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My Life is My Message

“Yada Yada Hi Dharmasya
Glanirva Bhavathi Bharatha,
Abhyuthanam Adharmaysya
Tadatmanam Srijami Aham.”
- Bhagawad Gita

“Whenever there is decay
of righteousness O! Bharatha
And a rise of unrighteousness
then I manifest Myself!”

In the battle of Kurukshetra, while expounding the precious teachings of Gita, Lord Krishna had revealed not only the innermost secrets of the soul, but also the mystery behind the advent of His various incarnations. The purpose of His descent has always been for the spiritual upliftment of humanity. In every age the Lord assumes a different form. The forms though of the same essence, differ in their external appearances and conduct, based on the prevailing circumstances and the task at hand.

In this present age, the Lord has chosen to manifest through not one, but a series of Sai incarnations. The first, Sri Shirdi Sai Baba (1838–1918); the present, Sri Sathya Sai Baba (1926–2022); and Prema Sai Baba (2030–2126). The three though appearing at different times are in reality the same divine Lord.

The Lord’s Descent. Sri Sathya Sai Baba, lovingly addressed as Swami by millions of devotees worldwide, incarnated in a small hamlet, Puttaparthi, in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The parents of this incarnation were a pious couple, Sri Pedda Venkama Raju and Mother Easwaramma.

The Conception. The event of conception is one of great wonder as well. Once Easwaramma was drawing water at a well when a divine light of great effulgence entered her womb, causing her to faint momentarily. In the following days she discovered about her impending motherhood.

Mysterious events manifested in the house where the Lord was to sport His form. Just preceding the advent, musical instruments would start playing of their own accord, as if being played by an invisible expert to welcome the divine. On November 23, 1926, Swami incarnated in this world. The time of His incarnation was auspicious in many respects. It was the time of sunrise, the villagers were chanting the names of Shiva, the day was Kartikha Somavara—a Monday of holy month of Karthika, devoted to the puja and worship of Shiva; the day was made even more auspicious for Shiva worship because the ascendant star was Arda, and a rare occasion when the month, the day, and the star coincided. Further, the year was Akshaya, the never-declining, the ever-full. The divine child was christened Sathyanarayana Raju as He had taken birth the very minute Easwaramma partook of the prasad from Sathyanarayana Puja. As soon as the prasad was partake, the very next moment the Lord graced earth with His physical presence; immediately upon His birth, the sun rose above the horizon.

The little baby charmed all by its loving glances and exhibited super-human powers even while in the cradle. Swami was once lying in a room. Unnoticed by anyone, a snake was covering Swami’s head, just the way a snake bed serves as Lord Vishnu’s prop. All were dazed to witness this marvelous feat and gazed in amazement as the child laughed as if nothing had happened.

The Early Years. Swami’s divinity, like the fragrance of a rose, could not be concealed. The entire village fell in love with this divine child. His laughter, His sweet lisp, His divine glow, His naughty tricks—enamored one and all in the entire village, transporting Puttaparthi to a Dwapara Yuga like semblance when the divine had incarnated as the charming Krishna. Even as a child, Swami kept away from places where animals and birds were tortured, either for commercial use or for consumption. Even at that age, the villagers recognized Him as a divine embodiment and addressed Him as “bhramajnani” (God-realized soul) and nick-named him “brahmin”. The child Swami would run away from houses where animals were tortured or cook for consumption. Compassion is the very nature of the divine.
Education. What can one teach to the one who is omniscience incarnate? Yet, out of sheer obedience and to set an example for other children, the young Swami would visit the village’s primary school. Academic progress was a child’s play for the young Raju. He progressed so quickly that He could utter, much to the amazement of all, extremely difficult prayers and scriptures as if He knew them even before in previous life.

The Bhajan Group. At the tender age of eight, Sathya was selected to proceed toward a higher elementary school at Bukkapatnam, about two and a half miles from Puttaparthi. When He was merely ten, Sathya formed a “Pandhari Bhajan” group comprised of about eighteen boys dressed in orange clothes, holding a flag in the hand, and wearing bell-anklets. They would all dance to the tune of the picturesque folk songs and ballads devoted to God. Sathya was the leader of this group and taught all the other children devotional songs and directed the lads with the same ease with which He directs the show of this entire universe. The divine child would often use the group to describe places of pilgrimage that none had previously heard about in Andhra Pradesh—Shirdi being a perfect example.

Narasimha Avatar. Once while playing to the tune of a song dedicated to Lord Narasimha of Kadiri, as the Lord has jumped out of the steel pillar then, out jumped the little Sathya, much to the amazement of all. The young Raju assumed a ferocious form that intimidated all. None of their efforts could pacify the boy. Finally, prayers were offered to the deity who had incarnated as Sathya. This calmed the boy and He resumed the role He had assumed on the stage of this world. After this incidence the group’s fame spread far and wide in all the neighboring villages. Another miraculous event occurred at this time. Cholera was spreading like wild fire in all the surrounding areas, but it could not be found anywhere in Puttaparthi.

The Scout Camp. On observing the intellectual prowess of the young boy, the elders in the family desired to give Him a college education and unwillingly allowed Him to proceed for further studies near Kamalapur, where His brother, Seshamma Raju was residing. Sathya continued His studies in Kamalapur, despite being challenged with numerous hardships. Once Baba was compelled to attend a scout camp that was to be held in Pushpagiri. The boys were to serve huge crowds at Pushpagiri, attending to tasks such as supplying drinking water to the pilgrims, supervising sanitation, and providing basic first aid. The camp fee was fixed at ten rupees per person, of which Baba did not have a pie.

In order to set an example to all other students, and to demonstrate the ideal of service, Sathya walked all the way to Pushpagiri, in an attempt to save bus fare. In order to come up with the balance amount of rupees five, Sathya gave the set of His previous year’s books to a boy. Although offered rupees twelve, Baba only accept five rupees, the exact amount needed for the camp. Facing numerous hardships and being much exhausted with the walk, Sathya took rest and slept on the sand of the river. His determination set an ideal for all to follow when embarking on any project related to selfless service. Sathya would often charm his fellow-students by producing sweets and objects miraculously.

The Scorpion Bite. On March 8, 1940, the whole town was shocked to hear that a big black scorpion had stung Sathya. It was about seven o’clock at dusk, and Sathya leaped with a shriek, holding the right toe. No scorpion was discovered and everyone felt relieved. At 7 p.m. the next day, Sathya became unconscious and became stiff. Everyone assumed that Sathya was unconscious and visited the village deity in order to offer prayers for the boy’s quick recovery. At the temple, the devotees broke a coconut that split into three pieces. At the same time Sathya loudly exclaimed that the coconut broke into three pieces. When the volunteers returned everyone was amazed to discover three pieces of coconut, and not the expected two. Sathya recovered in a day or two and started behaving in strange ways. He would often speak of highly spiritual topics that even the most scholarly person in the village could not grasp, or describe distant places that He had never physically visited.

Seshamma Raju, Sathya’s elder brother, was worried at the state of affairs that arose from Sathya’s strange behavior. At times Sathya would appear silent, while at others He would recite poems or complex slokas from the Veda. Seshamma Raju wrote a letter to His parents at Puttaparthi, requesting them to visit the boy. Due to unforeseen delays the parents did not reach Kamalapur for over a week. The worried Seshamma decided to send a messenger to escort the parents. Much to his surprise, however, Sathya declared that there was no need for this as His parents would be arriving in half hour. True to His words, they arrived exactly in thirty minutes. The parents were surprised at the behavior of Swami, who appeared to leave His body and visit distant places and declared the innermost feelings of one and all.

Swami, the Embodiment of Equanimity. Some villagers advised the worried parents to take the boy in the presence of a Shakti worshipper, who was renowned to have cured cases related to evil spirits—foolishly assuming that Swami was behaving strangely under the influence of some evil spirit. The Shakti worshipper was a terrifying personality. In vain, he tried all his techniques on Swami, subjecting the Lord to torments that even adults would not be able to bear. He tonsured Swami’s head and with a sharp instrument made three incisions on the scalp, all the way up to the forehead. Sathya sat through these and many more ordeals—all of which failed to shake the young boy’s peaceful smile to the slightest degree. Through His own example, Swami wanted to set an example before the world as to how one must be able to bear both happiness and sorrow with equanimity.

The sorcerer did not stop. He continued pouring on the open wound, concoctions of lime, garlic, and other acid fruit juices. The elders who were watching this procedure could take it no longer as 108 pots of cold water were poured on the markings. The witch doctor watched helplessly as he found no sign of the evil spirit giving up in any way. Finally, he decided to use the most potent acidic mixtures on Swami’s eyes. Sathya’s eyes became red with burning sensation and His entire body shook under the impact of the pain. Despite all this, Sathya’s peaceful smile did not diminish to the slightest degree. Those accompanying Sathya now wept uncontrollably but gained courage when Sathya gave them a signal. The witch doctor could not brook this behavior and fumed with fury as all his attempts at exorcism seemed to have failed—as if Swami was possessed. Under some pretext, the parents took Sathya away from the atmosphere. Despite these torments, Sathya seemed unfazed and continued reciting Stotras and vedas.

The Divine Declaration. I am Sai Baba. Events continued in a similar manner when on May 23, 1940, Sathya rose from bed as usual but started distributing sugar-candy and flowers as if from nowhere. Sathya continued distributing miraculously produced eatables to all the neighbors. At this, Venkama Raju entered, squeezing through the crowd with a stick in hand, and accosted the boy, saying, “Are you a God, or a ghost of a madcap? Tell me! He shouted.” Prompt came the declaration, “I am Sai Baba. I belong to the Apashtamba Sutra; I am of the Bharadwaja Gotra. I have come to ward off all your troubles. Keep your houses clean and pure.” At this, He threw Jasmine flowers on the ground; the flowers automatically fell in the shape of Telugu letters, Sai Baba. At that none in the village had heard of Sai Baba, so Seshama Raju went near Him and asked, “What do you mean by Sai Baba?” At which, Swami replied, “Your Venkavadhoota prayed that I be born in your family, so I came.” In the Raju family there was a great guru who had predicted the birth of the Lord in that family. The father further questioned, “What are we to do with you?” Prompt came the answer, “Worship Me!” “When”? Asked the father again. “Every Thursday! Keep your minds and houses pure.”

Baba is Virupaksha. Some town dwellers of Hospet invited Seshamma Raju to bring Sathya to the place, a few miles from the ruins of Hampo. On reaching there they visited the temple of Lord Virupaksha. On reaching there, Sathya stood outside. When all the visitors (except Sathya) entered the Shrine, the noticed no Virupaksha, but Sathya in place of the Lord. Seshamma Raju was dumbfounded at this sight and ran outside to verify if Sathya had escaped. To his amazement, he found Sathya just the way He had left Him. Seshamma immediately ran in again and was confused to find the boy still standing in place of the Lord.

The Mission Unfolds. On 20th October, 1940, Sathyanarayana was on His way to school. The Excise Inspector of the region was very devoted to Baba and could see a halo around Baba’s face. Within a few minutes Baba returned to the house and declared at the doorstep, “I am no longer your Sathya. I am Sai.” The sister-in-law, who was in the kitchen, could not bear the splendor of the halo that shone around Baba’s head. Baba addressed her, saying, “I am going. I don’t belong to you. Maya has gone; my bhaktas are calling me; I have my work; I can’t stay any longer.” So saying, He left despite her numerous pleadings. He told his brother, “Give up all your efforts to ‘cure’ me. I am Sai. I do not consider myself related to you.” Seshamma Raju was at a shock to hear these words from a lad of fourteen. He immediately thought of informing his parents and requested the lad to wait until their arrival, but Sathya would not step into that building again.

He moved into the garden of the Excise Inspector’s bungalow and sat on a rock. People came into the garden from all directions, bringing flowers and fruits. Hundreds of devotees flocked to where Baba was seated. The first bhajan that Baba sang was:

“Manasa bhajore Guru charanam
dusthara bhava sagara taranam.”

“Meditate in thy mind on the feet of the Guru,
that can take you across the difficult sea of samsara.”

The Image of Shirdi Sai. Constant bhajans and naama sankirtan resounded across the entire area. A photographer came with a camera to the spot where Swami was seated. In order to get a good picture he wanted a crude stone that was in front of Swami, but Baba did not agree. He clicked the picture and in place of the stone, appeared an image of Shirdi Sai Baba. After a few days, Baba left Uravakonda to Puttaparthi and shifted to the house of Karnam Subbamma. She attended to the needs of Swami and devotees with utmost love and affection.

Miracles. Miracles, although considered incomprehensible phenomena by ordinary humans, constitute the very nature of an avatar. What appears to be a miracle to ordinary eyes is actually the mere manifestation of an avatar’s sankalpa (will). Swami from his very birth has been performing innumerable miracles. His leelas are so vast that they are impossible to cover even in an ocean full of books. Millions of books have been written by individuals whose lives were totally transformed after coming into Swami’s fold. This transformation of lost souls is really what the author considers to be Swami’s biggest miracle. Yet, what can be a miracle for the one who created the entire universe as a manifestation of His will. Swami, however, warns His devotees to not get too attached to the miracles, and, instead, concentrate on the goal of human life: god realization. Mind boggling miracles are an everyday occurrence for Swami’s devotees.

Tons of vibhuti (holy ash) has been produced through Baba’s palm. These appearances are not limited to His physical frame. Swami often reiterates that He is omnipresent and the indweller of the human heart. Manifestations such as vibhuti, amrita (nectar), and various objects appear through Sai Baba’s images and pictures across the globe. Millions of devotees’ homes stand testimony to these acts of grace. Several recorded incidences exist where Swami has resurrected individuals from the dead. Healings of diseases such as cancer have been accomplished by Swami using simple words, such as “I canceled your cancer.” Sathya Sai Baba’s godly deeds, innumerable to list, include, to wit a few, resurrection from death of Arthur Cowan (an elderly American who died suddenly in 1971 in Madras, India), transporting, in the wink of an eye, an Australian devotee (Image Credit: from Baba’s interview room in Puttaparthi to his home in New South Wales, Australia (to be with his ailing mother), and performing countless acts that reveal, beyond doubt, his omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence. These divine deeds, performed across boundaries of space and time, are beyond the limited physical and intellectual realms of human understanding.

Teachings. Sathya Sai Baba’s teachings are not at all complex. In fact, His teachings could be summarized in a few words like “Love All, Serve All,” “Help Ever, Hurt Never.” Contrary to ordinary teachers, Swami has through His own life demonstrated the practical application of these teachings. Millions of devotees in over 150 countries, illumined by the Sun (Baba), appear as countless stars practicing these wonderful gospels in their own life. Baba does not limit his followers in their religious practices. Hindus are urged to become better Hindus; Muslims, better Muslims; Christians, better Christians; Jews, better Jews.

The Works. Mammoth projects which could not be accomplished by even large government organizations have been achieved by Baba single-handedly. With extensive facilities for comprehensive education (from primary to doctorate level), and a Super Specialties Hospital, Puttaparthi has become, and continues to grow beyond imagination, a reputed international center for learning and healing. These services are provided free of cost! Sathya Sai Baba’s water project has quenched the thirst of millions of individuals in thousands of villages.

As the avatar embarks on the eightieth year of His physical body, the Sai Sandesh team and Om Sai Mandir, with all its well-wishers and devotees, salute the Lord in all humility and reverence. Over the past eight decades Swami has been working for the sake of humanity twenty-four hours, seven days a week, without a rest or break. How can the Lord of the universe ever crave for rest. To him, the happiness of His children is the only goal. The Sai Saga continues as many miracles continue occurring every day, and will continue with even more intensity, each passing day. The author with extreme regret apologizes for his incapacity to cover the entire life of the Lord in extreme detail. A vast library of books on, and a treasure house of music composed and being sung in praise of Sai Baba are no more than a candle light to the SUN. How, then, can a mere article do justice to the life that serves as a beacon light to millions. We would like to end this article with Swami’s own words: “My life is my message.”

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