Sai Baba In The News – November 2009

Sai Baba In The News – November 2009

Aswamedha Trust in service of the poor
Express News Service
First Published : 22 Nov 2009 03:55:00 AM IST

ANANTAPUR: Inspired by Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Mother Teresa, Aswamedha Charitable Trust, the brain child of NT Chowdary was founded in 2007 to sponsor education of poor students in drought-prone Anantapur district.

The trust helps poor students, irrespective of caste, creed or religion, to pursue higher education. It also provides free coaching for Public Service Commission examinations, ICET etc.

Scholarships are also being provided to the students pursuing MBA, MCA, B.Tech, MBBS, degree, Inter and nursing courses. So far 850 students were given scholarships.

Group insurance facility was also extended to 850 students by the Trust.

Differently abled and mentally challenged students are also being taken care by the Spandana Orphanage and the the Trust has donated Rs.50,000 to the orphanage. The trust has provided mid-day meals to nearly 650 students for a period of 45 days and donated Rs 2 lakh to NTR Trust through Governor ND Tiwari.

In order to eliminate corruption from the society, the District Collector N Sreedhar had organised a 3K Run on anticorruption in Anantapur. The trust distributed biscuit packets and fruits to those participated in the run. It donated Rs 2.5 lakh to the Teachers Associations and Unions.

Under Anantha Pratibha programme, 300 students have been provided help to secure admission in corporate colleges.

Free coaching for clerks recruitment examination in State Bank of India was given for 600 candidates by the Trust.

Expess Buzz Reference


Blood donation camp held at Civil Hospital
Ludhiana: Shri Sathya Sai Baba Sewa Samithy, a non-governmental organisation, organised a blood donation camp at Civil Hospital on Saturday. Sanjay Sondhi, a member of the NGO, said the camp was held as a part of birthday of Shri Sathya Sai Baba.

Indian Express Reference

There is never a dull moment with Sai Baba

There is never a dull moment with Sai Baba
14/11/2009 14:00:00
Venkat Raman

I have often heard some people say that they visit Sri Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparthi (Andhra Pradesh) or Whitefield (near Bangalore) expecting him to materialise a gold chain, a wristwatch or at least vibhuthi (sacred ash).

Baba rarely obliges them.

For, his objective is to draw people into a world of piety, chastity, righteousness and good behaviour, and not to show them ‘miracles.’

“Then why do you do it?” I used to ask him.

“One day you would be writing impressive headlines to draw the attention of people to read your stories,” he prophesied.

“Why are there rewards for achievers?” he said, hoping that I would understand the import of his thoughts.

I have had the honour and privilege of knowing Baba since I was a teenager and learnt from him about life in all its vicissitudes over countless meetings and discussions.

I have also met people who used to arrive at the ‘Prashanti Nilayam’ in Puttaparthi just to have a glimpse of their favourite Bhagawan (God).

I distinctly remember a great writer and editor of a magazine telling Sathya Sai Baba 30 years ago, “I Want Peace.”

Lofty, meaningful goals
Instant came the reply, “Remove I (ego) and Want (desire) and you will have Peace.” Then turning to me, he said, “Just like all the wealth that one has, just like what you call, ‘miracles,’ everything is illusion. What is ultimate is the truth – of who you are and what you do.”

Sathya Sai Baba also used to tell me time and again, “Do not just to strive to raise your Standard of Living. You should lift the your Standard of Life. The former is material but the latter is eternal.”

My career has taken me to many countries around the world, I have spent more years living elsewhere than in the land of my birth, but I have never lost touch with the Greatest Teacher that I have ever had in life.

I also remember many world leaders, celebrities and people who you read about in newspapers or watch on television preferring to wait along with the crowd, rather than seek a special audience (not that he would always oblige) with Baba.

“Everyone is important for Baba and everyone is equal before my eyes,” he would say and then invite the least expected person and his family for a special meeting.

“Every person aspires for happiness and peace without understanding nature. While we are all a part of nature, why should we differentiate between each other in terms of wealth, community and religion? Though there are many determined men, no one knows the goal of life,” he said, speaking on his birthday recently.

Great social worker
Sathya Sai Baba’s Birthday (November 23) has always been a special occasion for me since my formative years. I would be excited to see a few hundred people (compared to tens of thousands today) come together to sing in his praise and do voluntary work.

Sathya Sai Baba is a great social worker.

From building roads and bridges to bringing potable water to the poor people in villages, he has achieved more than what any government anywhere could claim to have done in years.

Education has always been his passion.

“Look at those innocent faces,” he would say, showing me some photographs or pointing to children in an assembly, “they are so impressionable and therefore it is important that they are shaped well. Education without character is useless. It is like chanting a mantra without either understanding its meaning or concentrating on God. We should not let our children go astray.”

The educational institutions that he has built or funded are all today citadels of understanding and appreciating the larger aspects of life, rather than rote learning of arts and science subjects. Students are taught qualitative aspects of life and emerge from these schools and colleges as fine young men and women, without being addicted to alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

An inimitable Avatar
Those were days of intense curiosity as well. I used to hear from ‘Kasturi Kaka’ that Satya Sai Baba is an Avatar and an actual incarnation of the full power of Divinity, of the Godhead.

The birth of Sathya Sai was an auspicious event, which has not occurred for more than 5000 years. In another major Age of Mankind, Baba was Lord Krishna, he would say.

Baba says that that divine essence has come again, as the prophets have foretold, to guide and uplift Mankind at this critical time in human history.

It is a historical fact that Divinity appears amongst us in order to remind us of our divinity.

“I know who I am. I have come to help you to realise who you are. You are no less. All of us are God Incarnate,” Baba has said on many occasions.

The Bhagavan, the Supreme Being, the Social Worker, the Doctor who cures all ailments and above all, the World’s Greatest Teacher is a class to Himself, attracting people of all religious faiths, income groups and nationalities into his fold. Whether he is an Avatar or not may be a subject of debate but the former is gaining ground.

On the occasion of his Birthday on November 23, Indian Newslink offers its salutations to Sathya Sai Baba on behalf of millions of his devotees all over the world.

Celebrations in New Zealand
Indian Newslink understands that Satya Sai organisations and groupings will mark the 84th Birthday of Satya Sai Baba on November 23 with prayers and other events. The following are some of them:

  • Skiptin Hall, 53 Skipton Road, Mangere, Manukau City from 715 pm to 930 pm
  • Mahatma Gandhi Centre, 145 New North Road, Eden Terrace 7 pm to 9 pm
  • Kelston Community Centre, 126 Awaroa Road, Kelston, Waitakere 630 pm to 945 pm
  • Edgewater College, 32 Edgewater Drive, Pakuranga, Manukau 430 pm to 730 pm

Indian Newslink Reference

Free Medical Camps

Free Medical Camps
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sathya Sai Service Organization of Fiji will undertake free medical services in the rural areas of Northern and Western Division with the assistance of medical volunteers and other personnel from New Zealand, Australia, including local practitioners.

Chairman of Sathya Sai Service Organization Dr Narendra Reddy says medical camps have been organized for villagers in Daku and Vunika and today they are conducting clinics in Tukavesi.

He says from this Friday the group will be providing services in the western division.

“This year we are having 2 big medical camps in 2 regions. One is being performed in Vanua Levu this week and there are 34 doctors in that group. 32 from New Zealand, 1 from Australia and I from Australia. The second group is coming later this week.”

He said the group of 32 Australian doctors will be concentrating largely on Viti Levu. He adds consultations will be provided by experienced medical personnel.

“These doctors come with all the different fields in medicine so they are gynecologists, dentists, physiotherapists, general practitioners and all the various fields in medicine. The group will consist of just about all the major needs of places. On that basis they come here.”

Dr Reddy says they have been organizing these free medical camps from 2005 and every year more than 4000 people benefit from this.

The Sai Medicare camps will be undertaken from 9.00am to 3.00pm daily.

Radio Fiji Reference

Official Sathya Sai Baba Website

TogadiaSpeak – Ignorance And Apathy Are Not The Proofs Of Non-Existence – II

TogadiaSpeak – Ignorance And Apathy Are Not The Proofs Of Non-Existence – II
The good work Sangh is doing
By Dr Pravin Togadia

VHP’s one-teacher schools (Ekal Vidyalayas) number up to 26, 880 and they cover 7,72,065 students of which around six lakh students are from tribal areas. This is the largest Hindu missionary work in India and perhaps even in the world by a single organisation. What’s more, wherever there is an Ekal Vidyalaya, there is a village development unit under which a medical centre is run, making the number of medical centres also to 26,880.

VHP also has other educational projects: About 569 primary schools covering 59,300 students, 156 secondary schools covering 12,750 students and 53 senior secondary schools covering 2120 students. Then there are 15 residential schools, many night schools, 104 hostels including 44 orphanages. All these cover over 75,000 poor and needy children who are given standard quality education and many other facilities of life. (In one of such tribal schools, last year, the Board result was 100 per cent and the highest marks a student got was 93 per cent. Recently I met a smart student of second year MBBS. To my joy, he was from one of VHP’s orphanages.)

VHP has health projects: 34 hospitals, 99 dispensaries, 19 mobile dispensaries, 28 ambulances, 192 first-aid centres, four medicine collection centres, 13 goumutra therapy centres and many such related centres. Total patients covered under these are annually 2,80,000.

Just recently in Pune a project Niramaya has covered 68 slums and 18 construction sites for vaccination of children there in age group of one day to six years. Total 12,025 children are vaccinated and one lakh doses were given. They have a mobile van too so that the poor children do not need to come for it—Niramaya goes where they are.

Not just education or health, some sadhu-sants are doing what ideally falls under the purview of the governments in power only. In Andhra Pradesh, Ananthpur District, 700 villages have been supplied clean drinking water through modern pipes worth Rs 350 crore. Not by any government department, but by Sri Sathya Sai Baba. And it’s free!

Arya Samaj has 700 schools covering 15,00,000 students and 80 colleges covering 16,800 students.

Swaminarayan Gurukul schools are 142 covering 12,000 students, 160 high schools with 1,20,000 students and 25 colleges.

Sadhvi Ritambharaji runs an orphanage for little girls at Vrindavan, which has at this moment 350 little girls taking modern education. They would have been wandering on streets becoming victims of heinous crimes but now they have bright dreams of future in their eyes.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji’s developmental work covers at least 30,000 villages where natural agricultural projects and organic farming are done, in which only in Karnataka 2000 youth are engaged full time and at all-India level at least 20,000 youth look after this. He also has established a programme for awareness about and help to AIDS patients all India. Recently, there was a well-attended caucus of Hindu leaders organised for this and many of us pledged our active support to it.

Hunger is the number one killer in the world and in India. VHP, to fight this is doing a project “Ek Mutthi Anaj”, where the workers of various industries who have lost jobs due to recent economic slowdown are provided with 15 kilos of foodgrains each for their families and the target is to cover at least 12,00,000 families with this anna daan. So far we have covered 15,000+ families. It also has a food bank where housewives take out one mutthi anaj everyday, which is collected by volunteers for distribution systematically. That no family has to resort to begging for the food is the most important part in it. Ek Mutthi Anaj programme goes to their houses and respectfully distributes foodgrains to them.

Sri Sathya Sai Baba also has a high-tech heart hospital where they target to do 1,25,000 heart surgeries. About 25,000 surgeries have already been done at a zero cost.

Not just socio-developmental projects but VHP is also doing a lot in the field of art and culture. In Pune, a music album made waves recently. Songs sung by Pandit Jitendra Abhisheki’s son Shounak, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi’s shishya Upendra Bhatt and Shri Vasantrao Deshpande’s grandson Rahul Deshpande made this album a great hit and it was done by VHP. The artists gave programmes for VHP and then the album was made, which is now available on the stands. Art is an important part of Hindu Dharma and it is our duty to preserve our fine arts.

This effort was also made in the field of children’s paintings. In tribal schools, a painting competition was organised, which got tremendous response. Twelve paintings were awarded and brought to people as greeting cards. All participants got a certificate each.

At Dharmasthal near Mangalore, Manjunath Devasthana is working on a unique project of innovative natural agri-systems in 500 villages. They also have a legally-accepted local justice system.

Self-reliance projects by us are helping youth and women in many villages with 94 sewing centres, 63 computer training centres, 306 women’s self-help groups with micro credit and savings facility, two mechanical training centres, one honey-bee centre, 16 household industry centres, 112 libraries—the list is long and the beneficiaries are in millions.

Maa Amritanandamayiji has been running a multi-specialty hospital in Kochi, which serves around 48,000 patients annually, has 38 hi-tech departments and 1,650 beds—the largest in Asia

All this is not given here to brag at all, like many governments do—distribute some school bags and brag about it as if they have done a global revolution in girls’ education or run few ambulances and brag about saving every life on the earth. No. The objective of giving the above details is only to draw the attention of all the well-meaning Hindus to the reality that Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants are engaged in a lot of socio-developmental works for Hindus. This is just a glimpse of it. I apologise to many other Hindu organisation and to all sadhu-sants and many Hindu researchers who have been doing mountains of such socio-developmental works for years. But due to limited space and lack of detailed info, I could not mention them here.

From education to health care, from micro credit to self-reliance, from agriculture to clean drinking water supply, from vocational training to free food supply and from child care to women’s welfare—Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants are busy doing what is truly termed as socio-developmental work with utmost dedication. The only part of development, which they are not able to do, is infrastructure development, which obviously governments in power are authorised to do as yet. As it is the responsibility of Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants (and all Hindus) to protect the heritage, monuments, culture and people of Hindu dharma, this responsibility of Hindu socio-developmental work is being perfectly taken up by the Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants, in spite of their limited resources and political pressures.

The happiest part of this socio-developmental work is that it is a great joy to see the tribal, poor children’s eyes shining bright when they study and go ahead in life, to see the poor women happily telling their friends as to how they got their daughters married with their own income, to see a terminally ill, poor old man getting cured, free of cost and walking on his own feet.

The saddest part is that the one-sided media and a few vested interests groups purposely ignore/ demean such a good work and focus on tarnishing the image of Hindu organisations and sadhu-sants with some one-off incidents and paint them (and Hindutva) as anti-development and outdated. The saddest part is also the limited financial and other resources with Hindu organisations. But the Hindu dreams are brighter and the determination to realise them is much more greater.

Organiser Reference

Song Of The Twin Seekers

Song Of The Twin Seekers
Rosemary Sorensen | June 19, 2009
Article from: The Australian

BEING looked at is so much part of the experience of identical twins, according to Moyia O’Brien, that putting the story of her and her sister on to the stage is perfectly natural.

Moyia and Dorothy are the subject of a new musical theatre production, written and directed by Sue Rider. A “good local story”, Rider says, The Pink Twins is also a production that lets us look at the phenomenon of twinning, not just as the topic of the play but also literally. Two sets of twins will perform in the show starting in Brisbane next month: identical twin actors Anni and Maude Davey, and twin singer-musicians, Heather and Marjorie Michael.

It’s a situation that has composer John Rodgers salivating. He has long been fascinated by the way twins’ voices mimic and diverge from each other, and Rider’s Pink Twins has given him a rare opportunity to work that into his music.

“The notes start together, then veer out in a pattern,” is how Rider describes it. “It’s very bent, and that’s just what twins are like, a bit bent.”

Her twins, the O’Brien sisters, were eccentric in a genteel way, their nickname deriving from their obsession with the colour pink. But there is so much more to the slightly sweet and sanitised version which the women themselves put about and carefully exploited until Dorothy’s death in 2004.

It was precisely hearing the news of Dorothy’s death that galvanised Rider into action on her play. Aware of their story, and of the women themselves when they used to come occasionally to see plays at La Boite Theatre, where she was artistic director in the 1990s, Rider realised the jumping-off point for the play she had vaguely thought about writing for many years would now have to be the question: what happens to the twin left behind when the other dies?

“It’s about their life and work,” Rider says, “and the idea of interdependence, this same-but-different thing. Their story was like a continuing line of surprises, from their birth on, and they continue to do things to surprise.”

The O’Briens were born in Toowoomba and they have an older sister who still lives there. Their father died when they were three, as a consequence of being gassed in the trenches in World War I, according to the twins. The first surprise was their arrival, as the doctor had not detected two heartbeats, so only one baby was expected.

Their mother plays an enormous role, in the story as told by the twins and in Rider’s musical. As we move through their childhood years, when they would pinch flowers from gardens, horses from paddocks and even little boys from off the street to bring home and present to their loving mother – to make her as happy as they believed she deserved to be – we sense an intensity in their mother that is almost “bent” itself, to use the word in the way Rider uses it to describe twins. When a path is followed with such conviction and strength of purpose, it can seem, to a dawdling onlooker, to curve away from the simple and ordinary.

It was, in fact, the twins’ mother who brought them, quite late in their lives, to their guru, the controversial Indian spiritual leader, Sathya Sai Baba. That connection led to an ugly incident this year at the Sunshine Welfare and Remedial Association, which the twins set up in 1975. SWARA, the acronym by which the organisation has been known from the outset, is a place where intellectually disabled people, those deemed unfit by government agencies for rehabilitation into the workforce, are given “understanding, care and love”, with daily schedules of activities designed “for personal growth”.

According to the twins’ story as told to Rider, SWARA was set up a few years before their mother, still living in Toowoomba, asked them to accompany her to a film about Sathya Sai Baba. All three were smitten with the guru’s powerful presence and rhetoric. He embodied their beliefs about love as an invincible fount of happiness.

Swara is also the name of an Indian musical scale. Sai Baba’s group is one of those whose devotees wear sunshine colours, across the range from orange to red or pink. The sisters felt these coincidences were signs of the confluence of their work with that of their guru. But a previous manager of SWARA went public with claims that such signs were proof the Pink Twins were running a dangerous cult centre.

The storm, which included protests and finger-pointing aimed at uncovering the twins’ connection with their Indian guru, passed (Ref), Rider says, and SWARA is back to running as it has for more than 30 years.

Moyia was recognised last year by the Queensland State Government with a lifetime achievement award for her work in disability services (Ref). Being the focus of a television expose-style current affairs program appeared not to faze her: she told an interviewer at the time the suggestions were rubbish. “SWARA is not a cult, it’s a service organisation.”

Rider’s play picks up, and delicately handles this intensely personal but fascinating side to the twins’ experience, suggesting this was a kind of secret part of their lives. They chose not to share it because they must have known it could be misunderstood. In her 60s, Dorothy, the twin who had always been the blue one, ever since her parents dressed her thus to distinguish her from her pink sister Moyia, decided to swing across to the pink side. The decision may have been influenced by their increasing interest in the spirituality of Sathya Sai Baba.

Moyia, now 85, puts the story more simply. Wearing pink was simply something they liked to do. Towards the end of Dorothy’s life they became a kind of local oddity, admired but smiled at, the couple of elderly twins who dressed in pink, furnished their house in pink and drove about in a pink car.

“The pink thing marked them out,” Rider says. “They became aware of the advantage of it, when, as funds for their centre became scarce, they needed the promotion, and they were quite canny really, at playing the game, but in a different way from everyone else.”

When her final illness made it clear she was dying, Dorothy was taken to India by Moyia, to spend her last days near their guru. She was cremated and her ashes scattered in the Ganges. It would take a very different work of art to interrogate how this sits alongside the family’s strong Catholicism, and their “spiritual journey” which they also described in an autobiography, written in 1999, called The Touch of the Lord.

Rider says Moyia, who knows the theatre production is a fictional development of their lives, is “overwhelmed with excitement” about this project. Both women were pioneers in occupational therapy, moving to Sydney when they were young women to train in the first courses of a branch of medicine they could see would become important.

When they moved back to Brisbane Dorothy went to work at the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre, Moyia at a hospital and then at the Queensland Spastic Centre. Their determination to set up SWARA, how they managed first to secure, then gradually improve, the facilities, and how their city-edge premises became the subject of huge frustration and eventual compromise for a string of state governments, is all part of Rider’s storytelling in The Pink Twins.

But she uses the facts as the mere bones. Around the real lives, she has spun a weave of ideas and themes: about interdependence, about faith and transformation and, most excitingly, about “appreciating difference”.

Early on, Rider says, she had the thought, half-formed, that her music theatre piece would have to involve the people who attend SWARA.

“The people the twins worked with as occupational therapists were, like them, seen as different from the rest of the community, but at SWARA they were exploring what is the same about them or, on the other hand, getting them to appreciate their own different-ness.

As twins, Moyia and Dorothy were always stared at. They couldn’t not be the centre of attention, and a lot of the people they worked with are in the same position. So they learned to accept that, and to understand that’s who they are.”

Rider’s first thought was to use footage from SWARA, particularly of the group singing, which is a big part of their daily schedule, but eventually she realised they needed to become part of the show.

“There’s a really moving song they sing,” Rider says, “which is about how I love myself the way I am, there’s nothing I need to change. I realised it would be dishonest, in a play that is about embracing the work they do at SWARA, not to have the people from the centre there. It would be sanitising it.”

Getting The Pink Twins to stage has been an immense labour of love for Rider, who has had to be producer and director. The play is being presented by Queensland Performing Arts Centre as part of the Queensland Music Festival, which provided good foundation support, but Rider was still following up on various small grant applications right up to the last minute.

In keeping with the “spirit of transformation” theme which threads through the work, she headed into the rehearsal room this week with an open mind as to how her two sets of twins would transform the script she has worked so hard, over several years, to get to its final draft.

“A long time ago, when I started out as a director,” Rider says, “I thought I had to plan everything, to tell everyone exactly what to do. Thank God I’ve relaxed over the years. The collaborative meeting of minds in the rehearsal room is so exciting.”

The Pink Twins, presented by QPAC and the Queensland Music Festival, is at the Cremorne Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane, July 22 to August 1.

The Australian Reference

It’s World Blood Donors Day on Sunday

It’s World Blood Donors Day on Sunday
Mansi Lavsi / DNASunday, June 14, 2009 13:45 IST

Ahmedabad: On the occasion of World Blood Donors’ Day, a number of programmes and drives will be held across the city on Sunday.

The Prathama Blood Centre has organised events across the city, including blood donation drives and vaccination programmes to be conducted at five venues — Dev Arc Mall, 10 Acre City Mall, Himalaya Mall, Prathama In-House and the Jain Digambar Samaj at Ghatlodia.

The events scheduled on Sunday include the launch of hepatitis-B vaccination and ‘beat anaemia’ programmes for regular blood donors. The Centre has organised a drawing competition for children on the theme of voluntary blood donation and a singing competition for the relatives of blood donors. There will be a talent show for the latter and a lucky draw will be held for regular blood donors.

Hepatitis-B vaccines will be administered and iron tablets will be distributed on Sunday as part of the launch of the two aforementioned programmes for the safety and health of blood donors. These will be conducted at the Prathama In-House.

The global theme for this World Blood Donor Day lays renewed emphasis on improving the safety and sufficiency of blood supplies through the achievement of 100 per cent voluntary non-remunerated donation of blood and blood components. Ahmedabad ranks first in the country among cities with the highest number of blood donors.

The Sri Sathya Sai Baba Seva organisation (founded by Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba), which holds around 100 camps every year in collaboration with Red Cross, will conduct drives at Azad Society, Vejalpur and Maninagar on Sunday. “World Blood Donors’ Day is of not much significance to us as we conduct camps on a weekly basis and encourage people to join the noble cause of donating blood,” a member of the organisation said.

DNA India Reference

Sathya Sai Baba Medical Institutions For Blood Drives

World Class Healthcare Absolutely Free

World Class Healthcare Absolutely Free
June 7th, 2009 – 1:00 pm ICT by IANS
By K. Jayaraman

Bangalore, June 7 (IANS) A super-speciality hospital here has redefined the approach to healthcare by providing world class treatment completely free.

Patients referred to Sri Satya Sai Institute for Higher Medical Sciences hospital do not have to come in with a credit card or a cheque book.

“Here we don’t charge for anything, whether it is a heart bypass, lung operation, or a brain surgery,” says Satyaranjandas Hegde, a top neurosurgeon and director of the 330-bed hospital. “In fact, we have no cashier or a billing section.”

Treatments, tests, medicines, food and hospital stay are all free, “and if some tests cannot be done here, we get them done outside at our cost,” says Hegde.

On an average day, surgeons here perform six neuro and seven heart surgeries. Together with laboratory tests, X-ray scans and outpatient procedures these are worth over Rs.5 million ($100,000) in commercial terms but done free, says Hegde, who quit his high paying job in another hospital because he did not like the “commercial culture” there.

He was not the only one to make the switch. Kolli Challam, head of anesthesia and critical care, left his flourishing practice in Abu Dhabi two years ago to join Hegde’s team.

Government dispensaries do offer free treatment for minor ailments but tertiary care always involves money, says Hegde. “It is a disaster for a poor family if one of its members requires brain or heart surgery. It means selling family jewels to meet hospital costs or just pray to god and hope for the best.”

For thousands of Indians – as well as patients from neighboring Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka – their god comes in the shape of the Sai hospital. Set up in 2001, it is run by a medical trust created by Sri Sathya Sai Baba, a spiritual leader with a global following.

Built with trust funds, the Rs.200 million that the hospital spends annually on salaries, medicine, equipment and maintenance come entirely from unsolicited donations from his devotees.

“The state government gave us land and the power supply for hospital is free,” Hegde said. “Companies give us medical equipments at discount and one computer firm installed Rs.10 million ($20,000)-worth hospital software at no cost.”

The hospital does not advertise to fill non-clinical positions. Skilled workers queue up to volunteer their services because of their faith in Sathya Sai Baba.

Those who man the gates, serve at the reception and counsel patients are all volunteers inspired by Baba’s philosophy that “seva,” or selfless service, is service to god. People wanting to offer ’seva’ are so many that there is a waiting list for volunteers, says Hegde. “We keep rotating them to give everyone a chance.”

Sai hospital is actually known as a “temple of healing” as it provides medicare in a spiritual ambiance devoid of commercialism, its employees say. “I can see god’s mission being carried out here,” said former president of India A.P.J. Abdul Kalam during a visit to the hospital in 2006. “The doctors and staff looked to me as angels.”

Free service does not mean compromising on quality or standards, Hegde points out. “Ours is as well equipped as, or better equipped than, corporate hospitals.”

The hospital, with highly qualified physicians and surgeons, attracts dozens of specialists from India and abroad because they are either devotees of Sathya Sai Baba or “infected by the desire to do seva”, says Hegde.

Sivaraman Yegyaraman, a practising cardiac electro physiologist in Stratford, New Jersey, is one such specialist who comes to Sai hospital twice a year at his own expense. “I had always wanted to place my medical training at the service of the under-privileged and Sai hospital presented me the opportunity,” he told IANS during his recent visit.

Another regular visitor, Ravindra Goyal, chairman of neurosciences at McLaren Regional Medical Center in Flint, Michigan, is a Sathya Sai Baba devotee. “Each trip to this facility charges and motivates me to apply the principle of ’selfless service’ to my work back in the US on my return,” he said.

What makes the Sai hospital unique? It is not just the state-of-the-art technology or high quality service but the spiritual ambiance pervading through the campus, says hospital manager Sri Krishna.

“It actually makes me feel I am entering a temple and not a hospital,” said Akella Chendrasekhar, medical director of Wyckoff Medical Center in New York. He was one of three specialists who came from the US spending their own money to conduct a workshop on ‘critical care medicine’ at the Sai hospital last week.

By redefining medical care Sai hospital has clearly shown it is certainly possible to provide the best treatment absolutely free, says Hegde. “There is no reason why this model cannot be replicated in other places in India and even abroad.”

The Indian Reference