By Life Positive
Sathya Sai Baba’s legacy include his teachings of self-culture, love for all faiths and his untiring philanthropy that continues to touch and transform the lives of millions across the world
A saint, a performer of miracles, an avatar – Sathya Sai was different things to different people. On April 24, 2011, he discarded his body, leaving behind for his devotees memories of his innumerable reported ‘interventions’ to save, inspire and uplift, and his message of universal brotherhood, love and service. “Let the different faiths exist, let them flourish, and let the glory of God be sung in all the languages and a variety of tunes. That should be the ideal. Respect the differences between the faiths and recognise them as valid as long as they do not extinguish the flame of unity,” said Sathya Sai Baba.
Even as devotees come to terms with his passing, he lives on in their memories and in the educational and healthcare institutions, spiritual centres and public works he has created in the years of his earthly stay. These are his legacy, and they are, in a special sense, his message – his proof of what love in action can achieve. Sathya Sai preached a form of engaged spirituality that emphasises love, self-culture, seva and good works, creating an awesome body of good work. “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world,” Sathya Sai declared.
Man of miracles
His devotees come from all walks of life – prime ministers, presidents, movie stars, sportspersons and plain folk. All of them attest to his electrifying presence, and his power to affect miracles both worldly and spiritual. MK Kaw, dean of the Sathya Sai International Centre for Human Values, New Delhi, and Sathya Sai devotee, remembers how he used to be suspicious about Baba’s miraculous materialisation of sacred ash and other objects.
|Jaisay til mein tail hai, jyon chakmak mein aag, Tera Sai tujh mein hai, tu jaag sakay to jaag. As oil is in the seed, as fire in flint Your Sai (master) is within you Awaken to this if you can!
- Sant Kabir
“I have a naturally suspicious mind; so I always suspected him of sleight of hand. One day, with a glint of mischief in his eyes, he took the trouble of coming very close to me. He lifted the sleeve of his robe and waved his hand in the circular motion so familiar to all of us,” says Kaw. “I could see the process of formation of the ash. First a cloud of grey colour appeared under his palm and started moving about. Before my very eyes, the cloud solidified into flakes of ash. He caught the ash in his and and then poured it into the palms of several devotees.”
Sathya Sai Baba had hinted that it was foolish to get so fixated on miracles that one lost sight of the spiritual wealth he had to offer. “This has been the case in all ages. People may be very near to the avatar, but they live out their lives unaware of their fortune. They exaggerate the role of miracles, which are as trivial, when compared to my glory and majesty, as a mosquito is in size and strength to the elephant upon which it squats,” Sathya Sai said. “Therefore, when you speak about these ‘miracles,’ I laugh within myself out of pity that you allow yourself so easily to lose the precious awareness of my reality,” he declared.
Kaw, like Sai’s countless other devotees, attests to the greater miracles of the Master of Puttaparthi, that had to with his ability to engineer inner change. “Shortly after meeting Sai, I gave up smoking, which I had failed to do for 26 years,” explains Kaw, who had also tried to turn vegetarian and failed. “Like most Kashmiri Pandit families, mine was too fond of animal flesh to give it up. In 1989, we were returning from Puttaparthi by train and I was reading a book by Baba. Suddenly, I announced that I had now become a vegetarian. My mother said that if I did not eat meat, she would give it up too. My father repeated the vow, as did my wife and daughter. Before the Karnataka Express arrived at New Delhi, the entire family had turned vegetarian!”
Sathya Sai repeatedly emphasised that all he had come to do is to ‘light the lamp of love’ in the heart of his devotees so it shone day by day with added lustre. “I have come to tell you of this universal, unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of love, this duty of love, this obligation to love. Every religion teaches man to fill his being with the glory of God and to evict the pettiness of conceit,” Sathya Sai said.
Love all, serve all
Sathya Sai Baba was born Sathyanarayana Raju to Easwaramma and Pedda Venkama Raju in Puttaparthi village. On March 8, 1940, when he was living with his elder brother, Seshama Raju in Uravakonda, Sathya Sai fell unconscious after he was stung by a scorpion. He was never his old self again. He would laugh and weep, and speak eloquently on spiritual subjects before lapsing into complete silence. He reportedly began to sing verses in Sanskrit – a language he had never learnt. Doctors said he had hysteria. On May 23, 1940, Sathya reportedly materialised prasad and flowers before his stunned family members. This angered his father who thought someone had cast a spell on his son. He waved a stick menacingly and asked his son who he was. “I am Sai Baba,” declared Sathya Sai, who is considered by his devotees as second in the Sai parampara after Sai Baba of Shirdi who had passed away eight years before Sathya Sai’s birth. The third incarnation in the parampara, Prema Sai, is expected to take birth in the near future.
|Sai’s Gospel: Sathya Sai taught his devotees to engage in the service of humanity|
What love did
Subsequently, Sathya Sai Baba established three ashrams. His principal ashram, Prashanti Nilayam, is located in Puttaparthi, his native village in Andhra Pradesh. He also has an ashram, Brindavan, in Whitefield, near Bangalore, and a summer retreat ashram in Kodaikanal.
In addition, he founded three primary mandirs (spiritual centres) in India – Dharmakshetra in Mumbai, Shivam in Hyderabad and Sundaram in Chennai.
There are Sathya Sai centres located in over 114 countries in the world.
|At his lotus feet: The refuge for Sathya Sai devotees|
Sathya Sai Baba has been the force behind the creation of several free educational institutions, hospitals and public works that form a substantial part of his legacy. His charitable works are reportedly spread over 166 countries across the world though Sathya Sai has only travelled abroad on one occasion – to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in 1968. The Sri Sathya Sai University in Prashanthi Nilayam is the only college in India to have been awarded an A++ rating by the University Grants Commission’s National Assessment and Accreditation Council. The university has three campuses: at Puttaparthi for men, another at Whitefield in Bangalore for men and yet another in Anantapur for women. His charity also supports an institute for Indian classical music called the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music. The Baba’s trust also funds the Muddenahalli-Sathya Sai Loka Seva School and Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust Educational Institutions in Muddenahalli-Kanivenarayanapura, Karnataka. The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi has a 220-bed facility that provides world class surgical and medical care for free to all. The Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital was opened in Whitefield in 1977. It has provided complex surgeries, food and medicines free of cost to over two million patients.
Apart from running several general hospitals, two specialty hospitals, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries that conduct medical camps in rural and slum areas in India, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust funds a major drinking water project in the drought-prone Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. The Sathya Sai Ganga canal supplies water to Chennai. The Medak District Water Project benefits 450,000 people in 179 villages and the Mahbubnagar District Project, benefits 350,000 people in 141 villages. In 2008, the Sathya Sai trust built 699 houses in 16 villages in Orissa after floods hit the state, displacing two million people.
|The body may have gone but the spirit lives on…|
Baba and the atheist
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, an avowed atheist, praised the Chennai water project and Sai Baba’s role in it. Sathya Sai Baba’s Educare programme founds schools with the goal of educating children in human values. According to the Sai Educare website, Sai Educare schools have been founded in 33 countries, including Australia, Mexico, UK and Peru.
In Canada, the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research and educational organisation, ranked the Sathya Sai School of Canada as one of the top 37 elementary schools in Ontario. The Sathya Sai School scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Institute’s overall rating for academic performance.
On November 23, 1999, the Postal Department, released a postage stamp and a postal cover to honour Sathya Sai’s efforts to provide safe drinking water to the rural masses. In January 2007, an event was held in Chennai Nehru stadium by the Chennai Citizens Conclave to thank Sathya Sai Baba for the Rs 200 crore water project which brought water from the River Krishna in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai city. Four chief ministers attended the function.
At his passing over, a grateful world paid generous tributes. His body lay in state for two days, after which it was buried on April 27, 2011.The burial, which was accorded the status of a state funeral by the Andhra Pradesh government, was attended by several luminaries, including PM Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and Union Ministers SM Krishna and Ambika Soni. An estimated 500,000 people attended the burial.
While Sathya Sai Baba’s body rests in the Samadhi built for him, his followers say he lives on in their hearts. They continue to feel surrounded by his grace. “Sai’s teaching helped me keep my emotions balanced even when the graph of my life varied. Over the years, my faith grew as Sai answered my prayers and guided me on the right path. I believe that by leaving his physical body, Sai has directed us to focus on his teaching of love, service and detachment,” says Pallavi Patel (50), an ardent Sai devotee based in the US.
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