Hindu Spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba (85years) passed away on Sunday, 24th April 2011 at 7.40 am. Sathya Sai Baba born as Sathyanarayana Raju, on 23 November 1926, is described by his devotees as an Avatar, Godman, Spiritual teacher and Social Reformer. Sathya Sai Baba has claimed to be the reincarnation of the great spiritual guru, Sai Baba of Shirdi. He also has proclaimed that He will reincarnate in Karnataka as Prem Sai in the future.
Sathya Sai Baba established many organizations supporting a variety of free educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable works in India and abroad. More than 6 million devotees follow him in about 178 countries. There are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries worldwide. A cultural icon in his home country, Sai Baba has attracted presidents and prime ministers from India and beyond who have become his devotees. He was also known as a singer, having released several CDs of bhajans (devotional songs).
Sathyanarayana Raju was born to Eswaramma and Peddavenkama Raju Ratnakaram in the village of Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India. His birth, which his mother Eswaramma asserted was by miraculous conception, was also said to be heralded by miracles. As a child, he was unusually intelligent and charitable. He was exceptionally talented in drama, music, dance and writing, and was an avid composer of poems and plays. He was said to be capable of materialising objects such as food and sweets out of thin air. On 8 March 1940, while living with his elder brother Seshama Raju in Uravakonda, Sathya was apparently stung by a scorpion.He lost consciousness for several hours. Within the next few days there was a noticeable change in Sathya’s behavior. There were symptoms of laughing and weeping, eloquence and silence. He began to sing Sanskrit verses, a language of which he had no prior knowledge.
On 23 May 1940, Sathya announced calmly and firmly “I am Sai Baba,” a reference to Sai Baba of Shirdi. He proclaimed himself to be a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi—a saint who became famous in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Maharashtra, and who had died eight years before Sathya was born. Later that year, Sathya Sai Baba declared that he had no worldly relationship with anyone and around this time, devotees began to gather to him. In 1940, Sathya Sai Baba began to travel to Madras and elsewhere in South India and soon had a large regional following.
In 1944, a mandir (temple) for Sathya Sai Baba’s devotees was built near the village. It is now referred to as the old mandir. The construction of Prashanthi Nilayam, the current ashram, began in 1948 and after 2 years, was completed in 1950. In 1954, Sathya Sai Baba established a small free General Hospital in the village of Puttaparthi. In 1963, Sathya Sai Baba suffered a stroke and four severe heart attacks. It is believed by some that he healed himself of these, and on recovering announced that he would be reborn as Prema Sai Baba in the state of Karnataka. He stated, “I am Siva-Sakthi, born in the gothra (lineage) of Bharadwaja, according to a boon won by that sage from Siva and Sakthi. Siva was born in the gothra of that sage as Sai Baba of Shirdi; Siva and Sakthi have incarnated as Myself in his gothra now; Sakthi alone will incarnate as the third Sai (Prema Sai Baba) in the same gothra in Mysore State.”
In 1968, he established Dharmakshetra or Sathyam Mandir in Mumbai. In 1973, he established Shivam Mandir in Hyderabad. On 19 January 1981, in Chennai he inaugurated the Sundaram Mandir. Sathya Sai Baba’s assertion of divine status is expressed in the first person; he states it boldly and repeatedly. “I am beyond the reach of the most intensive enquiry and the most meticulous measurement. Only those who have recognized my love and experienced that love can assert that they have glimpsed my reality. Do not attempt to know me through the external eyes.”
Sathya Sai Baba supported a variety of free educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable works in over 166 countries. Sri Sathya Sai University in Prashanthi Nilayam has received an “A++” rating by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission). Sri Sathya Sai University for which Baba was the Chancellor, has three campuses, one at Puttaparthi for men, one at Whitefield, Bangalore for men and one at Anantapur for women. His charity supports an institute for Indian Classical Music called the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music. Baba’s educational institutions aim to impart Character Education along with Excellence in academics with emphasis on Human Values and Ethics.
Sathya Sai Baba chaired the Muddenahalli-Sathya Sai Loka Seva School and Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust Educational Institutions in Muddenahalli-Kanivenarayanapura regions. In addition, a Sathya Sai Baba University and Medical School as well as a world class Hospital and Research Institute are being constructed on over 200 acres (0.81 km2) to serve the destitute population. Baba has said that the campus will be modeled after Puttaparthi and will infuse spirituality with academics.
Sri Sathya Sai Super Specialty Hospital, Whitefield (suburb of Bangalore), Karnataka, IndiaThe Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi is a 220 bed facility that provides free surgical and medical care and was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao on 22 November 1991.The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bangalore is a 333 bed hospital meant to benefit the poor. The hospital was inaugurated on 19 January 2001 by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.The hospital has provided free medical care to over 250,000 patients. The Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital was opened in Whitefield, Bangalore, in 1977 and provides complex surgeries, food and medicines free of cost. The hospital has treated over 2 million patients. In April 1999 he inaugurated the Ananda Nilayam Mandir in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust runs several general hospitals, two specialty hospitals, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries and conducts medical camps in rural and slum areas in India. The Trust has also funded several major drinking water projects. One project completed in 1996 supplies water to 1.2 million people in about 750 villages in the drought-prone Rayalaseema region of Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. The second drinking water project, completed in 2004, supplies water to Chennai through a rebuilt waterway named “Sathya Sai Ganga Canal”. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi praised the Chennai water project and Sai Baba’s involvement. Other completed water projects include the Medak District Project benefiting 450,000 people in 179 villages and the Mahbubnagar District Project benefitting 350,000 people in 141 villages. In January 2007, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust said it would start a drinking water project in Latur, Maharashtra. In 2008, 2 million people in the state of Orissa, India were effected due to floods. As a after relief measure, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, has built 699 houses as a part of their first phase in 16 villages by March 2009.
Sathya Sai Baba’s Educare program seeks to found schools throughout the world with the goal of educating children in the five human values. According to the Sai Educare site, schools have been founded in 33 countries, including Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Peru. The Times of Zambia states, “The positive influence of Sathya Sai is unprecedented in the annals of education in Zambia. Sai Baba’s education ideals as embodied in his human values-based approach in education are an eye opener to educationists in Zambia.” In Canada, the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research and educational organization, ranked the Sathya Sai School of Canada as one of the top 37 elementary schools in Ontario. The Sathya Sai School scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Institute’s overall rating for academic performance. Internationally, Sathya Sai Baba devotees gather daily or weekly on Sundays (and/or Thursdays) for group devotional singing (bhajans), prayer, spiritual meditation, service to the community (Seva), and to participate in “Education in Human Values” (SSEHV) known as “Bal Vikas” (meaning Blossoming of the Child), that can also be described as Sai Sunday School.
On 23 November 1999, the Department of Posts, Government of India, released a postage stamp and a postal cover in recognition of the service rendered by Sathya Sai Baba in addressing the problem of providing safe drinking water to the rural masses. On 23 November 2001, the digital radio network Radio Sai Global Harmony was launched through the World Space Organization, United States. Dr Michael Oleinikof Nobel (distant relative to Alfred Nobel and one of the patrons for the radio network) said that the radio network would spread Sathya Sai Baba’s message of global harmony and peace. In January 2007, an event was held in Chennai Nehru stadium organised by the Chennai Citizens Conclave to thank Sathya Sai Baba for the 200 crore water project which brought water from the River Krishna in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai city. Four chief ministers attended the function.
Sathya Sai Baba has said that “My objective is the establishment of sanatana dharma”. In a 2000 public discourse, Sathya Sai Baba said, “These teachings (the Vedas) are highly sacred. Today people are ready to believe all that they see on television and internet but do not repose their faith in the Vedic declarations. Internet is like a waste paper basket. Follow the ‘innernet,’ not the internet.” High ranking Indian politicians, like the former President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Andhra Pradesh former Chief Minister Konijeti Rosaiah and Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa have been official guests at the ashram in Puttaparthi. On Sathya Sai Baba’s 80th birthday celebration, it was reported that well over a million people attended, including 13,000 delegates from India and 180 other countries.
A primary aspect of Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings is the spiritual benefit of darshan for his disciples. At that time, Sai Baba may interact with people, accept letters, materialize and distribute vibhuti (sacred ash) or call groups or individuals for interviews. Devotees consider it a great privilege to have an interview and sometimes a single person, group or family will be invited for a private interview. Devotees say they have observed Sathya Sai Baba manifesting vibuthi (holy ash), and sometimes food and “small objects” such as rings, necklaces and watches. In some books, magazines, filmed interviews and articles, Sathya Sai Baba’s followers report miracles of various kinds that they attribute to him. The first ever record of Baba’s miracles by a foreigner was made by Howard Murphet in his book, Sai Baba – Man Of Miracles. Devotees have said that objects have appeared spontaneously in connection with pictures and altars of Sathya Sai Baba. Sathya Sai Baba’s devotees believe that he relieves his devotees by transferring their pain to himself. Internationally, devotees report that vibuthi, kumkum, turmeric powder, holy water, Shiva lingams, statues of deities (brass and gold), sugar candy, fruits, herbs, amrita (a fragrant, nectar-like honey), gems, colored string, writings in ash and various other substances spontaneously manifest and materialize on the walls, furniture, pictures and altars of Sathya Sai Baba.
Sathya Sai Baba has explained the phenomenon of manifestation as being an act of divine creation. In a 1974 discourse, he stated, “The optical sense cannot visualize the truth. It gives only false and fogged information. For example, there are many who observe my actions and start declaring that my nature is such and such.” Sathya Sai Baba says of “miracles”, “those who profess to have understood me, the scholars, the yogis, the pundits, the jnanis, all of them are aware only of the least important, the casual external manifestation of an infinitesimal part of that power, namely, the “miracles”! This has been the case in all ages. People may be very near (physically) to the Avathar, but they live out their lives unaware of their fortune; they exaggerate the role of miracles, which are as trivial, when compared to my glory and majesty, as a mosquito is in size and strength to the elephant upon which it squats. Therefore, when you speak about these ‘miracles,’ I laugh within myself out of pity that you allow yourself so easily to lose the precious awareness of my reality.”
The miracles of SathyaSaiBaba generated controversies and attracted criticisms. Skeptics viewed these simple conjuring tricks, while devotees consider them evidence of divinity. Some critics also hurled various other allegations against SaiBaba like sexual abuse, financial irregularities and promoting blind beliefs. They also criticized Baba for allegedly refusing to to have his materializations investigated under experimental conditions. He was always defended by his devotees and also prominent people in many walks of life.
One of such instance, in December 2001, A.B. Vajpayee (then Prime Minister of India), P.N. Bhagawati (Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India), Ranganath Misra (Chair Person, National Human Rights Commissioner of India and Former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India), Najma Heptulla (President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union; UNDP Distinguished Human Development Ambassador) and Shivraj Patil (Member of Parliament, India; Formerly of the Lok Sabha & Union Minister) all signed a letter which stated as follows “We are deeply pained and anguished by the wild, reckless and concocted allegations made by certain vested interests and people against Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. We would normally expect that responsible media would ascertain the true facts before printing such calumny – especially when the person is revered globally as an embodiment of love and selfless service to humanity. Since this professional ethic has not been observed by a section of the media, we have elected to go public with this signed statement.”