1940 - The year of Avatar’s declaration
When the Divine comes down as Avatar―whether it be as Rama or as Krishna, Matsya (fish), Varaha (boar) or Vamana (dwarf―it is only for one purpose. You recognise only the momentary results of the advent. But you should note that the Divine comes as Avatar only to teach mankind the truth about love….. Love alone is the fruit of love. Love is its own witness. There is no trace of self-interest in it. Because love exists for its own sake, it has no fear. It is to teach humanity the way of love that Avatars come in the world. The world displays the diversity that has emanated from the One. The Divine demonstrates the unity that subsumes the diversity. Recognition of this unity in diversity can be learnt only from the Divine.
Sri Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 21 Ch. 25, September 3, 1988
The year 1940 was indeed a momentous one when Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed His Divinity and set the stage for the work that would ensue. The Sri Sathya Sai International Organisation observes October 20th each year as the Avatar Declaration Day, to remember, reflect and assimilate the teachings of Sri Sathya Sai Baba which in essence is to “Love All, Serve All”. Serve the Planet, an initiative by Sri Sathya Sai Young Adults in honour of Avatar Declaration Day aims to facilitate this experience of “Love All, Serve All” and the underlying unity in diversity.
I am Sai Baba
The following is excerpted from Sathyam Sivam Sundaram, Volume One, the biography of Swami written by the late Prof. N. Kasturi, an exemplary and long-time devotee.
On the twenty-third of May, 1940, the fourteen year old Sathya rose from bed as usual, but soon afterwards called the members of the household round him and presented them with sugar-candy and flowers taken from "nowhere." At this the neighbors rushed in. He gave each a ball of rice cooked in milk, also flowers and sugar-candy, all manifested by a mere wave of the hand. Sathya seemed to be in such a very jovial state that Venkapa Raju was sent for to see him in this welcome happy mood. Venkapa Raju rushed in and had to squeeze his way through the crowd. The people asked him to wash his feet, hands, and face before approaching the Giver of Boons. This incensed Venkapa Raju. He was not impressed at all, thinking it was a trick and that Sathya was hiding things somewhere and producing them by sleight of hand. At least that was what he confessed to the author many years later. He wished that this confusing chapter in their lives be closed before it developed into a tragedy. So he laughed a bitter laugh and accosted the boy within everyone's hearing, "This is getting too much; it must be stopped." Arming himself with a stick, he moved a step nearer and threatened to beat it out of him. "Are you a God, or a ghost, or a mad- cap? Tell me!" he shouted. Promptly came the answer, the Announcement that had been held back so long, "I am Sai Baba."
Further argument became impossible; Venkapa Raju was stunned into silence; the stick fell from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya, trying to grasp the implication of that Announcement, "I am Sai Baba." But Sathya continued, "I belong to Apastamba Sutra, the school of Sage Apastamba and am of the Spiritual Lineage of Bharadwaja; I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure." He repeated the two names again and again that afternoon. Brother Seshama went near him and asked, "What do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only said, "Your Venkavadhootha prayed that I be born in your family; so I came."
Who was this Venkavadhootha? When Seshama was asked who he was, he told of a tradition in the family that a sage called Venkavadhootha, who was looked upon as a Guru by the people in hundreds of villages around, had been born in the family years ago.
The villagers heard the name "Sai Baba" with fear and amazement. When they made inquiries, they came to know that a certain officer who was an ardent worshipper of the Muslim recluse, Sai Baba of Shirdi, had come to Penukonda sometime ago. So they proposed that Sathya be taken to him, for he was reputed to be well-versed in the lore of Sai Baba of Shirdi. He must know what Sathya was suffering from and would suggest a way out. He condescended to see the boy but was in no mood to examine his history. He pronounced it as a clear case of mental derangement and advised them to remove Sathya to an institution. Sathya interposed and said, "Yes, it is mental derangement, but whose? You are but a blind servant. You cannot recognize the very Sai whom you are worshipping!" So saying, He took from "nowhere" hands full of Vibhuti, the Sacred Ash, and scattered it in all directions in the room where they were.
The father felt that Sai Baba was speaking through the boy, and asked, "What are we to do with you?" Sathya answered promptly, "Worship Me! When? Every Thursday! Keep your minds and houses pure."
Later, on one Thursday, someone challenged Sathya, asking Him, "if you are Sai Baba, show us some proof now!" They asked in the same spirit that the rustics question the priest of the village temple when he dances in ecstasy while apparently possessed. Baba replied, "Yes, I shall." Then everyone came nearer. "Place in My hands those jasmine flowers," He commanded. It was done. With a quick gesture He threw them on the floor and said, "Look." They saw that the flowers had formed while falling the Telugu letters, "S A I B A B A."
I am no longer your Sathya… I am Sai.
On the twentieth day of October, 1940, the day after they all returned from Hampi by a special bus, Sathya started for school as usual. The Excise Inspector of the place, Sri Anjaneyulu, who was very much attached to the young Baba, accompanied Him as far as the school gate and reluctantly went home. He seemed to see a superb halo around the face of Baba that day, and he could not take his eyes away from that enchantment. Within a few minutes Baba also turned back to the house. Standing on the outer doorstep, He cast aside the books He was carrying and called out, "I am no longer your Sathya. I am Sai." The sister-in-law came from the kitchen and peeped out; she was almost blinded by the splendor of the halo which she saw around Sai Baba's Head! She closed her eyes and shrieked. Baba addressed her, "I am going. I don't belong to you; Maya (illusion) has gone; My devotees are calling Me; I have My Work. I cannot stay any longer." So saying, He turned and left in spite of her pleadings. The brother hurried home on hearing of this, but Sai Baba only told him, "Give up all your efforts to 'cure' Me. I am Sai. I do not consider Myself related to you." Neighbor Sri Narayana Sastri heard the noise; he listened and realized that it was something serious. He ran in. Seeing the splendor of the halo, he fell at Sai Baba's Feet. He too heard the historic declaration: "Maya has left; I am going; My Work is waiting."
He moved out into the garden of Sri Anjaneyulu's bungalow and sat on a rock in the midst of the trees. People came into the garden from all directions bringing flowers and fruits. The grove resounded to the voices of hundreds, singing in chorus the lines that Sri Sathya Sai taught them. The first prayer that He taught them that day was, as many still remember:
Manasa bhajare gurucharanam; dusthara bhava saagara tharanam.
Meditate in thy mind on the Feet of the Guru. This can take you across the difficult sea of existence in birth after birth.
Three days passed thus in that garden, three days of worship. A photographer came who wanted Sai Baba to remove a crude stone that was right in front of Him, but Baba did not pay heed to that prayer. The photographer took the picture nevertheless, and lo, the stone had become an image of Sai Baba of Shirdi! But only in the photograph, not for all the people who had assembled there.
A few days later Sai Baba left Uravakonda. The parents were able to persuade Him to make His way to Puttaparthi by assuring Him that they would henceforth abstain from ridiculing Him or disturbing His task of meeting devotees. Sri Anjaneyulu worshipped His Feet. The townsmen arranged a procession to the very boundary. Lamps were waved in reverence, and music was sung at many places enroute.
Kasturi, N. (n.d.). Sathyam Sivam Sundaram, Volume One. SSSST Publications Division.