Global Healthcare Mission of Sathya Sai Baba
“It is your good fortune that you have become doctors. Sacrifice is the hallmark of a true doctor…So, doctors should have the spirit of sacrifice. They should be compassionate and considerate towards the poor.”
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, 19th January 2001
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is the incarnation of infinite love and compassion, showering His blessings on all mankind. Baba has uplifted all humanity through His teachings of “Love All - Serve All”, by providing free education, free healthcare and free water supply.
Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba – Physician par Excellence
He has healed the body, mind and soul of millions of people around the world. He has cured people of physical and mental illnesses by His very look, touch, kind words and Vibhuti, as well as through dreams, medicines materialised by Him and by surgery. Mind-boggling and myriad are the ways He has healed the sick with love and compassion.
Swami can heal not only through dreams and in response to prayers but also by His touch. Once, in Prasanthi Nilayam, I was suffering from palpitations of the heart. Although I never mentioned this to Swami, He came and touched my chest – and lo and behold, my palpitations were gone forever! Such is the grace and compassion of Bhagawan.
He continues to perform these miracles even after His Mahasamadhi. In late April 2011, after the ceremony following Mahasamadhi, I was present in the Ashram when I experienced a severe pain in the abdomen. The pain was so debilitating that I could not rest in any position – lying down, standing or sitting. I went to the Super Speciality Hospital in Prasanthigram, where I was diagnosed to have acute cholecystitis – a gall bladder attack, confirmed by X-rays showing stones in the gall bladder. My blood test also showed abnormal liver enzymes. The normal treatment for this ailment involved surgery, but I prayed to Swami intensely for a cure, and the pain was soon gone. I then returned to the USA and follow-up tests showed there were no stones left in the gall bladder and my liver enzymes were normal. This was a mind-boggling miracle and shows that Swami is not only Physician par excellence, but He can also perform surgery without a knife! I am forever grateful to Swami for this incredible cure. This also shows that Swami was not only with us while He was in physical form but that He is still with us and will continue to be with us, guiding and protecting us.
Medical Institutions – The Crest Jewels of Sathya Sai Global Health Mission
Sri Sathya Sai Baba inaugurated the first General Hospital in Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh in 1956, providing free medical services to all – and in subsequent decades His Health Mission in India has grown. Now, secondary and tertiary healthcare is offered through two super speciality hospitals, (Sri Sathya Sai Institutes of Higher Medical Sciences) – one in Prasanthigram, Andhra Pradesh, and the other in Whitefield, Karnataka, which were inaugurated in 1991 and 2001, respectively. In these hospitals, state-of-the-art healthcare is provided free of cost to patients in several specialties, including cardiac surgery, neurosurgery and orthopaedic surgery. Sri Sathya Sai hospitals in India are the heart and soul of the Sathya Sai Global Health Mission. Beyond the hospitals, the Sathya Sai Global Health Mission has taken modern healthcare to the doorsteps of the poor through mobile hospitals started in 2005 – providing healthcare to millions of people irrespective of financial means, faith, nationality, race or religion. As a result, Sri Sathya Sai hospitals have become role models in nations and communities across the globe. They are considered temples of healing, where patients receive high quality healthcare along with Divine grace. This unique combination of Dava (medicine) and Duva (grace) accelerates the healing process, remarkably reducing the morbidity and mortality rates. The healthcare delivery system around the world under the aegis of the Sathya Sai Organisations has a common goal of providing free healthcare to the needy with love and compassion.
Bhagawan Baba has fundamentally redefined healthcare and issued a clarion call to all medical professionals to deliver ideal healthcare. His teachings provide the foundation of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare, which includes the following tenets:
- State-of-the-art healthcare must be universally accessible to all.
- Healthcare must be free of charge to the patient.
- Healthcare must be delivered with love and compassion.
- Healthcare must be comprehensive and treat body, mind and spirit.
- Healthcare must include disease-prevention and provide education for patients and physicians alike.
- Healthcare should be timely and prompt to alleviate the suffering of patients.
When I was a young boy, I considered joining the Indian Civil Service where I could serve the country and the community at large. However, my father guided me to study medicine, so that I could alleviate people’s suffering. I am deeply grateful for his advice and guidance. After I came to Swami, I learnt the principles of ideal healthcare and incorporated these principles in my practice. I was fortunate to be involved in the planning stages of the Super Speciality Hospital in Prasanthigram before it was inaugurated in 1991. I was amazed at the attention to detail given by Swami in choosing the equipment, personnel and design of the facility. It was also astounding that such a historic landmark – a major hospital providing tertiary medical services – could be completed from the ground up within only six months, and on the inauguration day itself, cardiac surgeries were performed at the hospital!
After the inauguration of the SSSIHMS at Prasanthigram, I had the blessed opportunity to accompany Swami on rounds to visit the patients. It was an inspiring experience to see how Swami blessed the patients and their families, giving them Prasadam and Vibhuti, and spoke to them sweetly – consoling and encouraging them and their families. On one occasion, a cardiologist was talking with a patient and his family before starting a procedure and focused on the various possible complications and the seriousness of the situation. Swami lovingly corrected the cardiologist, suggesting that he should always talk in a pleasing, positive manner, encouraging the patient. Swami said it was good to infuse the patient with enthusiasm and confidence, as the patient and his or her family place a lot of importance on the words, body language and attitude of the attending physician. While medicine is popularly considered to be more of a science, with emphasis on cutting-edge technologies, Swami emphasises that medicine is not only a science but an art – the art of healing, which has become neglected and forgotten.
Ten years after the opening of this hospital, Swami opened another super speciality hospital in 2001 in Whitefield that provides neurology, neurosurgery, cardiology and cardiac surgery, free of charge. I was also blessed and fortunate to be present at the inauguration of this temple of healing. Even though Baba by His very Sankalpa (Divine Will) and touch can cure people of incurable diseases such as paralysis, cancer and severe mental illnesses, He established these temples of healing to show us how modern healthcare can provide solace to patients when delivered with love and compassion, as one’s own kith and kin. Bhagawan emphasises that the spirit of sacrifice is the hallmark of a good doctor.
Medical Camps and Clinics all over the World
The Sathya Sai International Organisation (SSIO) conducts numerous medical camps and has established permanent medical clinics worldwide that provide Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare. In many parts of the world, there are people who cannot access healthcare due to socio-economic or logistical difficulties. To address this need, Sathya Sai mobile clinics provide free diagnostic and treatment services to indigent patients in remote rural areas in countries such as India, Indonesia, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Also, various preventive services such as immunisations, health counselling and advice on nutrition, exercise and general health are given for preventing illnesses and maintaining good health. Taking advantage of newer technological advances in computers, internet and communication, telehealth projects were started, providing free consultation and treatment to patients who cannot come to the doctor’s office or hospital for various reasons. This project is of particular importance for low-income patients who cannot afford treatment or travel expenses. It increases access to healthcare in remote areas. Telehealth is also used by the SSIO to educate medical professionals from around the globe, to bring their knowledge and skills up to date.
I was blessed to be part of the medical camps in the Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram from the time they started in 1984. These camps were held outside in open tents, with minimum resources and facilities. We could only screen for high blood pressure and blood sugar and provide basic first aid. It has been a beautiful experience to witness the significant growth of medical camps over the last three decades. Now, with the help of medical professionals volunteering from around the world, medical camps are held during both the Guru Purnima and Bhagawan’s Birthday celebrations each year, serving tens of thousands of patients annually. The available resources and facilities have also improved significantly, for, in addition to basic treatment, doctors now can also provide respiratory therapy, basic cardiac tests and administer intravenous fluids, if needed, and patients can be moved to hospitals by ambulances, when necessary. There is a well-stocked pharmacy and the doctors also dispense eye glasses and walking canes, as needed. This is a great service by the SSIO for the local devotees and overseas visitors who attend the major festivals in Prasanthi Nilayam.
The SSIO has also been steadfastly conducting medical camps, holding permanent medical clinics, blood donation drives and health-screening camps globally. Since 2005, over a million patients have been seen and treated by SSIO physicians and dentists. In 2017, a major blood donation drive in South Africa collected over 8,000 pints of blood from more than 10,000 donors. This was the highest collection of blood donations ever by a single organisation in that country. Similarly, in other countries such as Nepal, Malaysia and Mauritius, the SSIO has been recognised as the top blood donor organisation.
During the period April 2017 through March 2018, approximately 168,102 patients were served through 282 medical camps and 38 medical clinics conducted in 32 countries – 67,578 patients seen in medical and dental camps, and 100,524 patients seen in permanent medical clinics and mobile clinics, including special arrangements for specific surgeries in some countries. SSIO volunteers also organised 370 blood donation drives during this reporting period. In addition to organising medical camps, medical clinics and blood donation drives, other special services have included dentistry, ophthalmology (eye), specialised surgeries (cataract, fibroid and urological) in some countries, hospice care, bone marrow drives, and health education and awareness programmes.
During my visits to several countries to participate in the grand openings of various healthcare initiatives and facilities, I was struck by the indelible impact of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare upon the local population, who could not otherwise have afforded the superior healthcare, rendered with love and compassion. For example, on 20th January 2016, in Dulag, Philippines, the SSIO inaugurated a maternity clinic after the town was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan in the Tacloban area. This facility provides free pre-natal and post-natal maternity services to local indigent mothers, who previously delivered babies on the streets. This clinic dramatically improved healthcare for both the mother and the child. The local community, government and the Mayor were most appreciative of these services rendered by the SSIO. Most recently, in July 2018, the SSIO inaugurated a free clinic in Nairobi, Kenya, to provide medical and dental services to needy patients. Thus, the Sathya Sai Global Health Mission continues to expand in accordance with Bhagawan’s teachings. As Baba says, love should expand, including more and more people into its fold.
Once, after we presented reports from medical camps to Swami, He asked, “What about animals”? Taking a lead from this remark, pet clinics and veterinarian camps have been conducted by the SSIO globally. Swami has said that divinity exists in animals also and we should include them when we practise “Love All, Serve All”. Thus, dogs, cats and other animals have received loving medical care, grooming, immunisation and other services. In addition, SSIO members have initiated care projects for birds, donkeys, goats and other domestic animals.
The SSIO has also been active in providing timely healthcare following natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, fire, floods and hurricanes in serval countries including Sri Lanka, Haiti, Philippines, U.S.A., Ecuador, Fiji, Guatemala, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Italy, India and Nepal. The SSIO initiates medical services almost immediately following a natural disaster and continues to deliver loving, ideal healthcare for a long term. In Haiti, the SSIO began medical assistance within a week following the devastating 2010 earthquake and continued services well into 2011. The distinctive quality of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare was that it was not limited only to medical care. SSIO volunteers also helped to prevent diseases through cleaning streets, ensuring proper nutrition through Narayana Seva and building infrastructure for supplying potable water. These additional services continued well into 2015.
Medical Education – The Universal Teacher
In addition to the healthcare services provided to patients, the SSIO has been engaged in spreading Bhagawan’s message of Ideal Healthcare through publications and conferences. Swami has addressed healthcare professionals over the course of four decades through Discourses and private conversations and covered many topics such as hygiene, nutrition, preventive healthcare, taking care of mother and child both before and after childbirth, and developing a positive mental attitude. Of the many Discourses on healthcare given by Swami, 20 landmark Discourses on these topics were collected and published in 2009 with His blessings in a compendium titled “Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare”, which can be downloaded from the SSIO website: www.sathyasai.org.
The SSIO has conducted several medical conferences. An international medical conference was held in 2005 in Prasanthi Nilayam on the theme of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare. The event was attended by world-renowned physicians and healthcare specialists from many countries, who gathered to share their knowledge and observe how ideal healthcare should be practised by physicians. Subsequently, many other medical conferences in the fields of orthopaedics, dentistry, cardiology, cardiovascular surgery and critical care medicine were held to teach cutting-edge technology in these specialities and how to deliver healthcare with love and compassion.
Later, with the guidance and blessings of Swami, for the first time, an international medical conference was held outside India in Anaheim, California, USA, in 2009. Healthcare professionals from many countries converged to share about the work going on around the world in Sathya Sai ideal Healthcare, through medical camps, medical clinics, mobile clinics and healthcare screening programmes. Just before the conference started, a doctor not known to me was looking for a “Dr. Naren” to give him a message from Swami. Upon being introduced to me, he told me that Swami had come in his dream and said, “Tell Dr. Naren: Have no fear; have no doubts. Swami is here”, and “I told you that I will see you there”. Very few people knew that Swami called me Naren. Later, when I went to Prasanthi Nilayam and expressed gratitude to Swami for His blessings and guidance, He declared that He had been sitting in the centre of the conference venue, listening to all the deliberations, and was very pleased with the outcome!
The most recent international medical conference was held in 2017 in California, USA. It was heartening to see that a significant percentage of attendees were young physicians and women physicians committed to the practice of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare in their daily practices. Many delegates felt the divine presence of Swami during the conference and resolved to implement the conference resolutions in their daily medical practices.
After the international medical conferences in 2009 and 2017, additional publications were released by the SSIO which provide an overview of the Sathya Sai Global Health Mission that brings ideal healthcare to millions of people in India and around the world. These publications are available on the SSIO website www.sathyasai.org
In addition to practising ideal healthcare in institutional settings, such as clinics, hospitals and surgical centres, I found that it was imperative for every healthcare professional to make compassionate, loving healthcare a central aspect of his/her medical practice. I can share how this has helped me personally in my practice, and in return, the patients are grateful and joyous. Once, the condition of one of my patients with thyroid disease became worse, as she was worrying about her mother, a terminal cancer patient. After diagnosis and consultation, I emphasised that she should take the medication regularly. Then I spoke with her about Swami’s teaching, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. After a few months she returned, happy, and brought me a hat embroidered with the line, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. She then related that when she relayed our conversation to her critically ill mother, her mother became happy with a positive attitude and started a project to knit hats with those words embroidered and distributed them to terminally ill patients in the hospice unit. Her mother requested her to continue the project after her death, to bring peace to her soul. The daughter, my patient, then brought me an embroidered hat, as a gift. I was amazed at how a few words spoken with love and compassion could touch so many hearts.
These incidents convey why it is important for healthcare professionals to take advantage of opportunities to serve fellow human beings with love, compassion and enthusiasm, which is the essence of the Sathya Sai Global Health Mission.
These are challenging times for the world as we see increasing concerns about escalating healthcare costs, declining quality of healthcare, decreasing trust between the patient and the doctor and lack of universal access to healthcare. In His infinite love and compassion, Bhagawan Baba has gifted Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare to humanity. This model of healthcare is already being adopted by thousands of dedicated healthcare professionals around the world. Therefore, now is the time to intensify our efforts to integrate the principles of Sathya Sai Ideal Healthcare in our medical practices by providing excellent and free health services with selfless love, compassion and empathy for everyone as per the clarion call of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
– The author, Dr. Narendranath Reddy, is the Chairman, Prasanthi Council, Sathya Sai International Organisation.