Sathya Sai Baba, The Avathar And The Intellectual

Sathya Sai Avathar

Sathya Sai Avathar


Sathya Sai Baba, the Avathar and the Intellectual
By Prof. G.Venkataraman

INTRODUCTION
This article is triggered by one of the many that appeared in a special 80th Birthday feature published by a prominent Indian Weekly named THE WEEK. This weekly magazine is published from Kerala, and is a part of the famous MALAYALAM MANORAMA group of publications. For years, the MALAYALAM MANORAMA has been writing many articles on Sathya Sai Baba, all reverential, I must add. The companion magazine THE WEEK apparently decided that Sathya Sai Baba also was news and featured Swami in its issue dated 27 November, 2005 as the Cover Story. For the record I must mention that the MALAYALAM MANORAMA brought out a special souvenir of its own on the occasion of the 80th Birthday, very well done it must be said.

In the feature published by THE WEEK, there are several small pieces by many guests, besides some stuff written by staff writers from Bangalore. In typical modern journalistic fashion, the magazine presents “both points of view”, that is to say, material that is complimentary and also material that is critical. I will not go into all of that but would like to stick mainly to an article by a well-known award winning writer and social activist from Bangalore named U. R. Ananthamurthy.

Mr. Anantamurthy – A Typical Intellectual
Ananthamurthy hails from a traditional background and acknowledges that his parents paid their respects to Swami. But he himself is cast in a different mould, and, pained by the deep inequities that existed [and in some measure continue to exist] in Indian Society, Ananatamurthy has been continually registering his disapproval and protest through his various writings, novels and speeches. In the special issue of WEEK that I mentioned earlier, Ananathamurhty has a piece – actually, it is not an article by him as such but an “as told” piece, that is to say what Ananathamurthy said to a staffer.

Ananthamurthy, I must admit, does not cast aspersions nor sling mud. But he does not hesitate to question, disapprove and dismiss without any semblance, I regret to say, of deep analysis. This of course is quite typical of many intellectuals when it comes to Spiritual matters. Before I come to intellectuals and the problems many of them have in accepting God, I should mention that Ananthamurthy, while dismissing Swami, does not appear to reject Spirituality. On the contrary, he accepts and admires a host of evolved souls like Kabir, Basava, Tukaram, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharishi. However, he is not sure where to fit in Swami in all this. He is aware that people flock to Swami in hundreds of thousands but dismisses all that with the remark, “But that magnetism is not spiritual”. He adds, “Spiritualism requires a kind of mind like Jiddu Krishnamurthy. I could argue with him. With Sai Baba, either you believe him or you don’t.”

WHY INTELLECTUALS FIND IT DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT GOD
So much for an introduction. Let me now leave this eminent intellectual aside and turn to the main topic of intellectuals and Avatars. I shall come back to the remarks of Ananthamurthy later. These days, most intellectuals tend to be agnostic at best and atheist at worst; often it is the latter. Dazzled by the achievements of man in so many dimensions, they are unable to accept God because they are confronted with so many questions for which they do not have answers.

Einstein And Abdus Salam – Scientists With A Difference
Having said this, I must point out that there have been and there still are many intellectuals [possibly a minority] who do believe in God, scientists included. Einstein was a famous example. He freely acknowledged that he believed in a Superior Being although his God was not One who sat in judgment, inflicted punishment and all that.

Talking of scientists, I must not forget to mention late Abdus Salam of Pakistan, who won the Nobel Prize for his incisive work on electro-weak unification. I had the privilege of meeting Salam once when he came to address a conference on high-energy physics that was held in the lab where I was working at that time. It was my job to receive Salam at the airport and take him to our Centre. Later in the evening, when he was returning to the airport, Salam who was then riding in the car said his evening prayers as all Muslims are expected to. A Westerner once asked Salam, “How come you, a scientist, believe in God?” Salam gave a terse reply, “Science is all about the outer world. God is all about the Inner world. Where is the contradiction?”

In what follows, I shall focus heavily on scientists for two important reasons. One, I know something about scientists; two, in many respects scientists set the fashion in questioning God, a fashion that other intellectuals are eager to adopt.

THE TRAP OF LOGIC – WHY INTELLECTUALS REJECT AVATARS
I would now like to deal briefly with the topic of Avatars and how people react to them. Here, I have found a very strange phenomenon. I know of many who are ready to accept Rama and Krishna as Avatars without batting an eyelid, but when it comes to Swami, they dismiss Him summarily. I am sure these people all have their own reasons but I always wonder: “How come they accept as Avatar both Rama and Krishna whom they have never seen, but are unwilling to accept Swami who can be seen?” Perhaps these persons accept that Rama is God and that Krishna is God, because they have heard that frequently from their parents, right from childhood. Maybe that is all there is to it.

Gandhiji On God
This raises a fundamental question: “Who is God?” Many answers have been given over thousands of years by sages and philosophers in all lands, but I like best the definition given by Gandhi. I have quoted this often and I hope the reader would not mind if I quote the same one more time, because it is so pertinent to what I am discussing.

Gandhi said, “He is no God who merely satisfies the intellect. God to be God must rule the Heart and transforms the senses. He is LOVE.” Now I ask you. Does not this definition fit Swami like a glove?

Many decades ago – around 1950, Swami paid His first visit to Venkatagiri, in response to continuous prayers by the then Rajah of Venkatagiri. [In the November 2005 issue, H2H carried a conversation with the Rajah’s Son, to read that now, go here]. On that occasion, the Rajah took the initiative to bring many Vedic scholars to the Divine presence so that there was a discussion of spiritual matters.

Swami was hardly known at that time, and the proud Vedic scholars took a dim view of the Rajah inviting a “young and unknown upstart”. As happened on such occasions with Swami, the Vedic scholars were soon put in their place when they realized that Swami knew far more about the Vedas than all of them put together.

Ramana, Ramakrishna And Sai – The Difference
That filled them with wonder: “How does He know all this when He has not spent even a single day in a Vedic school?” They then asked Swami, “What exactly is the difference if any between You and great souls and saints like Ramana, Ramakrishna etc?”

Swami responded with a gesture rather than with words. Swami held the left hand at the level of the chest with the palm facing upwards and the right hand at the level of the face with the palm facing downwards. The Vedic scholars were nonplussed. They wanted to know what exactly this gesture meant.

Swami explained:

“The saints and sages you are referring to are humans who were in the process of evolving towards God. I, on the other hand, am God come down in human form – that is the difference.”

There you have it – Swami was making abundantly clear that He is an Avatar.

Why Modern Scientists Find It Difficult To Accept God?
Not withstanding all this, intellectuals have a big problem in accepting Avatars – I mean when they cannot accept God Almighty, how can they accept a human manifestation of the same Supreme Lord? This gives me an opening to discuss briefly the reservations most modern scientists and indeed intellectuals have in accepting God. Barely fifty years ago, we knew very little about the Universe. In fact, around 1920 or so, most scientists believed that the Universe consisted of just the galaxy Milky Way, of which our solar system is a part. Almost all astronomers believed then that there was no galaxy in the Universe apart from the Milky Way. And then suddenly things changed, thanks to a few major scientific discoveries, as a result of which we now know that there are billions of galaxies!

In this way, our knowledge of the Cosmos and the stuff it is made of has increased enormously. True there is a lot more we still do not know but what we presently know is already mind-boggling.

The Current Dogma of Science
Thanks to this tremendous leap forward in scientific knowledge, all of which has occurred in about fifty short years – and this includes not only physics and astronomy but every scientific discipline all the way to molecular biology – scientists have become very cocky and arrogant. The current dogma of Science is that a theory of Science might be accepted based on currently known facts but must not be regarded as the eternal truth; there could well be new discoveries that disprove existing theories or limit their scope. Everything is subservient to logic and must be applicable within the boundaries as stipulated by Science. In particular, the prevailing belief is that Science progresses best by a systematic effort to prove wrong currently accepted hypotheses. Any proposition that refuses to accept these terms and look beyond does not deserve the attention of scientists.

Modern Science – Experiments Hold The Key
That is the way scientists of today operate. Logical analysis is supreme and hypothesis becomes a fact only when tested thoroughly by experiments. Just to make my point clear, I might mention that the famous scientist Stephen Hawking has written many epoch-making papers on exotic astrophysical objects called Black Holes.

There is hardly anyone who disputes the theories of Hawking. And yet, though the results obtained by Hawking are of profound significance, and though he has been hailed widely as a genius, he is yet to receive the Nobel Prize because his theories have not yet been tested experimentally. I mention all this just to make the point how experiments hold an important place in the scheme of Science.

Having said all this, I must hasten to add that one should not find fault with the above methodology of Science, for such rigour is very much needed in Science. The problem arises when some of this discipline is applied in domains where it is neither relevant nor applicable. And that problem lies not in Science but with scientists. What exactly is the problem? That is what I shall discuss next.

THE BOUNDARIES OF SCIENCE
The most important thing about Science is that it is bound by the limitations of both Space and of Time or, Space-time as pundits would like to put it. There is nothing wrong with it. Science seeks answers about the material Universe as it evolved and as it exists today, and since the Universe is bound by Space and Time, Science too has to observe the same limits.

Can Science ‘Experience’ Life?
So far so good. Where then does the problem lie? The problem surfaces when one starts asking questions that lie beyond the purview of Science as is currently accepted. Are there such things at all that lie beyond Science? Of course there are, like LIFE, for example. Ask a scientist to define life, and you would find he is in trouble straightaway. Yes he would give all kinds of shady and cagey answers but he cannot really answer the question. Some would honestly say, “Listen, I cannot answer that question; it is beyond Science as we currently know it.” Others more arrogant would say, “Well, I cannot answer it now but be assured that one day Science would be able to answer that question. You do not need to invoke God and all that to explain life.”

How far is this defence valid? We can get a better appreciation of it by considering an everyday example. Let’s say there are two people watching a glorious sunset. As you know, the Sun turns deep red as it goes down the horizon. This is due to what is known as the Tyndall effect, and students of Physics know all about it. No dispute there. But just consider this. I say the Sun appears red, because I experience a sensation thanks to the eye-brain combination, and I describe this sensation by saying that the appearance of the Sun is red. The red colour I see is a sensation within me. Another person watching the sunset would also say the Sun appears red. He says so because of the sensation within him. But then, how do we know for sure that the sensation that I experience is exactly the same as the sensation he experiences?

Science Can Measure a Sunset, But Can Science Feel It?
This is not a silly question; on the other hand it is an important and non-trivial question. To make clear what I mean, let us go back to the sunset. If a spectrometer were to be directed towards the Sun, it would show a spectrum with a strong peak at a frequency that we would describe as red. The spectrometer would just generate an electrical signal and a graph – that is all. On the other hand, the sensation of seeing a red colour is a property of the senses. It is connected with an EXPERIENCE that a living entity has. Experience and life are thus intimately connected, and Science, as presently structured can never address these aspects of Creation. In turn this means scientists can never get answers about God when all doors are shut; that is to say, it is not meaningful to either “deduce” or reject God via Science. It is like trying to talk about the third dimension, living in a two-dimensional world.

With our sense organs we can feel, touch, smell, taste and see. These FEELINGS or SENSATIONS are unique to the living being, and as far as I know, they are not and can never be accessible to any scientific instrument. There is a simple reason for this. All scientific instruments, including the very best in the world are inanimate – they can never have any experience, which is possible only for an entity with a life force within it. It is no doubt possible to have an instrument that detects the molecules that produce the fragrance of fresh jasmine, but no instrument can feel that fragrance the way you and I do.

I can, using MRI [Magnetic Resonance Imaging], print out the waveforms produced in the brain of a Yogi who is experiencing Bliss, but a waveform is mere data while Bliss is the EXPERIENCE of a living person. The two belong to different domains, with the waveform representing a mere projection of EXPERIENCE into the lower domain of inanimate instruments.

Experience of a Living Entity – Not Accessible to Science
Basically, the point is simply this: The experience which a living entity has belongs to a dimension beyond the inanimate, and is NOT accessible to Science as structured at present. Yet, through the instruments of Science we can even study living systems and their parameters such as blood pressure, sugar level in the blood and so on. But no instrument can taste the sweetness of sugar although there are instruments that can tell you all you want to know about its molecular structure etc.

In short, Science, which is bound by Space and Time, is related to the gross inanimate world. It does not, as it stands, extend to the subtle world to which we have access through our senses. This is particularly evident when one considers Consciousness. Even scientists admit that there is a thing called Consciousness but ask them to define it, and they would throw up their hands. This being the case, scientists, if they have any sense of humility, would recognise their boundaries and limitations and not comment on things they do not know about. When they lose their humility, they become arrogant and arrogance blinds one to basics. That is what happens almost invariably.

Double Standards Of Science
Consider a biologist. Most biologists would not know much about the theory of relativity although almost everyone would know that it was Einstein who gave that theory. Ask a biologist, “Do you believe in the theory of relativity?” He would promptly say yes, even though he has not studied it and in fact knows practically nothing about it. How come? Because he has faith in Einstein.

Now if in the same way I were to say that I believe God exists because Adi Shankara says so, my fellow scientists would say I have become senile.

I am dismissed for having faith in God based on what Adi Shankara has taught and experienced, but it is OK for a biologist to have total faith in relativity without understanding a word of it, just because he has faith in Einstein. I would call this double standards.

Proving God’s Existence Through Science!
Another argument that scientists often give is that in Science one can prove laws through experiments. Newton’s laws can be proved by experiments and indeed first year students do this all over the world. More complex laws like that of electro-weak unification require billions of dollars for setting up the equipment, and at the end of it, the law can be proven, as did Carlo Rubbia. Citing all this, scientists often say that you cannot prove the existence of God in this manner. This is where I disagree.

Let us take a material like lead. Suppose one took a wire made of lead and cooled it to say a temperature of 5 degrees absolute. This is a very low temperature – such temperatures are not encountered even in Antarctica in winter – and one needs very special apparatus to reach such a low temperature. Let us say this has been done. It would then be found that the lead wire can carry electric current without any losses whatsoever; that is to say, it would lose all its electrical resistance. This is the phenomenon of superconductivity. A lead wire at room temperature will not show superconductivity. Unless one takes the trouble of cooling the wire to a very low temperature, one cannot make lead into a superconductor. In the same way, anyone in principle can have the Darshan of the Divine, like Ramakrishna Paramahamsa did; however, if someone wants God to appear before him, then that calls for special effort on the part of that person. It is very much like in experimental science.

Divine Experience Through Scientific Instruments – A Flawed Approach
The effort made to see God directly involves achieving a state of high internal purity through strict sense and mind control. Those are the conditions under which God will manifest. Many sages and saints have had the Darshan of the Good Lord in this manner, but tell this to any scientist and he would scoff at you. He would assert that in Science you can observe a phenomenon only when the experimental conditions are right. Yet, most scientists are unwilling to accept a similar stipulation in the case of God and Spirituality. In Science one uses inanimate instruments to detect the phenomenon one is interested in, no matter how complex the phenomenon. In Spirituality, the instrument is the human being itself. Experiences related to the Divine cannot be had through inanimate instruments alone, even if one spends trillions of dollars. This is the basic truth that scientists of today simply do not understand or refuse to.

Most intellectuals, scientists being prominent among them, try to explain all that we see through the “Head” alone but when it comes to God, the “Heart” HAS to come into the picture. The Heart being BEYOND the Mind, the tools of Science will not work; instead, we need the tools of meta-science or meta-physics, if you will. It is at this point that the modern physicist loses patience, makes his sarcastic comments and withdraws with the feeling that those who believe in God need to be pitied rather than censured.

In passing I might mention that most of the problems faced by humanity today are caused by the Head, and if we are serious about finding solutions to them, we HAVE to go beyond the Head to the realm of the Heart. This, incidentally, is the core of most of Swami’s Discourses, and this is where Spirituality becomes most essential. Intellectuals, I am afraid, hardly appreciate this.

SOME QUESTIONS RAISED BY MR. ANANTHAMURTHY
Now if a [modern] scientist has so much difficulty in accepting God, how is he going to accept an Avatar, that is, God come in human form? This is reflected in the following quote from Ananthamurthy. He says, “What puzzles me is that he [Swami] claims he is God and I laugh at him. People also laughed at Lord Krishna when he claimed he was God. I used to wonder if Sai Baba also is God, and if we are refusing to acknowledge it?”

Ananthamurthy goes on:

“I like certain things about Sai Baba. When BJP leader L.K.Advani went on a Rath Yatra, Sai Baba is believed to have said, why build Ram temple at Ayodhya when he is present everywhere. [This is a reference to Advani, a politician, who made a political issue out of the construction of a temple for Lord Rama at Ayodhya, the birth place of Rama.] I appreciate his drinking water and healthcare initiatives. One more thing I like about him [Sai Baba] is that he is not an English-speaking person.”

Ananthamurthy is of the opinion that English has done much harm to the various Indian languages, relegating almost all of them to a second-class status.

His parting line is: “The land that gave birth to great people like Gandhi and Ramana deserves better.” In my view, this casual remark makes it abundantly clear that Ananthamurthy’s thinking is highly flawed and superficial. He says that he finds it laughable when Swami says He is God. But he seems to conveniently forget what Swami adds, namely that we also are God. Ananathamruthy praises Ramana Maharishi. That is the way it should be; but does he remember Ramana’s perpetual question?

Does he not recall that Ramana invariably asked every one to examine the issue: “Who am I?” As we know very well, Swami too has discussed this topic in so many of His Discourses.

Swami and Ramana
Let us focus on this question: “Who am I?” What does Ramana say about this? He says that every human being is really Divine. Swami says the same. So, if you and I are God why cannot Sai Baba be God? Or is it that Ananthamurthy is not prepared to accept this fundamental teaching of Ramana whom he holds in such high regard?

At this stage, I wish to make one thing very clear: I am not speaking against Ramana; on the contrary I hold him in the highest regard. Swami too has high praise for Ramana, as should be evident from the remarks He has made at various times. By the way, we have on video tape the recollections of an old devotee who, along with her family, used to be in the Paatha Mandiram or Old Mandir where Swami stayed from 1940 to 1950. She recalls in that tape how Ramana sent two of his disciples to Puttaparthi over sixty years ago to have the Darshan of God! So you know what Ramana thought of Swami as far back as the forties, when Swami was little known in the outside world.

THE HEAD VERSUS THE HEART
Changing gears let me now make a few spiritual arguments, starting with Swami’s observation that a human being is a combination of the gross body, the subtle Mind and the immortal Atma. Combining the three letters M [for Mind], B [for body] and A [for the Atma], Swami sometimes jocularly says that everyone is a MBA! For convenience, let me use the word Head for the Mind and Heart for the Atma.

Now what is the hierarchy amongst these three? Swami says it should be the Heart first, the Head next and Body and Senses last. In the world of today, the priorities are different, with the Heart more or less left out most of the time. Intellectuals in particular, are dominated by the Head. When that happens, logic takes precedence and the feelings of the Heart take a back seat, especially faith.

For one on the spiritual path, faith is perhaps the most important requirement. Maybe for some, when the journey begins, faith takes root through enquiry and questioning but there comes a stage when logic simply has to be thrown away, and this is something few intellectuals of would be prepared to do. Which brings me to the subtle way in which the Avatar moves about amongst us. One saw this earlier in the Shirdi Avatar and one sees it now in the Sri Sathya Sai Avatar also.

THE AVATAR HAS A HUMAN FORM BUT HE IS VERY DIFFERENT
There are innumerable things that an Avatar does, some of which we can perceive and understand, while others are far beyond our comprehension; this is a fact we must be prepared to accept. From what I have seen, I would like to say that there are at least four aspects of the Avatar on constant display. Firstly, He showers Love on all. Next, He responds to our distress calls. Thirdly, He gives advice. Fourthly, He tests. The last point needs some elaboration.

There are two key Slokas in the Gita that offer a clue to the point that I just made. The first of these is Sloka [9.22] which, by the way, Swami refers to as the fulcrum of the Gita since it occurs right in the middle of the eighteen chapters of this sacred text.

In this Sloka the Blessed Lord essentially says: “Repose steadfast faith in Me and think of Me always. I shall then carry your burden entirely.” The second Sloka that I hold to be relevant is [18.66], wherein Krishna declares that he who totally surrenders to the Lord would be fully redeemed. If we keep these two key declarations of the Krishna Avatar in mind, then we would realise that often times Swami is really testing us about the quality of our surrender.

Total Surrender – Not Easy For Devotees, Hard for Intellectuals
Devotees, especially while in the euphoric state inside the Interview Room, declare ecstatically, “Swami, I have surrendered to You.” However, seldom is this a serious statement. As Swami often tells students, “People say they have surrendered their Mind to Me. Yes, they give their Minds to Me but only for a few seconds. They take it back when they go out of the Interview Room!” Though said in a light-hearted manner, there is profound truth in this statement. All of us are highly prone to deposit our Minds with the proverbial monkey rather than entrust it to God for safe custody. Now if we so-called devotees have so much problem with the Mind, how much more difficult it would be for the intellectuals?

Yes, as Swami often reminds us, the Mind is the key to our future; it can take us to God or to the Devil, which ever we please. We have to make the choice, not God. God will only help by giving advice and setting examples to follow; but the buck really stops with us. However, if we surrender totally, then God would get into the driving seat and take us safely to our destination.

THE TESTS THE AVATAR GIVES US
People ask: “Why does God have to test us? Does He not know where we stand? Why can’t He help us? Why all this test business? It is so unfair.” I would like to respond with a direct personal experience of mine.

Once many years ago when I was the Vice Chancellor, exams were in progress. I went round the various rooms where the boys were taking the exams and later I reported about the exams to Swami, who, you must remember, is the Chancellor of our Institute. Swami asked me how many students were absent – it always happens a few students are absent due to sickness. I thought I was very smart and said, “Swami, You know everything!”

Swami looked at me sternly and replied, “I know how many were absent but do you know?” I hung my head down for I actually did not know how many were absent. Swami was sending me a signal that as the VC, I had better know more about what was expected of me.

I am citing this incident merely to state that God always knows everything about us but He tests us nevertheless so that we may know where exactly we stand. These tests are really tests of our faith. It is up to us recognise the tests – Swami will never say, “Here is a test for you”; we have to figure out when He is testing and when He is not. Having spotted the test, we must measure up to it. We must constantly keep in mind Swami’s statement: “Test is taste for Me!”

SURRENDER AND FAITH
Surrender involves going beyond the domain of the Mind and that is something intellectuals cannot easily do, trapped as they are in the illusion that they are free, when in fact they are prisoners of logic and the Mind. Actually, we should not blame intellectuals when we devotees also are given to questioning the actions of the Avatar. Take, for example, the Rama Avatar.

People have been asking from time immemorial, questions like, “Why did Rama banish Sita to the forest, especially after having made her go through fire earlier? Is this not gross injustice?” My response to this is the following: If you and I who have come thousands of years after Rama and Sita know her to be pure and chaste, would not Rama, who was supposed to be God incarnate have known that? We must have the faith that God never does anything without a purpose. I maintain that Rama was actually establishing certain norms for people in high places, for all times, especially during this Kali Age.

To stress my point I would like to point out that there was some years ago, a well-known politician, hailed by all as an upright man; he even rose to become briefly, the Prime Minster of India. He had a son, who throughout the political career of his father exploited his father’s high position to make all kinds of shady deeds. The whole world knew about it, but the father consistently turned a blind eye, not withstanding the frequent discourses he gave on the Ramayana! If this politician had read his Ramayana right, he would have learnt that Rama banished innocent Sita to stress that even if a relative is blameless, one must have nothing to do with that person, in order to establish high standards of probity. In short, here was the Avatar, who, as a part of His drama was teaching a lesson and instead of learning it, humans are passing judgement on Him as if the Avatar was just another human being.

Many alleged scholars of the epics often indulge in judging Avatars by applying norms that apply only to humans, which is a fatal mistake. Surrender demands faith, and total surrender demands total faith; this is not possible for intellectuals but is possible for those who believe in God. Let us never forget that in the processing of drawing the devotee closer, the Lord will test for sure, sometimes sorely!

This digression into the business of testing is needed because this is something unique to the Avatar. With due respect to them, saints like Ramana and Ramakrishna do not do this. God alone tests because it is to God alone to whom we must totally surrender; and when we do, He will take full charge of us as He has assured in the Gita. Thus, this testing game goes on constantly to pick out the winners and separating them from those who have to try more. Intellectuals will never understand this and people like Ananthamurthy would be totally perplexed by many of the things that Swami does. Indeed, all who “see” with their Heads would have this difficulty and end up dismissing Sai Baba. God, as Swami often reminds us, can never be understood but only experienced.

JUDGEMENT WITHOUT KNOWING THE FACTS
Ananathamurthy has correctly identified three key phenomena of the twentieth century: “hunger for social justice, hunger for spirituality and hunger for modernity.” According to him, all these three go together. Ananthamurthy then goes on to describe how these three hungers have manifested and who has done what about them. I have no argument with any of these. But he makes all these remarks as if Swami has done nothing about them. On the contrary, Swami has shown how starting from Spirituality, one can indeed solve most of humanity’s problems, including social injustice, besides blending the best of today with the best of olden times as He has done in His Institute for example. But Ananthamurthy, it seems, knows hardly anything about it.

Let us start with social justice. Many fight for social justice through agitations. Swami rejects that approach. He concentrates instead on transforming individuals and sensitising them. In the long run this is the only workable approach. Take caste discrimination or race discrimination. One can pass all the laws one wants to prevent these but in the ultimate analysis it is people who have to change and give up prejudice. That can happen only when there is a change of Heart, and change of Heart, I maintain, can never be brought about through agitations, or legislation or the cudgel. Ananthamurthy talks of the hunger for Spirituality. Yes there is such a hunger, and when that is taken care of, problems of poverty, problems of hunger, etc., can all be mitigated in substantial measure. That is what this Avatar is all about. It is great pity that Ananthamurthy does not have one single word to say about Swami’s infinite Love and how Pure Love can solve all man-made problems.

Swami Teaches Love In Action
In general, intellectuals like Ananathamurthy are utterly ignorant about the incredible service of Love being rendered by the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation throughout the world. Here, I would like to make a personal appeal to the readers of this article. Please do make time to read our regular reports on Sai Seva in Heart2Heart and tell as many as you can about these inspiring stories. In a nutshell, by helping every individual to spiritualise himself or herself, Swami is in fact leading a silent revolution. Take His Institute, for example.

Does Ananathamurthy, or for that matter any so-called intellectual in India, know how much Seva the old boys are doing silently in many places in India throughout the year? Do they know that every time the old boys gather here, they not only run medical camps in the neighbouring villages but also go out at night and cover street-sleepers with blankets? Do they know how our old boys (past students of the Sathya Sai University) went to Jammu and Kashmir to help quake victims there, against great odds? I would like to know of one University or College in the country [other than Swami’s] whose alumni reached out in such a fashion. Maybe they wrote cheques but did they actually go there and serve the victims?

INTELLECTUALS AND SWAMI’S MATERIALISATIONS
One thing that intellectuals seize upon to denigrate Swami is the materialisation that Bhagavan often performs, like creating vibhuti, or a ring or a chain etc. Science phooh-phoohs miracles and intellectuals invariably seize upon it to cry fraud. I don’t have to convince you about the genuineness of these demonstrations of para-normal phenomena but I do think it is important that you hear Swami’s own observations on the subject. Here is what He says:

You must have heard people say that mine is all magic. But the manifestation of Divine Power must not be interpreted in terms of magic. Magicians play their tricks for earning their maintenance, worldly fame and wealth. They are based on falsehood and they thrive on deceit. However, this body can never stoop to such low levels. This body has come through the Lord’s resolve to manifest in human form. That resolve is intended to uphold Sathya or Truth. Divine resolve is always true resolve. Remember, there is nothing that Divine power cannot accomplish. It can transmute earth into sky and sky into earth. To doubt this is to prove that you are too weak to grasp great things, and the grandeur of the Universe.

I guess I have said enough about intellectuals and how they are not equipped to comprehend phenomena like Avatars. I took time off to write about intellectuals because many people hear what they say, read what they write and get disturbed by it. I hope I have succeeded in convincing you that there is nothing to be disturbed about.

Putting The Facts Straight
There is one other matter that many devotees have been quite agitated about, and maybe I should add a few remarks about that also, and that concerns the notorious so-called documentary on Swami produced by BBC. We received many, many letters and mails asking us to do something about it.

However, we did not react in the way most people expected us to, but respond we did, in our own way though. I don’t wish to go further into that. But I thought you might be interested to know what was said by one of the writers who contributed an article to the special issue of THE WEEK that I alluded to in the beginning.

The writer in question is Bill Aitkin, an Englishman who for decades has made India his home. For many years he has been coming to Puttaparthi, but so quietly that hardly anyone here knew about him. He came to some prominence with his recent book Sri Sathya Sai Baba, A Life.

Aitkin has given a stirring defence of Swami, not that Swami needs any defence from mortals. But records do need to be set straight and Bill Aitkin does that with pungent fervour! Here are some quotes:

The critics are so intemperate in their dislike that their vituperation now comes across as almost near comical in its predictability. Nothing that Baba can say or do meets with their approval. If he provides drinking water to thirsty villagers, they scent a scam but if doesn’t provide drinking water, he is anti-poor…Probably because of the intensity of their hate, when it comes to a serious, forensic examination of their allegations, they resort to bluster and evasion instead of hard facts. Smearing sexual innuendo is a traditional ploy but on failing to substantiate their charges, the critics switch to another unrelated subject.

They will claim that all of Sathya Sai Baba’s materialisations are phoney. However, this cannot stick, because millions have witnessed the outpouring of vibhuti at Shivarathri. So then, financial irregularities are imputed to the saint, and when these are likewise found to be unproductive of scandal, mafia happenings are evoked…The strategy of the critics seems to be that if sufficient mud is thrown, some might stick.

Here is what Aitkin has to say about the BBC, and he gives on behalf of all of us a stinging reply to slander with all the required passion! Aitkin says:

The latest in these so-called exposes is the BBC documentary whose agenda was so predetermined to denigrate Baba that it stooped to the unethical use of a spy camera. In a last farcical gesture, the producer hired some roadside entertainers to attempt to simulate Baba’s chamatkar [materialisations]. The result is so ludicrous that it leaves the viewer wondering as to who is funding this bizarre display of hostile reporting. The BBC is ultimately governed by the Anglican establishment, and churches in the west are losing out financially to the appeal of the Sai Baba movement.

As a commercial broadcaster, the BBC’s opting for sleaze would have the dual advantage of discrediting a rival as well as getting a good audience rating. The Church of England can have no objection to programmes that weaken perceived threats – like the Papacy or Hindu holy men – to its declining influence in the world. Posing as a lion in Asia, the BBC is a mouse in Britain. It dare not criticise public icons like the Queen, who happens to be the supreme of the Anglican Church.

Well, there it is – all the rebuttal of the BBC that you have always wanted, that too from an Englishman! To the above, I would like to add a few comments of my own. When Hardy the BBC producer came to Prashanti Nilayam at the time of Shivarathri to shoot some scenes, I met him briefly. It was apparent even then that Hardy was out to smear tar. When the so-called documentary was released, my worst fears were confirmed. Do you know that in this much touted video there is a character who goes about shouting that Sai Baba wants to kill him? As though Swami has no better business! Hardy was able to get away with pure nonsense because in those countries where this film was shown, most people had absolutely no idea of who Swami is.

I ask you: suppose some TV channel in India had produced a similar, poorly-researched documentary on a person in the West held in high public esteem; would the people and the media there have kept quiet? On the other hand when this rubbish that carried a brand name was telecast, so many papers in England hailed it as a great expose. No surprise in that because sometime earlier, the famous London Times, carried a similar shabby, ill-researched article on Swami that made waves. I then wrote a letter to the Editor, as did many prominent devotees from America. None of these were published, quite contrary to the usual practice of giving some space to counter opinion. So much for the much taunted objectivity of the Media of those countries.

I do not wish to make a blanket condemnation of all that comes from the West. A few days ago, a devotee here shared with me his copy of an article entitled GOOD GURU GUIDE, that appeared in 1994 in the famous journal ECONOMIST, published from London. I don’t know who the author is but this is a penetrating article on various successful people and intellectuals like George Soros, a financial wizard, Tom Peters, Peter Drucker and Michael Porter, all celebrated Management Gurus, Noam Chomsky, a renowned professor of linguistics in MIT. What stunned me was that Swami has been mentioned in this article and in a reasonably complimentary manner too! Here is what the article has to say about Swami. After commenting on Indian Gurus who globetrot, it observes:

Sai Baba stayed home and succeeded splendidly. His message of peace and love, like his beatific smile, has not changed since he was a child prodigy. Now he is more popular than ever – so much so his hometown of Puttaparthi a couple of hours drive from Hyderabad boasts a new airstrip…

Over the years, dozens of implacable rationalists and other mischief-makers have tried to discredit him, but never successfully. Sai Baba has ignored, outlived or outpaced them all.

These days, miracle-wise, he concentrates on holy ash. But he is also a popular philanthropist running schools and colleges and an enormous hospital for the poor. Judges, politicians, bureaucrats and film stars cringe and crave an audience. Tom Peters, eat your heart out!

How do you like that?

MY OWN CROSSOVER AND CONCLUDING REMARKS
Some of you might say, “Listen, you are supposed to be a scientist, are you not? What about you? Were you ever on the other side of the fence, and if so, how did you come over to this side?” I have, I believe, described all this in one of my radio talks; even so, the present occasion warrants a brief statement. Yes, a long time ago, I was on the other side of the fence. However, I did not deny God nor did I denigrate Swami. I just remained indifferent to Swami; He was, so to say, not in my radar screen. And then when the time came, Bhagavan Baba pulled and strongly too, with a few telling traumatic experiences.

As Swami says in the Gitavahini, misery is indeed a great friend, because it draws one to God; in this case, it brought me to the Living and Loving God. I must mention that when I was first drawn to Swami I thought He was just a saint or something of that sort. I did not know then that He was actually an Avatar. That realisation came later. In the precursor period, shall I say, I did not also believe in materialisations. I dismissed them as impossible because they defy all laws of Science – the usual, ignorant prejudice. And one fine day when Swami actually materialised vibhuti for me, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had actually seen a materialisation, beyond the so-called laws of Science and I had to accept it.

A Cold Fig On A Hot Afternoon by Swami!
Since then I have seen so many of these materialisations, some of them quite exotic. Once, a few years ago, we were all seated in the afternoon on the lower porch in the Sai Kulwant Hall. It was a hot afternoon. A few of us were around Swami, and seated in the Hall were thousands. Suddenly in the middle of causal conversations, Swami materialised a fig fruit in full view of the huge gathering. He then passed the fig around to us and when I received it I found it was cold, as if it had just been taken out of a deep freeze! Imagine getting a cold fig on a hot summer afternoon. Later Swami made it into pieces and distributed the fruit, and I got a piece too! Hmmmm, it was delicious!!

I shall conclude with the story of another such materialisation, which was remarkable in its own way. This happened during the period when I was the Vice-Chancellor. Those days, after Darshan was over, Swami would invariably call me and a few others connected with the Institute into the Interview room to spend some time with Him. That day, the Warden of our Hostel here was also present. As a small but intensely loving gesture, the Warden had brought with him in a silver vessel, some shelled groundnuts or peanuts as they say in America.

Amazing Billet From A Peanut!
The Warden offered it to Swami who first refused but later pooped one nut into His mouth. He then started giving us one nut at a time. He did one round, then another and then started on the third. Everyone put out his hand to receive the Prasadam from Swami and when my turn came I did the same. But what fell into my hand was not a piece of groundnut but an enamel billet with some art work on it. I gave Swami a puzzled look and He said, “See what it is.”

I took it near the window of the Interview room and tried to see what was on the billet but could not see clearly since I did not have my glasses on. Swami then made some teasing remarks and said, “This billet shows the Cosmic Form of the Lord. Embedded in it are the forms of Shirdi Baba and Swami. I have left some space for Prema Sai also. Shall I include Prema Sai also?” We remained silent, stunned by the experience. He then smiled and said, “No I shall not include Prema Sai because you faithless fellows would desert Me and go after Him!” We all laughed.

Swami then took the billet, held it near His mouth and started blowing on it. I thought He was going to make it disappear; instead, it became a full-fledged ring, shining brilliantly! Swami held it high showing the ring to all of us, even as we were dumbstruck. He said, “A goldsmith would take fifteen days to make a ring, but I have done it in less than fifteen seconds!” He then asked me to stretch my right hand. I simply could not believe myself.

Cosmic Form Ring

Cosmic Form Ring


In this world where there were so many wonderful devotees, Swami was giving this extraordinary ring to me of all persons. But then that is God. As Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once said, “Nobody can say who will receive God’s Grace. There may be very eligible people, but the Lord, for reasons best known to Him, may choose someone far less deserving.” Very true indeed, as I can say from personal experience.

Well, what do you think? Do you agree with the many things I have said? Whether you agree or disagree, I would be happy to know your reactions. I can be easily reached via our Heart2Heart e-journal.

Jai Sai Ram!

Reference

Also see:
God, The Avathar And The Doubting Thomas

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