|Sacred Past - Part
14 : My
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Arthur Osborne once said that Shirdi Sai Baba, was 'incredible'. Dr. S. Bhagavantham announced that Sathya Sai Baba is 'inexplicable'. I have to conclude that He is 'inscrutable', for He is the very embodiment of the Divinity described in the following story from the Upanishads, revealing Its glory and power.
The Universal Absolute, Brahman, conferred victory on the gods in their war against the demons. The gods were saved from thraldom and became mighty once again. But in their pride they ascribed their success to themselves; they traced it to their own prowess. To make them aware of their dependence on the Source of all power and wisdom, it appeared before them as a pillar of light, even while they were celebrating their victory in drink and dance, revelry and rejoicing. Noticing this strange Phenomenon, the gods were curious to know what it was and why it was interrupting their noisy spree. They sent the god of fire, Agni, to investigate it and report. The Phenomenon accosted the god who replied, "I am Agni. I can burn all things that come in contact with me." The Phenomenon invited him to burn a tiny stalk of dry grass which It placed before him. But however forcefully and gigantically he fell upon it, he could not burn it. So he returned to the gathering of gods, crestfallen and humiliated. The god of wind, Vayu, next ventured to challenge the Phenomenon to reveal its identity and its intentions. He, too, had to eat his boastful words, foiled by the blade of grass. Indra, the lord of the gods, was incensed by the overwhelming powers of this column of light, but he, too, had to swallow his pride and realise that a god as feeble as he had no right to confront that mighty Source of Glory.
Baba had declared even in His teens,
"Not only today, but at any time hereafter, it will be beyond the capacity of anyone, however hard he may try and by whatever means, to assess My true nature."
Critics and commentators do not realise that in the realm of the sacred, any explanation is a limitation, a hesitation, desecration.
Scholars and scientists, isolated in their conceit, have for over four decades set out to expose Him as a fraud, a juggler and a trickster, but failed to tarnish even the hem of His robe. In this age, when the senses are the final criteria of knowledge, when passion rules the brain and prejudice pollutes the mind, a phenomenon shedding light, showering love and embodying truth automatically becomes a target for doubt, suspicion and denigration. Every wayward preacher comes to find in Him a challenge that he is powerless to understand and accept. He is an unpleasant and unwelcome reminder to the half-baked persons who are disembogued by modern universities, of the inadequacy of the intellect and the infirmity of the senses. How else are we to interpret the presumptuous assertion that the "halo around Baba rests entirely on the miraculous production of material objects which appeal to, and excite the wonder of, credulous people"?
Let Shri M. Rasgotra explain to us what that halo rests on: "We all emerge from the encounter with Baba in interview, exalted and radiant, as if Baba has stripped us of our motley cloaks full of patches, and fitted us out in love's pure raiment for a fresh journey towards a new destination. The transformation begins almost at the first moment of contact, and the process of ceaseless and irresistible uplift never slackens thereafter."
Shri B. Ramanand, while describing a wedding that was celebrated at Prasanthi Nilayam during which he had witnessed Baba for the first time, writes, "In five minutes we felt He was one of us; He talked to us as if He had known us intimately all along. This intense humanness, this wonderful camaraderie He has for all persons whom He meets, this remarkable quality of being one with the people around Him, this superabundance of good humor, joy, love and affection to all, made a powerful impact on me."
Baba says that His much-debated miracles are as insignificant before His true purpose as a mosquito when compared to the mighty elephant. We pay homage to Baba recognizing the waves of gratitude that surge around His feet from hearts reinforced by the impact of His love, minds cleansed by the splendor of His grace, intellects made healthy and wholesome by imbibing His wisdom and bodies strengthened and straightened by the inflow of His compassion.
Richard Bock of Los Angeles, who was advised by Ravi Shanker and Indira Devi to approach Baba in the spirit of a pupil going to a guru, writes, "I remember going through a period when I wore a Japamala (rosary) with 108 beads, as a sort of badge. Baba came over to me, looked at it and said, 'It's heavy for Om.' He meant that I was showing off. So, I realized, it was nonsense. Like everybody else I did Namaste when Baba came into the room. He came over and hit my hands, saying, 'jhootha bhakti'. When I found out later that it meant 'false devotion', I realized that I didn't know what I was doing. What He was getting across was that until you feel it in your heart, don't go through a ritual. The next thing was that everybody wanted to touch His feet, so I figured that was something I, too, should do. When I tried to touch His feet, He said, 'No'. I realised, then, that I was doing it because every body else was doing it, that I myself didn't have any inner motivation at that moment to touch His feet."
I Want You
Like the Upanishadic god of fire, Arnold Schulman, too, belittled the Sai Phenomenon, in spite of a tour of India that included a visit to Brindavan and a few minutes with Baba. That experience was enough for him to conclude - and be happy in the discovery - that mystics in India were clever exploiters, and their disciples ordinary 'psychopathic compulsives'. Baba has declared,
"Those who deny Me are blinded by ignorance or pride, so they need even more compassion and grace. Those who stay away, or stray away, I shall beckon back."
Baba, from Whom nothing can be hidden and for Whom nobody is distant, became aware of this blinkered tourist's belief. Schulman was mysteriously 'possessed' by an idea - to write a book on Baba - which he tried his best to explain away, circumvent, rationalize and deny; still it would not leave him alone. He told himself that it was insane, impracticable and impossible, but it refused to loosen its hold on him, persisting in its emphasis. Three months later, when he was able to secure an interview, Baba told him, "I asked you to write the book not because I wanted your book. The book is publicity. I don't need publicity. I wanted you, you, you!" And He sent him back to America, wiser and happier, the veil of supercilious ignorance regarding mystics and their disciples removed from his now clearer vision.
Like the Upanishadic god of wind, Samuel H. Sandweiss, M.D., renowned psychiatrist, proceeded towards the Phenomenon in full confidence that he could easily prick the bubble of its bombastic magnificence. He writes, "I would go as a scientist to study and understand the psychological realities of a situation shrouded in mysticism, only to prove that miracles do not exist." Sandweiss approached the Sai Phenomenon and soon returned like the god Vayu, to his companions who were drinking and dancing, unaware of the reality which was directing their destiny. Sandweiss had decided to meet Baba when he heard extraordinary stories about Him from Indra Devi, to whom he had gone for consultations regarding Yoga. Baba, even when physically present at Prasanthi Nilayam or Brindavan, arouses ardour and yearning, awakens curiosity and interest, stimulates thirst and restlessness, assures comfort and cure and alerts and admonishes in dreams and through visions. Each one who moves to His presence with hope and confidence, has a story to tell, each more fascinating and reassuring than the other.
Pardon me if I present myself as the insolent Indra who, in 1948, (see: N. Kasturi) was too impertinent to put up with the 'miracles' of Baba, yet was too curious to tolerate Him without a personal examination. I was then famous in the Kannada-speaking region of India - the state of Karnataka - as a humor writer, and I had a large reading public admiring me as the Stephen Leacock of that language. I then aimed my humor at Baba, 'the Phenomenon'. The word Sai in Kannada means 'die' - it is expletive, a command to extinguish life. "How can a person calling on us to address him as Sai be adored in Karnataka?" I quipped. Besides, I had gulped, without discerning, the dictum spread by the monks of the Ramakrishna Mission that the performance of miracles is a very unspiritual exercise which drags the Sadhaka into the depths of worldliness. So I hastened towards Baba in the hope that he could be exposed and explained. Like Indra, I returned after the encounter with my prejudices corrected, my myopia cured and my pride pulverized. I am engaged ever since in enthusing all people to follow the message of Baba and in adoring Him as the savior of mankind. Those who venture to defy or deny Him, ultimately return to remain in His presence with folded hands and supple minds, meditating on His form, reciting His name and elevating themselves to divinity.
When Arnold Schulman heard himself ask Baba, "Are you God?" Baba replied, "How can an ant measure the depth of the ocean or a fish discover the truth of the sky?" This answer stuns our reason dumb. But every act of Baba does the same.
After thirty-one years of having known Him, I feel that to doubt the authenticity of the following experience of Indira Devi is a sacrilege to Sai: "I looked up at the picture of Bhagavan and prayed, 'Bhagavan, please take me to Puttaparthi for your birthday.' Two days later, a young man who had come to the Sai Centre at Tecate, phoned, 'Mataji, could you go to India tomorrow if Warner Bros. pay your trip? They want Baba's permission to make a documentary film on His life.' " She was met at the airport by someone from the company. When she came to Prasanthi Nilayam with the proposal, I felt elated at the prospect of the film. She was very much there during the Birthday festival and she carried Baba's response to the request back home. But when she contracted Warner Bros., who had arranged and paid for her trip, "No one knew me there," she writes, "nor about the trip, nor the film, nor Bhagavan. The red-faced executive told me that he would investigate and let me know. Years have passed and I am still waiting to hear what he has to tell me from his inquiry!"
Muriel Engle writes from San Diego on the Pacific Coast: "Ruth has a teaching job in Mexico. She is busy going back and forth. She attends Bhajans on Thursdays at Santa Barbara, but is still a sceptic. Her health problems have been tormenting her since long. She has bouts of extreme pain for several days at a stretch. One evening in her little room she suffered from terrible pain, and in her desperate agony she was crying out, 'Oh is there someone to help me? Anyone? Why am I suffering this? What shall I do? Oh, help!' "
Suddenly she felt a gentle touch on her arm. She stopped shouting and, as she turned, there stood Baba beside her bed, "Don't shout so," He said, "I am always here." Then, He disappeared. And along with Him the pain, too, had gone. This is another instance of His omnipresence. Baba says,
"There is only one God and He is omnipresent. He has no favourite dwelling place or chosen followers or special groups of devotees. Call - He answers, He manifests, He blesses."
Acknowledgement: Sourced from Book Published by Sri Sathya Sai Books and Publications Trust Sathyam Sivam Sundaram (N. Kasturi)
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