Sai Baba Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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Sri Sathya Sai Baba Avatar

  Sai Saga

Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

1. Incarnation, 1926-1940

This is the Story of the Lord come in human form, incarnated at a quite little village, Puttaparthi, in 1926. Born to a quiet, pious and contented couple, Sri Pedda Venkama Raju and Mother Easwaramma, and christened Sathyanarayana Raju. Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is now worshipped as 'God Incarnate' and adored as 'Loving Divinity' by millions across the globe.

Signs of The Descent

Mysterious indications of the impending incarnation occurred in Pedda Venkama's house. For example, there was the twang of the tambura! Since the brothers and the father were all interested in the village operas, there was a substantially big tambura and a Maddala or drum. As the birth of the Son for whom Mother Easwaramma prayed, announced itself as imminent, the house was awakened at midnight, and sometimes even later, by the tambura twanging automatically, and the maddala beating rhythmically as if an expert Hand was handling it! One Sastri, whom Pedda Venkama Raju approached for an explanation, said that it was an auspicious occurrence: it meant the presence of a Shakthi, a beneficent Power, conferring Harmony, Melody, Order, Symmetry, Spiritual Elevation and Joy.

The Sun rises above the horizon!

On the 23rd day of November 1926, the son was born. It was the time of sunrise; and, the villagers were chanting the names of Shiva, remembering that the day was still Karthika Somavara, a Monday of the Holy Month of Karthika, devoted to the puja and worship of Shiva. That day was made even more auspicious for Shiva worship, because the ascendant star was Ardra and on such rare occasions when the month, the day and the star coincide, special pujas are performed in the temples of the Lord. The year was Akshaya, the Never-declining, the Ever-full.

The Mother had also just finished, in some hurry of course, her Sathya Narayana Puja in accordance with her vows, for, even while she was going through the final rituals, the pangs forewarned her. When Easwaramma announced the pangs, word was sent to the mother-in-law, Lakshamma, the pious lady of the house; but, it became known that she had gone to the house of the priest to perform the Puja of Sathya Narayana; the messenger discovered her there and urged her to return; but she was so confident of the Grace of Sathya Narayana, so steadfast in her devotion, so disciplined in her religious adherence, that she refused to be hustled! She sent word that she will bring with her to Easwaramma the sacred offerings after the Puja and that, on no account would she interrupt her prayers! She finished the entire ritual with full concentration, came home, gave her daughter-in-law the flowers and the sacred water Easwaramma partook of the blessings of the Lord. Next moment, the Lord was born; And the Sun rose above the horizon!

Sathyanarayana Raju

Indeed the village, which bears the name, Ant-hill Prosperity, gave the child an appropriate welcome! A snake was there lying in the room! The women did not notice it for long; but, when the baby, laid on a bed of clothes, was being moved up and down in a peculiar way by something underneath, they watched with bated breath and when at last they searched, they found a cobra below the bed! The snake was acting the role of Sesha to the Seshasai!

The baby was charming beyond description, and, no wonder! For, it had even in the cradle all the Yogic Siddhis, which Pathanjali says come along with birth itself. Baba has declared that He knew even prior to His Birth where He would be born; He has said that he was born with all the miraculous powers, which He is later out of His own will, manifesting one by one, as and when He feels each could be so announced. It must therefore follow that the baby had a halo of splendour around its head, that its smile had an other-worldly beauty and a heavenly power to captivate the heart.

The baby was named Sathyanarayana, since the relationship between the puja to that God and the realisation of her cherished desire seemed to the Mother to be very important. When the Namakaranam (Naming Ceremony) was performed and the name was whispered in the ear; it seems the baby smiled, for the suggestion to give that name must have emanated unobtrusively from Itself! How else can we explain the fact that the first requisite for spiritual advancement, now propounded by Baba, is Sathya itself? The embodiment and exponent of Truth could not give Himself a more appropriate name.

Raju - "The Brahmin Child"

The Divine child became the pet of the entire village of Puttaparthi and the ryots and cowherds vied with each other in fondling it and feeding it and playing with its lovely silken curls. Its charming smile attracted every one. The fragrance of the jasmine bud filled the air. Like a lighted lamp, Sathya moved about the house and laughter tinkled in the street when he lisped his sweet vocabulary of sounds.

He kept away from places where pigs or sheep or cattle or fowl were killed or tortured, or where fish was trapped or caught; he avoided kitchens and vessels used for cooking flesh or fowl. When a bird was selected and talked about by someone in connection with dinner, Sathyanarayana the little boy, would run towards it and clasp it to His bosom and fondle it as if the extra love He poured on it would induce the elders to relent and spare the fowl. He was called by the neighbours, "Brahmajnani" on account of this type of aversion and this measure of Love towards creation. At such times, the boy used to run to the Karnam's house for they were Brahmins and vegetarians, and take the food offered by Subbamma, the aged lady residing there. So distinct was his behaviour that a wag once nicknamed him "the Brahmin child"! Yes, it was a fitting description. Little did that wag know that, while in the previous body, this child, so laughed at now, had declared at Shirdi "This Brahmin can bring lakhs of men on the White path and take them to their destination!"

Charity begins at Home

At the tender age of three and four, "this Brahmin" behaved as if it had a heart that melted at human suffering. Whenever a beggar appeared at the door and raised his cry, Sathya left off play and rushed in, to force his sisters to dole out grain or food. The adults were naturally irritated by the endless procession of outstretched hands; they easily lost temper; they sometimes shouted the beggar off, before Sathya could bring relief; this made the child weep so long and loud that only by bringing the dismissed beggar back could the elders stop the wailing. Sometimes, in order to put a stop to what the elders thought 'this expensive and misplaced charity,' the mother caught, hold of the child and with a finger raised in warning, she said, "Look here! You may give him food; but, mind you, you will have to starve." That did not daunt the child; he used to run inside and bring out food to the hungry man at the door; and stay away from dinner or lunch, himself. Nothing and nobody could persuade him to come to his plate, which was left untouched! When Sathya began running about in the street, he sought out the maimed, the blind, the decrepit and the diseased, and led them by the hand to the doorstep of the parents; the sisters had to discover from the store or the kitchen some grain or food and put it into the beggar's bowl while 'the little master' looked on, gladly.
There is a small primary school in the village of Puttaparthi, and Sathya used to go there with his contemporaries, for something nobler than learning to spell and scribe. The school had at that time an interesting scheme of punishment to ensure punctuality. The lucky child which first comes in and salutes the teacher, as well as the fellow who gets in second, are exempt from the punishment; but every chap, who for whatever reason, legitimate or other, arrives late, is given a taste of the cane, the number of cuts depending on his place in the list of late-comers, the later the larger. In order to escape from this torture, the children gathered under the eaves of the schoolhouse, much before sunrise, in rain or in fog. Sathya saw their plight and sympathised with his shivering playmates. He visited them under the eaves and, bringing shirts, and towels and dhotis from his house; he covered the boys and made them comfortable.

Jagath Guru

Suddenly, the two sisters discovered that little Sathya was not at home; a search was ordered; men ran about frantically, for it was already past midnight. But, attention was distracted just then, by the arrival, outside the door, of the bullock cart, with Sri Rama! When the inmates of Pedda Venkama Raju's house went to the doorstep, they were surprised to see the five-year-old Sathya sitting on the bullock cart, nicely dressed and with evident authority underneath the Picture! They asked the companions why he was seated there, on top, and not walking with them on the road. Prompt came the answer, "He is our Guru"! Yes & He is the Guru of the children of all climes, and of all ages!

Sathyanarayana was a precious child, learning more things than any one could teach him and much quicker than most; he could sing all the songs and Sthotras that were rehearsed at them for the village operas, and he even composed at the tender age of seven or eight, some touching songs for the cast, which were gladly accepted by them for public presentation!

At the age of about eight, Sathya was declared fit to proceed to the Higher Elementary School, at Bukkapatnam, about two and a half miles from Puttaparthi. He had to trudge the distance in sun or rain, over stony bunds or slushy fields, or wading through neck-deep water, with the bag of books, secured on the head as the season dictated. He had to start early after a meal of cold rice and curds or cooked ragi-rice and chutney, carrying in a bag the afternoon meal: and, with his companions trekked regularly to Bukkapatnam.

The Pandhari Bhajan Group

When he was about ten years of age, Sathya formed in the village of Puttaparthi a 'Pandhari Bhajan' group. The group consisted of about sixteen to eighteen boys dressed uniformly in gerua clothes, holding each a flag in the hand and wearing jingle-bell-anklets. They all danced to the tune of picturesque folk-songs and ballads, describing the yearning of pilgrims for Panduranga's Darshan, the ordeals of the long-pilgrimage, their anxiety to reach the shrine quick, their joy at the sight of the pinnacle of the temple, etc, in simple touching poetry. Sathya taught the children these and other songs. He added some Bhagavatha songs of his own in which the Gopis complain to Yasoda of the unceasing pranks of Krishna. Yasoda chides the Boy for his thievery and mischief, and Krishna pleads innocence. With Yasoda and Krishna in the centre of the circle and with the Gopis dancing on the circumference, this was a great attraction in the village. Baba himself played the role of either the mother or the child and his dance, dialogue and music added to the charm of the Bhajan.

It was also noticed that he mixed up with these traditional themes, songs on a pilgrimage to a new shrine of which no one had heard, and the majesty of a new Deity of whom they had not even the faintest idea, Shirdi and Sai!

Once, while a song describing the prowess and achievements of Lord Narasimha of Kadiri, as related in the folk-lore of the area, was being sung, and the line, "From out the pillar of steel, the God as Lion jumped" was recited by the group of the boys, Sathya suddenly leaped like the Lion-man Manifestation of the Lord, and His face was transformed into such ferocity and indignation and benediction that the entire village frightened and, no one, not even experts in wrestling holds, could control the boy. At last, after a number of people had offered Puja, waved camphor, and broken coconuts before the manifested Lord, Sathya became normal and resumed the song of Kadiri. Another intimation!

This incident spread the fame of the Bhajan group, for when this group sings and dances, God actually manifests Himself, as the villagers of Puttaparthi witnessed! Moreover, it was noticed that when an infection of cholera swept like a poisonous simoom over the area and killed off entire families in the surrounding villages, Puttaparthi did not feel the blast of death; and wise men told one another that the Divine Atmosphere generated by the Bhajan group was responsible.

The Scout camp at Pushpagiri

Sathya had to move to Kamalapur with his brother Seshama Raju. His parents planned to give Sathya a College education, so that he might become an officer! And, hence, they were prepared to part with him and send him to far off Kamalapur, provided his studies could be continued.

Sathya too attended school regularly; he was, in Kamalapur, as at Bukkapatnam, 'a quiet well-behaved boy', the favourite of his teacher. He sang the "Prayer song", before the curtain went up, on a drama in the town; and, those who heard his sweet voice, spread the news that a 'fine musician' had come to town. "Prayer songs" at functions like public meetings became his monopoly thereafter.

Baba speaks even today of a Drill Instructor, who commanded the respect of the entire school by his unstinted love for children. He was also the scoutmaster and he was anxious to have Sathya in his troop. So, he started persuading the boy directly and through his friends. There were two boys, children of the Sheristedar, who sat at the same desk and who were very friendly with Sathya. They also pleaded with him and even thrust a nice new pair of scout shirts and knickers into the desk of Sathya, so that he might join. They all knew that Sathya will be the life of the troop and, if he joined it; the elders of the town too would agree to sponsor it. Otherwise, they might mistake to be 'a group of idlers and do-nothings intent only on hikes and dinners.'

Sathya joined at last, just in time to proceed to the Fair and Cattle show at Pushpagiri, to which the Drill Master planned to take his troop. There was work enough for the boys at Pushpagiri, what with the huge crowds that gather, the children that might get lost, the supply of drinking water to the pilgrims, the supervision of sanitation, and the need to provide first-aid on the spot, at the cattle fair. The camp fee was fixed at ten rupees per boy. Sathya did not have a pie!

He had to demonstrate that Sathya is its own reward, that Prema will overpower everything else; he decided that the chance to teach and inspire his companions should not be lost; so, he determined to walk to Pushpagiri, thus saving the bus fare. He told the drill instructor that his people were coming for the Fair and that they will look after him. (Of course, the people who come for every Jathara (Fair) are His people!) And thus, he avoided the camp mess and the charges he had to pay if he had joined it. He calculated that five rupees would be enough to see him through at Pushpagiri; and, He gave the set of books of the previous class which he had seldom read and which therefore were as good as new, to a needy boy and took from him, not the twelve rupees he offered, but just the five rupees he required. Then he walked the distance to Pushpagiri, reaching the place about 9 o'clock in the night, the day before the Inauguration of the Fair.

He was physically very much tired and with the bag containing his clothes and the money, he slept on the sand of the river, along with the huge concourse that had already gathered there. The next morning, when he woke up, the purse had gone, along with the bag!

While describing these incidents, Baba often tells those around Him that he was not worried at all; but that he moved about the place quite unconcerned and found, on a stone trough, an anna coin and a packet of beedies! He took the coin, it seems, and proceeded to the market place. There was a man there, who sat in front of a contraption, promising profit to men with luck! On a circle drawn on a piece of black cloth in white paint, he had some hieroglyphics; he had attached some monetary value to a few fingers and no value at all to the rest! He had an iron rod, sticking up from the centre and a movable needle on its top. He asked his customers to place a coin beside him and give the needle a quick turn. If the needle stops on top of a section which has a figure like 2, 3 or 4, he gives the customer double or treble or four times the stake amount; otherwise, he appropriates it. Sathyanarayana went straight to this man and, turning the needle a number of times, and always with luck in his favour, collected twelve annas! He says that He could have secured more, but he sympathised with the poor fellow whose earnings were not much!

Those twelve annas sufficed him for a week! Sathya entered enthusiastically upon his task of inspiring his classmates to do selfless social service. Even today this is the central theme of His teaching, service to others being, as He says, service to oneself, for the other is only oneself in another form and under another name!
Sathya quietly slipped out of the camp, when they proposed to take him back by bus for he had not paid his share of the bus fare. He walked back the whole distance, as a matter of principle.

Sathya at Kamalapur was away from parents; even his brother had gone to undergo training course and so, whenever he wanted some odd cash, he wrote as He says, songs for the use of a merchant, Kote Subbanna by name! Subbanna had a shop, selling medicines, tonics, glassware, articles of fashionable wear, umbrellas, etc, and whenever he desired to push a new article into the market or boost the sales of some patent drug, he caught Sathya on the road leading to the school and gave him the necessary; technical or other information. By evening, Sathya was ready with an attractive Telugu song, praising the stuff in really good poetry, full of swerve and lilt, capable of catching the ear when sung in chorus by the band of urchins, whom Subbanna hired for the purpose. They used to march along the streets, with name-boards in their hands, singing the slogan-filled song of Sathya and evidently enjoying their task! Even now, Baba regales His Bhaktas, now and then, by the recitation of these old time articles tunes! Kote Subbanna gave Sathya, in return for these songs, which soon danced on every tongue, the clothes, books and other necessities.

"Do Deeds Follow Words?"

A word may be said about Sathya and the dramatic activities of the school. Sri Thammi Raju, the teacher in charge, once asked Sathya to write and produce a play in Telugu, and Sathya plunged into the work very enthusiastically. The drama was a great success, not only because the hero of the play was a little boy, a role enacted by Sathya himself, but, chiefly because it had as its theme the eternal sin of man, hypocrisy, "Cheppinattu Chesthara?" was the title, "Do deeds follow words?" to put it in English.

The scene opens, revealing a lady, reading out the Bhagvatha to a number of other women, and explaining the meaning of the slokas. She says that it is the duty of the housewife to give charity to the deserving, the defectives who cannot earn by the sweat of their brow, and not to the stalwarts who lead idle parasitic lives. The woman disperse some time later, and the lady is left alone with her little son, who has all along been an interested listener. Presently, a blind beggar comes and makes much fuss to attract attention but he is rebuked and sent away. Then, there comes along a hefty mendicant with a pompous paunch and a polished copper vessel filled with grain and richly caparisoned Tambura, and the mother respectfully welcomes him and offers him rice and coins, and falls at his feet, asking for his blessings. The son is nonplussed; he asks the mother why she did not follow what she had herself extolled a few minutes previously and he is dismissed with the curt answer, "Cheppinattu Chesthara? Can we act as we say?." The mother is irritated by the impertinence of the son who dared question the ethics of adult behaviour; she drags the boy to the office room where the father, an Upper Division Clerk in some Office, is busy with the files.

He gives the son a big lecture on the value of education and how people should study and get promoted from class to class, whatever the difficulties. Suddenly, a schoolboy pops in and asks just a rupee to pay his fees, for otherwise his name will be struck off the rolls and he will fall short in attendance and he will not be promoted. The father says that he has no money with him and shows the boy his empty purse as proof. A few minutes later, a batch of young men, all clerks belonging to his office, thrust themselves in and hold out a subscription appeal calling for contributions for a Welcome Dinner in honour of an officer, taking charge of their office in a few days! The father is very jubilant at the idea, says that it must be done very aristocratically so that the new man may be pleased, offers to make a speech and pulling out the drawer of the table, he gives them the huge sum of Twenty Rupees!

The child looks aghast at this behaviour and asks the father why he went against his own words; why he uttered a lie to the schoolboy; the father turns angrily at the child, and says, "cheppinattu Chesthara? Should deeds follow words?" He roars at the child and commands him to go to school, immediately.

The scene now shifts to the school. Sathya, that is to say 'Krishna' of the drama, enters school. The teacher is in a storm of great excitement because the Inspector of Schools is to visit the school the next day. He coaches the children intensively for the Inspector. He tells them that the Inspector may ask, "How many lessons have been done?" And they were all to say, not "23" the actual number, but, "32". He says that he will do, when Inspector comes, lesson number 33, on "Harishchandra"; so, he teaches them that lesson, so that the answers may come quick and fast the next day; he threatens them with severe punishment if any one so much as whispers that lesson 33 was already done in class. "It must all appear as if I am doing it for the first time tomorrow," he says, and continues with the teaching of Harishchandra's sacrifices for the sake of Truth. When the class is over, all other boys move out, but Krishna alone remains behind; he asks the teacher the question he has already asked twice that day; "Why do you not follow the advice you give?" and he gets the same rebuff, "Cheppinattu Chesthara? Do you mean to say that the adviser should follow the advice?" Hypocrisy, hypocrisy, everywhere!

The scene now changes to Krishna's home. It is next day, school-time, but the boy refuses to go. He throws away his books, says that going to school is waste of time, and sticks to his resolve, not to study in school. The distracted parents send for the teacher, who comes rushing in. Then, Krishna says, "If all that you teach, as mother, father and Guru is only to be spoken and written, if all that is learnt is to be discarded when it comes to action, I do not understand why I should learn anything at all." This opens the eyes of all three and they praise the boy as their "Guru," and decide thenceforward to speak the Truth and act the Truth.

This is the theme of the drama that Sathya wrote at the age of twelve! This gives a clear idea of the far-sighted Intelligence and the Educational Enthusiasm of the young Sai which is ever unfolding.

Sathya was soon sought after by persons who had lost articles of value, for he had brought with him to Uravakonda the reputation for an intuitive perception, which revealed to him the place where anything was! Baba says that in those days, he used to give his friends only the first and last letters of the names of the persons with whom the lost articles could be found. He left them with their own resources to recover the goods.

However, one case in particular deserves some notice. A teacher lost a valuable pen and he persuaded Sathya to disclose the identity of the persons who had 'taken it without his consent.' Sathya gave the name of a servant; but the teacher dismissed the very idea, because he was very faithful and 'honest'. Besides, a search in the servant's room when he was away did not give any trace of his share in the loss of the pen. But, Sathya persisted in his statements; he said that the man had dispatched it to his son, who was studying at Anantapur, and offered to prove the fact. So, Sathya got a letter written as if from the servant (he was illiterate and always indented on the services of a letter-writer for his correspondence) to his son, in which after enquiries about health etc., the father asked how the pen he sent was writing and advising the boy to be careful in using it, For, it was costly and might easily be 'stolen'! There was also a self-addressed card for reply. Within four days came the reply into teacher's hand! The pen was writing magnificently; it will be duly cared for, with all the vigilance due to its high price and its value as a present from a loving father. Thus, Sathya's miraculous power was vindicated; every one honoured him.

Strange turn of Events at Uravakonda

On March 8, 1940, the whole town was shocked to hear that a big black scorpion had stung Sathya. There was a belief current in Uravakonda and the surrounding country that no one will survive a snakebite or scorpion sting in the place, because of the many-hooded serpent stone that has given the name to the place. The rock looks as if a serpent has raised its head to strike its fangs and hence, the dread superstition has gained currency. It was about seven o'clock, at dusk, and Sathya leaped with a shriek, holding the right toe!

No scorpion was discovered, however; and, Sathya slept that night without any sign of pain! Every one felt relieved, only to become anxious once again, when exactly at 7 p.m the next day, Sathya fell unconscious and became stiff; he would not speak and breathing appeared faint. Seshama Raju, the brother and others got alarmed; they inferred that it must be the scorpion-poison that has taken 24 hours to affect the heart. So, Seshama Raju brought in a doctor, who gave an injection and left behind a mixture. Sathya was apparently unconscious throughout the night. The doctor came again in the morning and declared that the boy was out of danger!

An incident happened in the night which showed that Sathya was not 'unconscious' but, that he was even supraconscious! Some one suggested that Muthyalamma; the Devatha near the Hill might be propitiated, because the condition of the boy might be due to some evil spirit that possessed him. So, volunteers hurried to the temple, got down a ladder into the sanctum sanctorum, and offered worship, placing flowers and incense, and breaking a coconut. Just when they did it near the hill, Sathya, who was to all intents 'unconscious', said, "The coconut has broken into three pieces," and when the volunteers came home with the offerings, they had with them three pieces, and not the regular two!

Sathya got up in a day or two and began to behave in an extraordinary way. Baba has said that He Himself initiated the process of manifestation, for, He could not wait any longer, playing about as a mere boy, with 'brother' and 'sister' and 'classmates' and other secular bonds. He wanted to demonstrate, as He said, that 'he was beyond both Visha and Vishaya', unaffected by poison or the objective world. There was no scorpion, which could sting Him.

Meanwhile, Seshama Raju had informed Puttaparthi about the state of things at Uravakonda. He had written that Sathya was not answering any one who spoke to him, that it was a Herculean task to make him accept food, that he was spending the time mostly in silence but, sometimes bursting into song and poetry, sometimes reciting long Sanskrit slokas, sometimes talking the highest Vedanta. The parents took about a week to reach the place, because of unforeseen and inexplicable difficulties that caused delay and increased anxiety.

Seshama Raju got nervous why the parents had not arrived; he got a man who agreed to travel to Anantapur on a bicycle and from thence proceed to Bukkapatnam and Puttaparthi; when he was describing to the man the route he has to take to reach his parents, Sathya interposed and said, "Why, you need not send for them now; they will be here in half an hour," and, true to his word, they came in, exactly thirty minutes later.

The parents caught the infection of fear at the condition of Sathya; he sang and spoke and behaved in such a queer manner, they thought. He also became stiff, off and on, and appeared to leave the body and go elsewhere. It was all so mysterious.

One day, while Sathya was lying as usual without any awareness of his surroundings, he asked some one to bring in the Sastri of the neighbouring house! "He is reading the Bhagavatham all wrong; he is explaining it the wrong way. Go and bring him here", he commanded; of course, the Sastri would not come. "What does that brat know about this Sanskrit Bhagavatham and the right and wrong of the meaning which I gave now to these people here? How did he hear it, by the way? Tell him to mind his own business," the Sastri had continued his exposition. However, Sathya persisted and so, the Sastri had to come, at least to satisfy the parents, who said, "Come and teach the boy a lesson in humility. That will be enough. He has become latterly too uncontrollable."

When the Sastri arrived, Sathya asked him to repeat the exposition and pointed out to him where he had erred; and poured out in quick succession, a series of questions, like 'who is the father of Vali?' 'When was Ravana born? 'Who is Garuda's sister? Etc. that floored the scholar. Finally, the Sastri fell at the feet of Sathya and asked him pardon for not obeying His summons immediately.

Divine Fortitude

Some one gave information to the worried parents that there was a Sakthi worshipper, before whom no evil spirit dare wag its poison tail! He will cure Sathya perfectly and make him fit to go to school, they declared. So, the bullock bandy was got ready, but the bullocks refused to move! There were all kinds of difficulties on the way, sickness, fever, diarrhea, etc., at last the place was reached and the 'case' handed over to the famous expert in devil-craft.

He was a gigantic figure, terrible to behold, with blood-red eyes and untamed manners. He tried all his craft, sacrificing first a fowl and then a lamb and making him sit in the centre of a circle of blood. He chanted all the incantations he knew. He did not allow the parents to take away the boy, for he assumed that it was a case entrusted to him and that it was a trial of strength between him and his Sakthic feats and the little boy, smiling at his failures! He even attempted desperate techniques, which he dared not experiment even with strong adult patients! For example, he shaved the head of the boy and, with a sharp instrument scored three X marks on the scalp, from the top towards the forehead. Sathya sat through the pain without wilting. He asked later, "Even after seeing all that fortitude and that miracle of a little boy passing unscathed through all that terror, you are not now convinced that I am Baba; how then would you have reacted if I just made the announcement, one fine day? "I wanted to make known that I am Divine Stuff, impervious to human suffering, pain, or joy," He said.

With the scalp injured and bleeding with those markings, the witch doctor poured on the open wound the juice of limes, garlic, and other acid fruits. The parents who were watching the proceedings in utter despair were surprised, for; there was not even a tear, or a gasp of pain from the boy! The Sakthi-worshipper was however furious; he arranged that, everyday for some days, early in the morning, 108 pots of cold water be poured on the markings. That too was done; his armoury was now almost empty. The evil spirit that possessed the boy had not admitted defeat and shouted that it will leave him and go elsewhere! He beat the boy on the joints with a heavy stick to drive out-what he called, 'stag fever' when moved about and 'rock-fever' when he was quiet!

So, he decided to use his strongest weapon, which the toughest spirit cannot withstand, the "Kalikam". This is a magic collyrium, a mixture of the entire acidic abracadabra in the repertory of torture. He applied it to Sathya's eyes and the parents were aghast at the consequence. The head and face swelled beyond recognition; they became red and the burning sensation could be 'felt' even by those who went near. The eyes exuded tears and the entire body shook under the impact of pain. The master of devils was happy that success was in sight, that the spirit would soon take formal leave. Sathya never spoke a word or moved a finger. Those around, especially, the parents and the elder sister felt guilty that they had become helpless onlookers of all this torment. They wept in uncontrollable anguish and tried to console Sathya, without the knowledge of the magician, who did not allow anyone to approach his patient. Sathya was making some signs to them, off and on, asking them to keep quiet. By means of gestures, he told them that he would get out of the room under some pretext and he asked them to be ready for him outside. There he told them to bring a remedy he knew; it was brought and applied to the eyes: the two eyes, which had been reduced to the size of thin slits, opened wide and the swelling subsided!

The 'doctor' was put out by this interference with the normal course of his 'treatment'; he fretted and fumed like a wild animal baulked of its prey. "I was within an inch of victory", he raved. The parents wanted to save the boy from the jaws of that Yama in human form; they had seen and suffered enough. They paid him full fees and also gave some unasked gifts, and thanked him for all the 'learning' he had untilised; they cursed only their fate; they promised to build up the boy's stamina a little more, so that he may stand up to his wonderful course of exorcism and bring him again, for the continuation of his attentions. Somehow, they won! The bullock-bandy moved away from the horror-house. They reached Puttaparthi.

But Sathya was far from 'normal' yet. He seemed another 'personality' frequently; he recited Sthotras and poems far beyond the ken of any teen-aged boy. Sometimes, he evinced the strength of ten; sometimes he was as weak as a lotus-stalk; he argued with adult on the correctness of their conduct and behaviour and put them to shame when he proved them wrong.

Some friend of the family advised that the boy could be taken to a village a few miles off, where a clever quack gave some green leaves as a drug to cure exactly such types of cases. The bullocks were brought; the bandy was ready. Sathya was lifted on to it and the bells started jingling along the fair-weather track. About half an hour later, Sathya seemed to realise that he was being taken somewhere; he said, " I do not want to go anywhere; let us go back", and, lo, the bullocks came to a halt and could not be persuaded, in spite of the most vigorous tail-twisting, to take a single step forward. The struggle went on for over an hour; they refused to budge! Then, their faces were turned homewards and the bells jingled merrily once again.

Sri Krishnamachari, a Vakil friend from Penukonda, heard of these occurrences in the Raju house-hold and came to the village to study the situation and offer what help he could. He had a good look; he pondered long, alone, on the river-bank; then he told Venkama Raju, " It is really more serious than I thought; take him immediately to the Narasimha Temple at Ghatikachalam; that is the last chance". Sathyanarayana heard his words. Suddenly, he turned upon him and said, "Funny, is it not? I am already there at Ghatikachalam and you want to take Me to Me!" The Vakil had no inclination to cross-examine.

I am Sai Baba

On 23 May 1940, Sathya rose from bed as usual, but, after some time, he called the members of the household round him, gave them sugarcandy, and flowers taken from 'nowhere.' At this, the neighbours too rushed in. He gave them a ball each of rice cooked in milk and the flowers and sugar candy, concretised by a mere wave of the hand. Sathya seemed to be in a very jovial mood and so, Venkama Raju was sent for, to come and see Sathya in the welcome role. He came rushing in, squeezing through the crowd; the people asked him to go and wash the feet and hands and face, before approaching the Giver of Boons. This incensed him still more; he was not impressed at all; he thought it was a trick, hiding things somewhere and producing them by sleight of hand; at least, that was what he confessed to Sri Kasturi, later. He wanted that this chapter must be closed, before it lengthens into a tragedy. So, he laughed a bitter laugh and accosted the boy within everyone's hearing "This is getting too much; it must be stopped." Arming himself with a stick, he moved a step nearer and threatened to beat it out of him. "Are you a God, or a ghost of a madcap? Tell me!" He shouted. Prompt came the answer, the Announcement, that had been held back so long, " I am Sai Baba."

Further argument became impossible. Venkama Raju was stunned into silence; the stick slid from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya trying to grasp the implications of that announcement, " I am Sai Baba." But, Sathya continued, " I belong to Apasthamba Sutra; I am of the Bharadwaja Gothra; I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all-your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure." He repeated the names of the Sutra and the Gothra repeatedly that afternoon. The elder brother, Seshama Raju went near him, and asked, "What do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only said this much: "Your Venkavadhootha prayed that I be born in your family; so, I came."(there was a tradition in the family, of a great ancestral sage called Venkavadhootha, who was looked upon as a Guru by hundreds of villages around.)

The father felt that Sai Baba was a Muslim, speaking through the boy and so, he asked, "What are we to do with you?" . Prompt came the answer; "Worship Me!" "When?" "Every Thursday! Keep your minds and houses pure."

One Thursday, some one challenged Sathyanarayana and asked Him, " If you are Sai Baba show us some proof, now!" In the same spirit that the rustics ask the priest of the village temple, when he dances in ecstasy while apparently possessed. Baba replied, " Yes, I shall" and every one came nearer. " Place in my hands those jasmine flowers," He commanded. It was done. With a quick gesture, He threw them on the floor and said "Look." They saw that the flowers had formed, while falling, the Telugu letters, Sai Baba!

Raju is Virupaksha

It was then that an invitation from some townsmen from Hospet gave an Idea to Seshama Raju; the Deputy Inspector of Schools, the Health officer, the Engineer, some Municipal Councilors and merchants, wanted that Sathyanarayana be brought to their place. Hospet is a few miles away from the ruins of Hampi, the capital of the ancient Vijayanagara Empire. Therefore, the brother caught at the chance of a picnic, which might improve the mental health of the boy. The Dasara Holidays came in handy.

They alighted among the ruins. They trudged along the roads, once lined by jewellery shops and flower-stalls, trodden by men and women of all the nations of the East as well as travellers and traders from the Middle East and the Mediterranean-shore. They saw the elephant stables, the Palace of the queens, the Vijayadasami Mound, and then went to the Vittalalnathaswami Temple. They proceed to the stone chariot, the monolithic Narasimha, and the gigantic Ganapathi. Finally, they came to the temple of Lord Virupaksha, the patron deity of the Vijayanagara Emperors, who protected and cherished Hindu Culture for well nigh three centuries from 1336 A.D. to 1635 A.D.

It was noticed that throughout the morning, Sathya was moving among the ruins, unaware, as in a dream; a reverend sage, sitting in front of one of the temples, said of him. "This boy, believe me, is Divine." When the party went into the temple of Virupaksha, Sathya too went with them but he was more interested in the height and majesty of the Gopuram, than in the worship at the sanctum sanctorum. He stood outside and no one pressed him to enter with the others. After a while, the priest waved the flame of camphor before the Lingam and asked the pilgrims to see the illuminated shrine,because the flame lit up the interior. There, inside the shrine, they saw to their utter amazement, Sathya! He was standing in place of the Lingam, smiling and erect, accepting their pranams. Everything about the 'boy' was so thrilling and unexpected that Seshama Raju wanted to verify whether he had not actually strayed into the shrine, evading everybody's notice. So, he hurried outside to find Sathya leaning on a wall, staring at the horizon!

The amazement of the members of the party can better be imagined than described. They did special Puja for Him that day, though it was not a Thursday, for their faith in Him as a Manifestation was confirmed. Hospet was on the toes of expectation and excitement. The story that He was seen as Virupaksha had spread to that town also, long before they reached it. The next day, Thursday, Sathya, as Sai Baba, cured a chronic tuberculosis patient by His touch and made him get up and walk a mile; He 'took' a variety of articles for the devotees and the enthusiasm of the people knew no bounds. Bhajan and Namasankirtan continued far into the night, for no one was in a mood to stop.

The Mission Begins

On the 20th day of October, 1940, the day after they all returned from Hampi by special bus, Sathyanarayana started for school as usual. The excise Inspector of the place, Sri Anjaneyulu who was very much attached to the little Baba, accompanied Him, as far as the school gate and went home, rather reluctantly. He seemed to see a superb halo, round the face of Baba that day and he could not take his eyes away from the enchantment. Within a few minutes, Baba too turned back to the house. Standing on the outer doorstep, he cast aside the books He was carrying and called out, " I am no longer your Sathya." "I am Sai". The sister-in-law came from the kitchen and peeped out; she was almost blinded by the splendour of the halo, which she saw around Baba's head! She closed her eyes and shrieked. Baba addressed her, " I am going; I don't belong to you; Maya has gone; My Bhaktas are calling Me; I have My Work; I can't stay any longer." And, so saying, He turned back and left in spite of her pleadings. The brother hurried home on hearing all this; but, Baba only told him, "Give up all your efforts to 'cure' Me; I am Sai; I do not consider Myself related to you". Neighbour Sri Narayana Sastri heard the noise; he listened and realised that it was something serious; he ran in; he saw the splendour of the 'halo' and fell at Baba's feet. He too heard the Historic Declaration, "Maya has left; I am going; My work is waiting."

Seshama Raju was nonplussed; he could scarcely collect his wits to meet his new situation. A boy, just fourteen, talking of Bhaktas, Work, Maya and the Philosophy of Belonging! He could think of only one plan: the parents entrusted Sathya to him and it was therefore his task to inform them; Sathya could leave the house, only after they came to Uravakonda.

But, Sathya would not step into that building again; He moved in into the garden of the Excise Inspector's bungalow, and sat on a rock, in the midst of the trees. People came into the garden from all direction bringing flowers and fruits; the tope resounded to the voices of hundreds, singing in chorus the lines that Sathya Sai taught them. The first prayer that He taught them that day was, as many still remember,

"Manasa Bhajare Gurucharanam
Dusthara Bhava Sagara Tharanam"

"Meditate in thy mind on the Feet of the Guru; that can take you across the difficult sea of Samsara."

His classmates wept when they heard that Sathya will no longer attend school, that He was much beyond their reach, that His company was hereafter only for those upon whom He showers His Grace. Many came to the garden with incense and camphor, to worship Him. Some came to sympathise with the family, some to congratulate them. Some came to learn and some, alas, even to laugh!

Three days passed thus in the garden. Three days of bhajan and namasankirtan. A photographer came with a camera. He wanted to remove a crude stone that was right in front of him but Baba did not heed to the prayer. He clicked nevertheless and lo! as can be seen from the picture of the photograph the stone had become an image of Shirdi Sai Baba. But only in the photograph, not for all assembled there.

A few days later Baba left Uravakonda to Puttaparthi. Soon He shifted to the house of Karnam Subbamma who tended Him with love and affection and welcomed all the Bhaktas into her spacious house; she spared no effort to make their stay happy and comfortable.

Excerpts from Divine Discourse:

On 20th October 1990, Bhagawan Baba recounted the events that transpired on the day of the Declaration of Avatarhood.

"While I was in Uravakonda, the Chairman of Bellary, Ramaraju, came to see Swami, who was then familiarly called "Raju". Seeing Swami, he told Seshamaraju: "We shall take this boy to Bellary and keep him with us during the holidays. "He added: "Seshamaraju: you are regarding this lad as an ordinary boy It is not so. The effulgence on his face and his purity has moved my heart. There is Divine Effulgence within him. Do not be deluded. You may also come with him and stay with us. From there, the Municipal Chairman took us to Hampi. Do not consider what I am going to say now as something boastful or fanciful or exaggerated. The entire party went into the Virupaksha Temple. If I had said I would not come with them into the temple, others might feel angry or offended. I said I was having stomachache and did not wish to go into the temple. All the members of the party including Thammiraju went in. They were 50 or 60 persons. Ramaraju was thinking only of God and nothing else. He entreated me repeatedly to come with him. I was a very small boy then. He held my hands and pleaded, "Please, please, come." But seeing my resolve, he did not press me further;

Inside the temple, Arati was being offered to the deity, but Virupaksha was not there; only I was in the sanctum: Seshamaraju got angry. He felt that having refused to enter the temple, Raju had somehow got in and stood in the sanctum. This, he felt was sacrilege. He could not contain his anger. But Ramaraju did not think in that manner. He felt that "Raju is Virupaksha and Virupaksha is Raju".

2. 1941-1960

Old Mandir

Karnam's House

Having declared Himself as Sai Baba, of the Bharadwaja Gothram and the Apasthamba Suthram, Sathyanarayana Raju was thereafter commonly known either as Bala Sai or Sathya Sai Baba, an appellation which He Himself accepted. Bhajan was done in His presence not only on Thursday evenings, but gradually on every day and sometimes even twice a day, for the pilgrims who began to arrive could not wait until the ensuing Thursday, to pay their homage to Him. At first, a small room eight feet by eight, facing the road that led to the house of Pedda Venkapa Raju was utlised as the Bhajan Mandir, but, it could accommodate only a dozen at most, whereas the road too was being filled to overflow! People came in large numbers. So the family of the Karnam put up a shed, which was lengthened as the months passed. Even a tent was rigged up and some devotees who came up from Bangalore and Anantapur brought and pitched their own tents. The spacious house of the Karnam was also insufficient, because Baba insisted on feeding all those who came to see Him, and huge dining halls became necessary. Baba would often say in the later years that the grinding stone in Karnam Subbamma's house was always busy, preparing chutney out of the heaps of coconuts that the pilgrims offered. Subbamma was grinding, grinding, almost eight hours of the day!

Very often, when the food cooked threatened to be too small in quantity, Baba was quietly informed and, in the words of an old lady who was in the Karnam's house during those months, "He asked two coconuts to be brought; when they were given to Him, He struck one against the other and bot broke exactly into halves; He then sprinkled the coconut water on the little heaps of rice and the vessels containing the other items and, gave us the signal to proceed with the task of serving all who have come or may come, until dusk !"

The Kalpa Vriksham

During the days of the Old Mandir, Baba generally went every evening to the sands of the river with the devotees and Bhajan was done mostly there, because there was no big shed or hall where all could be accommodated. Baba vouchsafed to the devotees who attended these evening Bhajans various miracles. It was then that the tamarind tree that grows solitarily at the crest of the hill on the left bank of the Chitravathi, near where the road meets it, got the reputation of being a kalpatharu. Baba used to take the devotees to that height and pluck from that tree many varieties of fruits, apple from one branch, mango from another, orange from a third, pears and figs from a fourth and a fifth! Of course, as Baba says, He can make any tree any time a kalpatharu, for He is Himself the Kalpatharu!

He got up the rocks quick and fast, to the surprise of everyone; indeed sometimes He did not climb at all; still, He could be talking to the devotees on the sands one moment, and hail them from near the tamarind tree, the next. He usually helped up the older and fatter among the devotees and when they held His Hand, He pulled them up as if they had no weight at all.

He would ask them, in clear commanding voice from the top of the hill, standing by the side of the Kalpatharu aforesaid, "Look up and see"; and lo, they saw a wheel of circling Light, with Baba. s head in the center or a blinding jet of Jyothi emanating from His forehead. Some have seen, looking up from the sands, a huge Shirdi Sai Baba, illuminated by a mysterious effulgence, some have seen Sathya Sai Baba. s face inside a full-circled Moon and miracles like a pillar of fire etc.

The Moharram Pirs

About this time, Baba was approached by some Muslims of a neighbouring village on a matter of some importance for them. Their ranks were reduced by a fell disease. The worship of what are called Pirs is traditional in these parts during the month of Moharram, the installation, the worship, the ceremonial procession, the immersion, all being celebrated by the Hindu as well as the Muslim communities. Pirs are the hand-shaped objects made of brass etc. which are held sacred as mementos of the sacrifice of Hassan and Hussein on the memorable battlefield of Kerbela. Baba told the Muslims who came to Him that Pirs were being installed in their village since hundreds of years, but latterly the ceremony had stopped. He asked them to continue the worship and revealed to them that if they dig at a certain place which He pointed out, they would get the very Pirs which their forefathers consecrated. They dug at the place and the Pirs were exposed to view! Everyone was so surprised at the objects that none had the courage to descend and pull the Pirs into the open. So, Baba Himself got down the pit and took the Pirs out. There were four of them at the place! For many years thereafter, these were kept at the Mandir itself, rolled up in a mat and packed neatly. They were issued to those villagers for the Moharram celebrations only, and they were being returned duly after the functions were over.

Baba moves to the Old Mandir

With the arrival of devotees from all around at the news of the manifestation of Sai Baba at Puttaparthi, Baba was busy with the cure of their physical and mental ills. He says that even this forms a part of His Mission, for , no one can have the urge for spiritual discipline when pestered by physical and mental ills. So, many cases of chronic illness, lunacy, hysteria, possession by evil spirits and ghosts, etc were brought to the presence of the Great Healer. Persons who where worshipping Shirdi Baba also came, out of curiosity, to examine the new Manifestation of their Lord. Many persuaded Baba to move to their places and thus Baba went to Bangalore and visited a few houses which had contacts with Mirzapur, Kolapuram, Pithapuram, Sandur, Madras and other places. Some devotees came also from the Ursu families connected with the Royal Line of Mysore. At Bangalore, Baba . operated. a long-standing case of duodenal ulcer and the patient got complete relief; the "instruments" were all "materialised" mysteriously and so, the stream of pilgrims increased considerably.

All these highlighted the need for a bigger Mandir where Baba could reside and where the devotees could be accommodated. This was how the Old Mandir got planned by Thirumala Rao of Bangalore and others in 1945. The place selected was a little away from the village, between the Sathyamma and the Gopalakrishna temples, the very site on which sheds and pandals were put up since some years, during Dasara and other festivals, by the Karnam family and other devotees. The old mandir consisted of a tin shed and a set of rooms across a quadrangle. The tin shed served as a shelter for the devotees, and of the set of rooms, one was a bedroom and the other a simple bathroom. The mandir was the scene of many a miracle in those earlier days.

After the completion of the building, Baba came over from the Karnam's house and began residing in the room to the left of the front veranda, a small room, about 8 feet long and 6 feet wide.

Devotees will never forget the Old Mandiram, for Baba was always moving right in the midst of the people there. He composed a large number of Bhajan songs and Kirtans which He taught them, while there. He trained them and corrected them on the spot, and with great love and attention. Since the number of devotees who were present was not very large, Baba used to go out more frequently, to the sands on the riverbed, or the hills around or the gardens across the river and while they were engaged in cooking the feast, they saw many miracles or signs of divinity.

The gathering of devotees increased in number from month to month. The Old Mandiram was found inadequate; it was not possible to meet everyday on the sands. The devotees felt that Baba's room was too cramped and low. He was being forced to live in the very midst of noise and dust and confusion. On festival occasions, the area around the Mandir was too small to accommodate the persons who came; and so, some devotees prayed to Baba to agree to the construction of the spacious building, which Baba has named, 'Prasanthi Nilayam'.

Baba's letter to his Brother

At the early age of 14, Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed His future mission in a letter written to His elder brother, Seshama Raju:

Dated: 25 May 1947

My dear One! I received the communication that you wrote and sent; I found in it the surging floods of your devotion and affection, with the undercurrents of doubts and anxiety. Let Me tell you that it is impossible to plumb the hearts and discover the natures of jnanis, yogis, ascetics, saints, sages and the like. People are endowed with a variety of characteristics and mental attitudes; so, each one judges according to his own angle, talks and argues in the light of his own nature. But, we have to stick to our own right path, our own wisdom, and our own resolution without getting affected by popular appraisal.
As the proverb says, it is only the fruit laden tree that receives the shower of stones from passers-by. The good always provoke the bad into calumny; the bad always provoke the good into derision. This is the nature of this world. One must be surprised if such things do not happen.

The people too have to be pitied, rather than condemned. They do not know. They have no patience to judge aright. They are too full of lust, anger and conceit to see clearly and know fully. So, they write all manner of things. If they only know, they would not talk or write like that. We, too, should not attach any value to such comments and take them to heart, as you seem to do. Truth will certainly triumph some day. Untruth can never win. Untruth might appear to overpower Truth, but its victory will fade away and Truth will establish itself.
It is not the way of the great to swell when people offer worship, and shrink when people scoff. As a matter of fact, no sacred text lays down rules to regulate the lives of the great, prescribing the habits and attitudes that they must adopt. They themselves know the path they must tread; their wisdom regulates and makes their acts holy. Self-reliance, beneficial activity : these two are their special marks.

They may also be engaged in the promotion of the welfare of devotees and in allotting them the fruits of their actions. Why should you be affected by tangle and worry, so long as I am adhering to these two? After all, the praise and blame of the populace do not touch the Atma, the reality; they can touch only the outer physical frame.
I have a Task: To foster all mankind and ensure for all of them lives full of Ananda. I have a Vow: To lead all who stray away from the straight path, again into goodness and save them. I am attached to a Work that I love: To remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they lack. I have a reason to be proud, for, I rescue all who worship and adore Me, aright. I have My definition of the Devotion I expect; Those devoted to Me have to treat joy and grief, gain and loss, with equal fortitude.

This means that I will never give up those who attach themselves to Me. When I am thus engaged in My beneficial task, how can My Name be ever tarnished, as you apprehend? I would advise you not to heed such absurd talk. Mahatmas do not acquire greatness through some one calling them so; they do not become small, when some one calls them small. Only those low ones who revel in opium and ganja but claim to be unexcelled Yogis, only those who quote scriptural texts to justify their gourmandry and pride, only those who are dry-as-dust scholars exulting in their casuistry and argumentative skill, will moved by praise or blame.

You must have read life-stories of saints and Divine personages; in those books, you must have read of even worse falsehoods and more heinous imputations cast against them. This is the lot of Mahatmas, everywhere, at all times. Why then do you take these things so much to heart? Have you not heard of dogs that howl at the stars? How long can they go on? Authenticity will soon win. I will not give up My Mission, nor My determination. I know I will carry them out; I treat the honour and dishonour, the fame and blame that may be the consequence, with equal equanimity. Internally, I am unconcerned. I act but in the outer world; I talk and move about for the sake of the outer world and for announcing My coming to the people; else, I have no concern even with these.

I do not belong to any place; I am not attached to any name. I have no mine or thine. I answer whatever the name you use. I go wherever I am taken. This is My very first vow. I have not disclosed this to any one so far. For me the world is something afar, apart. I act and move only for the sake of mankind. No one can comprehend My Glory, whoever he is, whatever his method of enquiry, however long his attempt. You can yourself see the full Glory in the coming years. Devotees must have patience and forbearance. I am not concerned nor am I anxious that these facts should be made known; I have no need to write these words; I wrote them, because, I felt you will be pained if I do not reply.

Thus, your Baba.

Mandir - Its Genesis And Growth

Baba was then a charming youth of seventeen years. Three years earlier, he had declared, "I am Sai Baba of Shirdi come again for the redemption of mankind!". In spite of the revealing declaration, many people around him in Puttaparthi were still sceptical about his might and mission. One such person was Lakshmaiah - but he had a deep love for the divine boy. One day, Baba told Lakshmaiah, pointing to the hillocks south of the village, "The SAI PRAVESH (the advent of Sai) will transform that region into Prasanthi Pradesh (a region of highest peace). There will rise a BHAVAN (mansion)! Lakhs of people from all over India, why only India, from all over the world, will come and wait there for SAI DARSHAN (sight of Sai)!." Lakshmaiah expressed his doubt. Baba asserted, "You will have to believe it when you have to stand where we are now, trying to catch a glimpse of me, standing on the porch of that Bhavan".

The Bhavan that Baba spoke of on that day is the Mandir in Prasanthi- Nilayam, the sacred abode of the Lord in the human form of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. This Mandir is the heartthrob of millions of people all over the world. Sri Kasturi, the octogenarian biographer of Baba writes about the Mandir, "It has been the scene of countless transformations of character, revolutions in belief, confirmations of faith, curing of disease, calmings of temper, discarding of hatred, salvaging of souls and reunions of hearts.." Indeed, the Mandir today stands as the symbol of the redemption of the world through the transformation of man. This Mandir is the nucleus of Sai's mission of Dharmasthapana.

The majestic Mandir now stands facing north in a compound measuring 220"X 150" and its plinth area is a little more than 7500 square feet. It is a Nilayam (residence) evolved into a MANDIR (temple). The construction of this building in the late forties may be described as the first manifestation of the engineering skill of Baba! Baba was then in his early twenties. It was felt that the Old Mandir in the village was too small to accommodate the growing Sai family that gathered round its young Master. A big building was the need of the hour and it was raised with stone and mortar; and Bhagawan himself was the architect and the engineer of this building, which he transformed into the Mandir in 1974. Also, he was the accountant! Baba recollects even now with a merry twinkle in his eye how he was doing the batwada (the weekly -payments to labourers), getting the signatures of the lucky recipients on the vouchers. Others who were associated with the construction of the Nilayam are Sakamma (a devotee from the Coorg District in Karnataka, who was instrumental in the construction of the . Old Mandir. in the village), the Raja of Sandur (a province now in Karnataka), Tiruvenkatam, a merchant from Bangalore and Thirumala Iyengar, an engineer in charge of the construction of the Tungabhadra dam. Some curious engineers who visited the construction site now and then accepted the ideas of Baba, because they found them to be better than their own. They discovered that Baba had a greater sense of perspective and a finer aesthetic vision than they had.

The story of the construction of the building is a chain of miracles wrought by Bhagawan's grace. The most astounding was the transport of the huge girders for the central prayer hall from the railway station at Penukonda sixteen miles away. Girders of 40 feet length had come from Trichinopoly (now Tiruchirapalli) to Penukonda by train. The road from Penukonda to Bukkapatnam was a district board road with a sandy stream at the seventh mile and it passed through a few villages with delicately built houses(!) flanking the narrow road on either side with a few acutely angled curves. There was a track of three miles, from Bukkapatnam to Puttaparthi with a few dilapidated culverts and low-level causeways and a broad expanse of the sand of the river Chitravathi. Then there was the task of hoisting the heavy girders on the twenty-foot high walls. Therefore, the engineers gave up all hope of transporting the girders from Penukonda to Puttaparthi and placed before Baba some alternative proposals for roofing the prayer hall. But Baba did not relent.

One fine morning, the Road Transport Officer of Anantapur district, who was a devotee of Baba, woke up to find a surprise in front of his house. It was a huge crane from the Tungabhadra Dam site that had stopped there and refused to move forward. It had struck work! The driver was grappling with the engine in vain. He could not make it move. He sought the help of the Road Transport Officer who thought that the crane was Baba sent(!) for transporting the girders from Penukonda to Puttaparthi. It was agreed that the crane would transport the girders if it were repaired. The R.T.O. hurried to Puttaparthi and prayed to Baba, who materialised some vibhuti (sacred ash) and gave it to him. This vibhuti was smeared on the engine and the driver was asked to start it and lo! the crane started moving. The surprised driver went happily to Penukonda railway station, lifted the girders with the giant arms of the crane and started towards Puttaparthi. The sight of this giant carrying the girders was a great surprise for the villagers who greeted it by lining up on the roadsides. The crane somehow passed over the culverts, negotiated hairpin bends, lurched over the slushes and puffed its way up the Karnatanagapalli hill! It did not move further, may be on seeing the broad sheet of sand of the Chitravathi River! Baba himself went to the crane, sat with the driver and handled the steering wheel. Thrilled by the touch of the Lord, the crane moved happily to the work spot and unloaded the girders.

Prasanthi Nilayam, the simple looking two-storeyed building of granite was inaugurated on 23rd November 1950, the twenty-fifth birthday of Baba. It had a central prayer hall flanked by rooms on either side and corridors in the front and behind. In addition, there was a small portico attached to the central portion of the corridor in the front. The height of the prayer hall was divided into two floors for the rooms and the corridors linking the rooms on either side. The Nilayam continued in its original form with very few modifications until 1973 when Bhagawan Baba planned and executed the transformation of the residence into the temple. The building was extended on all sides and domes were built on top of the building. The exterior of the whole building, the corridor and the portico on the front and the interior of the central prayer hall were covered with beautiful and meaningful pieces of sculpture of Indian tradition. These alterations and additions changed the very appearance of the building and gave the structure a very majestic and sacred appearance. All this was completed by 23rd November 1974, the day on which Baba completed forty-eight years. On that day, Dr. V.K Gokak, who later went on to become the first Vice-Chancellor of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning,asked Bhagawan "Swami, your first sixteen years were full of Leelas (divine pranks), the second sixteen manifested Mahimas (miracles) and at thirty two you started Upades (teaching). Is there any novel feature marking the completion of forty-eight?". Baba said, "Look around!". There it was! Prasanthi Nilayam had (Prasanthi Nilayamhad) become Prasanthi Mandir! The residence, which housed the young, Sai had become the temple with God installed in it. The three phases - Leelas, Mahimas and Upadesh - were fused together in divine harmony to confer benediction by darshan (sight) alone.

The Prasanthi Mandir is a living testimony to the life and message of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The Mandir speaks eloquently the divine message of the unity of life, universal concord and harmony through its sculptured angels, humans and animals, feasting our eyes on the various faces of this aesthetic wonder. The peacocks and the snakes, the elephants and the lions, nestling close to each other on the facade of the Mandir in quiet ecstasy, speak a meaningful message to those who have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to feel. These sculptured beings on the facade beautifully bring out the drama of transformation and transcendence that can occur if one sincerely strives to sublimate oneself. The lions, elephants, snakes and peacocks, contemptuously dismissed by us as sub-human species, have lifted themselves to a sublime stature by practising maitri (friendship), mudita (joy), karuna (compassion) and upeksha (detachment). The transformation of the human into the divine is demonstrated through the sculptures of pamara (ignorant one), deva (angel) and hamsa (swan). The pamara by constant striving becomes a devata (angel) and ultimately transforms himself into a Paramahamsa (the realised soul) by bringing into perfection the four noble virtues: maitri, mudita, karuna and upeksha. The hamsa (swan), stationed above the elephants, lions, peacocks and snakes, climaxes the sculptural drama of divine transformation, for the hamsa signifies paramahamsa (realised soul) itself. The facade, which is the face of the Mandir, expresses the very essence of Bhagavan's message.

Another sculptural drama that the Mandir unfolds is the drama of the adoration of the divine. This sublime theme is unfolded through the sculptures of the sub-human and the angelic creation of God rapturously lost in the worship of the Lord. The sculptural figures on the darshan mantaps (shelters built for devotees adjacent to the compound and facing the Mandir), for instance a pair of nandis (bullocks) looking lovingly at a Shivalinga (a symbol of Shiva), a pair of lions guarding the Dharma Chakra, the winged angels playing on the flute, trumpet and cymbals in prayerful ecstasy write a rich commentary on this divine adoration. The elephants carrying garlands to revere the Sarva Dharma Symbol, the divine images carved on the wooden doors of the central prayer hall and the interview room, substantiate the same theme. The sculptures of a pair of swans gathering around a lotus, a pair of deer inhaling the fragrance of flowers and a pair of peacocks gathered together teach us the valuable lessons of amity and co-existence. The profusion of sculptured flowers strewn all over the central Prayer Hall, on the ceiling, pillars, arches, doors and windows speak in their own language of silence; the flowering of the spirit as a consequence of devotion to the divine. The kingdoms of plant, bird, beast and angel have been beautifully featured to substantiate the theme of adoration of the Lord.

The central prayer hall is a thing of beauty, joy and wonder. The five religious symbols, descending from top to bottom of the walls on each side of the altar sing silently but sweetly the song of the unity of religions.

The life-size portraits of Shirdi Sai Baba and Sathya Sai Baba glow with life and light, thanks to the Divine Painter who guided the skilled hands of the human painter. The portrait of Shirdi Baba, simple and austere, eyes melting with quiet compassion, speaks of the Brahmatatva of Bhagawan.former incarnation. The portrait of Sri Sathya Sai Baba, radiant,full and bewitchingly beautiful, the eyes aglow with a merry twinkle, speaks of the Vishnutatva of the Avatar.

At the end of the hall is the sculpture of Sri Krishna singing the Song Celestial (Bhagavad Gita) to the war-weary Arjuna against the background of the battle of Kurukshetra. It is significant that in the same hall Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba delivered a series of discourses on the Geeta expounding the forgotten and latent meaning of this Divine Song to the life-weary people of the Kali age. During those times of the divine exposition of the Geeta, the sculptured Krishna and the living Sai Krishna seemed to become one, breathing melodies eternally new. Equally significant is the scene of the sculptured avatars, adorning the walls of the hall, enacting the drama, of divine descent and divine grace for the uplift of mankind. It is significant that all these avatars have upraised hands in the abhaya pose, conferring benediction on all those who are pure at heart.

The ceiling of the Prayer Hall is profusely strewn with sculptured flowers of all sizes. The splendid chandeliers hanging from beautiful lotuses make the building an impressive blend of the ancient and the modern. And most meaningful, of course, is the colour combination used inside and outside the entire Mandir. Blue, yellow and pink are the colours used, communicating the message of the harmony of spirit, intellect and heart respectively; for blue stands for spirit, yellow for intellect and pink for heart (love). The rich harmony of the three does result in Santhi and Prasanthi; and that really is the message of the PRASANTHI MANDIR. Adjacent to the verandah of the Prayer Hall on the left side, are two rooms set apart for interviews, zealously guarded Dwarapalakas carved on the wooden doors. On the first floor is a large portico, adorned with silver doors. For a long time Bhagawan used to give darshan every day from this portico. How longingly the people waited with bated breath for the silver doors to open and the Lord to give darshan! Now Baba gives darshan from this portico only once a year, in the early hours of Christmas Day, accepting the prayers and supplications of thousands of Christians who throng to him. During that occasion, the portico appears to fade away, leaving only Baba before us, who becomes one with the love, the longing and the devotion that these seekers of Truth lovingly nourish in their hearts and bring with them from the far off corners of the globe.

Moreover, crowning the Mandir are three domes gazing at the blue infinity, a symbol of eternity.

In front of the Mandir is a circle of greenery and amidst the greenery is the yogic pillar with a number of rings. These rings indicate the different stages of yogic discipline. This yoga leads to the unfolding of the . Lotus of the Heart. whose petals are borne on the top of the pillar. This is the pregnant meaning of the yogic pillar in front of the Mandir.

Also of equal significance is the deeper meaning of the three gates to the Mandir Prayer Hall. Bhagawan himself has explained the subtle significance of these three gates: . The first, the outermost one that leads into the compound, is the 'Gate of Darkness'. A person who crosses it leaves darkness, ignorance and inertia behind. He has nourished the holy thought of coming to the Presence and the spirit of darkness and ignorance has fallen behind him. Those who are immersed in darkness, the Thamasic, will not even have the curiosity to enter! Then there is a second gate, just where the garden around the Lotus Circle begins. There, one is attracted by the magnificence of the building, the electric lights, the coloured candelabras, the hanging flower pots, that is to say, the active and passionate aspects which appeal to individuals who are Rajasic, active and passionate. Next, one comes to the very door of the Prayer Hall, 'Gate of wisdom', leading the Sathwic to the Abode of Peace.

In front of this circular patch used to be the statue of Lord Vighneswara seated in the Abhayahasta pose (hand upraised conferring blessings); and there, a few yards away, a beautiful arch, the top of it containing two winged angels carrying the Sarva Dharma Symbol.

The arch leads to the entrance gate of the gopuram. Speaking on the significance of the gopuram, Bhagawan himself made the following pregnant statement, "If you dwell upon the significance of the gopuram, you can realise how holy, how mysterious, how revealing is its purpose. The gopuram beckons to wayfarers who have lost their way and who wander away from truth, 'O ye mortals! Blinded by the fog of physical attachments and self-aggrandizing urges, overcome by the miasma of worldly desires, which are fleeting and false, you have forgotten Me, the source and sustenance of you all. Look up to this eternal, ever pure, over-full tower of joy. Forgetting Me, you are wallowing in grief; you are pursuing the mirage in desert sands. Come, have faith in the Everlasting Me. Struggle out of the darkness and enter the realm of light, and come to the royal road of Santhi. That is the Path of Dharma. Come, come, O come!.

Thus does Gopala call on all, with raised hand, from atop the Gopuras in every village".

This is the principle underlying the construction of Gopuras. Such high ideals inspire these structures.This is the true meaning, a meaning that can be experienced and felt. The light on top of the gopuram is the symbol of the Light which is the refuge of all; it is the representative of the unflickering inner lamp, lit at the self-same Flame; it is the Inner Illumination, gained by merging in Hari". In consonance with what Bhagawan Baba has said on the significance of the- gopuram, the gopuram of Prasanthi Nilayam beckons to all of us to light our inner lamps to see and experience the Light of Lights, which Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is.

The genesis and the growth of the Mandir is as unique as the Avatar, whose divine abode the Mandir is. In the hundreds of aeons that have passed, no temple was ever raised during the living years of the Avatar. The Vanaras (monkeys) in the Tretha-Yuga had the singular good fortune of building for Sri Rama a bridge across the waters of the Hindu Mahasagar spanning Bharat and Sri Lanka. In the Kali age, the naras (human) enjoyed the unique good fortune of building a temple for their dearest Lord Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. The devotees carried brick, sand and stone and built this aesthetic wonder, for their own joy and for the pleasure of their own Loving Lord.

The Prasanthi Mandir is indeed the Living Temple for the Living God.

Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital, Prasanthinilayam (Date Line-2 3.11.1950)

There are two hospitals run by the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust: one at Prasanthinilayam and another at Whitefield, Bangalore.

The foundation of the Prasanthi Nilayam hospital was laid thirty years ago on 23rd November 1954 and the hospital was inaugurated on 4th October 1956. Many devotees toiled to help build the hospital by carrying stones, bricks, cement and other articles on top of a small hill on which it was constructed. From the hospital, one could get a bird's eye- view of the river Chitravathi with the hills in the background.

The hospital initially had twelve beds, six of them for confinements, according to the needs of the time. The hospital catered mainly to the villagers and the devotees. The doctors and the para-medical staff were appointed by Swami. They worked voluntarily without any remuneration.
Some of you may ask why there should be a hospital here. Why should not Bhagawan Baba cure diseases by the exercise of his will? To this, Swami has replied, "The question is silly, for it implies that everything here should be done through some miracle or in some inexplicable manner. It also implies that one who comes here should not fall ill or die. For me, this is not my only hospital. All hospitals are mine. The hospital seems to increase faith, to demonstrate divinity and to remove doubt. It is Faith that matters and which cures. The patients who come here benefit by the spiritual vibrations that fill the air in Prasanthi Nilayam. There are also many who will be satisfied if drugs are given and injections administered. Their faith in grace is not yet strong. So a hospital is required for such."

Treatment both for indoor and outdoor patients is free. Medicines, injections, operations and deliveries are also free. During festivals like Dasara, Sivaratri and Swami's Birthday, special medical camps are organised to cater to the needs of the large number of devotees. Doctors attending the festivals at Prasanthi Nilayam are allowed to participate in the camps on a voluntary basis.

As the demands on the hospital built in 1954 increased due to the University Campus and the very large number of devotees coming from far and near, the need was felt for the construction of a new hospital building, equipped with all medical facilities. The foundation of the new hospital building was laid on 23rd November, 1982 and the hospital was inaugurated on Sivaratri Day 29th February 1984. The hospital has arrangements for one hundred beds with an air-conditioned fully equipped operation theatre, blood bank, laboratory, intensive care unit, X-Ray and an eye and dental unit. Well-qualified medical and paramedical staff have been recruited to man the various branches of the hospital.

Sanathana Sarathi

"On Sivarathri day in 1958, was inaugurated the monthly magazine designed to communicate the message of Bhagawan to the world. He named it Sanathana Sarathi. These two words taken together spell the mission that Baba has taken upon Himself. Sanathana denotes His being the very source of all this 'becoming'. Sanathana means 'timeless, eternal'. Baba has said that He always was, is, and ever will be. He is Sanathana, now limited in time and space so that He can be availed of by us. The Upanishads speak of embodied beings as chariots which are drawn along by the senses(horses) through the objective world. Safety lies in choosing a knowledgeable Sarathi(charioteer) and installing him with unimpeded authority in the chariot. By taking upon Himself the role of the Sanathana Sarathi, Baba has revealed that He is the Eternal Inner Motivator in all- recognised or unrecognized, acknowledged or ignored, respected or slandered.
The first issue of the magazine contained a message from Baba wherein He spoke of the high purpose which it had set out to fulfil: "From this day, our Sanathana Sarathi will lead to victory the cohorts of truth - the Vedas, the Sastras and similar scriptures of all faiths, against the forces of the ego such as injustice, falsehood, immorality and cruelty. This is the reason why it has emerged. This Sarathi will fight in order to establish world prosperity. It is bound to sound the paean of triumph when universal Ananda is achieved." Prof. N. Kasturi was the Editor of Sanathana Sarathi from its inception in 1958 till he attained the Divine Lotus Feet in the year 1987."

"I got the good news pretty quick; Baba had come to Bangalore. He was staying in Sri Vittal Rao?s house on the 9th Cross Road, Wilson Gardens, only five minutes away from my residence, ?Ashoka? on the 12th cross. Knowing that there was a possibility of His coming to His place, I had tipped the dry cleaner, who attended to the washing and ironing of his door and window curtains, to inform me as soon as he delivered the wash to Vittal Rao. I had noticed that he had the curtains washed and ironed as part of house cleaning, preliminary to Baba?s visit. When the news leaked at last, I posted the little daughter of my domestic help on a slab of stone facing his house, with directions to keep watch for a big car and an orange robe. So within ten minutes of Baba?s stepping into his house, Vittal Rao was amazed to find me on his verandah! ?Wait! Wait! He pleaded. But Baba spotted and came towards me with His palm ready to fall on my shoulder. ?Now, you have work at Puttaparthi?, he said. ?A monthly magazine will start soon. Guess! How is it named?? He asked. I confessed I could not delve into His will. Yet He drew out from my reluctance a few names. ?The Godward Path?, ?Karma Dharma?, ?Prema Yoga?. He waved aside the titles I suggested and announced that he had decided to designate it as ?Sanathana Sarathi?.

That name is a clarion call. It is the conch of Vishnu, awakening the sleeping. It is the drum of Siva challenging the unruly to shed their waywardness. ?Sarathi? means ?he who holds the reins?, ?Sanathana? means ?Eternal?. So, that title would announce to the world that Baba is the Omniwill, which is moulding and manipulating, since Times began, the wills of living beings from the amoeba to the astronaut. ?Recognise God as the Sarathi, yield wholeheartedly to His direction, reach your Destination in good shape?, was the message Baba was conveying through that Name. I was elated, elevated.

?This is the 32nd year of the Avataric Career and it is time He stood forth as the world Teacher,? I said to myself, recalling His first public discourse during Dasara, 1953. It was while the Lord was the Sarathi for Arjuna that the Bhagavad Gita was conferred on mankind through him. The Lord is therefore known as Partha (Arjuna) Sarathi. Baba is now standing forth as Sanathana Sarathi ? the Sarathi for every one, everywhere.

A few days prior to the release of the first number of the magazine, Baba declared before a gathering on the Chithravathi sands, ?The Bhagavad Gita is a guidebook, a map for the aspirant to peace and liberation. The Lord has installed Himself in every heart as the charioteer. Ask Him for the proper direction and He will answer and lead. You can hear a Gita specially designed for you, if you call upon the Lord?. The ?Sanathana Sarathi? was therefore intended as the ?Bhagawan Uvacha? (Thus saith the Lord) for a world that has jumped the rails and is in fatal jeopardy."-

To be continued...

Source: http://www.srisathyasai.org.in

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