November 23, 1926, is a red-lettered day in the history of mankind.
On that day was born in the (then) obscure village of Puttaparthi, a
charming young baby boy in the Ratnakara family. None realised then,
and indeed for a long time thereafter, that Divinity had incarnated in
human form as Ratnakara Venkata Satyanarayana Raju, grandson of
Kondama Raju, and son of Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma.
birth of ordinary mortals is the direct consequence of earlier lives.
The Karma or the track-record of earlier births, i.e., the
nature of deeds performed, both good and bad, determine the future
Janmas or births. In short, human birth is a Karma Janma (birth
that is the consequence of earlier births). However, when the Lord
comes down in human form, it is a different story altogether. He
incarnates as a part of His unfathomable Cosmic Drama, to play as it
were, a cameo role. He decides the time and the place of His
incarnation, the parents, and also how His life would unfold. Thus the
Lord's birth as a human is a part of His Divine Sport or Leela;
in other words, His life is a Leela Janma.
In the Sathya Sai
Incarnation, the Lord chose the Ratnakara family on account of the
purity, the piety, and the devotion of its members. Prior to the
incarnation, Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma had been blessed with
one son and two daughters - Seshama Raju, Venkamma, and Parvathamma,
in that order. Some years passed and Mother Easwaramma longed for
another son. She observed all the prescribed austerities and soon her
prayers were answered - she was to become a mother again. Even before
its birth, Easwaramma knew that the child to be born would be unusual.
There was a definite reason for such a belief.
Sometime prior to the
birth of Swami, Lakshmamma, the mother-in-law was engaged in the
worship of Lord Sathyanarayana. The Lord then appeared in Lakshmamma's
dream and blessed her, indicating that He would be born in her family.
Promptly, Lakshmamma alerted Easwaramma that the latter might have
strange experiences but ought not to worry about them. Shortly
thereafter, Easwaramma had precisely one such experience.
One day as she was
drawing water from the well, Easwaramma was startled by the sight of a
big blue ball of light. The ball came directly towards her and entered
her; Easwaramma fainted and fell. The Lord had entered her womb for
the mandatory stay prior to physical birth as Sathyanarayana Raju.
Thus the Lord was not begotten but immaculately conceived, even as His
Son had been, two thousand years ago.
Sathya was born in
the early hours of November 23, 1926. There were any number of unusual
incidents accompanying His birth, as also in His childhood (as in the
case of Krishna). Though they all gave strong hints of about His
Divinity, few realised until much later that Sathya was the Lord
Himself. But all unfailingly recognised that Sathya was most unusual,
extra-ordinarily intelligent, precocious, and above all, always full
of Love and compassion.
Primary School, Sathya helped His classmates in diverse ways. Though
Himself from a poor family, He did not hesitate to give away His
clothes to needy mates. More important, He never lost an opportunity
to turn the minds of His friends towards God. Among other things, He
formed a Bhajan group for this purpose, which later became very
It was time to move
on to Higher Secondary School but such a school was available only in
Bukkapatnam, several kilometers to the north of Puttaparthi. Young
Sathya now had to trudge back and forth every day, no matter what the
weather, crossing fields, walking on bunds, and wading through water,
as required. In the Bukkapatnam School also, He was a model student,
ever helpful to others. Making students God-conscious remained His
prime occupation, and to hold the attention of His mates, He would
often materialise Prasaadam, much to their amazement.
Sathya was an
automatic choice for the class-leader (Monitor), but this brought its
share of problems. Once, His teacher asked Sathya to slap all the boys
in the class for some infringement of discipline. Instead of slapping
hard as he was expected to, Sathya merely patted the cheeks of the
errant pupils. This greatly angered the teacher, who then directed all
his wrath on the class-leader. Sathya bore the punishment in stoic
silence; for Him, it was all a part of the Drama scripted by Him, and
this particular scene was being enacted to impart some lessons to
On another occasion,
the teacher handling a particular class-hour (period) noticed that
Sathya was not writing
what was being dictated, while all other students did. When questioned,
Sathya replied that He was not taking down because He already knew
that lesson. Interpreting the response as gross impertinence, the
teacher asked Sathya to stand up on the bench, a form of punishment
popular in those days. Sathya obediently did. After a while the School
bell rang, signalling the end of the period in progress, and the
commencement of a new period. It was time for the teacher to leave the
room and make way for another one who was to handle the next period.
Mr. Mahboob Khan, this other teacher, entered the classroom and to his
utter surprise saw Sathya standing upon the bench. Khan loved Sathya
very much, and to him it was inconceivable that Sathya would have done
anything to deserve a punishment. He also noticed that the teacher who
had handled the previous period was not vacating the chair. To his
astonishment he then discovered that this teacher was not getting up
from the chair because he was stuck or glued to it - whenever the
teacher tried to get up, the chair also lifted! In a flash Khan
understood the problem. He asked Sathya to get down from the bench and
the stuck teacher promptly got his release! Years later Swami
disclosed that this drama was staged not to inflict humiliation on the
teacher concerned but to make people conscious of His Divine powers.
Humiliation is something that does not exist in Swami's dictionary.
Around this time,
Seshama Raju went to Kamalapuram to stay with his in-laws, and also
qualify there as a teacher. Kamalapuram boasted of a good school and
Seshama Raju thought that this was the school where Sathya ought to
study - the entire family pinned its hope on Sathya, and dreamt that
one day He would go to college and eventually end up as a big officer
in the Government. And so to Kamalpuram, Sathya went.
Seshma Raju's in-laws
being relatively well-off, looked down upon Sathya since He was quite
poor. As a result, He was not only ill-treated but also called upon to
perform arduous house-hold duties. He had, for example, to fetch
drinking water everyday from a far-off well. Such chores left scars,
which remain to this day.
In the Kamalapuram
School, Sathya was a great favourite of the Drill Master who doubled
also as the Scout
Master. Once, there was to be a grand General Fair-cum Cattle Show in
the neighbouring village of Pushpagiri. The Scout Master wanted his
troop to go Pushpagiri and render service of the type scouts were
expected to. A subscription of ten rupees was collected from each boy
for meeting the various expenses connected with the trip, including
the bus fare. Not having the required amount, Sathya excused Himself
from joining the group but assured the Scout Master that He would
somehow or the other be in Pushpagiri at the appointed time for duty.
While His friends went by bus, Sathya walked the entire distance, with
little to eat on the way. When He finally reached Pushpagiri, He was
very tired but did not flinch from discharging His duties. Just before
returning, He thoughtfully bought a few small gifts for folks back
home. When He returned, what greeted Him was not appreciation for the
gifts but a severe punishment because His absence had created problems
with the supply of drinking water. Much later Swami revealed that He
deliberately created such painful situations for Himself in order to
teach the lesson of forbearance and equanimity. Despite the harsh
treatment constantly administered, Swami has never ever criticised
either His elder brother or His sister-in-law, maintaining always that
they were but mere instruments in His Drama, with specific roles to
teacher's training concluded, Seshama Raju moved from Kamalapuram to
Uravakonda to take appointment as a Telugu teacher in a school there.
Sathya went along and joined that school. Once again He excelled in
everything, and became the cynosure of all eyes. But once He was back
at home, it was the same painful routine; no let-up at all.
March 1940 marked a
turning point. Sathya was allegedly stung one day by a scorpion, found
in plenty in Uravakonda. His health became impaired and the village
medics were consulted but it did not help. Sathya's behaviour also
appeared to undergo a change, and He became an enigma to all.
Convinced that Sathya had come under the spell of evil spirits, all
sorts of quack remedies were tried but they were of no avail. An
exorciser was summoned but before he could get started, he heard a
mysterious voice warning him; obeying the warning he promptly withdrew.
Meanwhile, a frantic message was sent to Sathya's parents in
Puttaparthi, and they both rushed to Uravakonda consumed with anxiety.
Everyone was puzzled
since Sathya was no longer the ideal and model schoolboy of the
standard type. He
remote, withdrawn, and indifferent to worldly matters. If He spoke,
which was rarely, it was always on spiritual matters. At times He
would burst into non-stop recitation of Vedic hymns He had never
learnt. On matters philosophical and spiritual, He dared even to
correct elders, acknowledged experts, and scholars, something He was
never known to do before.
Sathya was then taken to other places like Bellary and Dharmavaram for
treatment but there was no improvement. One more attempt was made and
this time He was taken to an exorciser in Kadri, a mean and cruel
person. Here, young Sathya was put through incredible physical
torture, unimaginable even in the proverbial Hell. The witch-doctor
was verily an agent of death, and when his atrocities mounted, Sathya
was whisked away back to home in Puttaparthi.
and weeks passed, and Sathya continued to be "abnormal". Came May 23,
1940, and with it a revelation. That morning Sathya was in a good
mood, materialising flowers and sugar candy in plenty, and
distributing them to all those who called on Him. Father Venkama Raju
heard about this but was neither pleased nor amused. Suspecting
trickery, he armed himself with a big stick, approached Sathya, and
asked, "Who are You? Are You God, ghost, or Devil?" The big moment had
arrived and Sathya calmly replied, "I am Sai." The stick slowly
slipped out of Venkama Raju's hand but he still remained puzzled. And
so he asked: "What are we to do with You?" Sathya replied, "Worship
Me." The father's next question was, "When?" Came the answer: "Every
Thursday." That was when the worship of Sathya Sai first commenced.
One Thursday, someone
challenged: "If You are Sai Baba, show us some proof." Sathya then
asked for some
flowers. A bunch of jasmine flowers were given to Him. He threw them
on the floor; instead of falling randomly, they got neatly arranged to
form the words SAI BABA in Telugu. Such revelations not withstanding,
Sathya was forced to return to Uravakonda and resume school.
Looking back, one can
see that starting from the very beginning and particularly from March
1940, Sathya had been gradually setting the stage for what was soon to
follow. Right from the time He was a little boy, He had, constantly
and consistently, displayed the Divine qualities of compassion,
sacrifice, forbearance, and selfless Love. Occasionally, He performed
miracles to drop hints that He was indeed far beyond the normal.
Repeatedly He demonstrated His ability to absorb enormous cruelty and
physical punishment without any trace of hatred or rancour towards
those ill-treating Him. And last but not the least, He constantly
diverted the attention of one and all from the mundane to the Divine.
finally the day to snap all worldly ties and launch the Mission He had
incarnated for. October 20, 1940 was that day. In the morning of that
day, Sathya left for school as usual but within minutes He was back
home. Standing on the doorstep, He flung aside the bag containing
books and in ringing tones declared, "I am no longer your Sathya. I
am Sai. I don't belong to you. I have My work. My devotees are calling
Me. I am going. I can no longer stay here." Walking up to a
neighbour's house, He sat on a rock in the middle of the garden there
while people flocked, bringing flowers. And then, most lovingly and
compassionately Sri Sathya Sai Baba led the congregation in a
Bhajan that has now become very familiar to us. He sang:
Dustara bhavasagara tharanam.
O mind! Meditate on the Lotus Feet of the Lord!
That alone will help you to sail across the turbulent sea called life.
The Avatar had
finally revealed Himself. Physically, Sai was still a fourteen-year
old. Yet, such was His magnetism, and such was the faith of the
devotees who flocked to Him that they had no reservation in accepting
Him as a Divine Incarnation.
Baba now decided to
return to Puttaparthi and make it the base for His Mission. The
residents of Uravakonda gave Him a ceremonial and tearful send-off,
and Baba was carried in procession. En route, He was joyfully
welcomed and worshipped in all the villages that He passed through.
Back in Puttaparthi He stayed with His parents for a few days and then
shifted to the house of a pious lady named Subbamma, who always had
abiding faith in the Divinity of Sathya Sai. Soon, Subbamma's
unostentatious abode became a pilgrim centre. They came in large
numbers to worship Sai, and patiently and tirelessly, Subbamma played
hostess to them all. The crowds kept growing bigger and bigger and a
new residence had to be found for Sai. In 1944, Baba moved to a
thatched hut in a vacant plot of land nearby. The plot was gifted to
Swami by Subbamma. Later the hut was replaced by a tin shed with
verandas on either side - this is the famous Paatha Mandiram
(old Mandir) of Puttaparthi folklore. Baba stayed in the shed while
devotees occupied the veranda. There was a total absence of creature
comforts and indeed even elementary conveniences that one takes for
granted. Yet, for those
sharing the same roof with Bhagavan Baba, was veritable heaven.
History repeated and
Paatha Mandiram also began to overflow - Baba clearly needed a
much bigger place to receive His devotees. Plans were made and in
1950, and what is now known as the Mandir (in Prasantinilayam), came
into existence, in bare-bones form of course. Once Baba moved to
Prasantinilayam, the tin shed previously occupied by Him was replaced
by a brick and mortar structure - the Paatha Mandiram of yore
had now become the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam (marriage
hall); to this day, marriages are celebrated in this hall.
has a Mission. In 1958, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed that His
Mission would unfold itself in stages. The first sixteen years would
be dominated by contact with individuals. Following this, attention
would be given to groups. In the next phase, spiritual exhortation
would be the dominant feature, after which service to humanity at
large would become the principal focus.
Baba moves, lives,
and acts like ordinary mortals do but His extra-ordinary Love
(Prema), if noticed, would immediately reveal that He is nothing
short of Divinity personified. At times, He uses miracles to draw
attention to His Divine nature, which is why He refers to His miracles
as His visiting card. On occasions, He has explicitly discussed the
nature of the Sai Avatar.
Let us move on to the
next section where you can get a glimpse of the nature of Avatars, in
Swami's own words!
Source: Radio Sai E-Magazine