Who is Sai Baba? What is he like? The answer he himself gives is: "He is Love, Love, Love." The people who come within his vicinity speak, above all else, of the overwhelming waves of pure love that emanate from him constantly, plunging the devotees into the bliss of his presence. Sai Baba is widely known as a miracle worker and healer. He "takes" small objects out of thin air and gives them to devotees to bind them to him. Over the years he has manifested countless rings, jewelry, pictures, flowers, fruits (often out of season), and other objects along with flows of his healing ash (called vibhutti) which he dispenses as he would medicine. Doubters come to expose him but go away with a heart newly filled with love and a mind shaken out of materialistic smugness. He never asks for anything from those who come to him and in fact refuses to accept gifts or money. Yet he gives constantly from a seemingly inexhaustible mysterious store. Accommodation and food are free at the ashram to visitors. He runs schools, hospitals and universities, which are also free of charge. His greatest gift of all, though, is the miracle of change which he brings about to those who come to him.
Sathya Sai Baba was born in 1926 and even as a young child in school, his classmates called him "Guru". He had a spiritual luster about him then, was always generous, kind, helpful, and truthful. In fact Sathya, his name, is Truth in the ancient Sanskrit language. Those lucky ones who grew up with him or knew him in the early years of his advent were blessed with a unique opportunity to get his time and attention, his love and blessings in great abundance. Nowadays anyone going to his place of residence finds thousands lining up for even a glimpse of him or to share in the singing of sacred songs (bhajan) in his presence.
On the event of major festivals, hundreds of thousands, even millions, come from all over the world to renew themselves in his presence and join in the observances. Still he finds the time to meet with groups and individuals to bless and guide them and to circulate among the crowds that gather. He knows what each has come for and he has drawn those who are ready for the medicine he has come to give. He bestows the bliss of his love, his warmth and humor, his blessings, his sacred ash, his guidance and advice, his healing touch - to all those who have come to receive it. Even those who are far away can receive the same blessings through an inner contact if they have the faith to keep him "near" in their own hearts.
The miraculous stories that circulate about him are as numerous as the people who claim him as their own. Whether they refer to him as Baba, Sai Baba, Sai Ram, Bhagavan, or Swami, each feels a loving closeness. What follows are a few examples of his devotee's stories.
Mystery of Small Girl Solved
One day Swami was giving darshan (sight of a holy person) to the devotees in Prasanthi Nilayam. As he walked amongst them, I saw a small girl, scarcely five years old, trying to give a letter to Swami. 'Did this child write the letter? Perhaps her mother would have written it', I thought. Even as this thought flashed across my mind, I saw Swami taking the letter, crumpling it and throwing it down as if it were waste paper. This strange act of His made me wonder, 'Maybe Swami meant that the letter was a waste. did it mean that their prayer was answered? He is compassionate. He might have answered. Even if He did not, I don't think he would indicate that.
I got my answer when I went home for the summer holidays. I heard about the experience which threw light upon that incident. The small girl I had seen that day had a heart ailment. The doctors in Madras and Hyderabad confirmed the presence of a hole in her heart. When they came to the Sathya Sai Baba Super Specialty Hospital at Prasanthi Nilayam, the same diagnosis was given. The date of the operation was fixed. The girl's mother wrote a letter to Swami about the operation, and asked the girl to hand it over to Him. This was the scene I had witnessed a few months ago. The mother saw Swami crumpling the letter and took it as a rejection. Her heart bled for her child. The day of the operation dawned. The girl was wheeled into the operating theater. When the final tests were done, the doctors could not believe what they found. They checked again and found no trace of the hole in the heart. The child was perfectly healthy. They went home glad and grateful. What a way to indicate benediction!
Only He knows the purpose of what he does. However, once in a while He does let us peep behind the curtain of His mystery. He wants to confer joy on us. Perhaps, he wants us to understand him. But then, why does he say we should not try to understand; only experience him? Probably, he gives us these glimpses so that we will know the inscrutable nature of his deeds, and the futility of our efforts to comprehend them.
A Young Boy Helps Build a Hospital
A few years ago at the time when preparations were being made to begin the Super-Specialty Hospital, Bhagavan Baba seemingly had less time to devote to the young students. Day and night he was busy with matters relating to the new hospital. Even after the afternoon darshan he would call together the doctors and discuss the plans for construction in the most minute detail, as it was to be a model hospital in every way. Previously after the evening interviews he would come out and speak to the students and guide them but at this time he was extremely busy and was unable to see them.
There was one very young student who could no longer bear the separation from his mother Sai. He wrote a letter to Bhagavan one day and took it during evening darshan but unfortunately he was sitting a few rows back. When Bhagavan came to his side, the boy got up and offered his letter to Bhagavan. Bhagavan Baba stopped, leaned over and made a special effort to take this young boy's letter.
To say the least the boy was ecstatic. Then the darshan continued and as usual Bhagavan called a group of doctors for an interview. All the students were depressed as they had been deprived of the love of their mother Sai yet another day. Then after about five minutes to their utter amazement, the interview room door flew open and Bhagavan emerged in all his glory, holding a small letter in his hand, the letter of the young boy. Bhagavan called that young boy to come near and asked him, "Boy, should I read aloud what you have written to me in this letter, so that everyone may listen." The innocent boy replied. "Whatever you think or wish, Bhagavan". Bhagavan himself read the letter aloud so that all could hear.
You know the twinkle in the eye of a mother when her son does something that makes her feel extremely proud. Well, that twinkle was there in Bhagavan's eye. Holding the 100 rupee note in his hand, Bhagavan said to that young boy, "My dear son, this is not a 100 rupee note for me, this is a note worth millions and millions of rupees for me."
What do we learn from this? In God's kingdom - power, wealth, position, status, these are of no importance whatsoever. God only looks to see whether our heart is pure. God only searches for our love and devotion.
Controlling the Elements
In the summer of 1965, which, to me, was the first of my sixteen spiritual summers, I was in Bangalore once to visit a friend. During an informal conversation one morning, my host asked me whether I would like to see Sri Sathya Sai, who was to address a meeting at Malleswaram, in the heart of Bangalore City, the same evening. I had heard about Sri Sathya Sai and also read about him in some Bombay newspapers, but had never seen him before. I had, till then, no particular urge to read either his biography or discourses. My immediate response to the question from my host, therefore, was somewhat casual and uncertain. However, on second thoughts, I felt that I should attend the meeting and so, later in the day, accompanied by my wife, Sarla, I went to Malleswaram where a mammoth gathering was listening to Sri Sathya Sai with rapt attention. We sat in a remote corner of the big maidan. I was swayed by a nameless feeling, a strange inquisitiveness or curiosity, as though I was adventuring into the unknown. Then suddenly, the sky became rather dark with thick clouds fast gathering overhead.
The large crowd became visibly restless, as people feared an impending rain. We ourselves were in a quandary and my host hastened to take us back to his car. Just then, we saw Sri Sathya Sai raising his hand and saying something aloud to the crowd in the local South Indian language which, however, I could not grasp. My friend said that he was asking the crowd to sit down and that he was assuring them that it would not rain. As he said this, we saw that the rain clouds started disappearing and the gathering darkness was giving way to bright sunshine. I remained spell-bound. I could not believe that one could disperse moisture-laden heavy clouds by a mere wave of his hand. And yet, our eyes were a witness to this strange phenomenon, the like of which I had read about only in Puranic stories.
Depression Healed by "A Small Bird"
It is frequently at a time of personal crisis that circumstances bring the unsuspecting person close to Sai Baba. Such was the case of a mother who's daughter was about to be married. The daughter was happy, healthy, and beautiful and the wedding seemed to promise continued happiness for all involved. But soon the mother learned to her great horror that her daughter had ended her young life in a drug related suicide. The shock was too much for her. She could not resolve the sudden dramatic turn that life had taken. She sank into a deep depression.
In the depths of her despair she was told of the presence on the earth of a great spiritual healer that some people called an Avatar - Sathya Sai Baba. She learned that he helped people who came to him from all over the world. Although there were no guarantees that he would indeed see her among the thousands of visitors, she decided to take the chance and go to India to see him. When she arrived at the main ashram in Puttaparthi, India she discovered he was not there but that he was a distance away at Kodaikanal. So she proceeded on to the place hoping to get to see him there.
When she arrived she learned that Sai Baba came out twice a day to circulate amongst the devotees giving darshan. She waited for her chance and as soon as he was near enough to speak to she asked for his help. He told her: "I will see you tonight" and then went on to visit with other devotees. She was happy that he had agreed to see her but was confused as to how it would take place. She was staying in a hotel and taking a taxi to and from darshan and it was raining heavily. She had no idea when to come back or where to go to see him since there was no darshan at night and all the entrances were closed. She returned to her hotel room thinking about the things she had heard about various ways devotees had made contact with Sai Baba such as visions, dreams, timely appearances of unknown persons, etc.
She returned to her hotel and as she was walking in, she noticed that the doorman was holding in his hand a small bird thoroughly soaked from rain water. He asked her if she would be willing to take care of the little bird and she readily agreed and took it up to her room. There she placed it on a dry towel and checked it over for injuries. Finding no obvious injury to the bird, she held it in her hands in order to raise its body temperature. After a time it started to revive. She opened her hands and the bird fluttered to the floor and hopped under the bed. She felt that since it was warm and dark under the bed the bird would be well off there so the woman also decided to retire for the night. The next morning she looked for the bird but not finding it anywhere, she looked under the bed. It was still dark under the bed and she didn't see it so she tried talking to it. After several attempts the bird still did not emerge or respond in any way. So she changed the tone of her voice and said with firmness: "Now you must make an effort to come out of that dark place your are in, so that I can set you free."
As soon as she spoke there words to the little bird, the very same phrase echoed back to her in Baba's voice just as if he were present and addressing her. Suddenly she realized the truth of his words: "I will see you tonight". He had even managed to convey his message to her putting his words into her own mouth.
Then the small bird hopped from under the bed out into the light. She picked it up and released it back into the daylight letting it fly free to the destination of its choosing. The woman too emerged from the darkness of her depression and put herself into the hands of Baba, soaring off into new spiritual heights.
Lila was a friend of the author of the book in which her story appears. She had gone to the hospital for a breast biopsy. She was fearful and apprehensive as she waited for the surgery. Seeing her emotional state, her hospital room mate gave her a prayer and she read it just before the surgery was to begin. Immediately she felt a great sense of peace and an easing of the pressure she had felt previously. The biopsy came back showing no serious problems.
About one year after this incident, Samuel Sandweiss was talking to her about Sai Baba and she became intrigued. She read a book about Sai Baba and began to think about going to see him. But she and her husband were deep in debt at the time and there seemed no feasible way to make the trip that was planned with Samuel and his group. Lila's husband was in inventor but he had no luck in the last five years so they barely had enough money to scrape by. Still, she wanted so badly to join the party going to India that she went ahead and got a passport and all the required vaccinations. But still no money turned up so she began to get into a depressed state.
One night she went to bed in a particularly depressed state and she had an unusual dream. In her dream she saw Sai Baba dancing on a rooftop like the fiddler in the movie Fiddler on the Roof. He was full of fun and his eyes twinkled and she found that the dream lifted her out of her depression.
Soon afterwards things began falling into place. Her husband was successful with one of his new inventions and he was able to interest some people in it and before they knew it, they found themselves financially solvent for the first time in years. Just one week before the day of departure she had enough money for the plane fare and so she unexpectedly but happily found herself bound for India and Sai Baba.
The group of forty people they were in was able to get an interview with Sai Baba and so they sat in the interview room on the floor surrounding Baba who was sitting in his chair. Baba made sure everyone was comfortable and then put them all at ease by speaking lightly and jokingly.
Suddenly he turned to Lila and recited the prayer that had been given to her in the hospital by her roommate. He repeated it matter of factly, word for word, then he moved his hands in the air and a large japamala necklace made of 108 crystal beads appeared out of the air, which he then threw to Lila. Before the trip began, Lila had confided to Samuel that if Baba materialized anything for her, she would want a japamala and then she went on to describe it in some detail. The one Baba had created for her matched exactly the one she had described.
Lila was stunned, then she broke into tears.
"No, no; you must be strong!" Baba exclaimed to her.
"I try, I try" she said.
"Don't try", he replied "Do!"
Finding Her Spiritual Teacher
Phyllis Krystal of California had been searching for a true spiritual guide for several years but so far had not found any spiritual teacher she could put her full faith in. In 1972 she went into a bookstore to buy books to read on a forthcoming trip to India and as she reached up to a high shelf to take a book down, a different book fell at her feet, almost hitting her on the head. The book was "Baba" by Arnold Schulman and Phyllis was surprised to learn of an Eastern teacher she had never heard of. Everything she read in the book attracted her to Sathya Sai Baba and she began to wonder if she had finally found the guru she was searching for.
She and her husband left on their planned trip to India but their agenda was already fixed so, to her great disappointment, they had no opportunity to see Sai Baba. However, by a strange coincidence, everywhere they went they saw pictures of him and also met people whom he had helped. After the trip they began visiting a Sai Baba center in Southern California and she felt an increasing urge to go back to India to see him in person. So she and her husband planned another trip to India.
When at last they arrived in India they proceeded to Prasanthi Nilayam and settled into the lines of the thousands of devotees waiting for the darshan of Sai Baba. Phyllis waited for what seemed like hours and then suddenly a hush came over the crowd and she saw a flash of Sai Baba's orange robe in the distance. She watched as he slowly made his way along the lines of men and women devotees, crossing from one side to another to exchange a word here, take a letter there, or bless some particular devotee. As he came nearer to her, Phyllis felt her heart start to pound and she wondered once again if Sai Baba was the teacher she was destined to meet. She prayed silently for a sign to confirm whether he really was her intended master but otherwise she made no visible movement to attract his attention. She watched as he slowly approached nearer, and then held her breath as he stood at a point quite near to where she was sitting. Although he was very close to her, he did not even look in her direction, and then he began to move away. With a sinking heart she accepted the answer that he was not to be her guru and that she would have to continue searching for her real guru elsewhere. No sooner had this thought flashed through her mind than Sai Baba turned back to face her and said to her: "So you have come!". Then he flashed his radiant smile at her and she lost all sense of time and place and her mind went blank while her eyes were locked onto his and time temporarily stood still for her.
Some days later they were called in for a private interview. In his characteristic way, Sai Baba's asked Phyllis' husband: "What do you want?" and he replied that he would like Sai Baba to heal her of the severe headaches she had been suffering from for years. Baba nodded his head sympathetically saying: "Yes! Yes!" and proceeded to give a detailed analysis of her physical problems. He told her she was suffering from not one but five different headaches and said gently to her: "Don't worry. I will help you." and then manifested some vibhutti for her and told her to make a paste with it and dab some on the bridge of her nose each morning for five days while she meditated on a spot in the middle of her forehead.
But Phyllis spoke up that what she really wanted above all else was not to have her headaches cured but to help her to attain enlightenment and eventual union with God. At that Baba smiled and nodded his head and then said in English: "Yes, I know. But first the body must be made strong. After that I will teach you." With that interview, a new phase in her life began. She was healed of her headaches and other bodily problems but more importantly given greater strength to expand her healing practice. She has since written several books about Sai Baba.
Cancer Cured in a Strange Way
A family, Mr and Mrs K. R. K. Bhat lived in India in the 1940s. As was the custom with most Indian families, some particular Deity or aspect of God is worshipped. The husband preferred to worship the Avatar Krishna. His wife, Mrs Bhat carried on the tradition in her family of worshipping Lord Subramaniam. Daily, Mrs Bhat performed the ritual puja ceremony to Subramaniam in the household shrine room. In 1943 Mrs Bhat developed cancer of the uterus. Mrs Bhat's widowed mother was then living with the couple and told her son, "Lord Subramaniam cured your father of cancer without any operation. In the same way he will cure your wife." Such was the strength of her faith. The son and his wife agreed and so they decided to forego medical surgery.
The puja worship was intensified and carried out with the strictest attention to proper detail. Prayers were fervent and prolonged. The young wife remained in bed and her Mother in-law carried out the ritual worship. Six months passed and the young wife was growing gradually thinner and weaker.
Then one night in a semi sleep state, Mrs Bhat saw a large cobra circling the bed. She turned on the light and woke the mother in law but no snake was found in the room. When she turned out the light to go back to sleep, she again saw the cobra going around the bed. As soon as she became aware of the cobra it assumed the shape of Subramaniam as pictured in her shrine room. He floated above her and then pierced her chest with his spear weapon. Then he floated away, drawing her with him to the peak of a high rocky hill. She knelt down to him and touched his feet with her hands and forehead. Then he began to speak to her, asking if she wanted to stay with him or return back to the world, which she took to mean a choice between continuing to live or joining the spirit life. She thought of her husband and children and their need for her and answered that she would like to return to them.
Subramaniam said: "You are cured of your illness, and will soon grow strong. Throughout your life I will protect you and whenever you think of me, I will be there. Now you may return."
But Mrs Bhat did not know how to return so she asked. In answer he pointed to a long winding staircase that opened at her feet. She began to descend and then slowly awoke to find herself back in her own room. She told her mother in law and husband about her experience which she regarded as very sacred. From that very day the signs of cancer left her and she began to grow stronger each day. Soon she was carrying on a normal life only now she seemed to feel a deeper meaning to life. She began to help the poor and the needy. She reasoned that God had given her back her life so she was going to use it for the services of others.
Twenty years later, the family heard of Sathya Sai Baba and went to see him at his ashram. She was given a personal interview and Sai Baba told her: "I spoke to you long ago - twenty years ago." But she insisted this could not be true as it was her first visit to the Ashram. But Sai said to her: "Yes, yes, but I came to you when you were living in Mysore." And then he mentioned the street and city where she had lived when she had cancer and had the vision of Subramaniam.
He then walked partly up the staircase that led to his living quarters above the room they were in and told her to look down. She did so and immediately was struck by the sight in her vision so long ago of the staircase which she had descended to return back to her life in the world.
Next Sai Baba circled his hand as he does when materializing objects and he produced a photograph of himself in the chariot of Subramaniam with a cobra circling around him. Mrs Bhat was astounded and realized that God could assume any form at all. He had taken on the form of Subramaniam which she worshipped twenty years ago, and now here he was standing before her in the form of Sathya Sai Baba. She fell at his feet shedding tears of joy.