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Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

(An introduction)

By Cosby Powell

Sathya Sai Baba is the most impressive Holy Man of our time. He is a profound and innovative educator and the most compassionate humanitarian in the world today. The above statements imply that He is superhuman, and I submit very simply to you that He is. He transcends rational thought and feelings, inspiring all those associated with Him to Place spiritual values and humanitarian pursuits ahead of their self-interests. He exhibits all the characteristics of a divine incarnation: omniscience (a consciousness aware of all events), omnipresence (being in all time and space), and omnipotence (being all powerful).

Sai Baba was born November 23, 1926 to a pious Hindu family in Puttaparthi, a remote village in south India. The birth was accompanied by miraculous events; a cobra mysteriously appeared under the newborn infant and musical instruments began playing on their own accord. His early life was punctuated with miracles. He amazed His friends by manifesting such objects as pencils and erasers from an empty bag as well as a variety of fruit, all from the same tree overlooking the village. He would locate lost objects and reveal a person's most intimate thoughts.

Young Sathya displayed a special nature even in childhood. He chose vegetarianism and refused to participate in any activities harmful to animals, such as cock-fighting or bullock races on the riverbed. He would continually invite home beggars and the poor for His mother and sister to feed. Sathya astounded everyone with His artistic talent for writing and performing plays with spiritual and moral lessons.

On October 20, 1940, young Sathya suddenly announced to His family, "I am no longer yours; I am Sai. I do not belong to you. My devotees are calling and I have work to do." Thus, He left His home and began gathering followers, teaching them devotional songs glorifying God.

The early devotees were enchanted by an endless flow of Sai Baba's miracles -- materializing statues from the riverbed, instantaneously healing the sick, and although never leaving India, appearing in His physical body to faraway devotees.

Using surgical instruments that suddenly would appear as needed, Sai Baba performed medical operations and when He was through, the instruments would vanish. By passing His hand over containers of food, He would manifest enough food to feed all who came to Him. On festival days, vibuthi (sacred ash) would materialize on His forehead. He would scatter flowers from garlands, and as they fell, they turned into medallions depicting different forms of God. He was irresistible and His fame spread.

Over the past ten years, I have traveled to India fourteen times to see Sathya Sai Baba and have been fortunate to experience firsthand His miraculous nature. There are always thousands of people waiting to see Swami on a daily basis. (Devotees address Sathya Sai Baba as "Swami" when speaking to Him directly, and "Baba" or "Swami" when referring to Him in conversation).

Usually twice a day He gives Darshan (sight and presence of a holy man), and walking among the people gathered, grants a few of the lucky ones a private audience inside His residence. As He moves through the crowd, occasionally stopping to speak to someone or to bless various objects and photos people have brought, He sometimes materializes ash or some other prasad (blessed food or object) for a fortunate individual.

On one of my early visits, my son Aaron accompanied me. One day after eating some ice cream on the streets of Bangalore, Aaron developed diarrhea which, over a two or three day period, progressed into amoebic dysentery. This condition is very serious and can lead to death. One of the symptoms is acute diarrhea with a bloody, mucous-like stool.

The drugs used in the treatment can cause severe side effects, including kidney and liver damage. After a few days, the problem ad reduced Aaron's physical condition to critical. He was using the toilet almost every hour and lying around in a weakened state. We went to Darshan hoping Swami would heal him; if not, I would have to take him immediately to the hospital where medical treatment would involve the harsh drugs. Just before Swami's appearance, Aaron looked up weakly and said he had to use the toilet again. I took him to the latrine, where he had a bloody discharge. Then we returned to the Darshan line.

Swami finally appeared and eventually came to where we were seated. When He was in front of us I said, "Swami, my son is very ill. Will You please help?" Appearing not to notice, Swami stood firmly against my son and me, pushing us backwards as He talked to an Italian group seated directly behind us. As He stepped back, I again repeated, "Swami, my son is very ill. Will You please help?" He turned and walked away, never saying anything.

Eventually He returned to His residence. When He was out of sight, my son looked up and said he again had to use the toilet. I was very unhappy as I picked him up and carried him to the latrine. To my amazement, Aaron had a perfectly normal bowel movement and afterward began playing as usual. It was as if I had imagined the whole episode.

I was astounded as were my friends who had also witnessed Aaron's illness. I gave up trying to understand such things years ago and now realize it is just an example of Baba's infinite Will and Grace. At times Swami will invite about twenty people from the thousands attempting to see Him, for a personal interview.

On one of those occasions, He invited me to accompany a small group into His Private residence. At one point during the interview, He turned to me and asked, "What do YOU want?" Because I believe that Sathya Sai Baba is an incarnation of Divinity, I said, "Liberation, Swami." He then asked me very sincerely, "What does that mean?" I wasn't prepared for this question and had no answer. Suddenly into my mind flashed the response that I related to Swami: "Freedom from birth and death, and to always be in Your Glory." He responded, "Yes, yes" and instantaneously into His right hand appeared the most beautiful ring I have ever seen.

Smiling, He motioned for my hand. I was in bliss as He placed the ring on my right ring finger. The ring was gold, and projecting from the setting was a stone with Swami's image. My heart was totally open and I felt a great peace upon me. This kind of experience is completely beyond thought or feeling.

I have seen Swami materialize out of nowhere a variety of objects: watches, pendants, prayer beads, bracelets, etc. His powers seem always to give joy and happiness to the recipient. But beyond that is the unconditional love a person experiences while witnessing these acts of Grace. I know after many years of observing these phenomena, evidence of His Divine Nature, that His materializations are spontaneous acts of love.

Sathya Sai Baba stands forth as a beacon for a new age, instilling in everyone qualities of compassion, charity, service and love. He personally feeds, clothes, and houses the poor and underprivileged, inducing a national and international effort to serve mankind.

Because of His example, millions of devotees throughout the world engage themselves in service programs designed to uplift humanity. They carry forth these programs without fundraising campaigns, contributing instead, their own time and energy. As a result, the needy receive food, clothing, medical supplies and housing. In India, for example, cattle and fanning equipment are supplied, sanitary conditions are improved and new wells are dug to enhance the quality of life for villagers. Baba says, "Hands that serve are holier than lips that pray." In His role as an educator, Sathya Sai Baba has renovated modern teaching methods. Placing great emphasis on youth and education, He devotes much time to the overseeing of educational efforts throughout India. "Education in Human Values", His program designed to teach children morality and righteous living along with scholarship, has been installed in India's public school system. The strategy He developed introduces the basic human values of truth, love, right action, peace and non- violence to the student while he is involved with normal classroom procedure.

Sai Baba has established six colleges and a university, as well as many primary and secondary schools in India. He has founded technical schools enabling the disadvantaged to earn a better ivelihood. He states, "The future of India and the world is tied to a renaissance in education."

Jesus set an example of peace, love, charity and faith. Through His actions, Sai Baba also instills faith, hope and belief in God. He bestows peace upon all who come with open hearts. He feeds and clothes the poor, educates children all over India, provides medical services to the needy and councils spiritual seekers from all world religions. Sai Baba rescues devotees everywhere from disaster. He heals the sick; He has even restored life to Persons who have been declared clinically dead.

Using His magnetic appeal, Swami encourages people to accept the simple truth, God is Love. His teachings and life reflect a singular goal: to make people realize their closeness to God by imparting the qualities of love and truth into their lives.

Miracles, as they are called, are part of His mission. They awaken faith in God as they reveal glimpses of the unlimited power He commands. He never uses His power for personal gain, but always to encourage and inspire faith. Directly experiencing Sai Baba's exceptional nature, a person also experiences the underlying principles of Divinity. Thus, one is inspired to realize the Divinity within oneself.

The real miracle is Sai Baba's love, which is the message of His mission. He is always inspiring, strengthening and sustaining the love in devotees by His example. His life is truly His message, an offering of love to those afflicted of body, mind and spirit. The love He gives transcends racial and religious barriers, proclaiming to all, "There is only one religion, the religion of love."

To understand Sathya Sai Baba, it is helpful to become familiarized somewhat with Bastern religious and philosophical thought. The basis of all religious philosophy is the love of God and the unity of life. These are the threads that bind the religions of the world. In India, the Hindu religion has tolerance for all religions. In this belief system, God inhabits everything in creation; therefore, Divinity is incarnated in every person.

Sathya Sai Baba says: "The followers of each religion call upon one God Who is omnipresent and listens to their prayers, be they from any race or whatever language they speak. But it is the same God who confers happiness upon those who profess to abide by that faith. The external rites and ceremonies laid down in each religion vary according to climate, geography, time, race, etc. However, the basic lesson each religion teaches is to suppress the assertive ego and to surrender to the sovereign Will of God. The Lord is in you and it is He that has prompted you to project Him into the outer world as this idol or that image, to listen to your outpouring and give you peace. Without the inspiration, solace and joy He confers from within, you would be raving mad.

The picture placed before you, the flowers you Place before it, the hymns you recite, the vows you impose on yourself; these are activities that cleanse and remove obstacles in the way of you becoming aware of the God within.

It is the destiny of man to journey from humanness to Divinity ash has already journeyed from animalness. In this pilgrimage, he is bound to encounter various obstacles and trials. In order to smooth his path and help him overcome these troubles, sages, seers, realized souls, divine personalities and incarnations of God appear among men and illumine the path. They move among the afflicted, the seekers who have lost their way and lead them into confidence and courage.

Certain personalities are born and live out their days for this very purpose. Such guides, examples and leaders appear among all peoples and in all lands. They inspire faith in higher ideals and teach as if their voice is the voice of God.

All religions teach one basic discipline, the removal from the mind of the blemish of egoism, of running after little joys. Every religion teaches man to fill his being with the Glory of God and evict the pettiness of conceit. It trains him in the methods of detachment and discrimination, so that he may aim high and achieve liberation.

Believe that all hearts are motivated by the one and only God, that all faiths glorify the one and only God, that all names in all languages and all forms man can conceive denote the one and only God.

God does not exist separately for any particular nation. He exists for all individuals and all nations. He shows no partiality for any. Sweets are many but sugar Is one, stars are many but sky is one, jewels are many but gold is one, and bodies are many but spirit is one. All are therefore children of God. The brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God is the spiritual path to follow."

In the East, recognition of God manifesting in human form is not alien to religious thinking as it is here in the West. Because of our Christian background, we limit God, but God is omnipresent. God does not recognize human limitations and expresses Himself in His Majesty and Glory as He pleases.

Sai Baba explains: "The Divine is now denoted by various words that are common currency in a limited human vocabulary. These words describe and propose a meaning to the Divine: miraculous, magical, wondrous, etc. Of course, men cannot contain in their minds more than they can hold. They cannot express into words the inexpressible. Only those who have dived deep and contacted the underlying principle of love can picture Divinity with some clarity. The Divine can be grasped only through love. Reason is too feeble an instrument to measure it. Denial of the Divine cannot negate it and logic cannot reveal it.

God is man and man is God. All of us have something of God, the Divine Spark within us. All men are divine like Myself, but with the spirit embodied in flesh and bone. The only difference is that they are unaware of this Godhood. They have come into this karmic prison through the mistake of many lives. I have taken this mortal form out of My own free will. They are bound to the body while I am free of this bondage.

The main difference is they are shoved hither and thither by desire. I have no desire but the supreme one, to make them desireless. We all belong to the same divine principle. The Godliness, which is present in everyone in the form of a little spark, exists in Me as the full flame. It is My mission to develop every little spark of God in everyone to the fullness of the Divine Flame.

To the doubting or confused ones, I give this illustration. Those who wish to secure pearls from the sea have to dive deep to secure them. It does not help to dabble among the shallow waves near the shore and say the sea has no pearls and all stories about them are false. Likewise, if a person wishes to secure the love and grace of this Avatar (direct incarnation of God), they must dive deep and get submerged in Sai Baba."

Most Westerners do not understand the concept of an Avatar or the purpose and reason God chooses to take human form. Let us attempt to characterize divine attributes that pertain to Sathya Sai Baba. It has been my direct experience that Sai Baba can speak any language He chooses and knows the most intimate details of a person's life. This would illustrate His omniscience. I have personally been present when He both stopped and caused it to rain; on one occasion He suspended the rain until a function ended. He instantaneously healed my three-year-old son of amoebic dysentery. He has also healed numerous maladies of my physical body. This demonstrates His omnipotence.

Many devotees, including myself, can testify to His presence in our daily lives and to that presence affecting the outcome of events. When we are in His physical presence in India, He describes these events in detail, saying He was there. This would suggest His omnipresence.

Considering the above, why does God incarnate in human form and how does this Phenomenon help mankind? In Sai Baba's words: "Whenever grief and anxiety overwhelm the world, the Lord will incarnate in human form to re-educate the human community into the path of peace. At the present time, strife and discord have robbed peace and unity from the family, the school, the community, the cities and the state. This is the secret of God coming down as man. The Lord has to come at intervals so that those who have won the right to be liberated may be saved.

The Avatar takes a human form and behaves in a human way so humanity can feel kinship with Divinity. At the same time, He rises to Godly heights so that mankind can also aspire to reach God. The realization of the indwelling God as the motivator of life is the task for which Avatars come in human form. Today, evil is so widespread that humanity itself would be destroyed in a nuclear holocaust in the event of a world war. It is to Prevent such a catastrophe that this Avatar has come to raise human consciousness about the existing syndrome of anger, hate, violence and war. This can be achieved only by the establishment of the brotherhood of man under the Fatherhood of God.

There are two ways in which an Avatar may help people, an instant solution as against a long term one. Any instant solution would go against the fundamental quality of nature itself as well as the karmic law of cause and effect.

Most people live in the material world of their desires and egos, which is governed by this law. They reap the fruits of their actions. This brings about their evolution or devolution. If the Avatar intervenes to instantly solve their problems, it would stop all action, development, even evolution. This solution can be ruled out because it totally negates the natural laws.

The other and more effective alternative presents a long term solution, whereby the Avatar leads the people to a higher level of consciousness which would enable them to understand the truth of spiritual laws. They could then turn toward righteousness and steadfastly work for better conditions. This would relate them back to nature and the law of causation. Hence, they would transcend the cycle of cause and effect, in which today they are involved as victims, and thereby learn to control the natural forces and avert calamities.

If I cure everything instantly leaving people at their present level of consciousness, they would soon mess things up again and be at one another's throat, with the same chaotic conditions developing in the world. So, if the Avatar brings these calamities to an immediate end, which I can and do when there is a great need, the whole drama of creation with the karmic law will collapse. Remember, these calamities occur not because of what God has made of man, but really because of what man has made of man. Therefore, man has to be remade with his ego destroyed and replaced by a transcendent consciousness. I do not appreciate in the least distinctions between various appearances of God. I do not proclaim that this is important and the other less important. Continue your worship of your chosen God along the lines already familiar to you. There is no need to change your chosen God and adopt a new one when you have seen Me and heard Me." Sai Baba often speaks of six obstacles that prevent man from realizing his Divinity. They are lust, anger, greed, hate, jealousy and pride. The only cure for these maladies that enslave mankind is love and the freeing of oneself from a worldly existence based on a body-consciousness. Sathya Sai Baba puts it this way: "Cultivate not riches, nor comforts and luxuries, but divine virtues. Speak softly and give comfort with every glance of yours. Do not be a slave to your sensual desires. Conquer lust and vanquish anger. Exile from your mind hate and jealousy. Do not take pride in your physical beauty, youth and strength because old age is waiting. In the course of time your vision will become weak, your skin will start wrinkling and you will look like an old monkey; so, realize this body is not permanent.

Love alone can reveal to you the Divinity latent in all. Love is God; live in love. Love is selflessness; selfishness is lovelessness. Do not waste your life pursuing the narrow interest of the self. Become what you truly are, the embodiment of love. God is interested in your heart, not your money. He is interested in Your character, not your race or religion.

Born as a human being with this intelligence and the innate spark of Divinity, you must come to understand your own true nature. No matter how others treat you or what they think of you, do not worry. Love for your own evolution, not for what others may say. Do not imitate others. Cultivate your own life. You have your own heart, your own opinions, your own ideas and your own will; why then imitate? Imitation is human but creation is divine. Follow your chosen path. Let Your own experience of God be your guide and master. Do not go to the grave copying others.

You won't find God if you search in the outer world. You own heart shining with love is God's love. Follow the master; face the devil; fight to the end, and finish the game! The true you is God. Others think of you as the personality, but you are truly infinite, divine spirit. When you become, all- embracing love, the divine will manifest in and through you. The inner significance of life is to make the journey from the state of "I" to the state of "We". Love for all should spontaneously flow from your heart and sweeten all your words.

The best spiritual discipline that can help man is love. Foster the tiny seed of love that clings to "me and mine" and let it sprout into love for the group around you and grow into love for all mankind. Let the love enfold all things and beings in the world. Proceed from less love to more love, narrow love to expanded love.

When you know that you are but a spark of the Divine and that all else is the same divine spark, you will look upon all with reverence and true love. Your heart will be filled with supreme joy. Love is God. God is the embodiment of perfect love. So, He can be known and realized, reached and won only through love.

You can see the moon only with the help of moonlight. You can see God only through the rays of love. See with the eyes of love; all beings are beautiful. Expand into universal love. This is the path that will bring out the Divinity in you."

Sathya Sai Baba recommends certain sadhanas (spiritual disciplines) to help us realize the God within and thereby live as expressions of divine love. He encourages us to be non-violent in thought, word and deed. This does not mean to be a passive witness of life, but rather an active participant with actions directed by a discriminating intellect.

He highly recommends constant repetition of the name of God most appealing to the devotee, while visualizing the corresponding divine form. In addition, Baba suggests that regular times be set aside for meditation, prayer, bhajans (songs devoted to God), studying scriptural text and enjoying the company of other spiritual people.

Of all the sadhanas, Baba teaches that service to mankind is a must. According to Baba, "Service is the primary means through which the heart is purified. Love expresses itself as service, love grows through service, love is born in the womb of service, and love is God. Service broadens your vision, widens your awareness and deepens your compassion. So, if you want to understand your own true human nature, plunge into service. Know that serving man is serving God."

Sathya Sai Baba directs us to develop a devotional attitude toward God. Realizing that everything happening in our lives is God's will, we should surrender our individual wills to the divine will of God. We must be ever mindful to lead a dharmic (righteous) way of life, speaking the truth and not speaking ill of others. These recommendations of Sathya Sai Baba are designed to purify the mind and clarify the intellect.

As we practice the sadhanas, the ego and desires which bind us to the earthly existence gradually disappear; then the Divinity within us is realized. We learn to live from the heart, thereby securing the love and grace of God. Our lives become extensions of the Divine and we live in peace forever.

Sai Baba welcomes all seekers of truth: poor men, rich men, the afflicted, saints and sinners. He is selfless and a servant of all, a perfect example of pure love. He is a mirror of each person's soul. If you stand before Him and look, your being as it really is will be reflected for you to see. Sathya Sai Baba says, "I have come to give you the key of the treasure of bliss, to tell you how to tap the spring, for you have forgotten the way to blessedness. If you waste this chance of saving yourself, it is just Your fate. I have come to light the lamp of love in your heart, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come to speak on behalf of any particular religion. I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have no plan to attract followers into My fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this universal, unitary faith, this path of love, this duty to love, this obligation to love. May you develop this divine love and stand out as harbingers of a new age, free from selfishness, greed, hatred and violence. Let each of you be a light unto himself or herself, and thereby be a light unto others."