Taste of Divinity
Crores (ten millions) of people have had darshan of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Several other millions yearn to see Him. Thousands have been blessed with interviews. I happen to be one who has had, through Baba's grace, the joy of His darshan (vision), sparsan (touch), and sambhashan (discussion). When one has any of these experiences, one gets a durable sense of satisfaction. The joy is very often an inexpressible feeling of euphoria, or a calm assurance stilling the agitated mind.
Sri Baba says, Do not try to analyze Me or understand Me. Merely love Me, for that will give you a taste of My Divinity. But many of us wonder what is inside Baba's enigmatic reservoir of Divinity. Baba is in the form of a human being and yet owns breath-taking miraculous powers.
~~In Islam, Allah (universal God) is uncreated, has neither beginning nor end, and cannot be destroyed. It was a hair-raising experience for me to hear Bhagavan Baba mention during His 1978 birthday discourse: No one in the world has been able to see Me. They are seeing everything, and they are trying to understand everything, but they are not making the slightest attempt to understand what Divinity is, which is present within them. When we speak of God we should know that God has no birth. Birth is only for the body. A body that is born has to die, but God is above birth and death. He has no beginning, no middle, and no end. He is not born, nor can he be destroyed. He is present everywhere in the form of Atma (the Indwelling Divinity).
Religion reunites man with his source, and creates harmony in society. When you hear Baba affirm the invincibility of the Atma and its ever-present nature, you gain assurance that man can directly experience the infinity of the Creator, who is omnipresent. Sai's words also affirm the words of Jesus, when He said, "The supreme law of love supersedes all other laws that are bound by time, space, and other man-made barriers." Muslims hold that Allah is most beneficent, merciful, and forgiving. Contact with Sri Baba reconfirms the reality of God's boundless love, care, and concern for human beings.
During my first meeting with Sri Baba at Dharmakshetram, Bombay, in 1976, I became conscious of His concern for the needy and the poor. In a group interview, a renowned music director was also present. Swami asked him where he was staying, and he replied that he had a suite in a five-star hotel. When Swami asked how much he paid for the room, he answered, "Four hundred rupees a day." Swami exclaimed, Four hundred rupees a day! The embarrassed music director clarified that he did not pay, but a film producer was footing the bill. It does not matter who pays, added Swami. Then He turned to Mr. Indulal Shah and inquired, How many chapatis (an Indian bread) can you get for four hundred rupees? Mr. Shah replied, "Twelve hundred chapatis, Swami." Baba looked at the musician and quipped, Four hundred poor people could eat three chapatis each. He then advised the man not to be extravagant. This was not a speech for public consumption but advice given in a group interview.
Accent on Seva (Selfless Service)
When a devastating cyclone and tsunami struck coastal Andhra Pradesh in November, 1977, over 25,000 devotees were at Prasanthi Nilayam for Baba's 52nd birthday. Swami converted His birthday discourse to an appeal to devotees to go to the relief of the victims and to help the desolate and uprooted. He asked the seva dal (volunteer workers) to proceed forthwith to the coastal areas and to render rehabilitation work along with the doctors. This author was a witness to the instant response of the devotees assembled in the Poornachandra hall. Fewer than five minutes after His appeal, devotees stood up making on-the-spot announcements of their willingness to help victims of the cyclone.
Once, I had the blissful privilege of traveling with Swami from Ooty to Bangalore. Seated in the front of the vehicle, I had a chance to ask some personal questions during the leisurely five-hour journey. One of the observances in Sai gatherings is that men and women sit separately, whether for darshan, personal interviews, or prayers. Out of curiosity, I asked Swami why men and women are made to sit separately. Muslims also observe a separation of men and women, although it has been distorted and carried to extremes by fanatics. Swami replied, In the Vedic period too, men and women sat separately for prayers; when you mix men and women indiscriminately, there will be not prayers but mere hysteria, and a lack of meditative concentration.
How the Lord Responds
During the same car journey, I asked an innocent question: "Swami, suppose a devotee sends a letter or telegram to You at Your Bangalore address, and before it reaches You, You leave for Ooty, Bombay, or any other place. Would the letter be redirected to You if it were marked Urgent7." He said: The telegram and letters are mere carbon copies. If the thought in these is sincere and need-based, the letter or wire need not be delivered to Me. The moment the thought is shaped in the devotee's mind, it reaches Me, and the necessary beneficial guidance is transmitted.
A 55-year-old friend of mine who is a college principal—once a pronounced leftist—accompanied me to Puttaparthi for Swami's darshan. After the interview, he said that he "experienced the affection of his mother in Swami." A year after the interview, when I met him again, he confessed that he "continues to see the milk of human kindness and mercy in Swami, as experienced early in his life at the hands of his mother."
This author has been a witness to Baba blessing many Sikhs, Christians, Muslims, Parsees, and Buddhists, who fall at His feet and get up with radiant faces. Some Muslims come from such far away places as Libya, Iran, Lebanon, and Iraq to receive His blessings. Hundreds of Buddhists from Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and other countries visit and see in Him the reincarnation of Gautama Buddha. Parsees hear the words of Zarathustra, and Jews experience God's holy covenant with Moses when they meet Sai Baba. Many Christians from Europe, Australia, and the Americas have felt the Holy Spirit or presence of Christ in Sai Baba.
In the Koran, it is pointed out that "God does not discriminate between the original teachings of one religion and the other," (11:136) but merely confirms the purity of the earlier scriptures. Also, the essence of the original teachings of all religions is the same, subject only to adaptation to local culture, geography, and other environmental factors. Sri Sathya Sai Baba emphasizes that the Vedas and Puranas do not belong to India, or to any country, or even to any one religion. They are for all mankind as the Voice of God.
No Substitute for Action
In March, 1978, Swami convened a meeting of college principals in Karnataka to consider the need for imparting spiritual education and moral values to students. The meeting was attended by the principals of religious denominational colleges representing the Hindu, Christian, and Muslim faiths. One of the attending principals was a learned traditional Muslim scholar, Mir Jaffer Ali of Al-Amin college. Bangalore. As I happen to be a Muslim devotee of Baba, he told me that although he had spent nearly a lifetime of 40 years trying to improve the educational lot and character of Muslim students, he was impressed beyond belief by Baba's capacity to instill humility, implicit obedience, and disciplined conduct among young men who came from different home backgrounds.
During the lunch provided to the conference participants, the students of the Sri Sathya Sai College, who belonged to different strata of society from all over India, served the food plates, and later removed and washed the plates, in place of the waiters and attendants that one might find in other college hostels.
Quite early in my relationship with Swami, I learned that devotion is no substitute for action. He has taught me the Sai credo of how to save yourself: It is not merely bhakti (devotion) that I want; I want action motivated by bhakti. This has added a new dimension to my work. Even before meeting Sai, I was used to long hours of hard work, leading to strain and exhaustion, as the work was not performed with devotion. Today, though the pace of work remains uncurbed, the attitude toward work and especially toward the result of effort has changed. Swami counsels: Throw off your present responsibilities and take up this new responsibility (of action motivated by devotion as the way) to save yourself; then you will see the wonder. Even the [other] responsibilities will be discharged smoothly and to your satisfaction."
Path of Pure Love
Baba reflects the viewpoint that the man who remains attached to God while living and working in the world is a true devotee. Very often religions and holy men are derided for developing what Karl Marx called the "opiate state of mind" that lets man lose control over his actions. But such an attitude should be rightly called escapism and not devotion. Thousands of selfless dedicated workers of the Sri Sathya Sai Seva Dal have proved over the past thirty years that it is possible for human beings to work selflessly and without thinking of rewards, under the guidance of a Divine force.
Through slow, steady, and guarded steps, Bhagawan Baba transforms His devotees, and gradually helps to increase their understanding of Himself and their own selves. His Divine path gives us a sure foothold. Through the byways and meanderings on the high road to Divinity, only the steadfast and persevering devotee reaches the highway to Swami's perennial grace.
None can fathom His myriad facets. Each new experience of a devout heart confirms the inscrutable mystery of the Divine Master's magnanimity, which recharges our life-force for service to mankind. In Baba's path, there is no chance of failure. It is a path in which every milestone is a monument of victory, for it is the path of pure love.
—Prof. S. Bashiruddin
Sanathana Sarathi, May 1987