inner room! When he revived he was shivering and shaking and breathing heavily. He kept his eyes tightly closed and was pursuing Baba from room to room, asking sometimes plainly, sometimes authoritatively, "Let me touch Your Feet!" He seemed to know exactly where Baba was, by the sense of smell, and he was sniffing his way towards Him! But Baba pushed him gently off or hid Himself or kept His Feet firmly under Him when seated, and never acceded to Krishnamurthy's wishes.
When Krishnamurthy was asked to open his eyes, he refused, saying that he did not desire to cast his eyes on anything else; he wanted only to see and touch Baba's Feet. His excitement and joy continued unabated for days, and Sai Baba said that if he touched His Feet while in that ecstatic mood, he would pass away. So Sai Baba quietly persuaded him to go home, saying that He would give him the pleasure of His Presence there.
Baba then moved to a house in the Civil Station. But Krishnamurthy could not contain himself. With his eyes still closed, he somehow sniffed his way. He got on a horse cart and directed the driver to the house where Sai Baba was staying! He slid down from the cart and ran into the compound, roamed round the building, and began to bang at the very window of the room where Sai Baba was at the time! Baba still spoke of the danger to Krishnamurthy's life because of the overpowering joy of his experience. Relatives who came for him forced his return home. He still kept his eyes closed, praying for Baba's Feet.
Some people took him to the hospital because he had become weak through fasting and would not even drink water. Baba sent to him at the hospital a little water in which His Feet had been bathed. When Krishnamurthy drank it, he became fit enough to be taken home. At home he asked everyone to sing hymns in praise of Baba while he lay on a cot in the same room. When the session was over, they found he did not rise. He had touched the Feet of the Lord; the river had found the Sea. What a highly evolved soul to deserve that indescribable Bliss!
In later years too, Sai Baba has granted Visions of a devotee's Ishta Devata, "the form of God chosen for worship," and to many others He has revealed His own manifold Forms. Each one so blessed cherishes the memory of that moment of Bliss! Baba has often said that the Lord, has to come in human form in order to speak to people in their own language, just as a person desirous of saving drowning man has perforce to jump into the very same tank or well. No one can benefit from a Divine Incarnation, an Avatara, if the Lord comes down as He is, with His effulgence unimpaired, for then the gap between man and Godman would be too great for man to comprehend. Therefore God must take on a form similar to that of an ordinary man.
On another occasion Sai Baba asked some persons who had come from Kamalapur whether they would like to hear the flute of Sri Krishna. Who would say no? He asked them to lay their heads on His Chest, and lo, they could hear the enchanting melody of the flute of Krishna that brought even the Yamuna River to a standstill. Easwaramma, His mother , speaks of another thrilling experience when Baba said, "Listen, Shirdi's Presence is here." She and everyone in the room could hear steps advancing as if made by feet in heavy wooden sandals. The steps ceased when they reached where Baba was sitting! When first the sound was heard, the mother asked with a little anger, "Who comes in with sandals on?" - so real was the sensation, so true was the Vision!
While this was the experience of the mother, the father Pedda Venkapa Raju, had another incident to narrate. One evening some people came from Penukonda to Puttaparthi; among them was Krishnamachari, who, though a native of Puttaparthi, had long ago settled down at Penukonda as a lawyer. He and some others came to the accountant's house and Subbamma gave them coffee. The talk naturally turned to the latest phenomenon of Baba, and they asked Pedda Venkapa Raju, who was there, what it was all about and how true it was. He replied that it was all a mystery to him and that he too was equally in the dark. Then it seems, the lawyer called Venkapa a cheat, and charged him with misleading innocent village folk with tall stories. This upset him so much that he went to Sai Baba and challenged Him to convince the doubters about His Divinity so that they might not accuse him as the lawyer had done. Baba coolly asked him to bring everyone who had any doubt directly to Him.
Subbamma and the party from Penukonda were taken to Pedda Venkapa Raju's house where Sai Baba was. Baba asked Subbamma if she would like to see the Shirdi Samadhi, the Holy Tomb of Sai Baba at Shirdi. On her saying, "Yes," He took her to an inner room in the house and said, "Look!" There Subbamma could see the Samadhi with all the flowers, the fragrant incense sticks and smoke, and an attendant sitting in one corner chanting to himself. Baba told her, "On this side, see the Temple of Hanuman, the Monkey-Saint, and in the far distance see that Margosa tree." It appeared to her as if she were in some vast open space looking at the scene in Shirdi, the entire landscape spreading out before her for miles and miles to the horizon in the distance.
When she was brought out after this thrilling experience, she persuaded Krishnamachari to follow Sai Baba to the same inner room. Baba took them, one by one, and revealed to each the same Vision, a panoramic view of the Shrine at Shirdi and its locale. Pedda Venkapa Raju says that he was taken inside after all the rest, and when he came out, he was a changed man. His doubts had vanished. The friends from Penukonda apologized for their slighting remarks and said that in order to explain such a divine phenomenon, the sanest explanation to give would be that it was "a mystery beyond understanding." Easwaramma and Pedda Venkapa Raju, the mother and father, were convinced that day that the young lad of sixteen was really an incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Pedda Venkapa Raju says that he then instructed his family to consider Baba as Divine and not bother Him with any more pettiness, neglect, impatience, temper, or meanness.
Sai Baba was engaged even during those early days in teaching. His life is one continuous instruction. A clear example of this was when He spoke to a naked sage when the latter came to Puttaparthi in 1941. The town of Bukkapatnam was agog with the visit of this ascetic who had lost the use of both his legs, who had discarded clothes, and therefore was looked upon by the masses as a perfect example of a great sage. His admirers were eager to watch the reactions of Sai Baba when pitted against a veteran of many hardships. The naked sage had also taken a vow of silence; thus the curiosity of the people became greater. The sweet young divine lad met the "lofty hero" who was carried to the village and deposited in front of Subbamma's house. Baba gave the unclothed sage a big towel and some advice, the like of which he would not have been given anywhere else.
"If you have cut off all relationship with society, as your nakedness indicates you have, then why do you not go to a cave in a forest away from human society? Why are you afraid? On the other hand, if you have a craving for disciples, for fame, and for name, and the food available in cities and towns, why do you allow yourself to be a mistaken for a man with no attachment"? These were the words that fell from the lips of the young Baba. They struck everyone with wonder and admiration.
The naked sage looked crestfallen, for he was evidently not sincere enough to live up to his nakedness and his vow of silence. But Sai Baba was not sarcastic - far from it. He was ready to help, to assure, to guarantee! Patting the cripple on the back, He said, "I know your difficulty. You are afraid you may not get food and shelter if you retire from the company of men, isn't it so? Well, I assure you, anyone taking the Name of the Lord, wherever he may be, will get his food; I shall see to that. You may be in the deepest Himalayas or the deepest forest and I shall give you food regularly there! But, if you have not that faith and that courage, you can meditate on Him right here; but don't wander about naked and give all this bother to these people to carry you about from place to place." What a grand teaching that was! If only people would grasp its meaning! That was the Authentic Voice. Only the Lord could give that assurance!
This assurance is being given even today by Sai Baba to all aspirants. In 1958 when Swami Satchidananda met Him, Baba told him to cultivate his Yogic proficiency and not fritter away his time organizing movements. He added, patting the seventy year old monk on the back, "Your Yogic attainments will themselves penetrate the rock of the cave where you sit and bring auspiciousness to the world. Go to some Himalayan solitude. I shall provide you food and shelter wherever you are!" The same Authentic Voice, come to guide and guard all spiritual aspirants practicing Yoga or union with God, whatever the religion, the race, the clime!
With the arrival of devotees from all around at the news of the manifestation of Sai Baba of Shirdi at Puttaparthi, Baba was kept busy curing their physical and mental ills. He says that even this forms part of His Mission, for no one can have the urge for spiritual discipline when pestered by physical and mental ills. Many cases of chronic illness, lunacy, hysteria, possession by evil spirits and ghosts, and other maladies were brought to the presence of the Great Healer. People who had been worshipping Sai Baba of Shirdi also came out of curiosity to examine the new manifestation of their Lord. Many persuaded Baba to visit their places. He went to Bangalore, Mirzapur, Kolapuram, Pithapuram, Sandur, Madras, and other towns. Also visiting Him were devotees from families connected with the Royal Line of Mysore. At Bangalore, Sai Baba operated on a person with a duodenal ulcer and the patient got complete relief ; the instruments were all materialized mysteriously.
The stream of pilgrims increased considerably. This highlighted the need for a bigger temple where Sai Baba could reside and the devotees be accommodated. This was how the first temple was planned by Thirumala Rao of Bangalore and others in 1945. The place selected was a short distance from the village between the Satyamma and the Gopalakrishna temples, the very site on which sheds and large tents were put up for some years during the Dasara and other festivals.
When the servant, Gooni Venkata (Venkata with the hump) , dug at the spot indicated by Sai Baba, so that consecrated stones could be laid as foundation, a large number of stone bases used as stands for lingams (emblems of the Form merging in the Formless, or emerging from the Formless) were discovered! But strangely enough, no lingams could be found, though a vigorous search was made. Dozens of bases - but not a single lingam. People gathered round Baba and sought the answer. Sai Baba told them cryptically, pointing a finger at his stomach, "The lingams are all here." Those who have witnessed the emanation of lingams from Baba's Mouth on the night of the Festival of Mahasivaratri might be convinced of the correctness of the answer; others will have to be satisfied with the consolation that the ways of the Lord are beyond the categories with which we measure and weigh, infer and judge. (After the completion of the building, Sai Baba came over from the accountant's house and lived in the room to the left of the front veranda, a small room about eight feet long and six feet wide. )
Meanwhile Sai Baba had gone to Madras and had given the blessed pleasure of His Presence to thousands there. He also went as far as Masulipatam. Wherever He went He granted people peace of mind and spiritual advice, and assured them that He would guide and guard them. One day while on the sands of the seashore near Masulipatam, Baba walked straight into the sea! The devotees were sometime realizing the situation.
Then they heard a voice and turned toward the waves. They saw a Vision of the Lord on the Serpent Sesha, reclining on the waves! Within a moment, Baba was by their side. They were struck by the fact that His clothes were not wet at all. Another day He walked toward the sea, up to the very edge and threw a silver cup far into the waves. Everyone wondered why. In an instant the cup came back and was deposited near them by a wave. Sai Baba lifted it up along with the "salt water" it contained; he poured the water onto the palms of the devotees, a few drops for each to be swallowed religiously. Each one found it to be fragrant and sweet beyond compare! The sea had offered Him the "nectar of immortality," just as years later it placed round His Feet a garland of pearls.
People who witnessed these miracles and partook of the nectar are now at Prasanthi Nilayam, His place of "Tranquil Peace" at Puttaparthi, and are ardent devotees of the Lord.
It would be a mistake to infer trom these incidents that Baba was attempting to impress the people around Him by the manifestation of His Divinity. His very nature is of the miraculous. His actions are beyond our ken, our arithmetic and physics and chemistry. Plato called the inquiry into the nature of the relationship between the "here and now" and the "hereafter and ever" as meta-physics, or "after physics." Sai Baba's actions are all meta! He presents the miracles because He is He, not because of any desire or purpose or want, for what can He ever want or wish for?
Whenever anyone came into the Presence, even in those days, Sai Baba immediately took him in hand, and by advice, suggestion, satire, sarcasm, or even reprimand, He slowly shaped him into a humble, silent, pious, and thereby efficient, enthusiastic limb of society. That is the alchemy of His Touch. Even when He addressed groups of devotees He emphasized the need for an inner transformation in every individual. He told everyone to have courage and said that courage can come only by faith in the Infinite Power, the Infinite Mercy of the Lord. Anyone inclined to doubt this need only watch Him and taste His Infinite Power and His Infinite Mercy.
An incident regarding His Mercy happened at Bangalore when He was still in His teens. A cobbler, plying his trade on a corner of a road in the Civil Station, saw Baba in a bungalow opposite the place where he sat. Many cars were moving in and out of the house grounds. Flowers and fruits were being taken in and the faces of those who came out on the road were bright with joy and contentment. They were talking of an Incarnation of Lord Krishna, of the Lord Sai Baba, and so forth. The cobbler too ventured to enter the gate and peep nervously into the hall where Sai Baba was seated on a special chair with men on one side and women on the other. His eyes fell on Baba just when He too looked at him. Sai Baba immediately arose and came forward to the door where the cobbler stood. He approached him, took the little dried up garland of flowers that he held in his hand, even before the man offered it, and asked him in Tamil, the only language the cobbler knew, what he wanted from Him! The temerity to formulate his wish and express it in so many words must have been granted to that aged "untouchable" outcaste by Baba Himself, for how else can one explain the astounding request that he dared to make? He said quite confidently and without hesitation, to the surprise of everyone who heard him, "Please come to my house and accept something!" Baba patted his back lovingly and said, "All right, I shall come," and resumed His seat at the other end of the hall.
The cobbler waited for a long time because he wanted to tell Sai Baba where his house was and to know when Baba would visit it so that he might clean it and be ready to receive Him; but he finally had to hurry back to his corner to keep watch over his heap of leather pieces and old shoes. He was pushed and jostled by the rush of visitors. No one listened to him when he said that Baba had promised to pay a visit to his hut. The cobbler wanted them to find out from Sai Baba when He would be coming. Some laughed at him and his audacity; some said he was drunk or mad. Days passed. Sai Baba spent His days with other blessed hosts and did not visit the bungalow opposite the cobbler's corner. So the cobbler gave up all hopes of meeting Baba again!
Suddenly one day a fine car was driven right up in front of the aged cobbler. He was taken aback; he was afraid it might be the police van or some City official intent on prosecuting him for plying his trade on the pavement. But it was Sai Baba! He invited the cobbler to get into the car; the man was too confused even to open his mouth to direct the driver to his hut, Sai Baba seemed to know. Stopping the car on the side of the road, Baba got down and hastened over the cobblestones in the by-lane to the exact hut in the midst of the slum! The cobbler ran forward to warn his family. Sai Baba created some sweets and fruits and gave them as consecrated gifts to the members of the cobbler's family and sat on a plank near the wall. He blessed the aged man who was shedding tears of joy and took with Him a few bananas the cobbler had brought from a shop nearby. He then left the hut which was thereafter made a place of pilgrimage for the entire neighborhood! Such was Sai Baba's love.
Some people in their foolishness attempted to poison Baba. The incident reveals more than one facet of Baba's Divinity. Even today Sai Baba will not allow the attempt to be called an attempt to kill. Since His words are Truth, let it be remembered that it was an attempt to test whether He could survive the eating of poison; it was more the result of scepticism than of wickedness.
It was festival day and Sai Baba with two devotees visited a few houses in His native village. In each house He partook of something, and when He entered the house where the fatal food had been prepared, He showed extra enthusiasm and demanded more of the special dish; but He saw to it that His companions did not consume the deadly mixture. When He returned to the accountant's house, He confided to several people the secret of the invitation from that particular house, talked about the utter futility and foolishness of it all, and had a hearty laugh over the incident. After sometime He vomited the whole stuff. People near Him secretly tested whether it was poisonous to living beings. It was!
Sai Baba takes delight in doing just what we mortals dread to do. For example, the night of the snake bite. This incident is described in the chapter on "The Wave of the Hand." That night, after the recovery of Baba from the snake bite with the application of the Talisman produced miraculously through His Grace, everyone in the village pleaded with Him not to have any supper, for food might aggravate the poison; but He audaciously ate a little more than usual. He was asked by the elders to avoid cold water, but He purposely swam about in a well just to spite human nervousness and human precautions!
Subbamma was the person most anxious about Baba's health and most worried about feeding the hundreds of pilgrims who gathered at Puttaparthi. Baba even now says that the grinding stone in her home was always busy preparing chutney out of the heaps of coconuts for the hundreds who stayed at her house. Subbamma was grinding and grinding, besides boiling rice and preparing dishes almost eight hours of the day! She had immense love and devotion for the Lord, and Sai Baba had said that He would satisfy her one great desire - to have the Darshan, that is, the blessing of seeing in person the Vision of Sai Baba in her last moments. It is indeed a thrilling story, the story of those moments and that Darshan.
Subbamma fell ill and was taken to Bukkapatnam, but in spite of her illness, she came over one day in a bullock cart to see the Prasanthi Nilayam, which was then under construction. She was soon bedridden and could not move; her condition worsened; and Sai Baba was away at Bangalore! Subbamma in her delirium talked about Baba and the Vision of Sai Baba of Shirdi which she had been privileged to see. She spoke of the many "miracles of Lord Krishna " which she had witnessed. When normal consciousness returned, her talk concerned the same incidents and the same Person. She was in the midst of relations who had little sympathy with these sentiments, for they felt that her love for the strange miraculous young boy had taken her away from attachment to her kith and kin. They told her that her Baba was a hundred miles away, and it would be better for her to concentrate her final attention on her family gathered around her. But her faith in Sai Baba did not falter.
Meanwhile Baba left Bangalore for Tirupathi. He knew that Subbamma's soul was struggling to free itselt from the mortal coil, and that she was rolling in her deathbed at Bukkapatnam. The people around her announced that she had breathed her last. But a peculiar glow on her face made them hesitate to take the body away for cremation. A few wise people shook their heads when it was suggested that she had died. They advised patience, and admonished the relatives, "The bird has not yet flown." How could that bird fly, even though the doors of the cage were wide open? She must have the Darshan, the promised Vision, and she must wait until Baba came.
Baba was hurrying toward her bedside. He left Tirupathi by car, and arriving at Puttaparthi, proceeded to Bukkapatnam three full days after the announcement of Subbamma's end! Her eyes had lost the glint; she was placed on the floor; for no Hindu should die while on the bed, and people were evincing an uneasy impatience. Sai Baba sat by her and in a low voice called out, "Subbamma, Subbamma," just twice! To the evident wonderment of everyone crowding around, Subbamma opened her eyes; her hand extended toward Baba and grasped His Palm firmly and began to stroke it lovingly. Baba put His Fingers to her lips; her mouth opened a little, as if she knew that Baba was giving her something to slake the thirst of the soul. From the Fingers of Baba there poured into her mouth a small quantity of water which He said was from River Ganges. Subbamma then joined the ranks of the released!
About this time Sai Baba was approached by the Muslims of a neighboring village on a matter of importance to them. Their ranks had been reduced by a fatal disease.
The worship of what are called Pirs is traditional in these parts during the month of Mohurram. The installation, the worship, the ceremonial procession and the immersion are all celebrated by Hindu as well as Muslim communities. Pirs are hand-shaped objects made of brass and other metals which are held sacred as mementos of the sacrifice of Hassan and Hussein on the memorable battlefield of Kerbela. Sai Baba told the Muslims who came to Him that Pirs had been installed in their village for hundred of years, but lately the practice had stopped. He asked them to continue the worship and revealed to them that if they dug at a certain place which He pointed out, they would get the very Pirs which their forefathers consecrated. They dug at the place and the Pirs were exposed to view! Everyone was so surprised and stunned at Sai Baba's Omniscience and the sudden appearance of the sacred objects that none had the ability to descend and pull the Pirs into the open. So Sai Baba Himself got down into the pit and took out the Pirs. There were four of them at the place! For many years thereafter these were kept at the temple, rolled up in a mat and packed neatly away. They were issued to those villagers for the Mohurrum celebrations only, and they were duly returned after the functions were over.
One curious circumstance witnessed by the author was when the Muslims were proceeding from the temple after accepting the Pirs from Sai Baba's Hands. The person carrying them began to act as if he were "possessed", and all gathered around him to watch the holy man in that elevated mood. He danced a few steps, ran round in circles, muttered to himself a few verses from the holy Koran, the Muslim Holy Book, and walked back to Sai Baba. Baba said, "Go! Go and come back after the festival," and quickly, quietly, the "possessed" man sped forward with the Pirs in the same tense condition of prayerful joy. Only those who have had the privilege of witnessing such moments can grasp even in a small way the mystery that is Sai Baba.
Many devotees came to Puttaparthi from far and near during those days. Each one was drawn by some inexplicable circumstance and kept steady by a glimpse of Sai Baba's Omnipresence or Omnipotence. A gentleman from Udumalpet who first refused to join the party of pilgrims, but who later was persuaded against his will to go along, offered a flower garland to Baba as others did as soon as Puttaparthi was reached. Baba did not accept his offering. He said, "You had no mind to come!" That remark brought Sai Baba closer to the unbeliever.
A gentleman who was from Madurai came because his sister at Vellore agreed to have an operation performed on her only if and when Sai Baba said it was essential. He came to Puttaparthi, but Sai Baba did not speak to him for some days. When at last He spoke, He only asked him to go to Vellore by the next available bus. The doctor at Vellore was getting more furious all the time because the silly patient was endangering her life by waiting for permission to undergo the operation from a mere boy, who, she said, was her Guru and God! The brother came at last. Another examination was made. Wonders of wonders, there was no need for an operation! "Is it the same 'she'?" the doctor asked in amazement.
It would make very inspiring reading if a book were composed of the answers from devotees to the question: "How did you first come to Puttaparthi, and why?" If such a volume were ever produced, the story of the coming of Sakamma, the well known owner of coffee plantations, a philanthropist of Coorg, and the lady who was honored with the title of "Dharmaparayani" (ever engaged in charity) by the Maharaja of Mysore, would make an interesting chapter. Not because she was rich or famous in the field of business and industry. Sai Baba does not mind whether a person is rich or poor. He cares for the richness of character, the wealth of spiritual discipline and the treasures of the spirit, no matter what the bank balance may be!
The late Sakamma used to tell this strange experience. One day at her bungalow in Somwarpet, Coorg, when she was engaged in worship, a servant disturbed her and announced that a car had come into the compound, and that the person inside insisted on seeing her immediately. She was rather upset, but nevertheless went to find out who would take such liberty with her time. She found in the car a tall, fair, old man with a very reverent looking beard, sitting on a deerskin, his whole body bathed in ash. She was struck by the age of the car also, for it matched the age of the owner or occupant. It was driven by a weak little boy in his teens, and Sakamma wondered how he could have managed to secure a license or whether he had one at all. The car had a name plate in front reading, "The Kailas Committee." She invited the old man inside, did homage by touching his feet, placed a newly plucked rose at his feet, and offered him some fruits. He said he would not eat the fruits there, because he did not cater to the tongue at all times and all places. "Jihvachapalya" - that is, tongue cravings - was the word he used. He wanted her to contribute to the Kailas Committee and become a member by donating a thousand rupees. She signed a paper on which the sum and her name were written, and when she proffered the amount, the old man said, "Keep this also with you. I shall come and take it later." With those words he put the signed sheet on the table, got into the car and drove away. The teen-age driver did his work remarkably well, for the car was out of sight in a moment.
Years later, when she saw Baba in a house to which she had gone, He appeared to her at one moment like the young driver of that mysterious car, and in the next moment like the hoary occupant who had taken so much pains to make her contribute to the Kailas Committee, and then had asked her to hold the cash in her own keeping! Sai Baba surprised her when they met by telling her, "Come on, give the one thousand rupees you promised that day!" and then described in her presence the entire story, correct to the minutest detail.
Sai Baba once went to Mysore City during the Deepavali, the Festival of Lights, and stayed with a devotee of the Maharaja. While there, He granted the devotees who were at Puttaparthi the Vision of a serpent, a phenomenon not unknown to the devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi and to the citizens of Coimbatore and other places. The interesting fact about this Vision is that at the same time, or rather, for the entire period that it lasted, Baba was "outside" His physical frame which was at Mysore. The Prayer Sessions at the old temple were performed during the absence of Sai Baba on the steps leading up to the front door, where a decorated photograph was kept with a pair of lamps which burned both day and night. Deepavali Night passed, and in the early dawn a number of devotees at Puttaparthi saw the lights of a car coming up the curve of the hill beyond Karnatanagapalli. That was later found to be just the impression of a few. When the people who had seen the car lights and had run forward to the river bank returned to the temple, they were surprised to hear that a cobra was coiled around the portrait of Sai Baba in the temporary shrine. It was seen by hundreds of villagers and others until three o' clock that afternoon. They offered worship to it, sang the usual Prayer Songs at noon, and broke coconuts to propitiate it. But it did not stir from its place. Emboldened by this, some women threw saffron powder on it, pronouncing the Name of the Lord and calling upon Sathya Sai Baba. They placed milk in bowls before it; it only swayed its raised hood from side to side. One reverent female of the village, who got the two halves of the coconut given back to her after the ceremonial offering, protested loudly, saying that the nut she handed to it was definitely larger in size and that she would be a loser if she quietly accepted the halves of a smaller specimen. At this the cobra, as if it were keenly watching the proceedings, turned sharply in her direction and hissed loudly! Everyone had a hearty laugh at her fright! At three o'clock that afternoon the cobra slid down and within a yard or two became invisible, and Sai Baba at distant Mysore brought joy to all by getting up as He returned to His Body.
After Sai Baba went to Mysore, He visited Hyderabad, and because He recognized a number of places as those which He had once seen, the Rani of Chincholi became convinced that He was the incarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi Himself. Baba also went to Kuppam and from there to Karur and to Trichinopoly. Everywhere He was welcomed with great enthusiasm by devotees and citizens. At Trichinopoly the procession was led by a richly caparisoned elephant, followed by parties reciting ritualistic chants and carrying consecrated water in silver pots as an offering of homage. Everywhere He advised the people, "From now onwards, purify your hearts and make them fit tabernacles for the Lord. Do not fall deeper and deeper into evil by yielding to temptations. Take courage. Believe in the Lord who is within you, who is your nearest kith and kin."
While the cars of Sai Baba's party were traversing the streets of Trichinopoly, one of the vehicles accidentally ran over a little boy; he was badly injured. A crowd quickly gathered around him. He was carried to a house nearby and lay bleeding and hurt on the porch. The police came to investigate, but meanwhile Sai Baba had come and touched the boy. They had nothing to report, for the boy who had been hurt was now running about telling everyone how one touch from Sai Baba had made him whole. Long after Baba left, that boy was fondled and fed by an admiring crowd which was amazed at his miraculous experience.
There was another boy who was similarly honored by an admiring crowd and who perhaps even today is thankful for the intervention of the Lord. At a public meeting near Trichinopoly, held to honor Sai Baba, someone doubted His Divinity. Sensing this from the platform, Sai Baba immediately called up a deaf and dumb lad who was standing near the aforesaid person; making him stand in front of the microphone, He asked him, "What is your name?" Immediately the boy spoke into the microphone for all the thousands to hear, "Venkatanarayanan!" The doubter kept silent and hung his head in shame. There was another consequence. Baba often speaks of this incident with laughter. When morning dawned, the entire length of the street where He was residing was packed with deaf and dumb! It had become a silent lane of pain! No one knew until then that Trichinopoly had such a large number of people with that unfortunate malady. Sai Baba moved out of the bungalow to avoid the clamor of the relatives seeking more miraculous healings.
The devotees at Karur and Trichinopoly vied with each other in decorating their houses and streets and in the magnificence of reception arrangements. But Sai Baba was unaffected by all the pageantry. He moved freely among the people, both rich and poor, sometimes more among the poor than among His hosts. He cared more for the prayerful heart and the heart filled with remorse than those puffed with pride and contaminated by greed. The mantapams, the many pillared open halls built for festive occasions, which were erected for seating Him and offering worship to Him, were gems of artistry, bedecked with flowers of variegated hues. Sai Baba told the people countless times that He attached value only to the unsullied blossom of a pure heart and the fruit offerings of good deeds.
Once at Mysore, seated on one such floral bedecked mantapam, Sai Baba was receiving the adoration and homage of a family of devotees when a cobra appeared from nowhere and crept onto the heap of flowers at His Feet. Shortly it was accompanied by another cobra. Baba assured the family that there was nothing to be afraid of, and after a while, the cobras disappeared into the "nowhere" from whence they had mysteriously emerged.
Sai Baba is not content merely to instill faith in His devotees through these miracles. He is a hard taskmaster who is satisfied with nothing less than absolute integrity and a sincere striving for spiritual discipline. This explains why, of the very large number of men and women who are drawn to Him by the stories of His miracles and who even get their first impressions of His Divinity confirmed by many subsequent miracles, some fall away from Him, unable to cope with the demands He makes in character reform, renunciation, spiritual practice, repeating the Name of God in prayer, and in meditation on the Form. Baba reiterated even in those early days that He wards off physical calamities, cures bodily ills, heals, consoles, and gives solace, only as a first step towards spiritual practice which must automatically follow the experience of His Presence. Many monks and ascetics have fallen into the mire because of their anxiety to keep themselves in the good books of rich and influential patrons. But Baba, who has come to illumine the paths of holy men and great seers, has never minced words when He has had to correct the faults of those around Him. His Grace is so overpowering that it disregards the obstacles of age, scholarship, or length of association. He blesses everyone with His correctness and evaluation. Complete resignation to His Divine Will alone can make each one full and free.
The Dasara Festival soon became an event par excellence at Puttaparthi. Even if Baba had to journey to Madras or Trichinopoly or Masulipatam for other festivals, He was invariably at Puttaparthi for Dasara. Sakamma and other devotees were privileged for many years to make arrangements for this "Festival of the Mother." Baba is the Supreme Mother, manifesting Herself as the Goddess of Wisdom, Saraswati, the Goddess of Wealth, Lakshmi, Goddess of Spring, Sarada, Goddess of Growing Food, Annapurna, and even Goddess of Powerful Inner Purification, Kali. Baba has said that Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Wisdom, is the Divine Mother of Humanity. As the Divine Charioteer, He brings His Message of Truth, Divine Law of Righteousness, Peace, and Love, the four cardinal principles of spiritual culture. His devotees feel that He is their Mother more than all others, and so there is a special appropriateness in Dasara being the outstanding festival at Puttaparthi. Many among His devotees have been blessed with Visions of Him as the Mother. In fact, one of them insists on addressing Him as Siva, the Mother - a name reminiscent of the sublime conception of God as Father-Mother, masculine-feminine, and Siva-Sakti.
He enjoys the company of children, and even the most recalcitrant is brought round by Him through an inexhaustible repertoire of tricks and games and ventriloquial achievements. He makes shadow figures and gives them presents of sweets, materialized by a Wave of the Hand. He twists and turns His Fingers, and when the shadow falls on the wall opposite, the children are astonished to find snakes, eagles, horses, stags, dogs, peacocks, crows, cats, and buffaloes jumping about in great glee. He offers the child a ball of sand; it reluctantly extends its tiny hand to receive the Laddu - the delicacy children relish most. The sand actually becomes sweet fragrant Laddu the moment it reaches the palm of the child. He says that children are indeed lucky, since they have the good fortune of Baba's Darshan (experiencing His Presence) much earlier than the adults, and they are privileged to have Baba as their Teacher, Protector, Guide and Guardian for many decades to come. When Sai Baba agrees to name the children of His devotees, the names He gives them are redolent with His Grace and His Mercy. He also initiates the little ones in the alphabet. He holds their tiny fingers in His Hand and scribbles the letters along with them in honey or milk or rice.
Akshara means also "the imperishable," and Baba, when He inaugurates the Aksharabhyasa, the study of the alphabet, also initiates the children into the Imperishable. Each one must pronounce Mahamantra (the great Formula of Power) ; Om Namo Narayana - "Honor to the God in Man!"; Om Namasivaja - "Honor to the God Siva"; or Om Srinivasaya - "Honor to the abode of Sri, the Goddess of Fortune," or any mantra that is suited to the traditions of the child's family, thus giving the child the key to ultimate spiritual victory. There is a song sung in Tamil about Sai Baba which refers to Him as the Sayimata, the Mother who suckles Her children on the milk of Wisdom. The study of the alphabet is the occasion on which the fortunate child gets the chance of receiving Divine Wisdom. During Dasara Baba shines forth as the patron of Music and Letters and as the Giver of Food and Sustenance, so that Dasara has become a memorable festival since the very beginning of His manifestation. The devotees delight in discourses, musical performances, dramas, and sumptuous feasts. Every evening there are processions along the narrow roads of the village with Baba being carried on a flower-bedecked vehicle. Decorated differently on each day, the palanquin is carried on the shoulders by eager relays of devotees. During the progress of the procession, the author has seen Baba plucking from the garlands around Him odd flowers and, with a palm full of petals, scattering them among the crowd. They all fall with a jingle, for each petal has become a small medallion with Baba's portrait on one side and Sai Baba of Shirdi's portrait on the other! Or it has often happened that the petals were turned into peppermints, which rained among the crowds around the palanquin! While on the palanquin, Sai Baba's Forehead has often been covered with Vibhuti, the Sacred Ash that emanates from within. Devotees have seen on Sai Baba this as well as Kumkum dots that emerged.
Soon the temple was found to be too small for the gathering of devotees. Many worshippers of Sai Baba of Shirdi, on hearing that He had incarnated in human form in the village of Puttaparthi, hurried there. Many who went on pilgrimage to Shirdi as usual were "directed" when they arrived there to go to Puttaparthi. Others came to know the Baba of Shirdi through Sathya Sai Baba Himself. The afflicted, the inquiring, the seekers of comfortable life, and the wise are four types who approach the Lord with their varied motives, but the Lord welcomes all and satisfies all. The afflicted He relieves. His Ash acts as a charm to drive away evil spirits from hundreds of unfortunates. The critical, the inquisitive, the doubting, the sceptical, the agnostic. He satisfies and attracts and attaches to Himself. The persons eager to get a comfortable life, He blesses, provided they are educated enough to use the peace of mind they get for cultivating the Spirit and contemplating on the ultimate goal of life itself. The wise one, purified and clarified by steadfast discipline, is dearest to Him, for He reveals Himself in all His Glory. People belonging to all these groups come to Puttaparthi, the first and the third groups naturally in much larger numbers. He revolutionizes the lives of all who come to Him.
The transformation of a gang of thieves into God-fearing agriculturists is worth recording. One night when Sai Baba was on the hill on the other bank of the Chitravathi, He came upon a group of thieves engaged in the rather ticklish task of dividing their spoils. But when they saw Him and accepted from His Hand the Divine Ash, they knew they were face to face with the Eternal Witness. Sai Baba spoke to the seventeen black hearts, and by His Alchemy He brought them over to the village of Puttaparthi. They all took up various honest ways of living.
Within a few years in order to accommodate the huge gatherings, a long shed with a roof was erected along the entire front of the temple. But even that addition proved too small. A separate block with one living room and bathroom was put up for Baba behind the temple. It was in this room that Sai Baba operated on Dr. Padmanabhan's brother for hernia! It was in that shed behind the screen in front of the Shrine that Baba operated on Appish of Puttaparthi for appendicitis. It was while sleeping in the open space between the temple and the block behind, that Baba one night announced that one of His devotees had lost a Talisman which He had given him, for it had come back into His possession! The author remembers Baba saying that He would have to go to Madras immediately to tie it to the wrist of the patient. But all the people around Him prayed that He should not undertake the "journey", at that hour, going out of His Body and coming back into it. He agreed to send it with someone proceeding to Madras. So He placed the Talisman in the custody of Sri Seshagiri Rao, an old devotee, with the warning, "Keep it tight; tie it in a towel and wind it around your waist." Seshagiri Rao obeyed the command implicitly and slept with the Talisman wound around his middle. About two hours later, all of us were awakened by the loud laughter of Sai Baba who was sitting up in the bed. We gathered round him and wanted to join in the joke. Seshagiri Rao was unaware of what was going on. Baba woke him up and asked for the Talisman. He unwound the towel, unrolled it, and lo, the Talisman had disappeared! Sai Baba chided him in fun and said that He had "gone" and tied it around the wrist of the patient who had to be continuously guarded by it! Yes, He had gone to Madras and returned.
Devotees will never forget the Old Temple, for Sai Baba was always moving right in the midst of the people there. He composed many songs and hymns portraying the Love of God which He taught while there. He trained the people with great love and attention. Since the number of devotees who were present was not large, Baba used to go out more frequently to the sands on the river bed, or to the hills nearby, or to the gardens across the river. While some were engaged in cooking the feast, He showed them miracles, or signs of His Divinity .
In teaching and admonishing the devotees in relation to their troubles, He told them that they must concentrate on the recitation of God's Name, that it was the best means of earning Peace. Once He suddenly turned to a devotee with the question, "Don't you do recitation?' She started to say something in reply, but Baba did not wait to hear it. "Oh, you have lost your Japamala (rosary), haven't you?" He asked. Then, thrusting His Hand into the sand, He took out a rosary and said, "Here, come and take this." The lady rose reverently and came forward with folded hands to receive. Sai Baba signed her to halt, and told her with a smile illuminating His Face, "Wait! First, tell me whose rosary this is." She looked at it and gasped. "Mine, Baba! Or rather, my mother's". She was so happy to get back her rosary, the one given her by her dying mother. Baba told us all about her mother's piety, her brother's rigorous Tapas, austerity, and her own Sadhana, spiritual practice. He asked her when she had lost the precious rosary. We were all dumb-founded when she declared she had misplaced it four years previously at Bangalore!
The gathering of devotees increased in number from month to month. The Old Temple was found inadequate, and it was not possible to meet every day on the sands. The devotees felt that Sai Baba's room was too cramped and low, and He was being forced to live in the very midst of noise, dust, and confusion. On festival occasions the area around the temple was too small to accommodate the people who came. A number of devotees prayed to Baba to agree to the construction of the present spacious building which Baba named "Prasanthi Nilayam" or "Abode of Tranquility".
What a fine name for the dwelling of the Lord! What cool breezes and quiet solitude does that name invoke! The mountains that stand in a ring around the Nilayam look like hoary sages lost in contemplation. The broad sky inspires vast boundless musings; the rocks on top of the hills invite meditation. Sai Baba has planted a grove for religious austerities on the side of the hill behind the Nilayam; in that grove there grows a Banyan tree which is bound to become the holiest of such trees, at least so far as the seekers of spiritual uplift are concerned.
The Banyan tree, known as Nyagrodha, "down-grown," and Vatavriksha, "enclosure tree," is famous in Indian sacred literature and history. Lord Maha Vishnu, the great God of Preservation, or Siva, God in the Form of the Guru, is described as sitting under a Banyan tree, and expounding by His very silence all knowledge to His disciple. This tree may be said to symbolize Sanatana Dharma, the Eternal Wisdom, for its branches reach out in all directions and draw sustenance from every type of faith and spiritual striving. It is also called Rahupada, "many-footed" in Sanskrit, for the series of roots that its branches send down toward the earth strike the ground and seek food therein and make the branches independent even of the parent trunk. The tree is therefore immortal. There are in India Banyan trees that have been worshipped for thousands of years, such as the one at Triveni at Prayag, Allahabad, or the one called Akshaya-vat, the "Indestructible," at Gaya.
The Banyan that is growing in the grove has a peculiar sanctity of its own. In April of 1959, while talking one evening on the sands of the Chitravathi River to a gathering of devotees, Baba spoke of Buddha and the Bodhi tree, the "Tree of Wisdom," and of the Sadhakas (spiritual aspirants) seeking some specially favorable spots for their austerities. Even as He was speaking thus, He "took" out from the sands a thick copper plate about fifteen inches by ten inches in size which contained mystic markings and letters of many known and unknown alphabets! He said that such mystic plates, cryptograms written on copper or stone, are planted under trees where aspirants engage in austerities so that they may be helped to develop concentration of mind and control of the senses. He announced that He would be placing the copper plate under a Banyan tree that He proposed to plant in the grove. This was actually done on the twenty-ninth of June, 1959, and Sai Baba declared that Yogis who have reached a certain stage of spiritual progress will automatically come to know of this tree and this mystic plate, and they will be drawn by the mysterious force of these toward the meditation grove which will then fully justify its name!
The Prasanthi Nilayam was inaugurated on the twenty-third of November, 1950, the twenty-fourth birthday of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. It took about two years to build. Baba can be said to be the architect and engineer who directed the entire work for construction. His suggestions had to be accepted by the engineers, for they found them much better than their own. They recognized Sai Baba had a greater sense of perspective, a finer aesthetic point of view than they had. Baba was a hard taskmaster, but with immeasurable compassion. His Grace overcame the most insurmountable obstacles! For example, huge heavy girders for the central prayer hall came from near Trichinopoly by train to Penukonda, but how on earth could they be brought over the District Board Road, sixteen miles long with a sandy stream at the seventh mile? How could any truck with those things sticking out negotiate the acutely angled corners of the village on the ninth mile? After Bukkapatnam was reached, there were three miles of a track that can be referred to only by courtesy as a road; and then the broad expanse of sand which the Chitravathi River spreads across, a distance of three furlongs. There were the dilapidated culverts to be gone over, the slushes to be dragged through; and if and when girders arrived at the spot, the task of hoisting them on top of the high walls. The engineers gave up all hope of bringing the girders to the village and asked Baba for some alternative proposals for roofing the prayer hall.
One night in the small hours the chief engineer was awakened by a loud noise in front of his house at Anantapur. He peered into the darkness and was surprised to find a crane from Tungabhadra Dam Works, put out of action and unable to move! He ran to Puttaparthi and told Baba that if only it could be made to operate, the owner could be persuaded to travel up to Penukonda and bring the girders along. Sai Baba materialized some Sacred Ash and gave a small quantity to the engineer who piously scattered it over the engine of the crane and asked the driver to make efforts to set it going. With a grunt or two, the engine started, the wheels turned, and the crane moved - toward the girders! Lifting them with its giant arms, it somehow passed over all culverts, turned acutely round the corners, lurched over the Vankaperu slush, and puffed up the Karnatanagapalli hill! There the engineer said its strength was nearly exhausted. It could not possibly draw all that weight through the sands. So Sai Baba Himself sat near the driver and handled the wheel, and the crane unloaded the girders near the work spot.
The grumbling of the engineers did not stop with this achievement. In fact, they became even more exasperated. They asked, "Of what use is all this trouble when it is humanly impossible to hoist them on the walls?" Humanly impossible, yes, but where there is the Divine Will, there is a Way! Laborers were brought from the Tungabhadra Dam, ropes were fastened, pulleys were rigged up, and in order to make the girders lighter, each girder was pulled up amidst shouts of "Jai Sai Ram!" (victory to Sai who is Rama!) from the throats of hundreds of devotees in the Presence of Sai Baba. The girders were set in place and all went well!
The central prayer hall with platform ensconced on either side is the main part of the Nilayam. On the westerly platform is the shrine where two life-size oil portraits are placed leaning against the wall, one of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and the other of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. There is also a silver figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi in the center and a small portrait of Sathya Sai Baba under it. These are kept as aids for meditation and the repeating of God's Name. Except for singing songs of God twice a day, once in the morning and a second time in the early hours of the evening, there is no regular worship as is generally done in places where an idol is installed and consecrated. There are no fixed rites and rituals which have to be performed on certain holy days, nor are there any schedules, prayers or worship which have to be performed. There is no rule that even the figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi should be there. The hall is a prayer hall, no more, no less, with the portraits of all the various manifestations of Godhead and of all the great spiritual and religious leaders on the walls.
The rooms on the ground floor are mainly used for storing articles and vessels. There are two rooms set apart for private interviews granted by Sai Baba to devotees who come to Him. The rooms on the first floor are the living quarters for Baba. There is a large portico on the first floor from which He gives Darshan to the devotees thronging below and where He speaks on festival occasions. A charming marble image of Sri Krishna playing the flute is placed right in the center of the top floor of the portico. Everyone's attention is drawn toward its beauty and charm.
There is a flight of steps which leads to the top terrace at the center of which, facing the approaching road, is a bust of Sai Baba, kept on a pedestal in front of the flagpole. Sai Baba gives Darshan from near this bust on days on which the flag is hoisted and He blesses the huge assembly with His Hand gesture of "Do not fear." The flag carries on it the representation of the symbol which Baba has materialized in the circle right in front of the building on the ground.
In the very center of a series of concentric circles, there is a pillar which represents Yoga (union with God), with a number of rings to indicate the stages of Yogic discipline. This Yoga leads to the unfolding of the "Lotus of the Heart", whose petals are borne on top of the pillar. The next stage of this consummation of devotion and the blossoming of the heart is the "Flame of Illumination" and "Spiritual Light" symbolized at the top of the pillar. The first of the concentric circles and its intervening space is bare and sandy; the second one, planted with a bushy type of plant that grows in thick clusters which have to be occasionally clipped short, represents the qualities of desire and anger that have to be overcome in order to reach the Yogic stage, according to Baba. The first round, the sandy one, is the desert of desire, the waste land, the purposeless striving after evanescent things; the second, the one with the cluster plant, is anger, which is difficult to destroy, for as soon as it is clipped, it sprouts again. Then there are two steps, red in color, one low, the other a little higher, symbolizing hatred, which man also has to overcome. One type of hatred is caused when one is thwarted in the effort to achieve the desired object, and another type when pain is caused to one by the action of another. After these three are overcome, the circular space filled with green grass, cool to the eye, reminiscent of contentment and prosperity, represents Divine Love. This is the stage when the mind of man is filled with bliss, due to the absence of desire, anger, and hate, and having achieved the attitude of the state of "Being Equal Minded to All," the very basis of Divine Love. Soon the aspirant moves onto the open space of Peace, where he can sit at will and enjoy the fruits of the discipline he has gone through. The Yoga fructifies and takes him on from one height to another until the "Lotus of the Heart" blooms and the "Effulgence of Illumination" is assured at last. Around the circumference of the circle there are eight painted pots with flower plants, which Sai Baba explains as symbolizing the Eight Perfections or Divine Faculties which guard the Yogi.
On the occasion of the ceremonial hoisting of the Prasanthi Patka, or the Flag of Peace, Baba generally expounds on the inner significance of this Lotus Circle and explains why He has it on the flag also. He advises and commands devotees to hoist the flag in their own minds and keep it flying aloft there, ruminating all the time on the lessons that it is intended to teach. Baba also speaks of the deeper meaning of the three gates to the prayer hall. The first, the outermost one that leads one into the compound, the one with the arch bearing the inscription of the name of the Nilayam, is the "Gate of Darkness." A person who crosses it leaves darkness, ignorance and inertia behind. He has nourished the holy thought of coming to the Presence, and the spirit of darkness and ignorance has fallen behind him. Those who are immersed in darkness will not even have the curiosity to enter! Then there is a second gate, just where the garden around the Lotus Circle begins. There one is attracted by the magnificence of the building, the electric tube lights, the coloured candelabras, the hanging flower pots, that is to say, the active and passionate aspects which appeal to individuals who are active and passionate. Next one comes to the very door of the prayer hall, "Gate of Wisdom," leading to the "Abode of Peace."
The garden in front of the Nilayam is itself a tribute to the devotion of the devotees, for it is watered by long lines of devotees who pass the pots from one hand to another, thus bringing joy to the plants from the well behind the building. Sai Baba has made it a genuine botanical garden, for it contains fruit and flower trees from many different parts of the country and trees that do not ordinarily thrive in that particular climatic belt, such as the eucalyptus from Australia, the silver oak, orange, and coffee trees!
The day begins at the Prasanthi Nilayam with the ringing of the prayer hall bell at 4:30 a.m., announcing the Divine Moment or period when devotees must prepare for meditation and the repeating of God's Name. At 4:45 the singing of Om begins in the hall and continues for about half an hour, followed by silent recollection of the Name until 6 : 00 in the morning. The syllable Om is extolled in the Upanishads as the best and most effective symbol of God. It contains three Sacred Holy Sounds. A, U, and M, as well as the soundless stage where the sound of Om rings into the silence and makes the disciple feel the communion with God, as the consummation of the contemplation of Om is the attainment of "Pure Consciousness." The waking state in which the soul is dominated by darkness and is engaged with the gross physical body, is represented by the letter A. The dreaming state in which the soul is dominated by the quality of activity and passion and is engrossed with the subtle body, is represented by the letter U. The state of deep sleep which finds the soul in a state of inner wisdom dominated by goodness and truth, represented by the letter M. The waking and dreaming states merge in sleep. The fourth state of the soundless Om represents the state of the self per se.
The significance of Om is often explained in public speeches and private conversation by Sai Baba. Om is also repeated before and after each Adoration Session, since it is the one great all-inclusive representative of God, non-sectarian and universally accepted.
Sai Baba also constantly emphasizes the need for meditation with the repeating of the Name of God as an essential discipline for everyone. He gives detailed instructions and guidance to everyone who is eager to practice them. So there are at the Prasanthi Nilayam many devotees who engage in this type of worship for many hours a day. While Sai Baba is at the Prasanthi Nilayam, He is engaged all the time in the task of blessing devotees, giving them chances of seeing His Grace, contacting Him, making obeisance, and conversing with Him. He eats the simple food of the poorest of the land, food cooked and brought with devotion by the devotees at the Nilayam. He sleeps on a bed spread on the floor. He sits on a chair placed generally on a platform in the west portion of the hall during the singing of songs of love to God, and He gives Darshan to all in the hall. He allows them to touch His Feet whenever He comes down to the hall.
The morning hours resound with the powerful chants of the wisdom writings of ancient India. These are repeated in the prayer hall during consecration and worship with the Thousand Names of God. The Sivalingam (Siva emblem), was "taken" for this purpose out of the sands of the river Chitravathi, November 1958. In the evening during most of the year, the Bhagavatha, Ramayana, or other great religious texts are expounded for about two hours by learned pundits.
Everyone who comes to the Nilayam has the supreme advantage of earning an interview with Sai Baba before departure from Puttaparthi. It is given individually if they have come alone, in a group if they have come as members of a family. Perhaps no other Divine Manifestation has poured out so much Grace! Baba is the Divine Physician, diagnosing the ills of the supplicant and laying bare the innermost blemishes of character or conduct with the utmost kindness, applying the soothing balm of His Grace for the prescription of appropriate remedies. The Interview Room at Puttaparthi has been the scene of countless transformations of character, revolutions of belief, confirmation of faith, curing of disease, calming of temper, discarding of hatred, salvaging of souls, and reunion of hearts. Seldom does a person leave after the interview with a dry eye. Sai Baba gives to everyone hope and courage, contentment and faith, assurance and solace, because He says, "Why fear when I am here? Put all your faith in Me. I shall guide and guard you."
The songs of love to God sung in the prayer hall are highly elevating experiences, for the atmosphere is one of serene reverence. Baba Himself is generally present in the hall at such times. On rare occasions, when He feels so inclined, He sits with the devotees and teaches in His entrancing manner various ways of singing the Names of God.
"The father might be a Ph.D., but when he puts his son through the alphabet, he has to take up the slate and write on it the letters, A, B, C and D; but one does not infer that the father is learning the alphabet," says Baba. The songs are not all about Sri Sathya Sai Baba or His previous appearance as Sai Baba of Shirdi. They cover the widest possible range of the truths of the various manifestations of God through the ages. They are sung in the languages of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, and Sanskrit. Emphasis is on the meaning and the "emotion of surrender." They are sung in unison and to the correct marking of time. Sai Baba has often expounded on the loud singing of the Lord's Name in unison as an act of service to others. He has compared the loud clapping of the hands in time during singing to the clapping of hands under a crow-infested tree in order to frighten the birds away! "The noisy crows of desire and hatred in your minds can be driven out by the loud clapping of hands as an accompaniment to the ecstatic repetition of the Lord's Name," says Sai Baba. Baba exhorts everyone to engage himself in the repetition of the Name of the Lord. Any Name that appeals to the individual is, in His eyes, as good and effective as any other.
Baba has composed numerous songs for the edification of His devotees. Many of these summarize in simple Telugu, Kannada, or Tamil, the spiritual disciplines that every mortal must adopt so that the purpose of this human episode may be realized. For example, there is one song which asks all to plod through the pilgrimage of life with Truth, Righteousness, Peace, and Love as inseparable companions and guides: "Effort and endeavour is the duty of man; success and failure depend on the Lord's Grace. Engage yourselves in your allotted task every day with the consciousness of the living Presence of the Lord always by your side. Do not yearn for the eight attainments or you may be lost in mere delusion. In this thick jungle of life hold fast to His Name; that is enough. Cultivate well the heart which is your farm; the mind is the plough; the qualities of inertia, action, and balance are the bullocks; take up the whip of discrimination and start the ploughing of your heart! Courage is the best of all fertilizers; the seeds that you sow must be the seeds of Divine Love; devotion is the rain; emotions are the weeds; the harvest is the merging in the Universal itself!" The prayer sessions at Prasanthi Nilayam are gatherings of holy seekers who become purified by instruction and strengthened by inspiration from Baba directly and through these songs.
Formerly Sai Baba used to take the devotees out almost daily to the sands of the Chitravathi River, and prayers were held there under the stars with the hills as venerable listeners and the river murmuring response. He does so occasionally even now. Sitting on the sands, Sai Baba teaches the devotees new songs He has composed for their elevation and edification, and He encourages people to ask Him any questions regarding spiritual matters, for which He gives satisfying answers.
It was November 1949 when the author reached Puttaparthi one morning about half past nine and found an atmosphere of exultation pervading the temple (the Prasanthi Nilayam was then half completed). Everyone was talking about Sai Baba's going to the river sands that evening. Congratulations were received for being on time for the visit to the river sands with Baba. About half past five that afternoon Baba came out of His room and walked briskly at the head of a large throng of visitors, scattering joy all around Him by His very Presence and making many a quip and joke, pleasantry or inquiry.
Stepping across the tiny trickle to which the river had been reduced, He trudged along the sands seeking a place clean and dry for the party to sit. After proceeding about two hundred yards, He decided on a site, and all sat around Him, the men on one side, the women on the other, as is always the custom at the temple. Sai Baba waited graciously until the oldest and the weakest of the devotees reached the spot and were comfortably seated.
Then the discourse began. In reply to a question from a devotee as to whether Karma (activity) has to be given up to attain Liberation, Sai Baba gave a sweet simple exposition on the sublimation of all Karma through the attitude of dedication to the Lord. This attitude would take away the craving for the fruits of action and loosen the bonds of attachment which produce sorrow and rebirth. Devotion, devoid of Karma - mere love without acts through which it is expressed - is like a basement without a wall. Karma without devotion is like a wall without a basement! Baba said during His discourse, "I am the Servant of everyone. You can call Me by any Name, I will respond, for all names are Mine. Or rather, I have no particular Name at all. Even if I am discarded by you, I shall be with you. In My view, there are no atheists at all; all are existing by and for the Lord; denying the sun does not make it disappear."
After this discourse Baba taught a few songs, and then a question turned the proceedings to another topic. This time it was about Sai Baba of Shirdi, "the previous body," that He spoke. He described the features of Sai Baba of Shirdi and derided all types of pictures now being circulated as incorrect caricatures. Even while he was saying this, He dug His Fingers into the sands, and instantly there in His Hand was a fine picture which He showed to everyone present as the authentic portrait representing Sai Baba of Shirdi as He really was! He gave the picture to one of the devotees present. Conversation naturally moved on to Baba's being a manifestation of Dattatreya, "the Unity of the Trinity." Again Baba's Fingers went into the sands, and lo, there came into His Hand a charming metal image of Dattatreya. In their excitement all had now gathered closer around Sai Baba, and He felt that each of them must receive something from Him and return happy. He therefore "took" out from the sands a thick flat block of sugar candy which He broke into pieces and distributed personally to every man, woman, and child (for as He said, if anyone else did the distribution, there would not be enough for each!). He then took a handful of sand and poured it onto a plate. As He poured, it became Vibhuti, the Sanctifying Ash! This He gave to all present.
Sai Baba is so fond of these open-air prayer sessions and discourses, that He takes the devotees to the river bed or seashore whenever one is within reach. Baba has held prayer sessions and discussion groups of this nature on the sands of the Godavari, the Kaivalya, the Swarnamukhi, the Vaigai, and other rivers, as well as on the banks of the Ganges, the Jhelum, and the Yamuna. He has also sat with devotees on the seashore of Madras, Tranquebar, Masulipatam, Cape Comorin, and Kovalam, and performed miracles of turning the sand into pictures, images, Vibhuti, or whatever He wanted it to become!
Generally, Sai Baba takes the devotees to the sands on festival days. On the festival day in honor of the birthday of Lord Krishna or perhaps on the preceding day, He very often visits the sands and sometimes "takes" from the sand an image of Krishna which is displayed in the hall on the actual birthday of Lord Krishna. Afterwards it is given to a devotee to be worshipped in his shrine at home. Also on Rama's birthday, or perhaps on the previous day, Baba "takes" from the seashore or river bed, depending upon where He is at the time, images of Rama. Near Kalahasthi He "took" such images from the Swarnamuki River of more than usual size, and they are kept at Venkatagiri and offered worship regularly in that city. During the evening of the Heavenly Eleventh Day of the Moon, He has for many years been regularly "taking" Divine Nectar for distribution among the devotees while in the midst of prayers or discourses on the river bed or seashore. For example, on December 21, 1958, during Baba's Kerala Tour, He went to the Kovalam Beach, seven miles away from the town of Trivandrum, accompanied by many devotees. At a quiet spot on the seashore, a mile away from the bathing area, Baba sat with the devotees around Him, and sang a few songs which were followed by a prayer session. During the session Baba "took" from the sands a bewitching sandalwood image of Lord Krishna playing the flute, and after a few minutes He "took" a gold ring with the Krishna motif embossed on it! Everyone expected that Baba would distribute amrita, "nectar of immortality," "taken" by Him from nowhere. They were not disappointed, for even as the devotees sang, the fragrance of the nectar was wafted in the still night air and no one knew from where! Baba's Palms became sticky, as if saturated with syrup, even while beating time for the songs. All knew that the fragrance was then emanating from those Palms. He held His Palms together and pointed them at a silver vessel. Thick ambrosial "honey" flowed into it from His Hand! He distributed it Himself to all present, including some fishermen who had joined the group. The sweetness and scent of the nectar were incomparably strange and outside the experience of everyone.
On the Telugu New Year's Day, Sai Baba generally distributes the traditional mixture of "bitter-sweet." On the Pongal Day the cattle of Nilayam are decorated and taken in procession; the villagers come up to the temple for worship when the cane-crushing season starts and the extractors are about to be operated. The devotees delight when they are granted the chance of celebrating initiations, marriages, and other scriptural rites in the immediate presence of Sai Baba and in the Nilayam itself. The platform on the eastern end of the prayer hall is generally used for such religious functions.
On Deepavali Day, the Day of Victory over the Forces of Evil, Baba takes delight in firework displays and also distributes strings of firecrackers and color matches to the children of the devotees at Nilayam as well as to the children of the village. He sends New Year messages of assurance and admonition on January first to devotees who have earned the blessing. On His birthday He often sends birthday blessings to devotees.
Three festivals are celebrated every year at Puttaparthi, and they are attracting increasingly larger and larger throngs from wider and wider areas. They are, first, the Dasara, the holiday celebrating the triumph of right over wrong; second, Mahasivaratri, the Night of worshipping God Siva; and third, the birthday of Sai Baba, which is celebrated every year on the twenty-third of November.
The Dasara has been celebrated from the very announcement of the manifestation. In the early days prayer and worship were performed every day and Baba was adorned with ornaments, rings, necklaces, and crown, and taken in procession in a palanquin, each day decorated in different styles. The climax was reached on Vijayadasami, the "Tenth Day, the Day of Victory." Within a few years, Baba emphasized the religious and spiritual significance of the worship of God as Mother; so the character of the celebrations took on a new phase. Worship by all women devotees twice a day, and the performing of music, poetry, drama, and other arts gained a place in the worship of the Mother as the Goddess of Learning.
Some idea of the festivities can be gained by going through the program which was printed and sent to the devotees. For example, the celebrations for the 1958 Dasara began with the Flag Raising Ceremony on the morning of the first day. The devotees gathered in solemn silence around the Lotus Circler, and to the sound of bells, Sai Baba unfurled the flag. On many occasions He has explained the inner meaning of the symbol of the lotus that is in front of the Nilayam, as well as on the flag. Worship of God by all women devotees begins at noon and is performed twice daily for the ten days. The second day is set apart for social work by the devotees - repair of the approach road, cleaning of the place where the poor are to be fed on a subsequent day. In the evening the devotees listen to discourses by Sai Baba and experienced social workers about the proper attitude and the need for doing Karma, activity, suffused with and nourished by devotion. The third day is the Children's Day with sports and fancy dress, drama and recitations by the children. Sai Baba makes all the children happy and at ease, persuading them to proceed when they forget their words, caressing them into confidence. Baba gives prizes to each child participating, and these become the pride of the family. On the fourth day, the Poets' Assembly is held in the immediate presence of Baba. Poets from far and near recite and expound in such languages as Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit, Kanada, and English. They too are the proud recipients of presents which are highly valued because they are given with so much kindness and by a person who is Himself the Kavi, the "Divine Seer." Baba blesses the devotees with His discourse on two or three days during Dasara, thus giving the thousands who come, something to live by, some capital to carry home and invest in daily life. The sixth and eighth evenings are devoted to devotional singing. On the seventh day, the poor are fed and clothes are distributed to the maimed and destitute. Someone asked Sai Baba why news of this mammoth function, in which about four or five thousand persons are given clothes or saris, did not appear in any newspaper. Baba replied, "I wonder why it should! When your kith and kin come to you and you feed them, do you invite the press and crave publicity?"
Sai Baba appears happiest that day of all days, and it can be said to be His busiest day. He examines the kitchen and the preparing of the dishes and supervises the seating arrangements. Bending before the out-held leaves, He serves the sweets to almost everyone. He walks along the lane of the needy and selects those to whom clothes are to be given. Tickets are issued and names are later called out. Those in need walk up to Baba and receive from His Hands the coveted present. It is an inspiring sight and a very heart-warming experience. He has a kind word for everyone. He treats the blind, the maimed, the very old, and the faltering with special consideration, asking the young to aid and guide them. He advises them to be careful and cautious in the dark and fashions kind inquiries about them. He makes the moment precious to everyone.
Once the rains melted away the brightness of the festoons in front of the Nilayam during the first three or four days of Dasara. Baba wanted the decorations to be renewed in time for the Day of the Feeding of the Poor. He said, "They are our most distinguished guests, and the temple should appear bright and cheerful when they come." That is the attitude He teaches the devotees to adopt.
The other days of the festival are devoted to music recitals, vocal, instrumental, or orchestral. Many musicians compete for the privilege of appearing on these festival days, because Baba Himself is the Great Musician who sings in a captivatingly charming style. They are eager to win His blessings.
On Vijayadasasmi Day, ritual bath is performed to the image of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and Baba generally materializes a lingam and places it on the head of the image prior to the rite.
Siva has a Tamil appellation meaning, "He who became also the Mother". As the story goes, He once attended a woman during the delivery of her child, since the midwife who was hastening to attend her could not reach the place because of the floods in the Cauvery River. Therefore Siva assumed the form of the midwife, reached the place in time, and nursed her as a midwife would! Sai Baba has been the Mother many times. He has often taken upon Himself the labor pains and has also "gone out" of His Body to act as midwife during delivery. Women in far off places have felt His Presence and He has referred to it at Puttaparthi, explaining that He had set right the posture of the infant before the delivery so that the event might be without pain.
There was a lady in a hospital whose baby had died on the sixth day due to her umbilical cord's being improperly cut. The wound became septic and the mother's life was endangered because the placenta had not been removed and could not be, due to the septic conditions. The worst was expected. Aware of this, Baba at Puttaparthi "went out" of His Body and was gone for an hour. Two hundred fifty miles away at the hospital, the placenta came away, the temperature dropped, and the mother began to recover. Joy dawned again on the faces at her bedside. Baba said when He returned to His Body, that He had been to the hospital and had presented the Vision of His Hand to the patient. On the third day a letter came from her describing the Vision and the cure.
In 1950, on the day for worshipping the renowned Lakshmi, the Goddess of Love and Harmony, Baba accepted worship and received the offerings made by the women who had fulfilled those particular vows. Those who had this unique good fortune say that He actually appeared to them dressed in sari and blouse and resplendent with bangles, necklaces, nose stud, and ear ornaments! No wonder the Dasara, Ten-nights Festival when Devi, the Goddess, is worshipped as the Goddesses Durga, Lakshmi, Sarasvati, Annapurna, Tripurasundari, Lalita, and other forms, is attracting thousands to Puttaparthi where "Mother" Sai is so beneficent and bountiful.
Siva-ratri, "the Night of the Siva," is also an equally important festival. The devotees perform all night vigil with prayers and songs of love to God with Baba's Presence reminding them of Siva Himself. A profusion of Ash emanates from Baba's hands, forehead, toes, and face, and He liberally blesses with Ash all types of erring humanity. Since 1950, Siva-ratri has been celebrated at Puttaparthi, and each year since the declaration of the manifestation, Sivalingams have materialized within His Body.
Baba has said He often finds it very difficult to postpone or prevent the formations of lingams within Him. In the evening Baba gives Darshan during prayers, and after an hour or so, He begins His discourses. Very often He is interrupted by spasmodic struggles in the stomach. He continues with the speech until the region of the struggle changes to the upper part of the chest and the neck. He seems to be undergoing some kind of physical tension, and suddenly, to the joyous wonder of all, lingams fall from His Mouth. [See Swami materialize the lingam, Shivarathri, 04-03-2000 (2.8MB)]
They are then generally placed on the image of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and after the celebrations end, are given by Baba to devotees to be worshipped according to instruction. Such lingams have been worshipped now for over sixteen years. The lingams that emanate on successive Siva-ratri days differ in number, size and composition. Sometimes only one is formed; the material is apparently sphatika, gold, or silver. Often times there are more in number - three, five, seven, or nine! They are about an inch and a half in height. All are complete with the base and are marked with the three horizontal lines symbolizing Vibhuti, Sacred Ash. This producing of the lingams is indeed a unique and mysterious manifestation of the Divine Will.
When we describe the manifestations of His Will, we should not fail to pay homage to the Personification of that Will, Baba Himself. He is the "Abode of Peace" wherever He is and whenever He is worshipped, remembered, or called upon with devotion. When a devotee requested the members of an assembly which Baba had just addressed at the Gokhale Hall in Madras to go to Puttaparthi and join the wonderful devotional singing at Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba immediately corrected him and said, "No, no. You can be where you are. I shall come to you. Do not put yourself to the expense which you may not be able to afford. If you call upon Me, I shall be at your side." A medieval Kannada poet has sung that the distance between God and us is just the distance that our call will reach. Believe in Him and call on Him; He will answer, "I am here." One can call on Him by any of His Names.
In October 1957 a hospital was inaugurated on the hill behind the Nilayam. It contained six beds for female patients and six beds for male patients, a full complement of equipment for surgical and maternity cases, and a room complete with an x-ray unit. It commands a magnificent panorama of surrounding mountains which sweep to the very banks of the Chitravathi River. Baba chose the site in spite of murmurings of engineers, because as He said, the patients would be inspired by the Lord's handiwork before their eyes. He got bulldozers, cut and leveled three terraces where there was once a rocky side of a hill, and planned the hospital on the topmost terrace. Speaking on the occasion of the Foundation Stone Laying Ceremony, He said that everyone, rich or poor, educated or uneducated, pious or not pious, was subject to disease. Because there were no good hospitals for miles around, and more importantly, as an example of the service which the Lord Himself performs in order to make man do likewise, and thus earn the Grace the Lord, Baba said He planned the hospital at Puttaparthi. He also said that those who come to the hospital for their physical ills will naturally turn to Prasanthi Nilayam for the treatment and cure of their spiritual ills also.
Baba supervised the construction, acquiring of equipment, and watched over the devotees who, standing in long queues along the slope of the hill, passed from hand to hand metal, stones, bricks, water, mud, mortar, and everything needed for the structure that dominates the landscape today! On the first annual celebration the Medical Officer in charge spoke of many miraculous recoveries that had happened through the blessings of Baba. Baba said that it was due to the spirit of love and service with which every stone and brick of the building was saturated. Sai Baba, when visiting the hospital, persuades the patients to take medicines or undergo injection or surgery. The sweetness of His words and healing influence of His looks hasten recovery. Baba often has many things to teach the doctors in charge. He is Himself the Great Physician and Surgeon. He gives practical advice on the maintenance of mental equanimity and physical wholesomeness by the methods of repeating the Divine Name of God and meditation which keep the entire personality in balance.
Case reports published in the Nilayam magazine are invaluable for medical practitioners, for they reveal how desperate illnesses are cured by the healing influence of the Divine Grace that presides over this hospital. While ardent devotees of Sai Baba are content to leave the welfare of their physical frames to His will, there are some who, on His advice, take as a curative the Sacred Ash that He gives or the medical treatment He recommends. As Baba says, He does not recommend the same prescription for all. Just as a doctor might prescribe four different types of treatment for four different patients suffering from stomach-ache, Baba also recommends different remedies for different patients. He is the Great Physician.
To the right and left of the Nilayam, beyond the garden and behind the building, are a number of dwellings where devotees live. When the residents are away, these living quarters can be made of use by others who come to Puttaparthi.
Baba directs and guides every item of work at the Nilayam, and devotees eagerly await His instructions.
While traveling by car, and when seeking a place for breakfast or lunch, He selects locations which are gems of beauty - among the eucalyptic slopes of Nilgiri or Kodaikanal Hills, the pine corridors of Kashmir, the arid plains of Bellary, the green carpets of Seringapatnam, the coastal coconut gardens of Kerala, the Palmyra avenues of Tinnevelly, the canal bank near Samalkot, or the igneous fields of Raichur. He draws the attention of those around Him to a beautiful sunset or sunrise, the captivating panorama of a clouded sky, or a ring around the moon. "Andame Anandam," meaning "beauty is bliss," is often on His Lips.
Baba is also a great lover of cattle. The cowshed at Prasanthi Nilayam is a model for farmers of the surrounding villages. He spends many hours with the cows, feeding and nursing them; He decorates them on Pongal Day and has a scintillating variety of ornamental pieces for this purpose. For some time he had a horse, as well as stags, deer, peacocks and rabbits which were blessed to receive His loving touch and tenderness.
Baba also has had a number of dogs as His pets. The story of these dogs is an interesting episode of the Lord's care and mercy. Jack and Jill, two Pomeranians from Cotacamund, were the first of the canine pets. Baba says they used to fast every Thursday as if by some holy compulsion! And they could never be induced to consume flesh! Jack used to sleep at the head of Baba's bed and Jill at the foot. After three years of being in His Presence, Jack breathed his last, lying on Baba's lap. His end was worthy of his life. The previous night Jack had followed a car which had to be parked far away from the Nilayam. He lay quietly under the car, unknown to the occupants, for he had a way of volunteering to keep watch over the cars. His tiny bark used to keep off the village urchins. Early in the morning when the car moved off, Jack was nearly killed. He mustered sufficient strength, said Baba, to drag himself along the river bed back to the Nilayam. With a great final effort he pulled himself onto the lap of Baba. With his eyes glued on Baba's face and his tail shaking feebly with joy, Jack concluded his brief but blessed earthly career. Jill could not live alone; she followed him in a few weeks. Both are buried in the quadrangle and a structure for growing a holy plant has been built over their mortal remains. Chitty and Bitty, Lilly and Billy were other Pomeranians that followed. Then there Were the Cocker Spaniels, Minnie and Mickie, as well as Honey and Goldie. Baba had these for some years and later gave them to devotees. He inquires even now about their welfare. Baba has had some Alsatians too, Rover and Rita, who were later followed by Tommy and Henry. These animals have received the tenderness and love of Baba in great measure. We to whom the animal world is different have to learn this lesson while observing His affection for them - never harm animals for the sake of sustenance or pleasure, and always look upon all created things as belonging to the one family.
Sai Baba speaks of the element of destiny and says that if some animal or man earns His Grace, it is due to destiny. He always adds that His Grace can be earned by spiritual practice or disciplined life, self-control, selfless service to all, because each man symbolizes Narayana, "God in man." Just as an examiner judges the answers of the papers of candidates, the Lord too values our achievements. If the answers reveal earnest study and an active interest in the subject as well as a grasp of the methodology of the science involved, the examiner will understand even a poor performance so far as the actual answer material is concerned.
It has been the experience of some devotees that they are unable to go to Puttaparthi in spite of their tremendous efforts. But more often, as soon as the devotees plan a visit, everything becomes easy. Leave, money and companions become available quickly and all obstacles are removed. Baba says that without His will, no one can start the journey to Puttaparthi; he cannot reach the place where Baba is.
His Omniscience and Omnipresence are revealed to everyone who meets Him in the Interview Room. He tells the visiting devotee what he has said, has done, or has felt; to whom he has spoken, and on what; what he has feared and plotted, suffered and lost. If you want to consult Him on ten points, He will have answered them and more even before you ask! He might reveal what you actually experienced in your dreams, repeating the very words which in the dream you had heard Him say. He may even lay bare your history down to the minutest detail, and where there was sorrow and weakness, He will replace it with joy and strength.
"He is tireless in His ministry of compassion," says Principal H.S. Rao. "Baba's words do not merely soothe, but open up new levels of consciousness and reveal hidden strength and goodness of one's nature. The seeker is enabled by His Grace to know himself, to realize more keenly his duties, responsibilities, and even shortcomings. All this He does in the most natural way, patting you affectionately on the back. His eyes alight with a merry twinkle, and speaking so that you can understand. There is such power in what He utters, such depth of conviction, that you are left speechless at the Omniscience of Baba and His miraculous perception of your individual problems and needs."
Thus the teachings given at Prasanthi Nilayam rebuild mankind; thus does the Presence of Sai Baba urge mankind onward.
From Cape to Kilanmarg
The Ninth All-India Divine Life Convention held at Venkatagiri in 1957 was a landmark in the campaign of Bhagavan who presided over the deliberations and sounded the clarion call of spiritual regeneration. Swami Satchidananda, the Organizing Secretary of the Branches of the Divine Life Society, later confessed that when the news that Baba was to preside reached him at Thiruvannamali, he was taken aback, for on inquiry there, he had been told that Baba was versed only in magic and that He was a poor speaker at best. "I soon discovered that my informant was profoundly ignorant," said Swami Satchidananda.
On the opening day of the Convention, the town was filled to overflowing with delegates, visitors, and devotees, including a large number of renunciates from far away Rishikesh and places such as Rajahmundry, Kalahasti, and Madras. A gorgeous flower-bedecked palanquin was placed at the main gate of the Venkatagiri Palace for Baba to proceed into the theater where the Inaugural Session was to be held. When He came out and saw this symbol of pomp, He most politely refused the honor in spite of the entreaties of the Rajah, because, He said, "There are so many monks here that I would like to walk with them." It was indeed a distinguished galaxy of monks, including Sadananda, Satchidananda, Atmaswarupananda, and Srinivasananda.
Swami Satchidananda hoisted the flag of the Divine Life Society and Swami Sadananda, author of "Sanmarga Deepam," "Maha Sakti," and other books, including a commentary on Patanjali's "Yoga Darsana," inaugurated the Convention. Some misguided individuals had earlier distributed leaflets in which they had charged Baba with partiality to the rich and the aristocratic, little realizing that even while this was being done, Baba had refused the pageantry of a procession and was walking the very road upon which they were spreading their nefarious falsehoods. In fact, Swami Sadananda referred to this leaflet and made plain how absurd it was. He congratulated the delegates and organizers on their good luck in securing Sai Baba to guide them on the path of divine life.
In His keynote address Baba said the divine life was the inspiration, the birthright, the motive force, the be-all and end-all of everything in creation; from microcosm to the macrocosm. Divine life is the rain that falls from the clouds of truth, love, and non-injury. It comprises all acts done in pursuit of Reality. Baba says that the desire to attain Reality or the Divinity behind the illusiveness of material things is inherent and immanent in every individual as butter is in milk. Just as one churns milk to separate the butter, man must churn his mind with good deeds and good company. Between the eternal spirit and the evanescent world the mind of man oscillates; therefore it is the duty of societies such as Divine Life Society to fill the minds of its members with holiness, and help in removing the dross of passion and lust. For this transformation, everyone is a worthy candidate, and the taste of that bliss is the same for all. The Society, Baba said, should endeavor with humility and equal love for all to further this process of transformation for as many as possible. It should strive to wipe out the root cause of anxiety, sorrow, and ignorance.
The next morning when the Convention met at the theater, Baba said that Hindu religion could survive the series of onslaughts, cultural upheavals and foreign invasion only through the efforts of her spiritual leaders who stood watch over its treasures and re-established the creative principles of eternal truth in the hearts of the people. He said that He always wanted to light the lamp of love in every heart, and He advised everyone to preserve an atmosphere of reverence and love. Speaking on the three qualities of nature, Baba illustrated their character by a simple simile. Pointing to a kerosene lamp, He said that the glass chimney was the Satva guna, the tranquil quality; the soot inside was the Tamo guna, the quality of sloth; and the dust outside, Rajo guna, the quality of passion.
The next day at the special gathering of delegates, Baba appealed to them to cultivate single-minded devotion to their teacher, and to demonstrate in their lives the divine life to which they had dedicated themselves. When the meeting was later converted to a public session by the admission of an eager throng of visitors, Baba spoke for over an hour, exhorting all to lead lives of devotion and surrender. "What would you like to be in the hands of the Lord?" He asked. He Himself suggested the answer, "The flute." He wanted everyone to go straight without any crookedness, without any pride, ego, will, or idea of self; to inhale only the breath of God; to transmute that breath into melodious music.
Swami Sadananda spoke on "Communion with God." In reality he communed with Baba and spoke what He prompted him to say, he confessed. Then rose a great pundit, famed throughout Andhradesh for many Vedantic books. He spoke on the most abstruse problem in Indian Philosophy, "Who am I?" People say that the Advaitic, the non-dualistic teaching, makes men other-worldly and dry, but this scholar was poet enough to appreciate Baba's picturization of the flute on Krishna's lips. He related with pleasure Baba's ideals and quoted a few Sanskrit verses on Lord Krishna and the unique good fortune of that "flute." He began his discourses with a personal statement. "I came to Venkatagiri for this Convention primarily to meet Sri Sathya Sai Baba, for I had heard all kinds of versions of His greatness, and I was eager for the chance to test them. In short, I came to defy! And I am going back 'deified', made aware of my inner divinity. I apologize to Baba for my error." This is just another instance of the fog of misunderstanding disappearing before the warmth of Sai Baba's Presence.
Baba moved freely among the holy men and scholars and gave each a long interview before departing from Venkatagiri. Swami Satchidananda said, "As soon as I went in, Baba embraced me and said He was happy to see me. He then spoke of a rare mystic vision I had the good fortune to experience thirty-seven years ago and congratulated me on the steady pursuit of the ideal which culminated in that vision. But He chided me for squandering my time and energy on efforts toward collecting funds, meeting people, and discussing plans and institutions. When I attempted to justify my present activities as contributing ultimately to the welfare of the world, He laughed and asked, 'Have you not heard that good thoughts and waves of surcharged wisdom have a way of emanating from a great soul, and overcoming all obstacles, shaping and changing the thought currents of others?' He advised me to retire into solitude and resume my spiritual exploration. He assured me He would provide me succour and sustenance wherever I chose to be! This point of view had never been placed before me in such clear and authentic words, and I was very much touched by His Love and Mercy. I was surprised that He knew of an intimate secret experience of mine which dated some years previous to His birth, and I questioned Him about this. He answered me with the questions: 'Am I born? Do I die?'
It was indeed a unique experience for all - the interview, the diagnosis of their deepest doubts, the prescription of appropriate remedies, the assurance of continued Grace, the weighing of achievement in the balance of progress, and the revelation of Baba's Omniscience and Omnipresence. When Baba returned to Puttaparthi, He was joined by Swami Sadananda and Swami Satchidananda. They were both eager to spend more time in the Divine Presence.
One evening Baba took Swami Sadananda with a party to a natural spring in the hills behind the Nilayam. Sitting beside the spring, Baba spoke of the existence of Chaitanya, [Bhajan: Sri Siksastaka] Super consciousness in man, beast, vegetable and stone. Swami Sadananda quoted passages from the Upanishads to show that the same ideas were to be found in India's ancient texts. Suddenly Baba assumed an authoritative tone and declared, "You call them ancient; I know them all; I am beyond space and time." The discourse then drifted to Saivism, to the conception of God as Siva and the symbol of Siva known as Linga and its significance. Swami Sadananda had written a thesis, "The Origin and Early History of South Indian Saivism," while at Madras University.
It was the Tamil New Year's Day and Baba gave everyone a "poli," a sweet preparation which every Tamil housewife must prepare on that auspicious day. He manifested them by a mere Wave of the Hand!
When Baba left after a few days for a short stay at Kodaikanal Hills, Swamis Sadananda and Satchidananda also joined the party. The six weeks on the Hills provided a great number of opportunities to the ascetics to receive the Lord's Grace in ample measure. They were able to catch a glimpse of Baba's unique divinity.
Swami Satchidananda spoke about this at a meeting at Puttaparthi at the inauguration of the Meditation Grove on the twenty-ninth of June, 1957. He said that whatever others may take Baba to be, he was convinced from personal experience that He was Super consciousness itself, Omniscient, the motivation of beings, the Inner-Resident of all beings. He then described how he became convinced. He was in Baba's room one afternoon. Baba was reclining on His bed. Suddenly He stood up and shouted in Telugu, "Don't shoot," and fell upon the bed in what is called a trance, but is best described as "going on a trans-corporeal journey." His Body became stiff and remained in that condition for about an hour. When He returned to His physical frame, He looked at those around Him and requested a telegram be sent immediately to an address at Bhopal. He dictated the message and the address. It stated, "Don't worry; the revolver is with me. Baba." Swami Satchidananda expressed a doubt whether the postal authorities would accept the message for transmission, for it spoke of a revolver, which comes under the Arms Act. Others agreed with him, and there was discussion pro and con. Baba wanted the telegram to be sent quickly, and alternative words to bypass the rules were discussed. Satchidananda suggested the word, "instrument," for revolver, and Baba agreed that it would convey the meaning intended so far as the recipient was concerned. The wire went quickly to its destination, a thousand miles away.
Everyone was anxious to know what the nature of the averted tragedy was. Baba, however, put aside all attempts to draw the information from Him. On the fourth day a letter arrived revealing that Baba had saved an individual in distress. The writer of the letter had served in the Second World War and was high in Government Service. He was very much upset by the administrative arrangements following Reorganization of States, for persons far junior in service were promoted over him. He had no one nearby to assuage or comfort him or even to listen to his tale of woe. His wife was at her parents' village. Distracted by the unlucky turn in his career, he decided to end his humiliation by means of the revolver. There was one handy. He tried one shot just to see whether his hand would be steady for the fatal second. But before he could shoot again, Baba had shouted, "Don't shoot!" There was a loud bang at the door! Baba had come! Not as Baba, but as an old college-mate accompanied by his wife and a porter with a trunk and a "carry-all," to make the scene authentic in every detail! The officer ran into the bedroom, placed the revolver on the bed, threw a sheet over it, hurried back into the front hall and opened the door! There were the three forms of Baba ready to play their parts. The college chum was very boisterous and demonstrative. Baba had become by instantaneous materialization a friend who had just the qualities that would remove melancholy and could give the officer the tonic that would cure him of despair. He responded to the treatment and became normal very soon. He even smiled and laughed at the jokes of his old friend, and as the conversation proceeded, his thoughts of suicide melted away. The lady also joined in the talk; but when they discovered that the mistress of the house was away, the visitor put on an air of profound disappointment and said that he would prefer to stay with another friend. In spite of the appeals of the person whom he had saved, the friend departed forty-five minutes after he materialized, with the lady, the porter, the trunk, and the "carry-all," thus drawing the curtain on a superb dramatic performance!
After seeing them off, the officer hurried into the bedroom; he was perplexed to find that the revolver was not there or anywhere in the house! Who could have removed it? He had gone to Puttaparthi once with his wife, who was an ardent devotee. Could it be ... Baba? Ah! It must be He! He locked his house and ran in haste to the address to which the college chum said he would be going. His doubt was confirmed; there was no one there. The three visitors had "melted into thin air" with the trunk and the "carry-all!" On returning home, he was reflecting on the stunning events that had happened that day when all of a sudden he was startled by another knock on the door! It was the telegraph messenger with the wire from Kodaikanal: "Don't worry, the instrument is with me. Baba."
Swami Satchidananda said that this incident is much stranger than the "Parakayapravesam" extolled in Puranic texts of ancient India, which is the entering into the body of some person. But this was the creation at the very moment of the willing of three bodies and making them act their roles; the impersonation of existing individuals, correct to the minutest detail in voice and inflection, gait and gesture, idiom. and idiosyncrasy, and the recitation of incidents and anecdotes relating to past decades when they were both students at the same college! "This," said Satchidananda, "is possible only for an Incarnation of the Lord."
No wonder that he and Swami Sadananda wrote to their Guru, Swami Sivananda Saraswati of Rishikesh, about Baba and His divine attributes. The two Swamis also accompanied Baba to Cape Comorin from Kodaikanal. They had a glimpse of Baba's universal message when they saw Him creating a rosary with the Holy Cross and the figure of Jesus Christ in order to bless a Christian. When Sai Baba walked along the sands of the seashore at Kanyakumari, crystal beads formed themselves at each step; these were collected by the devotees and kept in a sandalwood receptacle; there were 84 of them. Baba said that there must be 108 in all, and when they were counted again, there were 108! A rosary was made out of these miraculously formed beads, and Baba gave it to Swami Sadananda.
After visiting the Periyar Dam and the Wild Life Sanctuary there, Baba proceeded to Madurai and Mayuram, and returned to Puttaparthi via Salem where Swami Satchidananda had stayed for some years. Thus it came about that Baba had soon to reply to a letter of invitation from Swami Sivananda Saraswati, President of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. This was vigorously followed up by many reminders and telegrams in quick succession, and Baba agreed at last to proceed to North India.
Baba is not enamored by tours to see places or admire scenery nor has He the urge to go on pilgrimages, for He is the goal of all pilgrimages! When a mother once complained to Him that her son would not accompany her to Puttaparthi, but had instead left for Tirupathi, the famous Hill Shrine of India, He said, "That too is coming to Me, for I am not different from the One who is on that Hill." By mere willing, Baba can be at the farthest corner of the world, for He is beyond space and time. Baba said, "I am not moved by the craving for a change, or for recreation, or travel. Where there is a desire for mental tranquility, I hurry to grant it; where there is melancholy, I hasten to lift the drooping heart; where there is no mutual trust, I restore it; I am ever on the move to fulfill the mission for which I have come."
Swami Satchidananda left before Baba for Rishikesh, because misconceptions about Sai Baba had to be corrected and brother monks apprised of the divinity of Baba.
Baba started from Puttaparthi by car on the fourteenth of July, 1957. He halted at Medkurthi, sixty-seven miles away, in order to install the silver image of Sai Baba of Shirdi at the Ayodhya Ashram. A large group of village folk had been waiting there since noon, and Baba addressed the assembly. He said that any work, such as the building of the hermitage, should be carried out in a spirit of devotion, without conceit and with no desire for profit other than the work well done. Baba condemned the studied neglect of the body as a means of realizing God. "It is the tabernacle of the Lord; it is the boat with which one has to cross the ocean of birth and death with the twin oars of discrimination and detachment; and so it has to be kept in perfect trim." Turning to the women who had assembled, He spoke of the need to infuse devotion, courage, self-respect, and the habit of truth in the children. "No one need go anywhere in search of bliss," He said. "It is there as a spark; it has only to be fanned into a big flame and fire." He declared that although He can transform the earth into sky and sky into earth, people who come to Him get only what they ask and choose. He said that discrimination and detachment can come about by the relentless examination of every thought on the touchstone of goodness and truth. "The true devotee must conquer emotion; the tree recluse must cultivate intellectual sharpness; the true helper or server must develop strength of mind," He said.
The party reached Madras on the fifteenth of July. Four days later Baba and the devotees whom He had chosen for the tour emplaned to Delhi. He was very much amused when He found His name entered on the ticket as Mr. S. S. Baba! He had a hearty laugh over the "Mr.!" Baba moved about inside the plane, dividing His time among the passengers so that everyone could have the privilege of His Grace. He even granted an interview over the Vindhya Mountain Range to a passenger who prayed for the chance because he knew who Baba really was. The man was quite surprised when Baba advised him to marry the school teacher whom he loved, for no one, he thought, knew of this chapter of his life! Baba promised to make his parents agree to the match and to give up their unrelenting opposition!
The plane landed at Palam at 4:30 in the afternoon. Within an hour of His arrival at the Sundarnagar bungalow which had been prepared for His stay, Baba had a "call" from a devotee at Bangalore. He "left" His Body and hastened to relieve the person from what He afterwards described as a dangerous paralytic stroke! The Bhajan Hour, "singing of songs of love to God," twice a day attracted the devotees of Delhi as well as friends and their relatives who had heard of Baba's glory.
On the twenty-second of July Baba left New Delhi by car for Rishikesh. Swami Sivananda's monastic disciples escorted Him from Hardwar. When He reached Sivanandanagar at 6:30 that evening, Swami Sivananda called a special gathering of the disciples at the Ashram and offered Baba a hearty welcome. While Sivananda greeted Baba with folded hands, as was his custom, Baba acknowledged the greeting with His posture of the Hand which means, "Do not fear," a sign that has given peace to thousands of troubled souls.
Sivanandanagar nestles on the lap of the evergreen mountains, banked lovingly by the kindly right arm of Mother Ganges. The left bank of the river, when it comes into view occasionally as the curtain of mist is wafted away, is resplendent with a line of temples and edifices housing the hermitages: Gita, Bhavan, and the Swargashram. More impressive than these are the forest-clad mountains on every side that seem like superhuman sages lost in silent contemplation of the Infinite. They have turned their eyes inward and are blissfully unaware of history.
The Ganges, daughter of earth and sky, famed in lore and legend, sought after by devotees in every Hindu home for thousands of years to sanctify every ritual, to purify every rite, to exorcise every evil, to cleanse every sin, immortalized in poetry, symbolized in art, embedded in architecture, idealized in sculpture, humanized in painting, extolled in music, revered as the vehicle of bliss, tells a scintillating story which is related by a million mothers every nightfall to the toddlers on their laps. Ganges rolls majestically by, reminding everyone of India's message and India's grandeur. When the students of the hermitage arranged a gathering of devotees the next day, and requested Baba to give them a message, He referred to the Ganges, comparing it to a sincere seeker of God speeding to the sea. He said that every river knows that it has come from the sea and it is prompted by that knowledge to hurry toward the sea, irrespective of all obstacles of the earthy terrain. He commended the quietness of Sivanandanagar, the Ashram of Swami Sivananda, and said that it was also a good place to acquire spiritual quietness. Referring to the appellation of "Bhagavan" which was used while introducing Him to the gathering, He said that Bha meant "creation," Ga meant "protection" and Va meant "change" or "transformation." "Bhagavan is capable of all three. That is My secret," He announced.
Speaking of the things that He is accustomed to make and give, He discounted all spurious explanations and said that His Will is immediately fulfilled. He materializes things to give joy to His devotees, just as a father gives sweets to his little ones, not to advertise his generosity or parenthood. He gives them to save people worry or anxiety, to ensure peace of mind, help develop spiritual concentration, and in many cases to keep up His own "contact" with the careers of the recipients. They are not intended to attract anyone; they are the products neither of rites nor ritual. They are produced the same way all articles are produced, except instantaneously. They last as long as all material objects. "My best gift is love; devotees should strive to acquire that, as well as discrimination and detachment which only the Guru can give," said Baba.
He then materialized by the mere Wave of His Hand a magnificent Rudraksha garland of 108 beads, a rosary made from a berry. It was of exquisite workmanship, each bead encased in gold, and all were strung in gold with a five-faced king-bead in the center. He presented it to Swami Sivananda Saraswati. He also manifested a large quantity of Sacred Ash and applied it to the sage's forehead. That evening when the Swami entered the Satsang Hall wearing the unique garland, everyone was awed by its luster and workmanship and the miracle that brought it forth. Swami Sivananda spoke of Bhagavan and His message. He expounded on the efficacy of Namasmarana, the remembering of the Name of God, and appealed as a medical practitioner for a daily dose of dispassion to be taken by every person along with the regular diet of the Lord's Name. The Ganges was mentioned in the talk Baba gave that evening. He began by saying that Naram meant "water"; the Ganges rolling majestically along was God, Narayana Himself, "God in man." Indeed the hills and dales, the sky overhead, the forests, the rocks, all things everywhere were but manifestations of the One. God willed, "I am One, let Me become many," and He became the world and all the beings therein. The one sun is reflected in the water of faith. Faith itself leads one to wisdom. The man with steady faith quickly and easily realizes the Lord is immanent in everything, and that He is the One and Only.
Baba's speeches and conversation were so full of rare and deep wisdom that the next day a number of senior monks and neophytes came to see Baba and plied Him with questions designed to clarify their doubts. Swami Sivananda also had hour-long discussions with Baba every evening and was given fruits and Holy Ash materialized specially for improving his health. Day by day the Swami became better and better. One day Baba took Ganges water in His Hand, and lo, it became sweet and fragrant nectar. He gave it to the Swami to be taken as a cure. It came as a pleasant surprise to many in the Ashram when they saw, on the day Baba departed, Swami Sivananda enthusiastically taking Baba around his hermitage, for on the day Baba reached the Ashram, and for a number of days thereafter, the Swami had been pushed around in a wheel chair!
The twenty-sixth of July, 1957, was full of pleasant memories for the devotees and the residents of the Sivanand-ashram, for Baba boarded a bus and proceeded along the bank of the Ganges to a palace of the Rani of Garhwal for a quiet morning.
The scenery all along the way was very elevating. Here and there among the mountains one could discern a lonely hut with the Gerua Flag of a monk indicating a battle with the lower self. Suddenly the road turned and the bus was halted in front of an artistic little bungalow set like a gem in the center of a well kept garden by the side of the Ganges. Baba saw a jambu tree full of fruits; He plucked and distributed them to the members of the party, then sat under a tree on the river bank. Some asked Him questions that were troubling them, including those about the nature of the scriptural texts and their value to modern times. He said they were like sign posts indicating the road; the road has to be traversed in order to experience the joy of reaching the goal. There was one question on heaven and hell both of which, Baba said, do exist here in this world. Monks inquired about the realization of the universal and the melting away of the delusion attached to the individual at that time.
On the way back Baba stopped the bus at a place where a thin little iron post carried a half-distinct nameplate reading, "The Cave of Vasishta." He descended the rather precipitous incline to the river bank as if He had been there often before, and as if He were aware of a prearranged engagement with the occupant of the cave. The Ganges curves widely near the cave, and so the scenery was doubly attractive. The cave bears a hallowed name; it has been sanctified by the austerities performed therein by many great recluses and monks in the past. Swami Purushotamananda, a disciple of Swami Brahamananda of the Ramakrishna Order, had been initiated into monastic life by Mahapurushji, another direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna. The Swami had been in the cave for thirty years. He welcomed Baba as if expecting Him. He was more than seventy years old and had spent the major part of his life in asceticism of a most rigorous kind and in the study of scriptures. His face had the genuine glow of spiritual joy and the slightest mention of the glory of the Godhead sent him into Samadhi, the depths of inner bliss. When a young man of twenty-seven, Brahamanandaji had read his palm at Kanyakumari and predicted that he would go into a cave for continuous meditation.
Baba reminded the Swami of the travails he had endured when he first came into the cave, the struggles with leopards and cobras, a three-day trek to Rishikesh, and the desperate search for salt and matches! He spoke of the help that came to him through sheer divine intervention!
Baba repeated the visit the next evening in spite of a thunderous sky and the grumbling of those who accompanied Him, but both ceased by His Grace. Baba sang a number of songs while at the cave, and when one of the Swamis attending Swami Purushotamananda requested Him to sing a devotional song, Swami Kalikananda said he was longing to hear "Sri Raghuvara Sugunalaya." Baba sang the song to make him happy. No one had heard Him sing it before; so this was an unexpected surprise for which they thanked Swami Kalikananda. Hearing that Swami had been suffering from chronic stomach-ache for many years, Baba "took" some candy from nowhere and gave it to him with instructions about diet. He also gave Swami Purushotamananda a rosary of shining beads which He manifested.
More mysterious and significant was the Vision that He gave to Swami Purushotamananda that evening. As early as 1918, the Swami had written to his Master, "All is false and I cannot rest satisfied until and unless I come face to face with Truth!" After sending everyone outside the cave, Baba and the sage went into the inner room. Sri Subbaramiah, President of the Divine Life Society at Venkatagiri, describes what he was able to see from outside the cave: "Even now that picture is imprinted in my memory. I was standing near the entrance to the cave. I could see what was happening through a chink in the door. Baba placed His Head on the lap of Swami Purushotamananda and lay Himself down. Suddenly His entire Body was bathed in divine brilliance. His Head and Face appeared to me to have increased very much in size. Rays of splendor emanated from His Face. I was overwhelmed with a strange inexplicable joy. The time was about 10:00 p.m." When later asked to divulge the nature of the Vision, Baba informed us that it was a Vision of the glory of the Lord.
While returning from the cave, Baba "left" His Body for a short while. When asked later, He told where He had been. He had gone to save a great Yogi from a watery grave. This aroused the curiosity of everyone around Him and they gathered closer to hear further details. He brushed their questions aside and said that Subrahmanyam would be able to say who it was! Later Subrahmanyam, a member of the party, was asked by Baba what he had seen that evening while at the cave. He begged pardon for not informing Baba immediately about it, for he had seen a corpse floating down the Ganges; but being a thing of evil omen, he refrained from mentioning it in the holy atmosphere of the cave. Baba laughed and said it was not a corpse at all, though the Yogi who was floating down the flood was so dead to all external appearances that he did not even cognize his plight. He was being swept down by the torrent. It seems he was seated on a rock by the side of the river, lost in meditation. The current, meanwhile, was fast eating into the mud underneath the rock which tilted over, throwing him into the flood. "It was all like a dream for him at first," said Baba. Later when he found he was being carried away by the Ganges, he began to pray to the Lord. Baba heard his call; He slowly led the floating "corpse" to the bank, a few miles above Sivanandanagar where there was a home-stead available to give him warmth and comfort.
Raja Reddy, who was at Rishikesh, writes, "We heard Him narrating the incident. During the 'trance' He had His Palms one over the other, as if enclosing something. It was to protect the Sanyasin's heart that Baba had kept His Palms closed. The Sadhu was saved after a thirty-mile float! But one or more of the following three conditions must be fulfilled before the S.O.S. of the person draws Baba's attention. He must either have something from Baba in the form of a materialized article of Grace for protection, or he should call on the Lord, heart and soul, whenever danger threatens him. In case the person in distress fails to qualify himself in either of these ways, he should at least be a man of truth and sincerity. It does not matter if he is not a devotee. In calling upon Baba, no particular Name is essential - Rama, Krishna, Jesus, Allah, Sai, be it any. All Names and Forms being His and His alone, He is only too ready to answer the cry of the one in distress and to avert it. The Yogi was not a devotee of Baba, nor had he ever seen Him. But his life was saved." This incident of the unknown Yogi was a great revelation to many of Baba's Universal Love and Presence.
Baba's cottage at Rishikesh was a busy place during His stay. Inmates of the Ashram and the students of the Academy gathered there and plied Rim with questions on the various steps in spiritual discipline. There was also an unceasing train of pilgrims who discovered that Rishikesh had acquired another focus of holiness. The scholar-saint Sri Shad-darsan-acharya Swami, whose name means "Master of the Six Schools of Philosophy, " came twice with his disciples and students. Swamis Sadananda and Satchidananda found themselves surrounded by eager inquirers wanting more and more information about Baba, His life, His glory, and His Prasanthi Nilayam at Puttaparthi. Swami Sadananda told a young Brahmachari that Baba can roam at will through the regions of the soul, the supersoul, and the oversoul, and can reveal whatever happens anywhere at any time. He also said He is all-powerful and had seen Baba converting a grain of rice into a grain of ivory and transforming that grain of ivory into a hundred and eight elephant figurines, each one finely carved and clearly recognizable by means of a magnifying glass!
Baba left Swami Sivananda on the twenty-eighth of July and went to New Delhi. On the thirtieth He proceeded by car to Mathura-Brindavan, the scene of His past Divine Career. The devotees were eagerly looking forward to seeing Him in that background and to being with Him in that atmosphere charged with the fragrance of the Maha-Bhagavatha, the epic of that Incarnation. The devotees left New Delhi in a bus which made a detour via Aligarh and broke down near a small hamlet some twenty miles beyond Aligarh! Another bus had to be requisitioned, and by the time it arrived and Mathura was reached, it was nearly 3:30 p.m. The party was exhausted, hungry and depressed. Baba, kinder than any mother, welcomed and consoled them so tenderly and lovingly, that to many in the party, the breakdown seemed positively worthwhile! He comforted them with His own characteristically sweet words of solace. "Come nearer the fan," "Stretch yourselves a little," "Do not stand up when I come," "Here! I have prepared this cool drink specially for you," "Take this, you are awfully tired," He said while tending them. In a trice, they were restored to their former energy.
Baba led them all to the bank of the Yamuna, as if He knew every inch of the place, and pointed out the hallowed localities. Who can say what reminiscences were activating the Consciousness of Baba as He showed the places where the serpent was humbled, the Gopis were chided, the cart was overturned, the twin trees were plucked. Every little wave of the Yamuna seemed to dance to the music of His Voice; every cow that was seen seemed to be seeking the warm touch of His Divine Hand!
While returning to Mathura, Baba casually walked into a Radha-Syam Temple where Krishna and the Gopis were worshiped. Arrangements were being made in front of the Temple for a Rasaleela Show, a play on the "Dance of Krishna among the Gopis," in which He appeared as many Krishnas. When He went and stood in front of the shrine, suddenly the lights went off; everyone wondered why! Baba said, "Don't worry; we shall take this idol of Krishna to Delhi and you can perform your adoration to it there!" He waved His Hand across the door of the shrine where one could see the lovely marble image of Krishna in the dim light - in His Palm there materialized an idol, the exact replica of the one installed inside!
On the second day of August, 1957, Baba left for Srinagar by plane and reached the Kashmir Valley at noon. From the air one could see the complicated network of canals that feed the Punjab plains, the Golden Temple of Amritsar, and the rugged approaches to the Banihal Pass and the Kashmir Valley. Once the pass is crossed, the enchanting loveliness of the valley that has aroused the covetousness of monarchs from as far as Macedonia and Mongolia spreads itself before the eye. The gurgling waters, the long rows of pine trees, the luscious greenness of the grass, the signs of quiet toil, fill the mind with joy. Though the Head of the Shankaracharya Monastery of Srinagar pressed Baba to accept his hospitality and take up residence there, Baba preferred to stay in a houseboat named Alexandra Palace. His party occupied two neighbouring boats known as the Prince of Kashmir and the King's Roses.
Baba encourages everyone to appreciate the beauties of nature. He directs attention to the charm of a flower, the colourful magnificence of a sunrise or sunset, the grim grandeur of an overcast sky, the timorous twinkling of the stars in the midnight sky or the quick-moving jasmine-garland of cranes in flight. He took the party to the Shalimar and Nishat Bagh Gardens in the evening, but as He remarked while returning to the houseboat, the snow-covered Himalayas in the far distance were a far lovelier garden designed by the Lord to draw men's eyes away from the valleys in which they wallowed.
On the third of August Baba departed for Gulmarg and Kilanmarg to show His party, which consisted of merchants and businessmen, lawyers and professors, writers, poets and musicians, administrators and agriculturists, the snows of the Himalayan Ranges. Horses were engaged at Tanmarg, and during the long and arduous climb of over twelve miles to approximately 14.000 feet above sea level, Baba kept the party lively by His quips, jokes, occasional gifts, or Ash. He rode His horse, Raja, the tallest and most impressive of all, with ease and dexterity. Never once did He get down to rest. The winding road over the hills was full of pebbles, broken cobblestones and the tangle of pine tree roots, but the horses cleverly picked their way along until the snow line was reached.
Baba, barefoot, played in the snow, rolling snow balls and throwing them at the party, laughing at the frightened faces of those who slid down the snow banks in makeshift toboggans and chiding those who complained of the chilling wind. Everyone was tired and complained of aches and blisters, but Baba was fresh as a rose when they returned to the houseboats about 10:30 that night.
The Alexandra Palace became very soon a replica of Prasanthi Nilayam; many from Srinagar came to pay homage to Baba and receive His blessings. There was an old lady who said she had been directed to go to that very boat by some messenger in a dream she had the previous night. Baba accepted the invitation of a few families in Srinagar to visit them in their homes. At one such home He placed a garland around the neck of a baby, saying, "He will become a great Yogi!" Strange to say, the grandfather of the child declared, "That was exactly what the astrologer who prepared the horoscope of this child predicted when he was born!" He said so only after Baba asked him, "You have already been told so, isn't it?" That was the house of the secretary of the travel agency which had made arrangements for Baba's tour of Kashmir. Baba gave him a ring, set with gemstones, which He materialized on the spot. During the conversation, when someone asked Him at what age He had "given up hearth and home," He said, "How can I, whose home is the world, give up hearth and home ?"
The stream of questioning pilgrims to Alexandra Palace continued unabated for two full days. Baba's answers illumined the Divinity of His Being. Leavetaking was naturally a prolonged and painful affair for the large throng of devotees who had come to the airport on the sixth of August. The plane finally departed for Delhi. Next Baba flew to Madras for a short stay and reached Puttaparthi on the fourteenth of August.
The Wave of the Hand
Even as a child, Baba had the miraculous power of getting things from "nowhere". He surprised His playmates by taking peppermints and sweets from empty bags. In spite of His requests to keep this a secret, the news spread among the elders, and when they inquired how He got them, Baba remained silent. Later, when pressed by His friends, He said that a certain angel obeyed His slightest wish. This was, of course, to ward off further queries, because the villagers were satisfied by such an answer. They began to admire Him as a specially blessed boy, to be watched with care and treated with respect. Even at school Baba helped many classmates with a piece of rubber or pencil which He materialized by a Wave of the Hand. When any of them complained of an illness or pain, Baba "got" green leaves "from the Himalayas", as He told the boys, and made them chew them and swallow the juice. Some elders called it magic and even characterized it as black magic, warning the children that they should not have anything to do with Satyanarayana.
It was only after the Announcement that Baba regularly "took" Vibhuti and began giving it for a variety of purposes to all who came to Him. Baba has often spoken of the significance of this Vibhuti. Since it is materialized out of nothing and since the Ash is specifically associated with Siva, it is reverentially known by devotees as Kailasa Vibhuti, the sacred Ash of Siva who resides on Mount Kailasa. It is named Vibhuti since it endows one with prosperity; Bhasma - "ashes" because it burns away all sins; Bhasitam - "brightened" because it increases one's spiritual splendor; Ksharam - "destruction" since it removes danger; and Raksha - "protector" for it is an armor against the machinations of evil spirits. This is how the Vibhuti is praised in the Brihad Jabala Upanishad, one of the ancient spiritual texts. Baba says Vibhuti is also a constant reminder of the evanescence of the body which, ultimately, is reduced in cremation to a potful of ash!
[Watch Baba distributing Vibhuti]
Thousands of devotees and visitors have witnessed the miracle of the Vibhuti. It is indeed an inexplicable, ultra-scientific wonder! It is produced so casually, informally, gracefully, quietly, and so naturally that one might well miss the significance of the blessing. The right palm of Baba's Hand is held down on a slight angle - a wave or two, scarcely noticeable ; the fingers close to arrest the fall of the Vibhuti which has already materialized. The wonder product is handed to the recipient, as a token of Baba's blessings, and applied to the forehead. At an average rate of a minimum of one pound per day, the quantity of Vibhuti thus produced "out of the elements" by His Will must now have reached the astounding figure of over five tons !
Every idea has an inherent tendency to manifold itself in physical form. It all depends on the will, whether it is human or divine. Baba wills; it is done!
The Vibhuti may also be placed on the tongue, mixed with water and drunk as a specific against illness. It may be carried as a talisman. A devotee from South America had written that every night she went to bed with a packet of Vibhuti in her palm. Invariably she dreamed that her palms were resting at the feet of Lord Krishna. It is difficult to enumerate all the curative and alleviatory purposes to which recipients put the Vibhuti which Baba produces by a Wave of the Hand.
The Vibhuti He gives is also of innumerable kinds, suited to the purposes for which created. Sometimes it is in the shape of a hard cube, or often powder, fine, grainy or flaky. It may be fragrant or pungent, salty, sweet or tasteless, white or blackish, or of any of the intermediate shades. Sometimes, when He waves His Hand, it materializes - container and all! When a person left for England for higher studies, Baba gave him Vibhuti in a silver container with the additional blessing, "This will never become exhausted!" His Will, thousands of miles away, can replenish the Ash in a container by a pre-dated expression of His desire. When the Vibhuti is to be taken as a medicine for a long period, as during pregnancy, Baba asks the person to bring a receptacle, and by a light tap on the surface, the vessel becomes full of Vibhuti. When he gathers his devotees on the sands, as at Chitravathi or the river bed of Kaivalya at Venkatagiri, or on the beach at Kovalam in Kerala, or Kanyakumari in Tamil Nad, or on the river Godavari, He digs into the sand playfully with His Fingers. A huge cube of Vibhuti hiding there, He rescues, powders and distributes to all present. He may take the sand itself in both His Hands and pour it onto a plate. That which falls on the plate is not sand, but fine fragrant Vibhuti.
Baba's entire physical frame seems to be suffused with Vibhuti. When He is taken in a procession on Vijayadasami, the tenth day of the light-half of the month Asvina, and other festival days, thousands have clearly seen fine Vibhuti falling from His brow onto His eyelids and cheeks. When He leaves the body and goes to save His devotees. Vibhuti often emanates from His face, mouth, thumbs, toes or forehead. He merely raises His thumb and makes a mark on one's forehead, and the Vibhuti is there for all to see.
There have been instances in which devotees have dreamed that Baba came to them and applied Vibhuti on their brows, and found on awakening that the Ash was actually there! Some dreamed that Baba put Vibhuti on their tongues, and when they awakened, they found Vibhuti in their mouths! Baba signifies His Presence at the residence of His devotees by scattering the tell-tale Vibhuti on the floor of the shrine where His picture is kept. When Baba presents a Vision of Himself to save someone from an impending calamity, He invariably uses Vibhuti to effect a cure.
Once during a Dasara Festival a certain visitor from Telengana received an urgent telegram from home, informing him that his father-in-law had had a stroke and that his condition had created anxiety. Baba asked him not to worry. A similar wire came the next day, and Baba agreed to his going alone, leaving his wife to watch the festivities even though she was the daughter of the stricken man and the most needed at his bedside. When the son-in-law left, He gave him Vibhuti to apply to the father-in-law's forehead. He had materialized it by a Wave of the Hand. About eight o'clock the next evening, Baba was discussing the timings of the trains by which the son-in-law was proceeding to the sick-bed. Quite suddenly He sat up and said, "You have all gone wrong. The train won't take him fast enough. He will not reach the place before 9:00 p.m. Oh! "What a pity!" Then with a wink of the eye, He "left" the body and was "gone." He was "away" for about half an hour. When He "returned," He was so happy that He had applied the Vibhuti Himself to the sick man in Telangana. "Did you use the same Vibhuti that the son-in-law was carrying with him?" He was asked. "Yes, you will know that when he returns," He said. "Ask him, and he will say that the packet was empty when he went to the sick man." And so it was. On return, he related the story of his discomfiture; how he was blamed for being careless; how they rubbed their fingers over the folded paper in order to collect at least the tracings of the holy Vibhuti; and how they failed in that desperate endeavor!
Baba sometimes performs Consecration or ceremonial bath for the silver figure of His "previous body" which is kept at the temple. A small wooden pot, artistically carved and painted, is filled with Vibhuti for this purpose. Holding it overturned above the image, Baba puts His Hand into the vessel in order to ensure an even flow of Sacred Ash. By contact with His Hand, the flow of Vibhuti continues long after the quantity originally produced is exhausted. Twirl after twirl brings down fresh showers of Vibhuti from the receptacle until the image is emerged in the fragrant powder, and the Ash mounts to unexpected heights. Finally Baba puts the wooden pot away, out of sheer physical exhaustion, so to say!
Regarding the Sacred Ash, another type of incident often occurs, although it is not exactly an illustration of the Wave of the Hand. Whenever a sincere devotee passes away, Baba gives His Darshan at the last moment and enables the person to enjoy eternal peace. On such occasions, symbolic of death, destruction, and the end of the temporary and the evanescent, there issues Vibhuti from the mouth of the person Baba blesses. On Saturday, November 15, 1958, at 5:20 in the afternoon, Baba was reading from a letter to those around Him. Suddenly, with a shout meaning, "Yes," He fell to the floor and was practically lifeless. Ten minutes later He moved a little and coughed three times, but they were not coughs; they were three puffs which emanated from His Mouth, bringing out quantities of Vibhuti to a distance of more than a foot and a half! Five minutes later, Baba got up, and without any sign of exhaustion or confusion, resumed the previous conversation. He was asked to reveal where He had been, and replied, "I have been to the city of Dehra Dun. The mother of Krishna, the doctor, who comes here frequently, passed away at 5:30 p.m. Krishna was there at the bedside. She had placed her fingers on her pulse and announced to all, 'This is my last breath.' They are singing songs of God in that room. She had a peaceful death. I gave her Darshan at her last moment."
On Monday, when the postman came to Prasanthi Nilayam, he had with him a letter from Krishna to Baba. Krishna wrote, "My mother drew her last breath on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. We were chanting during her last hours, which was her wish. She was remembering you constantly!" What a miracle this! Baba anticipated the moment of death, answered the prayers of a panting soul, described at the Nilayam 1500 miles away the happenings in the Dehra Dun room within minutes; even the emanation of Vibhuti, symbolic of the destruction of the evanescent material of the physical body when the soul is freed from bondage!
The Vibhuti is but the continuation in this incarnation of the Udi or Ash which Sai Baba of Shirdi gave as His boon to those who went to Him. Sai Baba of Shirdi used to take the ash from the hearth fed perpetually with fuel, so that He could have live cinders for the Udi, says Sathya Sai Baba.
Baba materializes whatever He wills by a Wave of His Hand. He says that what He produces is already in "Sai Stores," and that His "workmen" are so quick, they manufacture in the fraction of a moment even the most complicated artistry He thinks of and deliver it into His Hand!
Once Baba materialized a gold medal to be given to an accomplished violinist whose recital was just concluding. Baba showed the medal to those around Him. Even as they were admiring its size, beauty and shine, He said, "Oh, the name has to be inscribed," and He closed His Palm. Opening it immediately, He showed the medal to all. They were amazed at the miracle. The inscription, "Presented by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba to Vidwan T. Chowdian," was deeply engraved thereon in English, complete with the day and the date. Showing the medal to us, Baba said, "See how quick are my workmen!"
Baba blesses artists who perform at the Nilayam during festivals and other occasions with gifts such as rings, necklaces, medals, and brooches. With the Wave of His Hand, there is a special appropriateness in the gifts. Nadaswaram Vidwan, a piper, was given a ring with an inset picture of Siva. It was found that his ancestors for many generations had been temple musicians, that his family had been given certain lands in perpetuity in return for their services, and that the form of the Lord worshiped in that temple was Siva. The Siva on the ring was a replica of the icon in his Village!
"I shall give you a Ganesa figurine; take it home and worship it," He told a visitor. It was an image of Ganesa, the God who removes obstacles, in the standing posture. "You have this form of Ganesa in your shrine room, is it not?" Baba asked as He handed it to him. The man answered, "Yes, it is".
It is not proper for the recipients to weigh or evaluate the gifts. for they are not of the earth at all. Once a musician who received a necklace studded with precious stones started on his way home to discuss its value and decide its worth. It was lost mysteriously; it simply was not around his neck! Chastened by the experience, he returned immediately to Prasanthi Nilayam. Chiding him gently, Baba "took" before his eyes the self-same necklace and presented it again to him.
Things that Baba gives can never be lost. A devotee, while returning to Hyderabad from Puttaparthi, discovered her luggage had been stolen at night, somewhere near Mahbubnagar. She reported this to the railway police. Two days later she was called upon to identify her belongings, for the thief had been apprehended and the luggage recovered. Imagine her surprise when she found every article intact except the rosary Baba had materialized and given her! She sent a message to Baba by wire. Baba replied that the rosary had come to His possession, because it could not be stolen! Who can describe her joy at getting the same rosary a second time from Baba's Hands!
A devotee, C. N. Padma, writes, "It was twelve years ago. One evening Baba took all those who were at the old temple to the sands of the river. After the chanting He called me, and while consoling me about my personal problems, He materialized a rosary and handed it to me. He had already given me one, and I kept it at my home in a silver box. When He gave me another, I was alarmed that my situation may have worsened, since He felt I needed additional protection. So I asked Him, 'Why, Baba, why a second rosary for me?' He said, 'This is the one I gave you last! You left it at home in that silver box; it was 'stolen' yesterday. Here, keep this safe!' It was true. When I went home, I found the house broken into and the Silver box gone."
There was the incident of Srimati Sakamma's diamond ring. Some years ago she had hurried to Puttaparthi for the Dasara Festival. In the confusion of packing, she misplaced a seven-stone diamond ring. Discovering its absence too late for any search to be made, she informed Baba about it. Baba simply made fun of the whole affair, cracked a joke or two, and heartily laughed at her loss. Months later Baba was visiting her coffee-seed-curing factory. Sitting in the kitchen of a small house behind it, and while sipping coffee, He said, "Oh, Sakamma, you want that diamond ring, don't you? Well, here it is!" With those words, He patted the wall, and lo, the ring was there in that Hand! That Hand is certainly Divine!
Sometimes that Hand is dipped in water, and the water becomes gasoline on which a car can be driven for miles. Once while motoring to Bangalore, the gasoline tank became empty near Chicballapur. Baba sent one of the men in the party to a water tank by the side of the road. He returned with mere H2O! Baba dipped His Finger into the can and stirred it a bit. The contents were emptied into the gas tank. The car was driven merrily along mile after mile, the engine not recognizing any difference at all. On another occasion when the diesel oil supply ran short for the dynamo which produced electric power for illumination during festivals, and when it was too late to send anyone for diesel oil twenty miles away, He dipped His Hand in water, and diesel oil was there!
Another miracle of the same nature was performed at Horsley Hills where a few devotees spent several wondrous days in His august company. Every morning Baba went into the jungle to a flat-topped boulder upon which He sat and discoursed. One day, as He walked there, He picked up a piece of rock of a peculiar geological formation; it looked more like a closely packed bundle of dry macaroni. He had the stone in front of Him while discoursing. When He concluded, He said, "I shall sweeten your tongues a bit." He took the stone in His Hand. Amazingly, it had become a lump of sugar-candy, a closely packed bundle of dry macaroni-like sugar-candy. It was as if every molecule of that stone had been transformed by His Will into a molecule of sugar. No one has ever seen sugar crystallizing in long thread-like bits! But this was not chemistry! This was Divine Alchemistry!!
Srimati Sakamma once broke her eyeglasses at Puttaparthi and was having great difficulty. Baba materialized a pair of the same prescription for her.
It was Sri Krishna's birthday festival, a day which is considered specially auspicious. Baba was with devotees at Madras who were making elaborate preparations. The hall was decorated and invitations were sent to nearby friends. Baba came and sat on a special seat, temporarily erected at one end of the hall, near the shrine during the worship. Just before the close, He stood up, and everyone rose with Him. He lifted both Hands above His Head. The throng of devotees was expectantly watching His Hands, for they had not seen Him in that pose during a festival. It appeared rather strange, but before they had time to wonder, He was holding in His Hands a huge glass bowl beautifully designed with birds spreading their wings. Baba placed the heavy bowl near the shrine on the platform. "Special sweets from Brindavan, the birthplace of Krishna," He announced. In that bowl were forty-three different varieties of sweets!
One day Baba crossed the Chitravathi River in two jeeps filled with devotees and drove into the reserve forest. When the jeep failed to climb the road, Baba walked with the party for about six miles along the upper reaches of the river. At last they came to a beautiful area, right in the midst of the forest. There were steep rocky banks on three sides, a large flat slab of rock to sit upon, and the river gurgled merrily along. All partook of the food they brought and drank tea prepared by some enterprising young men. Baba "made" a big piece of sugar-candy to sweeten their mouths. Then He waved His Hand, and all present opened their eyes wide to a miracle. He manifested a packet of photographs of Himself and proceeded to give one to each. There were exactly sixteen photos and sixteen men! Occasionally He has manifested larger packets for larger parties, and always the numbers agree!
Another incident that illustrates the divine in Baba happened at Cape Comorin in 1958. Sitting on the beach with a small group of devotees, Baba asked a person who had earlier in the day purchased and perused a book on the pilgrim center, what the book said about the local temple. He related the story of a diamond which once upon a time adomed the nose-stud of the Goddess in the temple. The diamond shone so brightly that pirates could see it from the sea! He described the pirates' greed and how they carried off the diamond during a raid. Baba asked, "Do you want to see it? It is just a matter of minutes and I can send it back before its absence is noticed." He patted the sand in front of Him - there appeared a huge diamond in His Hand! It was shown to everyone present, then just disappeared from the Hand to which it had come! Every miracle of His is done so unostentatiously, with a smile of surprise lighting up His Face as the object materializes.
A devotee had a rupee note which he had kept because it contained the autograph of a friend. One day, through sheer carelessness, he mixed it up with his other rupees and inadvertently spent it in Bangalore. The discovery of his loss made him morose. A week later, when Baba learned about this, He said, "Don't worry; it has not reached Bombay. I can see where it lies. I shall get it for you." The Hand waved; the rupee note, the same one, was handed over to the young man at Puttaparthi.
Baba bas materialized copies of the Gita and given them to devotees. When He made a copy for an old nearsighted devotee, He said, "See, it is printed specially for your sake in big bold letters," and it was! Giving a visitor, a professor who was a doctor of science, a copy of the Gita "from the sands," He said, "You do not know the Devanagari script, and so it is in Telugu. Take it." He has given for daily worship emblems of Siva and images of Lord Krishna, also images of other forms of God worshipped in Hindu homes. He also produces crucifixes and plates with mystic markings, all iconologically and artistically perfect, and all made by a Wave of the Hand!
He gives photographs of Himself - alone or with Sai Baba of Shirdi - or of the chosen Deity of devotees. Some of these photographs are very unique. There was once materialized a photograph of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa with four Sai Baba of Shirdi pictures on a square in the region of his heart and Sri Sathya Sai Baba in the center of that form! Once Baba gave a devotee a pair of silver sandals which materialized miraculously on His Feet.
Baba takes delight in recommending to inquirers that they chant the Name and meditate on the Form of the Lord which most appeals to them. He has come not to supplant or destroy but to implement and fulfill.
One evening on the river sands a visitor was wearing a badge bearing a representation of a saintly couple, Kusuma and Haranath. Baba gave a short account of their lives and said they spread the message of holy chanting. Even as He was speaking, He "took" from the sands a lovely silver icon, Kusuma and Haranath, standing on a coiled serpent under its spread hood! There was a dot of actual saffron on the brow of Kusuma. On another occasion He gave a devotee who worshiped Him as Siva, a large colored shell with the word Siva-sayi carved on it! Baba also expresses His love and wisdom by encouraging everyone to march bravely along the path he has chosen for himself.
Sandalwood images, silver icons, silver sandals, ivory figures, idols in the sacred alloy of five metals, emblems of Siva in blood-red stone, green or blue topaz or sapphire have all been created and given. He has also given gem-set rings and lockets of different varieties as the need or mood of the moment dictates. Very often when he sees a devotee wearing a gem-set ring, he laughs at him for bearing the burden of a stone without asking for wages! Taking such a ring in His Hand, He strokes it with His Palm. The gem vanishes, and left in its place is a portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, or both. Or it may be Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, or any of the other Forms of God.
At Venkatagiri there is a sheet of postage stamps which underwent this miraculous transformation many years ago. Seeing the sheet with the earthly emperor, Baba said in fun, "Why do you have a set of such things?" Even as He was making the remark, His Hand gently passed over the paper, and as He lifted it, every figure miraculously changed; the illustration and the price vanished; the picture of Baba was imprinted on every stamp, and the inscription was "Sri Sathya Sai." If He gets the idea of initiating an aspirant with a sacred mantra, He just rolls a piece of paper, handy at the moment, into a sharp pointed needle-like instrument. In a second it is transformed into silver or ivory, with the added decoration of the image of the Deity invoked by the mantra. He proceeds to write on the tongue of the aspirant the mystic syllables and then presents the instrument to the person to be kept as a reminder of the Grace of the Guru!
His Hands have another miraculous power, to increase and multiply whatever He wants by mere contact. For instance, Baba multiplies food when the quantity is insufficient for the people present. He wills; He contacts; the vessel becomes full. One such scene was on Vijayadasami Day in 1950, which is the last day of Dasara. From the town of Anathapur several devotees had brought with them two baskets of freshly plucked Tulsi leaves. They were sitting around the baskets, making long thick garlands with the leaves. Baba passed that way when their work was almost finished and the containers almost empty. He asked the group, half in fun and half in earnest, "Exhausted? Are you game for another two baskets of Tulsi?" They jumped at the idea. He bent down and placed His Hands within each basket. When He stood erect, the baskets were miraculously filled to overflowing with fresh green Tulsi leaves!
It becomes clear why Baba Himself serves sweets and other items on occasions when thousands visit and are fed at Prasanthi Nilayam. He gives food plentifully, and there is always an abundance. Plenty is the hallmark of that Hand.
While on processions, Baba, seated on the flower-bedecked palanquin, takes in His Hand the petals of flowers from the garlands offered Him and throws them over the heads of the devotees. What falls on the ground below? Peppermints, one time; coins, another time; portraits of Sai Baba of Shirdi or Sathya Sai Baba, or of both, another time. One cannot predict what or when! Such is the mystery of that Hand. A number of devotees still possess the articles they collected on November twenty-third, 1950, during the procession from the Old Temple to Prasanthi Nilayam, inaugurated that day. These articles remain unsullied and bright for generations, since they are as substantial as other material objects.
The monk Amritananda related that he was suffering from chronic asthma, an illness which Baba diagnosed was caused and aggravated by incorrect practice of Hatha Yoga. During the months he remained at Puttaparthi, the drugs Baba gave him kept away the spasms and the Swami was practically freed from the dread affliction. Referring to these drugs, the Swami said, "The first two days He gave me Ash which He 'took' by a Wave of the Hand. 0n the third day there came into His Hand a golden-colored heavy powder which He put into my mouth. Then He turned to the four quarters, and with each Wave of the Hand, He 'manifested' quantities of a copper-colored powder which He applied to my back and chest. Afterwards He 'took' Ash and poured it into my hand, asking me to swallow a little when the spasm occurred. Another day He 'took' tender, soft, hairy roots of a plant and asked me to chew and swallow them.
On another day He gave me a midget version of banana which I had never seen before in India, Ceylon, Malaya, or in the Himalayas. He gave me a date fruit without seed! He 'took' a handful of leaves which He squeezed. He collected the juice in a vessel He materialized, then commanded me to drink it.
"Another time He waved His Hand, and I saw a bundle of greenish leaves. He passed them to me with a twinkle in His eyes and asked me to eat all of them. I was shocked to find that the underneath of the leaves had small sharp thorns. When I looked at Him imploringly, thinking, 'do you really want me to eat all this, thorns included?' He melted a little and stretched out His Hand, saying, 'Give them back to me.' I placed the leaves in His Hand; He gave them again to me. There was not a single thorn! Not even a vestage or indication that the plant was of such species. Gleefully, I ate it all. A few days later He called me into His room, and when He waved His Hand, a sizeable quantity of green leaves again appeared. 'A very good specific,' He said, 'coming straight from the Himalayas.' Keeping half of them, He placed the other half in my hand, saying, 'Come on! Chew and swallow.' They were terribly bitter, and I had to draw on all my ascetic strength to perform the task allotted me. Oh, how I prayed in my heart that He would stop with that and not force me to eat the horrible half portion He had kept in reserve! But He showed no kindness and gave me the balance of the leaves, commanding, 'Finish this also.' Reinforcing myself with all my courage, I placed in my mouth the second installment. Could one believe - by longer contact with His Divine Hand the second half had become inexpressibly sweet, sweeter than sugar cane or honey! He laughed at my joy and relief, and I came to know that the ways of the Lord are truly inscrutable." This genuine report is from an aged renunciate, who was long with Ramana Maharshi and who was learned in Veda and Vedanta.
Whenever Baba elects to give patients a medicine or curative drug, He waves His Hand and procures pills, powders, bottles of mixtures, ointments, syrups, oils, or fruits. Sometimes out of sheer fun, He might throw a fruit toward one, and when the happy recipient actually catches the gift, another species of fruit might arrive in his hand! He might make a gesture of throwing without anything seemingly in His Hand. The person to whom the throw is directed must be wary, for a fruit is on its way! When someone was seized with a sneezing bout, He called him to His side and "took" some sweets which He gave him to swallow. When another was suffering from fever for quite a long time, Baba, nearing the bedside, waved His Hand and "took" something which He deliberately placed in the hand of the patient who sat up reverentially to receive it. It was a big bumble bee which flew away, along with the fever!
When a devotee asked for permission to leave Puttaparthi early so that he might attend a convocation to receive a diploma, Baba said, "I shall give it to you now here!" and waved His Hand. A miniature diploma, exactly reproducing all the details of the actual one awaiting him at Madras, was in His Hand!
A Mysore devotee had arranged for family worship of Baba at Puttaparthi on the day of the festival of Gowri in 1961. He searched the village and also Bukkapatnam for all the auspicious articles the worship required. He was able to secure everything except black beads. Baba came for the worship, and the overjoyed couple was immersed in the worship of His Feet. They did not notice a large black ant running over the heap of flowers around His Feet. He saw it, lifted it up gently, and held it between His Fingers. "What, are you offering worship with ants instead of flowers?" He asked in fun. He handed the ant to the mistress of the family; she held out her palm to receive it, but what she received was not a black ant. Instead, through His Grace, from that Hand were given two black beads!
Another astounding example of the divinity of that Hand occurred one evening when Baba casually approached a half-open window in His room. He noticed an electric table lamp on the sill. No one was aware of His intentions. Those present saw Baba wave His Hand. When they rushed near to see what was emanating, He showed them His Palm in which rested a color film portrait of Himself! Evidently, He willed for something transparent to be a part of the lamp shade. He held it up to the light. Some remarked that the background of the picture could have been a little more prominent; some said that the hair was a little awry; one remarked that the face was not freshly shaven! He silenced all such comments by declaring, "My dear fellows, you don't see, it is my photo, just as I am now, with this dress, this background, this half-open window, this door, this door curtain, this switch." As they watched, the wonder grew! It was as if in the millionth of a second, someone had come with a camera, focused it, and snapped a color film photograph, developed, washed and dried it, and delivered it into the Hands of Baba!
One evening at Prasanthi Nilayam, while talking about the kinship between man and other animals, and about the various theories of the origin of man, Baba said that the human animal is more related to tree dwelling apes than to the ground dwelling varieties. He spoke of a tailless, hairless, tree dwelling Simian. When an interested listener, a professor of anthropology, could not quite grasp the type, Baba waved His Hand, and there was a small model of the Simian to which He had referred. The miniature, a work of art and scientific accuracy, is with Him now.
At Thippegondanahalli, the lake near Bangalore, some devotees had enjoyed a quiet morning with Baba. After a long discussion on the doctrine of rebirth and the nature of the soul, Baba materialized a small silver screw-top vessel full of amrita and distributed it to the group. He then gave the container to a man and his wife who were shortly leaving for England. When He noticed the disappointment of the couple at receiving only an empty vessel, He took it from them, and without even the Wave of the Hand, gave it back. It was full of the precious nectar!
Afterwards the party went to the reservoir which supplies water to Bangalore. While the engineer was describing the history of the project and pointing out the two rivers which joined at the spot and the pinnacle of the temple which had been sunk in the lake created by the dam, Baba stood listening at the water's edge. Suddenly He dipped His Hand in the water and then held up His Palm containing some of it. To everyone's surprise, Baba's Palm held a lingam, shining in the sun, with sandal paste and bilva leaf on it, as if He had taken it from a shrine where worship was being offered it! He turned to a member of the group: "Take this and worship it every day. You worship Siva, do you not?" Indeed the man was a member of the sect which worshiped the form of Siva as represented in the temple at the confluence of the rivers.
When Baba blesses His devotees and agrees to their arranging the marriage of their children at Prasanthi Nilayam in His immediate presence, He sometimes creates a golden disc and gives it to the bridegroom to be auspiciously tied around the neck of the fortunate bride. A Wave of the Hand, and the disc strung on a saffron-colored string is there in a moment. Sometimes when the ear-piercing ceremony is performed, Baba even materializes a sharp pointed bent gold wire with which the ear lobe is pierced and which serves as an earring for the child. It is impossible to enumerate all the capabilities of the Wave of that Hand!
When Baba decides to resort to surgery to cure an illness or defect, He waves His Hand, and the instruments needed are there in His Palm.
Another incident shows how the Wave of the Hand can transmit this miraculous Divine Power - to another person's hand. It happened some years ago when Baba was in His teens. With a large number of devotees He had gone across the river to a garden near Saheb Tank. Food was prepared and eaten. The party was returning to the village as darkness was fast falling on the river banks. Suddenly, while they were passing a bush, Baba ahead of the others, something streaked across the sands and coiled itself around Baba's right foot! "A snake, a snake!" arose the cry. A cobra bit Baba's right toe, uncoiled itself in an instant, and fled like an arrow along the sands. Baba said, "Let it go," but those who were angry at the cobra pursued it, desiring to kill it. Baba shouted, "Go," in a commanding tone, and the snake sped into the darkness and was seen no more. Meanwhile the effects of the bite were becoming apparent. Baba appeared faint and fell to the ground. Some men ran to the village to inform Pedda Venkapa Raju. Another, who knew the address of a magician residing a mile away, ran to get his help. Baba made some gestures to one of the two devotees trying to render first aid, to wave his hand. The devotee did so, and felt a thrust inside his palm. There emerged a talisman. Baba signaled to him to apply it, together with the froth from His Lips, to the wound. He did as ordered. Within a matter of seconds a "well" Baba got up, to the intense relief of every one, and began to talk as though nothing had happened to break the bliss of that happy day.
Just then, the parents and others came running with a huge armory of drugs, magic rites, roots, pieces of gramophone records, bottles of specifics sold in village fairs, and last but not least, the celebrated magician who lived a mile away. Baba jokingly greeted them all.
Baba later explained He could have "taken" the talisman, but since He never uses for His own benefit anything He materializes out of His own Hand, He had to convey His Grace to another hand.
It has been said about Sai Baba of Shirdi, "While the devotees took leave, Baba gave Ash as Prasad, besmeared some of it on the foreheads of the devotees, and placed His boon-conferring Hand on their heads." Sri Sathya Sai Baba also does this. His Hands confer the boons the devotees deserve, and have the healing touch to wipe out disease, ward off evil, and rewrite destiny!
The Same Baba
It is significant that Sathya Sai Baba was giving clues about His kinship, nay, identity, with the Saint of Shirdi, even from His childhood. When He taught His companions songs about "a Baba," a Saint about whom no one had seen of heard, and about a place of pilgrimage to which no one who heard the songs had been, people wondered! "Where is this Shirdi," they asked each other. "Who was this Muslim Saint?" Little did they realize that the child in their midst, singing and dancing so captivatingly, was, in a few years, to make their village another Shirdi to which hundreds and even thousands seeking the same Baba would be coming!
As recorded, when the formal Announcement was made by Sathya Sai Baba that He was the famed Sai Baba of the town of Shirdi, He was asked, "If you are Sai Baba, show us a miracle now!" He said, "Bring me some jasmine flowers." When they were placed in His Hands, He threw the flowers on the ground. They fell in the form of the Telugu letters, "Sai Baba," flower behind flower, as if arranged with meticulous skill with all the curves and convolutions of the Telugu letters perfectly reproduced! Even Seshama Raju, who had learned by long experience to live with the miracles of his brother, was surprised at the emphasis of the revelation. "Of course, I gave them the name of the incarnation that had just preceded mine," said Baba when questioned about these incidents. "It only meant that He who came as Sai Baba has now come again as Sathya Sai Baba! Moreover, the Sais come in a series. After this there will be another, Prema Sai, who will take birth in the Mysore region," He added.
About this time two teachers who had Sathya as their student at Bukkapatnam visited Puttaparthi. Fortunately, they have recorded what happened. One of them, Sri B. Subbannachar, says, "My first impression about him was that he was a great devotee, like Prahlada of the sacred books. I saw Him doing miraculous deeds. I was convinced that He was not an ordinary human being, but a boy endowed with supernatural powers. Quite to our wonderment, this 'Mad Boy' of Puttaparthi revealed to us that He was none other than Sai Baba of Shirdi! He invited us once to stay for the night when He would narrate His past. We wanted to hear about His life, as the available books on Sai Baba of Shirdi do not give any information about His infancy and boyhood up to sixteen years. He granted us this boon even without our asking! Our joy knew no bounds. Night came. We heard the life story. We saw Sai Himself in human form!"
Sathya Sai Baba invariably refers to "My previous body' when He speaks about Sai Baba of Shirdi, and often describes how He, in His "previous body," dealt with people and situations, what illustrations He gave to amplify certain points, and what questions were asked. He may remark, "The same doubt was raised by a man who had come to Shirdi," and then He will continue with the reply He gave that other man long ago at Shirdi! He recognizes all devotees of Sai Baba of Shirdi as His own. He tells them, "I have known you for ten years," or "Though this is the first time you see this body, I saw you twenty years ago when you came to Shirdi." The person will find that either he has been worshipping Sai Baba for ten years or that he had actually been to Shirdi exactly twenty years before! Baba has encouraged many to go to Shirdi, giving detailed descriptions of the route and even of the pictures at the shrine! It would appear to a listener that He has long been a resident of Shirdi.
Once when several devotees went to Shirdi, Sathya Sai Baba told them, "Go and sleep in Dwarakamayi where I shall come in your dream." He fulfilled this promise. Many devotees who visit Shirdi hear later of an incarnation of Sai Baba at Puttaparthi; so they proceed there immediately. As soon as He sees such devotees, Baba asks them about their pilgrimage to Shirdi. During the interview He answers questions which have been unanswered on their visit to Shirdi! This has been the experience of many.
The Raja of Chincholi was an ardent devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi. This king used to spend a few months each year at Shirdi, Akalkot, and other holy places in the company of spiritual sages and seekers. After the Raja passed away, the Rani, his queen, was pleasantly surprised to hear of the incarnation of the Lord as Sri Sathya Sai Baba and she visited Puttaparthi. She also persuaded Baba, who was then just fifteen years of age, to accompany her to Chincholi. What a surprise it was for her when Baba asked her about a margosa tree which had since been uprooted, a well that had been filled up, a line of shops which had been newly built! Baba told her that He had seen these places years ago while in His "previous body!" He asked her about a small stone image which had been given to the Raja by Sai Baba of Shirdi. The Rani did not know of its existence. Baba discovered it for her! He also said that there would be found a picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi given when in the "previous body." That, too, was later discovered in the house.
Years passed. One day the Rani was rummaging through a huge storeroom at Chincholi for old brass, bronze, or copper which she could sell to create space. She came upon an old brass drinking vessel as used by wandering monks. The shape was unique and artistic; the water had to be poured in through a slit in the handle; the spout ended in a cow's head figurine. It was suggested that it be polished and displayed as a decorative article in the drawing of her mansion. The mystery deepened the next day when the vessel was found with a cobra coiled around it! 'Baba alone can solve the secret," she said to herself while propitiating the cobra with the traditional rites.
She arrived at Puttaparthi on the first day of the Dasara festival, and as soon as she entered the premises, Baba sent word, asking her to come to Him "with My drinking vessel!" No sooner, was it in His Hands than He showed to those nearby, the letters inscribed on the vessel in Sanskrit characters, SAA followed by a pair of short vertical lines, BAA with the two lines again, SAA indicating Sayi and BAA for Baba. Baba has said that he will also secure the almsbag of Sai Baba of Shirdi in a few years from wherever it is.
Many wonder how the Saint of Shirdi, who, according to all accounts, never left Shirdi for years, could have gone to Chincholi and later Hyderabad and left this vessel with the Raja! It is the honest belief of the Rani, as well as some old servants of the place, that Sai Baba of Shirdi stayed a few days every time He came to Chincholi and that He would ride far out of the town in a bullock drawn cart, accompanied by the Raja, to have talks. This cart is now at Puttaparthi. Devotees who have seen and experienced the acts of Sri Sathya Sai Baba will have no difficulty in understanding this strange story, for they know Baba can be at Madras and yet take tea with a family at Bangalore as happened once in a bungalow at the Civil Station! He can converse with a man at Bhopal or be seen at a stall in an exhibition in Delhi or speak on the phone to Menon in Madras while simultaneously being at another place.
For instance, at Hospet in 1940, there was a family known well to Baba since His childhood. The elder sister was a schoolteacher, and her brothers were His classmates and playmates at Bukkapatnam. They had heard about the manifestation and had also seen Baba at Puttaparthi. One evening, a year later, a bullock cart brought Sathya Sai Baba to their door. Their joy knew no bounds! The boys spent the entire night talking with Baba, one on each side of Him. They laughed, cheered, and joked. The mother made preparations for Baba's bath the next day and for a feast. How can her disappointment be described when she discovered in the morning the empty bed - and Baba gone! On inquiry she found Baba had never left Puttaparthi, a hundred miles away! Incarnations are not bound as mortals are by the limitations of time and space. They are a Law unto themselves!
One year when He addressed a meeting at the All-India Sai Samaj at Mylapore, Madras, Baba's opening words were, "Though this is the first time this body has come here, I have always been here in this temple!" This identity and unbroken continuity are emphasized by Him in a hundred different ways on all occasions.
In Coorg, He recognized on sight an ardent devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and noted with pleasure that He was a Life Member of the Sai Baba Trust.
Baba has presented to His devotees lockets and pictures of Sai Baba of Shirdi, or of Sai Baba of Shirdi with His own portrait incorporated, or His picture with the portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi in the region of the heart. No distinction is allowed to be made in worship of Himself and the previous manifestation. In the Prasanthi Nilayam prayer hall there are two pictures which further demonstrate this lineage. The artist captivatingly caught the charm of the moment when Sai Baba was resuming His Mission. The grandeur and the historicity of the moment are immanently portrayed in the pictures.
A silver figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi is the focal point toward which all prayer at Prasanthi Nilayam is directed. Baba establishes His identity and continuity by a series of significant acts. For example, the image of Sai Baba of Shirdi is decorated with flower garlands that have been offered to Baba, and no difference is ever made between these garlands and fresh ones; both are used for decorating the image. During the nine days of Navaratri, women at the Nilayam offer "saffron worship," and all the saffron thus offered is collected and poured ceremoniously on the silver figure of Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Baba tells many visitors who have questions, "You need not wait until you meet and ask me; ask the Old Man," meaning Sai Baba of Shirdi. On the raised platform at the prayer hall, facing the assembled devotees, are two life-size oil paintings, one of Sai Baba of Shirdi, the other of Sathya Sai Baba. Both figures are standing and both have one hand crossed over the other, Sai Baba of Shirdi holding His right hand with His left and Sathya Sai Baba holding His left hand with His right. The knot of the cloth around Sai Baba of Shirdi's head, usually tied to the left, is here found on the right of the head. This is intriguing to some people, for they do not know that when the portrait artist wanted pictures to copy, Baba waved His Hand - two small pictures were materialized in His Hand! The picture of Sai Baba of Shirdi showed the two hands in a new posture and the cloth knot on the right. So the artist copied that picture, placing the knot on the right.
Song and hymns sung in daily worship to both incarnations are the same. They refer to the identity and continuity in unmistakable terms. In the list of 108 names with which Sathya Sai Baba is worshiped, either in person or through picture representation, there are those included which are specifically attributable to Sai Baba of Shirdi. Sathya Sai Baba is addressed as, "He who was born in the village of Patri," "He who was living in the village of Shirdi," "He who is the undifferentiated Incarnation of the Power of Sai Baba of Shirdi," "He who is the embodiment of Shirdi Sai," and so on. The silver image of Sai Baba of Shirdi is there only as the representative of Baba. When accommodating Baba on the dais, the image is removed to the right or the left of Baba, placed on the floor, or removed from the hall. Once when Baba felt there should be a procession to the village, He said, "The Old Man shall go today," and sent the image in the decorated palanquin.
When Baba was a young boy, and after His Declaration of this identity, many a doubter posed the question, "How can we believe that you are He?" One who had such doubts was given an unusual Vision by the young Baba in 1943. The cynic was flabbergasted by the proof presented to him. Baba, it seems, stretched out His Palm, and there appeared a resplendent portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi. On the other Palm, an equally effulgent portrait of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Another similar miracle was experienced by a devotee named Chidambara Iyer at New Delhi. It shows that Baba continues to use the same means to convince seekers that He who had come then as Sai Baba of Shirdi has come now as Sathya Sai Baba.
The Delhi devotee writes: "One evening I was bicycling along a deserted road between Old Delhi and New Delhi cogitating on my financial worries. I had returned from Puttaparthi some weeks before, and though I was drawn much to Baba, I had not yet been convinced that He was also Sai Baba of Shirdi, or a manifestation of God. Years ago I was advised by someone to worship Sai Baba of Shirdi, and now I had fallen in with this new Baba at Puttaparthi. I revolved these doubts in my mind and pedalled along. Suddenly, a question, 'Finished the work of the day?' was thrown at me from behind by a hefty old man who was struggling to catch up to me by harder cycling. When I turned, I saw a fascinating smile lighting a face, looking at me half-pityingly and half-affectionately.
"I earned my livelihood in Delhi teaching music to children and occasionally playing the violin at musical concerts. So I thought the old man must have seen me at a concert or in a student's house, and noticed me pedalling on my cycle along the roads of Delhi. 'Yes, I am going home now,' I replied in Tamil, my mother tongue, and the language in which the stranger had, most unexpectedly, addressed me. 'Then', the old man pleaded, 'can you come along with me to that old tomb yonder? I will not keep you long.'
"We rode abreast for about a furlong to the tomb, and leaning our cycles against the wall, sat in the shadow on the eastern side. He asked me to sit opposite him, and by clever questioning he drew out my problems, one by one. He said that the Master I had providentially acquired was the Lord Himself. Then suddenly arising, he said, 'Why do you doubt it? He is Sai Baba of Shirdi, see!' He extended his palms toward me, and I clearly saw, as if painted in life-like color, the portrait of Sai Baba of Shirdi, resplendent on one palm, and on the other, the shining face of the Puttaparthi Baba. I can never forget those two faces lighting up the palms of the saintly old man. The episode came as an answer to all my doubts; it gave an anchor to the drifting soul; it provided me a new outlook on life. Whenever I now sit for meditation, that scene of twin splendor comes before my mind's eye and thrills me with a mysterious joy.
"We rode back to the road together, reaching which, he turned in the direction from which we had come. This was rather unexpected, for surely he could not have come so far just to bless me with that Vision. He admonished me again not to waiver in my allegiance and lose hold over a treasure so easily come by. I watched him pedal away, admiring his agility and cycling skill. But imagine my wonder and consternation the next moment, for he suddenly melted into thin air!"
Thus Baba gave the Delhi devotee positive proof of the identity of the two Babas.
Baba speaks the same words of consolation and courage and uses the same gesture of "Do not fear," under similar conditions now, as He did when a little boy, showing doubting mortals that He is born with the divine mission to uplift and guide. The same Vision is presented to solve the same doubt, whether the doubter is present physically before Baba, or whether he is far away in Delhi, cycling on a deserted road! He has given this Vision to many people, wherever they were, and to fortunate devotees this and other clear indications that He and Sai Baba of Shirdi are one.
When once a devotee was waiting at the Bangalore City Railway Station for the train to Mysore, so that she could enter the Mission Hospital for an operation, Sathya Sai Baba manifested Himself before her as a tall hefty old man wearing a long kafni, "gown," a cloth wound around his head, and carrying a heavy stick and a bundle of clothes. Seating himself on the same bench as the one on which the lady was sitting, he opened the conversation in Telugu and dissuaded her from having the operation, saying that it was now a fad with doctors to perform surgery at the slightest provocation! He told her he was just back from Shirdi, and he gave her date fruits which he said were the offering from the shrine! He said that the offered fruits would cure her, and they did! He also informed her that his ashram was near Viduraswatam, on the way to Puttaparthi, and that he, would be ultimately taking all the inmates of his own ashram to Shirdi!
Thus it is seen that Sai Baba of Shirdi is inextricably intertwined in the experience of devotees with the present manifestation of the same Godhead. When worship is done by any devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi now, Sathya Sai Baba knows about it.
Once a lady at Madras, desperate because her son was seriously ill, placed him in front of Sai Baba of Shirdi's portrait. Years later she came to know of Sathya Sai Baba. She came to Puttaparthi with her son, then a tall muscular young man. As soon as Baba saw them, He asked the mother "You placed this boy under my care fifteen years ago, did you not?"
Every year when the anniversary of the passing away of the mortal body of Sai Baba of Shirdi is celebrated at Shirdi, Baba "transcends" this body, and when He returns, He usually says, "I have been to Shirdi."
A few years ago while Baba was at Madras, an incident happened which is inexplicable by any other theory than the one which proclaims the identity of the two Babas. Baba casually announced to His devotees that a close attendant of Sai Baba of Shirdi would pass into eternity on a certain date in the morning hours and that He would have to go to give him the coveted Vision of Himself at the last moment of his mortal life. Most of the devotees were apprehensive about what might happen that day, although some were filled with expectation and indeed joyous that they would have an opportunity to see Baba blessing a disciple of His previous manifestation. For a few days they talked of little else; they watched the calendar and then the clock for the arrival of the historic moment!
At last the day dawned, and when the hour struck, Baba was, in spite of all the devotees' precautions, in the bathroom! Seeing that He did not emerge for a long time, they peeped through the window, and finding Him actually away from His Body, they broke open the door and began to attend the Body, watching for signs of movement or activity of heart or pulse. They saw Sacred Ash emanating in large quantities from His right toe, and they could hear Him speak in Marathi, quoting stanzas from scriptures. On "coming back" Baba told them the story of the passing away of the disciple of the "previous body" and how He had blessed him with a Vision of Sai Baba of Shirdi and given him the Udi which his Guru always granted him.
Four years ago, when Baba was in Hyderabad, He was invited to Sakori to the ashram of Godavari Matha, the disciple of Upasini Baba and Sai Baba of Shirdi. Welcomed by the women disciples with Vedic recitations and the traditional ceremonies of the Reception of Elders, they offered worship. He must have blessed them with a glimpse of His Reality and His Identity, for they expressed a keen desire to come to Prasanthi Nilayam. But Baba said that He was present at Sakori and that it was best they remain there.
Those who are familiar with the miracles of Sai Baba of Shirdi and also the miracles of Sri Sathya Sai Baba may note certain differences in style, language and technique, but as stated by Yogi Suddananda Bharathiar of Madras, who has seen and been inspired by both Babas, "There is an unmistakable identity of mission and message." Sathya Sai Baba says that He is not as severe or as stern with people now about ignorance, negligence, disobedience or superciliousness as He was in His previous manifestation. He explains this difference by means of a parable: "The mother is usually stern when the children enter the kitchen and disturb her while cooking; but while serving the food, she is all joy and patience. I am now serving you the dishes cooked then; wherever you may be, if you are hungry, and if you have a plate, I shall serve you the dishes and feed you to your heart's content!"
People who have read the description of the elaborate procession to the Chavadi of Sai Baba of Shirdi once every week, are thrilled at the grandeur of the affair. With its chariot, caparisoned horse, decorated palanquin and other paraphernalia, they might remark that Sathya Sai Baba does not permit His devotees to lavish all that pageantry on Him! Those who have read the description of the precariously hung plank upon which Sai Baba of Shirdi often slept, will be glad that Sathya Sai Baba does not adopt that type of austerity.
Concerning the difficulties one naturally experiences in believing the identity of the two Babas, Sathya Sai Baba told a gathering at the All-India Sai Samaj at Madras in January of 1959, "The careers of Sri Rama and Sri Krishna are different in the various incidents of their earthly careers; they also emphasized different aspects of ethical behavior and philosophical belief; they differed in their methods of teaching and uplifting. It is all a difference in emphasis rather than in basic things. It is difficult to be convinced that Sri Rama is Sri Krishna; but few have any doubts on that score. So too, those who can delve deep into these, My mysteries, can understand that the same Power has now assumed another human form."
Those who know about Sai Baba of Shirdi's miracles, His omniscience and omnipresence, His teachings, His universal love, can, by merely spending a few days in the Holy Presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, convince himself of the identity of the two. There is unmistakable similarity in speech, style, attitude, outlook, and teachings.
His Holiness Gayatri Swami, a disciple of His Holiness Narasimhabharati Swami, and a comrade of Swami Amritananda to whom reference has been made in previous pages, came to Prasanthi Nilayam in 1960. He told of spending the year 1906 with Sai Baba of Shirdi and of seeing Him frequently thereafter. He recalled incidents similar to the "Don't Shoot" miracle, described in a previous chapter, and he related many anecdotes of Sai Baba of Shirdi that parallel those of the present manifestation. Even some of the jokes were the same!
The night before he left Puttaparthi on that visit, it seems he had a Vision of his Guru, Sai Baba of Shirdi, in which He told him that He had left His tomb after eight years and had brought away all His "properties" fifteen years later! The next morning Gayatri Swami was surprised to learn from Nilayam residents that Sathya Sai Baba was born in 1926, eight years after the passing away of Sai Baba of Shirdi, and that He had assumed the name "Baba" and manifested all the powers associated with Sai Baba of Shirdi in His fifteenth year! The name and the powers, Gayatri indicated, must be the "properties" referred to by the Guru. Gayatri went away supremely happy that he had had his "center-view," and was bothered little about not having the interview! A simple childlike soul, he was, reminding everyone of Swami Amritananda.
Yogi Suddhananda Bharathiar says that when he visited Sai Baba at Shirdi in the company of the Lokamanya Balagangadhara Tilak and Karandiker, Sai Baba told them that freedom won by the rifle would be of no avail, for what is won by force will be lost to force. He advised that independence must be won by and for spiritual progress. Sathya Sai Baba also places first emphasis on love, based on sympathy and understanding.
Olaf Stapledon, noted author, writes about Europe and the West: "Already before the two great wars a materialistic pleasure-loving go-getting socially irresponsible civilization was becoming a nightmare. Between the two wars the nightmare deepened. In revulsion from it there was a widespread turning away from individualism and a yearning for a true community. This produced the movement for democratic socialism, but also, its perversion, totalitarianism. Both commercial individualism and the barbaric tribalism that sprang up in opposition to it were in their different ways object lessons in the frightfulness of a world disoriented from traditional values!" But the malady has affected India and other parts of the world too, for the world is fast becoming one.
There was another reason also for this second advent of Sai Baba of Shirdi. Stapledon speaks about the need: "Scientific enquiry itself seems to be producing important evidence that the assumptions on which the modern wisdom has been based are false! There is strong evidence for telepathy, and also for pre-cognition and post-cognition. It seems that future events can take effect on consciousness while they are still future, and in the orthodox view, non-existent! Similarly, with past events. All this makes nonsense to our familiar assumptions about time and about mind's temporal limitations. To cope with pre-cognition and post-cognition and even with simultaneous telepathy, 'the modern wisdom' will have to be transformed."
Sai Baba of Shirdi, and now Sathya Sai Baba, have both been doing just this, to emphasize traditional values and transforming "modern wisdom" by familiarizing everyone with the miracles of pre-cognition, simultaneous telepathy, multilocation, and also many an unnamed one, to the utter confusion of the pundits of science, thus proving to man that there is a God in him that is whispering mystery all the time.
The purpose of both the Sais is the same. Only the need to transform the modern wisdom has now become more imminent. In Sai Baba of Shirdi's time the emphasis was more on the community; in Sathya Sai Baba's time it is on the individual. Previously, it was more on activity for the good of all; now it is mostly on love for all and for one's innermost self; then the message was given to comparatively few; and now all are welcome to it and it is even taken to the very doors of the needy.
A person knowledgeable of the life of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, reading, for example, the Sai Satcharita, written in English by Sri N.V. Gunaji, on the basis of the Marathi book by Hemadpant, will be reminded on every page of the continuity and identity of the present manifestation and the last. He will find in the book echoes of what he has often heard Baba Himself saying.
The book reveals that Sai Baba of Shirdi encouraged and warned devotees with such admonitions as: "Be wherever you like, do whatever you choose; remember this well, that all that you do is known to me. I am the ruler of all. I am seated in your hearts. Though I am here bodily, still I know what you do beyond the seven seas. Go wherever you will, over the wide world, I am with you." On innumerable occasions Sathya Sai Baba has said essentially the same thing.
Once when a number of devotees at Prasanthi Nilayam were planning where they should stay at Courtallam, on the way from Trivandrum to Surandai, Baba said, "Wait! I shall tell you." The next morning He gave a detailed description of the Travancore House there, the number of rooms, the kinds of plants in the garden, the height of the compound wall, the location of the telephone in the hall, and so forth. A list was made to which He added a few more items including two bougainvillaea bushes at each end of the porch! He had seen all this from the Nilayam. When the group reached the Travancore House, the list was found to be correct to the minutest detail of a neglected rose tree near the garages!
He has proved to His devotees that He is with them always and that He knows every little thing they do, think, or speak. A devotee came to Puttaparthi some years ago and Baba told him that His ears were suffering with pain because of the singing of songs of God in the devotee's house! This was caused, He said, by "a neigbbor who came and joined in the singing who had a voice which was quite unmusical; the man did not know how to adjust the tone and tempo of his voice to that of the others." The reference to the pain was, of course, a jest; but how could He know of the grating voice unless He had actually heard?
Baba astonishes people by telling them all about their inmost thoughts and their most private deeds; He "reads them like an open book." An Inspector-General of Police who was once waiting in line outside Baba's interview room told a friend with him, a little challengingly, "There is one incident in my life, which, if He reveals to me, hats off to Him!" The Inspector-General's turn came; the interview ended; he came out of the room full of joy and satisfaction, shouting, "He knows everything from A to Z, official and unofficial."
Very often Sathya Sai Baba has told devotees starting a voyage or pilgrimage, "Purchase three tickets for the four people who travel," meaning that He will join them as a ticketless passenger!
While His physical Body was at Puttaparthi, He once saved a pilot from suicide at Kashmir. This was in 1949. The facts were verified by those who actually witnessed the "trance." Baba was away from His Body for twelve hours. On His "return" He recounted that He not only dashed the fatal cup from the pilot's hand but entered the courtroom where the case against the pilot was being tried. He directed one of the military judges to raise an objection which virtually foiled the prosecution and forced the court to pronounce a verdict of "not guilty!" The pilot, Baba said, was a staunch devotee of Sai Baba of Shirdi and was being unjustly charged with embezzlement of funds!
A Mr. Gunji writes of Sai Baba of Shirdi: "Shirdi was His center, but His field of action extended far wider to Bombay and Calcutta, North India, Gujerat, Deccan and South Kanara." The same is true of the Sathya Sai manifestation. Devotees who have gone to far away places including England, France, Canada, the United States, Japan and Germany, have felt His protecting Hand. Mr. and Mrs. G.V. Venkatamuni, for example, proceeded to the Continent and planned from there to attend the Coronation Ceremonies of Queen Elizabeth II. They were shopping in Paris when they discovered, to their utter dismay, that the bundle of traveler's cheques they had was lost! They could not locate it in spite of their desperate and thorough search not only in their purse and luggage but even in the most unlikely places. They were overcome with sorrow when they contemplated their plight in a strange land. They turned to Baba, as they always did in distress. Baba heard their pathetic cry - thousands of miles away! The next day, while looking in the self-same purse for something else, they were amazed and overjoyed to find the entire bundle of traveler's cheques intact!
There were two classmates of Baba when He was a little boy at school who joined the army in later years. An accident occurred, and they were caught in the flames of a fire that blew up a gasoline tank. Baba said this happened in the Northeast Frontier. This fact was verified some years later when the boys returned home after the conclusion of hostilities. Baba at Puttaparthi had immediately left His Body and proceeded to the scene of the fire. He prevented the fire from spreading to the tent where the boys were, though the flames encircled the area.
The Sai Satcharita says, "Goulibhava, aged ninety-five, who made his way to Pandharpur, saw Sai Baba of Shirdi as God in the form Vittal, and exclaimed, "This is Vittal incarnate, the merciful Lord of the poor and the helpless."
Last year a family of devotees went to Shirdi and from there attempted to travel to Pandharpur, but because of heavy rains and floods and the consequent cancellation of trains, they could not proceed further. They came to Puttaparthi. As Baba visited with them, He asked the aged father and mother, "You could not see Vittal, could you? You seem to be very sorry that your pilgrimage had to be cut halfway. If you want to have a Darshan of Vittal, look at Me." They looked, then danced with supreme joy, for Baba had become Vittal for their sake.
Of Sai Baba of Shirdi it is said that He was the form of God as Rama, Krishna, Siva and Maruthi. The Satcharita records an incident of a doctor, who, when he went to Sai Baba of Shirdi "saw not Baba but his beloved deity, Rama, on the seat before him." Sathya Sai Baba has, as many devotees have attested, granted Visions of Himself as Rama, Krishna, and Kamakshi.
The experience of Swami Amritananda at Puttaparthi is a valuable example of this aspect of the divinity of Baba. As soon as Amritananda reached Prasanthi Nilayam, Baba accosted him, "Amritam," and Amritananda was genuinely astonished at the familiarity and even affection with which the call was saturated, and said, "Only Ramana Maharshi, a saint of South India, with whom I spent seventeen years, accosted me in that manner. The voice and manner were exactly the voice and manner of the Maharshi!" Later Baba asked the eighty-five year old Swami about a Ganapati Homa, a sacrifice to the elephant-headed God, which he had performed for forty-one days when he was seven years old! He told the Swami all the details of that sacrifice, including the long involved mantra, "words of Power," with which the offerings were placed each time in the fire. The mantra, as disclosed by Baba, begins, "Om Sreem Hreem Kleem Gloum Gam." This is a mantra of Seed Sounds. Baba told him that he had repeated this mantra a thousand times a day for forty-one days and made as many coconut offerings in the fire of the sacred sacrifice. "But what is the reward promised in the Scriptures?" Baba asked the old ascetic. He answered that if the sacrifice is done with scrupulous regard for ritual, Lord Ganapati Himself will appear in "the fiery enclosure," as the golden-colored effulgent elephant-headed God; that with His trunk He will receive the final and concluding offerings and will grant everlasting bliss by means of the Darshan. Baba asked him whether he had the Vision. Amritananda replied that it was not so easy for a seven year old boy to get the Vision of the Lord by the mere number and quantity of offerings and mantras. Baba interrupted him, saying, "No, no. It is due to all that mantra and all that sacrifice that you have now come to Me. You will today, after an interval of seventy-eight years, get the reward mentioned in the Scriptures."
He asked the Swami to look at Him, and when he did, Amritananda saw the golden-colored elephant, the Ganapati as described in ancient texts. He was overwhelmed with joy and bliss for four days following this Darshan, and forsook food, drink, and sleep.
It is mentioned by Hemadpant that Sai Baba of Shirdi, "the famous doctor of doctors, cared not for His own interests and always worked for the good and welfare of others. Himself suffering unbearable and terrible pain many a time in the process." This is true even in this manifestation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, for Sathya Sai Baba has taken upon Himself many forms of suffering including mumps, typhoid and other fevers, childbirth pains, and scalding burns of His devotees. [Picture: Shirdi Sai in a village]
A doctor who lived near Madurai wrote to Baba: "My ear began to bleed profusely all of a sudden, and it gave me great pain. I suffered for a day. All at once the pain and bleeding subsided miraculously." Just as the doctor's letter reached Puttaparthi, Baba Himself was "free" from a slightly bleeding ear and earache, which He announced He had "taken over" from a devotee who had been suffering the agony!
On the twenty-first of June, 1959, at Bangalore, Baba's temperature suddenly shot up to 104.5 degrees F. at about 1:30 in the afternoon. The alarm of the devotees was considerably reduced when five minutes later, the thermometer registered a fall and indicated 99 degrees F. No one knew the reason for this sudden rise and the equally sudden fall until about 9:30 that evening. During dinner, Baba, seated on the terrace in the moonlight, instructed a young man from Madras, "Tomorrow, when you go to your mother, tell her that she should be more careful about fire. Assure her that Baba is always with her and that she will never come to harm." Baba explained that the sari of the young man's mother had caught fire from oil lamps while she was praying in her shrine room. The aroused curiosity of His guests prompted one to place a long distance telephone call to the mother two hundred and twenty-two miles away in Madras. When Baba spoke to her, her first query was whether His Hands were burned in the process of putting out the flames, as she knew of such instances of His mercy. Baba answered, "Oh, no. I did not burn My Hands. I just had an increase of temperature for a short while!"
Sai Baba of Shirdi once had his arm scorched while saving a child from fire. The accident happened many miles away. Sai Baba of Shirdi commented, "The child slipped into the furnace. I immediately thrust in My Hand and saved the child. I do not mind My arm being burned. I am glad that the life of the child is saved." The acts of Grace are the same in both manifestations.
The Satcharita, the remarkable book about Sai Baba of Shirdi which has been previously mentioned, gives many cases of illness which were cured by Him by a mere command such as, "You should not purge any more." "The vomiting must stop." "Your diarrhea has stopped." "Do not climb, O snake poison."
Sathya Sai Baba continues to perform the same miracles, and cures diseases, however long standing, by His Will only. An old merchant from the town of Kuppam, thought to be dead, was kept for two days because Baba did not give His word to proceed with the disposal of the body. On the third day Baba ordered him to get up, and he obeyed! There was a young man from Salem suffering from acute diarrhea. Baba commanded him "not to purge any more" - and the purging ceased! Living in Puttaparthi was a young girl whose eyesight was so poor that, to guide herself about her house, she had to walk touching the wall with one hand. She could not even bear the sunlight; it burned her eyes, giving her agonizing headaches. She remained in a darkened room indoors most of the day. She had consulted all the renowned optometrists in Mysore, Madras and Bombay. No cure resulted. She spent her days in prayer and meditation. At last, one day, after visiting Baba, He said she could go home and that her eyes would be right. He gave her a bottle of eye-drops, which He materialized by a Wave of the Hand, and told her "Use this medicine; a few drops will do." She went home and found her eyes perfect in every way. His command was obeyed!
The Satcharita says of Sai Baba of Shirdi, "He became famous as a Magician. Without any liquid or medicine being put in the eyes, some blind men got back their eyesight." This is true, word for word, of Sathya Sai Baba.
The Satcharita also states that Sai Baba of Shirdi used to say, "I am the Mother, the origin of all beings, the harmony of the three qualities of nature, the propeller of all scenes, the Creator, the Preserver, and the Destroyer." Also, "His firm conviction was that He was the Lord Vasudev." Likewise Baba has announced many times that He has come to save the world and that He is the Lord Himself. A profoundly true declaration of this was evinced about 1952. Sudden death had taken away His sister's husband, and the entire family and villagers were grief stricken. A few hours after the burial Baba was seen seated on the low porch wall of the family house facing the road that leads to Prasanthi Nilayam. The bereaved sister was wailing pathetically from inside the house. Her little son with his grandmother was in front of Baba and there was a semi-circle of the father, mother, sister, brothers, and others, all in deep sorrow. Baba smiled, and chided with a chuckle, "What? If there is no death, and no birth, how can I spend My time?" Is not Baba the Creator, the Preserver, the Destroyer, the Lord Himself?
Sai Baba of Shirdi had control over the elements. "Once there was an imminent fear of a terrible storm; the sky was overcast; the rains fell and the waters flooded the streets; the panic stricken villagers ran to Baba for help. Baba told the storm, "Stop your fury and be calm." All became calm at Shirdi. This account, too, is given in the Satcharita. He also once commanded a fire to "step down and be calm, and it obeyed instantly."
Many such instances are stored in the memory of the devotees of Sathya Sai Baba also. For this is but a continuation of the same divine drama. Sri Challa Appa Rao writes concerning a downpour. "It occurred when Baba was taken in procession on the night of the Vijayadasami Festival. He sat in a decorated chariot. When the procession started, the sky was dark and heavy with storm clouds. There was deafening thunder and flashes of lightning. Truly a grim spectacle! More than three hours passed before the procession returned to the temple. Still there was no rain. Who else can it be, if not God Himself who can hold back the downpour for so long? Baba stepped down from the chariot and went upstairs at the Nilayam. Everyone else returned to their lodgings. Then came the deluge!"
On a cloudy June evening, Baba was addressing an audience in an open-air meeting at Mercara. A monsoon sky was overcast and gloomy; an ominous sense of approaching rain was felt. On the distant hills the rain poured. It came nearer and nearer until it reached Mahadevpet, just half a mile away. Baba discoursed quietly and calmly, holding the audience spellbound for more than an hour and a half. At the end He said, "Now you can go home, for in about ten minutes you will get the rain that would have drenched you by now." The rains came precisely as announced!
The Chitravathi River at Puttaparthi is subject to sudden floods. It rises in the Nandi Hills, and heavy rains in that region in Mysore State bring down water many feet deep along the banks for many miles. The Prasanthi Nilayam was built on an eminence to avoid these periodic floods which at times invade the old temple and enter the prayer shed, the kitchens, and all the surrounding area. On many such occasions Baba has stood on the edge of the water and said, "This is enough, go back." The rising waters obeyed. Some years ago, during Dasara, when food was being served, it rained all around the Nilayam, but not a drop fell in the precincts where people were being fed!
In 1963 Baba was in the East Godavari District. He had crossed over to Rajahmundry by the very last boat permitted by the police to brace the turbid torrents of the flooded river. The earth was soaked and slushy everywhere; a cold wind had swept down a drizzle for almost twenty-four hours. At Mirthipadu, approximately ten miles from Rajahmundry, Baba addressed villagers from an open terrace of a bungalow. One could see all around the broad sheets of water formed by the swelling Godavari and the curtain of rain advancing from all directions toward Mirthipadu. But the rain could not penetrate the area, and the meeting continued far into the night! Baba had willed that the rain not advance.
Satcharita records that Sai Baba of Shirdi cured Bhimaji Patel by means of two dreams. "He gave instructions to many persons in dreams. To one addicted to drink, He appeared to him in a dream; He sat on the man's chest and pressed him until he promised not to touch liquor again. Baba explained mantras to some people in their dreams."
The present Sai Baba has "operated" on many suffering patients during their dreams. Thirumala Rao of Bangalore had such an experience, and when he awoke, the bed was soaked with blood, and the pain gone. What he dreamed had actually come to pass. Baba, the Surgeon, had blessed him.
Dreams form a very important means of communication between Baba and His devotees. Baba warns, teaches, instructs, treats, or "operates," during a dream of the devotee which He designs and times. He has initiated a number of devotees into the first lesson in spiritual discipline. In dreams He has presented Himself and communicated the sacred formula to the deserving aspirant. Later when the devotee visits Puttaparthi, He has told him about the processes and conditions for successful spiritual practice.
Just as Sai Baba of Shirdi sat on the chest of the drunkard and forced him in a dream experience to promise not to touch liquor again, so Baba, too, has "beaten" an unruly son-in-law of one of His devotees while he was in a moving train, alone, in a first class compartment! The man jumped out of the train as soon as it halted at a wayside station. The crowd that gathered could see the finger-marks on both his cheeks.
An insane patient at the hospital at Puttaparthi was also "beaten" in absentia by Baba, and the doctors at his bedside witnessed the fellow yelling at every blow, shouting that he would behave better, and praying to Baba to stop beating him, all the while wondering at Baba's mysterious way of curing the patient of his foul vocabulary. After this treatment and the suffering of actual physical pain, the fellow gave up his vile speech and chose always to sing devotional songs!
Satcharita gives the case of a Punjabi boy who saw Sai Baba of Shirdi in a dream and heard Baba commanding him to come to Shirdi. He did not know who Baba was or where Shirdi was. Luckily, he came across a picture of Baba in a shop, and after many adventures, arrived at Shirdi.
Many instances of exactly the same nature have occurred in Sathya Sai Baba's role. The principal of a college in South India was surprised when his son, afflicted with dire heart trouble, said one day that he had dreamed of a place called Puttaparthi where he would be cured! He made inquiries, consulted the railway time tables of all the Indian zones, got a copy of the Post Office Directory, and was surprised to find that there was a village called Puttaparthi. Further inquiries gave him the precious news that Sri Sathya Sai Baba was there and that He could, by His mere Will, cure all afflictions!
How Baba called the great devotee of the composer-saint Tyagaraja to Himself is an interesting story. In 1951 the Raja of Venkatagiri was surprised to receive a letter from this devotee which read: "Tyagaraja appeared in a dream and commanded me to go to Venkatagiri in order to be blessed by the Lord who has come to this earth and who is soon reaching Venkatagiri in His tour. He told me that God has assumed the name of Sri Sathya Sai. I shall come to Venkatagiri as soon as I hear from you." It was the festival of the birth of Krishna when she met Baba at Venkatagiri in answer to this command. Baba gave her the chance to sing the compositions of Tyagaraja for two full hours in His Presence. He also blessed her with an image of Sri Rama, which He materialized for her. After receiving the image, she was in ecstatic unconsciousness for over twenty-four hours! She was happy that Baba granted her two boons. She experienced a peaceful end and the remembrance of Ramnam, the repeating of Rama's Name, to the very last moment of her life!
Hundreds of people come to Puttaparthi drawn by mysterious intimations. For example there was Sukumara Menon, who was "called" by phone by Baba's voice to meet Him, a call not noticed anywhere along the line; the phone rang in his room, although Baba was actually in Bangalore in the midst of devotees at a housewarming function. Sukumara Menon wrote about the mysterious call and the conversation he had with Baba. When this was mentioned to Baba He said, "You know this now, because he wrote about it. But remember, this is only a millionth part of My activity in showering Grace."
Satcharita also records another facet of Sai Baba of Shirdi's life which can be seen as a correct account of what happens today at Puttaparthi. "The devotees could never approach Him unless He intended to receive them. Nobody could go there of his own accord; nobody could stay there long if he so wished; he had to leave the place when allowed to do so by Baba."
Once, when a long line of bullock carts approached Puttaparthi from Bukkapatnam bringing visitors from various places, Baba sang jubilantly, "It has come! It has come! Baba's Caravan." The author, standing nearby, remarked, "People who come to Puttaparthi tell their neighbors, friends and relatives, and so the number increases. "Baba turned sharply, saying, "No! No one can come to Me without My calling him, even if a hundred people persuade or drag or push." Everyone who comes to Puttaparthi leaves saying prayers such as, "Help me to come again." "Kindly get me once again to this place." Devotees know that without His express wish, no one can fulfill the pilgrimage. When He says, "Stay," they stay, whether they have "leave from the office" or not. When He says, "Leave," they leave, however unwillingly, for when they scrupulously follow Baba's orders in doing so, some urgent work will be awaiting them when they return home!
Devotees of Sathya Sai Baba have heard Him assure them, "Why fear when I am here?" "You look to Me, and I look to you." "All your sins are forgiven the moment you come into My Presence." "I shall carry all your burdens." "Take, take as much bliss as you can from Me and leave with me all your sorrows." Assurances were given to many fortunate souls, in identical terms, by Sai Baba of Shirdi, as recorded in the Satcharita:
"I do not need any paraphernalia for worship, either eightfold or sixteenfold. I rest where there is full devotion."
"My treasury is always full; it is overflowing; I say, take this wealth in cartloads; this time won't come again."
"Let there be no insistence on establishing one's own view; no attempt to refute other's opinions."
"Nothing will harm him who turns his attention toward Me. Avoid the Company of atheists, irreligious, and wicked people; be meek and humble toward all. See Me in all beings."
"All the insects, ants, the visible, movable, and immovable world is My Body and Form."
"My treasury is full and I can give anyone what he wants, but I have to see whether he is qualified to receive what I give."
"Look at Me wholeheartedly and I in turn will look at you similarly."
"To get realization of Self, meditation is necessary. If you practice it continuously, the mental waves will be pacified."
"Give water to the thirsty, bread to the hungry, and your veranda to strangers for sitting and resting. If you are inclined to give, give; if you are not inclined to give, do not give, but do not bark like a dog."
"I require no door to enter; I always live everywhere."
"God's quest should not be made on an empty stomach."
"Leaving out your pride and egoism, surrender yourself to Me. I am seated in your heart."
The Satcharita says that Sai Baba of Shirdi wanted a devotee to cast aside his blind belief in horoscopes and predictions of astrologers and palmists, for it weakens one.
Sathya Sai Baba also has advised similarly. There is the incident of a man from the old State of Hyderabad who dreamed that Baba asked him to extend his palm. With a sharp pointed knife, Baba drew a line on his palm, the line of good luck, as he discovered the next day to his delight and dismay! For One who can draw a new line on the palm, of what concern is palmistry? For One who can change the stars, of what value is astrology? Little wonder that these divine manifestations decry man's faith in these beliefs when he himself is master and maker of destiny!
Again, from the Satcharita:
"Baba never liked people to create debts when coming to visit Him, celebrating holy days or going on pilgrimages."
"Baba anticipated and forestalled the calamities of His devotees and warded them off in time."
"Baba respected the feelings of His devotees and allowed them to worship Him as they liked."
"Baba was extremely forgiving, never irritable, straight, soft, tolerant, and content beyond comparison."
"Baba read and understood all the thoughts of His devotees."
"He suppressed the evil thoughts and encouraged the good ones."
All these sayings parallel those of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
Swami Amritananda, companion of Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, was convinced that Sri Sathya Sai Baba knew Yogic science better than anyone else in his experience because Sai Baba elaborated to him on his faulty practice of Yogic exercises which he had performed years before Sai Baba's "birth." In Satcharita it is written that "Sai Baba of Shirdi knows well all Yogic practices."
Sathya Sai Baba gave practical lessons in Yoga to a young Frenchman who, like many other enthusiastic students, had endeavored to practice Yoga through a study of books. Many cases of misdirected practice of Yoga come to Baba for treatment and correction.
The following sentence from Satcharita could very well have been written about the present Sai Baba. "To Him all duties are alike; He knows neither honor nor dishonor."
Sathya Sai Baba attends the smallest detail of the lowliest task at Prasanthi Nilayam. He sits on the floor, sleeps on a mat, does not hesitate to walk in sun or rain, climbs the snow-clad Himalayas barefoot, invites a large crowd to ride in His car in spite of the crush and length of the journey, goes long distances without food and drink. He prefers the dishes of the poorest of the land, because, as He says, "No one should be put to extra expense and trouble on My account!"
The Satcharita says of the previous Sai Baba:
"Baba could read the hearts of others as though He had received a wireless message."
"Baba converted by His touch raisin seeds into seedless raisins."
"Baba gave instructions to His devotees in both spiritual and temporal matters."
"Baba saw no difference between caste and caste, and even beings and beings."
"Baba always loved those who studied about the Universal and the Absolute, and He always encouraged them."
"Baba hated scandal mongering and spoke of it as equal to gorging dung."
"Baba insisted that remuneration for labor must be paid promptly and to the satisfaction of the worker."
Everyone of these sayings appear to those who have met, heard, and followed Sathya Sai Baba, to be His own statements and as representing His own advice and attitude.
In 1958, when He was examined on commission by a law court, Baba referred to a similar incident in His previous "birth" and gave the same replies. When asked His name, He said, "I answer to any." He said that everything was His, that He lived everywhere, and by these replies, He made the pundits of law describe Him as inscrutable, though, for adepts in spiritual science, it was as clear as crystal that those were the unmistakable utterances of an Incarnation of the Lord.
It is the same Presence come again! Sathya Sai Baba once said that this body was born in Parthi; the previous one was born in Pathri. In this "birth" as well as the previous, there was a Muslim who loved Him and fondled Him as a child. In this "birth," too, He drew people's attention to Himself when a boy, by disclosing the whereabouts of a lost horse at the village of Uravakonda. Everyone will find in the present God manifestation the same motherly solicitude, simplicity of exposition, profundity of wisdom, universality of outlook, all-conquering love, and the same omnipresence and omnipotence.
Sathya Sai Baba has often said that He had been to Shirdi when He was in what may be called a trance. At Puttaparthi on Purnami Festival Day in 1950, Baba was having lunch with a young man from Madras. The lady serving the dishes did not know that it was an auspicious day for Sai devotees. Suddenly Baba "went on a journey," and during this period, He ordered, "Serve him chapatis," unleavened bread. "Serve him kheer," sweets, and mentioned strange names of other sweets and foods. When He "returned," the lady gently chided Him, "If you ask me to serve this young man items that I have not prepared, and items I have not even heard about, what can I do?" Baba sympathized with her plight. He said He had been to Shirdi and the names He mentioned were Marathi dishes! He then created a chapati and slices of Marathi sweets which He gave to the young man.
When He came to Puttaparthi after the Declaration of His identity, a young lad of fifteen, He showed in His Hand a fruit which no one there had seen or tasted before. Pedda Venkapa Raju's sister says that she asked Baba what type of fruit it was and received the reply that it came from Shirdi. Baba proposed to cut and distribute pieces in the evening. She pleaded with Baba that each person be given at least one full fruit so that it may be relished. Baba asked her to give Him a large basket with a cover. He tapped the basket once and she was shown a basket full of the fruit! That evening there were a hundred or more people, and she was again concerned that there would not be a whole fruit for each. The basket could not hold more than thirty to forty! She told Baba how nervous she was. Then the unexpected. From that basket Baba gave a whole fruit to each of the more than one hundred people after devotional singing! The taste was so strange and so sweet!
Pedda Venkapa Raju's sister relates another miraculous incident. She was troubling Baba with a request to grant her some Vision to instill faith in her heart, for she did not want to dismiss the story of the Sai incarnation as an invention, an attitude that many in the family found it easy to assume. Baba liked her because she was a simple soul, steeped in suffering. He told her, "I shall show you My 'previous body' this evening!" She confessed that she could not contain her joy and was praying for a shorter afternoon and a quicker sunset! As soon as dusk fell, Baba led her through many doorways into one of the innermost rooms of the house. He took away His Palm which had been covering her eyes and asked her to look at a corner to which He pointed with His Finger. There sat Sai Baba of Shirdi on the floor in His characteristic pose, with one leg slightly folded, the other stretched just a little. The incense sticks before Him were burning and the smoke rising straight into the air! His body was glowing with a strange effulgence and there was a beautiful fragrance everywhere. After a minute or two, Baba asked her, "Have you seen?" and when she said, "Oh, how wonderful!" He placed His Palm once again firmly over her eyes and led her into the outer room.
Baba has often said that controversy as to whether He is the same Baba is meaningless and unnecessary, for as He explains, when there are two pieces of sweet, one square, another circular, one yellow and the other purple, unless one has eaten and realized the taste of both, one cannot believe that both are the same. Tasting, experiencing, that is the crucial thing, in order to know their identity.
The Rain Cloud
Those who have had the good fortune of listening to a discourse by Baba at a public gathering will always cherish the thrill and the inspiration of the experience. Nothing will ever diminish the exhilaration of that occasion. Baba speaks generally in Telugu, though He converses with devotees in several languages including Tamil, Kannada, Hindi, Sindhi, and English. His omniscience finds expression in any medium. His diction and style are simple and direct, full of proverbs, parables and illustrations taken from the actual experience of the people around Him. His words become engraved in the hearts of the listeners.
He refuses to name His discourses "speeches", for they are never prepared in advance or delivered over the heads of the people or directed to the masses. He prefers to describe them as "conversation". His way of probing into personal problems and answering individual doubts make that appellation very apt. The effect of His discourse is always as if He is speaking only to an individual. Within a minute or two He has one's attention to a point that he forgets he is one among thousands and yields himself to Baba's diagnosis and treatment. The face that enchants, the voice that endears, the smile that illumines, the gesture that clarifies, all become one's personal possessions. His advice and His appeal are so intimate and imbued with love that one's entire self is surrendered to Him by the time He finishes. He is not just an orator, or evangelist, or a teacher. He is the Rain Cloud come to nourish parched lives.
Baba declared when a boy that He would undertake His task of teaching in His thirty-second year. Until that age He discoursed only occasionally, either at Prasanthi Nilayam or on the sands of the Chitravatri River when devotees gathered around Him and sought His Guidance. At times he spoke at the Sathya Sai Baba District Board High School at Bukkapatnam where He presided over functions such as the "School Day". At the Nilayam or on the sands, the discourse usually commenced with a question posed by a devotee on a general problem affecting social conduct or spiritual endeavor. Baba would shed light not only on the main question but also on all related topics. A chance question on life after death once brought forth from Baba a very illuminating discourse on the journey of the disembodied soul, the inner significance of the funeral rites of the different communities, the existence of ghosts, the chances of communicating with the dead, and even the custom of naming the grandchild after the grandfather. Such discussions arise informally on almost every occasion. Baba is ever willing to impart the courage born of conviction. He is the superb educator.
Once a few devotees had the opportunity to be with Baba at Horsley Hills for a week. Every morning and evening Baba sat with the devotees and introduced new problems of spiritual discipline. He asked everyone to reveal to Him his spiritual practice, ideals and ideas, the name and form of the Godhead which appealed to him, the spiritual text having the greatest influence in shaping his life, the picture each had formed of the Ultimate Reality, and the goal of each one's spiritual discipline. He poured light on the dark corners of each heart. This He has been doing, even as a child. Was He not named the "Little Master" by His grandfather, Kondama Raju? The old man would swell with pride and joy when he sat listening to a discourse given by Baba a few days before his passing in 1950.
At school He dissuaded His playmates from smoking cigarettes; He evinced disgust at spiced, rich, and stale food. He warned His friends to stay away from cinemas. He encouraged them all to sing songs in praise of God, to wear the Holy Ash and observe habits of personal cleanliness.
At Kamalapuram, as a schoolboy, He composed songs warning against the evil of drink, the dangerous consequences of illiteracy, on the abject condition of the untouchables, and on the degradation of village factions. He wrote a social play named the "Changed Times", which contained many folk tunes depicting the tricks used to catch peoples' attention by seekers of power. It further depicts the piteous plight of a great poet and seer whose warnings go unheeded. He is neglected by everyone, except a poor peasant; his children become destitute. Men of straw take vengeance upon the children for the words of wisdom their father dared utter. Times change. The children win power and re-establish the Golden Age when the immortal words of the poet are sung again and put into practice.
Baba was entreated by actors in village plays to write dialogues for their roles. Whenever He acted a role, He composed the songs and speeches for Himself. Invariably these compositions breathed a high moral note and stood out above the rest of the drama, attracting attention by their superior style, diction, and appeal.
The role of the teacher is fundamental to Sai Baba. "I never utter a word that does not have significance, or do a deed without beneficial consequence", He once declared. Even the most casual remark is filled with valuable advice. Addressing a lady who was struggling to keep her child quiet, He said, "See! Sitting astride your hip, the child cries, 'Mother, Mother', not realizing that he is being held in her clasp by Mother herself. This is what everyone here is doing. They do not know that the Lord is the Mother who clasps them; they simply cry, 'Mother, Mother' ".
Once seeing the item "Welcome Speech" in the program of a meeting, Baba said, "I am in you and so you need not welcome Me. I shall not come because you call, or go because you deny". He is always and everywhere the teacher, the friend, philosopher and guide. He slowly and steadily moulds the character and outlook of everyone who offers himself for His guidance or of those He selects for such training.
When, at Prasanthi Nilayam or elsewhere, someone is reciting or explaining a text such as the Gita, the Ramayana, the Bhagavatha or Upanishad, He watches the audience for a while, and taking His cue from a word or phrase, explains to the delight of the learned and the unlearned alike, the obscurity which worries them. In this way He has unraveled many mysteries of the sacred scriptures.
In the discourses Baba gives at Prasanthi Nilayam, He often expounds highly philosophical subjects. He once cautioned, "You are all no longer 'young'; you must go from the lower class to the next higher one". By means of stories and parables, proverbs and metaphors, He simplifies the most complex philosophical theory. One day He spoke on the topic of the inspiring company of the good and described how it can lead man on to the disinclination to be in company, that is to say, how the companionship of the good leads one to the giving up of attachment itself. Baba made these observations on a Festival Night of Siva: "Mind is presided over by the moon, and every month the moon is almost worn out on the fourteenth night after the full moon. One's ambition should be to destroy the mind's whims, fancies and vagaries and to strive his utmost on that night to increase his discipline to achieve victory of the forces of goodness, of the pure Self over the downward impulses. That night has to be dedicated to God".
The summer solstice begins the divine half-year when the sun, which presides over illumined mind of man, is proceeding on the northward divine path. "Swim with the current", Baba says. "The sun itself is journeying northward toward Kailasa, the lofty mountain peak of Self-realization, the Paradise of Siva. This is the best time for spiritual initiation and practice."
On the special "Day for Honoring the Teacher," Baba reminds devotees and aspirants to revere the teachers and the wisdom they embody. He describes the essential characteristics of teachers and explains the criteria by which they can distinguish the true from the false. Every discourse of Baba has a novelty of its own, a thrill, a joy which is its unique mark!
Baba says that in His discourses He serves "medicinal food", not "festival food". Therefore He appeals to the listeners not to miss a fragment of the meal or carelessly throw away even a morsel of a word. He is the "Great Physician" come to heal. No two discourses are the same in tone or content. He says, "Mine is not a lecture; it is a mixture!" He has no one prescription for all!
Speaking to high school students at Chittoor, He gave detailed instructions regarding preparation for examinations and the systematic way in which they have to be tackled in the hall. "Mark all the questions which you feel you can3 successfully answer; answer them; then tackle the rest; you will then be in a better and a more confident mood," He said. He discussed problems of the classroom and the football field with an intimacy that was very remarkable.
Presiding over the Prize-giving Ceremony of the District Sports at Penukonda, He spoke on the emphasis wrongly placed on competition and on winning, pitting school against school, boy against boy. He then pointed out that the spirit in which victory or defeat is taken is much more important than the actual result of the event.
At Madakasira, on a similar occasion, He punned upon the word Bahumati, meaning both "prize" and "many-mindedness," and declared, "I always distribute single-mindedness, never Bahumati or many-mindedness"! He then asked the winners to thank the losers, for if the losers had put forth a little more effort, they might have won and deprived the others of carrying away the prizes!
Inaugurating the Girls' High School at Venkatagiri, He expounded the good habits that students should develop: "Be ever careful about your books, for your parents have sacrificed much to get them for you. Do not quarrel with your brothers and sisters and thus make the home a nest of discontent. Do not envy classmates who are richer. Be content. Do not show off. Speak the truth always, for falsehood is the result of cowardice. Get up early in the morning at five, and after bathing, sit alone quietly and meditate on the Lord. Go to sleep at nine in the evening, and before lying down, pray to the Lord. Tell Him to accept all that you have done during the day, because it has been done truthfully and dutifully, and ask Him to give you strength to serve Him and His children, your brothers and sisters. In the morning thank Him for the day dawning before you, and ask that it may be given to you to spend usefully for yourself and for others."
Addressing the villagers of Mirthipadu, Baba spoke on topics within their knowledge: "By the sweat of your brow, you transform dirt and dust into nourishing, relishing food for man and beast. What a holy task you perform daily! I am very happy to be in your midst today. You bear innumerable troubles and toils and place firm reliance on your own selves. You move about these green fields, wafted by the cool breeze beneath the blue sky. How nice it would be if, when you walk along the edges of these fields, you sing the glory of the Lord who is immanent in all this beauty, all this plenty, and all this grandeur! Do not contaminate the atmosphere by words of anger against one another; purify it by repeating the name of the Lord".
So, too, at Budili village, on the banks of the Chitravatri, He spoke of the sweetness and purity of the peasant's life and of the village being the foundation of the culture of the country. He also spoke of the need of gratitude for benefits received, the dangers of faction, and the value of traditional religious-like singing and temple worship. He said He had noticed that someone had dumped a broken cart on the temple porch, an act demonstrating disregard for the sacred precincts. He exhorted the young men of the village to serve it with all their intelligence and devotion.
If it is a function connected with a hospital, Baba has valuable advice for the organizers as well as the gathering. At the Sathya Sai Hospital, He once deplored that the doctors should, in their report, write about the "progress" achieved when actually the number of inpatients and outpatients had increased. He said that He would be happy only when there was full health for everyone. This could be achieved - mostly by the gaining of peace. "Worry, greed, needless agitation, and anxiety - these cause even bodily disease. Disease is want of ease; the contented mind is the best drug. The body must be well looked after, since it is the boat which helps us to cross the sea of experiences. So it should not be weakened either by habits which sap the strength or by overdoing of disciplines such as fasting. Learning Yogic practices from books and practicing them with the aid of leaflets and charts is also a fertile source of illness, both physical and mental. Be good, be joyful, be bold, be honest, be temperate, be patient. These are all rules of health. Good character is the most valuable source of health." Such is His practical advice.
In many places the devotees conduct regular prayers on the pattern of the prayers at Prasanthi Nilayam. Once a year on a selected day, they carry on the sessions for twenty- four hours without interruption. At the conclusion of one such entire period of singing of holy songs at Bangalore, Baba gave a discourse in which He pointed out that one's life must itself become an unbroken session of devotion to God. For devotees of Sathya Sai Baba the practice of the constant presence of the Lord is comparatively easy, for by experience they know that Baba is ever behind them, beside them, with them, and in them. Baba accosts all of them with questions concerning aspects of their behavior or thinking, which they considered most secret and known only to themselves. Once when a student from Rajahmundry told Him that he had prepared single-mindedly for the examination, giving up all other activities, Baba turned to him, asking, "What? Did you not go one night to a dinner at the hostel and come home very late? Did you not go another day with some relatives who had come from your village to the bazaar to purchase some clothes for them?"
At a Bangalore prayer session, Baba said that one should try to discover why, in spite of the multiplicity of societies organizing prayer gatherings and religious discourses, there is no corresponding increase in the moral standard of the people. "Singing prayers has become a ritual, a routine, a rigmarole. What is spoken by the tongue is not put into practice," He admonished.
By faith Baba does not mean blind faith. He insists on inquiry as an essential requisite for spiritual progress. "Follow the discipline and test yourself," He says. "Come and stay at Prasanthi Nilayam; move with Me and experience My company and conversation. Listen to Me and watch Me and then form your conclusions; get in and know the depth; eat and know the taste. Discipline and spiritual practice are necessary to know God, patient sincere discipline. If the spark of faith must grow into a raging fire, build carefully. Take refuge occasionally in the depths of your own mind, in silence, and loneliness." This is He advices.
At Trivandrum Baba posed a question: "How is it that, in spite of advance in education and literacy in this State, the enthusiasm shown by parents, teachers and children in imparting and acquiring learning gives people no peace of mind?" He then spoke of the mind as having the double nature of wind, the wind that gathers the rain clouds and also scatters them. He explained the means and methods of controlling vagaries of the mind. He said, " I refuse to call anyone an atheist or an unbeliever, for all are the creations of the Lord and repositories of His Grace. In everyone's heart there is a spring of love, a rock of truth. That Love is God; that Truth is God. Divinity is there in the depths of everyone's Inner Being. By systematic and continuous boring, the uninterrupted dig, dig, dig, of Ram, Ram, Ram - God, God, God - the name repeated with every breath - the spring can be touched and the waters of Divinity can be made to gush forth to the joy and satisfaction of all."
At Nuzvid Baba emphasized the religious factions and partisanship rampant in India. He said that the Lord is above and beyond all limits of caste and color, wealth and poverty; that it is foolish to believe that the Lord asks for gifts or is angry when they are not offered. He warned His listeners against religious leaders who go about with lists of donors and subscribers, teachers who have an eye on one's purse and money, who keep the vow of silence by resorting to all other means of communication except the easy, natural and convenient way of talking! At Arkonam village, when the Secretary of the Divine Life Society read in his report that those who paid an annual fee of four annas could become members, Baba said that He would allow anyone who had, not four annas, but four virtues, to become members of the Society of Divine Life!
At Madras, while speaking to the members of the Young Men's Indian Association, He pleaded with the elders present to become for the young men of today, better examples of integrity, efficiency, and selfless service. "Prominent personages claiming to be great, declaim about freely quoting the similes and metaphors in the sacred scriptures. But by their conduct, their conceit, and their conflicts, they only diminish the luster of those treasures. There is no coordination between the speaker, the subject, and the subsequent conduct," He said. At the Gokhale Hall, He said that man must seek the answers to four fundamental questions: "Who am I? Where have I come from? Whither am I going? How long will I stay?" He said that the ancient Indian scriptural texts are devoted to the discovery of the answers to these queries. He showed how the answers can be realized through Science, but He said that the Lord's Grace, if won through constant contemplation and introspection, will reveal the answers to the aspirant in an instant.
Analyzing the causes of the present crisis in the moral life of the community, He pointed out that cynicism and the urge to satirize are two main diseases of the age, and these lead to irreverence and the spread of disbelief. A life lived in the constant presence of God is the most secure and happy, for the shafts of social criticism will not penetrate it and cause it pain. Religion and belief in God are being challenged now from all quarters. It is therefore the duty of all good men to meet this challenge by demonstrating to the critics how their lives have been made sweeter by religion; how the realization of the constant presence of the Lord has made them more efficient, more earnest, and more courageous for the task of living.
At the All-India Sai Samaj, He declared, "You take up the dictionary to find out the meaning of a certain word, but as you turn the pages in order to spot it, other words attract your attention and you are drawn toward them and their meanings. So, too, you might come to Me with an immediate purpose, but while doing so, you come to know that you can use Me to solve deeper dilemmas, assuage more poignant pains, and secure greater spiritual peace." Baba uses every opportunity to bring home to His listeners that their effort, their discrimination, their sacrifice, their steadiness alone can give them what they need, namely, poise.
At the Santi Kuteeram, Royapuram, He spoke once on Srî Krishna and another time on the Bhagavad Gita. He gave a number of incidents from the life of Srî Krishna which are not found in the books and made His discourse most instructive and illuminating. He formed a pun on the word Gita, which, when the syllables are read from the other end, becomes a Telugu word meaning "drink!" He said that unless the nectar of the Gita is drunk and assimilated, one cannot get any result. Mere panditry or pompous scholarship on the Gita and its thousand commentaries is all a waste of precious time.
He once told an audience at Puttaparthi, that there are two paths; one relating to the physical world, the social world and the community to which one belongs, and the other relating to one's self alone, the Soul, and the disciplines connected with its fulfillment. Man must grasp God with the right hand and the world with the left. Gradually the left will lose its hold. "Do not worry about this; it has to be so; that is why it is called 'left!' But the right hand must not be allowed to loosen its grip, for it is right that it should grip tightly; that is why it is called 'right' !" Statements of Baba such as these remain in the memory, and listeners will long ponder them, deriving sustenance and joy.
At Venkatagiri, inaugurating the spiritual seminar, He declared that the bane of the Indian has been the absence of cordiality and brotherliness. At Nellore, addressing an audience of fifty thousand, He enthralled the listeners for over an hour. He spoke of discrimination and the need for faith based on inquiry and reason. At Gudur, speaking of the magic influence of love, He declared, "You will not be wrong if you characterize Me as the Personification of Love."
At Peddapuram He exhorted everyone to have muscles of iron and nerves of steel to become heroes with no trace of weakness, cowardice, or sense of inferiority. "Do not call yourselves the children of sin; there is no sin worse than that you are inheritors of immortality, every one of you; you have the Lord residing in your hearts. He is the Inner Motivation of everything in creation. How then can you be a child of sin?" He asked.
Often during His discourses, Baba illustrates His teachings by stories of miracles of superhuman faculties. He relates events and incidents not found in the current books on sages and saints but which have the hallmark of authenticity. He knows the details of the lives of all the saints of India and even of Western and Middle Eastern countries, and illustrates incidents from the lives of Christian, Muslim, and Parsi saints. Hasan and Husain, Moses, Jerome, and Paul are for Him as useful as the Indian saints Tyagaraja or Pavharibaba to emphasize His points. Baba is, has been, and will be; He is the Eternal Witness.
Indeed He reveals this aspect of His Reality very often in His discourses in more or less direct declaration. As flashes of lightning, they bring to one's consciousness, suddenly and with a thrill, the splendor of His personality. He instructs, "Do not try to measure Me; you will only fail; try rather to discover your own measure. Then you will better succeed in discovering My measure. I engage in no asceticism; I do not meditate on anything at all; I do not study; I am no aspirant, seeker, student, or even sage. I have come to guide and bless all spiritual disciples. I am neither man nor woman, old nor young; I am all these. Do not praise Me. I like you to approach Me without fear, as a right; you do not extol your father, do you? You ask for something from him as a right, do you not? I did not come uninvited to this world; good men of all creeds and climes called out and entreated; so I have come. You may be seeing Me today for the first time, but you are all old acquaintances for Me; I know you through and through. I have no characteristics; I am not bound by the law of cause and effect. How then can illusion affect Me? If I had come down with Weapon, Wheel, Mace or Lotus, the traditional symbols of a beneficent God, you would have run away or put me into an exhibition. If I were just like any one of you, you would not have cared at all. That is why I have to take up this human form and show you now and then these miracles and superhuman faculties. My task is the spiritual regeneration of humanity through truth and love. I have come to show you how to live usefully and die profitably! If you approach one step nearer to Me, I shall advance three steps toward you. I am happiest when a person carrying a heavy load of misery comes to Me, for he is most in need of what I have. All are Mine, in the relationship. So those who worship Me are not nearer to Me than others who do not." These are some of the illuminating flashes Baba has presented in His discourses. "It is My Will that has brought every single one of you to this place to listen to Me," He once said. That is the measure of His Grace and Might!
These proclamations heighten the innate value and appeal of the message Baba brings. He embraces everyone in his overwhelming love, and when He announces to a gathering - "I do not discard anyone, I cannot; it is not My Nature to do so; have no fear; I am yours, you are Mine"- an other-worldly intimacy is immediately established between Him and the seeker. As a result, His words sink deep into the consciousness, and striking root, slowly grow into good conduct and uplifting character. He addresses the gathering as one. His primary purpose is to awaken man from the sleep of ignorance and point out to him his real nature, the imperishable, immortal Divine Self.
He inspires with: "You are the invincible, unaffected by the ups and downs of life; the shadow which you cast while trudging along the road falls on dirt and dust, bush and briar, stone and sand, but you are not worried at all, for you walk unscathed. So, too, as the spiritual substance, you have no reason to be worried over the fate of the shadow, the body." Baba makes this point very clear by many examples and thus infuses an unshakable courage.
"My mission is to grant you courage and joy, to drive away weakness and fear." He has said on many occasions. "Do not condemn yourselves as sinners; sin is a misnomer for what are really errors. I shall pardon all your errors, provided you repent sincerely and resolve not to follow evil again. Pray to the Lord to give you strength to overcome the habits which had enticed you when you were ignorant." Thus He kindles the flame of hope and health in every heart. By His sweetness, His overpowering mercy, and His words of wisdom, He has corrected the steps of hundreds and turned them toward the path of serving and striving.
A very touching incident happened the morning after a discourse He gave at Nellore. A middle-aged man rushed into His room and fell at His Feet, rolling on the ground and sobbing as a child. Baba knew the reason why. He turned to those in His Presence, commenting, "Yesterday's story of Ramu," and asked them to leave the room. The previous evening Baba had related the story of a little boy, Ramu, who begged for food from door to door; his mother was very ill; he called out in front of a house, enraging the master, who rushed toward him and hit him on the head, causing him to fall with the pot which contained his earnings. The blow killed him, and he died with the words, "Mother! Mother! Who will give you food now?" on his lips. That story and Baba's advice, that everyone must be grateful first to the father and the mother to whom he owes his very existence, had struck remorse in the heart of this man who, because of a small matter, had quarreled with his mother and remained apart. Now he craved Baba's pardon to rehabilitate himself under His auspices and with His blessing. Baba knew all of that without being told. He patted him lovingly on the back. The sobs continued. Baba said, "Repentence is enough expiation in itself! Come, come. Stop weeping. I shall be at your village; bring your mother there and you shall get My blessings together. Go and fetch her there before I arrive."
Many dramatic incidents of loans being repaid happen as a result of the Grace-filled discourses of Baba. An aged father was thus helped. Neglected wives were welcomed again, and men of deep-rooted habits of gambling or drinking gave them up permanently. Baba's campaign of spreading the message of love has only just begun, and all who have heard His message can clearly visualize the significance of the declaration He made on the opening page of Sanathana Sarathi, the monthly magazine He inaugurated on February 16, 1958, the thirty-second year of His earthly career. On that day, the Sanathana Sarathi, the charioteer, started out on the campaign against falsehood, injustice, wickedness and evil - the minions of the spirit of egoism. The victory to be won is the welfare of the entire world. When the triumphant drums are beaten in the joy of success, humanity will have achieved happiness and peace, prosperity and bliss.
Already the outlines of the plan of campaign are clear on the horizon. The clarion call for the great task is Baba's fourfold program of "Be True, Be Just, Be Quiet, Be Love." His Plan is for all humanity, for He says, "It is not mentioned anywhere that the Grace of God is available only for certain classes or races or grades of people. From the smallest to the biggest, throughout the world, all are entitled to it. The Lord is everywhere, everything. He can be realized by steady practice of truth and love. Truth is the highest justice and love is the only path to peace."
Baba has also taken up the task of educating seekers and aspirants and correcting the teachers and guides who are largely led astray by greed for name and fame, for success in the competition for public support, and for the evanescent glory of international fame or newspaper renown.
"Test everyone on the touchstone of sincerity; see how far each has renounced, not merely in words, but in actual deed; then accept their advice and bring it into your daily conduct and behavior. It is the practice that matters, not the puffed pomp of scholarship," He insists.
Devotees have succeeded in persuading Baba to grant them the pleasure of welcoming and worshipping Him in their own towns and homes. On such occasions it is but natural that they should desire more and more people to receive the benefit of His discourses. Baba has often agreed to these requests, and at Chittoor, Trivandrum, Bombay, and other places, many have had the chance of personally paying homage to Him. He has also held public meetings at many towns, thus giving thousands the unique and unforgettable pleasure of listening to His captivating voice and strength-giving words.
Baba has love toward all. He does not make any distinction between a village or a city. He responds readily to requests of seekers to visit remote villages, and is at home in either a governor's palace or a grass covered hut. When He visits devotees in their homes, His party consists of only a few, because He does not like to impose hardship upon the devotees' time, hospitality, and purse. He is very able to look after Himself and can dispense with the aristocratic impediment of an entourage. His kindness and consideration toward those who accompany Him is such that they are apt to feel they are a burden on Baba's attention rather than a help!
Baba has traveled a number of times through Tamilnad, visiting such places as Coimbatore, Trichinopoly, Tanjore, Salem, also Tinnevelly. He has been to Hyderabad many times and traveled through the towns and villages of Telingana. He has visited Ellora and Ajanta to show them to His devotees, for He has no need to go to places in order to see them! He can describe any place anywhere to the minutest detail without actually having been there physically. He has journeyed to Delhi, Rishikesh, Kashmir, Mathura, Brindavan, and Bombay. He has traveled many times along the East Coast road from Madras to the Krishna and Godavari Deltas, stopping at Nellore, Ongole, Guntur, Nuzvid, Chebrole, Rajahmundry, Peddapuram, Samalkot and Masulipatam, meeting devotees and others. He has visited distant places such as Bhadrachalam and Aukiripalli. In Karnataka Baba has been to Bellary, Hospet, Mercara, Mysore, and Mandya, and has spent many weeks in Madras, Kodaikanal, Cotacamund, and Nandanavananm in Whitefield near Bangalore.
A devotee once told Baba, "I heard that your Kerala tour was most pleasant and wonderful. I am sad that I was not destined to join." Baba replied, "Have the confidence and hope that when next such an opportunity arises you may be able to join. Meanwhile listen to the account given by those who joined, and be happy." The devotee was referring to a very dramatic, indeed astonishing, miracle which happened at Kanyakumari. In the evening, when the sky was transformed into a carnival of colors, pinks and purples, and the clouds bedecked themselves with golden fringes, Baba proceeded to the seashore with His party and played in the waves of the three seas that mingle there. Each wave appeared to be more eager than the previous one to touch His lotus Feet, to offer Him its own special homage. Suddenly, as if aware of the yearning of the seas, Baba stood facing the waters and said to those beside Him, "See! The ocean is welcoming Me with a garland."
At that very moment a stately wave a few yards away, advancing majestically toward the shore, swept over Baba's Feet and receded. Imagine the wonder and amazement of everyone when they found around His Feet an exquisite pearl garland swaying and swinging with every surge of the waves! One hundred and eight translucent pearls, each a priceless gem strung on a thread of gold! How charming Baba looked!
Some of the questions answered by Baba on that great day were:
"Is all this creation just illusion?"
"No. Taking it as creation is the illusion."
"Are epic poems such as the Ramayana and Mahabharata true?"
"True? They only give some part of the Truth; for example, when you speak about Me to others, you are not able to describe Me fully, are you?"
"Why should God come down as man to reinstate morality and spiritual striving? Is not mere will enough?"
"Of course, it can be done by mere will; but how are you to get all this bliss if God does not come in human form? When there is a small local disturbance, a police constable is enough to put it down; when the trouble is threatening to develop into sizable proportions, a police inspector is sent; when it grows into a riot, the superintendent of police himself has to quell it; but when as now, all mankind is threatened with moral ruin, the inspector general comes down, that is, the Lord comes down with His army of saintly men and seekers."
"Where does an incarnation take place?"
"At the place where spiritual exercises can best be undertaken."
"How can we know that you are Sai Baba of Shirdi?"
"It is difficult for you; when I 'went' the other day as an old man to save Venkataraman's child on the road near Bagepalli, he did not recognize Me. He believed that I was a villager named Jodi Adipalli Somappa, when I gave that name!"
"How can we realize the identity between this body and the Shirdi body?"
"Those who worship Sai Baba of Shirdi have not understood Him; and you, too, have not understood Me. It is only those who have understood both who can pronounce judgment, is it not so?"
The next day the party reached Courtallam on the way to Surandai. In the evening there was chanting outside the Travancore House. Baba invited questions in answer to which He gave these inspiring words of guidance.
"I am behind every spiritually earnest student. He turns back to see Me, but how can he? I am still at his back. Sometimes in a flash, I give him My Vision out of My own Will."
"God is beginningless, but people have started quarreling because they say, 'God is mine, mine!' In the realm of individuals, there is both good and bad; in the realm of angels, there is only good; in the realm of souls, both are equal; in the realm of the Oversoul, there is neither good nor bad."
"There is no atheist or sinner; all will realize God sooner or later".
"I shall pardon a hundred faults of yours. First examine whether you have followed My advice, and then judge whether My words have come true."
"There are tests held every week and every month and there are quarterly and half yearly examinations in school. But it is only after the final examinations are held and the papers are marked that the results are announced and you are declared 'passed' or 'failed.' Do well in each test and earn the Grace of the Examiner".
"You can either destroy or make your destiny; the attitude which you cultivate can either burn it or breed it. Indians have to learn this from the Westerners. People of this country instill fear even into the minds of young children. 'You will fall; you will hurt yourself,' they are told. Children are not trained to climb trees or swim or do a hundred other useful actions. They are warned about ghosts, thieves, and they grow up in mortal dread. Children must learn self-reliance, courage and enthusiasm".
"There are three stages of spiritual struggle - the ordinary man, the man who strives spiritually, and the man who becomes one with the Lord of all. First there are three entities: World, living-being, and Lord; then they reduce themselves to two: Living-being and Lord. Finally, only Lord remains as all three. All this creation has been made possible with only these two: Matter and consciousness."
"Vidwan Chowdiah, the violinist, plays 400 musical themes - not with a violin of 400 strings, but with a violin having four strings, doesn't he? God and His Power have made this world! Here all are impersonations of the Oversoul; one asks, ten listen; one answers and all are satisfied."
"When the rays of the sun are caught and concentrated on a point by a piece of glass, it produces fire; when the rays of the Lord's Grace are thus concentrated, it will light up the Higher Mind."
"The Lord has ordained sorrow, for without sorrow, man will not cling to God; it is something like dietary and other restrictions which the doctor prescribes in order to supplement the effect of his drug."
"Faith will come only if you develop hunger for God; a man who does not feel hunger will not relish a feast."
"For concentration and meditation, there are certain steps and stages which have to be followed; random pursuit of spiritual ideals is no good."
"If you ask Me which is more useful, recitation of the Name or contemplation of the Form, I will say, 'that which induces steadier faith in you."
"In the meditation the lips and the tongue should not move; meditation has to be mental. If you adhere to the path of truth, failure will not appear as failure; misery will not appear miserable."
Wherever Baba stays, He grants personal interviews following the same procedure as at Prasanthi Nilayam. He confers the boons of consolation, courage and faith on all who seek them. He encourages people to arrange for the singing in chorus of the Name of the Lord. Very often He trains them in the singing of songs. Thus Baba moves from place to place, making all hearts bloom in joy, showering His Blessings on all who are afflicted or who seek comfort, proving by miracles every moment that He has assumed the human form for the upliftment of mankind.
"I am Here"
On the evening of the eight of September, 1958, Baba addressed a vast gathering of the people of Nuzid and the surrounding villages in the spacious grounds of the Elamarru Palace. He began by saying that men have lost the path and are traversing the devious by-ways that take them away from the goal. Man alone, He said, has the capacity to recognize the right road and retrace his steps, constantly correcting himself. He must use this capacity of self-contemplation on the Godhead, and know that there is peace and happiness in the Higher Life. He mentioned that sorrow and unrest can all be traced to want of intellectual courage. Suddenly His words were cut short. He fell back in His chair and became stiff and motionless. He had "gone" out of His Body to convey the consoling message, "I am here," to one in dire distress! It was 7:25. There was an eerie stillness in the air. The audience was breathless. The ticking of the clock in front of Him could be heard in the deep silence. Five minutes later He "came back," and resuming the address, said, "This is My Duty! Wherever I am, whatever I may be doing when the distressed devotee calls, I have to go and give him succor." Then He continued for over an hour on the master-disciple relationship, on the body as the temple of the Lord, and the disciplines necessary to sublimate the passions of man.
Another similar incident occurred on the twenty-fourth of November, 1958. It was the Swing Festival at Puttaparthi, part of the birthday celebrations of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The swing at the eastern end of the Hall was beautifully decorated with flowers. At the earnest pleading of devotees, Baba seated Himself on it. Prayer songs were sung. There were also music and addresses on religious subjects given by several devotees. All at once Baba "heard a call" fell back on the pillows and became "unconscious" of the happenings at Puttaparthi. He had become aware of a dropsy patient at Hyderabad City, as He said later, a devotee's father who had suddenly suffered a heart attack and was being lifted into an ambulance. Baba gave him a Vision of Himself and the curative Ash, and "came back" to the Swing Hall. He was "away" only two and a half minutes. As He said at Nuzid, He had to go; His Duty, as He called it, beckoned Him. How can one describe the Infinite Mercy of the Lord! His Infinite Powers!
During these years this mercy has been evinced in many forms, but the most dramatic is the "extra corporeal journey" which He undertakes. As early as 1940, when He was almost fourteen years old, He aroused the consternation of everyone by "going out" without warning. On the first historic occasion it was mistaken to be the sting of a scorpion and the consequent "unconsciousness."
It is seldom that He discloses the place to which He has gone or mentions the people who receive His Grace, but the incidents which He or others have revealed are so numerous that one can attest these "journeys" have taken Him to such far flung places as the Assam Frontier, the Kashmir Front, the Swiss Valley, the Nallamalai Forest, the seashore of Bombay, and many other places in India and beyond. The body of Baba can sometimes be seen making gestures and movements such as dragging, pulling, lifting, bandaging, and extracting. Later He explains them as gestures of His actual saving of someone from being drowned, burned, run over, crushed, or jammed. Once He said He had been to the town of Bolarum at the same time that He was talking to a group of devotees at Muthukur on the terrace of a house. He had "gone" there because a jeep had overturned, and a devotee was pinned underneath. Baba ran to him with the message, "Why fear, when I am here?" He extricated the devotee, and said after He "returned" that He had remained by the devotee's side until "a passenger bus arrived and transported him to a hospital."
During the Razakar troubles and thieving in Hyderabad, when the life of a devotee was in imminent peril, Baba "went" to his rescue. He went through the motions only of beating some people near Him on the Nilayam terrace, which He explained later was indicative of the actual treatment He administered to thieves with hundredfold effect at Hyderabad where they had run in sudden panic!
On another occasion, a villager named Bhimaiah, who had quarreled with his brother about the sharing of produce, came to Puttaparthi, hoping to remain there on the charity of the pilgrims. Baba chastised him for being a burden on others, for with a little more patience and love, he could be happy with his brother in his own village. He assured him that His Grace would be with him wherever he was, and told him to return. Bhimaiah took this sadly to heart, as though Baba had driven him out. In despair he threw himself across a railroad track on a dark night, hoping that the wheels of an advancing train would end his misery. But Baba's Grace was and is all-pervading. He "hurried" to Bhimaiah on the railway line and pushed him aside just in time. Those with Baba at Puttaparthi could see from His gestures that He was Pushing something heavy. Baba "came to" with an exclamation about Bhimaiah who had so foolishly misinterpreted His advice! Bhimaiah felt, as he later explained, that Baba clasped his hand and dragged him down the slope of the mound on which he lay. Tearful with repentance, he returned immediately to Baba at Puttaparthi before rejoining his brother. Even now when devotees ask Bhimaiah why he put Baba to the bother of a "trans-corporeal journey" by his foolhardiness, he hangs his head in shame and pleads that they not pursue a matter so painful to him.
Baba often "leaves" the body, goes to a devotee's side during the last moments of his earthly career, and gives Darshan, the joy of seeing Him in person. One evening He "left" to give this joy to a person whose name He announced immediately after He "came back" to His Body. When He was asked, "So this event happened at Maddanur?" He contradicted and said. "No, no, the death was on the road. The person was being taken to another place. Death was caused by heart failure." Later the bereaved husband revealed in a letter that because of lack of oxygen apparatus at the local hospital, his sick wife had to be taken in a taxi to a town twenty miles away. She passed away in the taxi, with the words, "Sai, Sai" on her lips.
At Horsley Hills, while proceeding to the dining hall one night, Baba seemed on the verge of a "journey" but murmured to Himself, "There is still a little time" and walked to His table. During the dinner, He "left" to give Darshan to a dying man!
Sometime ago, while on one of these journeys of mercy, He repeated, "Water, water" a number of times, and was brought a glass of water which was held to His Lips. He did not notice it at all. When told that He had asked for it, He smiled and said, "If I ask for water to be given a dying man somewhere, you bring water here! Is it not so?" Strange are the ways of God! That is why perhaps Baba says often, "Do not waste your time and energy trying to find explanations for My deeds. Understand yourself and your own nature first. That will give the clue even to Me".
Baba need not "transcend" His physical Body in order to appear elsewhere or apply relief. Sometimes He just pauses while sitting, then "comes to" in a few seconds. Meanwhile, the journey and the communication of Grace are accomplished!
One day, while in the midst of a story about one of the Ministers of Manu Chakravarti, Baba "left" His Body for about ten seconds, and upon "coming back" resumed the story! Only a few of the more attentive listeners noticed anything out of the ordinary. Moments later a man entered Baba's room, and He asked him, "Did you get the telegram?" It seems he did. "What does it say? Prasad has high fever, does he not?" asked Baba. The man had not opened it yet. The envelope containing the message was passed to Baba. He tore it open. It stated that Prasad had fever and that his temperature was 104 degrees. Baba said, "Don't worry at all; I have been there just now; the boy is out of danger". Prasad, they were told, was at the house of the man who had come into Baba's room; Prasad was 250 miles away!
Baba saves, guards, directs, dictates, even while talking, singing, or moving about. Once in His room at Prasanthi Nilayam, while a group of devotees was engaged in cutting cloth into three-yard lengths for distribution to the poor, Baba suddenly asked, "Parthasarathi! You think I am here now with you, with a pair of scissors, cutting this cloth, do you not? Do you know, I have been to Madras just now, to see your Kusa? The little fellow developed diphtheria and your brother has taken him to the hospital. Don't worry, my dear fellow, I have given him my Vision and curative Ash; he will be all right soon". All were astonished at the announcement. Parthasarathi fell at Baba's Feet. He was overwhelmed by this evidence of Baba's Power and Grace.
With His characteristic sense of humor, Baba speaks of these incidents as "My visiting card!" He is announcing that He is the Lord Himself, the same Lord who comes instantaneously to the rescue of many devotees, the same Lord who presents Himself before those who call out for Him. In His Grace He presents His "visiting card" even to fleeting visitors who come to Puttaparthi because of curiosity.
Lord Krishna, the sacred texts say, agreed in His mercy to be the charioteer, the inner motivator for the duration of the Kurukshetra Battle. Arjuna was caught in the coils of attachment just when duty called him to action. "My limbs droop down; my tongue dries up. The bow slips from my hold; I am unable to stand; my brain is in a swirl." He wept. [See also: The Bhagavad Gîtâ of Order, Chapter 1, verse 28 etc.] Krishna rebuked him for being overcome by weakness, unmanly. Arjuna's discrimination was overpowered by grief and delusion, pride and ignorance, a sense of I and mine. Krishna removed the veil and taught him the secret of successful living, the Yoga of surrender, of non-attachment.
It is significant that Baba named the monthly magazine of Prasanthi Nilayam "Sanathana Sarathi" meaning the "eternal charioteer." As Krishna came, Baba also has come, to rid man of grief and delusion, pride and ignorance, and to re-establish justice in the world. The word "Sarathi" is an assurance from Baba that He will guide the seeker if only he takes the initial step of inviting Him to take over the reins of his life. The word "Sanathana" is a reminder that this has been the role of Baba since the dawn of creation.
Baba's writings are from His simply and directly spoken Telugu. When one reads His articles, he can picture Baba speaking in His intimate and inspiring way. With questions between His statements, He prods a reader or listener to think for himself by injecting questions on the problems He unravels. By the use of occasional endearments such as "Child", "My dear man", "My precious", "Dear fellow", He draws Himself close to the seeker in order to instruct him in the art of Godward pilgrimage.
Baba has written, "How dejected will the farmer be if the seeds he has sown do not sprout, grow and yield a harvest! So too, if the seeds of the Words of Truth that I sow, do not sprout in your hearts and grow into fine saplings and trees yielding fruit, I am also not happy. That harvest of bliss is My sustenance, My food. This is the only adoration I need. There is nothing higher than this. By not casting away these good words and truth written for your sake, if you put them into practice and experience joy therefrom, that joy is the food on which I sustain Myself. If you thus act according to My words, and put them into daily practice, I will gladly tell you more and more, for that is the reason why I have come."
Baba has often said that He demonstrates His Divinity through miracles only to instill the faith necessary for men to listen to Him and follow His suggestions for their own spiritual realization. He declares that it is everyone's right to know this message from Him. Thus anyone may approach Him without fear or hesitation. His eagerness to remove all doubts lurking in the minds of the people who seek guidance from Him, His readiness to grant them as many interviews as necessary to discuss specific personal problems of the spiritual pilgrimage, are evidence of His Grace and Mercy.
Revealed in "Sanathana Sarathi" are the power, wisdom, and grace of Baba. He warns against neglecting the pennies in one's search for the dollars and pounds, and cautions, "Be vigilant about the small things; the myriad little things that you indulge in every moment harden into habits and warp character and personality. They shape your intelligence, outlook, ideals, and aspirations. Challenge your evil propensities even before they enslave you. If you make a sincere effort, you will certainly succeed.
"If your faults are pointed out to you by anyone, do not argue and attempt to prove he is mistaken, and do not develop a grudge against him for that. Reason out within yourself, examine your own conduct coolly, and thankfully proceed to correct yourself".
"When someone causes you mental pain, do not give room for anger; anger is enemy number one of reason and discrimination. Repeat the Name of God for awhile sitting in a lonely place, or sing hymns in a raised voice, or, if you cannot do both, spread your bed and go to sleep".
"Your own experience is the best guarantee of truth for you. Do not be led by what people tell of their experiences; nothing can be as genuine as your own".
"Develop courage, confidence, hope, and enthusiasm. These will stand you in good stead in the secular as well as the spiritual fields".
"Man is everywhere immersed in worry and trouble; is it right to increase the agony? Already the sea is rough; how can you have a mind to blow a typhoon over it? Learn rather to spread a smile from face to face. Why make the sad world sadder by your lamentation and the tales of your own woe? Adopt the course of the recitation of the Name, of contemplation on the Form, to assuage your own grief; overcome your own sorrow and be an example to the rest".
The elimination of harmful tendencies, impulses, and habits, and the building up of character, are, however, only preliminary to the practice of spiritual discipline. For more than a year His articles emphasized the contemplation of the Form and its method of operation, which He calls "the planned routine".
In His words, "Perform contemplation until your mind comes firmly under your control. When the mind starts running about, be careful; do not follow it into its vagaries, seeking to discover it and punish it. Be still, do not pursue it. Then it will return by itself when it is tired and exhausted, because it is neglected by you. The mind is like a little child; when the mother walks behind it and calls out its name and is showing an interest in its movements, the child gets the confidence to wander about a little farther on; but if the mother stands still, then reverses her steps, the child is seized with fright at this sign of neglect and runs back to her arms. So, do not care for the vagaries of the mind. Carry on the repeating of the Name and contemplation on the Form that you like best, in the manner you feel most conducive. You will realize your heart's desire".
Words of solace and encouragement such as these abound in the articles written by Baba. As He says, "In former ages, one particular group of persons or one individual who had the monopoly of the means of exploitation and enslavement, and the power needed for them, was responsible for the decline of moral behavior; hence it could be re-instilled by the destruction of that group or individual. Now the wickedness is a universal feature, and I have to bring about a revolution in human character, attitude, and behavior, and teach people certain disciplines. People have to be put back on the road to unity, harmony and peace. The realization that everything in the universe is the manifestation of the Lord, is the very basis, the entire content, the warp and the woof, the yarn and the cloth of all. This is the right of every person, whatever be his race, creed, class, or caste. You of this generation are indeed lucky that you have the fortune of contact with Me and the chance to receive the guidance I have come to give".
Baba writes strongly against teachers who compromise the ideal for the sake of name and fame. One purpose of His advent is to lead them back into rectitude. He condemns partisanship and faction in the sacred Name of God. He will not admit that God can ever be angry or jealous.
Baba writes, "Do not believe descriptions of the Lord in which He is pictured as greedy, businesslike, angry, jealous or vengeful. He is above all pettiness and bargaining. When a pot of nectar is hit by a stone, it leaks, but does the nectar turn bitter? No, it can never change its sweetness".
"When the all-pervasive, all-inclusive pure Existence is described, the matter and method depend on the outlook of the speaker and the understanding of the listener. When it is described through attributes, it gets various names and forms. When the spiritual student realizes that it is beyond all attributes which the mind can conceive, then it is referred to as Brahman". All quarrel between sects is mere secular rivalry, indulged in for the vulgar pleasure it gives to inferior minds, says Baba.
Baba has also pointed out that ascetics and monks deserve respect only if they give up all desires, even the desire to develop their hermitages or institutions. The bondage to such places becomes a burden for them. Instead of giving up all ties, they have yoked themselves more tightly to the plough; they have degraded themselves into beasts of burden. He says that people have lost faith because of the activities of such men who continuously exert pressure on society in order to earn name and fame. Religious leaders such as these, Baba says, train many disciples; so they must make a special effort to help the trainees acquire the right outlook and get fully immersed in contemplation of the Lord. Baba has also pointed out the mistake of giving the teacher a status higher than that which is due him. The teacher should be respected as the person who shows one the path, who looks after his progress and is interested in his welfare, that is all. The student should not assume that the teacher is all-inclusive and all-powerful. The Lord alone can be treated and felt as the Universal.
Baba always emphasizes moderation. He does not advocate asceticism for all. He speaks of the body as a God-given instrument, and says, "Understand it well; make it obey your will; never bow down to it and follow its whimsical demands; train it carefully to subserve your welfare. Be on the lookout for the first signs of damage or decay. Keep it in good trim by disciplined activities. Moderate food, moderate sleep, an attitude of love toward all, an outlook of fortitude in the face of pain and anxiety and in the face of success and good fortune - these are more important than drugs to cure the illness of the body. Even a capacity to discriminate, if applied to one's physical condition, will help him overcome disease".
Baba writes often against starving the body advocated by over-enthusiastic practitioners and against foolish epicures who cater to the tongue that demands seasoned food or a want on variety of dishes.
Baba calls the householder's life that of "the teacher", for it is also through the toils and turmoils of the family that people acquire the urge for the higher life of the Spirit. He says that without family troubles, many would not have come to Him at all. After once meeting and knowing Him, they cling to the Godhead whether their troubles are set right or not. They gradually begin to feel that such troubles should not be given the importance they ascribed to them; they face them with greater courage, confidence, and understanding. He has written that the sugar cane should welcome the cutting, the hacking, and the crushing to which it is subjected, because without these processes, its juice will dry up and it will not sweeten the tongue. Man must welcome trouble, for that too brings out the sweetness of the Spirit within. He says, "You desire an ornament and you go to the goldsmith and give him the required quantity of gold. But do you spend sleepless nights pining for the heating and beating, the tugging and the pulling, the cutting and the carving to which the goldsmith subjects your gold? Why then do you worry when the Lord, in order to make a lovely jewel out of you, heats and melts, cuts and carves, and removes your dross in the crucible of suffering"?
Baba is the Great Healer, the Restorer of drooping spirits, the Unique Reviver. He insists on truth, because falsehood has cowardice as its root. One hides the facts from a person only when he is afraid of him or hates him. Truth is based on strength. It is, according to Baba, against the essential nature of man to plead weakness or want of strength. He does not permit people to say, "I am sin, born of sin, a sinful soul". When a devotee with contrition masses abuse on himself, Baba immediately lifts him. "When I have come for your sake, you should not feel this way", He says.
Baba equates strength with merit and weakness with sin; that is, weakness is sin; strength is holy. Physical, mental and spiritual strength are all three essential, but the greatest source of all three is faith in one's self, in the soul within. Baba says, "Remember that and draw strength there from. My mission is to give you confidence in yourself, to give you the strength and endurance that comes out of that. Despondency is the prime cause of decline; therefore everyone should cultivate the quality of joyfulness. For the contented, life is one long festival. Envy eats the vitals, spreads like poison all over the body politic. Dedicate all, both joy and sorrow, to the Lord; that is the secret of gaining contentment, the most valuable of all treasures.
Baba instills the spirit of service among His devotees, and during Dasara, a day generally devoted to social service, He teaches the attitude of worship in which one should render service. He writes and speaks of the service to others as service ultimately to one's self, and injury to others as injury ultimately to one's self. In His words, "When the Lord comes down in human form so that He may be of service to man, how happy will He be if man engages himself in that service? Devote your time to the service of the world, irrespective of the results thereof".
Baba is very particular about the vision which must inspire the devotee who takes up the path of service: "Though the service of humanity is holy, unless it is merged in the higher ideal of the Lord, realizing the Lord immanent in all, adoring the Lord in the form of everyone, there is no profit at all. One should have full faith in the divinity of man and service should be offered in the uninterrupted contemplation of the Lord. Use the power, knowledge and attainments the Lord has endowed you with for the greater glory of the Lord, with sincerity and without any malingering. That is the service of the Lord, whatever be the field of activity or the region of duty where you are called upon to render service".
Very often Baba devotes an entire discourse to the elucidation of the need for inquiry of blind, unreasoning faith. He might begin: "You can ask Me a question without hesitation. I am always ready to answer, but I want only those people to ask who inquire earnestly with a desire to know. Without analysis and reasoning, the real worth of things cannot be grasped, and renunciation will not be possible at all. Sometimes you will have to inquire even into the process of your inquiry, for you might all the time be deceiving yourselves by arguing that your actions are all moral and pure, when an unprejudiced mind might condemn them out right".
As Lord Krishna did, He also tells people. "Think of all the pros and cons; think also of your own experience; then come to your own judgment. Do not be led away by what others might say, by what even I might say!
"At the gates of heaven there are three sentinels who will admit you inside, only if you satisfy them of the validity of your credentials which are contentment, peace and reflection. Even if one of the guards is satisfied, the others will not be very strict. So cultivate any of the three. Basically, they are all interrelated". (Inquiry brought into the realm of experience results in peace -undisturbed contentment or bliss.) "Ask Me about some discipline that you are eager to engage in or some message that you can put into immediate action. Seek something worth your while". That is what Baba demands.
There is a sense of urgency in His commands: "The time to start on the path of discipline is now. Start today the discipline that will have to be done tomorrow. Start now the discipline that has to be done today. Just as a child has to start the alphabet at a tender age, so that it may be proficient in arts and science when it later enters, so too, the spiritual child must start on the "alphabet" immediately and keep on with the studies; no one can cope with the alphabet in old age or on the deathbed. Every second, the span of life is being shortened; the moment that has gone is no longer yours; the moment that is coming may not be yours at all; so put all your efforts now, this very moment, to earn eternal joy".
Among the means to earn this eternal joy, Baba places the recollection of the Name, its repetition, first, though He speaks and writes also of the three traditional Yogas and the three traditional philosophical systems. Baba has come to end all factions and He emphasizes the harmony of these systems when He exhorts, "I won't say that the way of dedicated activity, the way of devotion, and the way of knowledge are separate, or classify them as first, second, or third in that order, or accept even a mixture of all three. Dedicated activity is devotion; devotion is wisdom. A block of candy-sugar has sweetness, shape, and weight, all three. So too, each individual deed of the Godward man must have the sweetness of devotion, the spirit of dedicated action, and the strength of wisdom.
"Wisdom is the product of devotion, and devotion is promoted by the noblest dedicated activity, being recollection and reflection of the Name of God. The Lord can give the knowledge about Himself to a devotee. He can remove the veil He Himself has cast".
"A thing and its nature are the same, not two distinct things. Is it possible to see the nature apart from the thing - sweetness apart from sugar, light apart from the sun? So also, Bhagavan has two characteristics. When we speak of them as two, they are known as Spirit and Substance, but they are really one. Substance in Bhagavan is unmanifested, inseparable, knowable only by experience, like sweetness in sugar. By mere willing, this Substance envelops Bhagavan and the cosmos is the result. That one Existence is the basis or foundation for both the Universal and the Particular, the totality as well as the apparent parts. This manifested total cosmos or Fullness arose out of the Unmanifested Indivisible Reality, yet there is no diminution".
Baba unravels the most involved philosophical problems in easily understandable ways. The listener sees the solution in a flash of illumination explained by a simile, metaphor, parable, or epigram summarizing the elaboration of an hour. In short, His advent is for everyone, for forging all into disciplined seekers. As He says, "The world can achieve prosperity and peace only through such persons whose hearts are pure and whose minds are free of prejudice and passion, lust and greed, anger and envy".
For You and Me
And so we have come to the last chapter of this book, dear reader. I hope you have become more interested in the pilgrimage which everyone has perforce to undertake to the seat of God.
Baba has assured us that He will remain in the human frame beyond the year 2020. He says that He has not yet started the work for which He has come which is still in the preliminary stage of reconnaissance. When He starts His campaign, He says the whole world will know of it and benefit from it. Therefore subsequent events in the life of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba are certain to be even more inspiring and elevating.
The Golden Age of Human Redemption is here. The splendor of its dawn has already filled the clouds on the eastern horizon with golden glory and will circle the entire world. Mankind is awakening. "I came", Baba says, "because the good men of the world, the saintly, the wise, the sage and the seeker, the guides and the Godly longed for Me".
May the pure and the righteous rejoice! The wicked and the false, the cowardly and cruel may also rejoice, for He in His Mercy will lead them back onto the holy path. Baba has asked, "If I close the door against the sinful, the fallen and the renegade, where else can they go?"
You and I have no excuse now to be content with only maps and guide books, to consult the case histories of invalids who cured themselves, or pour over tomes that confound the brain.
He has come - the Healer, as loving as the Mother, as strong as the Father, as wise as the Master, as All-seeing as God. May He, the Source, the Stream and the Sea, the All-pervasive, All-inclusive, All-animating, give to us all the strength and the steadfastness to journey toward Him.
What does He ask for us? To start this very moment the discipline needed for the good life. With what offering shall we approach Him? Not with the leaf, flower, fruit, and water, the customary offerings. Instead offer Him truth, righteousness, peace and love - or at least the effort to attain these four or any one of the four - and sincerity in the struggle to improve.
Baba enjoins, "Offer on the leaf of the body the blossom of the mind, fragrant with humility, the fruit of the heart, ripe with spiritual austerity, and sweet with the essence of compassion, mercy, and self-control, and the water of tears welling out of joyful bliss. That is enough".