Sathya Sai Baba

Monday, 23 January 2017 06:57 Written by
Date of Birth 23 November 1926 (1926-11-23) (age 82)
Place of Birth Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India
Birth Sathyanarayana Raju

Sathya Sai Baba (pronounced /sæt jæ saɪ bæ bæ/) , (born Sathyanarayana Raju on November 23, 1926 [1][2] with the family name of "Ratnakaram")[3], is a controversial South Indian guru, religious figure, and orator. He is described by his devotees as an Avatar (godman), Spiritual teacher and miracle worker.

The Sathya Sai Organization reports that there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries world-wide.[6] The number of Sathya Sai Baba adherents is estimated to be somewhere around 6 million, although followers cite anywhere from 50 to 100 million.[7] He is considered by his followers to be an Avatar and the reincarnation of the saint, Sai Baba of Shirdi.[8]

Biography

Sathyanarayana Raju was born to Peddavenkama Raju and Eswaramma in an agrarian family in the remote village of Puttaparthi, located in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh, India.[9] Professor Narayana Kasturi's biography stated that when the child was born, musical instruments in the household started creating music on their own. He also claimed that Sai Baba was born 'of immaculate conception. Sai Baba's mother, Easwaramma, was walking towards a well one day when a huge sphere of blue light rolled towards her, merged into her and made her faint. She soon found out that she was pregnant after dreaming of the Hindu God, Sathyanarayana. Sathya in Sanskrit means truth, and Narayana in Sanskrit means God in human form. The young Sathyanarayana, Kasturi's biography states, was a vegetarian and was "known" for his aversion to animal cruelty.[10] The child was very lively and the pet of the village. [11]From early childhood he was called "Guru" by his playmates leading them in devotional song and fascinating and amusing them by taking candy and playthings from an apparently empty bag.[12]

At the age of eight, Satynanarayana Raju attended the higher elementary school in Bukkapatnam.[10] Upon completion, he began high school in Uravakonda, some 120 kms away. The biography says that on March 8, 1940, Satynanarayana Raju started behaving "as if a scorpion had stung in his foot". He exhibited strange behavior after this, and entered a coma state. After some time, he got up and his behavior worried his parents - he did not want to eat, remained silent for extended periods of time, and purportedly recited ancient shlokas. In May 1940, he proclaimed himself to be a reincarnation of the fakir and saint Sai Baba of Shirdi and subsequently took the fakir's name, Sai Baba.[13] Sai is a persian word which means "Saint" and Baba, a Hindi term of endearment for father. At that time Sai Baba threw away his books and announced, "My devotees are calling me. I have my work." He then spent the next three days under a tree in the garden of an excise inspector (government officer) and many people gathered around him. Baba taught them his bhajans (devotional songs that are sung out aloud in praise of minor Hindu deities or in praise of Sai Baba himself). Sai Baba declared himself to be an avatar (a divine incarnation sent to Earth to bring about spiritual renewal.) He has consistently maintained this position ever since. He has often stated that his mission is to re-establish the principle of rightouesness, to motivate love for God and service to fellow man. He has consistently called on mankind to "Love All, Serve All" and has repeatedly asserted that the essence of all scriptures is, "help ever, hurt never." [14]

Since that time in 1940, many had come to challenge his claim to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. Arnold Schulman in his book "Baba" said, "there is no record of the number of people who went away unimpressed but dozens of doubters have documented how they were convinced." Family members and neighbors however were not convinced. They approached the young Sathya and said, "if you are Sai Baba, give us some proof." "Give me those jasmine flowers," said young Sathya. After receiving them he threw them on the floor. The flowers according to those present fell so that they formed the Telugu words for Sai and Baba.”[15]

In 1944, a mandir for followers of Sathya Sai Baba was built near the village, which is now called the old mandir (old temple).[10][16] The construction of Prashanthi Nilayam, the current ashram, was started in 1948.[16] Today Puttaparthi has undergone enormous change. It has been transformed from a small village to a world pilgrimage center. Sathya Sai Baba's efforts have resulted in a deemed university with three campuses and two super specialty hospitals that cater to the needs of the poor free of cost.[17]

In 1960, Sathya Sai Baba said that he would be in this mortal human form for another 59 years.[18] In 1963, during a discourse, Sai Baba made statements declaring himself a reincarnation of Shiva and Shakti. [19] He also claimed that Sai Baba of Shirdi was an incarnation of Shiva and that his future reincarnation, Prema Sai Baba, would be a reincarnation of Shakti. He publicly repeated this claim in 1976.[20] Baba's biography states that Prema Sai Baba will be born in Mysore State. [21]

"He said, "I have been keeping back from you all these years one secret about Me; the time has come when I can reveal it to you. This is a sacred day. I am Siva-Sakthi," He declared, "born in the gothra of Bharadwaja, according to a boon won by that sage from Siva and Sakthi. Sakthi Herself was born in the gothra of that sage as Sai Baba of Shirdi; Siva and Sakthi have incarnated as Myself in his gothra now; Siva alone will incarnate as the third Sai (Prema Sai Baba) in the same gothra in Mysore State."

Sathya Sai Baba has made the claim that the three Sai Baba's have come and will come invested with the totality of cosmic power to save dharma (rightouesness) from anti-dharma. In a 1976 interview with Blitz Magazine, Sathya Sai Baba was asked by Sri R.K. Karanjia (Senior Editor of Blitz Magazine), why he had incarnated. Sai Baba responded, "Because that is the only way to incarnate the God within man.; Therefore, in My present Avathar, I have come armed with the fullness of the power of formless God to correct mankind, raise human consciousness and put people back on the right path of truth, righteousness, peace and love to divinity.."[22].

Sai Baba has established three temples (referred to as a mandirs) in India. The first center, established in Mumbai, is referred to as either Dharmakshetra or "Sathyam. The second center, established in Hyderabad, is referred to as Shivam, and the third center, established in Chennai, is referred to as Sundaram.[23]

Since 2005, Sathya Sai Baba has been confined to a wheelchair, and his failing health has forced him to make fewer public appearances.[24]

Virtually all existing accounts of Sathya Sai Baba's life are based on the writings of the late secretary of Sai Baba, professor Narayana Kasturi. [25] Kasturi wrote a biography, which Babb described as "hagiographic", depicting the life of Sai Baba not as a development of the person but as revelations about himself.[26][27]

Arnold Schulman tried to verify some stories from Katuri's writings. He came to the conclusion that "for any episode of Baba's childhood, there are countless contrasting versions and, at this point, the author discovered that it was no longer possible to separate the facts from the legend.”[28]

Beliefs and practices of followers

Sathya Sai Baba gives discourses on religious topics in his native language Telugu to devotees.[29] Twice daily, devotees engage in worship of Sai Baba by conducting rituals such as aarti and singing devotional songs in front of his picture.[29] Sai Baba has said that his followers do not need to give up their original religion.[30] His followers view his teachings as syncretic (uniting all religions). Some famous sayings of his are, "Help ever, hurt never" and "Love all, serve all". According to "Ocean of Love," a book published by the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, "there is no new path that He is preaching, no new order that He has created. There is no new religion that He has come to add or a particular philosophy that He recommends ... His mission is unique and simple. His mission is that of love and compassion."[31]

Across the globe, local Sathya Sai Baba groups assemble to sing bhajans (devotional songs in praise of Sai Baba) often accompanied by rhythmic clapping of hands, to do collective community service (called seva), and teach "Education in Human Values" (Sai Sunday School). While devotees claim that the movement is not missionary, some analysts assert that it is cultish in nature.[32] Bhajans are sung at nearly every meeting with the names of the traditional Hindu deities as well as saints and prophets of other religions occasionally replaced by Baba's name. Hindu chants are sung out aloud with the deity's name replaced by Baba's name, and the worship of Sai Baba are all known happenings.[citation needed]

According to the Sathya Sai organization, Sathyanarayana Raju has written several articles on religious topics, later collected by the trust in the form of books, titled "Vahinis" (vehicles).[citation needed] There are sixteen vahinis.[citation needed]

Sai organization claims to advocate five values: sathya (truth), dharma (Hindu word for right conduct), ahimsa (non-violence), prema (love for God and all his creatures)[33] and shantih (peace).

Other teachings are:

  • Service (seva) and charity to others.[34]
  • Love for all creatures and objects.[34]
  • Putting a ceiling on one's desires.[34]
  • Celibacy after the age of fifty.[34]
  • Vegetarianism[33], moderate and sattvik diet.[34]
  • Abstinence from drinking alcohol,[34] smoking cigarettes,[34] and drug use.
  • Meditation (dhyan).[34] Baba teaches four techniques: repetition of the 'name of God'( "Sai" or "Sai Baba") ,[34] visualizing the form of God(often on sai baba's physical form),[34] sitting in silence, and jyoti (Flame/Light meditation).[34]
  • Importance of bhakti (devotion) to Sai Baba.[34]
  • Developing "prashanti"( translates to "Highest Peace") and eschewing vices of character.[34]
  • Japa (ritual chanting of Baba's name) and other sadhana (spiritual exercise) to foster devotion.
  • Highly committed devotees use the phrase "Sai Ram" as a salutation.[34]
  • Conducting pooja or aarti (a form of ritual worship) twice daily in front of Baba photos.[citation needed]
  • At the ashram, frequent "Yagnas" (or ritual worship, involving ritual offerings of fruits, vegetables and ghee to a pyre) are conducted.

Ashrams and mandirs

The daily program at Sathya Sai Baba's temples usually begins with the chanting of "OM" and a morning prayer (Suprabatham). This is followed by Veda Parayan (chanting of the Vedas), nagarasankirtana (morning devotional songs) and twice a day bhajans and darshan (baba walks around or is wheel-chaired around amongst the gathered devotees) [35] Particularly significant are the darshans during October (the Dasara holidays and November (the month of Sai Baba's birth). [35] During darshan Sathya Sai Baba walks among his followers and may interact with people, accept letters, "materialize" and distribute vibhuti (sacred ash) or call groups or individuals for private interviews. Interviews are chosen solely at the Sai Baba's discretion. Followers consider it a great privilege to get an interview and sometimes a single person, group or family will be invited for a private interview. It is claimed by the Sathya Sai Organization that meeting him has spiritual benefits.[36]

Educational Institutions, Charitable Organizations, Hospitals and Service Projects

Sathya Sai Baba supports free schools and other charitable works in 166 countries.[37] The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning in Prashanti Nilayam is the only college in India to have received an "A++" rating by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission).[38][39] His charity supports the Institute of Music and the Institute of Higher Learning in Anantapur, which is a women's college.[40]

The 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 November 22 1991.[41] The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bangalore is a 333 bed hospital meant to benefit the poor.[42] The hospital was inaugurated on January 19 2001 by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.[43][44] The hospital has provided free medical care to over 250,000 patients.[45]

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.[46]

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.[37] 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 Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh.[47][48] The second drinking water project, completed in 2004, supplies water to Chennai through a rebuilt waterway named "Sathya Sai Ganga Canal".[49][50] Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi praised the Chennai water project and Sai Baba's involvement.[51][52] 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.[48] In January 2007, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust said it would start a drinking water project in Latur, Maharashtra.[48]

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.[53] 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."[54]

On November 23 2001, the digital radio network "Radio Sai Global Harmony" was launched through the World Space Organization, USA. 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.[55]

In January 2007 the Baba was given a big felicitation in Chennai Nehru stadium organised by the Chennai Citizens Conclave for thanking him 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. The notable news about this event was that Sai Baba was sharing the same dais with Karunanidhi (Chief Minister of Chennai) who is a very well known hardcore atheist against Hindu gurus / godman and that Karunanidhi was felicitating Sai Baba. This was covered in all newspapers. [56] [57]

 

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