Sai Baba, his life and legacy
In a country that has never been short of self-proclaimed godmen peddling spiritual succour with commercial motive, Sri Sathya Sai Baba, who passed away at the age of 84 at Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh on April 24, 2011, stands out as a rare phenomenon - a spiritual leader whose mass following transcended linguistic, national, and religious boundaries, who channelised the fervour and quest of millions of devotees into giving and sharing, who steered clear of divisive political and communal activities all his life. In the complex spiritual spectrum of modern-day India, Sai Baba may not have been associated with a metaphysical and transcendent philosophy like Sri Aurobindo, or the fervent devotion to the divine that often sent Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa into a trance, or the self-enquiry and non-dualism that made Sri Ramana Maharishi a silent, yet eloquent preceptor. Yet Sai Baba's simple message of love and harmony - mostly soaked in the language of Hindu philosophy, but often in a universal strain - was enough to draw the masses towards him. Among those who sought his guidance were the harried and the content businessperson, the troubled and the sated householder, politicians in search of peace, and the more humble seekers of solace from the rigours of life. His early reputation was built on a series of miracles such as producing vibhuthi (holy ash) or rings or miniature shivalings out of thin air, which invited disdain from rationalists who saw these as nothing more than sleight of hand; there were other controversies as well. His ardent devotees, on the other hand, saw the miracles as mere expressions of his divine powers, and his teachings and the manner in which he touched their lives as far more important.
Sai Baba's phenomenal mass appeal lay in his unswerving commitment to communal harmony, his encouragement of charitable activity and public-spiritedness, and his own example in building educational and health care institutions that focussed on meeting basic needs on a large scale. Among the projects executed by his Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust, the drinking water supply projects for Ananthapur district and Chennai city stand out. The latter effort, a Rs.200 crore project to strengthen the Kandaleru-Poondi canal through which waters of the Krishna reached the metropolis, earned the admiration of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, a non-believer who went so far as to describe Sai Baba as "one equivalent to God." His devotees may or may not be on the lookout for a reincarnation in some remote place but for society at large, his legacy will be the message of love and harmony and the altruistic activities of his cash-rich trust that, without his guiding hand, needs to resist temptation and carry on with integrity, transparency, and imagination.
Source: The Hindu
His compassion overcame all
I REFER to the letter "Spiritual leaders: Why the different treatment?" by D. Singh (NST, May 5).
D. Singh asked "how is it that two great spiritual leaders of our time have been accorded different treatment?", referring to Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Bhagwan Sri Rajneesh (Osho).
To discover the answer, we have to delve into Sai Baba's life.
During my research into world religions, I found that this great personality had, believe it or not, begun his humanitarian work at the tender age of 4.
He would feed all the beggars in the village even if it meant going hungry himself.
He showered compassion on every creature. He made lazy people get up in the morning to pray to God in their respective religions.
Seeing that there was disunity among the Hindus and Muslims in the area, he made them love each other.
He helped everybody, regardless of caste, colour and religion.
The village of Puttaparthi was transformed by him. And he did and all this before his eighth birthday.
On Oct 20, 1940, aged 14, he left home and began to teach people the importance of moral conduct, good habits and spiritual efforts in their own religions.
The fundamental teaching of Sai Baba was love. He taught that humans must cultivate divine feelings and live our lives filled with love.
He instructed people to help others to the best of their capacity with compassion and acts of charity. Developing kindness, forbearance and forgiveness was essential.
He preached that mankind should search and rectify their own faults rather than seeing faults in others.
He taught the message of all the religions, quoting from the Vedas, Quran, Bible, etc.
His contribution to the world was beyond measure.
Sai Baba constructed specialist hospitals, catering to cardiology, cardiothoracic vascular surgery, orthopaedics, urology, ophthalmology and gastrointestinal endoscopy.
All these were provided free of charge to all, irrespective of caste, creed, colour or place of origin.
His drinking water projects quenched the thirst of thousands of people.
From Puttaparthi to Indonesia, clean drinking water was made available to the poor.
Educational institutions were also set up from primary school to university level.
Sai Baba had stated that the sole purpose of setting up Sai educational institutions and imparting education from primary level to the highest postgraduate level was to prepare young people to become qualified educationally and spiritually to serve society, the nation and the world with devotion and dedication.
His works of service to mankind are also carried out by the Sai centres around the world, with food and medical treatment provided free of charge to the poor.
In times of calamity and disaster, Sai Baba followers attend to the needs of victims.
Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and Buddhists came for his funeral. No man has achieved what Sai Baba has done.
His life is best summarised as one who started his day with love, spent his day with love, filled his day with love and ended his day with love.
Because of his service to mankind, the Indian government granted Sai Baba the honour of a state funeral.
It is my humble opinion, even that state funeral was insignificant compared with his contributions to humankind.
ARIFF SHAH R.K., Penang
Source: The Straits Times, Malaysia