Sai Baba Controversy - Two Views

Sai Baba Controversy

Sathya Sai Baba has attracted millions of devotees from around the world who have come to his presence to be spiritually charged and to see him with their own eyes. For them he is the bliss filled presence that radiates love; the hand that stretches out to give but never to take, the fount of ceaselessly flowing wisdom teachings, the source of healing and spiritual transformation. But there is another group with a opposite point of view that revels in negative and sensationalistic stories that are promoted and repeated both in the press and on the Internet. Innocent devotees are shocked to find anti-Sai Baba sites that say that his miracles are sham, his materialisations trickery, his healings fakery or coincidence. They charge that the ashram is run by evil mafia type figures that extort money and have even murdered people, that Sai Baba cultivates rich and famous people only and ignores moneyless ordinary citizens. On some of these sites Sai Baba himself is reputed to be homosexual, his prognostications about devotees are claimed to be as often wrong as right, etc, etc.

What are we to make of these stories and how can we reconcile these negative images with our own vision of an omniscient Avatar, full of wisdom, potency, selflessness, and divine effulgence? The answer seems to lie in the properties of Maya itself. Thus the same mayavic world is seen as being either benign or evil, beautiful or ugly, majestic or depraved, kindly or vicious, depending on the viewpoint of the beholder.

The Avatar sees things from the inside and knows how to use the maya or illusion of creation to his own ends. Sai Baba says, everything is reflect, resound. We see the world in a certain way and expect a certain type of behavior but the Avatar sees things entirely differently and is not bound by our rules. He reflects back to each, his or her own expectations based on beliefs, predispositions, desires and point of spiritual attainment. Thus a person who comes to him with doubts may see only a human in an orange robe and get no emotional feelings from his presence. Another sees God himself disguised as man walking on the earth and is filled with the highest bliss. The world contains both heaven and hell depending on your proximity and situation. Your experience is not random chance but determined by your merits, your past actions; the fruits due you are based on seeds sown by you yourself in the past.

The patterns set in motion today reverberate for hundred or even thousands of years like ripples in a pond moving through time. The entire shape of Western civilization, for example, has been determined in a tremendous way by the actions and earthly career of Jesus. The symbols of love, brotherhood, crucifixion, martyrdom, resurrection, discipleship, and other icons of Christianity have been echoing through time for two thousand years. The advent of a major Avatar on the world scene, will similarly impact the shape of human development and too will echo through time determining the shape of future global culture and spiritualism for an extended time. The Avatar comes with a plan, knowing what must be done to shape the maya of events. His sankalpa (spiritual will) is unstoppable like a rising tide, his every word and action significant, though only he knows the whys and wherefores behind them. His actions are bound to be misunderstood and misinterpreted when viewed from the human viewpoint.

It is well known among people who have familiarity with saints and divine personages that they seldom act and respond in ways we feel are normal or that fit our notions of socially acceptable conduct. They see the patterns and motivations behind activities and when they act it is out of an inner understanding of what has to be achieved or what has to be changed; just as a gardener knows what limb to cut to shape a growing tree. The actions of enlightened beings are often baffling to ordinary people.

Nityananda of Ganeshpuri was regarded to have been a Sat Purush, a spiritually enlightened being who took birth to further some purpose known only to him. Nityananda was enlightened from the moment of birth itself. Even as a young teen he was reputed to have performed many miraculous healings and extraordinary actions. Still, his detractors scoffed at his attainments and criticised him at every turn, ridiculing the stories of his miracles since they themselves did not see them and so could not believe them to be true. He would stand on the highest limbs of very tall trees, and wordlessly drop leaves down to people on the ground who would treasure them for their amazing healing properties. He once entered the room where a child had recently been born and ate the dried remnant of the umbilical cord. When asked by disgusted observers why he had done this, he stated that many previous children of this family had died but that this one would live. His statement proved later to be true. Another time a woman was walking along a pathway and Nityananda ran up to her and grabbed both her breasts and began squeezing them. Some men chased him away because of his "uncouth" behaviour. All of her previous children had died shortly after they began nursing. But after this incident she was able to nurse her next child with no ill effects.

In yet another bizarre incident, Nityananda entered the house of a female devotee, picked up a piece of burning wood from her fireplace, hit her on the head with it and quickly ran away. Nobody could understand the reason for this inexplicable behaviour until about a year later when an expert astrologer was retained to draw up horoscopes for the members of the family. The astrologer was extremely amazed to find the lady of the house alive. He said that according to her horoscope, she should have died a year previously. The family then understood that Nityananda had somehow intervened in her fate.

Another extremely holy person who was regarded as a saint or incarnation was Ramakrishna. His perpetual state of God intoxication was such that he often stumbled about absorbed in his state of samadhi or inner bliss with little awareness of the outer world. His followers knew of his extreme state of holiness and often moved about with him to protect him from harm or falling down. Ramakrishna would dress and bathe his statue of the Divine Mother, offer food and flowers to it, and dance about and talk to it as if it were alive. Materialistic people observed his strange behavior and thought him to be a lunatic or completely insane.

Swami Muktananda writes of a saint called Zipruanna who was a great Siddha who could see into the future. He roamed about completely naked and was often seen sitting on heaps of rubbish. Muktananda once went to him and found him relieving himself in a corner. Zipruanna picked up his own faeces and began smearing them all over his body. As Muktananda approached closer he found that Zipruanna was emitting a fragrance instead of a foul stench. Thus the Siddha silently taught that cleanliness of the inner person is superior to mere external cleanliness.

Sai Baba of Shirdi was another extraordinary being who was regarded by many Indians of his time as the crest jewel of saints. His closest followers knew of his omniscience and regarded him as God come in human form. They called him Deva (God) and thought of him as an incarnation either of Shiva, Dattatreya or some other god. Shirdi Sai often told very obscure stories in the first person to his assembled devotees as if the story was about him; saying once upon a time he went to such and such place and there some incident happened which he would narrate. His devotees were puzzled, knowing he had never been away from Shirdi. However often a single person in the audience would recognize the story of his own life and realize that Shirdi Sai knew completely his past and current problems and that person was enabled to understand the obscure statements and get hints about his own life and destiny.

By merely blessing them, saying a word or two, or giving them his uddhi (spiritual ash from his sacred fire) Shirdi Sai Baba helped the many who came to him find jobs to support their families, get promotions, heal their ills, banish their spiritual doubt, or fan their spark of latent spirituality into a flame. The doubters who heard tales of people getting benefits after visiting came to him with schemes of their own. Because of their lack of faith and materialistic desires they arrived to find only a weirdly dressed hermit muttering incoherently - thus their doubts were confirmed in their own eyes. Many such people thought he was slightly unhinged. Others regarded him to be completely insane. The Shri Sai Satcharita tells the story of a Yogi who was unable to attain samadhi because of his inner unrest. Although he had carried out his spiritual practices for years, he was unable to attain to a high spiritual state. He heard of Shirdi Sai and went to him to see if the great saint could help him to attain the blissful state of samadhi. The yogi came across Shirdi Sai and saw what he thought to be a disheveled old man eating stale bread and raw onion (considered by Brahmins to be an impure food). Immediately the Yogi was filled with doubts and a thought went up in his mind as to how this simpleton before him could in any way help with his own spiritual problems. But Shirdi Sai Baba instantly knew his mind and said "He who has the power to digest onion should eat it and none else". The Yogi realized the saint's omniscience, fell at his feet and accepted him and left Shirdi greatly benefited.

There are a great many examples of people having widely divergent views of holy personages. The woman saint, Anandamayi Ma was regarded by many as in incarnation of the Divine Mother herself. Most in India regarded her at the very least as a very great saint. Here are statements by two different people about her, the first seeing her as divine, and the second as human or worse.

"In the course of my search and travels I have had the privilege to closely approach quite a few extraordinary beings - Tibetans, Sufis, Hindu gurus and Zen masters, many of whom left a deep imprint in my heart - to me Anandamayi Ma was and remains the embodiment of transcendence, the living proof of the actual existence of a transcendental reality. "Extraordinary," "superhuman," "divine"... I still feel today that no adjective is big enough to describe her presence, particularly when I met her, in the full blossom of her radiance. I could barely believe that such a being could walk the earth in a human form."
Arnaud Desjardins.

Now see how another devotee wrote about her. Daniel Roumanoff was initially attracted to Anandamayi Ma, but after years of staying in her ashram and following her about India he came to speak of her as if she were a demon rather than a saint.

"I am feeling disenchanted with the ashram and the ashram members, and even experience an unvoiced irritation with Mataji (Anadamayi Ma). The excessive deference given to the rich and important people and the obvious contempt toward the poor are unbearable. I am fairly fed up with her inimitable smiles and graces, which seem almost automatic. I am irritated by her movement backward when people want to touch her feet, her expression of distaste as she covers her nose and mouth when someone is speaking to her too closely."

"What if Ma is a sorceress that attracts and seduces, catches you in her net and then eats you up? 'Yes,' people answer. 'She is the mother Kali. She is destroying your ego.' But not only the ego. She is destroying my body and my health."

Beings of great spiritual luster attract a great many people and such saints have always had to deal with the press of over eager devotees. Some devotees are ripe souls and their continued association with a saint is highly beneficial to their spiritual evolution and thus encouraged. Other devotees have many personality issues to work out and can benefit best by widely spaced visits. However crowds of such devotees often cling to a saint and want to be around them at all times, following them everywhere. Their very numbers impede others from having association with that saint. There are stories of obscure saints and advanced seekers who did not want to have any devotees and even took such extreme measures as throwing rocks at them to drive them away.

Devotees in close association with an enlightened being notice the karmic process of cause and effect being accelerated. The proximity generates a steaming cauldron of emotions. Their worst personality traits are drawn out and tensions go up. Devotees often contract various ailments. Although this can be viewed in a negative sense, it has the positive benefit of burning off negative karma, helping to destroy harmful emotional patterns, and whittling away at the encrustment of ego that prevents the realization of unity with the divine. Under such pressure, the devotee often feels overwhelmed and withdraws temporarily or even permanently from physical association with the saint. This phenomenon also works to limit the size of the press of devotees.

Sai Baba, Waving We see some of the same principles in operation on the many devotees that come to visit Sai Baba. Years ago there were far fewer outside visitors and Sai Baba often took special interest in newcomers, giving them interviews and special attention. Later, they might find him ignoring them, and they would feel hurt and jealous seeing other devotees getting more attention then themselves. This causes them to work on their ego, focusing on their negative personality traits and examining their own mental and emotional structures. But it also causes them to develop an inner spiritual link that is not dependent on physical proximity to Sai Baba; not dependent on interviews or visits to Puttaparthi. So although there is suffering, there is also the reward of inner growth and evolution. Devotees find that after establishing an inner contact with Sai Baba, they get subtle guidance, their problems get pointed out to them and resolved through seemingly coincidental happenings. Their ability to love others increases as they increasingly view others as manifestations of the Cosmic Self.

Devotees who have developed this genuine inner link with Sai Baba should put full faith in the relationship, strengthening it in every way possible. The more developed devotee also comes to know that physical closeness to Sai Baba is not a necessary factor in the spiritual relationship. Anyone who reads the books dealing with the varied spectrum of experiences diverse people from around the world have had with Sai Baba becomes convinced of the authenticity of them. Those who develop this kind of faith know that whatever negative things others think or say about Sai Baba do not negate the many miraculous and spiritually enriching events that have been chronicled by sincere devotees. If others eat the fruit and find it sour and unpalatable then that is just their own experience and reality. For those who find the fruit agreeable and nectarine in its sweetness, let them take that away as their own reality.

Sai Baba himself had this to say about these times (from John Hislop's book - My Baba and I):

"At age 60 there is a very big change..... After age 60 (i.e. from 1986 on), Sai will directly give added strength to the minds of those people who are actively working with him. Now is starting a time of change. It is just as when a strong wind comes up and blows away the husks leaving only the sound kernels. In these times, many devotees will fall away from Sai, leaving only those devotees whose faith is sound and solid".

What follows are seven literary samples of writings that bear on the issue of this controversy surrounding Sai Baba. Let the reader digest and ponder carefully over these stories. If after reading your heart bids you to believe in Sathya Sai Baba, then push your doubts aside and make the pursuit of the Cosmic Being residing in the hearts of all your life's goal. But if you still have doubts, then at least vow to pursue a spiritual path, making your life into a fit instrument for the divine inflow.

This first extract is condensed from The_Sai_Critic web site - Letters of Reply section. It was written by a devotee who is only identified as "from the far North". Pandora's box refers to the mass of information and mis-information propagated over the Internet.

Pandora's Box extract

Many troubling stories about Sai Baba and the activities of the Sai Organisation have been circulating on the Internet from sources all over the world. Web sites accusing Sai Baba of sexual misconduct and the Sai Organisation of financial wrong-doing have appeared and are being visited by thousands of people. There has also been some negative press in several counties and a few critical television documentaries. We are told that more are on the way. How are we to handle all of this information, especially when challenged about it?

I believe personally that these events are an essential part of the divine drama of life and, as such, are predestined.

About three years ago, when we were in an interview with Sai Baba, he suddenly volunteered the information to us that "A big scandal is coming" and that "When you come to the Ashram there will be three rooms available for anyone who wants one."

We did not then understand to what he was referring, but perhaps it was to the events that are now unfolding in the world. I believe personally that they constitute a gigantic leela or divine game, which Sai Baba has initiated for two reasons.

Firstly, it is intended to test the faith of his devotees. We all individually have to decide how we are going to respond to these stories.

Secondly, it is intended to make us examine the reality of the physical form, and of Sai Baba's physical form in particular. It is a fact, and I can tell you this from personal experience, that the closer you get to Sai Baba the more difficult the relationship becomes. The closer you get to the fire, so to speak, the more likely you are to get burned.

We must be aware that Sai Baba, like us, is playing a role in this great drama of life. He is not his body, just as we are not our bodies. We are all actors playing roles. We are all aspects of God, sparks of divine energy, that have chosen to take on physical form. What is important is not the physical form but is the aspect of God, the atma, the spirit, that empowers that form. I would like to apprise you of something that Sai Baba said very recently.

"Do not get deluded because I talk, laugh, eat and walk like you. Do not get deluded by this body feeling. All my action are always selfless, selfless, selfless. There is no trace of selfishness in me at all. Have firm faith in that truth. If you have total faith wherever you are, all your desires will be fulfilled without you even asking. Only those who don't have total faith will suffer. So develop self-confidence. That is the first spiritual discipline that you must follow. You must undertake to follow this now. Liberation can be gained in this lifetime. Millions know me. Millions will come to me, but only a handful will obtain liberation."

That, incidentally, was Sai Baba speaking on Shivaratri this year. He is clearly warning us not to get attached to his form and to the role that he is playing, a role which has one purpose and one purpose only, namely, to help us to gain liberation.

We should identify only with God, not with any form of God. Sai Baba himself has said that his body is not special. Physical bodies come and go. They are simply dust. That is one of the symbologies of vibhuti. We come from dust and we return to dust. What we should identify with is the divinity in the body, the divine atma. That is why Sai Baba cautions us to be aware of the divinity that is in his body. That is what is so special about his body. It is his divinity. He tells us that we cannot even begin to imagine the reality of this divinity.

"Do not become devotees of my form, become devotees of my teachings. Do not worship my form or the form of any past avatars. Get rid of all the photographs of me and the statues of deities on your altars." It is apparent that Sai Baba is trying to bring about a shift in the way we relate to him and, indeed, to all avatars. He wants us to go beyond the physical form.

As I began to read all the negative stories about Sai Baba on the Internet, my faith was absolutely shaken to its roots. My mind was in turmoil as I ignored my own experiences and started to believe the experiences of other people. Then, one day, it dawned on me that I wasn't attracted to Sai Baba's form; I was attracted to how I thought his form should behave. If Sai Baba acted in a way that I thought to be inappropriate, then I suffered from doubts and fears and questioned my belief in the fact that he was an avatar. I was attached to how I thought he should behave. I had to continually remind myself of Sai Baba's warning, "Never try to understand me." We will never understand why Sai Baba acts as he does, if only because he operates beyond time and space. He sees past, present and future. His relationship with us is not based on our physical identities of this life, but on our total destiny path. So my wife and I have both been going through a difficult period of going beyond the form and of identifying with the God that's in us rather than in any external manifestation of God.

This omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient Force that we call God is always with us. If you think that when you leave Puttaparthi you are leaving Sai Baba, then you haven't even begun to understand the truth of what he's teaching us. The omnipresent aspect of Sai Baba is as much here to-day, now, sitting in this building, as it is sitting in the ashram in India. There is no place in the whole cosmos where God is not present.

Many of us, I know, have trouble identifying with the force of spirit within us, our atma. We ask ourselves "Where is it? What is it? How do I know when I am in contact with it?" I would like to read to you now an excerpt from a wonderful article, which describes someone's experience of this reality.

I had a patient a couple of years ago, who was repairing an antenna on a neighbour's roof when he quite accidentally picked up a piece of wire, which he thought was a dead wire but in fact it had 12,000 volts of electricity flowing through it. So as soon as he touched it he died. How do you die? 12,000 volts of electricity going through your heart causes a phenomenon called ventricular fibrillation. So he fell from the roof to the ground about 15 - 20 feet below but, as luck would have it, he fell on his chest at the precise angle, at the precise location, with the precise impact to start another current to defibrillate him. It was an extraordinary thing, as if God called him and then suddenly changed His mind. All this took place in a few seconds.

This man was being transported from the scene of the accident to the hospital and he says "My mind kept going back to this gap". He called this little incident, this interval of time when he was dead, 'the gap'. They ask, "Well, what was there in the gap?" He said "There was pure unbounded joy. It was absolute bliss." And they ask "You were aware?" He said "Oh yes, I was aware." They asked him "What were you aware of?" He said, "I was aware that I was aware." They say "Can you be more specific? You were aware that you were aware. What does that mean?" He says "Yes. It was pure wakefulness. The only thing I could say is: I am. I am not this or that. I just am. It was the experience of my own immortality. It was the experience of eternity. It was the experience of bliss. It was the experience of pure joy. I was so grounded in that experience that I realised that everything else was a concept. And once and for all, entirely and totally, I got rid of that experience that people call fear.

Someone once complained to Sai Baba that it is so easy to say "I am God" but so difficult to know it and to live it. In response Sai Baba picked up his handkerchief and just dropped it, saying, "It's as easy as letting go of this handkerchief. If you did but know it, it takes more energy to hold on to your ego than to let it go."

We are the God of this Universe. Sai Baba says that Man's original sin was to forget that fact, was to believe that he was separate from God. That is why he says - "You are God! You are God! You are not the ego. You are the atma. You are the self. You are permanent. The physical body is not permanent. The physical is not the Self. You are the Self, not the physical. You are God. You are God. Think like this always. Do not think about your body. Think about God. The body comes and goes. For the body there is birth and death, but you are not the body. The body is just rust and dust. You are eternal."

One of the many things that I have learned from my relationship with Sai Baba is that he is a perfect mirror. He reflects back to us exactly what we are, what we want to hear from him. This can obviously lead to confusion, especially in the interview room, when he says different things to different people. If devotees' reports are to be believed, then Sai Baba has appeared to make conflicting statements about, for example, whether or not Jesus died on the cross, whether space beings and UFOs are real, whether the Earth Changes and the so called cataclysm are going to take place. It's this apparent confusion that leads some people to think that he does not know what he is saying, which is absolutely ridiculous.

He knows exactly what he is saying and, more importantly, to whom he is saying it. The difference lies in the fact that he is reflecting back to the person concerned exactly what they want to hear. He is a mirror to you. Big misunderstandings can happen when people go to Sai Baba and say, for example, "Swami can I marry so and so?" Sai Baba will say "Yes, yes, I bless" but then the marriage does not work out at all and they blame Sai Baba for it. One has to be very careful when asking questions of an avatar. The question should always be "Should I" or "Is it in my destiny to" rather than "Can I"! I personally believe that Sai Baba will always give us what we want, even if it is not appropriate for us, if he thinks that it will help us to get over it, to release our desires and attachments to it and to advance more quickly along the royal road to liberation.

Most of us will go through three stages on the road to liberation, which have been defined as Dualism (Dvaita), Qualified Dualism (Vishishtadvaita) and Non-Dualism(Advaita). We begin by seeing ourselves as totally separate from God. God is the all powerful Creator, a perfect being living far removed from us in Heaven.. That is why we worship Him. Then we progress to the stage when we establish a relationship with God, when we still see Him as separate but also as part of our family and directly concerned with our welfare and spiritual advancement. Many devotees who worship Sai Baba as God are at this stage.

The final stage is when we realise that we are one with God, that there is no separation between us at all. All self-identity is an illusion. There never was any separation and there never will be. This is the great step in consciousness that we have to take. This is the great step that Sai Baba is asking us to take right now. The plane of liberation is about to take off. Sai Baba is asking us to be on that plane. Now that doesn't mean that we have to be out in Puttaparthi in order to board that plane. It means that we have to have become non-dualistic in our daily lives. We have to have realised that all is one, that all is God and that the energy of God is love. May we all regard this as our primary task in life. For here on the Earth is the avatar of the Age.

We are privileged to be here in incarnation at this time. Sai Baba has said that in years to come our photographs will be on the walls of our grandchildren and they will honour and revere us for our knowledge of and our contact with this great avatar. They will say that there was someone who knew Sai Baba. You will be remembered for that contact.

The following letter was written to an unidentified devotee by Howard Murphet who was one of the first non-Indians to visit Sai Baba. Howard Murphet wrote a number of books about Sai Baba including Man of Miracles which was instrumental in bringing thousands of people to Sai Baba. Like many others, He came to Sai Baba wanting to believe but at the same time, watching carefully to detect any trickery there might be in his many miracles. Later he believed not only in the reality of the miracles but also came to believe that Sai Baba was indeed the Kalki Avatar predicted in so many of the ancient texts.

Howard Murphet Letter

Dear xxxxxxx,

I felt through your well-expressed letter that you were at the crossroads and not sure which way to go and so it was, that I felt compelled to help you if I could. My good friends or some of them in the Sai movement have expressed the opinion that the present time and what is taking place really is the dividing of the ways, "the sifting out of the chaff from the grain', or what the Bible might call the dividing of the sheep from the goats. However way we see it, is a difficult time for some people, especially for the fairly new comers among the following of Sai Baba.

You say you have read some of my books so you know perhaps that I am probably the first from the Western world to come to Sathya Sai Baba as a Western skeptic and stay with Him or near Him for some six years in India in order to solve the problem of His true Identity and why He was here in the world. After returning to the west I have been back many times, pulled by the strong magnet of the Divine Love and fascination of One I decided was an Avatar of God. He taught me what an Avatar is. His relationship to ordinary human beings in the world and how His Purpose was to lead those who are ready, to their own inner Guru or the God within. I did not immediately accept Him as an Avatar, but after He taught me in a humble manner what an Avatar is and how we are all Avatars, descendants from God without being aware of it. As I stayed on I became more and more certain that He was indeed an Avatar. This is not based on the fact that He materialises things. I know that there are others in India who have the siddhis for materialisation. Some of them are masters on the right hand path, others on the left hand path or the black magicians. In most cases they have trained servants in the astral realm who carry things for them as they desire. I mean material objects such as trinkets, food and so on. So, you might say the fact that Swami materialises things is really no proof that He is an Avatar of God.

He goes much further than that and He does what only one bearing the Christ-consciousness or the Divine-consciousness on earth can do and I have witnessed many of these phenomena. One is the conversion of one type of matter to another which labels him as a Master of Matter. One such which I was witness of was the conversion of a hard piece of granite rock into edible candy while the rock was never out of my sight. I examined it before and afterwards ate some of it! Only the Divine One can do such a thing as that. Another thing done when necessary was in converting a bucket of ordinary water drawn from a well nearby into a bucketful of petrol by stirring the water with His forefinger, then it was poured into the petrol tank of the car and the car went on the journey using the petrol that Swami had converted from the water. These and other juggling of the atoms to change one type of matter to another are things that convinces one of His Divine consciousness which is the Master of matter being able to create it and convert it and destroy it. When He produces a Shivalingam from inside Himself which I saw Him do as long ago as 1966, if there is nobody present worthy of receiving the lingam, that is one who will faithfully do regular pujas required to keep the lingam auspicious He dematerialises it, in other words He sends it back to the unmanifest. This might be called the destruction of matter.

You must have read about all of this or some of it in my books, yet the greatest of His miracles is the Divine Love by which He brings about a deep change in the nature of people, his followers. I experienced this also in 1966 on the first occasion when I was alone with Sai Baba. I have described this inner change which might be called the birth of the Christ-child within one. We are born of course with the embryo of the Divine Child within us but this initiation that Swami gives brings about the actual birth of the Christ within; then, it is that we begin to know the meaning of true Love and the feeling of oneness with our brother man. This comes about gradually through the years after what I have called the birth of the Christ-child or the initiation into the Divine Life. Many, many people throughout the years have been changed in this way, this deep rooted inner change that is really your first footstep on the path of the homeward journey. Then there is the great compassion of Sai Baba which requires miraculous action for its fulfillment. You may have read in one of my books that some years ago - in fact in 1982 when I was diagnosed as having an incurable disease I prayed very earnestly to Sai Baba, my Guru. I was in a beautiful room in the Adelaide Hills while Sai Baba in the body was of course at that time in India at His ashram. My prayer was so intense that after a sleep on a couch while the sun was shining through the windows I woke up to see Swami's Hand and Arm as it circled over me and I knew that He had come, that this was a healing gesture. I saw it in that brief time between being asleep and fully awake when as you might have heard, everybody has a short period of clairvoyance. When that short period had passed His Hand and Body disappeared from my vision but He was still there in the room and I knew this by the unbelievably soul-moving sense of the luminous in the room, In fact the room was filled by it and it penetrated the wall to where my wife was sitting in the breakfast room and then when Swami left, the luminous went too. This is what the ancient Romans called "sense of the Presence of the Divine" (the luminous or lumina). Well, I knew that I was cured of the disease and all tests afterwards proved that this was so.

People I know who have the clairvoyant vision see Swami's subtle form almost every day and He has the power to appear in more than one place at a time. When He was younger He used to go into a trance in order to make these necessary out of-the-body journeys to help people, but for many years now He carries on in His body whatever He was doing while sending out a subtle form wherever it is required to do this work in helping mankind. Of this I've had many proofs and I have no doubt whatsoever about it. Through these experiences and my contemplation of them I have come to a firm, unshakeable conviction that we have with us in Sathya Sai Baba one of the greatest Avatars of all time.

As for these petty and ridiculous allegations about God, one whom we should have measure with the measuring tape of the ordinary human mind I myself pay no heed to them whatsoever. They arise through the activities of some egos, anxious either to bring the Great One down to their own level so that their own personal egos may grow as they try to climb the ladder of Divinity and at the same time they are serving the dark forces, that are battling hard today against the great Light that the Avatar is shedding on earth. And I know too, that He is being supported by many workers in the forcefield of light such as the Ascended Masters, two of them whom I had much to do when I was researching the biographies of the outward founders of the Theosophical Movement. They are Master El Morya and Master Kuthumi who are two of the most powerful masters behind the launching of the Theosophical Society last century. The purpose of which in their own words was to turn the crest wave of intellectual thought that was being enlarged by the rapid growth of science during the latter half of last century - to turn this, at least some of it, towards spiritual shores instead of letting it all break on the rocks of materialism. These two great Ascended Masters have given the weight of their spiritual perception and deep knowledge to confirm what I myself and many others throughout the world feel beyond doubt that we are greatly honoured to have an Avatar of such calibre as Sai Baba on the earth amongst us today. The two Masters stated in the book "The Light Shall Set You Free" that Avatar Sai Baba is carrying the Divine-consciousness in the world today.

Another great Indian saint and seer whom you may have read about in the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda i.e. Ananda Mayi Ma whose photo is in the book has stated to a Sai devotee that "Sai Baba is not only a great Avatar, but the Greatest that has ever walked the earth." No doubt many people may waiver and other faithless ones may turn away from the Avatar but it will not change His Mission which is to raise the consciousness of enough people in the world to bring about the quantum leap of the consciousness of humanity from the third to the fifth dimension and thus start the new Sathya Yuga.

I can only tell you my dear xxxxxxx my own convictions in this matter and let you make your own decision as to which road to travel. One leads to the Light and other to the darkness through which the world has suffered during the long centuries of the Kali Yuga. It is entirely your choice of course, but I pray that you make the right one and lead as many others as you can to do the same. Those working against the Avatar, unless they go to the unredeemable level of becoming demonic will someday in some life come back to the Divine Feet. This I pray and for this I send them my Love.

God bless you,

Sai Ram
Howard Murphet

When Sai Baba was just a lad of 14 years old, he walked out of school one day, threw his books aside and declared himself to be free. He stayed no longer at the house of his father and mother and from that very day, began his avataric mission. Not that he didn't exude divinity from the moment of birth itself. His entire early life was lived according to the highest of principles so that his actions and example had a huge spiritualizing influence on those around him. Even at that age and earlier his classmates called him Guru and considered him to be their spiritual guide. The book, Sathya Sai Baba by N. Kasturi (Volume 1 of the Sathyam Shivam Sundaram series of four volumes) is a biography of the events of Sai Baba's early life. Here is a short excerpt from that book giving the reader some idea of the wonderful goings on of that time. The book chronicles many such miraculous happenings which were witnessed and widely known of by the people in his native village.

Some Early Miracles

"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.

A college student, C. N. Padma, who was present one evening when Sai Baba ascended the hill on which the Tamirind 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 some 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."

The following narrative tells of the experience of a young student with Sai Baba which had far reaching effects on his life back in the U.S. His mature analysis of the relationship between devotee and Guru sheds light not only on his own link to Sai Baba but on that of all who have formed a strong emotional bond with him.

A Unique Healing

My father and I spent five days with Swami in 1972 when I was nineteen during which time we received many interviews and abundant grace...I've written about the experience in my book "The Father, The Son and the Best Friend," (which is yet to be published). On our last day I had a short private interview with Swami in which he did something for me which cured me of a case of an extremely bad case of adolescent depression-fueled, post-drug-involved rampant sexual impulses. After I returned to college in America I was spontaneously celibate for about six months, and all the energy which had been raging below was now centered in my heart...and this without any effort or discipline. I had been malnourished through incorrect eating (I was vegetarian, but not eating right)and too much fasting, and when I got home I ate sometimes nine meals a day for months! I slept 4-5 hours a night and awoke with a spontaneous joy and bliss each morning. I felt like a happy child again...young women offered themselves to me and I just wasn't interested - I only wanted to tell everyone about Swami and share my joy. A lot of people thought I'd gone nuts, but then a lot of others got turned on to the spiritual path through my nuttiness, too.

What did Baba do for me in that interview? He materialized white vibuthi that had a grainy quality to it, depositing half in my hand, bidding me to eat it, then keeping the other half in his hand as he squeezed the perineum - the crotch muscle - very hard and told me to breathe deeply as he did it. When he removed his hand there was no vibuthi in it, nor did I find any in my shorts later. This procedure was completely non-sexual. Swami's manner was that of a familiar, beloved, expert, clinical family doctor, and the whole thing took him less than a minute to perform. I was a little confused at the beginning, but something in me knew what he was doing, even though my exposure to yoga was minimal at that point.

Afterwards we talked a little and then he looked deeply into my eyes and wordlessly conveyed a love so intimate and deep and selfless...He had his hands on my shoulders and it was as if he were placing me above him. It was too much for me. I broke. And I break every time I think on that moment, and perhaps the only reason I haven't meditated on that moment every day since 1972 is that my heart is still not large enough to hold all that love...His love simply demands more than our little shells can stand. If I were to try to describe what he conveyed to me in that moment and keep trying for the rest of my life, I still wouldn't get it right.

That night he took a bunch of us down to the dry Chitravathi (river bed) and materialized some things. He answered a lot of questions and there was a big show going on, as there often is around him. But what was happening for me seemed somehow "other" than the show, and it has ever since. Beginning in '72, I've never felt comfortable with the devotee scene. I've generally never liked going to Sai centers, though I've had periods of involvement, usually out of a sense of duty, even guilt. "Swami says..." etc.

I've sat at the feet of many teachers and have been in a lot of spiritual scenes and have even been through periods of doubt and upset - like this one - in relation to Swami, but the love I associate with him always returns and is always supreme, even when my mind can't understand, even when I try to forget him or even try to force him out...He goes beyond even being a best friend. His brand of love feels to be one with the primary reality behind all this, behind the drama.

Is our spiritual practice wholly wedded to a faith in Swami as The Avatar? Do we understand what an Avatar is? Is there another dimension of spiritual practice which might better illumine our own true nature than an emotional dependence on a savior figure, and blind, unquestioning faith in a person or a doctrine or a set of beliefs? Has our world - internal and external - become a self-enclosed system which refers only to the person of Swami at every turn? These are all important questions to ask whether or not any of the allegations are true, whether or not we believe they are true. Have we made a cult of Swami? Has that cult taken the place of real spirituality? Self-enclosed systems have to be destroyed sooner or later by some means or other. If the pilgrim would keep walking forward through the pain of that destruction, he/she would find greater life, greater love, real liberation, as opposed to the consolation of a belief system.

The excerpts below are from a story that appears in the book Transformation of the Heart by Judy Warner. This book contains 12 beautiful stories each told by a person who's life was transformed by coming into contact with Sathya Sai Baba. This book is highly recommended reading for Sai Baba devotees or anyone interested in finding out more about him.

Transformation Through Light

There is one particular Easter time that is clearly imprinted on my mind: Good Friday of Holy Week, April, 1977. It was an Easter season that transformed my life. I had an overwhelming experience which finally awakened me from a deep spiritual sleep, a sleep I had been in for years. It changed the way I saw and experienced the world. I was on my holiday from teaching nursing in the university and had spent my Easter vacation at a very beautiful place, Esalen Institute, on the Pacific coast in Big Sur, California. For five days while attending a seminar at Esalen, I found myself inexplicably immersed in thoughts and images of the Christ story. I say "inexplicably" because I thought I had long since abandoned my Christian roots and freed myself from all religious fetters. But now, for the first time in many years, many warm remembrances of those childhood Bible stories were filling my consciousness and bringing with them a profound joy and inner peace. I had planned to spend the last two days of my vacation quietly returning home to the Sacramento Valley; however, some inner prompting invited me to stay one more night in the lovely setting and continue to experience my own calmness.
After spending a very lovely evening in atunement, for the first time in many years with God and nature, I retired to my room. It just so happened that this particular room had a skylight so I could look up and gaze at the beautiful star-lit sky. I quietly got into bed, after arranging to sleep directly under the window, and began to relax and reflect on all the wonderful events of the past week.

I looked up at the skylight; and suddenly a star started coming down from the heavens. It streaked across the sky getting brighter and brighter and continued right on through the window, entering directly into my room. It was awesome. I was utterly stunned and amazed.

I must explain that I do not use intoxicants, and I have never had visions, hallucinations or unusual imaginings. I was really a fairly conservative college teacher; this was completely outside my realm of experience. At first I was truly frightened; but then the wistful children's story of Pinocchio flashed across my mind - when the star came into Giuseppe's shop and all the wooden toys began to do the dance of life.

Almost instantaneoulsy, my room shone with a very strong light. Everything seemed so clear and beautiful. it was totally overpowering. I was in a complete state of awe and wonderment. I remember saying, "Is this happening to me? Is this a dream? Am I asleep?" But I was totally awake and my mind was perfectly clear. Yes it was really happening!

The star then began to flash various streams of light, and as these flashed before my eyes, I heard a very loving voice giving me clear directions about my life. The messages were very simple, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was guidance from above. One of the first things this sweet voice said was, "You need to give up sugar, particularly coca cola."

I must say this star knew me well. My usual habit was to spend the mornings in the hospital supervising students and then rush back to the university for my afternoon lecture class. On the way to class, I would stop at the vending machines and buy one candy bar and two coca colas. That was my lunch. I knew that this was not good, but it seemed I needed God's loving intervention before I could change.

The voice also told me to become a vegetarian, become celibate, and begin to worship God. Later, when I came to Sai Baba, I realized that these were his exact teachings. The star then told me I was to come and live at Esalen Institute in June and begin to study natural medicine. It told me not to worry about my job, my house or anything. All my needs would be met. This was truly astonishing because I had been very interested in alternative healing methods. I also had been wishing for some way to leave the traditional health setting. Here again, I found myself receiving direct orders from the divine, fulfilling a deep inner desire.

The star stayed with me for quite some time. The flashes of light and the voice all happened in a very synchronized pattern, like an orchestra playing a symphony around the cosmic dance of life. Everything was noticed and given its full attention; not a single note was missed, I was totally engrossed in this all-inspiring experience - there was nothing to compare it with; it was beyond all that had been previously known to me. I remembered the picture of Mary appearing to the three children of Fatima; this image was the closest I could come to grasping an experience of this magnitude. Yes, I realized there really is a God, and he is directing every move of my life. To have this knowledge gave much comfort to my disenchanted heart.
After the star left, I got out of bed feeling completely overwhelmed. I was so filled with energy that I knew there was no way I was going to sleep, so I decided to go for a walk. I made my way down to the rocks on the beach, and it was there that I was able to realize the true significance of this event. As I gazed out on the ocean, I looked up into the sky and immediately saw two white birds flying over my head. They looked very much like white doves. On seeing these white birds, my thoughts wandered back to the sacrament of Confirmation in the Catholic Church. It is taught that when one receives this sacrament, the grace of the Holy Spirit enters your body, and you become a full disciple of Christ. And what is the symbol of confirmation? It is the dove!
Unexpectedly, on that Good Friday night on the California coast, I suddenly realized I had truly received my sacrament of Confirmation. Here was the experience I had longed for as a child. I now knew without any doubt that the Holy Spirit had entered my body. After being completely alienated from my religious beliefs for eight years, I was experiencing the same feeling that Christ's apostles must have felt when the Holy Spirit descended on them forty days after Christ rose from the dead. I was now one of the apostles.

I vividly recalled the account in the Bible, of Paul's journey to Damascus, when suddenly a light appeared before him and a voice spoke to him from above. He was so awe-struck that he immediately converted to Christianity, and from that day on, he dedicated his life to spreading the message of Christ to all parts of the world.

Yes, I was one of the apostles. I was now Paul.

The way Baba chose to reveal his divinity to me was an awesome experience that I now realize was designed uniquely for my eyes. My given name is Pauline, and therefore my patron saint is Saint Paul. It is no wonder that I should first be made aware of his divine presence through an experience with light. How special we are to him is evident in the dramatic way he individualizes our experiences so as to lead us to his divine lotus feet.
The next morning I returned home with a whole new understanding of God. I started following the directions of the star explicitly.

Since the star had told me to come live at the institute in Big Sur, I immediately began to make plans. I applied and was accepted for a three month work study program. I arrived in Big Sur the first of June and at once felt a complete sense of well-being that affirmed my new direction in life. Very shortly after my arrival, I discovered that there was a Catholic Hermitage only eleven miles from the institute. I began attending Mass regularly and felt completely at home in this cloistered environment. I remember walking into the chapel for the first time and knowing that I was returning home after a long absence. The monks were very kind and simply treated me as a fellow spiritual seeker. They seemed to be completely open and accepting of a vast range of spiritual paths - a strong contrast to my religious upbringing.

Approximately two weeks after my arrival at Esalen Institute, I heard of a morning meditation period I could attend, which was followed by a bhajan session. This was my first exposure to Sai Baba. I think he captured me with those bhajans. I just love singing them; it was very reminiscent of singing Latin in the choir when I was a child. I did not know the Latin meaning of those hymns, and here again, I found myself not knowing the meaning of these Indian songs. However, the sounds simply captured my heart.

Soon, I started reading about Sathya Sai Baba. The very first book I read, called Vision of the Divine, disclosed Swami's trademark, TPS, inscribed on a medallion which he had materialized. It means Tata (star), Puttaparthi in the form of Sathya. Then I realized it was he who had come as that wonderful star; it was he who had descended into my world on Good Friday night; it was he who had completely changed my life. Before long I would embark on my first trip to India to experience directly his divine human form.

After my trip to Swami, and on returning to Esalen to continue my studies as a natural healer, I now knew that there was a God incarnate who was directing and guiding my life. Of this I had no doubt.

I know now that when the star visited me on that holy night of Good Friday, I not only received the Holy Spirit and became a disciple of Christ, but also became a part of a much larger family - that of all mankind; all of whom are soon destined to receive the Holy Spirit. The father of this world family is our beloved Sathya Sai Baba, who is God once again incarnate in human form to spread his divine love. He has promised us that he will bring this troubled earth of diverse religious streams, cultures and hostile factions back together again in love, united in one family. He gave us a wonderful view of this world family when he said:

There is only one religion,
the religion of love
There is only one language,
the language of the heart
There is only one caste,
the cast of humanity
There is only one God,
and He is Omnipresent

The following excerpts are from letters written by a nun of the Catholic church to the priest Don Mario Mazzoleni, author of A Catholic Priest Meets Sai Baba. Although Don Mario had achieved a certain status as a priest in the Catholic Church, he still felt dissatisfied with his life and spiritual progress. He followed a trail of truth which took him beyond the comfortable themes of the Church into other realms of investigation. Reading of the mystical teachers of the east the trail at last led him to Sathya Sai Baba in India. After years of contact with Sai Baba and his teachings, Don Mario's orthodox views were completely overturned and in his zeal, he openly tried to persuade the church to investigate beyond it's rigidly formulated teachings and to evaluate the Sai Baba phenomenon. For his public questioning of the Church, Don Mario was excommunicated. The book narrates his struggle and draws parallels between the ancient wisdom of the East and the teachings of Jesus.

The final chapters of the book contain a series of letters exchanged between Don Mario and a Catholic nun who, like Don Mario, had also discovered Sai Baba and had tried to interest her fellow sisters in him. To "Sister W.'s" great disappointment, the other nuns showed absolutely no interest in Sai Baba and in fact drove a wedge between them. In her anguish and isolation, she writes to Don Mario for comfort and guidance, narrating the inner conversations she carried on with Sai Baba.

A Nun's Inner Dialog with Sai Baba

October 8th, 1989

Dear Don Mario,

I will go on to tell you what Baba revealed to me on the 13th of September. That day I was quite downcast (I miss having my friends to talk to about Sai Baba), and I was also angry with him. I was asking him why he had made himself known to me. When I was through expressing my bitterness to him, I continued to look at him in silence. From the silence a dialog emerged, which left me rather perplexed when I re-read it:

"You do not know who you have been, but this life is your last hand to play. That is why I have made myself known to you, in order to help you. Dear Daughter, I know that you struggle very hard, and that your will is weak. It is no use to you to know what you have been: it is enough for you to know what you are now: divine. At the point you have reached you can no longer go back, because the road is no longer there; I have erased it. You can only go forward. It is a difficult stretch of road ahead, but if you only knew how close you are to seeing the snow shining in the sun! Believe me, because it is the truth. I love you, dearest daughter, and I cannot wait for you to be with me. Your journey, your search for Me, has been long and tiring. Whether you loved me during the journey does not matter; what counts is your love now. Understand what I am telling you, my child! You are not alone. I am with you. Trust me. Do not search for doubts that are not there. You know that I am your God, why do you wish to deny it? Always feel My presence in your heart, and call Me in every circumstance, as Me, and I will always answer you. I look on you with joy, and I love you very much."


January 11, 1990

Dearest Don Mario,

The astounding history of Babaji, that great Master who is immune to death, who appears always as a young man, and who they say is in intimate contact with Christ, makes me think of Christ's words: "What concern is it to you if I wish to remain here until I return?"

If I remember correctly, I think you told me that you had been to see Babaji. You were very lucky, given that according to the book he lives on the northern peaks of the Himalayas, and his body is visible only to a small group of people on this earth. Since you saw him, what do you think about him? Sometimes I wonder if India isn't all science-fiction.

Do you consider the presence of a guru essential in one's life? Can Sai Baba be my guru even if I am not near him physically?

Dear Don Mario, I feel like I am entering ever deeper into another world, a world which is raised above earthly problems and anxieties, a world which quivers only with the Divine. Your words upset me: God is everything, God is nothing. Can't God be conceived as something definite? Where on earth is India leading me? Towards God I am sure of it; and Baba, who is surer than I am, says that I am not made to live in this human world. He encourages me to live in God, for God and only for God, with my heart and mind always turned toward God, immersed in God.

One morning, gazing at the living Image that you gave me, I said to Baba: "Dear Master, don't you think that as your disciple I should at least see you?"

Baba answered: "Why? Aren't you seeing Me this very moment? Remember that every time you look at Me in this picture, I am really present."

I said: "But what is the sign that this is really true?"

"The sign is the peace which enters your heart, the fact that your breath and mind fill to the brim, and you are lost in sweet silence."

I exclaimed: "Does that mean I can have your Darshan whenever I wish?"

"Whenever you wish."

I told him that this seemed too good to be true; and he said: "If you don't believe these simple things, how will you believe greater things?"

"Baba, what do I have to do?"

"Dear child, you do not have to do anything except love God. You are now in my school, and I want you to spend all your free time with me."

Dear Don Mario, I have realized that I have spent enough time learning, and now the time has come to Love, the time in which I have to strengthen and intensify my love for God.

On New Year's Eve, at 10 p.m., I couldn't decide whether to go to my room, or go to a hall where some guests were celebrating and waiting for the new year. I asked Baba, and He answered: "Stay with Me, W., spent this time in My company; you have guests every day and all day." These words moved me, because they are like the words of Jesus: "You will always have the poor with you."


April 10, 1990

Dearest Don Mario,

I am alone, with Baba. Or rather, I cannot talk about Baba with anyone, and when I do, I only cause trouble. The other day, when we were all gathered together, a sister made some insinuations for the nth time. It irritated me: I answered back that enough was enough, and that if she had something to say, she should say it openly. I added that everyone is free to follow and love Christ as she pleases, and with whatever aids she feels are necessary. With this last remark I raised a real hornet's nest. For a while I tried to face up to the attacks, but then I followed the advice of an inner voice which was saying: why are you getting so upset? Let them talk!

What they said was basically this: it is obvious that a muslim cannot help you in seeking Christ.... people like that do everything for money; we have to proclaim Christ and His Gospel;, and not other things.

I spoke to my confessor about the Conference on Human Values at Assisi. He was pleased until he learned that even though the program was open to all, the participants would be mostly lay people involved in an organization which was started in India, and headed moreover by a man named Sai Baba. At this point he started saying that even Human Values can be distorted if they are presented by people who espouse non-Christian, and particularly non-Catholic, doctrines. This triggered a lively discussion. When he left he said that I would be doing him a favor if I would take some time to speak with him about this subject. He cares for me, and he is convinced that I am on the wrong path.

What do I do now? Should I go? Should I stop going? It is clear that he will never accept the Sai Baba question.

Speaking of "never", one day I said to Baba: "The Catholic Church will never accept You, just as they will never accept your theories, or rather your truths." I got this answer:

"In the fullness of time, God sent His Son. In the fullness of time, the Father began moving towards His children. There will be a particular fullness of time for each child, because it will not happen at the same moment and in the same way for everyone. I love you so much, dear daughter. God does not worry about how things will go, because in the end they will in any case go according to His Will."

Thinking about the imminent visit by the Mother Superior of our Province, and about the fact that she can go anywhere, I had the idea of hiding Baba's picture. Then I felt that I would be acting inconsistently with my faith, so I left it where it was, telling Baba not to get me into trouble. So the Mother Superior (who had certainly been informed about everything) said to me: "I went into your room, and I saw another Jesus Christ." I said: "You mean Sai Baba!" She answered: "Be careful, because many ideologies which define themselves as religious are considered sects. Sects cause you to lose your faith; if you care for your faith, I repeat, be careful."


April 1990.

Dearest Don Mario,

Some time ago, I was living my days in a state of confusion, and I could no longer see my way clearly on anything. I did not know where I was going, what I was looking for, who I was following. I felt like I had gone back to being the person I was before I knew about Sai Baba, with the same negative qualities I had then. One Thursday morning, I decided firmly to let Baba go and to retrace my steps. He doesn't help me. Why should I listen to him? I sent him away: "You can go now, and the sooner the better!"

After that, I started to pray, looking first at a picture of Jesus, and then, as usual, I addressed the Father. At the very thought of Him I was immersed, submerged in a sea of peace, serenity, Love. I prayed like this: "Father, please forgive me if I called someone 'Father' who isn't, if I gave my heart to someone I shouldn't have; if I made a mistake, I am ready to undo it. I do not want to lose Your love, I want to believe in you, in Jesus and in Mary, His mother."

Then I went on to ask Him this question: "Tell me, Father, who is Sai Baba?" There was no answer except a sentence of Sai Baba's, which crossed the sky: "Do everything with love in your heart." I paid it no mind: I had resolved to remain in prayer until He gave me a clear answer. I asked the same question to Jesus too, but it seemed as if He did not want to interfere in things that pertained to His Father. After a while, I gave up. I felt that I was squandering Love with that silly stubbornness, and I said to Him: "It doesn't matter if You don't want to tell me who he is: but allow me to remain in this adorable presence of Yours."

It was at this moment, when I no longer was expecting anything, that other thoughts crossed the sky: "I am He, Baba is I. Dear daughter, it is not easy for you to understand it, but it is really true."

Now I will tell you a dream I had. I was confessing my sins to Baba, in a strange way. I was holding a little book in my hands, and Baba explained to me in his words the meaning of what I had read. Then I began to read again, as the dream dissolved. When I was awake, I could no longer remember anything of what I had read or what Baba had said, so my first reaction was: why do you allow me to dream about you if then I can't remember any of it? But then, thinking about it carefully, I remembered a detail which explained everything, that is, explained the "lesson" Baba wanted to teach me. During the dream I was preoccupied with asking Baba a question, and I was waiting for the right moment to ask it. The question was: Are you really God?"

"As long as you worry, as long as you ask yourself these questions which should now be obvious, you do not penetrate into the depth of My message, of My teachings, of My love, but you remain just on the surface! As long as you have these misgivings in you, how will you be able to understand my discourses, even if I were to explain them to you through your inner senses?"

The selections below are a few of the noteworthy incidents that took place on a tour of Northern India in the year 1957. Sathya Sai Baba visited the ashram of Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society. Swami Sivananda was a great renunciant who spent his entire life in the service of others, first as a distinguished medical doctor and later as a sage who renounced all and attained enlightenment. Long ago, Swami Sivananda used to care for and feed many sadhus and sannyasis and so an ashram came into being. To further encourage spirituality, Sivananda spent the rest of his life writing hundreds of books, disseminating wisdom, and influencing by the power of his spiritual stature and living example the spiritual aspirants who came to the ashram. What follows are extracts of accounts of the tour appearing in two books written by long time Sai Baba devotee and aid, N Kasturi: Sathyam, Shivam, Sundaram (The Life of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba),and Loving God, a collection of remembrances.

Sai Baba - Trip to Rishikesh

On the twenty-second of July Baba left New Delhi by car for Rishikesh. When he reached Sivanandanagar at 6:30 that evening, Swami Sivananda called a special gathering of the disciples of the Ashram and offered Baba a hearty welcome.

Swami Sadananda (one of the senior disciples) was, prior to his entering the monastery, a professor of history at the Presidency College, Madras. Saivism, a school of philosophy and worship, that highlighted the Siva (Shiva) aspect of Godhead, was his favourite subject of study, and Baba had prodded him to explain the significance of the Linga. Baba explained that it represented the emergence of the Cosmos from the formless as well as the mergence of the Cosmos into the formless. "The sun appears as a huge red disc when it rises and when it sets", said Baba.

"This is a revelation to me on my New Year Day," the Sanyasin said.

"It is now many years since you celebrated new Year. You were in the midst of your family then. Now you are in the Sai Family. So, here, take this.!" Baba said, while waving his palm. An "Obbattu", a sweet dish traditionally prepared in Tamil homes on New Year Day was resting on that palm - hot, fragrant with ghee (butter), thick, circular, with a sprinkle of sugar! My mouth watered, the ascetic Sadananda helt out his hand. Seeing my plight, Baba waved again, to project a second Obbattu for me too.

Swami Sivananda (founder of the Ashram) was the very embodiment of equanimity. In the midst of vociferous pleadings and protestations from visitors and inmates, he was being pushed around by his disciples in a wheeled chair.

Sivanandanagar (the tranquil and holy ashram of Swami Sivananda) 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 three hermitages. More impressive than these are the forest-clad mountains on every side that seem like superhuman sages lost in silent contemplation of the Infinite.

The Ganges, daughter of the earth and sky, famed in lore and legend, sought after by devotees in every Hindu home for thousands of years to sanctify every ritual... 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 back toward the sea.

Speaking of the things that he is accustomed to make and give, Sai Baba 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 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. 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.

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. 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 (abode of great peace) 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 carved and clearly recognizable by means of a magnifying glass.

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 Sivanandashram, 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.

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" (Guru of Rama). 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 the 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 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. Hearing that the 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.

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." When later asked to divulge the nature of the vision, Baba informed us that it was a vision of the darshan of Padmanabha as installed, since childhood, in his heart. "It was Jyothirpadmanabha". He said Jyothi meaning Light.

After a minute or two, Baba rose and sitting by the side of the septuagenarian, called him by name and slowly brought him into the consciousness of space and time. Baba sang a song on Rama, composed by Thyagaraja and when he concluded, he waved his hand and materialised from the air a rosary of sparkling sphatika beads for Purushotamananda.

Five years later when the Swami left his body behind and merged in that Truth, Baba announced his departure to me at Puttaparthi (thousands of miles away). It was a few minutes after the emergence of the Lingam from Baba's stomach where it grew for days. It was Mahashivarathri; Baba told me that Swami's body will be buried with the Sphatika Rosary on the chest. (It was!)

The incidents at Vasishtha cave were literally mind-blowing. When we were allowed in, we hung on every word that Baba uttered and gathered every signal of adoration that emanated from the aged monk - the rising eye-brow, the twinkling eye, the smothered gasp, the folded palm, the smile that shone atop the beard. Baba told him of his early trials at the cave, of his struggles to light a fire and of his amazement, one morning, to find a package of match boxes hiding in a corner. Baba confirmed "I placed it there for you". The monk sat up at this surprising revelation. The attendant monks explained that for many years they were using fire-stones to get the spark which they would nourish, feed and foster into flame. They too were aghast at the discovery, that Baba was aware of their Guru, of his travails and his needs. "He knows all: He is all" they exclaimed. Man has no means to identify what cannot be accounted for, explained or measured. He can only sit silent, dumbfounded in deep dismay.

Sathya Sai Baba with Krishna Statue

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