Bhavan's Journal [Nov 9,1975 pp 20--29]
homage to Poojjyapada Sri Sathya Sai Baba on his fiftieth jayanthi.
He was born on November 23, 1926. It was a Monday, Somavar. The
month was Kartik, specially sacred for the worship of Lord Siva.
The ascending star on that day was Ardra. The combination of
Karthik Somavar and Ardra Nakshatra is rare and is exceptionally
To see him is a feast for the eyes. To listen to his
spell-binding oratory is an education for purposeful living. To
hear his soul-stirring bhajans is to go into ecstacy. Once we meet
him, he simply haunts us and we cannot but give him a permanent
lodgement in our heart.
Majestic and winsome, simple yet sophisticate, steeped in our
ancient lore yet well-versed in current affairs, agile yet
imperturbable, wise and witty, with a bewitching smile and a
visage that exudes sneha and karuna, with the shock of curly hair
that forms a natual crown on his head and the flame-red one-piece
robe that stretches from neck to feet, Sri Sathya Sai Baba is a
Baba is virtually deified by lakhs of devotees the world over.
In their homes and offices, his photograph finds a pride of place
among the family deities. I have seen his picture adorning the
tables and office-rooms of many of our distinguished leaders,
editors, literateurs, scientists, administrators, senior officials
in the Secretariat in New Delhi and State capitals and even in the
Indian High Commision in London.
One of the most arresting and revered personalities of the
century, Baba spontaneously commands the respect and reverence of
millions of people, in India and abroad. He has his own unique way
of transforming people in all walks of life. Their number is
legion. It is indeed true that Baba's devotees include a sizeable
number of those who are drawn to him because of his superhuman
power or siddhi and are proud of venerating one endowed with such
a rare gift.
And it is equally true that down the ages Mankind has always
viewed the mysterious and the miraculous with awe and reverence
associated with godliness.
But then not all of Baba's devotees belong to the class of
mysetery worshippers. His followers include many people noted for
their intellectual attainments, rational outlook and scientific
What is the secret of this magnet in human form that goes on
irrestibly drawing devotees whose ranks are ever swelling?
Is it his power for materializing out of thin air with a mere
wave of his hand an amazing array of objects that holds the key to
his irrestible pull and commands the spontaneous adoration of the
The Baba we adore is _not_ the one who performs miracles of
materializing Vibhuti, photos, rings, necklaces, silver and gold
idols, spatika lingas and other precious articles, but the Baba
who performs the greater miracle of transforming men.
The Baba we adore is _not_ the one from whom people expect cure
for all their physical ailments-- after all, the human body is
ephemeral and it must progressively decay and wear out and birth
and death are but obverse and reverse sides of the same coin and
the one is inseperable from the other.
The Baba we adore is _not_ the one, who according to some, is
the founder of a new sect or cult, but the Baba who stands for
Sarva Dharma Samanatva.
The Baba we adore is the Baba who, without fuss of the
`arrogance of humility' associated with knowledge and scholarship,
lovingly and convincingly dins into people the inner meaning and
significance of our ageless traditions, symbolism, customs and
The Baba we adore is the Baba who is the bhakthavatsala, the
snehamurthi, the karunasagara.
The Baba we adore is the Baba who comprehends the basic motive
of everyone and who ensures eternal life to ideals and
institutions which seek to represent the life-breath of Sanathana
Wednesday, December 23, 1970. At Dharmakshetra, atop a hillock
overlooking the Western Ghats, in the shade of the beautiful
lotus-shaped Sathya Deep blooms the Bombay abode of Baba.
The sun had set some time ago and there was an all-pervading
quietness. The sky had been lit up by the innumerable stars and
star-clusters. There was something indescribably serene about the
atmosphere. The clock had just struck the quarter hour to eight-
the clock, the handiwork of man, a mechanical contrivance which,
in its littleness, is vainly trying to measure the Immeasurable
One felt the hovering presence of some Mighty Force. As
Yudhisthira, the eldest of the Pandavas averred, the mind is famed
for its swiftness even to outstrip the wind. But in Baba's
presence, the mind is riveted, as it were, and stands still, as if
About a dozen close devotees were there in the mini-guest house
adjacent to Saytha Deep- some in the courtyard, some in the
verandah and some inside the rooms. Dr. V. K. Gokak, Sri N.
Kasturi, the late Sri P. R. Kamani, Sir Indulal Shah and Sir
Ratanlal were in the rooms. I also happened to be among them. We
were `conversing silently.'
In the verandah was an American, Dr. Joseph Hislop, from
California. For the past forty years, Dr. Hislop had been on a
pilgrimage in quest of Truth. He had associated himself with
various religious and saintly organizations, and had been making a
study and pursuing the search by a life of dedication to the
cause. He has been a keen and ardent student of Eastern Religion
and Mysticism, having had long contacts with Burmese monasteries (Buddhist
monks) and Indian teachers of Yoga like Sri Mahesh Yogi.
Dr. Hislop was reading the Guruvayurappan number of the Bhavan's
Journal (December 13, 1970), standing in the verandah, slightly
resting his back against the wall.
Suddenly there descended complete silence. All involuntarily
sprang to their feet and bowed reverentially.
Softly treading the steps, Baba gently came in. He went closer
to Dr. Hislop and looked at the picture adorning the cover page-
the picture of Sri Guruvayurappan, with Sankha, Gada and Padma in
Dr. Hislop respectfully gave the copy of the Bhavan's Journal
to Baba. Baba glanced through the Journal from cover to cover,
graciously making sparkling explanatory commands and remarks. In
particular, he stopped at the the feature on Upanishads by Sri
Rajaji and then told Dr. Hislop the gist of the Upanishads in a
few short and succint sentences. He spoke of the yound, bold,
intrepid inquirer of Truth, Nachiketas, who went to the abode of
Yama, the God of Death, and wanted nothing but imperishable
knowledge t hat enabled man to conquer death. Yama offered him the
best of things, things beyond the reach of mortals on earth,
tempting and alluring. No persuasins, no entiecements could move
Nachiketas to give up the goal that he had set out to achieve- the
transcendent wisdom to be learn from the Only Teacher,
Yamadharmaraja, who could dispel all doubts regarding the mystery
of life and death. Nachiketas was not made of common clay- he was
one of the few that had the courage turn his gaze inwards to
become one with antar chakshus and seek the truth and not, unlike
the millions of commoners, to let the senses go after external
pleasures. Yama imparted to him the Truth, and the vision of the
ultimate reality dawned on Nachiketas.
Turning his attention again to the picture of the Lord on the
cover, Baba queried: `What is the significance of the Sankha (conch),
the Chakar (discus), the Gada (mace and the Padma (lotus) in His
None dared or could answer the question. We all looked on in
mute silence expectantly for the answer.
Baba explained: "The Sankha represents the Primordial Sound,
the Nada-Brahma. The Chakra," he said, "symbolizes the Kalachakra,
the Eternal Wheel of Time, that rolls on and on and on. And the
Gada," he proceeded, "symbolises the Will Power, the sankalpa
shakti of the Lord, whose potency is voiced through the epigram-
tena vina trinamapi na chalati- without His Will not a blade of
grass doth stir. The Padma is the thousand-petalled flower,
symbolizing the mind, with its fitfulness, rushing forth in all
directions and the Lord hath it in His hand to proclaim that He is
master over the minds of men."
In 1971 a dear and respected elder, a distinguished
educationist and philosopher, a former director of Bhavan's Delhi
Kendra, and myself went on a pilgrimage to Puttaparthi. We left
Bangalore by car about 3 a.m. so as to reach Puttaparthi by 6 a.m.
During the three hour 100-mile drive, we discussed, among other
things, about the advisability or otherwise of accepting a
donation offered by a philanthropist for conducting research in
Bhavan on Vishtaadvaita. The Bhavan has always firmly stood
against fanning differeneces- denominationsl, religiousll,
regional or linguistic. It is is pledged to foster harmony, unity.
In view of the unbridled fanatic zeal of some of the overzealous
followers of the great messiahs, there was a natural anxiety on
our part as to whether the accpetance of the donation was likely
to unconsciously carry with it the seed of some futile controversy
on some abstract aspects of something or other. However, long
before we reached Prashanthi Nilayam at Puttaparthi, we
unanimously came to the conclusion to recommend acceptance of the
offer to Bhavan's Executive Committee. Thereafter, we discussed
many other matters and by the time we reached Puttaparthi, we had
forgotten all about the donation offer.
We reached Puttaparthi at about 6 A.M. As usual, there were
large crowds of devotees, from far and near. When our request to
have an audience was submitted to Baba, he told the messenger that
"they left Bangalore at 3 A.M. They have not even taken water this
morning. First give them breafast and then let them see me."
When we were duly ushered into Baba's holy presence, we
prostrated before him. He affectionately patted us and bade us to
sit. After solicitous enquiries about the Bhava, with a broad grin,
he said, "Some people think that Advaitans and Visishtaadvaitins-
followers of Adi Shankara and followers of Ramanuja- cannot work
together, isn't it? This is absolutely wrong."
We were dazed. How could he have known what we had discussed a
few hours ago in the privacy of a speeding car? Baba added. "The
Saivites hail their Ishta Devata as Pasupati, while the
Vasishtaadvaitins hail their Ishta Devata as Gopala. Is there any
differnce in substance?"
Then with his characteristic smile, Baba asked, "What is the
name of your friend?" I replied, "Professor Sankaranarayanan".
"Does not his very name proclaim that Sankara and Narayana are
one? How can there be any difference between Advaita and
Vishishtaadvaita, Saivites and Vaishnavites?"
On December 30, 1971, Munshiji's 84th Birthday, I had the
privilege of escorting Baba from Dharmakshetra at Andheri to the
Bhavan at Chowpatty.
During the 45 minute drive in his inimitable style, Baba
explained some of the truths of life. Referring to Kulapatiji,
Baba remarked: "The machine is good. It has worked well. But it
has gone old and worn out. It may break down in less than 4 to 6
When Baba met Munshiji in his sickbed, the latter never asked
any question about his own longevity of family matters. His sole
concern was the Bhavan and its future.
Baba emphatically said: "Your sankalpa in establishing that
Bhavan was absolutely pure and unselfish. In the same spirit, you
have nursed it with love and care. You have rightly declared that
it is God's work. you may rest assured that the Bhavan will
flourish and render more and more useful services to the cause of
culture in India and outside."
Munshiji literally shed tears of joy. And Munshiji breathed his
last on Monday, February 8, 1971, in less than six weeks!
It is not uncommon, particularly in our country, that many
institutions flounder when the founding father fades away from the
scene. But fortunately for the Bhavan, thanks to the blessings of
the godly and good, and the dedication, foresight and genius of
Munshiji, the Bhavan is forging ahead.
The Seed of the London Kendra of the Bhavan was sown in June,
1972- about a year and a half after the passing away of Munshiji.
The decision to found a Kendra in London was an agonizing one. "Will
it be a leap in the dark?", "Will the Kendra thrive?", "From where
will the resources come?"-- all these and a hundred other
questions had to be sorted out before embarking on the venture.
On the day prior to our leaving for London for exploring the
possibility of opening a Kendra there, I had Baba's darshan at the
Sardar Patel Stadium at Worli, Bombay, where he addressed a vast
concourse of lahks of devotees.
Among the milling crowd, I was just a speck and, even if I
wanted to, I could not have thrust myself forward!
Baba who was taking a round among the crowd suddenly stopped in
front of me and surprised me with these words: "You are going to
London tomorrow? "I said, '"Yes."
"Well, go ahead with faith. Whatever may be the initial
difficulties, the Bhavan's London Kendra will flourish."
And true to his prophetic words, the Kendra has got over its
teething troubles and is now doing well.
A Merchant-Prince from Gujarat who had made his fortune by his
untiring industry in East Africa once came and met me in the
Bhavan a few years ago. The man who exuded opulence from almost
every pore of his body, I expected, would also be brimming with
inner joy, but, alas, this was not to be. He did laugh during our
conversaion, but the laughter sounded hollow and in fact it was
only an echo of his deep grief within. I enquired of him whether
there was anything worrying him secretly.
He opened up and said, "Yes, it is my young son, eldest son..."
He could not talk easily, such was his anguish.
Slowly I gathered that he was sorely distressed because his son
who was in England for higher studies had been nearly `seduced'
into leaving Hinduism and embracing Christianity.
All the persuasive efforts of the father and the even more
worried mother had fallen flat on the youngster for whom Hinduism,
with its "maze of thousands of gods and goddesses" held very
little attraction and appeared irrational and anachronistic.
The gentleman sought my help in infusing his son with faith in
Hinduism. I explained to him that our ancients had enjoined to
look upon one's children as equals after they attain the age of
16. Hence, any compulsion was likely to harden the heart of they
impetuous and misguided youngster in pursuing his own decision. I
also stressed the futility of brow-beating of imposing a decision
on a confused and bewildered, though sincere, soul. I told him tht
the best way to `teach' was to follow the way of Lord Krishna in
the Bhagavad Gita: expound and explain the pros and cons of the
issue and then tell the son, as the Lord told Arjuna: "I have
explained everything to you. Now you do what you think best."
However, I suggested to the anxious father that his son might
get a much better insight into Hinduism by coming into direct
contact with noted religious leaders. Entirely agreeing with this
view, the father pleaded that his son should be exposed to the
influences of some of the religious luminaries in our land. Indeed,
two well-known Swamijis had a dialogue with the young man but then,
he could not be deflected. In the meantime, I had aslso given him
a few of the Bhavan's publications for reading and understanding
Hinduism in depth.
As luck would have it, Baba happened to be in Bombay at that
time and on Christmas day he was to speak on Jesus Christ, the
Prince of Peace, at Dharmakshetra.
I suggested to the worried father that he should try and take
his son to the Baba's meeting which might change his mind. At
first, the young man did not seem particularly enthusiastice, but
somehow he was persuaded to attend. The boy, his parents and
muyself motored together to Dharmakshetra. From Sathya Deep, Baba
came down to the pandal, moved among the vast concourse and then
commenced his holy sermon on Christ and the significance of
When the speech was over, wild with enthusiasm the young man
embraced me and said, "When I saw him and his childlike simplicity
and overflowing love and total freedom from fanaticism, my heart
throbbed. When I was listening to his message, my mind stood still.
My doubts vanished. I now realize that Hinduism is all-inclusive,
all-embracing, is the `Mother of all religions.' I am convinced
that the core and kernel of all religions are the same. To be a
genuine Hindu is to be a genuine Christian or Muslim or Parsi and
vice versa. Mere changing of label by formal conversion is
unnecessary, nay, it is indeed irreligious."
If this is not a divine miracle, what else is it! Has not Baba
himself dwelt at length on the ordinary miracles? I had the
privilege of attending the Maharashtra Sathya Sai Conference in
Bombay on March 31, 1973. Referring to the report of one of the
Sathya Sai Kendras which had with a sense of pride mentioned that
Vibhuti was coming out from some of the photographs in a
particular Sai Kendra, Baba declared:
"We should not give attention and thought to the Vibhuti that
comes out of the photographs. We must make an attempt to see that
the Vibhuti of divinity comes out of our own heart. The meaning of
the word Bhagavat Vibhuti is that you should develop what is
called divine sight or divine vision. You should utter divine
words. In your own life, you should propagate and give rise to
divine ideas. The kind of Vibhuti which you see on the photographs
may come today, but may disappear tomorrow. It may be created by
some people in order to give favour for some kind of thought. We
should not attach any importance to this transient phenomenon. It
is a matter of some regret for me that members of the Sai
Organization are also giving importance to such things. This is
not the correct path. Iswara who lives in your heart is something
which is permanent. What comes as divine Vibhuti from your heart
is much more important than the artificial Vibhuti which we see...
What is contained as Ishwara Bhava in your own divinity, each one
has to try and propagate and hand over to others. That is real
I have often wondered: What is Greatness, Divinity? Man in his
ignorance or arrogance has endeavoured to define Greatness by many
a yard--stick, but has failed in the attempt. But when we are in
the presence of Baba, we _sense__ sublime Greatness-- it is in the
air, suffused throuhgout in the atmosphere around. All doubts and
discords, all the petty things that trouble us at other hours,
just evaporate. It is dazzlingly bright, yet soothingly cool. It
is felt, but is indefinable. It is everywhere, but cannot be seen
anywhere by the naked eye.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba is a soumyamurti. The mere sight of this
Sanathana Sarathi's radiant face, full of mercy and compassion,
comforts and consoles. The words that flow from him dispel all
doubts. They carry with them a force that is neither that of
vehemence nor of cold logic. It is a force generated by the alchem
of love, springing from an Akshayapatra of Karuna and Prema.
Poojyapada Sri Sathya Sai Baba is a unique blend of sweetness
and light, the gist of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Darshanas,
Epics and Puranas, all rolled into one, with the intellectual
sweep, sharpness, sway and alacrity of Sri Adi Shankaraacharya and
the directness, catholicity, clarity and simplicity of Sri
Ramakrishna Paramahansa. Glory unto Him. Amen