Last week Satya Sai Baba died, aged around 85.
The man considered the nearest living thing to God by millions of his devotees left behind him a maelstrom of controversy.
Some said he was just a clever magician, some said he was a fraud, others said he had disturbing sexual practices, still others said he was a cunning businessman intent on creating an empire…..
It’s totally true that he did materialize things seemingly out of thin air.
And he did say he would die when he was 96.
Quite a few people have accused him of personal sexual advances.
And he certainly did build up a vast financial and asset-rich empire by Indian standards.
But to focus on any of that is to miss the point of his life: he said he was God.
More specifically he said the difference between himself and his followers was that he KNEW he was God – and they didn’t.
They didn’t know they also were God.
In a world that worships power he walked around barefoot, just 5 foot 2 inches high.
In a world that encourages expansion and growth he lived from birth to death in the same village, Puttaparthi, and only left India once during his entire life (for a speaking trip to Uganda).
In a world that worships wealth he gave away gold and jewellery to emphasise its scant value.
In a world that seethes with hatred and exclusiveness he drew people of every race and creed to live or work together.
In a world that admires intellectualism, he always remained poor in education, yet rich in spiritual truth.
In a world that focuses on getting he gave: Sathya Sai Baba supported free educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable works in over 166 countries.
He founded schools in 33 countries; he built several general hospitals which provide complex surgeries, food and medicines free of cost. The hospitals have treated over 12 million patients. His Trust has also built two specialty hospitals, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries and conducts medical camps in rural and slum areas across India. He has also funded several major drinking water projects. One project completed in 1996 supplies water to 1.2 million people in about 750 villages, another supplies clean water to 450,000 people in 179 villages and a third helps 350,000 people in 141 villages. In 2008, 2 million people in Orissa were affected by floods – Sai Baba built 699 houses in 16 villages in under a year to help those affected.
All this (and more) was created through the vision of one poorly educated Indian lacking family wealth or influential connections, living in the wilderness of the backwoods of India…..(I wonder what a High School city graduate could do if he/she put his/her mind to it?).
In a world that has generally turned its back on authentic spiritual activity he gave his attention to being as spiritual as he was able, moment to moment.
Did he ever get angry? Oh, yes, lots of times!
Did he ever get sick? Oh, yes, several times!
Did he ever make mistakes? Oh, yes, often!
Did he have any shortcomings? Of course!
Did he make enemies? Many! The Internet is full of their rage.
So if he got angry and sick, had short-comings and made mistakes and enemies, how could he be Divine, the Godlight?
The same way you and I are.
Not by being perfect.
Not be being a holier-than-thou, celibate, paragon of virtue.
But by being the best he could in each moment: that includes being compassionate, caring, co-operative, loving, inclusive – and as selfless and sane as possible.
When he was 42 he said: “I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love.”
May we all do likewise!
Sanity, and the future of humanity, demands it!
Thank-you, Satya Sai Baba – you have shown us, above all else, that anything is possible if we connect with the lamp of Love within our hearts.
May we all do so!
I send you boundless love!