“Each should practice his own religion sincerely. A Christian should be a good Christian. A Hindu should be a good Hindu. A Muslim should be a good Muslim. Let each one be a true practitioner of his religion. No one should criticise or hate another’s religion. Muslims should not hate Hindus and Hindus should not hate Muslims. ‘All are one. Be alike to everyone,’ declared Jesus. The one God is common in all.”
Sathya Sai Baba, 14th April 1996
I often get asked the question from friends as a practising Christian, “How do you reconcile yourself with being a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba? Is there a conflict of interest?” I must say, I have to be very careful as to whom I divulge my love of all things Sai as many Christians are sensitive to having another form for worship other than Jesus. But to a Christian, it can be confusing because a lot of the ritual, language, dress and philosophy in the Sathya Sai Organisation seems Hindu-based. Well, the answer is simple. I explain that the Sathya Sai Organisation is a Multi-faith Organisation worldwide, embracing aspects of ALL faiths in equal measure. We celebrate Christmas, Easter and other Christian festivals throughout the year alongside other faiths and festivals with equal ardour.
I grew up in Australia at a time of social revolution. The 60’s and 70’s were a time when there was rebellion in church and state. There was the peace movement which I embraced by putting its symbol everywhere on my school items. Women were finding a voice and strove to have equal participation in decision making not just in politics, but in the hierarchy of church; we were a very male-dominated society and church was very much dominated by that same dogma of the ego state with little room for change to accommodate the female point of view let alone an openness to embrace other faiths within the doctrinal viewpoint of church.
But of course, this has not always been so for me. When I was a child at Primary School, I came home fully confused with my situation, namely, I did not know to which faith I belonged. School tended to classify us into categories, classes and religious groups. We were to have religious instruction and I had to find out where I fitted in as it seemed important to me on some indefinable level despite my innate sense of openness to discovering other faiths. Neither of my parents disclosed our religion when I was young, so I was left feeling humiliated, very isolated and alone as the other children marched confidently off into their respective groups without me.
Ashamed and confused, I came home and asked my mother what religion we are: “We’re Anglican!” she stated emphatically. I enquired further and as was her usual habit, she became frustrated by my constant inquiry, so I gave up. In the greater scheme of things now, it really doesn’t matter. I had a deep instinct to be true to myself, to some mystery I couldn’t quite define as there were no words to express it. I was on a deep faith journey but didn’t know it. I had made promises to a ‘Being’ in my childish way, but I really didn’t know anything about a God or Jesus. Just this ‘friend’ to whom I could talk to in my head in any given situation.
But then many years later, there was a defining moment that placed me on an even greater journey toward where I am now situated with my inner Self. My unfolding awareness of course, has grown considerably since then, but only because of one event: hearing the lilt of Sathya Sai Baba’s name. What a liberating experience that was for a child of the 60’s! I became so hungry to understand this phenomenon that my old self became unrecognisable. It was faith-freedom and expression deep within, in the extreme. Consolidating that has been a life’s work of devotion to Sai and my
church faith going hand-in-hand, complimenting each part of my, what would seem to others, divided faith.
Up until that time, I was confused in trying to understand my faith base, but I persisted. I strove to understand some of the inconsistencies between precept and practice in the church. No real gift of understanding from adults gave that sense of the mystery of faith like Sathya Sai Baba can. I found it out through journeying and fusing my experiences within and outside the church and redefined a new level in being a Christian and embracing the food for the soul from Sathya Sai Baba.
I continued to see inconsistencies which confused me along the way, so I drifted away from church, only going during Christmas and Easter. I had a considerable hiatus during my 20’s and 30’s, coming closer to my own deep instinctive faith within after hearing those magic words of Sai Baba’s name. It lilted like nothing else. I finally had found what I was looking for to concretise my faith with Jesus. Understanding the Gospels, the Old and New Testaments now makes more sense to me, inspired by the loving, timeless teachings of Sathya Sai Baba.
The fundamental tenet of my being resonated fully with the realisation of the true essence of who God really was and is, of who I really am and are, which has given me a voice louder than I could ever possibly imagine, as one on the spectrum of ignorance of God, I had made a quantum leap of faith as a Christian. It has given me a deeper faith than I could ever imagine. It has been a significant catalyst for my growing confidence, especially to stand in front of a congregation fully in the conviction of my faith in God as a Christian with Sai Baba always beside me fusing all the Christian prayers and readings into His mystical omnipresence.
I have now taken on the mantle of responsibility in the Anglican faith as an expression of my inner voice by being a Licensed Lay Minister, standing at the lectern and reading from the Bible with the love of the Human Values in my voice, conducting morning and evening prayers in the Cathedral and serving our Diocesan Bishop and Dean during holy ceremonies. How marvellous that is! Who would’ve thought it from that confused child so long ago? Christmas and Easter has so much more meaning by participation in the ceremonial side of church.
As we are gathered here for Easter, I wish to impart the importance of one of the most significant and poignant celebrations in the Christian calendar. To many, Easter is considered more important in a spiritual sense than Christmas. This year again, we enter it imposed with ritual and beginning with Lent, journey through our preparation of self in order to sanctify the depth in belief that Jesus was here to make the ultimate sacrifice for humanity. As a Christian, I feel it deeply. There is so much to prepare in the church for the ritual celebration and last year I was privileged to be able to devote the whole two weeks to it with our Bishop.
The compilation of all that Sathya Sai Baba is, has confirmed in me the most impossible reconciliation of faith I could never have expected, that of seeing beyond the restrictions of religion and faith and feeling the utmost peace – literally “the peace that passes all understanding.” My last sighting of Sathya Sai Baba was at the moment He left the Mandir waving to us all, a goodbye of such peace that still resonates for me today. I marvel at the conjecture of it all from my days drawing the symbols of peace on my school books. I had come full circle.
Seeing myself as a Christian is not hard now that I have the mystical embrace of Sai Baba – that wonderful fusion of all faiths coming together in song, sights and sounds of devotion.
With many blessings to you all for your own marvellous faith in our Lord at this Holy time of Easter.
Judie Rowling, Australia