Sri Sathya Sai Baba Miracles
Man of Miracles
(1906 - 28-9-2004
[Birthday of Shri Shirdi Sai Baba])
1 The Search
2 Sathya Sai
3 Abode of Peace and Many Wonders
4 O World
6 The Two Sais
Echoes from the Early Years
8 With Baba in the Hills
Return to Brindavanam
10 A Place
13 The Question of Saving from Death
Eternal Here and Now
Same, but Different
16 A Word
from the West
18 Reality and Significance of the Miraculous
This book is intended for three
classes of readers; one, the many for whom the mysterious,
marvellous and miraculous of life hold interest and appeal; two, the
searchers after spiritual light who have not yet found what they
seek. Many in both of these classes, especially the former, will not
even have heard of Satya Sai Baba of India, let alone seen his
miracles and felt his great influence. They will be more than
inclined to doubt. Therefore I have tried to present the facts as
objectively as possible, keeping the devotional content to a
minimum. Other books, from time to time, have dealt in such a way
with the subject of miraculous phenomena. But I know of none
describing so many and varied events connected with a miracle-saint,
still living, and attested to by such an array of witnesses whose
real names are given. These witnesses are, in the main, well-known
in their professions and/or communities and can be contacted by any
doubters who would like confirmation of the fantastic incredible
Because the devotional element is minimal the third class of readers
for whom the book is intended, the Sai devotees, will perhaps feel
that the presentation is too cold for them. But I beg them to
remember that pure devotional literature is of interest only to
devotees, and here I am primarily concerned with a much wider
But I sincerely hope that even the most ardent and experienced Sai
devotee, to whom the extraordinary has become the commonplace, will
find in these pages something to interest him - perhaps some new
evidence, aspect or interpretation of the great Sai power. For it is
a fathomless ocean and no man can know more than a fraction of it.
In this volume, the fruit of long but highly-rewarding research,
investigation and experience, I would like to share with you the
inspiring fraction that I came to know.
And now I want to express some appreciation and gratitude. First and
foremost to Sri Satya Sai Baba himself for all that he has so
graciously shown and revealed to me personally. Words completely
fail, me here. So I will pass on swiftly to express my gratitude to
those people who so courteously supplied me with the facts about
their precious and marvellous experiences, and who also permitted me
to use their names in testimony to a truth that is stranger than
Finally, further sincere thanks are due to my good friend, Mr, Alf
Tidemand-Johannessen, who provided some very timely secretarial
assistance in connection with the book, and to my wife who helped so
much in typing and checking the manuscript. H.M.
... and you
find it difficult to believe in miracles? I, on the contrary, find
it easy. They are to be expected. The starry world in time and
space, the pageant of life, the processes of growth and
reproduction, the instincts of animals, the inventiveness of nature
they are all utterly unbelievable, miracles piled upon miracles ...
Professor W. MacNeile Dixon, Gifford Lectures, 1935-37
Most of us meet with the miraculous and magical in the tales of
early childhood, and in those plastic years, before the "shades of
the prison house" have begun to close around us, miracles are part
of the accepted order. There is no incredibility, for example, in
the magic power of Aladdin's lamp, or in Jack's beanstalk to the
land of the giants, or in Christ walking over the storm-tossed
Such stories are not, of course, confined to the folklore and
religious scriptures of the western world. The written chronicles of
Man in all areas unroll a record of miracles that stretches from
Lord Krishna, some 5,000 years ago, down to the present day. The Age
of Miracles has always been with us. We read of its rosy morning on
the far horizons of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, India and Palestine. And
in the old Alexandria of the early Christian Era there were
theurgists who at public ceremonies made statues "walk, talk and
In Europe during the Middle Ages the church unfortunately claimed a
monopoly of the miraculous, and those who worked outside it had to
work in secrecy. Such secular theurgical workers, belonging to the
Rosicrucian and other brotherhoods of occult practice, did exist.
However, and despite ecclesiastical power and jealousy, some great
personalities - adepts like Paracelsus and the Comte de St. Germain
-caught the attention of the public, stirring its cupidity, its
fears and its suspicions.
But what actually do we regard as a miracle? If in those Middle Ages
a single individual had appeared who could do any one of the many
things we take for granted today - televise, travel through space
above the earth, or to the moon, communicate in a few seconds with
someone in another continent, convert matter into nuclear energy, or
break matter down to its component atoms and use them like bricks to
build an entirely different form of matter - what would have
happened to such a dangerous heretic? What would they have done to
one who thus flouted the laws of God, undermined the status of the
theologians, and took unto himself the powers of angels? Would his
life have been worth more than a bundle of faggots for burning? But
these "miracles" around us today have come about gradually through
the laborious efforts of science. We know some of the laws behind
them. Or even if we don't know the laws ourselves we believe that
our modem priests, the technologists of science, do. And so we
accept such phenomena comfortably and admiringly as the products of
scientific progress. We don't think of them as miracles.
Yet in a sense they are, just as the whole universe in space and
time and the wondrous inventions of the mind are miracles. But
provided we can say "It works according to such and such an
equation," or "Our scientists have discovered the laws, and our
technologists operate according to them," we feel that we are on
safe ground. It is scientific; there is nothing magical about it.
So the definition of a miracle seems to be that it is a phenomenon
concerning which we neither understand the causative laws ourselves,
nor believe them to be understood by that large body of scientific
workers in whom we put our trust and faith. Christian miracles such
as those at Lourdes are, according to the theologians, "the
suspension of the effect of a law of nature by God as its author".
But such an idea does not satisfy the occultist. According to him
there is no suspension of law; there may appear to be, but actually
the miraculous phenomenon is brought about by a deeper law, not yet
discovered and enunciated by exoteric science. When the greater law
is known our mental concept of the lesser one will be modified.
Madame H.P. Blavatsky stated the occult viewpoint thus, "A miracle
is not a violation of the laws of nature, as is believed by ignorant
people. Magic is but a science, a profound knowledge of the occult
forces in nature and of the laws governing the visible or the
invisible worlds." Such occult laws are known to esoteric science,
but those who possess such knowledge have always been few in number
and not generally known to the public. So public opinion usually
discounts their existence, and the existence of any esoteric body of
Miracles, as found in the records, fall into a number of classes.
Bhagavan Das, classifies the miracles of Lord Krishna as follows:
(1) giving illuminating visions; (2) seeing at a great distance; (3)
multiplying small amounts of food, or other material things, to
create large quantities; (4) projecting his subtle body or bodies to
appear simultaneously in several places at once; (5) healing the
sick and deformed by a touch (6) on rare occasions bringing the
"dead" to life; (7) laying dooms on particularly grievous sinners
such as the one who murdered infants and sleepers.
Jesus Christ performed a similar wide range of miracles. But perhaps
the emphasis was different. The Nazarene seems to have concentrated
more on healing the sick, the maimed, and the insane. But he also
performed much of what we now call "phenomena"; he levitated over
the water, he made himself invisible; he multiplied food; he turned
water to wine, he raised the "dead". And, if the records are
straight, his greatest phenomenal magic came at the end of the
story. After death he dematerialised his body to bring it out of the
tomb, rematerialised it into a plastic malleable form so that at
times it was not recognisable by his disciples, and finally on the
Mount of Olives he raised that etherialised body of earth to another
plane of existence.
Krishna and Christ are the two outstanding miracle-workers of the
world's scriptures. But there have been many others of lesser
stature, or sometimes perhaps merely of lesser fame. Some have been
able to perform one or two classes of miracles; others have had
power over many. The early Christian apostles could heal the sick
and perform other wonders. Apollonius of Tyana, in the first century
A.D., could do likewise, and more. Once his mere arrival in a town
was sufficient to stop an epidemic of plague there. Many saints and
mystics have shown miraculous powers such as levitation, bilocation
or astral travel. Throughout the centuries there have been ample
signs of a hidden brotherhood of occultists who were adepts in
various branches of the High Magic.
In the latter half of the last century Madame H.P. Blavatsky
startled an incredulous western world with a stream of inexplicable
phenomena. Apparently -from nowhere she produced a variety of
articles when needed - fruit, crockery, cutlery, jewellery,
embroidered handkerchiefs, books, letters and other things. She is
said to have converted one type of matter into another, to have
travelled in her subtle body, and sometimes to have made her
physical body invisible. She was able to see things from the past or
from a great distance in what she called the astral "light".
To anyone who studies the evidence thoroughly and without prejudice,
there is no doubt that Madame Blavatsky was a genuine worker of what
the world calls magic. Or perhaps it might he closer to the truth to
say that in many cases the magic was done through her by certain
highly-advanced yogis or adepts whose chela (disciple) she was.
It has been stated that she was a medium, but in its association
with spiritualistic practice this word connotes loss of
consciousness, and Madame Blavatsky never lost consciousness when
phenomena were being performed through her. She preferred to use the
word Mediator, rather than medium, in describing the part she
played. The adepts who worked through her were living far away, but
they were not limited by space; they were able to know what was
happening at a distance and to take action - either through travel
in subtle bodies or by some other means.
Towards so-called miracles, past and present, current public opinion
may be said to fall into three categories. There are those (perhaps
the majority in the western world) who say that miracle is all
moonshine, that it has no basis in fact. There are, on the other
hand, those who through personal experience or for some other reason
accept the miraculous as quite factual. And finally there are some
(a growing number) who keep an open mind on the question. They feel
that events which are beyond the bounds of rational explanation are
not necessarily beyond the bounds of possibility. They feel, indeed,
rationality in the very idea that not all the laws and forces of the
universe are yet stated in the textbooks of modern science.
But, while theoretically accepting the possibility of the
miraculous, people of this third class are not convinced that
miracles do in fact take place. Before accepting any event as
miraculous, they need strong evidence, preferably the evidence of
their own five senses, and even something more than that - an inner
intuitive conviction that accompanies the seeing, the touching, the
hearing, the testing. I belonged to this third category before I met
Satya Sai Baba.
An interest in psychic research, or parapsychology, and a study of
its work over the last century had convinced me that many of the
miracles were indeed steadily moving across the border into the
territory of respectable scientific facts. Telepathy, clairvoyance
and precognition are now established phenomena of the laboratories,
though as yet there is no satisfactory explanation or scientific
hypothesis for them. Furthermore, there is strong evidence for the
reality of psycho-kinesis, the power of a man's mind and will to
move objects at a distance.
When such phenomena as the power to read minds, see through walls,
foretell future events, or to mentally cause or change the motion of
physical objects are becoming established beyond reasonable doubt
through laboratory experiment and statistical analysis, we begin to
have a scientific rationale behind what used to be called "magic".
And that is what the majority need today, not a theological
explanation as of old, but a rationale acceptable to the new
"scientific" outlook even though many orthodox scientists turn their
eyes away from the facts. In all ages there have been die-hard
dogmatists who preferred the comfort of their own creeds or theories
to new facts, new evidence, new thought. In all classes we find this
inertia, this tamasic quality that clings to the safety of the
status quo, eschewing the effort and hazards of the unending search
But if the "miraculous" really does take place, how does it operate?
Can we know or discover something of the means and processes by
which a so-called miracle is performed? Could a nuclear physicist
explain to a primary schoolboy how a rocket is sent to the moon? He
may give a few hints and an over-simplified explanation, but before
the boy can really understand the laws and operations of nuclear
physics he needs to develop his mental capacities and go, step by
step, through a long, disciplined course of training.
The development and training required for a schoolboy to become a
nuclear physicist is mainly one of intellect, concentration and
perseverance. On the other hand, that needed for the ordinary human
being to acquire some of the know-how of miracles is mainly one of
character, psychic unfoldment and spiritual evolution. With true
yogic training, which is in fact spiritual training, miraculous
powers (siddhis) begin of themselves to make their appearance, as
Patanjali points out in his Yoga Sutras.
Many other great Teachers have taught the same law in various ways.
Sai Baba of Shirdi, for instance, told his followers that in the
course of concentration on one's Guru - or God in any form - one
becomes, if sincere, more calm, more placid, and in a number of
cases the latent power of reading the minds of others or of seeing
clairvoyantly are spontaneously acquired.
But what about the voodoo priests of Africa, the shamans of the
Siberian Tribes, the witch-doctors of primitive peoples? Most of
these are far from being spiritually evolved. In fact, the magical
powers are often used by them for vengeance, personal gain, murder
and various undetectable crimes.
This brings us to the question of the different levels of magic -
from the high white transcendental type, down through different
shades of grey, to black magic or sorcery. Many kinds of miracles
are worked through the co-operation of beings from other planes of
existence, such as nature sprites, elementals discarnate humans, and
devas, or angelic beings. This theory seems to be the most widely
held as it has been stated by practically all magicians, high and
low, who have had anything to say on their modus operandi. Colonel
H.S. Olcott, Founder-President of the Theosophical Society, states
that the members of the last great school of theurgy, in old,
Alexandria, "believed in elementary spirits whom they evoked and
For calling forth and commanding the different classes of beings
there is always a secret know-how. This includes not only tantra,
mantra and yantra - the right ritual, right words and right
geometrical and mathematical figures - but also certain
self-disciplines, and above all the development of the will-power.
The more the will is developed, the fewer the ceremonial aids
needed. In Old Diary Leaves Colonel Olcott, who spent many years in
close association with the theurgist and phenomenon-producer Madame
H.P. Blavatsky, describes miraculous events that happened frequently
in her presence. Some of them, she told him, were performed with the
aid of elemental spirits. These seemed to be well under the command
of her will, without the use of any ritual, mantras or yantras.
On the other hand, a yantra was employed by an Italian occultist
Signor Bruzzesi, who came to visit Madame Blavatsky and Colonel
Olcott one evening in New York. Employing the occult arts he
produced a shower of rain out of a clear sky in a matter of minutes.
The Colonel observed that the Signor seemed to exercise indomitable
will-power, but also used a strange geometrical figure on a
pasteboard card which he held up to the heavens. He would not let
Olcott touch or examine closely this yantra. The Italian stated that
the shower was produced by spirits of the air under his command.
People of lower levels of spiritual evolution can apparently employ
the technique of using entities of the other planes of existence
which interpenetrate the earth. But, as like always attracts like,
sorcerers with evil motives will attract evil spirit agents to do
their bidding. The power of such low-level magic is real enough
under certain conditions, but is limited and fraught with danger to
the practitioner. He must be ever on his guard lest his weapons
boomerang and destroy him. This is one of the hazards of black or
Those who perform the grey or middle magic attract allies of a
somewhat better type from the subtle planes of being. The motives of
such magicians are not criminal. They don't aim at murder,
immorality, domination or destruction. Nevertheless, like the
average citizen of today's world, their motivation is more selfish
than altruistic. Pride, desire for fame, ambition, and avarice are
among the powers that move them. For example, Mohammed Bey, who
earned a chapter in Paul Brunton's book on India, was an average
type of the grey magician. His aim was frankly to make money, and
for his super-normal feats (mainly reading the contents of sealed
documents) he had trained and was employing, he said, the discarnate
spirit of his deceased brother. This is no more immoral and
unethical, perhaps, than many normal commercial practices, such as
the use of industrial spies "in the flesh". But there may be more
dangers involved, dangers to the health, well-being and integrity of
the one who employs the discarnate forces. Moreover, miraculous
powers used for commercial and selfish ends are easily lost, as many
professional spiritualist mediums and Eastern pseudo-yogis have
At the end of the scale from savage sorcery and black magic, through
the various shades of grey, we come to the white magic of the
right-hand path. This is something entirely different. Different in
motive, method, power and range. The key to its recognition lies in
the motive. This must be pure; that is, entirely dissociated from
the personal self of the miracle-worker. He must be one who has
risen above the normal appeals of nature. Money, ambition, fame,
personal power, security aft the usual driving forces of man - must
mean absolutely nothing to him. His only motivation is a pure love
of his fellow men, with the wish to ease their sorrows and
sufferings, and to lift them up to higher levels of understanding
If a man has reached such lofty standards of action, perhaps through
the evolution of many incarnations spent on earth, then miraculous
powers will surely be his. They are part of his pure, divine nature.
The Srimad Bhagavata asks: "What power is beyond the reach of the
sage who has controlled his mind, senses, nerve currents and
disposition; and concentrates on God?" And in another place it says:
"When a person is merged in God, all powers, all knowledge, all
wisdom, all perfection, which are termed divine, shine forth from
such a person."
All who have ever written on this difficult subject have said the
same thing. Eliphas Levi wrote: "To command Nature man must be above
Nature." Joseph Ennemoser in his History of Magic, written over a
century ago, said that divine miraculous works are possible only to
those "who have converted their whole life into a divine one; who
are no longer slaves to the senses..." And it is well-known that in
the theurgic schools of old the hierophant who worked the esoteric
mysteries lived a life of strictest purity and self-abnegation.
At the highest level we can say that miracles are the work of God
coming through a purified person who incarnates (gives earthly human
form to) Divinity. Christ said, "The father (God) that dwelleth in
me, he doeth the works (miracles). I am in the father, and the
father in me ..."
In the Roman Empire of the first century A.D. sorcery had brought
the whole of magic into disrepute and it was forbidden by the
emperor. But the great miracle-man Apollonius of Tyana pointed out
the differences between the lower and higher forms. He said,
"Sacrifices have I no need of, for God is always present to me and
fulfils my wishes ... I call sorcerers false sages, for they are
attracted only by riches which I have always despised..."
The divine miracle-workers have no need of the sacrifices and
spellbinding enchantments used by magicians of a lower order. One
does not read of Jesus or Krishna or Shirdi Baba employing tantric
rites or chanting mantras. They were beyond the need of such
formulae. The spiritual will was the creative power. Such a will is
both human and divine. It is human in the sense that all men have it
potentially, but what most men regard as their "will" is no more
than their own desires, overt or hidden. Only as these selfish
desires are eliminated, only as they are polished away like dirt
from the surface of a crystal and man sees himself as one with God,
only then does the true spiritual will shine forth. And this, being
divine, has power and dominion over the worlds of matter.
But this is not to say that such an enlightened will does not
sometimes employ beings of other planes to do its bidding.
Ennemoser, who studied and researched these questions deeply, says
that whereas in the lower class of magic the operation depends
almost entirely upon element-spirits, in the higher "Man operates
principally through his innate power, but not without the assistance
The powers and forces of other worlds which the God-man, or avatar,
marshals through his pure will must by the very nature of things be
of the higher type - not the demons and evil spirits found on the
payroll of the sorcerer. And there is no danger of any unseen agents
either harming or deserting the great white magician. He will be
held in deep reverence by the higher agents, and in fear plus a
healthy respect by the lower ones, whether non-human or discarnate
To state as the analysts of magic have always done that other-world
entities, more or less intelligent, are often hand-maidens to the
miracle-worker is not to flout the concept-of natural law. That the
universe runs according to a pattern of harmony and rhythm there can
be no doubt. That Man, through careful observation and reasoning,
has been able to make certain generalisations which he calls laws of
nature, is equally true. But such generalisations never fully
explain the phenomena. Time brings other generalisations, other
hypotheses, other laws, which are closer to the ultimate truth; and
in these the old "law" is swallowed up - shown to be either
erroneous or only a partial understanding of reality.
The teachings of occult science, as given in Blavatsky's The Secret
Doctrine and other works, suggest that living beings beyond the
atom; and as unseen as the atom is to human eyes, play a part in the
workings of Nature. But such beings are not acting according to
their own whims and caprices: they are working within, and helping
to carry out, that rhythmic harmony which embraces the deepest laws
of the universe. Nor does the miracle-worker divert such beings from
their legitimate business and turn them into lawbreakers. Through
his will they produce surprising effects, but this is still done
according to law - though by a deeper law than man has yet
If we consider, for instance, that spectacular miracle, the
converting of one class of matter into another, we may get some
understanding of this principle. All matter, it is believed, emerges
from energy and can be reconverted into energy. So the miraculous
process is to reduce, one type of matter to its fundamental energy
form, and from that build up another type of matter.
Even without reducing it to the basic nuclear energy, man is today
converting one class of matter to another. For example, in the
industrial complexes of synthetic chemical manufacture he is
breaking down natural substances like coal and petroleum to their
constituent elements and using these as building bricks to construct
entirely new types of matter unknown to Nature - such as plastics
and synthetic fibres. So what was once a lump of coal or a jar of
petroleum becomes -a nylon dress, or perhaps a bright plastic
housing for an electric razor.
Why then should there not be in the hidden laboratories of Nature
workers capable of similar or even more difficult operations in
reduction and conversion? Thus water becomes wine for a wedding
feast in old Palestine, or oil for the lamps of a mosque at Shirdi.
Such unseen operators, spirits of Nature's laboratory, will work
according to cosmic laws. They cannot break laws any more than the
wizards of modern chemistry can. But their controlling laws are
deeper than the ones we yet know. According to these, and without
upsetting Nature's harmony, why should they not even convert base
metals to gold when this is done under the will of a great alchemist
who has lost all personal desire for gold, and who will use it only
for the welfare of his fellow men?
Considered on these lines, we see that the miracles of a Christ, a
Krishna, a great Master of any century, are really no more
incredible than the endless miracles forever around us "the starry
worlds in time and space, the pageant of life, the processes of
growth and reproduction "
A full comprehension of the modus operandi of miracles is no doubt
beyond the human consciousness in its present stage of evolution.
But an attempt to solve such mysteries must lead us into a fuller
understanding of ourselves and the miraculous universe about us.
It was a book written by an Englishman and published in England
which first introduced me to the strange, fascinating figure known
as Sai Baba of Shirdi. Later I learned much more about this
miracle-working God-man from other writings, including the
four-volumed biography by B.V. Narasimha Swami, but from the first
introduction to him I felt a stir deep inside me - as if something
pulled on a cord attached to the core of my innermost self. I could
not understand what it meant.
Mystery surrounds the birth and parentage of Sai Baba. All that is
known are a few remarks dropped by Baba himself and these, often
symbolical, do not always appear consistent. However, it does seem
that his birth took place about the middle of last century in the
Nizam of Hyderabad's State, probably in the village of Patri.
Apparently his parents were Hindu Brahmins, but at a tender age Baba
seems somehow to have come under the care of a Moslem fakir, a
saintly man and probably a Sufi, who became his first guru.
After four or five years, either through the death of the fakir or
for some other reason, Sai Baba came into the charge of a noted
government official at Selu named Gopal Rao. This remarkable man was
not only rich and liberal but also pious, cultured, and deeply
religious. He was a warrior-saint with powers both temporal and
When he first saw the young Sai Baba he recognised him, it is said,
as an incarnation of the great saint, Kabir. Gopal Rao was therefore
happy to have the boy live at his residence and take part as a
constant companion in the activities of court, field and temple.
Thus the child received from Gopal Rao, his second guru, a training
and education of the highest, though not of the bookish, kind.
But after some years the warrior-saint decided that the time had
come for him to leave the earth. Accordingly, at the time fixed by
himself for departure, he sat in the midst of a religious group
performing rituals of worship and by his own yogic power left his
body. But before doing so he pointed westward and bade the young Sai
Baba to travel in that direction to his new abode.
Sai Baba went westward and eventually came to the village of Shirdi,
in the Bombay presidency (as it was then). He was not at first made
very welcome there. Arriving at a Hindu temple on the outskirts, he
was attracted by its solitary calm and wanted to live in it. But the
priest in charge took him for a Moslem and would not let him put a
foot inside the temple.
So Baba took up temporary residence at the foot of a margosa tree.
He left Shirdi and returned several times; then eventually in the
year 1872 settled down permanently in the village. A dilapidated
Moslem mosque of Shirdi became his home. Here he kept a fire burning
constantly, and oil lamps lit the interior of the mosque throughout
the night. This was according to the view common to both Hindus and
Moslems that places of worship should be lit up at night.
A few people recognised Sai Baba's divine qualities and came to pay
him homage, (among the first was the priest who had driven him away
from the Hindu temple) but most of the villagers regarded him as a
mad fakir, and of no account. In the tradition of holy men of India,
he depended on charity for food and other material needs. These were
few, but he did need oil for his earthen lamps. One evening the
shop-keeper who supplied Baba with oil, gratis, told him
untruthfully that he had no supplies. Perhaps this was a joke to
amuse the village loiterers.
Anyway a group of them, together with the oil-monger, followed the
mad young fakir back to his mosque to see what he would do without
his religious light - and maybe to have a good laugh at his expense.
Water jars are kept in mosques for people to wash their feet before
entering the sacred precincts. In the dusk the villagers saw Baba
take water from the jars and pour it into his lamps. Then he lit the
lamps and they burned. They continued to burn, and the watchers
realised that the fakir had turned the water into oil. In
consternation they fell at his feet, and prayed that he would not
put a curse on them for the way they had treated him.
But Baba was not what they thought. He was not a sorcerer resenting
their contempt, and ready to seize an advantage. His nature was pure
love. He forgave them and began to teach them.
This was the first miracle Sai Baba performed before the public, and
it was the match that lit the fire which became a beacon drawing
thousands of men to him from afar. Many became his devotees. He used
his miraculous powers to cure their ailments, to help them in their
day-today problems, to protect them from danger wherever they
happened to be, and to draw them towards a spiritual way of life.
A great many found their sense of values changing. Some surrendered
themselves entirely to the divine will which they saw in Baba, gave
up their worldly lives, and came to live at Shirdi as close
disciples. Sai Baba taught them according to their needs and
capacities. Learned pundits who thought him illiterate found that he
could discourse on spiritual philosophy and interpret the sacred
writings of India more profoundly and clearly than anyone else they
had ever known. But always he led his disciples along the Bhakti
marga, the radiant pathway of divine love, self-surrender and
Loving care of his devotees was the ruling motif of all Baba's
actions, and many of them have stated that in his presence they
always felt a spiritual exaltation. They forgot their pains, their
cares and their anxieties. They felt completely safe and the hours
passed unnoticed in blissful happiness.
One devotee, a Parsi woman, wrote: "Other saints forget their bodies
and surroundings, and then return to them, but Sai Baba was
constantly both in and outside the material world. Others seem to
take pains and make efforts to read the contents of people's minds,
or to tell them their past history, but with Sai Baba no effort was
needed. He was always in the all-knowing state."
Many quaint, amusing and illuminating stories are told about him in
the volumes on his life and teachings. But for our purposes there
are just a few points we might note. One object of the fire he kept
burning always at the mosque was to provide a ready supply of ash.
This he called udhi, and used it for many kinds of miraculous
purposes, particularly for curing ailments. The miracles he
performed cover the full range of siddhis, or supernormal powers, as
expressed in such spiritual and yogic classics as the Srimad
Bhagavata and Patanjali's Yoga Sutras. Many times he proved to his
devotees that he knew what they were thinking and saying and doing
when hundreds of miles away from him. Frequently in crises he
appeared wherever he was needed, either in his own form or
apparently in some other body - a beggar, a hermit, a workman, a
dog, a cat or something else. There was plentiful evidence that he
could project himself through space and take any material form he
chose. Those who were in the best position to know, his nearest
disciples, had no doubts whatever on this point.
Baba gave visions to people, as for instance, the visiting high
Brahmin who was dubious about going into the Moslem mosque. From
outside the mosque the Brahmin saw Sai Baba as the God-form he
worshipped, Sri Rama. So convincing was this vision of Rama that he
rushed in and fell at Baba's feet. Other types of miracle include
the giving of protection at a distance - protection against
accident, plague, ill-fortune and imminent death; the granting of
issue to those who were childless or desired to have a son;
appearing to people in dreams with advice and help in their
Like Jesus, Baba was able to cast out evil spirits from those
obsessed and cure the most terrible diseases, such as blindness,
palsy and leprosy. For instance he allowed Bagoji, a man with
advanced leprosy, to come and shampoo his legs. People were afraid
that Baba would himself be infected, but on the contrary Bagoji was
completely cured of his leprosy, only scars and marks remaining.
By the end of last century, in spite of India's primitive
communications at that time, Sai Baba's fame was snowballing
rapidly. The high peak was reached by about 1910 when an endless
stream of visitors began to flow in from Bombay and other places.
Pomp and ceremony were thrust upon the rugged, unsophisticated old
saint. Loaded down with jewellery, seated in a silver chariot with
fine horses and elephants, he was taken in grand and colourful
procession through the streets.
Baba, it is said, disliked all this show, but he submitted to it to
please the people. Yet despite the royal treatment and the riches
offered him, he continued to beg his food as of old; perhaps this
was to show that humility is more than ever necessary when wealth
and pomp and power are striving to seduce the soul of man.
When in 1918 Sai Baba died at Shirdi, he had just enough money to
pay for his burial, and no more. It is the tradition in India that a
God-realised person should be buried and not cremated. So all
devotees agreed that Baba must be buried, but they quarrelled about
the method. As had happened in the case of Kabir centuries before,
both Hindu and Moslem sections of his followers claimed the right to
inter the body according to their own particular rites. Being in the
majority, the Hindus won the day. But through the wisdom and
diplomacy of Mr. H.S. (Kaka) Dixit, acceptable concessions were made
to the Moslem following. Sai Baba's samadhi (tomb), the mosque where
he lived for over forty years and where the sacred fire is still
kept burning, and other spots associated with him in Shirdi are
today the Mecca of thousands of pilgrims Hindus, Moslems, Parsees,
Buddhists and Christians.
1 The Search
If therefore ye are
intent upon wisdom, a lamp will not be wanting...... ANON.
After spending some time in Europe, my wife and I
decided to stop for a while in India on our way home to Australia.
We had two purposes in view. One was to go more deeply into
Theosophy by attending the six-months "School of the Wisdom" at the
international Headquarters of the Theosophical Society in Adyar,
Madras. Let it be said, incidentally, and in case of
misunderstanding, that this School does not pretend to offer a brief
course on how to be wise; its object is simply a study of the
ageless wisdom, the perennial philosophy found mainly in the ancient
writings of the East.
Our second purpose was to travel through the country to discover if
there was any deeper spiritual dimension in the life of modern
India. Was there, we wondered, anything left of the mysterious India
described in the pages of Paul Brunton, Yogananda, Kipling, Madame
Blavatsky, Colonel H.S. Olcott and other writers? Were there still
hidden fountains of esoteric knowledge or had the ancient springs
dried up? Would it be possible to find somewhere, in ashram or
jungle hermitage, a great Yogi of supernormal powers who knew the
secrets of life and death? We thought that about a year should
suffice for this programme.
The Theosophy School was enjoyable and enlightening. As a sortie
into the wisdom teachings ranging from the ancient Vedas to The
Secret Doctrine, published in 1888, it prepared our minds for our
coming exploration "on the ground". We understood better what we
were looking for and felt better equipped to appreciate it should we
Our search took us to several of the well-known ashrams throughout
the length of India, and to a few little-known ones. We sat and
talked with hermits and ascetics in their caves in the Himalayas. We
met a goodly variety of sadhus, sadhaks, and teachers of different
types of yoga.
From the hermitages of the Himalayas and ashrams along the sacred
Ganges we came back to New Delhi. There, at a leading social club,
we met a top business executive who said, over his beer: "So you're
looking for the spiritual life of India. There is none. That's all
past. We are looking for what you have in the West - material
progress." In another place a professor of history also tried to
dampen our enthusiasm. "Believe me," he said, "there is no
spirituality left in this country. In the India of old there was, of
course, but it died a thousand years ago."
However, we knew that the men who spoke this way, the men of the
modern India with its thirst for Western technology, were wrong
about their own country. We had seen enough and sensed enough to
feel quite sure that the yogic, treasures of old were still to be,
found in her deep recesses.
We had sensed it; we had caught some drifts of its perfume on the
breezes; we had met with brotherly love in the ashrams; we had found
men who were happy to teach, for the sake of teaching the eternal
truths of Hindu religio-philosophy. There was no dearth of inspiring
words and noble theories. But we had not yet met a man of real
power; one who had himself lived the yogic life long enough and
truly enough to have broken through the limitations that bind Man in
his present unhappy state. But with all this promising material
there was surely hope that one such might exist. Yet we also knew
that spiritual treasures are not handed out on a platter. There are
always tapas, labours, austerities to be performed.
Train and bus journeys on the plains of India in burning June were,
we thought, austerities enough for anyone. From the oven that was
Delhi we went to the fiery furnace of Dayalbagh on the outskirts of
Agra. We wanted to see what had happened to the Radha Soami
religious colony there which Paul Brunton had admired so much thirty
We found that its educational institutions had progressed and its
factories and farms seemed to be thriving, but that it had a weary
air. There was none of the dynamism that Brunton had found there. It
was like an old tired man who had had rosy, optimistic dreams in his
youth which had never come true. Perhaps this was because the
energetic, inspiring leader of the Brunton days, His Holiness
Sahabji Maharaj, was dead. Just before dying he had passed on the
leadership to a retired engineer among his followers, one Hazur
Mehtaji Maharaj. Now he was God incarnate on earth to the
He proved to be a very elusive God. We tried to meet him but were
not encouraged. On one occasion we went out early in the morning
with a large party that does a few hours work in the fields before
starting duty in office, school, or factory. The guru was with the
group and we had great hopes of finally making the contact (in fact
that was our reason for going), but he all the time managed to put a
few acres between himself and us.
At last, however, on the day before we left, the secretary of the
colony managed to pin him down in his office long enough for us to
have an interview. On the way to the interview we were shown the
house in which the leader lived. It was just one in a row,
indistinguishable from its modest neighbours.
In the office we found a shy little man who seemed quite ashamed of
the fact that there was an air-conditioning unit in his simple room.
This was not common in the colony, and he made it clear to us that
his followers had forced the exceptional luxury upon him because of
the indifferent state of his health. He was friendly in a
self-effacing way, but he said nothing of importance that I can
recall. And we felt nothing, except that, if God is utter humility,
then this man might be God incarnate; but he was certainly a
reluctant incarnation, and kept any other signs of his divinity well
hidden, from us, at least.
The secretary, Babu Ram Jadoun, made up in open-hearted hospitality
and helpfulness any lack on the part of the modest leader. He spent
the evenings sitting with us on easy chairs in front of the small
guesthouse talking about the Radha Soami faith and its Sabdha Yoga,
in which one concentrates in meditation on listening for the inner
anahat sounds. He also liked to recall the old days and tell us
anecdotes about the two English writers, Yeats-Brown and Paul
Brunton, who had once stayed together at this same guesthouse in the
I knew that there were now about twenty of these Radha Soami
colonies in India, each with its own guru. We had visited a number
of them, including the big one at Beas, near Amritsar, where some
600,000 people believe that their benign leader, Charan Singh
Maharaj, is the true incarnation. We had found that each group we
visited had exactly the same idea about its leader.
On the evening before we left Dayalbagh I decided to ask the
secretary, an intelligent man, what he thought about this division
of belief that had developed in the cult during the century of its
existence since 1861.
"Do all the leaders have the divine current?" I asked; "Do you think
they are all incarnations of the boundless Brahman?" My wife and I
were the only ones sitting with him under the trees before the
He shifted his seat in the warm air that wrapped us around like a
blanket, and after a minute's silence, replied: "No, there can be
only one incarnation at the same time. "
"And that is your leader? "
"So all the rest are wrong?"
"I'm afraid so."
"Well you no doubt have your good reason for feeling so sure," I
remarked; "but how can we - how can any outsider know who is right?
How can we decide in which of the many leaders, if any, divinity is
The wrinkled kindly little man seemed to ruminate for a time before
he said: "Thirty years ago I was a lecturer in the Engineering
College here. One evening I was sitting with a few people where we
are sitting now, listening to our leader, Sahabji Maharaj. Paul
Brunton, who was with us, asked him the same question that you have
just asked me. I remember very well the answer His Holiness gave..."
"What was it?" Iris asked.
"It was: 'Pray every day to God that he will lead you to the man in
whom he is at present incarnated.' I suggest the same to you now.
Such a prayer will undoubtedly be answered." He paused, then added
with a gentle smile: "And when it is, when you find him, please
write and let me know."
I wondered if he meant, "write and say you are on your way back
here." Then I remembered that Brunton did not go back and become
initiated into the Radha Soami Faith at Dayalbagh, but found his
great guru in Ramana Maharshi, of Tiruvannamalai.
It was all very strange. I was not sure that I believed in modern
incarnations. Maybe in ancient times, as the scriptures taught,
there had been such - men like Rama, Krishna, Christ and others. I
knew that many in India regarded some comparatively modern spiritual
teachers, such as Paramahamsa Ramakrishna as incarnations or
avatars, but I had never hoped or expected to meet one in the 1960s.
The idea had not occurred to me. I was prepared to settle for a
great yogi who had climbed to the rare heights of God-realization.
But what was the difference, if any? It was all beyond my
understanding or hopes.
Still my wife and I decided that, if among the teeming millions of
India there was an incarnation today, we would love to find him. So
the prayer could do no harm. It might, at least, help to lead us to
the great master we sought.
I don't think we repeated his Holiness Sahabji Maharaj's prayer in
actual words very regularly, or for very long, but the strong
yearning was deep in our hearts, the yearning to find the highest
manifestation of God in man - and that in itself is a prayer.
2 Satya Sai Baba
Truth is always strange, stranger than
fiction. Lord Byron
I first heard the name Satya Sai
Baba from a wandering yogi. He had not himself met this holy man, he
said, nor been to his ashram at a village called Puttaparti. This,
he had heard, was a difficult place to reach, being in the wilds of
the interior: one had to do the last part of the journey by bullock
cart or on foot over rough tracks. Still, the Swami was no doubt
worth the effort, the yogi thought, if I had time and was interested
in phenomena. He was known to have siddhis, to be a great
"What kind of miracle"? I asked.
"Well, it's said that he can, for instance, produce objects from
nowhere. Of course, there are other men to be found who have some of
the siddhis: they can do a few supernormal feats, but from reports
Sai Baba's powers are much greater. And he performs miracles
frequently. Anyone can see them."
Such talk certainly aroused my interest and curiosity. I had heard
(who has not?) that India was the crucible of wonder-workers. I had
read of the great adepts, occultists, saints, of the past who knew
Nature's inner laws. But I half doubted their actual reality. And
even if they did once exist, could they still be around?
This, I thought, might be my great chance to find out if the
fantastic tales that have come out of India belong to the realm of
fact or fiction. I decided that I must see Satya Sai Baba as soon as
convenient. Later, when I heard that his followers regarded him as a
reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi, my desire to meet him became
But the bullock-cart safari into the interior of south India would
have to wait a little while. It sounded more than arduous, and we
had recently discovered on our northern journey that ordinary travel
in India saps one's vitality. On our return, we were glad to
recuperate for a time in the tranquil tree-filled Theosophical
One day several months after our return a young pale-faced woman
wearing the ochre-robe of a monk came on a visit to the Theosophical
Headquarters. She was introduced to us by a mutual friend as
Nirmalananda, and we took her to our sitting room for morning
coffee. She told us that she was an American from Hollywood, an odd
place of origin for an ascetic, we thought. "Nirmalananda", she
said, was the Hindu name given her by Swami Sivananda when he
initiated her into the monastic life. After he had died she left his
ashram at Rishikesh and became a follower of Satya Sai Baba. At
Puttaparti she had witnessed many wonderful miracles. Now Sai Baba
was on a visit to Madras and she was one of a small party of
disciples he had brought with him.
This seemed to be our golden opportunity. Iris was not feeling well
enough to come, but Nirmalananda conducted me to the place where Sai
Baba was staying. It was a pleasant house, standing behind lawns and
flower gardens. Later I learned that it was the home of Mr. G.
Venkateshwara Rao, the mica magnate who was also a devotee of Sai
Baba. The lawns and pathways in front of the house were covered with
people sitting quietly cross-legged on the ground - white-clad men
to one side and women in saris like bright-coloured flowers to the
other. There were hundreds of them, obviously waiting for a sight of
the great man.
Nirmalananda led me through the crowd to the front verandah and
there introduced me to a pleasant, red-haired American named Bob
"I think Sai Baba has finished interviews for the morning, but I'll
go and find out," he said.
He took me into a small sitting-room and left me there. Nirmalananda
had already gone off somewhere. In the room were only two Indian
men, both standing and apparently waiting for someone. I also stood
After a few minutes the door from the interior of the house opened
and there entered a man the like of whom I have never seen before
nor since. He was slight and short. He wore a red silk robe that
fell in a straight line from shoulders to feet. His hair stood up
from his head in a big circular mop, jet black, crinkly, to the
roots like wool, and seemingly vibrant with life. His skin was light
brown but seemed darker because of the thick beard which, though
closely shaven, still showed black through the skin. His eyes were
dark, soft and luminous, and his face beamed with some inner joy.
I had never seen a photograph of Sai Baba. Could this be he? I had
expected someone tall and stately with a long black beard, and
dressed in white robes. I had a preconceived image of what a great
yogi or master should be like perhaps derived from early
theosophical descriptions of the Masters.
He came swiftly and gracefully across the carpet towards me, showing
white, even teeth in a friendly smile.
"Are you the man from Australia?" he asked.
"Yes." I replied.
Then he went to the Indians and began talking to them in Telugu.
Presently I saw him wave his hand in the air, palm downwards in
small circles, just as in childhood we used to wave our hands when
pretending to perform some abracadabra magic.
When he turned the palm up it was full of fluffy ash, and he divided
this among the two men. One of them could not contain his feelings;
he began to sob. Sai Baba patted him on the shoulders and back, and
spoke to him soothingly like a mother. I did not understand at the
time that these were what are called bhakti tears - tears of
overwhelming joy, gratitude and love. Later I heard that Baba had
cured this man's son of some terrible disease, but as I did not
check the story, I cannot vouch for it.
After a while the small figure turned to me again. Standing close in
front of me, he began circling his hand again. This time I noticed
he pulled his loose-fitting sleeve almost up to the elbow. Much
later I learned the reason for this. In my mind was the suspicion
that he might be doing conjuring tricks like a stage magician,
perhaps bringing the ash out of his sleeve. Baba has no difficulty
in reading minds and knew my suspicions. So he pulled his sleeve
high to allay them.
When the mound of powdery ash appeared suddenly in his palm, he
tipped it into mine. For a moment I stood there wondering what to do
with it. Then a voice to my left said, "Eat it, it's good for your
health." This was Bob Raymer who had just returned to the room.
I had never expected to eat ash and enjoy it, but this brand was
fragrant and quite pleasant to the taste. Baba stood there watching
me. Half-way through the strange snack I said to him:
"May I take some of this to my wife? She is not very well."
"Bring her here tomorrow at five o'clock," he replied, and then he
The next afternoon found Iris and myself at the same house. In the
entrance we met Gabriela Steyer of Switzerland, one of the small
western contingent in Baba's travelling party. She, very friendly
and sympathetic, led us to an upstairs room where about a score of
women, most of them Indian and all in saris, sat cross-legged on the
We sat down near them and Gabriela began to tell us about some of
the miracles she had seen at Puttaparti. Taking out my notebook I
asked her for the full address of the ashram and directions on how
to get there. But at that moment Bob Raymer's wife, Markell, came up
and said that Baba was on his way, and that I should go and sit on
the other side of the room, the men's proper territory. The males
now filled their area of the floor but I found myself a place by the
wall. I noticed that Bob Raymer and I were the only two white faces
in the group of men.
Suddenly Sai Baba appeared in the doorway. Today his robe was
old-gold in colour, but like the red one it fell from shoulder to
floor in a simple line with no pockets, appendages or folds. All his
robes are of this same style. They fasten right up to the neck with
two gold studs - the only jewellery he ever wears - and the loose
sleeves come to the wrist or elbow, depending perhaps on the
temperature. Under the robe he wears a dhoti (a cloth tied around
the waist and reaching the ankles like a skirt) and this has no
pockets in it either. I now know these things for sure because,
later on when we were staying at a guesthouse with Sai Baba, my wife
used sometimes to iron his robes and dhotis in our room. So although
sceptics without examining the matter properly have said (and will
doubtless say again) that he conceals the things he produces
miraculously somewhere in his robe, I know beyond doubt that this is
quite wrong and quite impossible.
From the doorway Baba pointed his finger at me and said, "Did you
bring your wife?" I was pleased that he had remembered. He took us
both into another room and talked to Iris about her health. He
seemed to know just what was wrong with her and the basic causes of
the trouble. He gave her much advice and then with his hand-wave
produced from the air some medicinal ash for her to eat.
I was, standing close by keenly watching the production because I
still doubted that it was genuine magic. Now he turned to me,
smiled, pulled his sleeve up to his elbow, and waved his hand under
my nose. As he turned the palm up I expected to see the usual ash,
but I was wrong. Lying in the middle of his hand was a little
photograph of his head with the full address of his ashram. The
photo had a freshly-glazed look as if straight from a photographic
laboratory. He handed it to me saying: "You've been asking for my
address. Here it is. Keep it in your wallet."
"May I may we - come there sometime?" I managed to ask.
"Yes, of course. Whenever you wish. It's your home."
Since that day I have seen many wonderful and rare things produced
by the wave of his small brown hand, but I still carry in my wallet
that little photograph which came out of "nowhere" in answer to a
question in my mind. There were no ordinary means of his knowing
that I had asked Gabriela for the address.
After our interview Sai Baba gave a discourse to the people
assembled in the room and later, as we went home, we saw him walking
among the people in the gardens. Many of them tried to touch his
robe or his feet. He spoke to some and "produced" something for
others - usually ash, I think.
This constant production of ash, or vibhuti as it is called, seemed
to have a special significance. It made me think of Sai Baba of
Shirdi and the fire he always kept burning to produce the udhi which
he gave to his followers for curing their ailments, and for other
purposes. Now it was as if Satya Sai, who perhaps really was his
reincarnation, could produce this ash from a fire that burned in a
dimension beyond the range of our mortal eyes.
Ash is a spiritual symbol and has been used as such by many
religions, including the Christian. Like all symbols it has
different levels of meaning. An obvious one is that it reminds us of
the transitory nature of all Earthly things and the mortality of
man's body. It is meant to lead our thoughts to the eternal beyond
the transitory, to our own immortal selves beyond the little mound
of ash or dust to which our bodies will some day be reduced. For the
Hindus ash is specially sacred to the God Siva, or that aspect of
the Godhead concerned with the destruction of all material forms.
Destruction is considered a divine attribute because only through
destruction can there be a regeneration, a rebirth of new forms
through which life can flow more freely, more fully, more vitally.
During the next few days we talked a good deal about our strange
experience. Apart from his miraculous abilities, Sai Baba had a
powerful effect. He seemed to lift us up to some high level where
there were no more worries. We became larger than life, and the
usual difficulties and conflicts of the mundane world were far off,
unreal. There seemed to be an aura of happiness around us. Iris
mentioned that she could not stop herself smiling for hours after
Baba had talked to her.
As for the miracles themselves - well, as time went on I began to
ask myself if I had really seen them. It all seemed so unlikely, so
far outside the commonplace everyday order of things. It is very
difficult for the mind, trained in logic and the physical sciences
and believing implicitly in the rational order of the universe, to
accept the reality of such apparently irrational phenomena. Even
after seeing such miracles it is difficult to believe in them.
So a doubt hung in my mind like a morning mist. Was I, after all,
fooled? Was it, after all, just a clever sleight-of-hand? Going over
the facts and conditions carefully I failed to see how this could be
so. Ash would be a difficult if not impossible thing to hold in the
palm of a hand waving in circles, wide open and turned downwards.
And how could he bring it out of a pocket or a sleeve, even if he
had pockets, which he did not and even if the cuffless sleeve was
down to the wrist, rather than pulled up nearly to the elbow, as it
But perhaps there was some way in which he could have done the
things I saw by brilliant conjuring. Perhaps his apparent
mind-reading and his inside knowledge of one's personal problems
were no more than clever guessing.
Inwardly I felt from the elevating splendour of his presence that he
was not an impostor. But I could not be absolutely sure: I could not
be quite certain that I had met a man of truly supernormal powers,
that I had witnessed genuine miracles. No, I could not feel sure
until I had investigated further. I would have to observe such
phenomena many times under many different circumstances and
conditions. I would have to get to know the miracle-man himself,
learn his character, his background, his life, and the kind of
people who followed him. And I certainly would have to visit that
ashram in Puttaparti.
3 Abode of Peace and Many Wonders
This earth alone is not our teacher and
nurse, The powers of all the worlds have entrance here.
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri.
I travelled by bus from Madras to Bangalore. Some
friends in that city provided me with a car and I set off north
along a country road to find the retreat of the wizard of
Puttaparti. I was travelling alone with an Indian driver as Iris was
not able to get away from her duties at the Theosophical Society
The way led out of Mysore State into Andhra Pradesh, mainly through
barren open country pimpled here and there with outcrops of round
stony hills. I did not even see a mention of Puttaparti on the
signposts until we reached the last stretches of the hundred-mile
Then we were on a road of broken rocks and loose sand, like a track
for country carts. At one place it became a narrow alley, squeezing
itself between the tumbled buildings of a lonely village. In other
places the road sauntered across the sandy near-dry beds of rivers.
Such crossings are fordable except in seasons of very heavy rain.
But I was told that if the cunning rogues living nearby are in need
of money they dig a deep ditch in the shallow water of the ford.
Then they wait for cars to get stuck, and bargain for a high price
to push them out.
Gone, however, are the days when visitors finished the Puttaparti
journey by bullock-cart, or on foot across slushy fields of paddy.
Despite the rugged road in the year of my first journey there - 1966
- cars and even big buses could negotiate the final obstacles and
reach the ashram gates.
Sai Baba's retreat is beside the village of Puttaparti, which
nestles in a narrow farming valley between pewter-coloured hills of
bare rock. The valley, gentle green in the season of young crops, is
remote and silent, untouched by the twentieth century. As I drove in
through the gate the sun was setting, spreading a golden glow over
the buildings. Most of them stood around the perimeter of the large
compound, facing inwards towards a large white central building.
It was the time of the evening bhajan, that is, the singing of
sacred songs and chants. I was informed that Sai Baba was with the
crowd in the big hall which occupies most of the ground floor of the
central building, and as apparently only he could say where I must
sleep, I sat on my bedroll outside the hall and waited.
The rhythmic sounds of the singing deepened the peace of the evening
hour. Dusk gathered, the lights came on gently, the haunting music
continued. It seemed to seep through me, soothing my tired body, and
calming my impatience, washing away my worries and anxieties.
Presently someone came and took me to the room Baba had allocated to
me. It was in the small guesthouse, and was well furnished with its
own private wash-room and a flush toilet. This was much better than
I had been led to expect or dared to hope for.
One of the first people I met at the ashram was Mr. N. Kasturi, a
retired History professor and College Principal of Mysore
University. He was now the secretary of the ashram, editor of its
monthly magazine, Sanathana Sarathi, and the writer of a book on Sai
Baba's life. He had also translated into English many of Baba's
public discourses which had been delivered in Telugu. These,
published in several volumes, contain the miracle-man's spiritual
teachings and give an idea of his mission and message.
On my first morning Mr. Kasturi arrived at the guesthouse with
copies of all the books which had been printed in English.
"They are a present to you from Baba," he explained. Mr. Kasturi is
not only a scholar, but a deeply religious man whose face glows with
devotion and benevolence.
Now he told me something about the ashram. Its name is Prasanti
Nilayam, meaning the "Abode of Great Peace". About seven hundred
people live here permanently, while hundreds are coming and going
all the time. The residents occupy the inward-facing terraced houses
around the perimeter. The visitors occupy whatever space is
available at the time perhaps a room in one of the large buildings,
perhaps a spot of floor in one of the open sheds, perhaps a corner
on the Post Office verandah, or at times of great festival crowds,
the bare brown earth beneath a tree. People like myself, who have
been softened by the creature comforts of western civilisation, Baba
usually puts in the furnished guesthouse.
In the early morning I had heard strange but soothing sounds of
Sanskrit chanting. Now I learned that it came from the school where
boys and youths are studying the Vedas. They are not only learning
to read the Sanskrit of these works but also to recite it by heart.
They are being taught by pundits to chant the texts with the correct
intonation and emphasis, as was done in India's ancient days. The
reason for this is that the uplifting spiritual benefits of the
Vedas come from the mantric effect of the sound as much as from the
meaning of the words. That is what the ancient writers tell us, and
having been subjected to some of the chanting myself I don't find it
hard to believe them. There are very few schools like this one in
India today; perhaps because it normally takes about seven years to
learn one Veda, as Mr. Kasturi informed me, and there are four of
them. Over twenty years to master the lot, and no commercial rewards
to speak of at the end of it all! But Sai Baba seems determined,
against the surging tide of materialism in modern India, to revive
her ancient spiritual culture.
The ashram also has its own canteen where I had been invited to have
my meals, but I was told that as I was Baba's guest I must not pay.
The accommodation was also free and I had been given a set of free
books! It seemed I was not allowed to pay for anything. But perhaps
I could make a donation at the end of my stay, as one does at most
ashrams in India. This point I queried with Mr. Kasturi.
"No," he said emphatically, "Baba will not accept donations. He
never takes money from anyone."
"He seems to have some wealthy followers," I replied, "Perhaps they
give financial help to the ashram."
"No," Mr. Kasturi smiled. "But don't take my word for it; ask them
yourself. Many will he arriving in the next few days for Sivaratri."
"What's that?" I queried.
He explained that it was the great annual festival to the god Siva,
that many thousands came to Prasanti Nilayam for it, and that during
the festival Baba always performed two great miracles in public.
I decided then and there to wait for the festival Of Sivaratri
(Siva's night) and see the miracles. In the meantime I would read
Sai Baba's story as written by N. Kasturi, talk to his followers,
and get close to the great man himself whenever I possibly could.
Kasturi gave me hope that I might be called for an interview fairly
soon, although Baba was very busy.
During the next few days, in fact, I was fortunate in being invited
to several group interviews. For these a dozen people gather in one
of the interview rooms at either end of the bhajan hall, or "prayer
hall" as it is sometimes called. Sai Baba sits either on the one
chair, or else on the floor - depending, it seems, on his whim - and
the people sit cross-legged on the floor, fanning out in a rough
circle about him. On each occasion I managed to get as close as
possible to him and sat to his right within a couple of feet of the
hand that performs the magic.
These group interviews usually begin with some talk on spiritual
subjects. Baba invites someone to ask a question; then in the answer
he expounds on such matters as the meaning and purpose of life,
Man's true nature, and the way he should strive to live in order to
reach the goal. The teachings are always clear, vivid, and intensely
Towards the end of each meeting, if some people have personal
problems, he may take them into another room one by one or in family
groups. But never a meeting went by without Baba producing at least
one item besides the vibhuti he always produces, with his theurgic
hand-wave. Pendants, chains, rings, necklaces and other objects I
have watched him pluck from the air in this way and then give to
some delighted individual.
He apparently knew my suspicions of him were not yet dispelled,
because he still pulled his loose cuffless sleeve up before taking
an object from nowhere. But on one occasion he did not need to raise
the sleeve above suspicion. It was a very hot day and he was wearing
a robe with short sleeves that came only to the elbow. Now, as if he
would exorcise, once and for all, the sceptical spirit within me, he
let his right hand lie open, palm upward, on the arm of the chair
within a few inches of my eyes. If I had been a palmist, I might
have read the lines and mounds on the small palm and slim graceful
fingers. I could certainly be quite sure that no items, however
small, were concealed there.
Then he lifted his hand from where it lay, and began to circle it in
the air about eighteen inches from my face. One moment the hand was
empty, the next it was holding something big that protruded brightly
on either side of his fist. He shook this out to reveal a long
necklace of coloured stones. It was what the Indians call a
jappamala which, like the Christian rosary, is used for prayers. Its
regulation size is one hundred and eight stones or beads. There, was
nowhere in three-dimensional space that a conjurer could have hidden
such a bulky object and produced it under these circumstances. Baba
gave it to a grey-haired lady on his immediate left. When he placed
it around her neck, she was so overcome that her eyes filled with
tears and she went down on her knees to touch his feet.
Every day now saw the crowd swelling. The buildings were all full
and people were beginning to spread their beds under the trees. In
this gathering tide of dark-faced, white-robed Indians I was the
only western male. Bob Raymer having returned to his home in
California. Among the ladies there were only two pale faces left
ochre-robed Nirmalananda and Gabriela Steyer.
Yet I did not feel like a foreigner: I felt that I was among
brothers, and was completely happy. One could hardly be otherwise
with brotherly love shining in every face and inspiring every word
and action. Any stranger was your acquaintance in minutes and your
close friend within an hour, anxious to help you in every way and
eager to tell you about the wonderful things that Sai Baba had done
for him or some members of his family.
I soon found that the followers were from all parts of India and
from all classes of society - princes, businessmen, doctors,
lawyers, judges, civil servants, scientists, soldiers, clerks and
tradesmen. Filling the guesthouse there were, in the ladies suite,
the Maharani of Sandur, her daughter and Nanda, Princess of Kutch.
Among the men were the Kumaraja (Prince) of Venkatagiri, the
Kumaraja of Sandur, Mr. G. Venkateshwara Rao, the mica magnate, and
These people were all quite rich so, remembering Mr. Kasturi's
challenge, I questioned them as well as other wealthy followers
about money donations to Sai Baba. From all of them, and later from
many others, I had the same answer. They would, they said, love to
help support Baba's ashram with funds, but he would never accept any
money from them. Nor did he take any donations from anyone they
I thought what a fertile field was here for those religious leaders
and their organisations always on the look-out for funds - not only
the wealthy nucleus, anxious to give, but the huge numbers that
congregate at Baba's discourses, sometimes up to two hundred
thousand. What a collection could be raised from such crowds by a
good rousing evangelist! But Sai Baba refuses to take a paise. How
then does he get the money he needs? To this question they smile, as
if to say, "How does Baba do anything? He is a mystery we can't
solve." Anyway it soon became quite clear that whatever the motive
for his miracles it was not money.
Everyone I spoke to had at least one and usually many more miracles
to tell me from his own experience. My notebooks began to swell with
fantastic stories, many of which I could never hope to verify. But
there were others which could be cross-checked and verified in a
number of ways. Apart from the materialisation phenomena of the type
that I had already seen there were tales involving almost every kind
of miracle found in the historic and spiritual records of the
fantastic. Among them were the healing miracles - the curing of many
kinds of diseases, some deep-seated and chronic, some considered
incurable by medical opinion.
At the ashram there is a small hospital with two doctors on the
staff, and occasional helpers from outside. The two full-time
workers are the Medical Superintendent, Dr. B. Sitaramiah, and his
assistant, Dr. N. Jayalakshmi, a woman doctor. The Superintendent
told me that when Sai Baba asked him some years ago to take charge
of the hospital he had already retired from practice, and felt
disinclined to take the responsibility. But Baba said that the
doctor would be only a figure-head, and that he himself would do the
healing. Then Dr. Sitaramiah, who was a devotee, had no more fears
about the job. And that was the way it had been.
"Apart from the routine treatments, I have had Baba's directions
always," he told me. "And there have been many cures of cases that
were quite incurable by any known medical treatment. From the
scientific point of view the cures are quite inexplicable."
For my benefit he went into several case histories in full detail,
showing me X-ray photographs, records of medical diagnosis, and any
other documents that were relevant. Below are a few sample cases to
indicate some of the diseases Baba has treated at the ashram. They
also show that he has, as he puts it, "different prescriptions for
A woman devotee from Mangalore was suffering from tuberculosis.
There was bleeding and X-rays showed a cavity of the right lung.
Medical opinion was that the disease was probably curable but that
effective treatment would take about two years. Instead of
undergoing the prescribed treatment, she came to Prasanti Nilayam.
Sai Baba gave her vibhuti from his hand, and she was put in the
hospital. About a week later, when I visited the hospital myself,
she was still there convalescing. But all symptoms of the
tuberculosis had gone, the doctors assured me. She had been cured in
a week instead of two years.
A young man living in Bombay, but recently returned from
Switzerland, was suffering from internal trouble which doctors in
both Europe and Bombay had diagnosed as cancer. He was not a devotee
of Sai Baba, but a friend had urged him to go to Prasanti Nilayam.
In desperation he went and stayed, not in the hospital, but in a
building near the canteen. There he waited and prayed to Baba for
One night he had a dream in which, someone visited him, carrying a
shining knife. When he awoke that was all he could remember, he told
Dr. Sitaramiah and others, the vague visitor and the clear bright
knife. Perhaps it was not really a dream. To the canteen manager who
took him breakfast in the morning he showed a large, mysterious
blood-stain on his sheet. Had Baba performed an operation while he
slept? Such strange things had been known before. Anyway, all signs
and symptoms of the cancer had vanished. It was about a year after
this experience that I wrote to the young man to enquire if the
cancer cure had been complete. His reply came from Switzerland where
he had returned to his job. He was in sound health and not a day
passed, he said, in which he did not think of Sai Baba and offer a
heart-felt prayer of gratitude for his miraculous cure.
A 58-year old man, suffering from hyperpyrexia, was brought into the
hospital. He had at another hospital been under treatment for fever
and dysentery for about two months without relief. At the ashram
hospital various treatments were tried by the doctors - quinine,
penicillin, chloromycetin - but all to no avail. The patient's
temperature kept above 103 degrees; he was delirious, and his
general condition worsened. He lost consciousness and there seemed
to be no hope of his recovery.
Then Sai Baba came to the hospital to see him. Taking vibhuti from
the air in his usual way, he smeared it on the forehead and put some
in the mouth of the unconscious man. Within a short time the
temperature began to drop, the patient regained consciousness, and
his condition improved rapidly. Soon he was back to normal with no
signs of the dysentery. When strong, enough he was discharged from
A cripple, unable to walk, stand or even sit, was brought to the
ashram. This man, a wealthy coffee planter from the Mysore State,
was about 50 years of age, and for the last twenty of those years,
he had suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis. He had been
through a variety of medical treatments without any success. And
now, in addition to his other troubles, he had a damaged kidney
which was not functioning. His temperature stayed around 103 to 104
degrees. At Prasanti Nilayam hospital he refused any orthodox
medical treatment, saying that he had complete faith in the power of
Sai Baba to cure him. On this occasion Baba waved his hand to
produce a small bottle of liquid medicine and, prescribed two drops
to be taken daily in water. Fifteen days after the treatment began
the planter could walk with the help of a stick. Now Baba gave him a
mantra to repeat as he walked daily a certain number of times around
the prayer hall. Within a month he was walking without the help of a
stick. Furthermore there was no more trouble from the kidney, it was
functioning normally again.
Before returning to his plantation, he tried to express his deep
gratitude to Sai Baba. But the latter replied: "Don't thank me. It
was your own faith that cured you."
I asked Dr. Sitaramiah if the cure had been permanent or if,
perhaps, the troubles had returned.
"It seemed to be permanent. I heard a long time afterwards that the
planter was still quite fit and well," he said.
In the months ahead I was to meet many people who had themselves
experienced dramatic and miraculous cures of serious, sometimes
deadly diseases and, others who could bear witness to such fantastic
healings among members of their families or friends. A good
proportion of these were well-known leading citizens of their
communities, they have permitted me to use their names, and their
cases will be described in later chapters.
But now at Prasanti Nilayam Dr. Sitaramiah informed me that Sai
Baba's own temperature was up over the hundred mark. The doctor had
been checking it each morning as he always did at this time of the
year, with Baba's permission. The high temperature was a sign of the
approaching miracle that takes place annually at the Sivaratri
festivals, the doctor explained.
I awaited this event with eagerness, having heard devotees
descriptions of the miracles performed on previous occasions. And
yet I felt a little sceptical as there was to my knowledge nothing
like it in the chronicles of miraculous phenomena.
4 O World Invisible
O world invisible, we view thee, O world
intangible, we touch thee. Francis Thompson.
In 1966 the Mahasivaratri Festival,
generally known simply as Sivaratri, took place on February 18th. As
I walked back from breakfast at the canteen that morning I had to
step carefully between groups of visitors camping on the ground. All
the buildings were full, all the space under trees was occupied, and
now people were making their temporary residences anywhere on the
open ground: comfort is of no concern to the Indians on such
I joined the crowd standing in front of the Mandir, the big central
building. Thousands were waiting for Sai Baba to show himself on the
balcony and give his morning blessings. Presently the small red
figure with the dome of black hair appeared. He lifted his arm in
blessing, rather listlessly for him, I thought, and returned quickly
to his room. I had the impression that he was not well. Then Dr.
Sitaramiah, who had just come down from seeing him informed me that
Baba's temperature was 104 degrees.
"I suppose it has something to do with the Siva lingam forming
inside him. It's a great mystery," the doctor declared.
Baba, however, carried on throughout the day as if there was nothing
the matter with him. I saw him walking around distributing packets
of sacred ash to the crowds sitting on the ground waiting for it,
and waiting also for the chance of touching the edge of his robe.
Then during the morning the first of the day's two public miracles
was performed. It took place in a large open-sided shed where
thousands could sit on the floor packed close together in a manner
achieved only by tinned sardines and Indian crowds. Fortunately I
was sitting near the stage among a bunch of photographers where a
little more elbow-room had been allowed. Here is my diary entry on
what took place that morning:
"On the stage is a large silver statue of Sai Baba of Shirdi in his
characteristic sitting posture. Mr. Kasturi takes up a small wooden
urn, about a foot in height, and filled with vibhuti. This he holds
above the head of the silver statue, and lets the ash pour over the
figure until the urn is empty. He shakes it well to make sure that
the last grains have fallen out, then continues to hold it above the
statue with its open top downwards.
"Now Sai Baba thrusts his arm as far as the elbow into the vessel
and makes a churning motion with his arm, as women did when making
butter in the old days. Immediately the ash begins to flow again
from the vessel and continues to do so in a copious stream until he
takes his arm out. Then the flow of ash stops. Next he puts his
other arm in and twirls that around. The ash streams out over the
statue again. This process goes on, Baba using alternate arms, ash
pouring from the empty vessel while his hand is in it, and stopping
immediately he takes it out. Finally Shirdi Sai is buried in a great
mound of ash - much more than the vessel could possibly have held.
Now the urn is placed on the floor: the miraculous, ceremonial ash
bath is over.
'There is a joyous, elevated atmosphere all around; Mr. Kasturi's
face is more radiant than ever, Baba's movements and manner are the
acme of unselfconscious grace. It's all wonderful, yet having
watched him pull handfuls of ash out of the empty air I am not so
greatly surprised to see him stir it in large quantities from an
But the big climax of the day was to come, and many people talked to
me about it. They told me that every year one or more Siva lingams
have materialised in Baba's body at this sacred period. He ejects
the lingams through his mouth for all to observe. They are always
hard, being made of crystal clear or coloured stone and sometimes of
metals like gold or silver.
"Are you sure he does not pop them in his mouth just before he goes
on stage, and then eject them again at the right moment?" I asked.
My hearers looked at me with amusement and pity. One of them said:
"He talks and sings for a long time before the lingam comes out, and
it's always much too big to hold in the mouth while speaking. Last
year it was so large that he had to use his fingers to pull it out
through his lips, and it stretched them so that the sides of his
mouth bled." Another added: "There were nine one year. Each was
about an inch and a half in height. Imagine holding all those in
your mouth while you talked for nearly an hour!"
Well, I thought, even if he does bring these things up from
somewhere inside him, what is the point of it? Certainly it's a most
miraculous phenomenon, but has it any significance? What is a Siva
To this question I had a number of answers from the people at the
ashram, but it seemed to me that the most satisfactory explanation
of the Siva lingam I had heard to date was the one given by Dr.I.K.
Taimni at the Theosophical Society's School of the Wisdom at Advar.
I could only recall this vaguely, but later when 1 returned to
Adyar, I looked up my notes. Briefly this is what he taught.
The Siva lingam belongs to the class of "natural" Hindu symbols,
which are usually mathematical in form. Such symbols are called
"natural" because they not only represent a reality, but to some
extent are the actual vehicles of the power within that reality. The
lingam is an ellipsoid. It symbolises Siva-Shakti; that is, the
primary polarity principle of positive and negative forces. On this
principle of opposites the whole universe is founded.
Why is an ellipsoid used to symbolise the polarity principle? Dr.
Taimni explains it in this way. The ultimate reality, the Absolute
or Brahman or God, or whatever we care to term it, has no polarity,
no pairs of opposites: all principles are balanced and harmonised
within it. Therefore, the ultimate reality is represented by the
most perfect mathematical figure, the sphere.
If the centre or the one focal point of the sphere divides itself
into two we get the ellipsoid. So this figure gives a symbolic
representation of the primary pair of opposites out of the original
harmonious one. And from this first duality comes all manifestation,
all creation, all the multiplicity of things in the universe. The
lingam is therefore the basic form lying at the root of all
creation, as "Om" is the basic sound.
To put the matter in Hindu terms: from the one Brahman emerges
Siva-Shakti, the father and mother of all that is. We must note in
this connection that Siva is not only an aspect of the Triune
Godhead - the destruction-regeneration aspect - he is also the
highest God, the father of all the gods, the cosmic logos.
Like all the gods of Hindu thought, Siva has his consort, Shakti, or
female aspect. And whereas the male or positive aspect represents
consciousness, the female or negative aspect symbolises power. Both
are necessary for creation or manifestation in the planes of matter.
It is significant too that the ellipsoidal or lingam form, which
symbolises the Siva-Shakti principle, plays a fundamental part in
the structure and working of the universe. It lies, for instance, at
the base of all matter within the atom where the electrons
apparently move in elliptical courses around the central nucleus.
Again, at the solar level, we find the planets describing not
circular but elliptical orbits around the sun.
Some people have considered the lingam to be a mere sex symbol. But
sex is only one of the many manifestations of the Siva-Shakti
principle inherent in the lingam. The principle is demonstrated in
all the pairs of opposites, and nothing can exist in this phenomenal
universe without its opposite or contrast. In fact, the concept of
opposites is basic to our very thinking at this level of
consciousness; we cannot know light without darkness, and so on. So
to, say that Man's worship of this symbol is derived entirely from
primitive phallic worship is to take a false view. The lingam has a
more profound and significant connotation. The word itself in
Sanskrit simply means a symbol or emblem, which in itself suggests
that it is a basic, primary symbol. In fact, representing in
concrete form the fundamental principle and power of creation, it is
considered the highest object of worship on the physical plane, and
as it has a true mathematical relationship to the reality it
symbolises, it can bring the worshippers en rapport with that
reality. Just how it does this, Dr. Taimni points out, is a mystery
which can only be resolved and understood by one's inner
Nevertheless, it is claimed that this sacred ellipsoid of stone or
metal does have the occult property of creating a channel between
Man and the divine power on the inner plane it represents. Through
such a channel many blessings, benefits and auspicious conditions,
will flow to the worshippers. But the mystic link must be
established by someone with the necessary understanding of the
principles, and knowledge of the forms of the ritual required.
Would thirty thousand people travel many arduous miles to see Sai
Baba produce an ordinary stone from his interior - miraculous though
it may be? I doubt it. But the stone expected that evening, the
lingam, is not ordinary. It lies at the very heart of India's
ancient spiritual culture.
Shadows were lengthening, but the afternoon was still quite hot when
I made my way from the guesthouse to the small rotunda called the
Shanti Vedika where the event was to take place. The building stands
some distance in front of the Mandir and is rather like the open
bandstands in parks of western cities. It is circular with an
elevated floor, a low fence, and narrow pillars supporting the roof.
Not only were the big unwalled sheds along one side choked with
spectators, but the wide grounds stretching from the central rotunda
to the perimeter of the ashram were a solid mass of sitting figures.
I was led by a guide through this silent forest of heads, along a
coir-matted lane between the women to my right and the men on my
left. I wondered if there was a square yard anywhere on which I
Near the Shanti Vedika a space had been reserved for officials, the
closest disciples, photographers and a few people with tape
recorders. Being a pale-faced foreigner I was courteously placed
there. But even this privileged enclosure became so packed that I
began to wonder if I would ever be able to vary my cramping
cross-legged posture. If I was to be there for over three hours, as
predicted, my legs would probably set permanently in the position
and I would have to be carried out.
At six o'clock Sai Baba, accompanied by a small group of disciples,
came onto the Shanti Vedika and soon after that the speeches began.
Several men spoke but I remember most clearly one speaker, a leading
Sanskrit scholar of southern India, Surya Prakasa Sastri. Not that I
understood what he said, for he spoke entirely in the ancient tongue
of the Vedas but there was something appealing in his lined,
scholarly, benign face and his cloak of heavenly blue.
It was about eight-thirty, powerful electric lights illuminating the
group on the platform, when Sai Baba rose to his feet. First he sang
a sacred song in his sweet celestial voice that touches the heart.
Then he began his discourse, speaking as always on such public
occasions in the Telugu tongue. The thirty thousand or so people
were as one, expectant and utterly silent, except when Baba told a
funny story or made a joke. Then a ripple of laughter would pass
over the star-lit field of faces. On the platform Mr. Kasturi was
busy making notes of the address which would be published later, in
both Telugu and English.
Sai Baba's eloquence had been flowing in a steady stream for some
half-hour when suddenly his voice broke. He tried again but only a
husky squeak came. Bhajan leaders among the devotees, knowing what
was happening, immediately gave voice to a well-known holy song and
then the great crowd joined in.
Baba sat down and drank from a flask of water. Several times he
tried to sing, but it was impossible. Now he began to show signs of
real pain. He twisted and turned, placed his hand on his chest,
buried his head in his hands, plucked at his hair. Then he sipped
some more water and tried to smile reassuringly at the crowd.
The singing continued fervently, as if to support and help Baba
through this period of pain. Some men around me were weeping
unashamedly and I myself felt a flow of tenderness towards the man
suffering there before us. I could not grasp the full significance
of the event that caused the agony, nor perhaps could most of the
great crowd watching, but to understand a thing with the mind is one
matter and to feel its meaning in the bones and blood is another.
Inwardly I felt that I was sitting at the very heart of something
profoundly significant to mankind.
But another cautious, rational part of me was not even convinced
that a genuine miracle would indeed take place, let alone a
spiritually important one. So, instead of blurring my eyes with the
tears of sympathy, I kept them fixed on Baba's mouth; my whole
attention was glued to that point so that I would not miss the exit
of the lingam - if in fact it would come from there.
After about twenty minutes or so of watching Baba's mouth while he
writhed and smiled and made attempts to sing, I was rewarded. I saw
a flash of green light shoot from his mouth and with it an object
which he caught in his hands, cupped below. Immediately he held the
object high between his thumb and forefinger so that all could see
it. A breath of profound joy passed through the crowd. It was a
beautiful green lingam, and certainly much bigger than any ordinary
man could bring up through his throat.
Sai Baba placed it on the top of a large torch so that the light
shone through its glowing emerald-like translucency. Then, leaving
it there, he retired from the scene.
Sunderlal Gandhi, a young volunteer guide for the festival, who had
become my friend, took me out of the crowd. My legs felt like
knotted spaghetti but they carried me to the guesthouse. Every time
I awoke during the night I could hear the crowd still chanting and
singing around the illuminated Siva lingam, and when I came down at
daybreak the people were just dispersing. Among them I met Gabriela
Steyer who told me that most of the great gathering had remained for
the night-long worship of this symbol of the highest divinity, which
had formed miraculously in the body of their leader.
Siva is the God of yogis, the one who helps man to conquer his lower
nature and rise above it into his true divine nature. To make this
transition the mind must first be mastered. Mind is said to be
somehow related to the moon, and it is believed that there is an
astronomically favourable time when the moon is right for success in
man's efforts to transcend his mind. It is at this most favourable
time, in February, that the great Sivaratri is held. But at Prasanti
Nilayam this lunar festival is doubly auspicious; not only are the
celestial conditions correct, but the miraculously-produced physical
symbol of Siva is there before all eyes, a glowing focus for the
supreme effort of meditation. It is interesting and appropriate to
note here that in the Uttara Gita Lord Krishna says that lingam is
from the word lina which means to unite. This is because the lingam
makes possible the union of the lower self with the higher self and
with God - with Jivatma and Paramatra.
Later the Raja of Venkatagiri, a pious Sai Baba devotee with a good
knowledge of orthodox Hinduism, told me that it was essential for
regular and correct pujas, or ritualistic worship, to be performed
for such a sacred symbol. And as few people could carry these out,
most of the Sai Baba lingams were de-materialised: that is, they
went back to the realm of the unmanifest from whence they had come.
Several other devotees supported his opinion.
Several of my new-found friends saw the lingam at close quarters on
the morning after its production. There was a good deal of talk
about this and comparisons were made with other specimens produced
in previous years. I asked what had happened to them all and was
told that some were given to very devout devotees, but others -
well, no one knew.
Nevertheless, I know for a fact that some are given to devotees.
Over a year later a very sincere follower of Sai Baba showed me a
beautiful Siva lingam which had come from Baba's body, and which he
had presented to her. She carried it about with her, carefully
wrapped in a cloth, and would let nobody touch it.
"Don't you have to perform regular pujas to it?" I asked her.
"Yes," she replied, "Baba told me just what to do and I do it. But I
don't know why he gave it to me: I'm not worthy of it." But I could
feel that she was. And Baba, who sees to the deep heart of all his
devotees, knows who is worthy.
I was able to inspect the 1966 Siva lingam at close quarters a
couple of days after it was produced. I had at Prasanti Nilayam gone
with a small group of people into the Mandir for one of the
much-coveted private interviews with Sai Baba. We were ushered into
a downstairs room. After a few minutes Baba came in and placed the
lingam on the window-ledge for everyone present to inspect. It was
of emerald green colour, as it had appeared in the artificial light
on the night of its emergence. Mr. Kasturi, who had been present on
the platform of the Shanti Vedika when it was produced, thus
described it later in print: "An emerald lingam, three inches high
and fixed on a pedestal five inches broad that had formed itself in
him (Baba), emerged from his mouth to the unspeakable joy and relief
of the huge gathering " When I saw it standing on the window-ledge,
I did not realise that its big pedestal had also emerged from Baba's
mouth, but I estimated the size as about what Kasturi stated later.
After we had all had a good look at the lingam, but without touching
it; Baba sat down on a chair and we sat on the floor around the
walls. I was on the floor to his right, as close as possible.
For a while he chatted in what seemed a light and easy manner. He
asked people individually what they wanted from him and laughed at
some of the responses. He was rather like a mother with her
children, happy to give them the things they wanted, anxious to
bring them joy, but hoping that they would learn to want the more
important things of life, the treasures of the spirit.
Suddenly, turning to me he said in a teasing manner, "If I give you
something, you will probably lose it?"
"No, Baba - no, I won't," I protested.
Pulling up his sleeve he stirred the air with his hand about on a
level with my eyes; I could see under as well as over it, yet I saw
nothing there until he turned the hand up and a large shining ring
had appeared in his palm. It seemed to be of silver and gold; but he
told me later that the silvery-looking metal was panchaloha, the
sacred alloy of which many temple idols are made.
Fascinated, I held out my hand for the gift but he laughed and
passed it in the opposite direction. It went around the circle, each
person inspecting it, most of them holding it reverently to their
foreheads before passing it on. When it had returned to Baba he
placed it on my third finger. It fitted exactly.
I felt quite overwhelmed, and even more so when I saw that the
figure embossed in gold on the panchaloha was Sai Baba of Shirdi. I
had never told Satya Sai or any of his followers about my deep
affection for that old saint. Was it then something that he could
read in my mind?
Soon after that he began taking us separately into another room so
that we could ask him private questions. When my turn came he talked
to me about my personal life and health. He seemed to be not only
father and mother but the very essence of parenthood itself, the
archetype of all fathers and mothers. It was as if a warm beam of
love came from him and entered into the depth of my being, melting
my very bones. This I felt must be the pure high love which in
Sanskrit is called prema, the love that has no hidden selfish
motive, the love that is simply a spontaneous expression of the
highest, the divinity, in man.
My wonderful inner experience matched up with what several devotees
had already told me about their own personal contacts with the
universal yet individualised Baba prema. So, one way and another, by
the end of my first visit to the "Abode of Great Peace" I began, to
understand that, whatever this miracle-man might be, he was not just
a clever conjurer. Nor was he a "street magician" with a limited
repertoire of psychic tricks for extracting a few rupees from the
Sai Baba did not belong to either of these well-known categories.
What was he then? That remained a deep mystery, perhaps unfathomable
but anyway a challenge.
5 Birth and Childhood
But trailing clouds of glory do we come,
From God, who is our home. - WM. Wordsworth.
During visits to Prasanti Nilayam I was able to
inspect the village of Satya Sai Baba's birth and talk to members of
his family living there. The village, Puttaparti, lies about a
quarter of a mile from the ashram itself. It is a small,
sun-bleached place of whitewashed houses and narrow, sandy streets.
The actual house where Baba first saw the light of day is now
reduced to a few bits of broken brick wall, but his two elder
sisters and a younger brother still live in the village in houses of
their own. His older brother resides in another town, his mother
lives in the ashram and his father is dead. However, although I met
and talked to members of the family and some old friends, it was
from the historian Kasturi that I had the main facts about Sai
Baba's background, birth and childhood.
The most outstanding figure in his family background was his
paternal grandfather, Kondama Raju. This gentleman seems to have
been a small landlord, owning farmlands even some distance away from
Puttaparti. He was not rich but sufficiently well-off to dedicate a
temple to the goddess Satyabhama, the consort of Lord Krishna. He is
remembered chiefly for the devout religious life he led. Also as an
outstanding musician and actor he took a leading part in the village
religious dramas and operas, produced at Puttaparti and other
centres nearby. In those days this was the main form of village
entertainment. Many of the dramatic performances were drawn from the
great Indian spiritual epics such as the Ramayana. One version of
this very long work is given as a series of songs, and Kondama Raju
knew the whole of it by heart.
In his old age his many grandchildren used to gather around him in
the cottage where he lived alone, as he brought to life the
wonderful Ramayana tales of gods and god-men. A constant member of
his young fascinated audience was the little boy Satyanarayana,
known today as Satya Sai Baba. This education of the grandchildren
in the mythology and spiritual lore of the great epics and puranas
went on for many years; the grand old man lived to be 110, dying in
1950 at Puttaparti with a song of the mighty Rama on his lips.
Twenty-four years earlier in the year 1926 at the home of Kondama's
son, Pedda Raju, a coming event was being signalled by some strange
signs. Pedda's offspring at this time consisted of one son and two
daughters and now, following a long period of hopes, prayers and
pujas to the household gods, his wife Easwaramma was again pregnant.
Her prayers had been for another son, and as the time drew near her
hopes were high. But she was puzzled too, for many unheard-of things
were happening in the house.
For instance, the big tamboura leaning against the living-room wall
would sometimes twang in the middle of the night when no one was
near to play it, and the maddala (drum) on the floor would throb in
the darkness as if an expert hand were beating it. But no hand could
be seen. What could be the meaning of such things?
A priest, learned in the lore of the unseen, told them that these
events indicated the presence of a beneficent power and foretold an
The year 1926 was known as Akshaya, meaning the "Never-declining,
Ever-full" year, and November 23rd is always, according to the old
calendar, a day to be devoted to the worship of the god of great
blessings, Siva. Moreover in this year a certain juxtaposition of
the stars made the day even more auspicious for Siva worship. So the
villagers were already out chanting the names of Siva when the
rising sun outlined the purple rocky hills beyond the yellow sands
of the Chitravati river. And it was just at that moment as the sun
showed its face above the horizon that under the eaves of Pedda
Raju's cottage the child Satyanarayana was born. He was given this
name because the mother's pujas and prayers had been to that
particular form and name of God. Actually Narayana is another
appellation for Vishnu, the second in the Hindu Trinity, while -
satya is Sanskrit for truth, or reality; so "Satyanarayana" can be
taken to mean the "true all-pervading God". There is nothing odd or
profane in the Indian custom of naming a child in this way; most
Indians, men and women, bear one or more of the thousand names of
Soon after his birth the baby was placed on some bedclothes on the
floor. Presently the women in the room saw the clothes moving up and
down in a peculiar way as if there were something alive underneath.
There was. A cobra. But the snake did not harm the child.
Whatever the people present may have thought at the time, this
appearance of a cobra in the lying-in room is now regarded by many
of Baba's devotees as very significant, the cot a being one of the
symbols of Siva. Also Sai Baba of Shirdi had, it was said, on
several occasions appeared to his followers in the form of a cobra.
From the beginning the baby was the pet of the village, loved for
his beauty, ready smile and sweet nature. When Satya began to run
about the dusty street and adventure across the mud of the paddy
fields and the barren hills beyond, there were certain
characteristics that made him stand out from his young companions.
Unlike most boys he had a tender heart for all creatures, human or
otherwise. He could not bear to cause or to see suffering. This made
him a natural vegetarian from an early age among the meat-eaters
Said Mr. Kasturi: "He kept away from places where pigs or sheep,
cattle or fowl were killed or tortured, or where fish were 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 Satyanarayana, 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 his measure of love towards creation."
Furthermore, although fleet of foot, fond of outdoor sports and a
leading scout, Satya would have nothing to do with sports involving
ill-treatment to animals, such as cock-fighting, bear-baiting, or
the cruel bullock-cart races that were sometimes held in the soft
sands of the dry river-bed.
Many beggars came to the cottage door and if little Satya were there
none would be turned away without something to eat. More than this,
when he met cripples and blind people in the street he would bring
them home and insist that his mother or elder sisters gave them
food. Sometimes the family became irritated by these constant and
expensive demands. Once his mother said. "Look here! If we give the
beggars food you will have to starve yourself." This threat did not
daunt the child at all. He agreed at once that he would stay away
from lunch that day - and he did. Nothing could persuade him to come
to his plate.
The same thing happened frequently, and it was through such events
that the family had a first glimpse of the strange things which were
to take place concerning the child. On one occasion when he had
really outshone himself with beggar-feeding from the family larder
he decided to stay away from meals for several days. Although he
persisted in this he showed no indications of hunger, and he carried
on his activities without any signs of weakness. When his worried
mother begged him to eat he told her that he had already filled his
stomach with delicious balls of milk-rice. Where did he get them,
she asked. Why an old man, Tata, had given them to him. No one had
ever seen or heard of such a person, and the mother would not
believe little Satya's story. But he held up his right hand for her
to smell, for like most Indians the Raju family ate with their hands
rather than with cutlery. From the boy's palm the mother inhaled a
fine fragrance of ghee, milk and curds - of a quality she had seldom
experienced before. So the child whose sympathy for hungry strangers
robbed his own plate was nourished by some mysterious unseen
visitor. What could this mean?
Satya began his formal education at the village school where he
showed himself bright and quick in learning. His special talents
were, like those of his grandfather, for drama, music, poetry and
acting. He was even writing songs for the village opera at the age
At about that age he went on to the Higher Elementary School at
Bukkapatnam about two and a half miles away. One of the teachers who
knew him there remembered him as an "unostentatious, honest,
well-behaved boy". Another wrote in a book, published in 1944, that
Satya often used to come a little early to school, collect the
children around him, and conduct worship (puja) using a holy image
or picture and some flowers he had gathered for the purpose. Even if
the boys were not attracted to the religious ceremony in itself he
had no difficulty in gathering them around him because of the things
which he used sometimes to "produce" for their pleasure or help.
From an empty bag he would take sweets and fruits, or if a comrade
had lost a pencil or rubber, he would "produce" one of those from
the bag. If someone was sick, he would bring out "herbs from the
Himalayas", and give these as a cure.
When the children asked him how he performed such wonderful, magical
feats he would say that a certain "Grama Sakti" obeyed his will and
gave him whatever he wanted. The children had little difficulty in
believing in unseen beings, or in accepting that Satya had a
faithful invisible helper. After all, he was their leader in most
activities - in dramatics, athletics, and scouting for instance, and
some boys began to call him their "guru".
So when Satya went on to the high school at Uravakonda, he found
that his fame had spread there before him. Mr. Kasturi writes in his
book on Sai Baba: "Boys told each other that he was a fine writer
in Telugu, a good musician, a genius in dance, wiser than his
teachers, able to peer into the past and peep into the future.
Authentic stories of his achievements and divine powers were on
"Every teacher was anxious to be assigned some work in the section
to which he was admitted; some out of curiosity, some out of
veneration, and some out of a mischievous impulse to prove it all
absurd. Satya soon became the pet of the entire school ... He was
the leader of the school prayer group. He ascended the dais every
day when the entire school assembled for prayer before commencing
work, and it was his voice that sanctified the air and inspired both
teachers and taught to dedicate themselves to their allotted tasks."
Satya's elder brother, Seshama, was a teacher at this High School,
and he did his best to promote the family's ambition that young
Satya might be educated for a good position as a government officer.
But things were moving rapidly towards an event that was to change
all such worldly ambitions. It was one of these profound and
shattering experiences which, in one form or another, seem often if
not always to precede the missions of great teachers and inspirers
At seven o'clock on the evening of March 8th 1940, Satya, while
walking barefooted on the open ground, leapt into the air with a
loud shriek, holding one toe of his right foot. In the area there
were lots of big black scorpions and his companions immediately
thought that he must have been bitten by one. But in the dusk they
could not find the black culprit. Everyone was very concerned
because of the local belief that no one could survive either a snake
or scorpion bite in Uravakonda. This superstition seems related to
the fact that Uravakonda is dominated by a hill crowned by a
hundred-foot boulder in the shape of a hooded serpent. In fact, the
place name itself means "Serpent-hill".
However, Satya slept that night without any signs of pain or
sickness and seemed quite normal next day. Everyone was greatly
relieved. Then at seven in the evening, twenty-four hours after the
supposed scorpion bite, the thirteen-year-old boy fell down
unconscious; his body became stiff and his breathing faint. His
brother, Seshama, brought a doctor who gave an injection and left a
mixture to be taken when the boy regained consciousness. But Satya
remained unconscious throughout the night.
Next day consciousness returned but the boy was by no means normal
in behaviour. He seemed at times to be a different person. He seldom
answered when spoken to; he had little interest in food; he would
suddenly burst into song or, poetry, sometimes quoting long Sanskrit
passages far beyond anything learned in his formal education and
training. Off and on he would become stiff, appearing to leave his
body and go somewhere else. At times he would have the strength of
ten, at others he was "as weak as a lotus-stalk''. There was much
alternate laughter and weeping, but occasionally he would become
very serious and give a discourse on the highest Vedanta philosophy.
Sometimes he spoke of God; sometimes he described far-off places of
pilgrimage to which - certainly during his life as Satyanarayana
Raju - he had never been.
The parents came from Puttaparti, several doctors were consulted and
prescribed various treatments, but there was no change in the
patient. Many people thought that an evil spirit had taken
possession of the boy perhaps as a result of someone's black magic.
So a number of exorcists tried their arts to invoke the evil spirit
and transfer it to a lamb or fowl. But all to no avail.
Finally the parents took Satya to a place near Kadiri where there
was an exorcist of great repute. This expert in devil-craft was a
Shakti worshipper before whom, it was said, "no evil spirit dare wag
its poison tail". His appearance alone was enough to scare minor
fiends away: he was of gigantic stature, with blood-red eyes, wild
aspect and untamed manners. He seemed to work on the general
principle that if he made the body of his patient suffer
sufficiently the occupying demon would grow tired of the discomfort
and leave it.
First of all the fierce exorcist went through the ritual of
sacrificing a fowl and a lamb and making the boy sit in the centre
of a circle of blood while he chanted his incantations. Then he
shaved Satya's head and with a sharp instrument scored three crosses
on the scalp, scratching so deeply that the blood flowed. On these
open wounds he poured the juice of limes, garlic and other acid
The parents, who were watching this treatment, were appalled at its
severity; they were also amazed that Satya made not the slightest
murmur and gave no sign whatever of suffering. Apparently, if there
was a spirit tenant he too was immune, for he gave no notice of
intention to quit.
The relentless exorcist arranged that every day in the early
morning, 108 pots of cold water be poured over the markings on the
scalp. This was done for several days, while other rough treatments
went on, such as beating the boy on the joints with a heavy stick.
Finally the Shakti-worshipper decided to use his strongest weapon,
reserved for the most recalcitrant demons. This is the "Kalikam",
which is described as a mixture- of all the painful acidic
abracadabra in the repertory of torture. He applied the "Kalikam" to
Satya's eyes. The boy's body shook under the impact of pain, his
face and head turned red and swelled beyond recognition, the eyes
shrunk to thin tear-exuding slits.
The parents and elder sister, who was also present, wept in anguish
at the sight. Satya did not speak, but made signs for them to await
him outside. When he came out he asked them to go and fetch a remedy
he knew. It was brought and applied to the boy's eyes: the swelling
subsided and the eyes opened to their normal size.
When he discovered what had happened the witch-doctor was enraged at
this "interference with his treatment", as he called it. He had been
within an inch of driving the demon from the boy, he fumed. But the
parents had witnessed quite enough. They paid his fees and mollified
him with the statement that they would build up the boy's stamina
and then bring him back for a further course of the great man's
learned exorcism. Then they took Satya away, still evidently
possessed by the "demon" who would quote long Sanskrit verses,
discourse learnedly on Vedanta philosophy and cryptically on ethics,
could sing lovely sacred, songs and call for the performance of
Arati (a sacred ritual and song) because "the gods are passing
across the sky".
The parents continued to take Satya to medical doctors and various
kinds of healers, but no treatment seemed to make any difference.
Two months passed by in this vain endeavour to get the boy back to a
"normal state". He had not returned to high school, and was still at
home in Puttaparti.
On the morning of May 23rd Satya called around him the members of
the household, except his father who was busy at his produce store.
With a wave of his hand the boy took from the air sugar candy and
flowers and distributed them among those present. Soon the
neighbours began to crowd in. Satya in a jovial mood "produced' more
candy and flowers, and also a ball of rice cooked in milk for each
person. The news that his son was performing apparent siddhis before
a crowd of people reached Pedda.
Suddenly the father overflowed with anger and resentment. Wasn't it
enough that the boy had caused them all this worry and strain over
the last two months. Now he must be making a public show of himself
with stupid tricks; hiding things and producing them by
sleight-of-hand, no doubt - although where the boy had learned such
legerdemain he had no idea. As Satya had for a long time been able
to do inexplicable things, perhaps it was not just jugglery after
all but something worse black magic, sorcery!
Thus with bitter thoughts Pedda found himself a stout cane and went
to the house. As he pushed through the crowd someone ordered him to
go and wash himself before approaching the giver of boons. This
incensed and angered him still more. Standing before his 13-year-old
son and waving the stick threateningly, he shouted:
''This is too much! It must stop! What are you? Tell me - a ghost,
or a god, or a madcap?"
Satya regarded his wrathful, distraught father and the upraised
stick. Then he said calmly and firmly, "I am Sai Baba. ''
Pedda stood staring silently at his son, while the cane slid from
his hands. Satya continued, addressing all present, "I have come to
ward off your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure."
A member of the family - approached him and asked: "What do you mean
by 'Sai Baba'?"
He replied enigmatically: "Your Venkavadhoota prayed that I be born
in your family; so I came."
In the Raju family there was a tradition of a great sage named
Venkavadhoota, an ancestor who had been looked upon as a guru by the
people of hundreds of villages around the area. But only a few of
the old folk gathered that morning around the. Raju cottage had ever
heard of anyone called "Sai Baba". Those who had heard the name had
no idea who he was. "Baba" was, they all knew, a Muslim word and
Pedda thought that perhaps his son was possessed by the spirit of a
The villagers who heard about it felt some trepidation and a great
deal of wonder. That there was something special about little Satya,
they had long known. Otherwise how could he do such strange
miraculous things? And now since his illness he often spoke like an
old sage or seer. But who was this Muslim, "Sai Baba"? And what
could he possibly have to do with the little boy they had all known,
admired and loved for nearly fourteen years?
6 The Two Sais
Truth is not that which is demonstrable -
it is that which is ineluctable. - ST. Exupery
There were a few people in the
district who had heard of a great wonder-working fakir named Sai
Baba. Some thought he was still alive while others declared that he
had been dead for years. Some said that he was a Muslim, others that
he was a Hindu saint with a great following. But in any case he
seemed very remote from the Raju family and the village of
Then some friends told the family that there was in Penukonda, a
town twenty-five miles away, a visiting government officer who was
supposed to be an ardent devotee of the fakir, Sai Baba. It was
decided to take Satya Raju to him: perhaps that would clear up the
mystery, or at any rate throw some light on the boy's strange
announcement and behaviour.
Satya was quite willing to go, and the government officer
condescended to see him. But when they met the officer could not
accept the idea that his great guru, who died at Shirdi in 1918, had
been reborn as this wild-talking boy.
"It's mental derangement," he told the adults, "the child should be
taken to a psychiatric institution for treatment."
Here young Satya interposed: "Yes, it's mental derangement, but
whose? You're just a pujari; you can't recognise the very Sai whom
you are worshipping." Saying that he took handfuls of ash from
nowhere and, scattering it in all directions, left the room.
Reincarnation is part of the Hindu religion, and Satya's
acquaintances had no difficulty with that idea in itself. But how
were they to accept the boy's statement that he was actually Sai
Baba of Shirdi reborn. The government officer had not helped them to
swallow this big improbability.
Of course, considering Satya's miraculous powers, it could be true.
It might be true. But they needed some proof, some strong convincing
Thursday is regarded as guru's day in India, and on each Thursday
some people gathered around their new guru, young Satyanarayana
Raju. Once, soon after the visit to Penukonda, someone at a Thursday
meeting voiced the desire that was in many minds.
"If you are really Sai Baba, show us a sign."
Satya saw the need of this. "Bring me those jasmine flowers," he
said, pointing to a large bouquet in the room.
The flowers were placed in his hands, and with a quick gesture he
threw them on the floor. All present looked in awe: the flowers had
fallen to form the name "Sai Baba" in Telugu script, the language
spoken in the village. This flower-writing was not something that
required imagination to help; the words were strikingly clear, as if
arranged with meticulous skill, all the curves and convolutions of
the Telugu letters perfectly reproduced.
As the days and weeks passed there were other outward signs that the
claim coming from the boy's lips was more than a childish fancy,
more than something that could be explained away as a "mental
Nevertheless, in spite of all this, Satya submitted to the family's
insistence that he go back to high school in Uravakonda. He returned
in June, six months after the mysterious "black scorpion" had bitten
his toe - or whatever happened to trigger off the psychic crisis
leading to the emergence of new personality facets, and to the
Thursdays soon became big events at Uravakonda. For, the people
gathered around him, Satya Sai would with a wave of his small hand
produce items which linked him with the deceased Shirdi saint:
photographs of the old body, gerua cloth which he said was from the
kafni that Shirdi Baba used to wear, dates and flowers which he
declared came directly from the shrine at the Shirdi tomb, where
they had been taken as offerings by worshippers.
Perhaps the most interesting phenomenon was his regular production
of ash. Shirdi Sai had always kept a fire burning to have a ready
supply of holy ash, which he called udhi. Now young Satya Sai took
it as if from an invisible fire in hidden dimension of space. This
was a miracle that he had not performed until after the announcement
of his identity with Sai Baba. The announcement also marked the
beginning of the mysterious flow of photographs, drawings,
paintings, and figures of Shirdi Baba which still goes on as I
personally experienced on a number of occasions.
A strange story of the production of a colour print of Shirdi Sai is
told about these early days. It seems that before Satya returned to
Uravakonda from Puttaparti his eldest sister, Venkamma had asked him
for a picture of this Shirdi Baba about whom he was talking and
composing bhajan songs. He promised to produce one for her on a
However, on the day before that particular Thursday Satya returned
to his high school. "Well," Venkamma thought, "he has forgotten; it
can't be helped; some day he will give it to me, no doubt."
But on the promised Thursday night she was awakened by a strange
sound as if someone was calling outside the door. She sat up but all
seemed quiet so she lay down again. Then there was a sound behind
bag of jowar in the room. Perhaps it's a rat or snake, she thought,
so she lit a lamp and searched. She found something white sticking
out from behind the bag: it was a roll of thick paper. She unrolled
it in the lamplight to find a picture of an old man seated with his
right leg resting across his left knee. Soft but penetrating eyes
looked out at her from below a knotted head-cloth. "It must be the
promised picture," she thought, "delivered to me by some invisible
messenger." Venkamma still has this coloured picture of Shirdi Sai
and showed it to me when 1 visited her once at Puttaparti.
But high school was not really the place for a boy who, like Jesus
in the temple, could teach the teachers; in fact several of them,
including the head master, used to bow before him, and seeing
through the illusion of his youthful body would listen to his
The final break from schooldays came on October 20th 1940. That
morning at his brother's house where he was residing Satya threw
away his books, and announced that he was leaving. "My devotees are
calling me. I have my work," he said. His sister-in-law says that
when she heard these words she saw a halo around the boy's head
which almost blinded her, so that she covered her eyes and cried out
Nevertheless, she and her brother tried to persuade Satya to remain
and continue his schooling. But he marched off to the home of an
excise inspector who was very much attached to "little Baba". There
the boy spent three days mostly under a tree in the garden while
people gathered around him. Some brought incense and camphor for
ritualistic worship, some came to learn, some to pry into this great
curiosity, and some to have a good laugh.
Satya led the group about him for hours in bhajan songs. Here in the
garden another phenomenon occurred linking him further to Sai Baba
of Shirdi. A photographer arrived to take a photo of the little
newsworthy prophet. A large crude stone seemed to spoil the
composition of the picture so the photographer asked Satya Sai to
change his position. But no co-operation seemed forthcoming, so the
photographer clicked his camera and hoped for the best.
He got more than the best. When the film was developed and printed,
it was found that the obstructing rock had become an image of Sai
Baba of Shirdi. Both forms of Sai were in the picture though only
one had been seen by the people assembled there.
During the three days Satya spent in the garden his parents arrived
again at Uravakonda. Deciding at long last that school was out of
the question they asked Satya to come home. He refused. They
pleaded. Finally, after they had assured him that they would not in
future obstruct or interfere with his mission, he agreed to return
to Puttaparti. There he began to gather more devotees around him;
first in his father's home, and later in the spacious house of a
Throughout the years since the fourteen-year-old boy in the obscure
village of Puttaparti made the astounding claim that he was the
reincarnation of India's most mysterious and powerful modern saint,
there has been much interesting outward evidence to support that
One story related in detail by Mr. Kasturi in his book on Baba's
life tells how, about a year after the announcement, when Satya Sai
was fifteen, he was visited by the Rani of Chincholi. Her late
husband, the Raja, had been a very ardent devotee of Shirdi Baba and
used to spend a few months every year at Shirdi. It is stated by the
Rani and some old servants of the Palace that Shirdi Baba on several
occasions came and stayed at Chincholi. He would, they say, ride
with the Raja far out of town in a tonga drawn by bullocks.
Incidentally, this tonga was later taken from Chincholi to
Puttaparti and left there.
During her visit to Puttaparti to see this reincarnation of the old
saint, the Rani persuaded him to accompany her to Chincholi. Perhaps
he wanted to test him. There had been a number of changes at the
Palace since the days when Shirdi Baba visited there. Although
theoretically accepting the boy as a rebirth of the Shirdi Saint,
the Rani was startled when he immediately commented on the changes.
He asked what had happened to a margossa tree that had once been
there; he mentioned the previous existence of a well which had been
filled up and was no longer in evidence; then pointing to a line of
buildings he said. "They were not built when I was here in my
previous body." This was all true.
Later he told her that there should be in the Palace a small stone
image of a certain kind which, as Shirdi Baba, he had given to the
Raja long ago. The Rani did not know of its existence but a thorough
search was made and the image found. These were some of the many
extra-cerebral memories that helped to establish the truth of the
And there is significant interest in the experience of His Holiness
Gayathri Swami, a disciple of the Sankaracharya of Sringeri Peetam.
It happened while he was on a visit to Prasanti Nilayam ashram,
after Satya Sai had moved there from his home village. The Swami had
once spent a whole year with Baba at Shirdi back in 1906, and often
visited him in the later years. He was perhaps only partly convinced
that Satya Sai was his old guru reborn. Anyway, on the night before
he left Prasanti Nilayam he had a vision. In this Shirdi Baba came
to him and said that he had returned from his Mahasamadi (the word
used for the death of a great yogi) after eight years, and that he
had brought all his 'properties' with him fifteen years later. "What
could this vision mean?" the Swami wondered.
He understood its meaning next morning. When discussing his vision
with devotees he was told that Satya Sai was born eight years after
the passing of Shirdi Baba, also that he assumed the name of Sai
Baba in his fourteenth year and was manifesting the full powers
associated with Shirdi Baba by his fifteenth year. These powers, the
Swami felt, must be what his guru meant by 'properties', and the
vision had been given to confirm in his mind that his Lord was again
walking the earth.
Sai Baba of Puttaparti has given many people visions of his old
Shirdi form when they have requested it - and sometimes without
request. One way in which he does this is to hold out both open
palms to show on them bright shining images of the Shirdi and
Puttaparti bodies, one on each palm. Another way is to lead the
person to be blessed with the vision into some quiet secluded room
of whatever house he happens to be in. There in a corner of the room
is seen the glowing, three-dimensional figure of Shirdi Baba.
One woman described such a vision in these words: " there sat Shirdi
Sai Baba on the floor in his characteristic pose, but with eyes
closed and ash marks on his forehead and arms. The incense sticks
before him were burning, and the smoke was rising straight into the
air. His body was glowing with a strange effulgence, and there was a
beautiful fragrance around."
It might be argued however - and perhaps rightly - that the power to
produce hallucinations of the Shirdi form is no proof that Satya
ever lived in that form. But there are many other types of evidence
pointing to the fact that the two Sais are in spirit one and the
The men who as adults were close disciples of Baba at Shirdi have
most of them passed on with the passing years. But there are still a
few old gentlemen around who as boys visited Shirdi when the old
saint was still there. These he recognises even though their own
mothers would not easily see the boy of long ago within the aging
One of these is Mr. M.S. Dixit who, having retired, now lives at Sai
Baba's summer retreat at Whitefield near Bangalore. While I was
there with Baba one summer, I had many wonderful talks with Mr.
Dixit on his experiences of the two Sais.
He was born in 1897, the son of Sadashiv Dixit, an advocate who was
at one time Diwan (Prime Minister) of the royal state of Kutch.
Sadashiv's eldest brother, Hari S. Dixit, was a solicitor in Bombay
and a member of the Legislative Council. It was this Hari Dixit who
became a close devotee of Shirdi Baba. In the company of his uncle
M.S. Dixit told me, he made his earliest visits to Shirdi; first in
the year 1909, and again in 1912. Before this second visit he had
been suffering what he called "half-headaches". At sunrise half his
head would start to ache agonizingly; then a little before sunset it
would stop. This would go on each day for about two months at a
stretch; it was very distressing. His uncle took him to Sai Baba
hoping for a cure of the strange headaches. Mr. Dixit recalls
vividly how he was sitting near Sai Baba one day when Baba suddenly
said to him: "Why are you sitting here - go home!"
Young Dixit replied that he had a bad headache and the heat of the
fire near which he was sitting brought him some relief. But Baba
insisted that he must go. It was the custom when leaving to take
some ash from the fireplace and put it in Baba's hand, so that he
might with it give his parting blessing. The fourteen-year-old boy
did this. Baba held the udhi for a moment and then applied it to the
lad's forehead with some force.
Young Dixit felt that he had been slapped on the head as well as,
ordered to go away, so he told his uncle that he would not visit
Hari Dixit replied: "Are you a fool? The slap means that your
headache will not recur."
This turned out to be true. The strange and terrible half-headaches,
never came back after that day, and young Dixit understood that Baba
had been in his enigmatic way ordering, not the boy, but the
headache, to go away.
Six years later in July 1918 M.S. Dixit found himself ill again,
this time with bad haemorrhoids and an anal fistula. The medical men
of Bombay where he was living said he must undergo an operation, but
he felt very nervous about having surgery and did not want it. Yet
he was suffering a lot and there was much bleeding. He felt very
miserable about his condition.
At one of the regular Thursday evening gatherings of Shirdi Baba's
Bombay devotees, M.S. Dixit was somehow overcome by the devotional
atmosphere combined with his own misery. Although a young man of
twenty, he broke down and cried like a child. That night he had a
dream in which Shirdi Baba came to him and chided him for "weeping
like a girl". Then the old saint told him what to use as a cure for
his ailment. After waking, Dixit could remember everything except
the name of the medicament which Baba had prescribed. He was very
distressed about this, and decided to go to Shirdi as soon as
possible and get the name from Baba's lips.
But before he could go he heard that Baba had died. "Now", he
thought gloomily, "I shall never know and must go on suffering."
Then at the next Thursday evening meeting, following the news of
Baba's passing, he found himself again overwhelmed with sorrow for
himself, and wept once more. The same night brought him another
vivid dream. In this Baba stood before him again, still in the old
Shirdi form. He said, "What! Crying like a girl again." Then he told
the young man to take seven seeds of pepper, crush them to powder,
and each day take a pinch of the powder mixed with udhi. All
devotees, incidentally, kept some of Baba's udhi in their homes.
M.S. Dixit remembered these dream instructions clearly next morning
and carried them out. On the third day of treatment the pain
stopped; on the seventh the bleeding stopped. A complete cure took
place and the complaint never returned. The years passed and the
pages of Dixit's life turned over: he was in business; he was
married; he was a major and Brigade Education Officer in the army
during the Second World War and for some years afterwards. The year
1959 found him back in commercial life in the west-coast city of
Mangalore. During leisure time he was reading a famous Hindu
religious work entitled Guru Charitra. If this is read through
completely within seven days, it is said, great spiritual benefits
On the evening of the sixth day of the reading he had a dream. In
this he was walking along a broad avenue of trees, and felt that
someone was following him. He looked back. There was a man, a very
distinctive man, close behind him. Dixit asked: "Who are you and why
are you following me?" But there was no reply: the figure just
continued to follow silently. After a few minutes Dixit looked back
again and saw the man still following him. Neither said anything.
Soon the footsteps drew closer, and Dixit felt that something was
being poured over his head from behind. He realised that it was ash
That was all of the dream he could remember on waking, but very
clear in his mind remained the striking, unique figure and face of
the man who followed him.
Some months afterwards through an odd set of circumstances he heard
that there was a reincarnation of Shirdi Baba but did not believe
it. Then later on he heard the same story again from another
quarter, and was shown a photograph of Satya Sai. Baba. It was the
man who had followed him in the dream. Now his interest was really
aroused. He remembered his uncle's story that Shirdi Baba had once
told him: "I will appear again as a boy of eight years." Was this
the boy, now grown to manhood? He decided to go as soon as possible
to Puttaparti and find out all he could.
It was early in 1961 when he managed to get there, as one of a party
of about thirty people. The ashram was choked with the Sivaratri
thousands, and Dixit stood among them waiting for a view of Satya
Sai Baba on the high balcony. When the little red-robed, dome-haired
figure with the sweet, lovable face appeared, Dixit knew for certain
that it was the figure of his strange dream.
Yet, he thought, how can this be the old saint of Shirdi? With his
coloured silks, hair like a woman and the big crowds around him,
this man is more like a film star. Shirdi Baba was rugged, homespun,
simple: how can this possibly be the same man? Suddenly he wanted to
But he stayed to watch Satya Sai pour huge quantities of sacred ash
from a small bowl over the statue of Shirdi Sai, and the same
evening take nine lingams from his mouth. Then during a public
discourse next day Baba said: "Some who have come here think I am
too much like a film star; they object to my bright-coloured robes
and the style of my hair . . ." With consternation, Dixit heard all
of his own unspoken critical thoughts being repeated from the
platform. Then Baba went on to explain the reasons - good reasons
Dixit felt - for the striking attire, the unique hairstyle and the
other features of this incarnation.
Well, Dixit decided, he is certainly something very special. There
is no doubt about his supernormal powers, but . . . he is so
different from old Shirdi Baba. Can it really be the same soul?
On a second visit to Prasanti Nilayam three months later he was
called into a room with a group of half-a-dozen people for an
interview. Baba came in, spoke to a few people, and then went up to
M.S. Dixit who was holding a small photo of his uncle, H.S. Dixit,
in his hand. Baba took the photo from him, looked at it, and said.
"That's H.S. Dixit, your uncle, your father's elder brother, and my
old devotee at Shirdi. Now have you any more doubts?"
His doubts were fewer because all that Baba had just said was true.
And Dixit had told no one his name at the ashram. He was there
incognito - just an unknown member of a crowd of visitors. But Baba
had recognised the face of his uncle in the photo at first sight.
After that Dixit often made trips to the ashram and, through the
years, enjoyed the wealth of Sai Baba's miraculous powers, great
compassion and spiritual teachings. Once, speaking of Shirdi Baba's
remark to his uncle Hari about coming back to earth "as a boy of
eight years", Baba told Dixit that what he had really said was he
would return as a boy in eight years, that is, eight years after his
death - which he in fact did. Satya Sai added that H.S. Dixit must
have misunderstood him. But it was the many, many little things,
more than these big ones, that finally convinced him that the two
Sais were one, Dixit told me. He went on to describe these important
little things: the similarities in the siddhis, the parallels in the
teachings and manner of instruction, the subtle echoes from the past
in gesture, phrase and attitude. "Sometimes I even see on his face
the same old smile that I saw long ago on the face of Shirdi Baba,"
Of course, the differences which he felt so sharply at first are
indeed there, he admits. But there is, after all, a different body,
a different setting, a different period in time - a different
environment for the Sai mission. And therefore the mission, while in
spirit the same, cannot be precisely the same in form and style, and
it is to be expected that the outer personality through which the
message comes to the world will also be different. Sai Baba himself
comments that he is not as hard or angry now as he was in the
earlier manifestation. He is more tolerant and gentle. He explains
the difference by means of a simile: "The mother is usually hard
when the children enter the kitchen and disturb the cooking; but
while serving the food she is all smiles and patience. I am now
serving the dishes cooked then. Wherever you may be, if you are
hungry and if your plate is ready, I shall serve you the dishes and
feed you to your heart's content. "
At another time, concerning the controversy about whether he is the
same Baba or not, he said: "When there are two pieces of candy, one
square, another circular, one yellow and the other purple in colour,
unless one has eaten and realised the taste of both pieces one
cannot believe that both are the same. Tasting, experiencing -
that's the crucial thing for knowing the identity."
Another person who met Shirdi Baba is an old lady now living at
Prasanti Nilayam. N. Kasturi writes in the second part of his Life
of Satya Sai Baba that this lady was when a child taken to Shirdi by
her father, a Collector in the Nizain's dominions. Later, after all
her four children had died, she went again to Shirdi in 1917 and
asked Baba for permission to stay on with him for spiritual
initiation and training.
But Baba said, "Not now.' I will come again in Andhra; you will meet
me then and be with me."
She returned to the Nizam's dominions and spent her life doing
welfare and charitable works. During her travels, collecting money
and support for her home of refuge for orphan girls, which she had
called "Sai Sadan", she heard that there was a boy in Uravakonda who
had announced himself as Sai Baba. Remembering what Baba had told
her in 1917 about reincarnating in Andhra, she hastened to
Uravakonda, arriving there on a Thursday. She joined the crowd that
went to visit the young Sai Baba on that day, and sat near him.
She says that Baba spoke to her in a low voice in Hindi, as at
Shirdi, "So you have come, my child."
Then he told her that she owed him sixteen rupees, reminding her
that of forty rupees she collected for religious celebrations at
Shirdi, sixteen were still on loan to a friend of hers. Then smiling
he whispered, "I am telling you this only to convince you that I am
Shirdi Sai Baba."
The lady is now with Satya Sai Baba at Prasanti Nilayam, Andhra
Pradesh, happy that what he told her half a century ago at Shirdi
has come true.
Yet it is not the outer but the inner evidence that will lead to
conviction in this deep question. People who have stayed with Satya
Sai a long time, and also known Shirdi Baba - either directly or the
written records - have no doubt that both are incarnations of the
same divine being.
A number of books have now been published on Sai Baba of Shirdi,
including Narasimha Swami's excellent four-volume work on his life
and teachings. I find that when deeply absorbed in these, I often
think I am reading about Sai Baba of Puttaparti; I must continually
remind myself that these are the teachings, sayings, doings of
Shirdi Baba, not the present-day Satya Sai; there is such a profound
But before describing my further personal experiences with Satya Sai
Baba I must return for a while to those early days at Puttaparti.
Satya Sai himself has said that the first thirty-two years of this
incarnation would be marked mainly by leelas and mahimas (miracles),
and the subsequent years by discourses and verbal teachings. But he
pointed out that this was just a question of emphasis, that both
aspects would be in evidence at all times.
Considering the many miracles I have witnessed during, this, his
"teaching" phase, I wondered what life must have been like with
Satya Sai during the years of his "miracle" phase. So I sought out
and talked to men and women who had known him then. Amongst them
were practical men of business and affairs, well-travelled people of
the world, high-ranking civil servants and highly educated people of
All were happy to tell their strange and wonderful stories.
7 Echoes from the Early Years
The Spirit shall look out through matter's
gaze, and matter shall reveal the Spirit's face. - Sri Aurobindo.
When Satya Sai Baba finally returned from high
school to the village of Puttaparti just before his fourteenth
birthday, he went first to live at his father's house, but before
very long moved around the corner to the home of a Brahmin family
named Karnum. This was the place to which he had often run as a
child to have vegetarian meals when there was a meat meal at his own
home. Now he took up his residence there and the housewife, whose
name was Subbamma, not only tended him with love and care but also
welcomed the growing number of his followers to her home, which was
much more spacious and suitable to the purpose than the cottage of
Satya Sai's parents.
So it was at the Karnum house, still standing today in the main
street of Puttaparti that Sai Baba's mission had its firm beginnings
in 1941. The gatherings were at first held in a room, but the crowd
soon overflowed into the road outside. So a shed was built; as the
months passed this was enlarged and then a tent was added. Still the
numbers continued to burst all accommodation. Furthermore, Baba
insisted on feeding visitors who came from a distance. Often the
amount of food cooked threatened to be totally inadequate, and it
was here that he first showed the Christ-like power of increasing
the food supply to meet the need of the moment.
A lady who used to help the devoted Subbamma in those early days
describes the ritual Baba used for this. When quietly informed that
the food was not sufficient, he would ask for two coconuts - always
important items for religious ceremonials in India. He would strike
one against the other so that they both broke exactly in half, and
then "he sprinkled the coconut water on the little heaps of rice and
the vessels containing the other items, and gave the signal to
proceed with the task of serving all who had come, or who might yet
come before dusk". There was always plenty for everyone.
It was in those days of cramped sitting space that he began taking
his followers to sit on the sands of the Chitravati. This today is a
river of sand, three or four hundred yards broad near the village,
and dry except in the rainy seasons. In the early 1940s it was much
the same, except that most of the time there was a narrow stream of
water running through the sands. Here the Young Sai would sit with
his crowd of followers. Here on the sands he would lead them in
bhajan singing, advise them on their personal problems, teach them
the way to live, and build up their faith by various miraculous
On the crest of a rocky knoll on the left bank of the river, about
half a mile from the village grows a solitary tamarind tree. In
those early years it acquired the name of Kalpataru, or
wish-fulfilling tree. This was because Sai Baba used to take his
devotees - or at least those who could climb - up to this tree and,
ask them what fruit they would like to pick from it. When they named
the fruit it would be seen immediately hanging from a branch of the
tree. Apples, pears, mangoes, oranges, figs and other varieties of
fruit out of season, and some not ever grown in the district, were
plucked from the wild tamarind tree.
There were other strange deeply-moving events around that tree. Some
times Baba would challenge the youth of his own age to a race up the
hill from the sands to where the tree showed its foliage against the
sky, some hundred and fifty feet above. It was a steep, rocky climb,
almost vertical in places; yet before the others had taken more than
a few steps, young Satya Sai would be up there, calling from the
The young men would then stop, and with the other devotees below
watch the youth on the hill-top, knowing that something amazing
would certainly take place. One of the competitors in the
hill-climbing contest, then a college student, tells what he saw
there: "the time was a little past seven," he says, "with evening
closing in. Suddenly a great ball of fire like a sun pierced the
dusk around the youth on the crest. The light wag so bright it was
impossible to keep your eyes open and watch it. About three or four
of the devotees fainted and fell."
Different visions are said to have been seen on different occasions.
Sometimes it was a great fiery wheel or a full-moon with Baba's head
in the centre, sometimes a blinding jet of light from his forehead -
from the third eye centre - sometimes a pillar of fire. I have
spoken to number of people who personally witnessed those miracles
Small wonder that echoes of these village happenings were heard in
Madras and other faraway places, and that the curious, the
distressed and the true seekers began to arrive from a wide
circumference. No doubt there would have been an even greater
influx, had the journey been less difficult. But only the
valiant-hearted travellers would tackle the exhausting trip with its
final stage by bullock-cart or on foot.
Even so in 1944, because of increasing crowds, what is now called
the "old Mandir" was built on the edge of the village. This is a
kind of double barn with a galvanised iron roof and enough space for
fair-sized bhajan crowds. At the back are rooms for sleeping and
eating, and some of the visiting devotees used to stay here, or camp
nearby. Nowadays it has only historic interest. Visitors to Prasanti
Nilayam walk down the two furlongs of dusty road to be shown over
the old Mandir. Its walls are lined with quaint old photographs of
the young Sai and groups of his devotees, which illustrate, as much
as anything, the poor level of provincial photography here in the
1940s. In the world outside it was an eventful decade, seeing World
War Two and the start of India's independence. But to a growing
number of people the most exciting and most important events were
taking place at Puttaparti, and the old Mandir could not always seat
the numbers arriving. So gatherings on the sands of the Chitravati
river remained popular.
Some of the visitors who came simply out of curiosity remained to
pay deep homage, and returned there again and again. Some from
distant centres persuaded the young Sai to visit their cities and
stay in their houses, where their friends could meet him too. Many
of the earliest devotees are still, more than twenty years later,
going to the ashram to see him as often as possible and begging him
to bless their homes with his presence whenever he is in their
The long-standing devotees whom I met proved to be an inspiring
aspect of my research on this great miracle-man. They are not, as
some readers might suspect, uneducated, fanatical, vague or
visionary. On the contrary they are well-educated, rational,
practical citizens of the kind whose integrity and reliability would
be accepted in any court of law.
I needed to assure myself of such things - as I assure the reader
now - because at the time I gathered some of the stories in this
book I had not yet personally experienced much of the type of
phenomena they describe. Now I have seen so much that my attitude
has completely changed. The miraculous has become familiar.
Most of the old devotees have given me permission to use their
names, placing the cause of truth and their belief in the
transcendental powers of Sai Baba above all other considerations. In
this chapter are some sample stories told by men and women who have
known Satya Sai since the 1940s.
Mr. P. Partasaraty is a well-known businessman of Madras, being
part-owner of a company connected with shipping. He told me that he
first met Sai Baba in 1942 when the latter came to Madras to stay at
the home of a neighbour of his. Soon after that he and other members
of his family went to Puttaparti.
He stayed there a whole month and witnessed Baba's levitation up the
hill to the wish-fulfilling tree, seeing both a bright halo of flame
around the young Sai's head and a shaft of light from his forehead
between the eyes. He says: "All the time in those days Baba was full
of laughter and fun. He would sing songs, and many times a day he
would perform some miracle - often as a prank, such as making a
clock run backwards, or holding people to their seats by some
invisible force. At picnics he would tap empty dishes, and when the
lids were removed, the dishes would be full of food, sometimes hot
as if straight from the kitchen. I have also seen him multiply small
amounts of food to feed big crowds.
"These outings were very happy events always. Often Baba would turn
some wild tree at hand into our Kalpataru tree: any fruit we liked
to name could be picked from its branches."
Mr. Partasaraty had been suffering from asthma for many years and,
soon after his arrival at Puttaparti, Baba materialised an apple
with a wave of the hand and told him to eat it as a cure. He has
never had another attack of asthma in the quarter-century since that
But he says that the most important miracle of those early
experiences was connected with his mother. She was completely blind
with cataracts when the family first met Sai Baba. His treatment of
her was simple - as simple as the paste of clay and spittle that
Christ used on a blind person. Baba put jasmine petals on the
woman's eyes and held them in place with a bandage. Each day he
changed them for fresh ones and at the same time insisted that she
should go daily to the bhajan. This went on for ten days, and when
he took the bandage off for the last time she was able to see again
quite clearly. "She lived for ten years after that," Mr. Partasaraty
told me, and had no more trouble with her sight.
Mr. G. Venkatamuni was a leading figure in the fertiliser business
in Madras when I used to talk to him about his early experiences
with Sai Baba. Unfortunately he has since died, but his son Iswara,
also a devout devotee, carries on the same family business. Baba,
when in Madras, always stays at least part of his time at the.
An honest, matter-of-fact person, Mr. Venkatamuni, far from
exaggerating was inclined towards understatement in all his
descriptions. This I found out when I checked some of his stories
with other witnesses present at the time. I give here just one or
two of the many incredible experiences he had with Baba, as he told
them to me.
In the year 1944 he began hearing strange stories about a wonder boy
in a village of Andhra Pradesh, the state from which his own
ancestors had come. He decided to go and see for himself what truth
there was in the stories.
On the day of Venkatamuni's arrival at Puttaparti, Satya Sai, then
seventeen years old, took him with a small party to the sands of the
river. As they sat there talking Baba put his hand in the sand and
took out a handful of sweets, distributing them among the party.
"They were hot," said Mr. Venkatamuni, "as if just out of an oven. I
had to let them cool before I could eat them." From this he knew
that what he had seen was no mere sleight-of-hand trick.
He stayed on at the village, hoping to see further wonders. His
hopes were more than fulfilled, he said, and he described the same
copious stream of marvels witnessed by the early devotees.
"I was young then," Mr. Venkatamuni said, "and it was all great fun.
I used to go swimming with Sai Baba and the other young men, and it
was then that I saw the Samku Chakram on the soles of his feet."
"What is that?" I enquired.
"It's a circular mark - you might call it a birth-mark. Hindus
believe it's one of the signs of an avatar."
Mr. Venkatamuni and his wife became close devotees of Sai Baba,
going to his ashram regularly, and having him stay for days or weeks
at their home in Madras.
But it was in 1953, nine years after the first meeting, that they
experienced some Sai magic that was in its way unique. They had set
off on a global journey that was to begin in Europe and include the
Far East. Travelling by air, their first stop was Paris where they
planned to spend several weeks.
While out walking in the streets on the first day, they decided to
change some traveller's cheques and go shopping. Mrs. Venkatamuni
was carrying the folder of cheques in her handbag; or at least she
thought so until she opened the bag and found they were not there.
Both decided that she must have put them in her suitcase after all,
so they went straight back to the hotel. But the traveller's cheques
were neither in hers nor her husband's suitcase. After a more than
thorough search, a repeated combing through all their belongings, it
became painfully obvious that the precious folder was lost. Where it
was lost, they had no idea. Mrs. Venkatamuni had last noticed it, as
far as she could recall, in her handbag some time before they left
Bombay. It was an awkward and very unhappy situation. Here they were
in a foreign city at the beginning of a world tour with hardly
enough cash to pay their first hotel bill. They sat depressed and
forlorn in their bedroom, wondering what they could do.
What they did would seem utterly crazy to anyone except a close Sai
Baba devotee. To him it would seem the only sensible thing to do.
With the few francs they had brought to France in cash they sent a
cable to Baba asking for his help. After that they felt better,
knowing that assistance would come in some form. But they hardly
expected what, in fact, happened.
A day or two later they went window shopping again. Mrs. Venkatamuni
decided to make a list of the things she would buy when she had some
money. She opened her handbag to take out her pencil and notebook,
and her heart gave a great bound. There, right on top of everything,
lay a folder of traveller's cheques. They proved to be their own. It
was the folder dropped or left behind in India. Mr. Venkatamuni told
me that his wife's handbag was a medium-sized one, and that they had
both searched through it many times, emptying everything out on the
bed to do so. There was, under the circumstances, no possibility
whatever that they could have overlooked the folder if it had been
in the bag earlier. Mr. Venkatamuni had no doubt that Baba had
teleported the folder from wherever it had been lost. A most useful
They sent another cable from Paris - one of thanks. When they
returned from the enjoyable world tour, they were able to tell Baba
personally how deeply grateful they had been for his timely and
super-human help. He just smiled, saying nothing - and they asked
him for no details.
A well-known and highly-honoured citizen of Madras who confirms what
others have said about Baba's early miracle-phase is Mr. V.
Hanumantha Rao. This man, now retired, was Transport Commissioner of
Madras Presidency (which then included part of the present state of
Andhra Pradesh) when he first met Sai Baba in 1946.
The relationship between Baba and this grand old philanthropist and
his wife is a moving story, involving aspects other than the early
miracles and pranks of the fun-loving Sai. I will tell it in another
chapter where it belongs. But here I want to mention an interesting
little story that may throw light on the modus operandi behind at
least some of Baba's phenomena production.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Hanumantha Rao have often told me about the
wonderful celestial quality of those early Sai Baba years when he
used to drive with them in their car, how he would sing beautiful
songs and ask them to name whatever food they wanted, or whatever
out-of-season fruit they fancied. Then with some gesture he would
produce instantaneously the things they had requested. And how when
he stayed in their home he was as natural, spontaneous and care-free
as a child, and yet seemed to have the power to command with his
will all the forces of the three worlds.
Once, they said, on the birthday of Lord Krishna Baba was walking
aimlessly, it seemed, about the sitting room of their Madras home.
Suddenly he turned to Mrs. Hanumantha Rao and remarked: "There are
some devas (angels) here waiting to give me a bowl of sweets."
As she looked, seeing nothing, he held out both hands and took from
the air, as if from some invisible person, a large, carved-glass
bowl. The bowl seemed suddenly to materialise. Baba handed it to
Mrs. Hanumantha Rao. It was filled, as they described it, with
"divine-tasting sweets of many varieties from different parts of
After this incident Satya Sai asked for an apron. When it was
brought he put it on and began singing lullaby songs. He acted the
part of a nursemaid carrying the baby Krishna, and soothing it to
sleep. Then from the folds of the apron he took a carved sandalwood
idol of Krishna which had certainly not been there, or anywhere else
in the house, before.
Mr. and Mrs. Hanumantha Rao showed me, when I visited them, the
glass bowl and the Krishna statuette, two treasured items brought
long ago into the home of the transport commissioner by some
mysterious method known only to the young Satya Sai. But it seems
from his remark that he has beings of another plane of existence
under his command for such transportations.
Mrs. Nagamani Pourniya, who lives in Bangalore, is the widow of a
Government District Transport Officer and the mother of the popular
novelist Kamala Taylor, who is married to an Englishman and lives in
England. Nagamani first met Sai Baba in 1945 and spent many long
periods at his ashram. I found her always happy to talk about Baba
and she helped fill out my mental picture of the early period,
confirming the main features and adding some new ones to the bright
tapestry of those years.
Nagamani has herself written a book on Sai Baba, but there are one
or two of her experiences that bear repeating here. Many have
described to me Sai Baba's miraculous production of figures -
usually statuettes of Hindu or other gods - from the sands, and I
have seen it myself. But Nagamani told me that on one occasion when
a party went with Baba to the sands of the Chitravati river she saw
idols rising up out of the sand themselves. Baba simply scraped away
a little sand to reveal the top of the head, then the figure itself
began to rise, as if driven up by some power beneath.
First, she said, came a figure of Siva, then his consort Parvati,
and then a lingam. As each rose a few inches above the sand Baba
pulled it out and threw it quickly to one side. This was because the
objects were made of metal and were quite hot - too hot to hold for
more than a second. After they had cooled, he took them back to the
old Mandir for puja (ritualistic worship).
But one of the most striking of her many fantastic experiences has
to do with a surgical operation, by Baba. I have had from devotees
several descriptions of such operations, but Nagamani reports the
earliest one of which I have heard.
A man and his wife came to stay at Puttaparti. Nagamani observed the
man had a bulbous, tremendously swollen stomach. He spent all his
time lying down, either in his room near the old Mandir or outside
in the open. She heard that he was not able to eat anything, nor
even to take coffee. This latter seemed the "last straw" to
Nagamani, who loved her coffee. She went to Baba and asked him to
cure the man.
But the days passed and nothing happened, so she said again: "Please
do something for that poor man, Baba! " He smiled and answered: "Do
you think this place is a hospital?"
Then one evening all the devotees were going with Baba to the sands
of the river bed. It was not a very large party, and each of the
women decided to take some item of food for a picnic. Nagamani took
the coffee. She also left a pot of water on an outside wood fire,
not far from the Mandir. With this warm water, she said, she was
hoping to bathe Baba's feet on their return from the sands.
At the river bed they all had a wonderful time singing songs. Baba
told them beautiful stories about the gods, occasionally producing
some appropriate object from the sand. All this kept their spirits
at a high level, so that when three wild cheetahs came near them to
drink at the stream they felt no fear whatever. The cheetahs seemed
to regard them as friends and went about their business unperturbed.
When they returned to the Mandir, Nagamani went to stir up the fire
under the pot and Baba disappeared into the room of the sick man.
After a while he came running towards the fire, asking her for some
warm water to wash his hand. She looked and saw that his right hand
was all red.
"Have you been painting, or something?" she asked in fun.
"It's blood," he replied.
Then peering closer in the fading light she saw that he carried in
the blood-smeared hand something that looked like "a dirty-coloured
ball of old banana leaf." This he tossed away, and then washed the
blood from his hand in the water she gave him. "Well," he said
teasingly, "you've been insisting that I turn this place into a
hospital so I've just done the necessary operation on the man.
Was he joking? She had seen blood and something horrible that he had
thrown away. Had he removed a growth from the man? Sai Baba,
apparently reading the queries in her mind handed her a roll of
cottonwool and said: "Take this and help the man's wife put a fresh
bandage on him."
She went to the door but remained outside. She wanted very much to
see what had happened but somehow felt afraid to go in. Presently
Sai Baba came and took her into the room. The man was still lying
down, his wife sitting beside him. Baba went and pulled up the man's
shirt to show her the operation.' (delete) There was no bandage, but
across the stomach was a thin mark, like a cut that had already
healed, and the stomach was no longer large and swollen. Both the
man and woman were looking silently at Sai Baba as if he were God.
No word was spoken.
Baba led Nagamani out again, and finally permitted her to bathe his
Next morning, dying to know just what had taken place, she returned
to enquire about the health of the patient. He was sitting up eating
a hearty breakfast. He told her that Sai Baba had come into the room
on the previous evening; and waving his hand, produced from the air
a knife and some other instrument. Next he produced some ash and
rubbed it on the sufferer's forehead. This seemed to act as an
anaesthetic because the man lost consciousness and knew no more
until the operation was over, and Baba was telling him that all was
well. The cut had felt just a little sore, but now it was quite
Nagamani wanted to know how it had healed so quickly. The wife told
her that Baba had simply held the opening together with his fingers
and it had healed up immediately. Then he had smeared some vibhuti
on the wound, held his hand there for a while, assured the patient
that he would be all right, and left.
Nagamani realised that Baba's instructions to her the evening before
about a bandage were simply to give her an excuse for going to see
the patient. She was surprised that he had been pleased to satisfy
her curiosity, but perhaps it was because she had shown concern for
the sick man. She felt no amazement, only awe at the discovery of
this new wonder. Nothing Baba ever did surprised her any more;
everything simply added to her profound love of him.
There are other types and varieties of phenomena in the chronicles
of the early years, but as I actually saw examples of these with my
own eyes during the 1960s it is better that I describe my personal
8 With Baba in the Hills
Come to me with empty hands. I shall fill
them with gifts and grace. Sathya Sai Baba
One winter in Madras Sai Baba invited my wife and
myself to spend the following June with him at his summer retreat at
Whitefield, near Bangalore. We were filled with joy at the prospect,
but we had learned by then that it is far wiser to have no firm
expectations about Baba's future movements. There is such a colossal
demand for his presence and time, and it seems that he goes wherever
he is most needed; or in other words he does whatever is most
relevant to the advancement of his mission. At least that is the
interpretation we put on Baba's movements, but the fact is that they
follow some law beyond our comprehension. So we told each other that
we might, if lucky, be with him for a day or at Whitefield. As for
spending a whole month in his presence well, it was all right to
hope, but presumptuous to expect.
Still in this state of mind, we arrived in Bangalore at the
beginning of June and stayed the night with a fellow member of the
Theosophical Society. He drove us in his car the next morning to
Whitefield, which is on rising ground about twelve miles outside the
city. On the way he explained that Whitefield had come into being as
a British community, but now there were very few Europeans left. It
was, we found, a widely spread-out place, with most of the houses
large and in broad, pleasant gardens. Eventually, set in a high
brick wall, we found a gate with the name "Brindavanam" above it and
a khaki-clad Gurkha on guard. We knew from the name that this was
Just inside the gate was a cottage from which came a benign,
snowy-haired man who proved to be Mr. M.S. Dixit. He installed us in
a room of his cottage, which I supposed had been the lodge in former
days, and gave us the good news that Sai Baba was in residence. We
could see no signs of another house, and I wondered where Baba
However a little later in the morning Mr. Dixit led us across the
tree-studded grounds, through wandering tribes of monkeys, and up a
flight higher terrace. Here was a park-like garden of shrubs and
covered walks and a good-sized house where we found Sai Baba
surrounded by a party of resident guests, with many day visitors
"Swami", as his devotees mostly address him, welcomed us like a
mother who is happy that her children have come home. He offered us
the choice of moving into the big house with him, in which case we
would have to separate, Iris sleeping dormitory-style with the women
on one side of the house and I in the men's dormitory on the other.
Or we could lodge where we were with Mr. Dixit, but have our meals
and spend as much time as we wished in the big house. We chose the
That morning we watched a "thread ceremony" in the central hall of
Baba's residence. The boy receiving the sacred thread was the son of
Mr. Jawa, owner of the Joy Ice-cream factories. The parents,
grandmother and other family members, all of whom are Baba devotees,
were present for the ceremony and the hall was crammed with
spectators. Under Sai Baba's supervision, pundit priests from
Prasanti Nilayam carried out the ritual. At the right moment Baba
stepped into the centre of the scene, waved his hand in the now
well-known manner, and from that occult niche in space which he
sometimes calls "the Sai Stores" produced the necessary thread to
place around the boy's neck.
After the ceremony came a feast on the broad verandah. We sat
cross-legged on the floor in two long rows, eating Indian dishes
from plantain-leaf plates while a servant kept the monkeys: at bay
with a pole. Swami walked around making sure that all his guests
were happy. On this festive occasion men and women ate together, but
normally at Brindavanam they use the dining room at separate times,
Baba eating with the men and sometimes visiting the ladies to talk
to them during their meals.
Sai Baba has found that it certainly would not pay him to advertise.
Even without the benefits of publicity, crowds tend to impede his
movements. So my wife and I felt honoured when he confided to us
quietly that he was taking a small party to spend a couple of weeks
with him at Horsley Hills, some ninety miles north of Bangalore, and
we were overjoyed to learn that we were to be included in the party.
All accommodation arrangements had been made by one of his devotees,
Mr. T.A. Ramanatha Reddy, the Superintending Engineer of Roads and
Buildings in the large area which included Horsley Hills. We should
be ready to move, Swami said, in a couple of days' time. We
understood that this was confidential information.
As we had expected to be away from headquarters at Adyar for the
whole summer in various types of climate, we had a good deal of
luggage with us. So we began to plan what to take and what to leave
stored at Brindavanam. It was good, we thought, that Swami had given
us plenty of warning. If anyone else at Brindavanam knew about the
pending move, they said nothing and we said nothing to anyone.
We prided ourselves on having learned to keep a secret, but we still
had an important lesson to learn. Like Yama, the god of death, Baba
may sometimes give you a warning but you can never know the exact
time when his beckoning finger will be seen. Next morning we were
awakened from our slumbers about 6 o'clock by a stern voice saying:
'What, aren't you ready? Swami is leaving in five minutes' time."
It was a terrible situation; our things were scattered everywhere.
We had neither showered nor dressed nor had a cup of tea, let alone
packed. And Baba was waiting to take us away for two weeks. How long
would he wait? Would he go without us? We staggered around blindly
trying to think and throw things into suitcases.
The stern voice of the devotee at the window agreed to give us a
quarter of an hour. But even that still presented an impossibility.
When we came out in about half an hour with our cases and valises,
we were told that Swami had left. Our hearts sank, but it was not as
bad as it seemed; he had gone on ahead in one car, but left another
for us. In it we found a few other lucky devotees bound for the hill
station, including Mr. Ramanatha Reddy who was to guide us there.
In a forest a few miles along the route we were happy to see Baba's
car waiting beside the road, his red-robed figure and a small group
of men standing beside it in the morning sunshine. He teased us a
little about taking so long, looked startled at the amount of our
luggage, then led the whole party in among the fragrant trees for a
After that there was a reshuffle of passengers and I had the
privilege on my first journey with the great man himself. Raja
Reddy, perhaps Baba's closest disciple at the time, was driving the
car, two teenage boys sat in the back with Baba, while Ramanatha
Reddy and I were in front with the driver. We rolled on through
empty barren country and an occasional village or town with people
teeming like ants over sugar. Slate-coloured rocky hills began to
outline against the sky. The last town we passed through was
Madanapalle, the birthplace of J. Krishnamurti. Just before we
climbed the steep Horsley Hills we passed a road sign to Rishi
Valley where the well-known school run by Krishnamurti's followers
Right on the crest of the hills, some 4,800 feet above sea level, we
came to the white Circuit House, our destination. It is not very
large but has the comforts of a first-class hotel, being intended
primarily as a guesthouse for government ministers and important
official visitors. Our host, Mr. Ramanatha Reddy, had been able to
secure it for what was to his mind the V.I.P. of all V.I.P.s; Satya
Sai Baba, plus whatever party the latter cared to bring along.
Besides the host and myself there were four males in the group: Dr
Sitaramiah, Mr. V. Raja Reddy and two teenagers; and there were
half-a-dozen women, including three Indian princesses. Being the
only married couple in the party, Iris and I were given a suite to
ourselves. This was only two doors from Baba's suite, and opened
onto a broad balcony from which there was a wonderful view of the
country far below.
The plains were a smoky dun-and-green carpet, with isolated hills
like children's blocks scattered carelessly over it, and the scores
of water "tanks" shone like broken pieces of mirror fallen on the
giant carpet. We were living up in the sky - in more ways than one.
Here, we thought, we could at last have Baba to ourselves, just a
small group of us. At last the ubiquitous crowds were left behind.
We could live on intimate terms with this superhuman being from
morning till night. We could see what his life was like and enjoy
his wonders to the full. No matter how early we arose in the crisp
mornings we found that Baba was already up, usually sitting writing
by his open door; he attends to his large correspondence himself,
besides writing regular articles for his ashram magazine, Sanatana
Sarati ("The Timeless Charioteer").
Sometime during the morning, after breakfast with us, he would
gather all of us into a room for a spiritual discourse. This would
often take the form of narratives from the Ramayana, the
Mahabbarata, or the Srimad Bhagavata. Interpreting the stories, Baba
would reveal in sharp relief the profound wisdom of Bhakti Yoga.
After a walk in the gardens, followed by lunch and a siesta, would
come afternoon tea in the lounge. The first difficulty here was to
persuade the Indian women to sit on chairs, for they thought it
incorrect to be on the same level as their Swami. Indeed some to the
very end insisted on sitting at his feet on the carpet, leaving
empty chairs. But when Baba had managed to get the majority onto
seats, albeit stiffly and ill-at-ease, he would usually launch into
some comic theme, making us all laugh. Nevertheless, this always had
practical hints and implications on the ethics of right living.
In the late afternoons or evenings the party frequently went for a
drive, followed perhaps by a walk, weather permitting. Otherwise
there might be another enlightening discourse by Baba. On one
occasion we all visited an Indian village, far off the busy highways
and beautifully, unbelievably silent. Here at the home of some Baba
devotees we were entertained to dinner, while the whole village
crowded around in the courtyard to see and be blessed by the avatar.
But within the first few days another element began to disturb the
even tenor of our Horsley Hills idyll. Even in this remote spot the
crowds began to gather. Somehow the word had spread that Sai Baba
was in the area and people came from far and near, by car, by bus or
on foot. Before breakfast the first few would appear, and then
throughout the whole day a crowd would be standing in the grounds
looking up at the balcony, waiting for the blessings of a look and a
sign from Sai Baba.
And he never disappointed them. Often he would go out onto the
balcony, look on them with loving compassion and raise his hand in a
characteristic gesture of upliftment and benediction. Sometimes he
would go down and walk among the visitors, talking with them and
producing vibhuti or something else to help those who were sick or
in troubled. If a crowd of poor people had come a long way on foot,
he would give them all money so that they could go home by bus.
Every evening he would bring all who were there into the large foyer
and front corridor of Circuit House, and lead them and us in
beautiful bhajan songs for half an hour or more.
Interspersing all these daily activities were the miracles of
physical phenomena, several each day. Here are some of the more
One afternoon soon after our arrival we all went for a drive and,
leaving the cars, strolled about on a rocky knoll of the hills. Baba
several times picked up a piece of broken rock, played with it
awhile, and then threw it away. Finally, just as we were returning
he kept a piece about the size of a man's closed fist and carried it
back to Circuit House.
Arriving there, he took us into one of the suites and sat on the
carpet while we sat in a semi-circle around him. He began to talk
conversationally on everyday topics, occasionally throwing the piece
of rock a couple of feet in the air and letting it fall on the
floor. Presently he tossed it over to me, asking:
"Can you eat that?"
I examined the rock closely. It was hard granite, streaky and rather
lightish in colour. I admitted its inedibility and bowled it back to
him he was not more than two yards away from me.
He took the stone and, still chatting casually, threw it in the air
again, while a dozen pairs of eyes watched expectantly. I felt that
something strange was going to happen and never let the stone out of
my sight. Now as it lay on the carpet I could see a slight change in
its appearance. Although of exactly the same size and shape, and
still streaky, it was a little lighter in colour than before.
Swami rolled it back to me across the carpet. "Can you eat it now?"
he asked. To my amazement and joy it was no longer rock but sugar
candy. Baba broke it into pieces giving us each a portion to eat. It
was sweet and delicious as candy should be. Is this an illusion, I
wondered, are we all hypnotised? So I put a piece in my pocket. I
still have it and to it's still sugar candy.
I thought of the popular song about 'The Big Rock Candy Mountain'
and jokingly said to him, "I wish you would turn the whole mountain
into candy or chocolate." Baba seemed to take this seriously or
maybe as a kind of challenge. Anyway he replied solemnly that it
would not be right to interfere too much with Nature's housekeeping.
Then it occurred to me that my joke was rather superficial. If
willpower, or whatever power it is, can transmute a small piece of
igneous rock into an entirely different substance, why not a large
piece? And why not into any substance? Gold, for instance? So how
very important it is that a man who understands and can employ the
occult laws of Nature, must be above Nature: must be beyond normal
human desires for such things as power and material gain. Otherwise
what might happen?
Writing on this theme in the last quarter of the nineteenth century
when a good deal of 'physical phenomena' came before the public eye,
A.P. Sinnett said: "It is enough to say that these powers are
such as cannot but be dangerous to society generally, and
provocative of all manner of crimes which would utterly defy
detection, if possessed by persons capable of regarding them as
anything else but a profoundly sacred trust." He goes on to say that
such powers in the hands of people willing to use them for merely
selfish and unscrupulous ends are productive of disaster - as it is
said to have been for the Atlanteans.
Today in our world men of exoteric science have learned the secret
and hold the power of disintegrating matter into atomic energy, and
this stands as a constant threat to the very existence of humanity
on this earth. They have also learned to transmute base metal to
gold though the process is too expensive to be economically and
socially disruptive. A safeguarding law of occultism is that
spiritual and moral advancement should keeps pace with the growth of
the intellect and the acquisition of the knowledge of Nature's
deeper secrets. When this law is broken a dangerous situation must
One sparkling morning I was walking with Swami and the two teenage
youths in the gardens of Circuit House. Baba was wearing an ochre
coloured robe which fell like a smooth cylinder from shoulders to
ground. As Iris had ironed some of his robes a couple of days
earlier, I knew for certain that they contained neither pockets nor
places where anything could be concealed. His sleeves were straight
and loose, without cuffs. He carried nothing in his hands.
One of the young men was returning to Bombay next day and wanted to
take photos of Swami, so the latter posed for several pictures.
Occasionally, as we strolled and talked, he paused to pick a berry
or a bud from one of the shrubs. This he would examine with the
concentration and thoughtfulness of a botanist: then after a while
he would throw it away as if it were not quite suitable to some
purpose he had in mind. Finally he picked a small bud from a bush,
examined it, seemed satisfied, and handed it to me, saying. "Keep
Soon afterwards we went back up the steps to the front entrance.
Baba did not go to his own suite but walked straight into ours. He
sat on an armchair while the young men, my wife and I gathered
around him on the carpet.
Swami asked for the bud that he had given me. I handed it to him,
and he held it in his fingers for a while, discussing it.
"What flower is it?" he asked.
We confessed our ignorance. He suggested that it might be a button
rose and we agreed.
Then looking at me he asked: "What do you want it to become?"
I was at a loss to know what to say, so 1 replied: "Anything you
He held it in the palm of his right hand, closed his fist, and blew
into it. Then he asked me to stretch out my hand. I gasped, and my
wife gave a squeal of delight as from the theurgic hand that held
the flower bud there fell into my open palm a glittering diamond of
brilliant cut. In size it matched the bud, which had completely
Baba graciously presented me with this beautiful and amazing product
of transmutation magic. I still have it.
We were on the floor around Baba expecting a morning discourse,
perhaps one of those wonderful stories from Indian mythology which
lead the mind to the deeper truths of life. However, before talking,
he showed us a green leaf and wrote on it with his fingernail.. Then
he handed the leaf to me, but I could make nothing of the writing,
which he said was a mantram in Sanskrit.
Next he asked for a book, and one of the ladies who occupied the
suite passed him her Telegu grammar. Placing the leaf between the
pages, he shut the book and tapped its cover several times. Now he
opened it and took out the leaf. The writing was still on it, but
instead of being green and fresh as it had been a moment before it
was brown and so dry that it easily crumbled into dust.
Baba tossed the book on the carpet nearby and, after talking for a
while, left the room. Well, I thought, on the face of it this
miracle would not stand up to the sceptic; the brown leaf could have
been somehow "planted" in the book earlier. So I picked up the
volume and searched its pages for the missing green leaf, but could
Why am I doubting, I asked myself when I have seen him do so many
things equally incredible and inexplicable? Sai Baba had somehow
blasted this leaf, as another One who stood above Nature had blasted
a tree two thousand years ago. It was as if, for the leaf, many
months of summer had been telescoped into that one magical moment
when Baba tapped the book.
On the subtle planes of being, interpenetrating our physical plane
of existence, there may well be classes of entities for whom our
physical space would be actually non-existent: our "here" and
"there" would be all one to them. The ancient wisdom teaches that
there are such beings. It also teaches that a physical object can be
disintegrated into a subtler substance, or "energy-system", which
can be moved by some agency at near light speed, and reintegrated to
form the original object. This is the general principle behind the
phenomenon known as an apport; that is, so far as it is understood.
At Horsley Hills Sai Baba produced a particularly striking example
of such telekinesis. One evening a party of us were sitting on the
carpet in his suite; Ramanatha Reddy, the doctor, the young men,
Iris and myself were there. Swami asked me the year of my birth, and
when I told him, he said that he would get for me from America a
coin minted there in that same year.
He began to circle his down-turned hand in the air in front of us,
making perhaps half a dozen small circles, saying the while: "It's
coming now..... coming..... here it is!"
Then he closed his hand and held it before me, smiling as if
enjoying my eager expectancy. When the coin dropped from his hand to
mine, I noted first that it was heavy and golden. On closer
examination I found, to my delight, that it was a genuine milled
American ten-dollar coin, with the year of my birth stamped beneath
a profile head of the Statue of Liberty.
"Born the same year as you," Swami smiled.
What would the sceptics say about this, I wondered. Would they
suggest that Baba carried around with him a stock of coins so that
he would have one to match my year of birth. Such old American
coins, now long out of circulation, would not be easy for him to
obtain in India through normal channels.
I have no doubt whatever that this was one of Baba's many genuine
apports. While he circled his hand before us, some agency under his
will had dematerialised this gold coin at some place somewhere,
carried it at space-annihilating velocity, and re-materialised it in
Sai Baba's hand.
From where did it come? Who knows? Baba would never say; perhaps
from some old hoard, hidden, lost, forgotten long ago, and now
belonging to no one alive.
Although I had come to know through first-hand experience that Sai
Baba was certainly not an impostor and that his miracles were
genuine, I could not help thinking that the use of sand as a medium
for production was something which gave fuel to the sceptic.
Admittedly several of his followers had told me that in fact
everything he had produced from sand he had also produced at other
times without it that is, from the air.
Even so, an objective psychical researcher, hearing the stories of
the sand wonders, is bound to raise the queries: are the objects
previously "planted" in the sand? Or does Baba by some lightning
sleight-of-hand slip them in just before he digs them out? In fact,
for anyone who had neither seen the miracles for themselves nor felt
the spiritually elevating presence of Sai Baba, I suspected that
"sand productions" must leave a bigger question mark in the mind
than "other productions".
But this was because such events had not hitherto been fully and
thoroughly reported to me by a careful observer. At a later period I
had my own close observations of the sand miracles confirmed by
several of India's leading scientists - but that is jumping ahead of
The first point I want to make clear about my Horsley Hills
experience of Baba's "sand productions" is that on the journey from
Circuit House to the place of the miracles I sat in the front of the
car with Sai Baba and Raja Reddy, who was driving. Baba carried
nothing in his hands, and he was wearing his usual robe; none of the
objects later produced could have been concealed on his person.
A few miles from Circuit House the car, and several other vehicles
following it, stopped by the roadside. We all got out and went to a
patch of sand some fifty yards away which had been seen from the
road on an earlier journey.
Baba asked the young men in the party to make him a sand platform,
so they scraped and pushed the sand with their hands to build a flat
stage about a foot high and four feet square. Baba sat cross-legged
in the middle of this and the party clustered in a semi-circle
around him. I was in the front row of the spectators, right at the
edge of the sand platform. The thought passed through my mind that
if any object had previously been buried here, near where Baba was
sitting, he would have to dig down more than a foot through the
newly-piled sand to reach it.
He began as usual with a spiritual discourse which, apparently,
always has the effect of harmonising and purifying the psychic
atmosphere around. Maybe this is a necessary preparation for the
miracles. Then with his forefinger he made a drawing on the surface
of the sand just in front of him, and asked me what it was. From
where I sat it looked rather like a human figure, and I told him so.
Laughing, and with the expression of a happy child playing on a
beach, he scooped up the sand to form a little mound above the
drawing, about six inches high. Still with an air of happy
expectation he put his fingers lightly into the top of the mound,
perhaps an inch down, and drew out, head first, a silvery shining
figure, like the drawing he had made. It was a statue of the god
Vishnu, about four inches in height. He held it up for everyone to
see, then put it to one side, smoothed out the mound before him to
make a flat surface again, and began once more to discuss spiritual
Soon he made another drawing in the sand on the same spot as before.
Again he scooped sand over it, making a mound - a wider flat topped
one, this time. Again with a happy chuckle he felt with his
finger-tips into the top of the mound and scraped a little sand
away; less than an inch down was a photograph. He pulled it out,
shook the yellow grains away, and held it up for us to see. It was a
glossy black-and-white print, about ten inches by eight.
He passed it around for some of us to look at closely, and later I
examined it at leisure back at our quarters. It was a photograph of
the Hindu gods and avatars, standing in two rows to form a
forward-pointing arrowhead, with Lord Krishna in the foreground at
the tip. Heads of Satya Sai Baba and Shirdi Baba could be seen as
small inserts on the body of Krishna. This print, I felt, was not
produced in any earthly studio. Baba later gave it to Mr. and Mrs.
T. A. Ramanatha Reddy, our hosts. It stood with the unearthed statue
of Vishnu for some days on a side table in the dining room at
Other objects produced from the sand in the same manner went to
various people in the audience. There were, for example, a jappamala
(rosary) for Mr. Niak, the Collector of Kolar District, and a
pendant which was given to a revenue officer.
But there was one supreme production from that sand patch of which
we all had a share. Baba did his outline sketch, which I could see
from where I sat was a little container of some kind. Then, in the
usual way, he scraped the top sand with his open hands to make a
tiny hill above the drawing. Pausing a moment with a delighted
smile, he felt into the crown of the hill and took out a
silver-coloured container. This was of circular shape with a neck
and a screw-top. At a guess its spherical bowl would be perhaps two
and a half inches in diameter.
Sai Baba unscrewed the lid and a wonderful perfume pervaded the air.
Putting the container to one side, he went through the same process
again of drawing and mound-building. This time the product was a
golden spoon like a small teaspoon. With this he stirred the
contents of the bowl and, standing up, began to give some to each of
Like the others I opened my mouth while he poured a spoonful onto my
tongue. The word that came into my mind was "ambrosial"; it seemed
nothing less than the food of the gods; it suggested a mixture of
the essences of the most heavenly fruits, the divine archetypes of
the loveliest fruits of earth. The taste is quite indescribable; it
has to be experienced.
The devotees call this glorious nectar amrita, which has much the
same meaning as ambrosia - the food of the immortals. Several
devotees, including some westerners like Nirmalananda and Gabriela,
had told me about seeing it produced on rare occasions from the
sand, and all tried in vain to describe its exquisite taste and
aroma. Others, including Dr. Sitaramiah, had witnessed Baba produce
amrita by squeezing his own hand, and in other ways. But no one at
this time had seen manifestation of amrita for about three years,
and I was very grateful that Baba had given my wife and myself this
personal experience of a thrilling, deeply-moving miracle. It was
witnessed on this occasion at Horsley Hills by about forty-five men
and more than a dozen women. Baba went around giving some to all,
except to the women who were staying at Circuit House. There was
enough amrita for everyone to have a spoonful each and the bowl was
still not empty. Baba handed it to me to carry back to our quarters.
I felt very honoured and held it carefully in my hand as we drove up
the sharp bends to the crest of the hill. Sand still clung to the
designs carved on the silvery metal, which I was told was the sacred
alloy panchaloha. On the balcony of Circuit House I handed the
container back to Baba and he straight away walked around giving
some to each of the ladies who had not yet tasted the "food of the
I sometimes wondered afterwards what had happened to the little bowl
but about a year later a Bombay devotee told me he had visited Baba
at Horsley Hills a day or two after the event and been presented
with the panchaloha container. It still held some amrita which he
and his family enjoyed, and the miracle bowl now occupies a place of
honour in his home.
So here are the answers to the two points raised by my inner
psychical researcher. First, the objects could not have been
previously hidden in the sand patch ready for Baba to take out
because they came from the top of a mound, made before our eyes, on
the top of a foot thick sand stage, also built while we watched.
Secondly, even if Baba could have carried the objects to the sand
patch that night without my seeing them, an utter impossibility, he
could not by the most expert legerdemain have slipped such articles
as a glittering idol, a large photograph, a bulky jappamala and a
shining bowl of nectar into the sand under our noses without our
being aware of the fact. If he could, he is superior to the most
expert conjuror and should be making fame and fortune on the stage
as an entertainer.
Quite apart from the miraculous production of such objects there is
the strange mystery of the amrita itself - its ambrosial
out-of-this-world quality, its power (shown on various occasions) to
increase in quantity to meet the needs of whatever numbers happen to
be present. What, I wondered, was its actual significance? I
determined to ask Sai Baba about this at the first opportunity.
9 Return to Brindavanam
Unknown to me, my king, thou didst press
the signet of eternity upon many a fleeting moment. - Rabindranath
At a group meeting on the day after
he had produced amrita I asked Swami about its inner meaning. He
related the Hindu myth about its creation, which is briefly as
Once in days of old a great rishi cursed Indra, the king of the
lower gods (some rishis apparently had such tremendous power). As a
result the gods and the three worlds began to lose their vigour.
Vishnu the Preserver, one of the trinity forming the Hindu Supreme
Godhead and therefore higher than Indra, offered the gods a
solution. He told them that to save themselves they must churn the
ocean of milk until from it they produced the invigorating elixir
called amrita. This nectar would overcome the rishi's debilitating
curse and renew the strength of the gods, and hence that of the
three worlds over which they hold dominion.
For the churning operation, Vishnu told them, they could employ
Mount Mandara as a stick and the great snake Vasuki as a rope for
turning the stick. Also, he said, the gods must make an alliance
with the demons and persuade them to pull one end of the rope (the
snake) while the gods pulled the other. In this way Mount Mandara
could be turned, just like the stick in an old-fashioned Hindu
Many difficulties arose in the great churning operation. For one
thing, the poor snake was badly battered and venom poured from his
mouth in a great river which threatened to destroy all creatures. To
save the situation Siva, another member of the high trinity,
appeared and drank the poison. The only harm he suffered was a
slightly burned throat, causing a blue patch there; and this is why
Siva is also known as "Nilakanta", meaning "blue throat".
Eventually, however, the stirring-up brought good results and many
wonderful things came out from the ocean of milk as by-products of
the churning. Finally the main product appeared: Dhanvantari, the
doctor of the gods, and incidentally the inventor of the Ayurvedic
system of medicine which is still practised in India, stepped forth
from the ocean. In his hand he carried the gleaning cup of amrita,
the elixir of eternal youth and vigour.
Immediately the quick-thinking demons grabbed the cup from him and
fled. But to help the gods Vishnu appeared among the demons as a
seductive woman. Then, forgetting the precious liquor of
immortality, they began to fight amongst themselves for possession
of the woman. During the conflict Vishnu snatched the cup of amrita
and bore it to the disconsolate gods. They eagerly drank, each
having a share before the cup was empty. Thus they regained their
immortal strength, and released new power and vigour into the worlds
of gods and men.
Baba then spoke of the symbolic meaning in the story. The cream of
truth, wisdom and immortality, symbolised by amrita, must be churned
from the great cosmic ocean, the phenomenal universe in which we
live and move. Because this universe is based on and must always
operate on the principle of opposites, the evil forces (the demons)
are as necessary as the good forces (the gods) for the churning -
that is, for the continuous struggle in the lives of men. But,
unfortunately, most men are like the demons: they forget the
priceless product, immortality, in their chase after transient sense
pleasures, symbolised by the illusion of a seductive woman.
"Once anrita, that is, 'falsehood', enters into the character", Sai
Baba said, "men lose contact with amrita. He dies many deaths who is
false, afraid of truth, blind to his own glorious heritage of
immortality". So, he explained, when people fall a prey to pride, to
attachment, to unreality, their thoughts and feelings have to be
churned to bring out the dream of spiritual truth. The groups on
either end of the churning rope are always the "forward-leading
influences and the backward-pulling influences" - the gods and the
demons, or, looked at in another way, the divine and animal forces
After about twelve days on the "Olympian heights" of Horsley we
returned to Whitefield. On this journey Iris and I had the honour
and joy of sitting with Swami in the leading car. For miles along
the road Baba led the car-load in songs of praise to God, most of
which were composed by himself. These were some of the songs used
daily in the bhajan sessions at the ashram, or anywhere else that
Sai Baba happens to be.
As we were entering a village along the route two bus-loads of
people passed us and recognised Baba. In the village street just
ahead they stopped, piled out and formed a human road block. My own
instinct would have been to sound the horn loudly and force a way
through what looked like a rough crowd. But Swami seems never to
feel any alarm or annoyance with the milling mobs that often
surround him. The only reactions I have ever seen from him are love
and understanding, though sometimes people lose all restraint in
their desire to get near him and touch him.
On this occasion he told the driver to stop, then opening his side
window he leaned out and gave his blessings. As the crowd, now
smiling happily, parted for us we drove slowly through, while Baba
waved and spoke to the people on either side. It was like riding
with a royal personage, only much more than that. On the faces of
these country folk there was a radiance that nearly moved one to
At Brindavanam Swami decided that the two of us should stay with him
in the big house, but not dormitory-style, as the crowd was now
smaller than before. He gave us a room and a bathroom to ourselves.
Here we saw some new facets of his character.
Before we moved in, he called some of the young men who are ever
happy to serve him, and set them to work cleaning the room
thoroughly and rearranging the furniture. I have never seen Indians
move so fast or work so efficiently as they did under Swami's
supervision. He would let neither my wife nor me move a finger to
help, yet he himself gave a hand in the work. From somewhere he
brought attractive carpets, curtains and drapes. Finally he
installed us, apologising that the room was not more comfortable.
But we loved it. And we could not help admiring Swami in this new
ro1e of works supervisor and interior decorator. Whatever is done by
him, at whatever level, is done supremely well.
One thing we liked about living in this room was that Baba would
often pop in casually, unannounced: he would sit for a while and
talk, answering any questions in our minds, or enquiring about how
our stomachs coped with the hot Indian dishes served in the dining
room. The food was admittedly well-laced with chillies, so that we
found it advisable to skip some of the meals and just eat fruit in
On one occasion we asked for a few slices of bread, an item unknown
to the dining room. Baba sent a car to Bangalore for bread and other
foodstuffs suitable to the western palate. It came back with a fine
parcel of things - bread, butter, pots of jam, cake, cheese, and
tins of special drinks such as Ovaltine and Bournvita. But some of
the devotees must have heard that we had asked for bread, because
messengers kept arriving at the door laden with loaves. We soon had
enough to start a baker's shop. But this is typical of the
brotherliness and generosity among the Baba devotees.
Baba decided to give my wife and myself the Hindu ceremony known as
Shastipoorti. This is a kind of remarriage performed when the
husband has reached his sixtieth birthday. For the ceremony Swami
presented Iris with a beautiful new silk sari and myself with a
white silk dhoti and angavastram, saying that it was correct for us
to wear new attire on the occasion.
A young couple belonging to a family of Baba devotees was married
first, and we were able to sit and watch this with the large crowd
that had gathered in the central hall. After about an hour came our
turn. We sat cross-legged on the low stage while two priests from
Prasanti Nilayam performed the colourful ritual. Before us was a
large coconut, some bananas; bowls of rice, sandalwood paste,
saffron, kum-kum (red powder), incense and other things. These were
essential items of the ritual. The priests chanted Sanskrit
mantrams, and at specified times they (or we, under their
instruction) sprinkled something from one of the bowls onto the
coconut, or smeared it with a paste.
Baba was sitting to one side watching and sometimes directing the
proceedings. At the right moment he stepped forward, waved his magic
hand in the accustomed way, and materialised two gold rings, each
set with a large precious stone. One was for me to put on my wife's
finger, and the other for her to put on mine. After that Baba handed
us long garlands of flowers with which to adorn each other, and one
was given for both of us to place together over Swami's head. The
ceremony finished with a chant by the two pundits in unison,
invoking - we were told - the blessings of a long life under the
protection and guidance of Sri Satya Sai Baba.
The whole ritual was radiant with the warm love that flows from
Swami. One could not help feeling that for some forty minutes unseen
beneficent powers had been focussed on us and on our marriage union.
Thus it was renewed and supremely blessed.
Next day came the ceremony which, Baba said, must follow
Shastipoorti; feeding and clothing the poor. Word had gone out to
the villages in the neighbourhood and about a thousand paupers -
men, women and children - were shepherded into the grounds of
Brindavanam. They sat in rows to receive a substantial rice meal,
cooked and served by a number of Baba devotees.
Then sixty of the most destitute men and the same number of women
were brought to sit on either side of the drive within the inner
garden. Each woman was to receive a sari and each man a dhoti. As it
was our ceremony, Iris and I were to have the job of handing out
these goods but it was Sai Baba who had provided them.
Swami, the giver, kept out of sight while Raja Reddy, who has
witnessed many such occasions, supervised the handing out. He
organised several young devotees to carry the big piles of clothes,
while on one side my wife gave out the saris, and on the other I
distributed the dhotis. Some of the poor souls tried to touch my
feet in gratitude and feeling embarrassed by this I told each that
the gift was from Sai Baba. Whether they understood English or not,
they knew the blessed name.
For multitudes of the destitute Sai Baba has been an incarnation of
Providence. On occasions such as the great Dasara Festival in
October he feeds thousands of the poor people who gather for his
blessings at Prasanti Nilayam. Sometimes he personally serves the
dessert, placing a goodly portion onto the leaf plate of every one
of those thousands. Then, too, the old and decrepit, the cripples
and the blind, are given new festival clothes.
Apart from the important ceremonial occasion of Shivaratri, Sai Baba
does not usually do spectacular materialisations before large
audiences, but I saw him do it once to honour Dr. Modi - and there
could hardly have been a more deserving recipient.
Dr. Shree Murugappa Chennaveerappa Modi is known throughout India
and in medical circles abroad as an eye surgeon and ophthalmologist.
But to the six million blind of India he is much more than that. He
is a hope for light in their darkness. They call him "our brother
who gives sight". Son of a Bombay merchant, he became a medical
practitioner in that City in 1940, specialising in eye surgery.
"Many of my patients had to sell a precious cow, or even their
mud-and-straw house in order to travel and have the treatment," he
recalls, "so I decided to go to them."
In 1943 he gave up his private practice and began his now-famous
free-treatment Eye Camps. With his headquarters in the Mysore town
of Davangere he ranges over an area of some 300,000 square miles
with a population almost as large as that of the United States of
America. He usually sets up his mobile hospital in a school, loaned
by the grateful town authorities. Anybody in the district, rich or
poor, may come and have their eye troubles examined and treated
without any charge. Free hospitalisation is provided in the school
building. The Eye Camp generally lasts for about two weeks, and in
that time Dr. Modi treats thousands of cases. While he corrects
squints and other optical troubles, the bulk of his operations are
for cataracts. He has reached a high degree of dexterity in this and
has been known to perform - with the help of trained assistants -
over seven hundred cataract operations in one day. This
production-line pace enables him to handle large numbers, and
apparently efficiency does not suffer. His cataract operations are
more than 99 per cent successful. Since he began his crusade against
blindness nearly twenty-five years ago, Dr. Modi's surgery has given
back sight to well over 100,000 people. State and local health
departments, philanthropic organisations and some wealthy
individuals pay the expenses of the camps. But Dr. Modi accepts no
fees for himself. I met Modi when he was brought to Whitefield. He
was there with Mr. Niak, the Collector, to take Sai Baba to Kolar.
Baba had agreed to be present at the closing function of an Eye Camp
just completed in this town, about thirty miles from Whitefield.
I was lucky enough to be invited to go with them. Also in the car
were Raja Reddy and Seshgiri Rao, who lives at Whitefield and is a
cousin of my Madras friend, G. Venkateswara Rao. As we drove along
in the hot sun of the early afternoon, Dr. Modi answered our
questions about his work. He is a man in his late forties,
solidly-built, with a shining bald head and large gentle eyes. I
noticed that there was a western flavour about his manner and
speech, and understood why when he told me that during the
three-month monsoon season when travel would be difficult for his
patients he goes abroad to America, England and other countries.
This is to keep himself abreast of new techniques in eye surgery.
Outside the large school building where the eye hospital had been
conducted a crowd of about five thousand was waiting. We were
conducted to the decorated platform. First the Collector made a
short address, then Dr. Modi, who had been sitting near me at the
side of the stage, went to the microphone. As he spoke in the local
dialect, I could not understand much of what he said, but I picked
up one point; he said that although he worked to cure physical
blindness, we were all of us spiritually blind until our inner eyes
were opened by a great teacher such as Sai Baba.
When he had finished, but before he could return to his seat, Baba
stood up beside him and waved his theurgic hand in several swift
circles. There was a flash of gold as between Baba's thumb and
fore-finger appeared a solid gold ring, set with a large ruby. This
he slipped neatly and firmly onto the doctor's third finger. A deep
hush passed over the crowd of watchers before they broke into
delighted applause. The doctor seemed quite overcome with emotion
when he sat down again, and gave me and others a close look at the
beautiful ring. It fitted his finger as if measured for it.
Sai Baba usually begins his address with a bhajan song, sung solo in
his divinely sweet voice; then he speaks for an hour or more and
finishes by leading the crowd in more sacred songs and chants. His
discourses or sermons, delivered without notes but with superb
fluency and powerful oratory, always hold his audiences in pin-drop
silence. And so it was this day.
After a time Seshgiri Rao, who was our driver, slipped away. This
was part of the escape strategy, for there always has to be a
strategy to fit the place and the occasion. Otherwise Baba would be
mobbed by the thousands who want to get close to him and touch him.
It was predicted that this would be a particularly difficult exit.
So towards the end of Baba's address, on Raja's advice, I left too.
Right behind the stage was the school. I went through that,
expecting to find Seshgiri Rao waiting in the car on the other side.
But he was not there. I went around the corner to where we had left
the car, and found him sitting at the driving wheel, with a small
crowd waiting around him.
He explained that he would not move to the school doorway through
which Baba would exit until the last moment. Baba's white car was
easily identified, he said, and a big crowd would quickly form
around the vehicle as soon as they spotted it. So we sat together
waiting and talking about the wonders of Sai Baba.
Seshgiri was wearing a ring identical with one his cousin G.
Venkateswara always wears. It is set with a big emerald surrounded
by small diamonds, and through the emerald one can plainly see a
silhouette of Satya Sai Baba's head and shoulders. I asked him to
tell me its origin, knowing there would be an interesting story
Baba, he said, produced the ring in his usual way with a hand-wave.
But at first it did not have the Baba image in the emerald. So he
said that, since he could buy such a piece for himself, what he
really wanted was a ring showing Sai Baba's image. Hearing this,
Swami took the ring back, held it in his hand for a moment, and then
returned it. The unmistakable silhouette had appeared in the stone
while Baba held it in his hand. Then with another hand-wave Baba
produced its twin, bearing the same Sai image, for G. Venkateswara
We heard the sound of bhajan beginning, and took this as the start
of our count-down for making a move. At the end of the second song
we drove off in the wrong direction, to mislead the crowd, before
doubling back and stopping outside the door of the school on the far
side from the meeting. The singing ended; there was silence while
the minutes passed, but Baba did not appear through the door as
Then we were seen. Crowds began to race along the street towards us.
Soon we were an island in a great sea of people pressing heavily
against all sides of the car. Every window was a canvas of human
faces and eyes, and inside the car it became hot, stifling and
airless. As far as we could see in all directions there was a tight
mass of people. When one is in the centre of such a mob one feels
that it is not a number of separate individuals but one large
unreasoning animal which could be led to do almost anything. It
would not be safe to move off in case we hurt someone. We were
Just as I felt near to passing out for lack of air, a few policemen
suddenly appeared and made a lane, through which walked Swami, cool,
serene and smiling. Raja was right behind him. As soon as they had
entered, a line was cleared by the police in front of the car.
Seshgiri Rao gunned the engine like one escaping from danger. But
Baba from the rear seat, called, "Slow! Slow!" He made us wind the
car windows down while we snailed through the crowd, and he gave his
blessings by hand and voice to the people on both sides.
Now the mob was no longer an animal; it was a collection of human
beings warmed by a great vision. Some prostrated themselves on the
ground, others ran beside the car, gleefully shouting: "Sai Baba,
Sai Baba!", eyes and faces shining with the light of love and joy.
Mr. Niak had gone ahead in another car, and now we drove to his
large house set in spacious grounds surrounded by a high wall. When
we passed through, the gate was shut behind us and locked. But it
was not long before we heard a crowd shouting outside.
"They have put the children in front of the crowd; they think that
will induce us to open the gate," the Collector commented.
Baba smiled gently. After a while, to our alarm, he gave orders for
the gate to be opened. From a window I watched the mob pouring in
like water through a burst dam. Swami went out to meet the flood.
The Collector and others followed him, and soon in the gathering
twilight I saw the crowd sitting in a quiet circle. Baba moved
around so that all could see him closely, many could touch his robe
or feet, some were able to have a word with him and a few received
the sacred vibhuti from his hands.
From that day Dr. Modi became a part of the great Sai family. Early
the following year Baba invited him to run one of his humanitarian
Eye Camps at Prasanti Nilayam itself. People from miles around came
for free treatment and many of the ashramites acted as hospital
assistants. Later the same year I observed the good doctor taking an
active part in the Satya Sai World Conference at Bombay.
As June drew to a close at Brindavanam we began to feel that our
days at that tranquil spot, where Baba somehow reminds one more than
ever of Lord Krishna, were nearing their end. He had promised to
take Iris and me with him to Prasanti Nilayam, but he did not say
when that would be.
The gossip grape-vine grew hot with rumours that he was about to
leave. Knowing by now his manner of moving without warning, we
planned the things we would take, and packed them ready for a swift
departure. We were determined not to be caught on the hop a second
10 A Place Apart
All places that the eye of heaven visits,
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens -
WM. Shakespeare, King Richard II.
One evening when Baba was out dining with a family
of devotees in Bangalore, the story went around Brindavanam that he
was leaving next morning for Puttaparti. Everyone seemed quite
certain on the point, so we gave the final touches to our packing.
Next morning before breakfast Baba walked into our room, looked with
surprise at the waiting suitcases, and said: "What, are you
"We heard that you were going to Puttaparti this morning, Swami, so
we . .. "
"No, no," he interrupted, "but I'm going to Madras this morning,
just for one night. Would you like to come?" He directed the
question at me, alone. It was evidently to be a male party.
After breakfast we drove off - Raja at the wheel, two other males,
Baba, and myself. A few miles from Whitefield we stopped at a
service station for petrol, and before the tank could be filled a
crowd had gathered around the car. Among them was a beggar woman to
whom Swami gave money. I have never seen him pass a beggar without
giving alms. Even if one of them is beside the road in the country
when the car is speeding along, Baba stops and passes out some
practical expression of his sympathy and love to the unfortunate
Sitting on the rear seat during this trip to Madras were a youth of
about sixteen and myself, with Baba between us. One never knows what
will happen when driving along with Swami. Sometimes he sits
silently for long periods as if in abstraction, or perhaps
relaxation: fellow travellers respect these periods, whatever they
signify, and remain quiet. Sometimes he sings and asks all to join
in. And mostly some interesting incident takes place.
Once, for instance, as we passed slowly through the narrow street of
a village a man dashed out in front of the car with a coconut in his
hand. Our driver stopped while the man broke the coconut on the road
in front of us - this is a Hindu worship ritual. Then he came to the
side window to receive Swami's blessing before we continued on our
way. On another occasion we were driving through farmlands many
miles from the ashram. The only people in sight were three workmen
about a hundred yards away from the road. They were bent over their
shovels with their backs towards us. Just as we were passing them
one stood up, faced us, placed his palms together in the Hindu
gesture of greeting and reverently bowed. The other two simply
carried on with their work. How, I wondered, did this one particular
labourer know? Did he see the car out of the corner of his eye and
recognise it or did he somehow feel the nearness of a great saint?
Today Baba was evidently in the mood to entertain the youth with
some magic. Taking a green betel leaf, he cut from it with his
thumbnail a small round disc which he marked with a symbol. Passing
me the circle of leaf, he asked what the symbol was. It might have
been a Sanskrit mantram, but I really had no idea. Without
enlightening me he took it back and placed it on the youth's palm
still holding it by his own finger-tips. When he took his fingers
away the disc of green leaf had vanished and in the boy's palm lay
another disc of about the same size, but this one had an enamel
front which bore a picture of the head of Vishnu. When I was given
it to examine closely, I observed with interest that it was a green
portrait on a white background, and the green was of exactly the
same shade as the leaf had been. It was actually a pendant with a
loop for attachment. Turning it over, I noted that there was a
slight flaw in the metal backing.
Whether it was because of the flaw or for some other reason I do not
know, but Baba held the pendant again in the boy's palm, leaving
there this time a similar-sized one bearing the triple heads of the
Hindu Trinity - Siva, Vishnu, Brahma. The colour of the second
pendant was different, and there was no flaw in the metal backing.
The youth was allowed to keep this one, while the first simply
disappeared from Baba's fingers.
Looking back on my brief but marvellous time in Madras with Sai Baba
on this visit, two things project from the wealth of impressions.
One is the mysterious way in which his presence became known to the
public. We arrived for a late lunch, had a short siesta, and then I
took a look from an upstairs window of the Venkatamuni house where
we were staying. The front garden was already nearly filled with
people, hundreds sitting cross-legged on the ground waiting, for a
sight of the great man. No public announcement had been made, no
publicity whatever had been given. In fact, our hosts themselves
knew only a couple of hours before we arrived that we were coming,
and they had merely phoned a few close devotees to whom Swami wanted
to talk for one reason or another.
This handful would probably tell a few friends who were also close
disciples. But devotees are always careful not to publicise the news
that Sai Baba is coming. The crowds swarm swiftly enough without
such encouragement, and Swami seems to like a quiet beginning for
his visits so that he can talk to the families who have loved him
long and faithfully. Yet some telepathic whisper had gone through
the city, and by evening the front and side gardens were packed with
people patiently awaiting the appearance of the beloved figure.
The other thing that I was able to appreciate more than ever before
was Baba's superhuman energy. From mid-afternoon until late into the
night he was interviewing people, singly or in groups, moving among
the large crowds, or going out to visit the homes of devotees who
were either sick or needed him to come to them for some other
reason. The same constant activity went on the whole of the next day
until about seven in the evening when we left for Whitefield. A few
miles out of Madras, waiting by the roadside, was a car-load of some
of his most devoted followers who wanted one more sight of him, one
more word, one more blessing from his hand. This he granted, and
their eyes moistened with tears of love. Then we set off on our
five-hour journey through the darkness, through the villages,
through the straying buffaloes and nonchalant cows that infest the
roads of India. We reached Brindavanam after midnight to find a
group of visitors there waiting to see Baba, even at that hour.
On subsequent tours I saw this same pattern of daily programmes,
with the addition of bhajan sessions, public addresses and other big
functions. We, his companions on the tour, would be permitted to
drop out from time to time to take a few hours rest while Swami
carried on, or we would merely sit quietly in the car while he went
into the homes of devotees, spending some time with them, bringing
them joy, hope and spiritual food.
From morning till night, and usually to midnight or later, Baba is
on the go, devoting himself to the needs and welfare of those who
come to him or beg him to come to them - verbally or by the
telepathy of prayer. He does the work of many ordinary human beings,
yet I have never seen him really exhausted. Sometimes he may look a
trifle tired, but he rapidly recovers full vigour. It is as if he
drinks at the fountainhead of all energy.
Once when I asked Swami if he would do something for me he answered,
"Yes, of course. I'm your property; I have no rights." His life is a
continual sacrifice and service to them, and through them to all
men. For, when the divine pebble of love is thrown into the pond of
human ignorance and sorrow, the waves circle outward until they
reach the very edge.
A few days after our return from Madras came the hundred-mile drive
from Whitefield to Puttaparti. Only my wife, Raja (driving) and
myself were with Swami on this occasion. It was Iris's first visit
to the ashram and along the route Baba pointed out various landmarks
to her. He also gave her practice in a Hindi sacred song he was
teaching her. But most of the time he was wrapped in serene silence.
As we entered Prasanti Nilayam my heart leapt to see all the
residents, hundreds of them lined up along the way, so that we drove
through an avenue of smiling, joyous faces. At the big prayer hall
we stopped, and lost Baba: he was sucked away into a maelstrom of
people. But we were given a beaming welcome by friends like Mr. N.
Kasturi, and soon found ourselves ensconced in my old room at the
I found that life in its externals had not changed much since my
previous visit to the ashram. There was still the early bell,
clanging one from dreams into the morning darkness to prepare for
meditation in the prayer hall. Not all ashramites go there; some
meditate in their rooms, some choose other places such as under the
sacred banyan tree which Baba planted many years ago on the hill
above the hospital. I preferred to go onto the high rocks where I
could do some morning yogic exercises and watch the rising sun
spread its magic light over the wild hills, filling the valleys with
Later the crowd gathers around the circular garden in front of the
main building for their first visual contact with Baba as he comes
onto the balcony to raise his hand in benediction. This is the day's
first darshan (blessing by appearance). Soon after this, interviews
begin; taking groups of anything from a dozen to twenty, he spends
perhaps half an hour, sometimes an hour or more, with each group. In
this way he manages to make close contact with on average about 150
people a day - more in busy periods.
Later in the morning there is an hour's bhajan. Baba often comes and
sits on his high chair in the hall for part of this. During part of
it he might walk among the people seated outside under the trees.
Sometimes he spends most of the bhajan period at his group
interviews in the rooms. The only thing one can be sure of is that
he will never follow the same routine of action twice in succession.
When the second bhajan of the day begins in the evening, Baba is
usually still conducting interviews. Then after some time he comes
out and walks down a path to feed his young elephant, Sai Gita. As
soon as the elephant sees him she approaches majestically, holding
high in her trunk a garland of flowers made by some ladies of the
ashram. When the two meet, Sai Gita places the garland over Baba's
head and bows, bending her right foreleg. Baba pats her and feeds
her with fruit from a basket which her young mahout has brought.
After a while he leaves her with the basket and walks around to have
a word with people sitting by the side of the path. But all the
while Sai Gita keeps her eye on him and turns so that her head is
always facing towards her beloved lord.
When her supper of fruit is finished she carries the empty basket
back towards her stable. But if Baba calls to her to stop, or to
come to him, she obeys immediately. This pet elephant was presented
to him when she was quite a baby by some devotees of the south. She
has become a much loved feature of the ashram, trumpeting a loud
salute when she spots Baba's red robe in the distance, or somehow
senses his presence without seeing him. On occasions, richly
caparisoned, she takes part in outdoor processions and important
ceremonies at Prasanti Nilayam.
After the evening bhajan and its beautiful closing ritual of arati,
with camphor light and a hymn of worship, the crowd pours from the
hall and from under the trees to the front of the building. Here all
stand and wait for the evening darshan. Soon the little red figure
with the great dome of black hair is seen on the lighted balcony.
There is a deep hush; his lips move silently, his hand moves in a
gesture of upliftment. Something more subtle than the air around
seems also to move upward gripping the heart and lifting it until
the eyes are moist.
Then we go to our suppers. But Baba spends most of the evening
seeing more people: ashram officials with administration problems
and visitors with urgent personal problems.
Nor had the life at Prasanti Nilayam changed in its inner aspect
since my last visit. When you pass through the gate you seem to
enter a shining aura of peace and joy. Not that you entirely forget
the world in some lotus-eating dream. But your sense of value
changes; the world's problems and conflicts are seen as if through
the wrong end of a telescope, tiny and very far away. Even the
immediate problems of living at the ashram - the adjustment to
certain discomforts, the struggle to secure some western delicacies,
such as bread, butter and cheese - seem very small. Always the
important over-riding factor is the enveloping love radiated from
the centre. What the famous "iron-lung" millionaire of America, Fred
Snite, said about Lourdes applies also to Prasanti Nilayam: "Here
life is a prayer We are in a place apart from the world - a place
half-way to heaven."
One of the most interesting features of life at the ashram is the
people there, residents and visitors. A whole volume could be
written on this subject alone. They come for such a variety of
reasons. Some travel hundreds of miles, as people went to the
Delphic Oracle of old to peep into the future. Others come for
business reasons; to ask if they should sell a shop, start a
factory, tender for a contract, look for a new job. Many come with
serious health problems; some arrive as representatives of Sai Baba
groups in other areas to invite Swami to grace some function with
his presence; a few are there to ask him to their homes, perhaps to
perform a marriage, or name a child, or bless a new house or simply
for the indescribable joy of his company. Baba would need to be
multi-bodied to satisfy all such requests.
An important point to note about Sai Baba, in both this body and the
former one, is that he does not in the least resent being treated as
a fortune-teller, a soothsayer, a psychic investigator, a business
adviser, or a universal physician. He regards all who come as his
children; some are wanting a broken toy mended, some have an
ear-ache, some are just wanting a word of encouragement from the
eternal parent. He tries to satisfy all at their own level, and by
his powerful spiritual force to raise that level towards the
superhuman race that Man must eventually become.
Lord Krishna classified those who came to him into four main
divisions. (1) those in distress, (2) those desirous of worldly
gain, (3) those seeking spiritual knowledge and understanding, and
(4) those who have already attained a high degree of spiritual
wisdom (i.e., the jnanis). His task, Krishna said, was to give each
what he asked for. His blessings were poured out on all men equally,
but each could only receive according to his readiness, according to
his position on the ladder of spiritual attainment. Sai Baba put the
matter thus: the rays of the sun fall equally on all who are
directly in their way. If someone is behind an obstacle, or in a
room, he will receive only a part of the illumination. Cultivating
the higher spiritual yearnings is like coming out from the
confinement of a room into the sun's full rays.
Now, five thousand years after Lord Krishna, those who approach Sai
Baba fall into the same general classes. And in like manner he
considers them all worthy of his help. He sheds his blessings on
all, but of course their own limitations condition what they
receive. If their present needs are for bodily health or material
prosperity, that's what they get. Those in the higher grades, the
jnanis, who are open to the sun's full illumination are, as of old,
much fewer in numbers than the others - but they do exist. With
great joy, with a rare feeling of upliftment, I have met some of
those - not only living a life of renunciation at the ashram, but
also as householders.
When it became known that I was writing this book one of the
brightest lights of the ashram, a woman completely dedicated to the
great Sai Baba mission, lent me the diary she had been keeping since
her first visit to Puttaparti in about 1950. It is an interesting
document, giving a picture of life with Baba at Puttaparti in the
years before Prasanti Nilayam ashram was built. From the diary I
have learned a number of important things not generally known about
For example, many people think that before the period when he began
giving public discourses - that is, before he was about thirty-two
years of age - Baba gave no spiritual instruction. It is true that
in the three decades of his life he was concerned mainly with leelas
and mahimas, with phenomena such as the showing of visions, with
astral travel, miraculous healing and other miracles. But the diary
shows that he also gave spiritual teachings.
No doubt most of those who came out of curiosity to see the young
Puttaparti miracle-man were in the kindergarten of the spiritual
school. They needed the visual props of incredible wonders to
sustain their faith. Or else they simply desired superhuman help in
curing diseases or solving material problems. When their curiosity
was satisfied, or they got all the material benefits they could (or
were, perhaps, disappointed in this), those incapable of receiving
the deeper guidance drifted away.
But there were others who belonged to the higher grades in the
school of life, those who were in search of the knowledge,
understanding and happiness that the world cannot give. To these Sai
Baba, right from the very beginning, gave personal instruction on
right thinking, right feeling, right action. To these he gave
individual spiritual disciplines.
Much of his teaching was done, as it is now, through stories,
parables and homely analogies. All his teaching emphasised, as it
does now, the need to actually live the life; emphasised that the
mere spinning of fine phrases and fascinating webs of metaphysical
speculation will get you nowhere. The pathway on which Baba has,
from the start, led his disciples is chiefly the bhakti marga, or
the yoga of divine love.
This yoga, like all others, requires that we overcome our
attachments to personal ambition, fame, pride, self-importance, and
that we "flush out" the last hidden pockets of egotism lurking in
the mind's dark corners. For this we must be prepared to suffer many
austerities and a good deal of what may at first seem like personal
Another important point I learned from the diary was that when Baba
appears to be hard on some of his followers, it is really a great
compliment to them, and indeed a blessing in disguise. It does not
mean, as some may think, that these disciples have lost his love and
been cast into the outer darkness. On the contrary it means that
Baba has high regard for those he is putting through the grinding
mill; he is training them for greater progress in the school of the
Sometimes in this way, and apparently for this purpose, he seems to
test people to the highest level of their endurance. Even after
their mettle has been tested and proved, he will if necessary put
them through what he calls a "polishing process". This may bring a
great deal of mental anguish until deeper understanding dawns on the
initiate. Thus we found that many of Baba's long-term disciples
helped us to perceive the hidden dimensions of the master's mission
and purpose. They made clearer to us the beneath-the-surface meaning
of many of his actions and words.
As the days passed at the ashram many new, inspiring devotees came
into the circle of our acquaintances. A number of them had deeply
moving stories to tell about their miraculous and spiritual
experiences with Sai Baba. I made notes of these, and gained
permission from many of the narrators to use their names and other
identifying particulars. These worthy people, many well-known, stand
as living witnesses to the truth of the strange facts I write. This
may help some readers to accept what is indeed so far outside common
everyday experience as to be well-nigh incredible.
Meanwhile I must try to describe the special quality of our last
interview with Swami before we left the ashram towards the end of
August. Of course at Prasanti Nilayam there had not been the same
close personal contact that we had enjoyed at Brindavanam, and
particularly at Horsley Hills. Life is on a different scale at the
ashram. Crowds of visitors are constantly moving through, or
gathering for some big religious festival or other special event.
During our stay there had been two such occasions: Gurupoornima Day
in July - a festival to honour the great gurus - and the official
inauguration of Prasanti Nilayam as a township. For the latter
event, which took place on August 5th, many important officials
attended from nearby towns such as Penukonda and Anantapur, and from
the State capital, Hyderabad. Some of these visitors were Baba
devotees, and some were not.
After the township inauguration ceremony Sai Baba provided a huge
banquet for everyone. More than a thousand people sat down to a fine
Indian dinner, while Swami moved tirelessly among the guests, making
sure that every individual was well-fed and happy.
Yet despite his busy life we were really very fortunate in seeing
quite a lot of the great master. I went with him on an official
three-day tour to Anantapur, where I met and talked with a number of
devotees who had known him since his early youth. And he always
called both Iris and myself to the interview room when he was seeing
a group of visitors from abroad. So we sat at his feet among people
from France, Italy, South America, Germany, Denmark and Persia. We
saw him amaze and delight them with materialisations: the production
of vibhuti, or sweets for us all to eat, or a jewel for one of the
visitors. And on all occasions we witnessed the most important
miracle - every heart deeply stirred by the magic wand of selfless
We had many memorable sessions with Swami this way, and then, when
there were only a few days of our sojourn left, he called us to him
every day. These farewell gatherings, lasting sometimes up to a
couple of hours, were enjoyed in the company of special ashram
friends. Some like us were departing, and others remaining. Always
Baba talked first on spiritual subjects, then on more general topics
or personal problems that could be discussed in a group.
Present at the final interview were Mr. and Mrs. K.R.K. Bhat, in
whose car we were being given a lift to Bangalore. Mr. Bhat is a
retired divisional manager of the Life Insurance Corporation of
India. He suffered a serious heart attack just before his retirement
and is now living most of the time at Prasanti Nilayam, being kept
alive, as he says himself, "by the grace of Sai Baba". He and his
wife were returning to Bangalore for a while to arrange some
personal matters. But for a few days Mr. Bhat had been suffering
pain on his left side in the heart region, and as doctors had
previously forbidden him to drive the car, I volunteered to drive it
After general conversation with the group of eight people, Baba took
the various individuals who were departing into another room to
speak privately with each. First there were the Maharani of Kutch
and her daughter, Nanda. The Maharani was leaving for her home in
Bombay, and Nanda was going part of the way with her, then returning
to the ashram which has become her home.
Next Iris and I were called. Immediately Swami was alone with us, he
dropped all joking and teasing, and spoke very seriously in a voice
of deep affection. He was like a mother seeing her children off to
boarding school, except that he seemed to be the essence of all the
mothers the earth has ever known. The stream of affection that
flowed from him was a river carrying one off into an ocean of love.
In that ocean one's physical body seemed to vanish, and all the hard
lumps of separate self, of anxiety and worry and deep-lying fear,
were melted away. For those exalted moments one touched the edge of
the infinite and felt the ineffable joy of it.
Many of the Baba devotees have told me about their own personal
experience of this deepest of the mysteries and miracles, where a
man touches, and momentarily becomes one with, the divine in Man.
But, like me, none has been able to describe it adequately, for it
is far beyond the reach of words.
After giving us personal advice regarding our work and health and
lives, and assuring us that there is never any need for fear or
worry because he is always with us in our hearts, he waved his hand;
this time in large vertical circles like a turning wheel. When his
hand stopped it held a little silver container, an inch in height
and over an inch in diameter. As he opened the lid a fragrant
perfume pervaded the room. The container was full of light-grey
vibhuti which proved to be as fragrant to the tongue as it was to
the nose. Giving it to us, he said to take a little every day, it
would bring great benefits and blessings to both body and soul.
The last persons to whom he spoke privately were Mr. and Mrs Bhat.
As it was an auspicious day for the devotees of Lord Subramaniam,
their chief household god, Mrs. Bhat had brought a small bouquet of
flowers and tulsi leaves. These she placed at the feet of Sai Baba
who has become to her the embodiment of Lord Subramaniam, the reason
for this will be fully understood from her miraculous experience
related in the next chapter.
Baba put a few of the flowers in her hair. Then telling us all to
wait for some prasad (gifts of packets of vibhuti, we thought) he
went upstairs to his dining room, which is directly above the
interview room. He took, we presume, the remainder of the bouquet
with him, and we all stood waiting. Iris and I were standing by Mr.
Bhat on his left. Mrs. Bhat was to his right, while the rest of the
group was on the other side of the room.
As we exchanged a word or two with Mr. Bhat, a very tall man, Iris
saw what she took to be flakes of dried paint falling from the
ceiling. I did not notice these "flakes" until they were perhaps a
foot and a half above Mr. Bhat's left shoulder, on which they came
to rest. Then I observed that the "flakes" were actually tuisi
leaves and a few flower petals.
I could see from Mr. Bhat's face that he immediately felt something
miraculous in this event, but I looked for a natural explanation. It
seemed, however, impossible to find one. The leaves and petals could
not possibly have fallen off anything in the room, which was
unfurnished except for one chair and a cupboard in a corner some
distance from where we stood, and the walls of the room were bare.
Moreover, the leaves and petals could not have fallen from Mrs.
Bhat's head because she is a very short woman, and was anyway on the
right side of her husband, whereas they fell from a high level on
his left side. Furthermore, there had been no leaves in her hair,
only flowers, and these were still in place after the incident. Nor
could the bits of foliage have blown in through the window; first,
because there was no breeze, the air being quite still; second,
because there are no tulsi bushes anywhere near the window; and
third, because if they had come in the window they would not have
been at the height where first seen by my wife, or even by me. 1
could think of absolutely no place from which they could have
arrived by the normal forces of nature.
The Bhats had no doubt whatever that this was another of Swami's
inscrutable works; that he had dropped some of the bouquet of leaves
and petals from the room above, through the solid ceiling onto Mr.
Bhat's shoulder - on his left side, where the pain had been nagging
for days. Since the time of Lord Krishna tulsi leaves have been
associated with healing, and it is interesting that Mr. Bhat's pain
almost immediately vanished.
Presently a messenger from Swami arrived with some packages of what
the devotees call "emergency vibhuti" for those departing. This is
wonderful stuff of a dark-grey colour, and has been known to work
great miracles in times of serious sickness or bad accidents.
But after the touch of the leaves from above, Mr. Bhat needed
nothing of this kind. He felt so well that he drove the car most of
the way to Bangalore himself, letting me take the wheel for only a
few miles - and then mainly to please me, I think. We stayed at his
Bangalore house for about a week and every day he drove us
somewhere, on one occasion to Whitefield where we collected the
remnant of our luggage and saw Mr. and Mrs. M. S. Dixit. There was
no return of Bhat's heart pain; it seemed to have been borne away by
the healing beam which, as its signature, brought the miraculous
fall of leaves and petals.
11 Drift of Pinions
Not where the wheeling systems darken, And
our benumbed conceiving soars: - The drift of Pinions, would we
harken, Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors. - Francis Thompson.
Though there is a multitude of Hindu gods, most
Indians, and certainly the educated ones, understand that each god
is really only a limited expression of the One Inexpressible Supreme
Brahman. "God has a thousand heads and there should be no quarrel
about the thousand heads," they say, and there should be no quarrel
about the many different forms used to represent different aspects
of that highest divinity which is ultimately formless. In fact in
the Hindu puja rooms, those sanctuaries set aside in homes for
worship and prayers, you will mostly find statues and pictures of
many divine beings, often including Jesus of Nazareth.
Yet each family usually has one special household deity who holds
the place of highest honour. In the family of Mr. K. R. K. Bhat the
traditional household god was Lord Subramaniam. But Mr. Bhat himself
inclined more to the worship of Lord Krishna. Perhaps for this
reason, or perhaps because he was very busy as a top executive in
the world of insurance, it was his young wife who carried out the
daily ceremonial worship of Lord Subramaniam.
In 1943 Mrs. Bhat develop cancer of the uterus. Medical men advised
an operation though there was no certainty that this would be
successful. Mr. Bhat's widowed mother was staying with the young
couple at the time, and she said to her son, "Lord Subramaniam cured
your father of cancer without any operation; in the same way he will
cure your wife."
The old lady's faith was so tremendously strong that the young
couple agreed to forgo surgery and place themselves entirely in the
hands of the household god. Pujas to Lord Subramaniam were
intensified, the religious practices became even more strict and
devout than before, the prayers more fervent and prolonged. Pujas
were now carried mainly by Mr. Bhat's mother, while the young wife
remained in bed growing gradually thinner and weaker. This went on
for about six months.
Then one night, while in a state of semi-sleep, the patient saw in
the dim light from the moon a large cobra circling her bed. Alarmed,
she switched on her bedside lamp and woke her mother-in-law who was
sleeping in the same room, her husband being absent on a business
No snake was found in the room. Yet as soon as Mrs. Bhat switched
off the light, she saw the cobra again, going around the bed. Almost
immediately the snake took the form of Subramaniam, as she knew him
by the portrait hanging in the puja room. He seemed to be floating
above her. Then piercing her bosom with his velayudhan (a kind of
spear Subramaniam carries), he seemed to draw her away with him.
Soon she found herself standing before him on the peak of a high
rocky hill. She knelt and touched his feet with her hands and
forehead, and he began to talk to her. He asked her if she wanted to
stay with him or go back to the world. She understood this to mean a
choice between life and death. Thinking of her husband and young
children and their need of her, she told Subramaniam that she wished
to go back.
There was further conversation, and finally Subramaniam said: "You
are cured of your illness, and will soon grow strong. Throughout
your life I will protect you; whenever you think of me, I'll be
there. Now go back."
"How?" she asked.
He pointed to a long winding, narrow staircase that had opened near
their feet, and led downward. She began to descend - then there
seemed to be a break in her consciousness and she found herself back
in bed in her own room, awake. Immediately she woke her
mother-in-law and told her about the vision. When her husband
returned home she told him as well. But she regarded the experience
as sacred, and did not make it known beyond the closest members of
From that night onward she gained rapidly in strength and there were
no more signs of the cancer. Soon she was up and carrying on her
normal life. Only there was a difference. Now in addition to her
household duties and religious observances, she devoted herself to
social welfare work among the poor and needy. God had given her back
her life, and she was determined to use it fully in his service as
best she knew how.
It was twenty years later that Mr. and Mrs. Bhat first heard of
Satya Sai Baba and went to Prasanti Nilayam. To Mrs. Bhat he said,
"I spoke to you long ago - twenty years ago."
Greatly puzzled, she replied: "No, Swami, this is my first visit."
"Yes, yes, but I came to you when you were living in Mysore." And he
mentioned the name of the street and the city where she was living
at the time of her cancer illness, when she had the vision of
Then he took her a little way up the narrow winding stairs which
lead to his quarters above and told her to look down. Immediately
she was reminded of the staircase leading down from the heights on
which she had been with Subramaniam: in fact the two stairways
seemed identical. She was more bewildered than ever.
To help her understanding, Swami now waved his hand and from the air
produced a photograph of himself in the somasutra (chariot) of
Subramaniam with a cobra circling around him. Now a light began to
dawn on her. God can take any form, she thought. He had come to her
twenty years before in the form she worshipped, Subramaniam. Now he
was here before her in the form of Satya Sai Baba. She fell at his
feet, weeping tears of joy.
Mr. C. Ramachandran of Kirkee, Poona, when I first met him at
Prasanti Nilayam in 1967, was Deputy Chief Inspector of Military
Explosives in the Ministry of Defence.
Some years earlier, he told me, he had had a lot of family worries,
and as a result had taken to visiting the Sai Baba shrine at Shirdi,
about a hundred and twenty miles from his home. This had brought him
great peace of mind, and he had gradually become a devotee of Shirdi
Eventually he heard that this great saint had reincarnated at
Puttaparti and was known as Satya Sai Baba. Well, he thought,
probably just another impostor, one of the many who have tried to
make money by masquerading as the grand old Sai Baba reborn. A
little later, however, he read in the newspapers an account of how
Satya Sai Baba had relieved one of his followers of a bad stroke by
taking it on himself, and then cured his own paralysis before a
large crowd on a Gurupoornima day. This gave him the feeling that
Puttaparti Baba must at least be a genuine holy man - perhaps a real
When one of his family members brought a small photo of Satya Sai
Baba and put it in the puja room in his house, Ramachandran let it
be. Two or three days later he noticed that some ash had formed on
the photo. He wiped it clean. But then once during the puja ceremony
he saw the ash actually forming on the photo. It appeared first like
steam and turned into drops of milky liquid which ran down the glass
and dried into grey ash.
Perhaps, he thought, this might be due to something peculiar in the
glass, or in the cardboard backing, or the frame. As a chemist he
tested these, but they were quite normal; however, he decided to
change them all. Nevertheless the ash continued to make its
inexplicable appearance on the new glass and frame.
One day a young friend brought another photo of Satya Sai. This was
stuck onto cardboard without any glass front. With Ramachandran's
permission he put it among the other pictures in the puja room, and
went off. But before he had reached the front gate, Ramachandran
called him back. The young man's eyes widened as he saw the ash
forming on the photo he had just brought.
"I did not really trust your story before," he confessed, "but now I
see it's true."
These events made Mr. Ramachandran decide to go to Prasanti Nilayam
and see Satya Sai Baba. Some time after making this decision, he
suddenly felt himself disgusted with the habit of cigarette smoking.
One day, throwing away a cigarette, he vowed to himself that he
would not smoke again until after he had had an interview with Sai
His holidays fell due about six weeks later, in June 1964, and he
used the opportunity to make his first trip to the ashram. The
discomforts and lack of facilities there upset him initially but he
stayed on, and after some days found himself in an interview room,
along with a few other people, waiting for the great man.
Presently Baba came in and, with his creative hand-wave, produced
vibhuti. He gave some of this to all present, except C.
Ramachandran, The latter was very disappointed at being overlooked,
and asked for some. Baba looked at him and said: "I gave you some
not long ago."
Ramachandran was puzzled, and then he understood that Baba referred
to the ash which had appeared on the photos. Swami smiled gently and
"Don't worry. I will be giving you a great deal, a very great deal.
But don't go back to that bad old habit."
Ramachandran knew that he referred to the smoking habit. A thrill
went through his nerves as he realised how much this great man
seemed to know about his life and thoughts.
After that he made several visits to the ashram, and then towards
the end of April 1965 he received at his home in Poona a telegram
which read: "Satya Sai Baba arriving at your residence, May 5th, to
perform Upanayanam and give Brahmopadesam.
Ramachandran was very startled. This referred to the thread-ceremony
for his two sons, which was long overdue as his eldest son Raja was
already seventeen and a half. Well, was Baba really coming? Such a
thing had never been mooted, and Ramachandran felt he was not worthy
of the great honour. Certainly he had no idea whatever about the
correct way to receive such a great and holy saint. First however he
must check to see if the message was really a genuine one.
With the help of some of his office staff, he traced the telegram
back to its origin. He found that it had been lodged at the main
Poona post office and delivered to him from the suburban post-office
of Kirkee. The receiving clerk at the Poona office had reason to
remember the sender of this telegram. He was, he said, a man with a
small beard. He had driven up in a taxi, which he kept waiting while
he wrote the telegram. When the clerk asked for his address, the
bearded man replied that he was in transit and had no address in
Poona. The clerk said that he must therefore write his permanent
address on the form. After some hesitation the man wrote: "All India
Sai Samaj, Madras." Then he drove off.
This Sai Samaj was founded some years ago by Swami Narasimha, who
wrote the life of Sai Baba of Shirdi. The Centre is dedicated
primarily to the dissemination of the teachings of the old Shirdi
Saint. On investigation it was found that the bearded traveller was
unknown to any one at this place. So there Ramachandran's detective
work reached a dead end.
He had been told that Swami was at Brindavanam and took the
precaution of sending a telegram there asking for confirmation of
the date of the intended visit. He repeated the same request in a
further telegram to Mr. Kasturi at Prasanti Nilayam. No reply came
from either of them.
Later he learned that Kasturi had never received the telegram.
Ramachandran did not ask Baba about the one to him, judging by what
had happened in the meantime that any answer Baba might give, if he
gave any, would be quite inscrutable.
"So I did not know what to expect on May 5th," 'Ramachandran told
me, "but 1 thought it best to prepare everything for the ceremony,
and say nothing to any one about the possibility of Baba coming."
One problem, he said, was that he did not have enough ready cash for
the function. But going to his bank to see what could be done, he
found to his surprise that a sum of 468 rupees had mysteriously
appeared to the credit of his account. He was not able to trace the
origin of this and in fact never succeeded in doing so; but it
certainly was a great help to him. He decided to ask only his
relatives and very close friends to come to the ceremony, which
would mean providing lunch for about fifty people.
Some days before the function was due friends, and even strangers,
started asking him if it was true that Sai Baba was coming to his
house. "All I could do," he told me, "was to give some non-committal
answer and try to put them off."
Nevertheless, on the morning of May 5th people began arriving at an
early hour to take up a position in Ramachandran's large garden. As
the hot morning wore on, the crowd grew larger until there must have
been about a thousand people sitting in neat rows awaiting the
arrival of Sai Baba. All seemed quite certain that he was coming;
the only point in doubt being how he would come, and from what
direction. There was much discussion on these points.
Inside the house Ramachandran and his wife were working hard, and
praying hard that everything would be in order when and if Swami
arrived. There were flowers and decorations and all the necessary
accoutrements for the ceremony. On a dais they placed their best
armchair, covered it with a satin cloth and placed flowers on each
arm. This was the seat of honour for Swami. The clock hands moved
on, shadows in the garden shortened, but there were no signs of the
guru's arrival. At about eleven in the morning Ramachandran entered
his puja room, made a special prayer for guidance, and then
conducted the thread-ceremony himself. Immediately afterwards he saw
a little boy of about eight years - a complete stranger - among the
people inside the house. The boy seemed to know the hostess, Mrs.
Ramachandran, for he went to her and, saying that he was an orphan,
asked for food. She gave him some but was surprised to see him eat
only a few mouthfuls and walk away.
When she looked again for him he was gone. None saw him go but he
could not be found. It was as if he had melted into the air. And who
was he, anyway? He did not belong to the neighbourhood, and none of
their friends had ever seen him before.
Soon after this it was observed that there was an imprint on the
satin cover of Baba's chair as if someone had just been sitting
there. Also the flowers on one arm were crushed as if a hand had
rested on them. Yet no one could have sat on that chair in its
prominent position on the dais without being seen. Besides, no one
there in the house would have presumed to sit on the chair placed
there, as all knew for the great Saint. The Indian - followers of
Sai Baba, with their strong feelings of veneration and bhakti, would
never dream of doing such a thing, even if it could have been done
Anyway the conviction grew that Sai Baba had himself been present in
the astral, or subtle, body and had purposely left these marks to
let them know of his visit. This conviction was strengthened in
Ramachandran's mind when his eldest son, Raja, confided something to
As part of the thread-ceremony a boy receives a mantra from the one
performing the ritual, while both kneel with a cloth covering their
heads. In this case, of course, it was the father, Ramachandran, who
gave the mantra, but Raja said that he had seen, while under the
cloth, not his father's face but that of Sai Baba, which he knew
well from photographs. Certainly something had impressed Raja
greatly for after that day, his father said, the boy's character
changed completely. He no longer wasted his time on frivolous
pursuits, such as loitering in the bazaars, but concentrated fully
on his studies.
After the ceremony came the lunch. But the wrong impression seemed
to have got around that everyone present was to be fed. They began
coming in from the garden in batches, filing past the chair to see
the miraculous impressions on the satin and flowers, and then taking
their places on the floor in the dining room.
Mr. and Mrs. Ramachandran had some extra supplies of food in case of
emergency. Though they had planned for fifty they "probably had
enough for about a hundred", he told me. So they decided to just go
on feeding the crowd until supplies ran out. But, incredibly,
supplies did not run out - not until after everyone had eaten his
"We did not feed ten thousand, like Christ," said Mr. Ramachandran,
"but there must have been at least one thousand; so the food was
multiplied ten times. Without question it was one of Sai Baba's
Even after the lunch was over, there was no rest for the
Ramachandran household. Those who went away talked to friends about
the impressions on the chair, so others came to see and bow before
the signs of the invisible presence. They continued coming
throughout the whole afternoon and night until about three the next
Many of Baba's more devoted followers have experienced signs of his
subtle presence, footprints in ash spread on the floor, a passing
vision of his form and other such manifestations. I myself saw, one
evening during a puja at Mr. Bhat's house in Bangalore, two
indentations like foot marks appear in a cushion placed on the floor
in front of an empty chair which is always left standing there as a
symbol of Baba's presence.
But also many devotees tell of incidents where Baba came to them in
a physical form other than his own, perhaps as a beggar, a sadhu, a
workman, or even an animal. Frequently those who see him have no
idea that it is Baba until they get a sign later - or Baba may on
their next meeting mention the incident particularly if they have
not treated the person or the animal well. Mr. Ramachandran is
inclined to think that the orphan boy, who appeared, asked for food,
ate a few mouthfuls and disappeared, was one of those "other-form"
manifestations which Sai Baba makes, although the latter has said
nothing about this.
The above and other inscrutable events have brought Mr. Ramachandran
close to Sai Baba, and he has received a great deal, just as Swami
promised him at the first visit. For one thing a stomach ulcer which
had been resisting medical treatment completely vanished soon after
that earliest interview. At a later meeting Baba materialised a
jappamala for him, "clutching it out of the air above his shoulder
height", as Ramachandran described it - the same manner in which I
have seen Baba take several large items out of, perhaps, the fourth
dimension. At the time Ramachandran told me his story at Prasanti
Nilayam he was extremely happy because Swami was giving him personal
instructions in the use of the jappamala, and guiding him in his
spiritual exercises. In fact Sai Baba has brought a complete change
into the tenor, outlook and meaning of this man's life, as he has
done to so many others.
The Ramachandran story is not unique. Other devotees have had
similar strange experiences. Many have at times of importance or
crisis felt Baba's presence, caught glimpses of him, or been left
with signs of an unseen visit. I have told Ramachandran's particular
narrative here (actually only a part of his rich Sai Baba
experiences) because the fact of his being a practical scientist
with a responsible official position in the world may add some
weight to his evidence for the sceptical mind.
Miss Leela Mudalia, is a lecturer in Botany at Queen Mary College,
Madras University, but in her off-duty hours she acts as priestess
in a small temple in Guindy, where she lives, on the outskirts of
Madras. Back in 1943, when Leela was fourteen years old, that little
temple did not exist and the events which led to its construction,
and to this young scientist's dedicated service there, are about as
inexplicable as one could imagine.
The first strange event was a prophecy some forty years earlier that
the temple would be built where it now stands. In 1904 a wandering,
siddhipurusha (holy man with some miraculous powers) asked
permission of Leela's grandfather to build a tomb for himself on a
piece of land owned by the grandfather at Guindy. The latter gave
permission and the holy man prophesied that to the right of his tomb
there would be a temple to a great saint, and to the left an
The holy man was reputed to be a hundred and twenty-five years of
age at the time he entered the tomb, went into mahasamadhi
(permanently left the body) and was buried. His earlier prophecy had
been written on palm leaf, and seen by many people, including
Leela's father, Mr. M. J. Logananda Mudalia. At this period, in the
first years of this century, the land on which the tomb stood was
surrounded by open country. Today the little temple stands close by
on the tomb's right, and to its left, an industrial estate - just as
the prophet foretold half a century earlier.
But before the prophecy was fulfilled, some dark events were to take
place on this piece of land. In the early 1940s a Gujarat swami put
up a grass hut and settled down near the tomb of the holy man. But
this swami was of the left-hand path. He soon became known in the
district as a black magician who had broken up families and ruined
several people's lives through his powers of sorcery (unclean
Logananda Mudalia, who was then owner of the land, ordered the
Gujarat black magician to leave but he flatly refused to do so.
Several times this happened, and finally in 1943 Mudalia took a
bailiff and went to his Guindy land. The sorcerer was not at home
and so in his absence they proceeded to demolish his grass hut. Then
just as the demolition was about completed, the magician returned.
His rage was enormous. He fumed and shouted. Finally he put a curse
of madness on Logananda Mudalia. Looking at him with burning eyes,
he said: "By tomorrow you will be a raging lunatic."
Logananda Mudalia was not troubled he thought himself immune from
such black powers. He did not even bother to mention the incident to
his wife or daughter Leela. But the very next day the madness came
"He was utterly insane and violent," Leela said. "The Superintendent
of the Mental Hospital in Madras was called, and said that my father
must be taken to the hospital."
But evidently Logananda's wife was against this move; she decided to
keep him at home for another day, hoping and praying that he might
improve, even though she had great difficulty in holding him down
during his fits of violence.
The madness had attacked him on a Friday; he was violently insane
for two days, and then during Saturday night or early Sunday
morning, he had a dream or vision. In this a young Swami came to him
and gave him a vessel containing water and tulsi leaves, telling him
to drink and he would be cured. This Logananda Mudalia did, and the
young Swami disappeared.
When Logananda awoke next morning the madness had gone. He told his
wife and daughter about the vision, describing the Swami as "a young
man dressed in a red robe, with thick hair that stood out from his
head in a mop like a woman's hair."
At the time of this event Satya Sai Baba, then a young man, was
staying at the house of a devotee in Madras. Before lunch on the
Sunday following Logananda Mudalia's dream, Baba was being driven by
car to another devotee's house. On the way he directed the car so
that it passed near the Mudalia home. When they arrived at the
house, he asked his devotees to wait in the car as he had someone to
see inside. Logananda was still resting in his room after his stormy
mental sickness, and the young red-robed visitor was taken in to him
by Leela and her mother.
As soon as the young man entered, Logananda recognised him as the
healer of his dream. Sai Baba confirmed this in his opening words:
"Last night I came to you and gave you tulsi water. I will now make
sure that you have no more madness."
With a wave of his hand he produced a protective talisman for
Logananda to hang around his neck. The latter tried to prostrate
himself before the astounding young Swami, but found that his knee
had gone out of joint. Baba, practical as well as miraculous, gave
Logananda's foot a sharp tug and the knee-joint came right again.
"You are God!" Mudalia declared, going down on his knees. He held
Baba by the ankles and tried to lift him off the floor. Baba laughed
and made him desist, patting him affectionately on the back.
Later, taking the wife aside, Baba told her to go to their plot of
land at Guindy and look for some broken pieces of pottery on the
surface. She must dig beneath these, and would find there the bodies
of a goat and a hen. These carcases must be removed as they were
connected with the sorcery rites that had brought about the madness.
Next Baba phenomenally produced a lime and told her to put it under
her husband's pillow, without his knowledge. Finally, with another
hand-wave, the young visitor produced vibhuti and gave some to each
of the family. As he was leaving, he told Logananda Mudalia that he
must come to Puttaparti as soon as possible.
That day Leela and her mother went to the Guindy land, where they
found and removed the dead animals as instructed. The next day
Logananda left for Puttaparti. Many strange and wonderful things
happened to him there, and he came back more than ever convinced
that Sai Baba was an incarnation of divinity.
He decided to build a house for Baba on his Guindy land. But before
he could make much progress the form of Shirdi Baba appeared to him
in a dream and ordered him to erect, instead of the house, a temple
to Sai Baba and to install therein a statue of the Shirdi Sai body.
On the day following the dream a letter arrived from Satya Sai with
exactly the same instructions as given in the dream.
So the temple was built, Logananda selling three houses to raise the
money. Meanwhile a sculptor in Madras began having recurrent lucid
dreams in which he was told that there was work for him to do at
Guindy; that he must go to Guindy railway station. The dreams so
impressed the sculptor that finally he took the train and alighted
on the platform at Guindy. There he was accosted by a man who knew
his name and said: "Please come with me."
Puzzled, the sculptor followed. The stranger led him to the site
where the temple was under construction, and introduced him to
Logananda Mudalia as the artist who had come to do the statue of
Shirdi Baba. Then the stranger departed, and neither the sculptor
nor Mudalia ever saw him again.
The outcome of the incident was that the sculptor agreed to do the
statue. He had never seen the old saint in his life, and had only a
picture to guide him in the work. But, strangely enough, there was
no difficulty; some subtle, intelligent force seemed to direct his
brain and hand.
The figure, in black granite, shows Shirdi Baba sitting in
characteristic posture, right leg resting horizontally across the
left knee. Like Michael Angelo's marble Moses in a little church in
Rome, it gave me, personally, the immediate impression that it was
On the day when Satya Sai installed it in the temple with due rites
and ceremonies, the several hundred people present thought that the
figure had really come to life. It levitated, they say, about three
feet above its pedestal, stayed suspended in air for a few seconds,
and then dropped into position again.
When the building was completed in 1947, Logananda left his home and
took up residence in the temple to look after it and carry out the
pujas there. After he died, Leela took his place, living in her
brother's house nearby, but sleeping and spending most of her time
in the temple itself.
One Sunday morning my wife and I cycled over from the Theosophical
Society estate at Adyar to visit Leela at Guindy, about two miles
distant. First she showed us over the grounds. We saw the tomb of
the prophet, and those of Leela's father and mother. Then we went
into the little temple itself. Here I felt a powerful atmosphere, a
"being upward" feeling, such as I have experienced at certain other
spots on the earth - at Lourdes, in the cathedral of Chartres, and
at Fatima in Portugal, for example. There is a strong impression of
being brushed by the gentle, beneficent pinions of invisible worlds.
And here there was an incident that served to confirm this
Two flowers were before Shirdi Baba's statue when Leela led us to
it, accompanied by another visitor, an old friend of ours from
Puttaparti, named Balbir Kaur, the Kanwarani of Ladhran in the
Punjab. Leela presented a flower from the vase to each of the two
ladies as, a token of blessings from Sai Baba.
Soon after that we went to the far end of the temple. The ladies sat
on a grass mat on the floor to talk. Leela had kindly provided me
with a chair, but it was too far away for me to join in the
conversation. So I drew it across the tiled floor to within a few
feet of the grass mat. After about ten minutes of talk Balbir
pointed to my feet and, in a surprised, mystified tone, said: "Look!
See what's come!"
My feet were a few inches apart and midway between them on the
polished tiles lay a lovely little orange-coloured flower. I knew
for certain that this flower had not been there when I sat down for
I had noted specially the simple, plain tiles as I placed my chair
in position. The floor had been completely bare. Furthermore, the
flower could not have been dropped by any other visitor after I sat
down, for no one had come near our group.
"Such flowers are not found anywhere in this district," commented
Leela, the botanist, after examining it.
A young man, who also helped in the temple, drawn by our animated
discussion, came across to our corner. When he was told what had
taken place, he said to Leela: "Yes I saw you give a flower to each
of the ladies and not to the gentleman. Now one has come to him
through the power of Sai Baba. What a gesture of grace!"
Leela, who has seen many miracles at the temple, agreed without
surprise. We three visitors were filled with a strange joy, as if we
had just seen Baba himself. The powers of other worlds seemed to
find easy entrance to this sweet little sanctuary, with its rare
purity and freedom from any taint of commercialisation or
exploitation by priestcraft.
12 More Wonder Cures
Light and life to all he brings, Risen
with healing in His wings. - Charles Wesley.
Who can possibly know
the number of miracle-cures brought about by Sai Baba? There are no
official bodies set up to investigate and compile statistics as
there are, for instance, in connection with the miracles of Lourdes.
But one is constantly hearing of the Sai cures wherever one moves
among the devotees. They have been going on for years and are still
going on. The means and methods Baba uses are many and varied, from
sacred ash to surgical instruments which he materialises on the
spot. But whatever his method, the marvellous medically inexplicable
element is ever there.
In most of the following cases I have interviewed the ex-patients
themselves, and people close around them. The other cases were
investigated by medical men and various responsible witnesses, and
reported to me or to the monthly magazine issued at Prasanti
Mr. T.N. Natarajan lives at Ernakulum, Kerala, and is very active in
the Sai Baba movement in that area. His business is that of
taxi-owner, but anyone looking less like the typical taxi-man would
be hard to find. Like so many of the Sai devotees, he is gentle and
aglow with brotherly love. I have had long talks with him at
Prasanti Nilayam about many things, including his miracle cure from
He told me that in 1957 he lost the sight of his left eye. First he
went to his family doctor who sent him to an eye specialist in
Bangalore. In that city he actually consulted two specialists (whose
names he gave me) but both told him there was no hope of restoring
the sight of the blind eye. Not only that, but probably the other
eye would be affected in time, and he would lose the power of sight
altogether. This was a grim, depressing verdict.
But on the same day came hope. Mr. Natarajan visited a cousin, saw a
photo of a man in a red robe with a black mop of hair and asked who
it was. The cousin was a Sai Baba devotee, and the upshot was that
Mr. Natarajan arrived in Madras to see Baba who was staying there at
the home of Mr. Hanumantha Rao.
At the first interview, Mr. Natarajan proffered the letter brought
from his devotee cousin, but Baba refused to take it, saying: "Don't
worry, I know all about your case. I will cure you. But you must
come to Puttaparti for fifteen days."
So he returned to Ernakulum, made all the necessary arrangements,
and went straight to Puttaparti. There he was told to come to Baba
each morning bringing a short string of jasmine flowers. Baba
blessed this on each occasion and then tied it firmly on the
patient's eyes. There it would stay for the day and the night. The
next morning Baba would throw it away and put on the new jasmine
flowers. This went on for about ten days.
Then one evening after bhajan Baba called Mr. Natarajan into a room,
waved his hand and materialised a small bottle. From this he poured
a few drops of liquid into the bad eye. The liquid stung and
irritated the eye, but Baba soothed him by saying: "Never mind,
you'll soon be cured." On the following day Baba again sent for him,
and this time materialised what the Hindus call a rudraksha, a kind
of talisman made from the berries of a tree growing in the
Himalayas, used for bringing protection and other benefits. Baba
handed this to him with instructions about how to employ it.
A few days later Mr. Natarajan returned to Ernakulum. The sight of
his bad eye was very much better and it continued to improve. Within
three months it was quite normal, and he has had no trouble in the
ten years since then.
Here are two other cures which Baba performed:
An example of his power to exorcise evil spirits and cure madness
was given me by Lilli Krishnan. She said that some years ago there
came to the ashram a woman possessed of an evil spirit or demon. The
woman had a wild look, used to scream, tear her hair, behave in a
violent manner and eat all kinds of rubbish and dirt. Baba, by some
means known only to himself, drove the demon out of her. "After his
treatment there were no more signs of wildness or violence," Lilli
said, "the woman became gentle, mild and sweet."
Dr. D.S. Chander, a dental surgeon of Bangalore who has been a
devotee for twenty years, told me that in 1958 he was suffering some
terrible pain caused by a stone in the gall bladder. His medical
adviser said that a surgical operation was essential. Dr. Chander
went to Baba who made the jocular remark: "You surgeons can only
think of knives and forks." Then he took some vibhuti from the air
and gave it to the dentist, telling him to take a little, dissolved
in water, daily. In a short time the pain vanished, and no operation
was necessary. In the ten years since then there has been no
recurrence of the gall bladder trouble.
Despite Baba's joke about surgeons and their love of knives he has,
on a number of occasions when he decided that tonsils or a tumour or
something else must be removed, himself performed surgical
operations. For this purpose he always materialises whatever
surgical instruments he happens to require with a wave of the hand.
Afterwards he makes them vanish. Many solid citizens of India have
witnessed such events.
Yet notwithstanding the occasional surgery and phenomenal production
of various types of medicines, Baba's most universal instrument of
healing is his limitless supply of sacred ash. Through this
wonderful medium, the divine power flows to cure many kinds of
complaints, and also to act as an incredible first-aid treatment for
A remarkable case involved the use of vibhuti at a distance
concerns a fourteen year old boy named Siva Kumar who suffered from
heart trouble. In November 1964, when Siva Kumar was staying with
his uncle Dr. M. D. V. Raman in Bombay, he developed cerebro-spinal
meningitis, with partial paralysis of the left side, and loss of
both sight and speech. On November 30th he became unconscious, and
at 11.45 that morning cyanosis intervened and the boy turned blue.
The doctors gave him only a few hours to live.
But at noon he seemed to be making signs as if he wanted something.
The people present interpreted his signs to mean that he would like
a bath and some of the vibhuti which had been brought by a friend
from Puttaparti that morning. They did as he requested, bathing him
and applying the consecrated ash. Next he made signs that he wanted
a photograph of Sai Baba. This was brought, and set in front of him.
Then Siva rubbed his paralysed left leg and arm with his good right
hand. Suddenly he got off the bed and walked, albeit falteringly and
with assistance into the family puja room. There he sat near the
altar and seemed to go into a state of meditation. This went on for
about two hours, then Siva walked from the puja room, this time
unaided, looked about, went over to a chair and sat in it.
Evidently his eyesight had returned; and then he spoke. He told
those present that Sai Baba had appeared to him in a vision, saying
that his life would be saved. Siva had begged to have his sight and
speech back too, and Baba had granted the prayer, telling him just
what to do.
Soon afterwards Siva was able to return to school and the studies he
loved. When these facts were reported, over a year after the miracle
cure took place, Siva was still in the best of health.
At Prasanti Nilayam in 1967 I met Mr. Russi C. Patel, a Parsi of
Bombay, and his wife. From them I learned the story of their little
At the age of 2 years Ketu could not speak, walk or even stand. She
had been given various kinds of medical treatment, including modern
drugs and physiotherapy. But nothing seemed to have any effect. The
source of the trouble was a mystery. Some thought it was a matter of
mental retardation, others said that it was some unknown deep-seated
This was the state of affairs in February 1965 when Mr. Patel
decided to go to Puttaparti and see Sai Baba. His wife, who was a
very orthodox Parsi, was not in favour of the idea, thinking it a
waste of time and money.
Sivaratri festival was on when Mr. Patel arrived at the ashram and
huge crowds were there. Although people urged him to seek an
interview, he was diffident about doing so - especially as he felt
that Baba knew all about his trouble and why he had come, without
Several times he wrote a note, intending to hand it to Baba as the
latter passed through the crowd near him, but each time, when he saw
the little figure with the luminous face, full of the light of
understanding, he decided that it was not necessary and tore the
letter up. "When Baba wants me, he will call me," Patel said to his
But the days passed and he was not called. Streams of people were
going in to see the great saint, but not Patel. Then one morning,
some days after the production of the lingam, it was announced that
there would be no more personal interviews. However, Baba came onto
the balcony and gave his blessings to all visiting devotees
assembled there before they went home. Mr. Patel felt the great
compassion pour onto the crowd and into his own heart.
Yet in the train on the homeward journey his faith and spirits sank
to a low level. He thought of the days he had spent there and the
chances of speaking to Baba he had missed. He thought of his poor
little daughter still unable to stand or utter a word. He imagined
his wife's reproaches about the time and money he had wasted. He
arrived at the door of his home very depressed indeed.
When he opened the door, the first sight that met his gaze was
little Ketu, who could not even stand when he left, walking down the
hallway to meet him, calling out "Daddy, Daddy!" he picked her up
and embraced her; then he embraced his wife, while both of them wept
with joy over the miracle that had somehow taken place.
On checking the facts with his wife Mr. Patel found that Ketu had
first begun to walk and speak on the day before he arrived home -
just after Sai Baba had given his blessings from the balcony to the
assembled devotees. Some time afterwards Mr. Patel took his wife and
daughter to see Baba when the latter was on a visit to Bombay. In
the midst of many thousands that crowd around him in that
metropolis, Sai Baba saw them, and in the words of Mr. Patel,
"greeted the little girl as if she was an old friend returned after
a long absence". He took her on his knee, materialised -some
vibhuti, and put it in her mouth. After that, her speech improved
greatly and she began using longer words.
The next story concerns the friend who shared our experience in the
Guindy temple - Balbir Kaur, the Kanwarani of Ladhran and
granddaughter of Raja Gurdit Singh, Retgariha of Patiala. This
dark-eyed, soft-spoken Sikh woman looked about forty when I first
met her in 1967 as a member of Baba's party at Horsley Hills. It was
there that she told my wife and me the moving story of the
"impossible" cure that had brought her to the feet of Satya Sai
Baba. The case was confirmed by her daughter the Maharani of Jind.
In April 1966, Balbir Kaur underwent an operation for an internal
growth, and a test showed that it was malignant cancer. She was not
told this, but the report was given to her daughter who took it to a
specialist in Bombay. In July Balbir had a bad haemorrhage and was
taken from her home in the Punjab to Bombay and admitted to the Tata
Memorial Hospital. The haemorrhage had been brought on by the growth
of a cancer which, the Maharani of Jind said, "had come up as large
as a horrible rose, the mother cancer having worked fast once
released by the first operation".
The Maharani continued: "The doctors refused to touch her again,
saying her case was hopeless and there was no chance of her coming
through an operation. Sarcoma is the hardest and fastest growing
cancer; the operation for it the most aggressive and painful.
However, with much begging and many tears on my part, the doctors at
last agreed to operate."
So on August 2nd Balbir Kaur had her second major operation within a
period of just over three months. She was on the table for more than
four hours. Yet despite the fears of the doctors she still survived,
coming back to dim consciousness to find six drainage tubes in her
body. Attached to the tubes were electric suction machines drawing
away the unwanted fluids. "With their horrible constant ticking", as
her daughter described it, "they seemed to be also drawing the last
of the life from mother's frail body."
Twenty-one days after the operation the drainage tubes were still in
place. "The fast growing cancer and the rot in the healing process,
plus some faults in surgery, apparently caused the many leaks in the
body. If one leak healed another place would open up," the Maharani
told me. Balbir became so feeble that she seemed to be on the very
edge of death. She was given glucose solution and a blood
transfusion. But then there was a new leak of blood from one of the
tubes. X-ray photography, to find the cause of this, revealed a hole
in the ureter. The medical men decided that a third operation was
essential in order to either repair the hole in the ureter or stop
the left kidney functioning.
But Balbir felt that she just could not endure any more major
surgery. Her strength was at low ebb; she had a bad cough and her
mouth was so swollen as a reaction to antibiotics that she had to be
fed through a nasal tube. To go through another operation before
regaining some vitality would be her end, she knew.
By some fortunate stroke of destiny, just before coming to Bombay
for the cancer surgery she had been given by one of her relatives a
photograph of Satya Sai Baba and the book on his life written by N.
Kasturi. The portrait had somehow touched her deeply, and as she
read the book her faith in Sai Baba grew in strength.
In the Bombay hospital she had come to a fork in the road where both
ways appeared quite hopeless. She could not continue to live with
her system in its present hopeless condition, and yet on the other
hand her chances of surviving the necessary surgery to put it right
seemed very slim indeed. Her life, she felt, hung on a thin thread.
Only a miracle could save her. She had begun earlier to pray to the
new divine man of power whom she had found, Sai Baba. Now her
prayers became more fervent and continued without ceasing while she
was on the table being examined and X-rayed in preparation for the
third operation, which was scheduled for the next day. Just before
she came off the X-ray table at about 4 p.m., the leak from the
ureter seemed to stop. But this was thought to be only temporary and
plans for the operation were not changed.
That night she prayed with all her soul to Baba, asking him to heal
her and spare her from the operation which she felt she could not
survive. The leak continued to hold off through the night. Next day
there was, still no leaking and the doctors decided that the hole in
the ureter must, by some mysterious means, have healed itself.
"They knew that I had been praying to Sai Baba," she told me, "and
they were forced to agree that a miracle had happened. Instead of
having the operation that day, I had the drainage tubes taken out
and was on the road to recovery, thanks to Baba."
So the cancer had been cleared away, the rents and faults and leaks
in her interior had healed up, and Balbir Kaur very soon regained
sufficient strength to leave the hospital and go home. Then her one
desire was to go to Puttaparti and see in the flesh the great saint
who had saved her life. But people around her tried to persuade her
not to go, saying that life at the ashram would be too uncomfortable
Again she approached Sai Baba through prayer. "Tell me what to do,"
she prayed. In a dream she saw him standing on the balcony at
Prasanti Nilayam, where she had never been in her life. His words to
her were distinct and clear: "Come to Puttaparti."
When she arrived there she saw the building and balcony of her
dream. Baba saw her and called her into a room alone. She had not
given her name to anyone at the ashram. Yet he knew her immediately
and told her all about the operations, about her nearness to death,
and her cure.
She has now taken up her permanent abode at Prasanti Nilayam where
Sai Baba, in his inimitable way, is teaching her the spiritual
lessons she must learn in order to direct her life - the life she
has through his grace - towards the right ends. The miracle of
Balbir Kaur has been the means of revealing Sai Baba to many people,
including her daughter the Maharani of Jind who has become an ardent
In a back number of the ashram magazine I read a series of letters
from H.N. Banerji who was at the time Professor of Physiology in the
Medical College at Gwalior in North India. The letters were written
to Y.V. Narayanayya, a scientist living at Prasanti Nilayam. The
letters concerned Professor Banerji's niece Mrs. Chatterji, a
38-year-old mother of seven children. The professor states that
early in 1965 the doctors suspected cancer in Mrs. Chatterji's left
breast. As soon as he came to know of this, he had her thoroughly
examined at Gwalior and then at the All India Institute of Medical
Sciences, Delhi. These examinations confirmed the original diagnosis
At the All India Institute an eminent surgeon, Professor B.N. Rao
F.R.C.S. (London) operated on Mrs. Chatterji. Then in Professor
Banerji's first letter to Mr. Narayanayya, dated February 6th, 1965,
from Gwalior, he wrote:
"The pathological report of the removed tissue shows a most virulent
type of cancer-aplastic carcinoma. Dr. Ramalingaswami, the renowned
pathologist of the Institute has himself examined the tissue. This
type of carcinoma is most fatal; she has now hardly eight months or
so of life." The letter concludes with a fervent request for the
intercession and help of Satya Sai Baba.
The appeal for help reached Baba's ears. He "produced" vibhuti and
gave instructions for it to be sent to Professor Banerji.
The second letter from the professor was written on the 20th of
February. He had, he said, received the packets of vibhuti and
hurried to his niece's ward with them. The vibhuti was used as
directed, and, "by the grace of his Holiness, the temperature which
was tormenting her for the last ten days, rising with severe rigour
up to 106 or 107 degrees, with unbearable burning sensation and a
severe sinking feeling has disappeared today, and none of the
painful symptoms has returned. What a miracle this alone is "
Eighteen days later, on March 10th, he wrote in the third letter:
"My niece is now much better. She has got over the anaemia, moves
about, and is taking a practically normal diet. Further, the Cobalt
60 that caused so much setback is now being taken very
satisfactorily. Cancer is most unpredictable, according to medical
science, but I am sure she will have a most flourishing life with
the blessings of Bhagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba."
The professor's final letter to his friend, as published in the
ashram magazine, was dated April 23rd. In this he says: "My niece
is, by the grace of Sai Baba, doing well. She was to undergo an
operation, ovariotomy, as a precautionary measure. But the doctors
have dropped the idea, as the same is not warranted. I am very sure
in my mind that my niece has been saved by the grace of Bhagavan Sai
Baba. She was discharged a month ago, and left for Calcutta the same
day with her husband. I offer my heart-felt thanks, etc. "
A number of leading medical men and scientists were concerned in
this case, including Mrs. Chatterji's own brother, a district
medical officer, and her husband who is an electrical engineer. So
the cure took place among a group of practical people who could not
be called unreliable visionaries.
I noted, however, that Professor Banerji had written in February
1965 that medical opinion gave his niece "hardly eight months or so
of life". At the time of his final letter, about two and a half
months later, she was "doing well". But what happened after that? It
was possible that the recovery was only temporary, and that the
cancer had recurred, because, as the professor said, it is a most
I decided to enquire, and wrote to Mr. Narayanayya at Prasanti
Nilayam, whom I know personally. When my letter arrived, Professor
H.N. Banerji was himself at the ashram on a visit. Soon afterwards,
in February, 1968, I received a letter from the professor in which
he confirmed the medical details of the case as published in the
magazine, stating: "On a very crucial day I got an envelope from my
friend [Mr. Narayanayya] which contained the vibhuti given
personally by Baba to my friend . . . Magic happened. Patient got
round. She is doing well. She is being checked up by a specialist
almost every month. Three years have rolled by, and by the grace of
Bhagavan, she is doing fine. Medically, death sentence was
pronounced, and very meagre hopes were given out. Miracles do
happen, whether you call them so, or say it is nothing but Baba's
grace and mercy."
The letter came from Patna, for just after the miraculous recovery
of his niece he retired from the professorship at Gwalior Medical
College and took up an appointment as Head of the Biochemistry
Division at Rajendra Memorial Research Institute for Medical
Sciences at Patna. He can, I can, 1 consider, be judged a
first-class witness to the miraculous Sai power being conveyed
across India by a few packets of vibhuti.
Mr P. S. Dikshit of Bombay is a producer of documentary films for
the Maharashtra Government and a well-known singer of bhajan songs.
I first heard of the remarkable healing in which he was concerned
from the Maharani of Kutch and other Baba devotees; then later Mr.
Dikshit gave me the facts himself.
His sister was suffering from trouble in the left breast, where
there was a suspicious lump. Clinical tests at the Tata Memorial
Hospital, Bombay, confirmed the presence of malignant cancer, and
the doctors recommended that the breast be removed forthwith. The
chief surgeon concerned agreed to operate a few days later, on the
following Tuesday. Then his assistants, remembering that the Tuesday
was a holiday, set the operation for the Wednesday. With only a few
days to spare, Mr. Dikshit tried to locate the whereabouts of Sai
Baba in order to get, his permission and protection. Finding on
enquiry that Baba was on a visit to Anantapur in Andhra Pradesh, he
and his sister took a train to that city.
Baba was staying at a house on the outskirts of Anantapur and, as it
happened, I was there with his party on that occasion. Mr. Dikshit
and his sister reached the house early one morning and waited on the
glassed-in verandah for Baba to finish his bath. Although no one had
informed him of their coming or the reason for their visit, when
Baba came out he said to Dikshit: "I know - it's cancer in your
sister's left breast. The operation was to be next Tuesday, before
being changed to Wednesday. Actually, it will take place on
Thursday. I shall be there and everything will be all right. Don't
Then Swami produced some vibhuti in his usual miraculous way, gave
some to the patient to eat, and rubbed the rest on Mr. Dikshit's
left breast, massaging it well into the skin under the shirt.
Finally he gave his breast a pat and said, "Now go!" They went.
They arrived back in Bombay on the Tuesday morning, and Mr. Dikshit
took his sister for admission to the hospital on the Wednesday. The
operation was scheduled, as Baba had predicted, for the next day,
On Wednesday evening, while Mr. Dikshit was sitting on the edge of
his bed just before retiring, a water-coloured liquid began to pour
copiously from his left nostril. There was no pain, just the
streaming fluid. Within two minutes it had wet his pyjamas so
thoroughly that he had to change them. Both Dikshit and his wife
were puzzled about this flow of liquid which started suddenly and
stopped suddenly. He had no cold in the head, and anyway, why the
flow from only one nostril and in such a quantity? However, they
soon forgot the episode for their thoughts were on the next day's
At 9 a.m. next morning Dikshit's sister was taken in to the
operating theatre. After about half an hour one of the doctors, a
pathologist, came out and said to Dikshit: "We can't find the lump
that was clearly shown in the X-ray. There is only watery liquid
there. No signs of the cancer. We have drained off the liquid, and
are freezing it for 24 hours to do a biopsy, just to make sure that
all is clear."
On Friday morning Mr. Dikshit returned to the hospital for the
results of the biopsy. The same pathologist came to him and
reported: "All clear; no trace whatever of any cancer. Somehow it
The doctors concerned were very puzzled at this inexplicable
disappearance of a malignant cancer that had shown its undoubted
presence in all the scientific tests. But Mr. Dikshit was not
puzzled; his heart was full of deep gratitude to the great doctor of
Meanwhile his sister's husband had arrived from Delhi in time for
the scheduled operation. After what happened he made straight for
Prasanti Nilayam, to which place Baba had returned, and waited
before the Prayer Hall to express his heart-felt thanks. After a
while Baba appeared on the balcony just above him and immediately
called down with a smile, "Nothing there, eh! Only water! Well, you
can be happy that your wife is quite all right again."
A strange method indeed, and a very rare one, to cure one person
through another. But, as modern parapsychology is discovering, at
deeper levels of mind and emotion individuals are closely
interconnected. And at the deepest level, spiritual philosophy
teaches, there is no real division between us; we are all one. Even
so, it may be asked, why did Baba adopt this unusual procedure? As
many well-seasoned devotees often remark, "Who can solve Baba's
mysteries? We, can only accept the benefits, and be grateful."
But less rare than the curing of one devotee through another is a
great Sadguru's, practice of curing devotees through his own body.
I had read of great yogis sometimes taking on themselves the karmic
complaints and accidents due to strike one of their followers. There
are some examples of this in the Autobiography of a Yogi by Swami
Yogananda, Life of Sai Baba by Narasimha Swami, and other accounts
of the miracle-working saints of India.
Satya Sai Baba has likewise drawn to himself and suffered physical
pains on behalf of his devotees. N. Kasturi says in his book on
Baba's life that once, a doctor from near Madura wrote to him saying
that he had been suffering pain and bleeding in an ear, but that the
trouble had vanished suddenly in a miraculous manner. Kasturi said
that the letter from the doctor reached him "just when Baba himself
was 'free', from a slightly bleeding ear and some earache, which he
had announced as having been 'taken over' from a devotee who was
suffering the agony". Kasturi further states that "Satya Sai Baba
has taken upon himself and suffered mumps, typhoid fever, delivery
pains and the scalding burns of his devotees". A striking example of
this type of compassionate phenomenon was described to me by a
number of witnesses who were present in the ashram at the time of
the happening. On the evening of June 28th 1963, Baba asked Mr.
Kasturi to announce at the ashram that no more interviews would be
granted for the week. Neither Kasturi nor anyone else understood or
could guess the reason for this. But they soon found out. On
Saturday, 29th of July at 6.30 a.m. Baba suddenly fell unconscious.
Initially the devotees close around him thought that he had gone
into a trance, as he had often done in the past when travelling in
his subtle body to bring badly needed aid to some devotee somewhere.
These trances had been known to last a few hours, but this time
Swami remained unconscious for much longer.
His devotees became apprehensive and began to arrange for medical
aid. In addition to a doctor at the ashram hospital Dr.
Prasannasimba Rao, Assistant Director of Medical Services of Mysore
State, was called from Bangalore. He writes, after describing the
symptoms fully, "The differential diagnosis of such conditions ...
pinned me down to that of tuberculous meningitis, with perhaps a
tuberculoma, silent for a long time. " When the doctor tried to give
the treatment that seemed indicated, Baba regained some awareness,
it seemed, and refused the injections and other medical assistance.
He stated later that the trouble would pass in five days' time.
During those five days he had four severe heart attacks, his left
side was paralysed - stiff, useless, insensitive; the sight of his
left eye and his speech were also badly affected.
On Thursday, July 4th, five days after the attack started, Swami
became sufficiently clear and strong to announce that the clot in
his brain had been dissolved, and there would be no more heart
attacks. However the left side of his body was still paralysed and
his speech was thick and feeble. His followers believed that it
would take several months for him to recoup his good health.
During the period of his suffering Baba had indicated to those
attending him that one devotee at a distance was about to be
affected by a stroke and heart attacks so severe that they would
have killed him. So Baba had taken on the illness with all its
symptoms of paralysis, heart seizures, high temperature, partial
loss of eyesight, severe physical pains, and so on. His disciples
understood and accepted this explanation.
But Guru Poornima, a religious festival day, was approaching, and
many visitors were congregating in the ashram. The visitors were
very upset and dejected at stories they were hearing of Baba's
condition. Not knowing the cause - or not believing it - they began
to doubt "if Baba is God in human form," they said to one another,
"why is he also afflicted with physical ailments? Why does he not
On the evening of Guru Poornima Day, July 6th, came the final scene.
Practically carried by several disciples, Baba came down the
circular stairs from his bedroom to the crowded prayer hall below.
The whole left side of his body was still paralysed and his speech
was a feeble, scarcely intelligible mumble.
A doctor present describes the scene thus: "His gait was the
characteristic hemiplegic one, the paralytic left leg being dragged
in a semicircle, the toes scraping the floor. Seeing Baba in that
condition, even the bravest wept aloud."
For a few minutes Swami sat in his chair on the dais before the
assembled people, some five thousand inside and outside the hall.
Silent, sorrowful, deeply moved they all were. Then Baba gestured
for water. Some was brought in a tumbler, and Raja Reddy held it up
to the twisted lips. Baba drank a few drops; then dipping his right
fingertips into the water, he sprinkled a few drops onto his
paralysed left hand and leg. Next he stroked his left hand with the
right, and followed this by stroking his stiff left leg with both
hands. The hearts of the watchers leapt at the sight, with dawning
Mr. T.A. Ramanatha Reddy, the government engineer whom I knew at
Horsley Hills, was in one of the front rows and very close to Baba.
He said, "In a second Swami's leg, eye, and all his left side became
normal. It was a sight for the gods to see his sudden recovery, and
the devotees present witnessed the greatness of his divine power . .
Mr. N. Kasturi describes it in this way, "He rose and we could hear
his divine voice calling us, as was ever his wont . . . He had begun
his Guru Poornima discourse! People did not believe their eyes and
ears. But when they realised that Baba was standing before them,
speaking, they jumped about in joy, they danced, they shouted, they
wept; some were so overcome with ecstatic gratitude that they
laughed hysterically and ran wild among the crowd rushing in."
Baba was on his feet speaking for over an hour. Then he sang a
number of bhajan songs, and finally climbed the stairs unaided. That
night he ate his normal meal, and the following days saw him back in
his usual vigorous, hearty health, carrying on a full programme of
activities. The deadly stroke which had come at his bidding departed
within the period he foretold, and left no tell-tale signs behind.
It is on record that during his former life at Shirdi, Baba took to
himself, on behalf of close devotees, many diseases and accidents -
as when he thrust his arm into the fire at the Shirdi mosque where
he lived just at the moment when a child of a devotee fell into a
blacksmith's fire elsewhere. Baba bore the burns and scars on his
arm for a time but he stated that he had thereby saved the life of
In the Gospel of Sai Baba, also called Baba's Charters and Sayings,
he is quoted as stating that he would give up his very life if
necessary to save a devotee who was completely surrendered to him.
Many believe that that is how he died in 1918.
13 The Question of Saving from
Even there shall come as a high crown of
all, The end of Death, the death of Ignorance - Sri Aurobindo
There happened in the
latter part of 1953 an event almost as dramatic in its way as
Christ's raising of Lazarus from the dead. I heard of it from a
number of people, including the man most closely concerned, the
"Lazarus" of the case, Mr. V. Radhakrishna. Then I finally had the
facts carefully presented by Mr. Radhakrishna's daughter, Vijaya,
who was an eyewitness, and who wrote down the details at the time of
the happening in the diary she has always kept of her experiences
with Sai Baba. While relating the experience to me she had her diary
Mr. V. Radhakrishna, who is a factory owner and well-known citizen
in Kuppam, Andhra Pradesh, was about sixty years of age when in 1953
he paid a visit to Puttaparti. With him on this occasion went his
wife, his daughter Vijaya and the latter's husband Mr. K.S.
Hemchand. Vijaya was about eighteen and had not been long married.
Her father, she told me, was at the time suffering from gastric
ulcers, with various complications. He was really in a very bad way,
and one of his reasons for visiting the ashram was the hope that he
might get relief from his frightful suffering. He had known Baba for
The great religious festival of Dasara was on, and a good number of
people were visiting Puttaparti. Mr. Radhakrishna was given a room
in the same building where Swami lived, and spent all his time on
his bed there. Once when Baba came to visit him, Radhakrishna said
that he would prefer to die rather than go on suffering the way he
was. Swami simply laughed at this, and made no promise of either
healing him or letting him die.
One evening Radhakrishna went into a coma and his breathing was that
of a dying man. Alarmed, the wife dashed off to see Swami. The
latter came to the room, looked at the patient, said, "Don't worry.
Everything will be all right," and left. On the next day the patient
was still unconscious. Mr. K. S. Hemchand, the son-in-law, brought a
male nurse of the district who, after failing to find any pulse and
making other examinations, gave as his opinion that Mr. Radhakrishna
was so near death that there was no possibility of saving him.
About an hour after this the patient became very cold. The three
anxious relatives heard what they thought was the "death rattle" in
his throat and watched him turning blue and stiff. Vijaya and her
mother went to see Baba who was at the time upstairs in his dining
room. When they told him that Radhakrishna seemed to be dead he
laughed and walked away to his bedroom. Vijaya and her mother
returned to the room of the "dead" man and waited. After a while,
Swami came in and looked at the body, but went away again without
saying or doing anything.
That was on the evening of the second day since Mr. Radhakrishna had
become unconscious. The whole of the next night passed while the
three stayed awake and anxiously watched for any signs of returning
life. There were no signs. Yet they still had faith that Baba would
somehow or other, in his own way, save Radhakrishna, for had he not
said that everything would be all right?
On the morning of the third day the body was more than ever like a
corpse - dark, cold, quite stiff and beginning to smell. Other
people who came to see and sympathise told Mrs. Radhakrishna that
she should have the corpse removed from the ashram. But she replied,
"Not unless Swami orders it." Some even went to Baba and suggested
that, as the man was dead and the body smelling of decomposition, it
should either be sent back to Kuppam or cremated at Puttaparti.
Swami simply replied, "We'll see."
When Mrs. Radhakrishna went upstairs again to tell Baba what people
were saying to her, and ask him what she must do, he answered: "Do
not listen to them, and have no fear; I am here." Then he said that
he would come down to see her husband soon.
She went downstairs again and waited, with her daughter and
son-in-law by the body. The minutes dragged by - an hour passed -
but Swami did not come. Then when they were beginning to despair
entirely, the door opened and there stood Baba in his red robe,
copious hair, and shining smile. It was then about half past two in
the afternoon of the third day. Mrs. Radhakrishna went towards Baba
and burst into tears. Vijaya too began to cry. They were like Martha
and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, weeping before their lord who,
they thought, had come too late.
Gently Baba asked the tearful women and sorrowful Mr. Hemchand to
leave the room. As they left, he closed the door behind them. They
do not know - no man knows - what happened in that room where there
were only Swami and the "dead" man.
But after a few minutes Baba opened the door and beckoned the
waiting ones in. There on the bed Radhakrishna was looking up at
them smiling. Amazingly the stiffness of death had vanished and his
natural colour was returning. Baba went over, stroked the patient's
head and said to him, "Talk to them; they're worried."
"Why worried?" asked Radhakrishna, puzzled. "I'm all right. You are
Swami turned to the wife: "I have given your husband back to you,"
he said. "Now get him a hot drink."
When she brought it, Swami himself fed it to Radhakrishna with a
spoon. For another half-hour he remained there, strengthening the
man he had "raised". Then he blessed the whole family, placing his
hand on Mrs. Radhkrishna's head, and left the room.
Next day the patient was strong enough to walk to bhajan. On the
third day he wrote a seven page letter to one of his daughters who
was abroad in Italy. The family stayed a few more days at Prasanti
Nilayam, then with Baba's permission returned to their home in
Kuppam. The bad gastric ulcers and complications had vanished
When I spoke to Mr. Radhakrishna himself about the experience I
asked if he had any memories at all of the time he was unconscious
and to all appearances dead. He replied, "No. When I became
conscious again I thought at first that it was just the same day.
Later they told me it had been three days I was unconscious, that I
was 'dead' and actually starting to stink. But Swami can do anything
he wishes. He is God."
When is a person dead? Does any man know? Some who have seemed dead
by all medical tests have in fact returned to their bodies - often,
unfortunately, after being placed in their tombs, as evidence of
movements by "corpses" seen later, has proved. When Jesus received
word that Lazarus was dead, he said to his disciples, "Our friend
Lazarus sleepeth but I go that I may awake him out of sleep."
Sai Baba himself, during the early years at Shirdi, once left his
body for three days. He asked a close disciple to guard the body,
saying, I am going to Allah. If I do not return after three days,
then get my body buried at that place," indicating a sacred neem
tree. An inquest was held. Officials declared Sai Baba dead and
ordered the corpse buried. But the disciple, with the help of some
others, stoutly opposed the order, and would not surrender the body.
Then at the end of the third day Sai Baba returned to his tall
Shirdi physique and lived in it for another thirty-two years.
When Mr . N. Kasturi was a few years ago writing something about the
incident of Mr. Radhakrishna being raised from the dead, Baba told
him to put the word "dead" in inverted commas. So maybe we should
say here that Mr. Radhakrishna was very near to death, more than
half-way through death's door, when Baba called him back to life.
Perhaps the same could be said of Lazarus.
Some people Baba saves from serious illnesses, or from the threshold
of death. Others he does not. Why does he use his miraculous healing
power for some and not for others? Why does he not cure all, save
all from death? Many people ask these questions.
In the same way one might ask why Christ did not cure all the
sickness around him in his day. And why was Lazarus the only one he
called back from the tomb? Did Jesus - and did Sai Baba later - make
a special effort against the power of death for a greatly-loved
family of close devotees? Maybe, but I think there is more to it
When Jesus was informed that Lazarus was sick he made the enigmatic
remark: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God,
that the Son of God might be glorified thereby." So what would
normally, under ordinary conditions, be a death-dealing disease may
be an occasion for the glorification of God through the works of a
God-man. Then, too, there is the profound and complex question of
karma. To what extent is the specific ailment or the approach of
death karmic, and how far should the God-man interfere with the
There are two cases within the same family; one where it seems the
claims of karma could be put aside, so to speak; and the other where
it is wiser not to interfere.
Once when Mr. G. Venkatamuni's mother, nearly 80 years old, was so
close to death that all relatives had been warned of her imminent
end, his wife Sushila took a jappamala given her by Sai Baba and
placed it on the old lady's breast. Baba had told Sushila that the
jappamala could be used in emergency as a healing charm.
The patient immediately began to show marked signs of improvement.
This happened about ten o'clock one evening and when next morning a
number of close relatives arrived, summoned to bid the old lady a
last farewell, she asked in a puzzled tone why they had all come.
She was soon hale and hearty again, and lived several years more.
Later, however, when one of G. Venkatamuni's sons, an epileptic,
took very ill and seemed to be dying, Sushila decided to use the Sai
Baba jappamala to try to save the boy. She went to bring it from
where it was lying among other things in a case in the family puja
room. But she came back without it, telling her husband in a
distressed and bewildered tone that she could not get hold of the
jappamala. She had tried to pick it up several times, but each time
it had somehow eluded her hand. She could not explain this strange
thing, an object seeming to avoid her grasp. What could it mean?
Talking it over, husband and wife could only decide that, for some
reason, Baba did not want the charm used on this occasion.
The boy died. Soon afterwards the parents called to see Baba. They,
had often listened to his wise words on the true nature of death,
yet they were but human, and wore long sad faces. Moreover, they
were a little hurt to find that Baba himself was far from mournful;
in fact he was cheerful and smiling.
He said to them: "You must not sorrow over the boy. I have just seen
him again, and he is very happy 'over there'. He had just a little
karma to work out here on earth, and when he had completed that he
was ready to go. It was much better, much happier for him to go."
Then the parents understood that they had really only been sorry for
themselves in their loss. And they were comforted to know that the
boy they loved, who seemed dead, was in fact alive and well beyond
his suffering physical body. Mr. and Mrs. Venkatamuni's faith in Sai
Baba did not for a moment waver. But there are some devotees whose
belief is shaken when someone near and dear dies. Several have told
me of this, saying the situation is often aggravated by sceptical
relatives who say: "Well, why didn't Sai Baba save him?" Even the
faith of deeply-devoted and highly-intelligent followers can suffer
an eclipse under sufficiently tragic circumstances.
For instance, Mr. V. Hanumantha Rao, mentioned earlier, had a sick
son who had developed polio at the age of about six months. To make
matters worse the boy was an only child.
Mr. and Mrs. Hanumantha Rao met Sai Baba when their son was about
four years old. The young, lovable Swami became like one of the
family. But he puzzled the couple by often referring to their child
as -"my boy", and he always called the little fellow "Siva" although
his name was actually "Iswari Prasad Dattatreya". Swami would often
say to them, "Siva is the rope that brought us together, and holds
The parents did not understand this and many of the young Swami's
sayings, but he performed uplifting miracles in their presence, and
they had great hopes that he would cure their son.
The boy was very happy when Baba was present but his health grew
worse. Polio affected the brain; there were frequent fits and after
a few years little 'Siva' died. And with his death the rope was
broken. The bereaved parents stopped seeing Sai Baba. No doubt they
felt that he had somehow failed them.
Yet the time they had spent with him, his elevating spiritual
influence, his silent and his spoken teachings, had had a profound
effect upon them. Soon after the death of his beloved son, Mr.
Hanumantha Rao devoted a large part of his fortune to establishing
and maintaining in Madras an orthopaedic centre for children
crippled with polio. The centre, one of the few of its kind in
India, is named after the little boy, Iswari Prasad Dattatreya, to
whom it is a memorial. The children there are given medical,
surgical and rehabilitation treatment and a regular education. It
lies just across the Adyar river from the Theosophical Society
Headquarters, and I have several times called there to see Mr.
Hanumantha Rao. I have watched the joy that lights the faces of the
young cripples when the old retired transport commissioner walks
into wards or classrooms. Also I have seen them in wheel chairs or
held up by frames and crutches saluting with deep reverence the bust
of little Iswari, which stands in the hospital entrance. They feel
that, in a certain way, he died for them; that it is his spirit
which has brought them modern scientific help in their sufferings
and the hope of a happier life.
When this couple had triumphed over their great sorrow and turned it
to a worthy and constructive end, a veil seemed to fall from their
eyes. They saw how wrong they had been in blaming Sai Baba for not
keeping their boy alive. As Mr. Hanumantha Rao said to me, "There
must be suffering in the world; it belongs to the nature of things
here because Man brings it on himself." They understand that the
divine one cannot lift all the karma from Man's shoulders, and also
that much good can in fact come out of what seems to be evil from
our limited view point.
So Mr. and Mrs. Hanumantha Rao returned to the one who for them is
the focus of divinity on earth today, and they are among his most
deeply devoted disciples. In their home they keep a special bedroom
set aside for Sai Baba. The room is never given to anyone else and
their constant prayer is that Baba will grace it whenever possible
with his presence.
My wife and I have several times been at the Hanumantha Rao home,
one of a small group there, when Sai Baba paid a visit. It is a
special joy to watch him there. As in former years he seems to be
one of the family happy, carefree, boyish, full of fun. It's as if
he is the son, yet at the same time the father and mother and god of
this gentle sweet old couple. The soul of the child that led them,
the rope that drew them towards the light, is, I feel, somehow still
there though unseen.
In a number of cases where Sai Baba has not cured or saved - has not
performed the outer miracle - I have noted a similar inner and
really much more important miracle. He has perhaps cured the desire
to be cured and brought acceptance; he has healed the soul-wounds of
loss, and lifted minds and hearts to a better understanding of life.
He has brought a new and broader vision about suffering and death.
It is the same pattern now as it was long ago at Shirdi. Then and
there he healed and saved the lives of many. But some he did not
save. One of these was the daughter of his great devotee H.S.Dixit.
So people murmured, "If Sai Baba could not save Dixit's daughter at
Shirdi, what is the good of a Sadguru?"
On this point the profound Sai Baba apostle, B.V. Narasimha writes:
"One might as well say when dear ones die, 'What is the good of
God?' Faith is not a guarantee that there will be no death or evil
in the world in life. But, as in the case of Dixit, intense faith
makes the devotee brace himself up against all inevitable calamities
and learn more and more of God's scheme for our life. Life is not
intended to be a bed of roses and a treasure house of wealth Faith
enables the devotee to see what life is, and what God's plan is, and
improve his own attitude to life."
In this, as in his former incarnation, Sai Baba has sometimes said
that to cure a certain person, to save from death, or to remove some
inborn physical blemish, would be to interfere unduly with the
person's karma. And in such cases he has left the person concerned
to bear that cross.
From all this we might conclude that some diseases are karmic and
some are not. Some are the result of our own actions (most likely in
a former life) and are part of the great moral law of compensation.
We must expiate our past misdeeds by bearing the consequences and
learning thereby. On the other hand, some afflictions diseases,
accidents, and so on are only to a limited degree, if at all,
brought about by our own actions. And with such we do not need to
suffer long in order to learn some specific lesion from our own past
Likewise with regard to death. Generally, I think, time of death is
not strictly pre-ordained; there are several points, let us say,
along our life-line when you could meet with death, but it is not an
absolute karmic necessity that you should die at the first or second
of those points. Nevertheless, in Man's present state, death is an
essential to the pattern of life, and in the end every man must die.
Though Lazarus was called back from the tomb, some years later he
died. And so must any man whose life Sai Baba saves. When that final
point comes at which it is best to die, at which it is unwise and
detrimental to the soul to prolong life, then what enlightened saint
would interfere? The Illuminati, the God-men the great Yogis know
when that "right time" is for those who come to them as, of course,
they do for themselves. When the ancient writings say that the yogi
conquers death, they do not mean that he lives forever. They mean
that he himself decides the right time for him to depart this earth,
and then he goes, leaving his body, consciously, of his own
But, as mankind is today we cannot expect Sai Baba, or any other
God-powered man, to dissolve away the whole heavy cloud of Man's
karmic sins, curing all diseases, making all the cripples walk,
cleaning all the lepers, opening the eyes of all the millions of
blind that exist in India alone. The most he can do is lift a little
of Man's heavy karma here and there and point the way.
14 Eternal Here
There the When is an
eternal Now - The Where an eternal Here. - The Dream or Ravan.
Mr. N. Kasturi has
written of the following incident.
At about 1.30 p.m. on June 21st 1959 Baba's close disciples were
alarmed because his temperature shot up suddenly to 104.5 degrees.
About five minutes later the thermometer registered a fall to 99
degrees. This was a mystery to them, and Baba did not at the time
However, that evening he was having dinner with a number of his
devotees on a terrace in the moonlight. Among them was a young man
from Madras who had been for some time staying with Baba, but was
leaving the next day. Suddenly Swami said to him: "When you go to
your mother tomorrow, tell her that she should be more careful about
This aroused considerable curiosity and some anxiety. So Baba told
them that the lady's sari had caught fire that morning in Madras
while, she was in her puja room but that the flames had been
extinguished in time. The sari was ruined but she was unharmed.
After dinner one of the devotees thought of putting through a trunk
call to Madras. Baba agreed, and it was done. The lady came to the
phone herself and gave the enquirers more details of the accident.
Then Baba spoke to her, and the listening devotees heard him laugh
and say, "Oh, no, I did not burn my hands. I just had an increase in
temperature for a short while."
Some years later I had first-hand confirmation of this story from
Mr. G. Venkatamuni whose wife, Sushila, was the person concerned.
Yes, her sari had caught fire while she was in the puja room, he
said, and in a moment she was enveloped in flames. Panic seized her,
but she had long been a devotee, and the first words that sprang to
her lips were "Sai Baba". Immediately the flames died away and
Sushila; knowing from experience the power of Baba at any distance,
felt quite sure that he had somehow come to her aid in the crisis.
Forgetting for a moment that he had not come to her in his physical
body she had asked him on the telephone if he had burned his hands.
Yet this is not such a foolish question as might at first sight
appear. Psychic research workers have found many case histories of
astral travel where a shock to the astral body has caused effects,
such as wounds, burns and bruises, on the physical body. This is
brought about by the occult law of reciprocity. Baba's sudden rise
in temperature seems to have been a mild example of this.
Throughout the 1940s, and for most of the 1950s, Baba often went
into a trance during his out-of-the-body journeys. Suddenly and
unexpectedly he would become unconscious, and those near him would
know that he was away, probably with some devotee at a distant
place. On returning, he might or might not tell those around him
something of what happened.
On occasions there would be reciprocal effects on Baba's physical
body indicative of what he was doing. Sometimes, for instance, a few
words of what he was saying at the distant place would issue from
his physical lips. At other times vibhuti would emanate from his
body. This latter was usually when he had gone to be present at the
death of a devotee. Mr. Kasturi says, "On such occasions, symbolic
of death, destruction and the end of the temporary and the
evanescent, sacred vibhuti issues from the mouth of the body that
Baba leaves behind in order to proceed to the death-bed."
Kasturi then gives an example. At about 5.20 p.m. on November 15th
1958 Baba was reading a letter aloud to some people around him, when
suddenly he exclaimed, "Ha!" and fell to the floor. The body was
quiet for ten minutes, then it appeared to cough. Puffs of vibhuti
were coming from the mouth, shooting out, Kasturi says, "to a
distance of more than a foot and a half".
At 5.35 pm., having been unconscious for fifteen minutes, he resumed
the reading where he had left off, quite naturally and showing no
signs of exhaustion. When requested, he told the devotees where he
had been - Dehra Dun in the Himalayas. There he said the mother of a
doctor, well-known in the ashram, had just passed away. Baba had
gone to give her help at the time of transition, which was 5.30 p.m.
He also remarked that the doctor, her son, was present at the
woman's death in Dehra Dun, and that people were singing bhajan
songs in the room there. He further described how the old lady had
at the end announced to everybody: "This is my last breath", and
Two days later, on November 17th, a letter came to Baba from the
doctor whose mother had died. He wrote, "My mother drew her last
breath on Saturday, at 5.30 p.m. We were doing bhajan during her
last hours as per her wish. She was remembering you constantly."
Here is another example of Baba's knowledge of things at a distance
and his power to intervene. In the early 1960s when Mr. K.R.K. Bhat
a Divisional Manager of the Life Insurance Corporation of India,
there was a case of bribery and corruption among his subordinates.
This was in connection with an important promotion and some
anonymous letters had set an official enquiry in motion.
It was found that several people were involved in the plot but the
main culprit seemed to be Mr. Bhat's male stenographer who, however,
tried to protect himself by shifting the responsibility onto his
chief. He stated to the enquiry officer that he had simply carried
out Mr. Bhat's instructions in all that he did.
It began to look as if Bhat, although completely innocent, would
become involved; it being a question of one man's word against that
of another. Bhat could think of no way in which to establish his
innocence, and he began to be very worried. If he were found guilty
of involvement in such an affair, the effects would be drastic to
Finally the whole matter hinged on whether Bhat had or had not
received personally in his office, and signed for, a certain
registered letter. The stenographer stated that his chief had done
so, whereas Bhat knew for certain that he had not. It should have
been easy to check with the appropriate post office and find out
whose signature had been given for the letter on the known date. But
the postmaster stated that he could not assist because it had
happened too long ago. The records, he said, were kept only six
months, and then destroyed. The relevant letter had been received
more than six months before.
At this point Baba began appearing in dreams to Mr. Bhat, who was a
devotee. In a dream-vision Baba assured Bhat that the records were
in fact still at the post office. They had not been destroyed as
stated. In the end the postmaster was forced to admit that this was
true. He made the excuse that his predecessor had let the old
records pile up, and that there were so many - in fact over three
years' accumulation - that he had neither the time nor the
facilities to destroy them. He maintained, however, that as the mass
of documents were not in any order but all in a jumbled heap, it
would be quite impossible to find the one little paper so important
to Mr. Bhat. There was absolutely no point in making the attempt, he
said, as it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack.
That night Swami appeared again in a dream to his devotee, Mr. Bhat,
saying that a man should be appointed to search at the post office,
and that the relevant document would be quickly found. Following
this, Bhat at last persuaded the postal authorities to attempt what
he wanted. A clerk was put on to begin a search through the great
stack of papers. Quite at random he picked out a bundle and began
going through it.
"Miracles of miracles," said Mr. Bhat. "There was the document I
needed so badly - right in the first bundle." It showed conclusively
that the stenographer had signed for the vital registered letter on
behalf of his boss. This cleared the latter of suspicion. The
stenographer and several other men were found guilty of corrupt
practices, and the Corporation administered appropriate penalties.
Sai Baba's all-seeing eye and intervention from afar had saved his
devotee from injustice.
"Not only is he above the limitations of space, but of time too,"
Mr. Bhat declared. "When we were at Prasanti Nilayam early in 1965,
Swami told my wife privately that I should retire or take long
leave, but must somehow stop work and be away from the office by
June lst that year.
"He did not say why, but I had learned by this time to follow
Swami's advice. However it was quite impossible for me to clear up
all my business affairs, train my successor, and hand over by June
1st. I could manage it, I found, by July 1st, so I decided that that
must suffice. I would be a month later than Swami had intimated, but
I hoped that would be all right. I was wrong.
"On June 4th I had my first heart attack. Baba had obviously
foreseen it and given me the warning. The strain of work had brought
it on, no doubt, and if I had taken his advice I could have avoided
it. Well, through his grace I am still alive and able to do many
things that the specialists say I must not do."
Many other people have told me that Baba has foreseen events of
importance in their future. Not only dangers to health and limb, but
many things that loom large in their daily lives - births,
marriages, new jobs, business opportunities and examination results,
even to the precise marks that will be obtained.
Here is an amusing example of his precognitive power. Mr. G.K.
Damodar Row, a retired judge, was at the time in question Governor
of the Lions Clubs for several districts of Southern India. He was
about to leave for Chicago to attend an international convention of
Lions Clubs there. When he called at Prasanti Nilayam and told Sai
Baba, the latter asked him to take a parcel, containing vibhuti and
other items, to a group of Sai Baba devotees in California. Damodar
Row was delighted at the prospect of delivering the parcel, not only
for the joy of doing something for Baba, but also because he looked
forward to seeing his devotee friends in California.
But the difficulty was that the Indian Government would allow him
only enough foreign exchange to travel to Chicago and back by the
shortest route, that is, across the Atlantic. He found it was quite
impossible to obtain officially the necessary dollars to make the
extra journey from Chicago to the west coast of America.
Reluctantly and sadly he told Swami that the hard facts of foreign
exchange control and geography made the mission to California quite
impossible. Swami was silent for a moment, then said: "Nevertheless
you will go to California, so don't worry, just take the parcel." In
Chicago Damodar Row called a number of times at the office of the
airline company by which he was travelling to enquire if there was
any way in which he could possibly make his return journey across
America and the Pacific. But there was none.
The girl of whom he used to enquire frequently in the Chicago office
got to know him and, noticing the image of Sai Baba on his ring,
asked him about it. He told her that it was his guru and that
furthermore his guru had said that he, Damodar Row, would go to
California - so there had to be some way in which it could be done.
"I'm very sorry to disappoint you and your guru," she replied with
apparent regret, "but there's just no way that I can do it. I would
help you if I could."
Then one morning she greeted him joyously: "Your guru was right!"
she cried. "You are going to California."
When, with a leaping heart, he asked her how, she informed him that
there had been a strike of pilots in the airline by which he was to
travel back, and that now she would have to re-route his return to
India by another airline. In this way she could send him via the
Pacific, and he would be able to make a stopover at Los Angeles.
Thus, as Baba had foretold confidently weeks earlier, the parcel was
duly delivered to the Californian "Sai Family". I was myself at
Prasanti Nilayam when Damodar Row came there straight after his
return from America. He was still highly elated when he told the
story, and all hearers shared his joy in the telling. No one doubted
but that Baba had foreseen the strike, and the manner in which it
would affect Damodar Row's movements.
Through the years since Sai Baba's following first began at Shirdi
last century there have been numerous reports of him appearing in a
materialised form at places far away from where his body actually
was at the time. He may make the appearance in his own form or in
some other, such as an old friend or relative, a beggar, a workman,
a sadhu or holy man.
Sometimes, it seems, he creates a temporary maya, or illusion, of
the form. Sometimes it may be that he "overshadows" a real living
person or animal, making them do what he requires, and himself
noting the response or reaction from the devotee concerned. Then he
tells the devotee about it at a later date. Or he may at the time
make some remark to people where he actually is, physically, at the
time which gives a clue as to what has happened at a distance. Then
this is confirmed later.
One example took place when H. S. Dixit received a letter at Shirdi
to say that one of his brothers at Nagpur was ill. He told Baba
about it, saying regretfully, "I am of no service to him." Baba
replied, "I am of service."
Dixit could not make out why he said this, and what he meant. But he
found out some time later, for just at that moment at Nagpur, a
sadhu arrived and used the very words of Baba, "I am of service".
The sadhu cured the brother of his illness. And Dixit realised that
across a thousand miles Baba saw what went on, and did what was
That may, perhaps, have been a real sadhu "overshadowed" by Baba but
one that appeared to a devotee in more recent years in Delhi seems
more like an illusive creation, a temporary form taken by Satya Sai
This story was told to me by Mrs. Kamala Sarati, wife of the late
Mr. R.P. Sarati who was at the time of the event Additional
Secretary of Defence under V.K. Krishna Menon, the Indian Minister
for Defence. The incident concerns a man named V.S. Chidambaram, a
violinist who was Kamala's music master. Not being herself too sure
of all the details, Kamala kindly wrote on my behalf from Madras,
where she now lives, to her old music master in Delhi. He replied
giving a full account of the event, and Kamala passed on the letter
It happened in Delhi back in 1950 at the time when both Kamala and
her music master, Chidambaram, had been devotees of Sai Baba for
about two to three years. Both had visited Puttaparti some five or
six times and Chidambaram was at that period living in a room in
Sarati's house in Delhi.
One morning the music master, then a man of about forty-five, was
riding his cycle along Minto Road between New and Old Delhi. He had
been out teaching some pupils, and was due back home to give a
violin lesson to Kamala at eleven o'clock that morning.
As he cycled along he was turning a problem over in his mind. It
used to cost him a lot to travel all the way to Puttaparti and
although he had had some beautiful and wonderful experiences there
he began to wonder if he could really afford the journey. He writes:
"I was just thinking whether Baba was a real incarnation of God and
whether it was worth spending so much money in going to Puttaparti
to see him."
It was then that an old sadhu came cycling fast behind him and
caught him up. The music master noted that the holy man was wearing
a robe and had a cloth tied around his head, just like the pictures
of Shirdi Baba. The old sadhu stopped, and, Chidambaram did likewise
offering his salutations. The sadhu remarked that he would like to
speak alone and privately to the music master, and as the street was
busy and noisy suggested they go to a quiet spot. Chidambaram,
realising that he would be late for Kamala's lesson, made some
protest, but the sadhu said it was only a question of ten minutes.
The music master says, "I had the feeling that this sadhu was like
Shirdi Baba, and so I consented to go with him." After walking some
distance down a side-road, pushing their bicycles, they came to an
old tomb. The sadhu sat on this, putting one leg over the other in
the manner of Shirdi Baba. The music master, after making customary
gestures of respect and reverence, sat on the ground before the holy
Sadhu: (after about a minute's silence) "Who do you think I am?"
Chidambaram: "You seem to be like Shirdi Baba."
Sadhu: "All right. See my hand." He held his palm before
Chidambaram. The palm became like a mirror in which was reflected in
radiant colours the figure of Sai Baba of Puttaparti, sitting in a
chair and smiling.
The music master gazed at the vision in awe.
Then the sadhu unbuttoned his robe and under-shirt to expose his
chest. There again Chidambaram saw a vision of Puttaparti Baba. This
time he was "sitting with a garland around him, shining and
The music master was completely overcome. He began to tremble and
"shed tears of joy". Then the sadhu rubbed his back as Satya Sai
Baba so often does for devotees in distress, smeared him with
vibhuti and fed him with some candy. Both of these were materialised
from the air in Satya Sai Baba's inimitable way.
Assuring the music master that the two Sai Babas are one, the sadhu
said, "Don't lose heart under any circumstances. It is because of my
love for you that I have come. Now let us go."
As they walked away Chidambaram begged the sadhu, whom he now
believed was the Sai Baba he knew and adored, to come with him to
the Sarati home. But the holy man would not do so. Chidambaram
writes, "I watched him cycle off up the quiet side-road. In two
minutes both he and the bicycle had completely vanished." The music
master could not himself ride, being too overcome with emotions, and
so, he says, "Loading my bicycle onto a tonga [cart] I went home."
Kamala told me: "He was very late, and I was wondering what had
happened. Then he arrived in the tonga - and in such a state too! I
thought he was ill. When he could speak coherently, he told me all
about the experience. Since then he has had no doubts, and is very
devoted to Sai Baba."
This story concerns Mr. V. Radhakrishna of Kuppam, whom Baba seems
determined to keep on this earth as long as possible. In 1960, seven
years after he had been raised from the "dead", Radhakrishna was
again sick, and was suffering a good deal of pain.
He told me: "One night the doctor gave me a morphine injection and I
went off to sleep. But it seems that I got up later and wandered
about in a state of unconsciousness. I don't remember anything about
it, but I must have fallen down the well near the house. The well
was open, about ten feet in diameter and some fifty feet deep, with
about thirty feet of water in it. The sides are of smooth stone, and
there are no ledges, or anything whatever to hold onto, or stand
His daughter, Vijaya, who was present at Kuppam at the time of the
accident, takes up the story from her diary notes.
"My mother awoke at about 3 a.m. and saw that father was missing
from his bed, so she went to search for him. Outside she called his
name and presently she heard a voice shout, 'I'm in the well.' She
ran over and looked down with an electric torch. There he was. He
seemed to be standing in the water, about up to his waist in it, but
she knew that there was nothing there for him to stand on. She
called down to him but he did not reply, just remained there in the
"She rushed inside and awoke my two brothers and myself. So we went
over, but did not know how to get him out. There was a stone slab
across the top of the well with a gap on either side, through one of
which he must have fallen. My eldest brother, Krishna Kumar, tried
to reach my father from the slab, but father was too far down for
this. We must have been making a lot of noise because the Chief of
Police suddenly appeared on the scene. He told us later that he just
happened to be passing that way from the railway to his office when
he heard us. It was not his usual nightly route home, and he does
not know why he went that way. Incidentally, he was a friend of our
"With ropes and a pulley and a basket they finally fished my father
out. I'm not sure exactly how, because I kept back out of the way.
But it did seem to me at the time that Krishna Kumar had superhuman
strength in pulling my father up. Yet now I believe that he was
helped by a force from below. Well, you know what I mean ...
"My father seemed half-conscious when they got him out. He was taken
into the house and put on his bed. We sent for the doctor. Then as
we waited, we heard father say, 'When will I see you again, Baba?'
just as if Sai Baba was standing there in the room. No doubt he was
though we could not see him.
"When the doctor came and examined father, he would not believe
about his being in the well, but the Chief of Police was still there
and confirmed our unlikely story. The doctor said there was no shock
and in fact the patient was much better than he had been before his
misadventure. There was no need for any treatment or medicine, he
said, just a cup of strong coffee was all father needed."
Radhakrishna himself told me: "I knew that it was all Baba's work,
keeping me up in the water, so on the same day I hired a car and we
drove to Puttaparti. As soon as we arrived, Baba greeted us from the
balcony. Then, laughing, he called down, "My shoulders are aching
with holding you up so long last night, Radhakrishna!" Earlier that
morning Baba had told other devotees that he had been "away" during
the night helping Radhakrishna who was in trouble.
What can one say? Was Baba at Kuppam in subtle form, seen only by
Radhakrishna in another state of consciousness? And was he employing
his tremendous psycho-kinetic power, an attribute of the psyche as
yet only glimpsed by parapsychology, to hold Radhakrishna's body
above the water-line in the well?
Today in India at many different points some psycho-kinetic force is
operating frequently in association with the name of Sai Baba. Its
most usual manifestation is in the production of vibhuti on holy
pictures, mainly on photographs of Baba but also on pictures of gods
and avatars in the same shrine-rooms. The ash may be sticking to the
glass on the outside, or it may be under the glass of the pictures.
It may come as a small patch that gradually grows until, like a
layer of hoarfrost it almost covers the entire picture. Or on the
other hand it may appear all at once, practically smothering the
picture in a moment.
Dr. D.S. Chander, the dental surgeon of Bangalore, is one of many
who have experienced this strange phenomenon. He told me that
vibhuti suddenly appeared on all the pictures of his shrine-room;
then, after about a month, it completely vanished. He felt uneasy
about its disappearance, as if perhaps the divine grace were
withdrawn because he had done something wrong or left undone
something which he ought to have done.
His wife often assisted him in the surgery, and it was his custom to
ring a bell when he needed her for something. One morning when he
rang the bell, his wife happened at the moment to be putting flowers
in the shrine-room. All the pictures there were clear, she said,
with no traces of ash on them. She was sure of this because after
the sudden disappearance of the ash, she always looked hopefully for
any signs that it might be returning.
Leaving the flowers, she went off quickly to the surgery to see what
her husband needed, and when she returned a few minutes later all
the Pictures in the shrine-room were again covered with vibhuti. She
hurried back to tell her husband, and as she passed through the
sitting-room she saw, that there, too, Baba's photos had patches of
ash on them.
Most of the vibhuti vanished again after a month or two. But a
little remained to keep the doctor happy, and was still there when I
paid him a visit.
My wife and I have been taken to see various houses in various
cities where this strange phenomenon is taking place. I noted that
when the ash is on top of the glass it adheres tightly to the
surface, although some falls off and collects on the bottom of the
A woman in one home told us: "At first it came on the outside of the
glass, and some people said that we must have put it on ourselves
for publicity or something. So then it began forming underneath,
between the glass and the picture."
I examined some of the pictures where the ash was under the glass.
The backs, in most cases, were securely glued on and certainly
looked as if they had been undisturbed for a long time. Apart from
that, these people and all the others we met in connection with the
ash phenomena were not the types to indulge in imposture. They were
devout, religious people - filled, it seemed to me, not with egotism
and spiritual pride, but with humility, veneration and awe regarding
the benevolent power that had left its mark in their homes.
In some houses various things appear in addition to the ash: other
powders used in ritualistic worship, drops of ampita, tiny statues
of Hindu gods, flowers, and sometimes garlands placed around the
The dynamic, psycho-kinetic force associated with the name of Sai
Baba is working in other incredible ways. Here is an example. Mr.
K.E. Kulkarni of Poona used to visit the local Shirdi Baba temple of
that city every Thursday. On one occasion he had taken with him to
the temple some pamphlets and photographs of Satya Sai Baba. In the
bag he had six pamphlets in Hindi, six in English and about the same
number of photographs of Satya Sai.
He started giving these out to worshippers in the temple. This drew
a crowd of about a hundred people around him. They all wanted the
Hindi pamphlets and the photographs - apparently none could read
English. Kulkarni began to distribute the few he had, and was about
to say regretfully that he would bring more next week for those
people who were disappointed.
Then putting his hand in the bag for the last pamphlet he was
completely stunned to find it not empty but half full. Looking in he
saw a big bundle of Hindi pamphlets and another bundle of
photographs. As it turned out there was exactly the number needed to
go round. Every one was satisfied and not a single copy of a Hindi
pamphlet or a photograph was left over. Only the six English
pamphlets remained in the bag. These had not been in demand, and
none had been miraculously added to their number.
Other psychic happenings reported from here and there include
automatic writing, and written messages seen by clairvoyants either
in rangoli powder or on plain walls and ceilings. These messages
purport to be from Sai Baba. The people closely concerned with such
phenomena (at least the ones I have personally met) seem sincere and
high-minded. They describe enthusiastically how the messages are
used to help the sick, to give ethical training in action and habit,
to assist people in distress concerning their personal
relationships, their jobs, and so on. So the power at work seems to
be a good, compassionate one.
But there is, of course, a danger in communication phenomena. For
one thing, as occultists know, the lower astral plane contains
plenty of impostors, pretenders and worse, ever ready to seize a
chance of communicating with this world. Therefore psychic forces
not so good, not so benevolent, might easily begin to manifest under
the guise of the great spiritual name. Thus people may be fooled and
misled. And the eventual result would be to foster man's pride,
egotism and lower desires rather than his higher spiritual
There were indications that greed and desire for notoriety were
already being stirred among followers when a notice appeared in the
ashram magazine, under the direction of Baba. The notice said: "Some
persons misuse the name of Baba, and announce that Baba is in
communication with them, giving them messages, answering questions
and granting interviews, their object being to earn money or fame."
The notice goes on to say that such phenomena have to be explained
either as the manifestation of spirits or as sheer fakes by cranks
or crooks: "It is the duty of devotees to stop all such trickery by
wise counsel and firm denial."
Baba makes it clear that recipient must judge the genuineness of any
psychic happenings for themselves, but they should never use them as
a means of drawing a crowd around for publicity, fame or making
15 The Same, but
Into my heart's night -
Along a narrow way I grope; and lo! the light;
An infinite land of day. - Rumi.
The people whose
experiences have been given in the foregoing chapters are
highly-respected citizens, many of them holding important positions
in the life of modern India.
But the truth which they come forward to attest is difficult of
acceptance to the modern mind, particularly in the western world. It
is not merely that their attestations reveal more things in heaven
and earth than are known to the widely-embraced materialistic
philosophy, but that these things frequently seem to contradict the
laws of science and common experience as we understand them. More
specifically, it is that there is a man living in India today who
can take objects, and many types of objects, out of "nowhere"; not
just seem to take them, like a conjuror on the stage, but actually
take them; and that he is doing this kind of thing daily, wherever
he happens to be. They further attest that this man can read minds,
not only when you are near him, but that he can be with you wherever
you are, knowing what you are thinking and doing and planning to do;
that he can either be invisibly nearby, or take some appropriate
form in order to be there to guide and protect and teach.
Furthermore, their testimony states that he can see into the future,
perform surgical operations with "materialised" instruments, cure
many deadly diseases by miraculous means and - far above all else -
lead his devotees towards the spiritual goal of life.
Millions of men believe, or perhaps half-believe, such things about
Christ and Krishna. "But then," the reader may say, "that was all
long ago. This is the age of science, not of miracles. You ask me to
believe that a living man is doing such things now, and has been
doing them constantly for the past twenty-five years?"
My witnesses do not ask anyone to believe anything; they merely
state what they have seen and known. And I, who was myself
conditioned by the modern sceptical mental climate, certainly do not
expect or hope that any blown-in-the-glass doubter will accept such
things, unless like Saint Thomas, he sees and hears and feels for
Nevertheless, there are millions who will never have the good
fortune to sit physically at Sai Baba's feet, either at Prasanti
Nilayam or wherever else in the world he may go in the years ahead.
Therefore, for the sake of the many among them who can believe even
though they have not seen, and whose faith and hope and
understanding may benefit thereby, I bring further witnesses to the
stand. Among those whose stories are given in the next few chapters
are leading men of science, business, statecraft. They are a few of
the many devotees well-known to large sections of the public in and
beyond India. Into their lives has come the same miraculous Sai
power, but for each its manifestation is different, unique.
One afternoon my wife and I were sitting in a room in Madras talking
to a woman who had come down from the north of India and was on her
way to Prasanti Nilayam to attend the festival of Sivaratri. She has
known Sai Baba since the late 1940s, and is one of his truest,
purest and most sincere bhaktas, or devotees. She has not given me
permission to use her name, so I will call her Mrs. B. Among others
in the room that day was Dr. C.T.K. Chari, who is Professor of
Philosophy at Madras Christian College, a member of the London
Society for Psychical Research, and a well-known name in
parapsychology circles throughout the world. Mrs. B-- was persuaded
to tell us a number of her miraculous experiences with Sai Baba, and
I relate two or three of them here.
She said that in 1952 her son, Jawahar, who was then about five
years old, contracted some disease, with a high fever and delirium.
Her husband is a medical man but was absent at the time, and she
called in another doctor. At first he thought it was malaria and was
treating the child for that. But on the sixth day of high fever the
doctor decided that he had been wrong in his diagnosis. He now
thought it was typhoid; the next day he would do a blood test to
Mrs. B-- had then been a follower of Sai Baba for several years. She
had seen him perform miracles, but although she often prayed to him
as her Sadguru, she was still not sure of the extent of his powers,
and was inclined to "test" him. Now, very worried about her son's
health, she began to pray earnestly to Baba, asking his help.
After a while, noting that Jawahar looked somewhat better, she took
his temperature and found that it had dropped several degrees.
Moreover, he was no longer delirious. Was her prayer being answered
or was this just happening naturally? She longed to know - but could
she? Then feeling sure that Baba would help her in her doubts and
questions she thought of a way to test the matter. Mentally she
spoke to Baba: "If his temperature is exactly 98.4 degrees tomorrow
morning, I will believe that it is your work." Next morning she took
the temperature and found it exactly 98.4 degrees. When the doctor
came later in the morning, he declared that the boy was quite all
right and that there was no need to do the blood test he had
Mrs. B-- learned some time later that on the night when she was
praying fervently to him, Sai Baba was staying at the Venkatagiri
Palace. While sitting in a room there with a number of devotees, he
suddenly went into a trance. After a while he returned to his body
and told those present, among them the Kumaraja (Prince) of
Venkatagiri, that a devotee (naming Mrs. B--) had been in trouble,
her son being sick, and that he (Baba) had been to help her. "Now
Jawahar is all right again," Baba remarked.
The Kumaraja was curious to see this boy whom Baba had "flown off'
to help, and some weeks later when Mrs. B--, the boy Jawahar, and
the Prince were all visiting Puttaparti at the same time, Baba was
able to satisfy the latter's curiosity.
A couple of years later the same boy was the victim of an accident,
was badly cut about, and contracted septic fever at an awkward
period when Mrs. B--'s husband was again absent. It was difficult
for her to obtain the medicaments urgently needed. Her prayers to
Sai Baba seemed this time to work a miraculous charm over
circumstances, enabling her to obtain what was required, and the boy
soon recovered. Again she thought it might all be coincidence -
until she heard from her sister, Lilli, in the south.
Mrs. B--, who was still living hundreds of miles away to the north,
had not written to Lilli, or to anyone else, about the boy's
accident. Yet not long after it happened, when Lilli was in
Puttaparti she heard the story from the lips of Sai Baba himself. He
told her all the details of the accident, saying that he had been
there. His words to her suggested that it was Mrs. B--'s sincerity
and earnest prayers that forged the link and brought the timely
help. So although Mrs. B---'s mind used to doubt and question
things, at deeper levels her faith and devotion were very strong
When Mrs. B-- had finished telling her stories, Dr. Chari remarked
that he had heard her relate these supernormal events not long after
they occurred, and several times later to various people. He has
known her for many years. Her descriptions, he said, had not varied
in detail since the first telling, no additions, no embroidery,
which he, speaking as an experienced investigator of psychic
phenomena, declared to be remarkable.
"She's a first-class witness," he assured me.
"Have you, yourself, witnessed Baba materialise anything?" I asked
"Yes, I have - vibhuti, on several occasions," he replied, and added
"You're at liberty to use my name if it's of any value to you."
Whereupon an ironical gentleman in the company jested: "You'll be
thrown out of the S.P.R. for that."
Dr. D. K. Banerjee is a doctor of science and Professor of Organic
Chemistry at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. His wife
is the daughter of a professor of Physics. Both are Bengalis, and
both were brought up without any formal religion.
My wife and I called to see them one afternoon at their home in the
pleasant grounds of the Institute and found them quite willing to
talk about miraculous experiences with Sai Baba. In fact we talked
of little else for some four hours, while tea came and went, the sun
sank in the west, and darkness fell over the lawns and gardens.
Dr. Banerjee told me that he had been brought up on Vedanta
philosophy. This does not make a religion of science, but it does
take a scientific attitude towards religion. It certainly does not
predispose the mind towards such things as miracles or the idea of
divine incarnation. However the doctor admits that he did have one
spiritual hero. That was his uncle, Soham Swami, who became famous
as a holy man of mighty physical strength and used to wrestle with
wild tigers. Later as a young man Banerjee read some of his uncle's
spiritual books. Nevertheless, he was still very much of a Vedantist
and a cautious scientist when he first heard of Sai Baba.
In November 1961, mainly out of curiosity, he paid a visit to
Puttaparti. After all, when a scientist hears repeatedly of things
that appear to spurn the laws of physics and chemistry he should
make it his business to find out about them for himself. With Dr.
Banerjee on that first occasion went Professor Iyer of the same
department at the Institute, and an officer of the Indian Air Force
who, incidentally, was a champion parachute jumper.
The inexplicable experiences which the doctor had then and in many
subsequent contacts with Baba cover a number of different types of
miraculous phenomena, such as visions, healing, the production of
articles from an invisible dimension, and the conversion of one
object into another before the eyes of the beholder. In relating
some of his many experiences here I shall sort them out into groups,
although they were to some extent intermixed.
The first of Dr. Banerjee's strange visions was to do with Lord
Krishna. Although millions of Indians worship Krishna as a divine
incarnation, Banerjee had always thought of him as a voluptuary, a
playboy. In fact it was his custom to nickname any loose-living
libertine "Krishna of the Kali Yuga".
While sitting in the room with Baba on his first visit to the ashram
Banerjee saw Baba's face becoming transfigured into the face of Lord
Krishna. This happened three times; momentarily each time. He was
puzzled. But there was more to come.
Though the nephew of Soham Swami does not wrestle with tigers, he
believes in keeping physically fit. Every morning early he makes use
of the parklands around his house for exercising. At about five on
the morning after his return from Puttaparti, while he was limbering
up on the lawn, a vision of Krishna suddenly appeared before him.
Then the little dark-blue figure seemed to come towards Banerjee and
merge right into him. For some days the doctor felt that he was
"possessed" by the one he had always regarded as the prototype of
rakes. But it did not make him feel like a Mr. Hyde. In fact the
effect was quite the opposite. He seemed to gain complete and
absolute control of his senses and desires. It was the most
wonderful inner experience he had ever known. "It made me feel like
a king," he said.
In this elevated state he made another journey to the ashram to tell
Baba, and try to find out what was happening. Baba just smiled and
said nothing; then he placed one hand on Banerjee's head and the
other on the small of his back, holding them there a while. After
that the obsession vanished and the professor came back to normal.
But the experience made Banerjee realise how mistaken he had been
about the character and significance of Lord Krishna - the divine
cowboy, the great king and statesman, the "timeless charioteer" who
spoke the golden words of the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna, and to all
mankind. Baba had taught his new devotee an important lesson in the
understanding of God.
The second vision, also a transfiguration, is mixed with a
materialisation phenomenon. It took place at Brindavanam,
Whitefield, where Dr. Banerjee and family had gone to see Baba.
Suddenly, as the doctor sat in the room looking at the unique Sai
head, it changed into the head of Siva with the waters of the Ganges
falling onto Siva's matted hair. Again it was but a momentary
vision. After some time Baba produced a locket and, holding it in
his palm, showed it to Banerjee's son, asking: "What is that?" "It
looks like Siva;" the boy replied. Baba said nothing, but after a
moment held it up again and asked the same question. This time the
boy replied, "It looks like Shirdi Baba.'' The father felt annoyed
that his son apparently could not distinguish between the forms of
Siva and Shirdi Baba.
Satya Sai gave the locket to the boy, and when later Dr. Banerjee
examined it he observed that it had a picture of Shirdi Baba on one
side, and on the other the illustration of Siva with the matted hair
onto which the waters of the Ganges were falling - just like the
transfiguration he had just witnessed.
Materialisations began at Banerjee's first visit. Apart from the
vibhuti produced for all of the party, Baba took from the air for
Dr. Banerjee a gold medal. The professor showed this to my wife and
me when we visited him. On one side is Shirdi Baba with "Shree Sai
Baba'' written in Sanskrit, while on the other is an open hand
showing the palm and "Om" in Sanskrit blended with the inscription
"Abhayam" in Telegu and some Tamil script meaning, "When I am there,
what is the fear?"
However, for sceptics on the watch for sleight-of-hand tricks,
perhaps the most evidential phenomenon is one seen by Dr. Banerjee
soon after he met Sai Baba. At this stage he was himself still a bit
suspicious, not being quite sure whether the productions were
extremely clever stage magic or genuine miracles.
On this occasion, besides Banerjee, there were two women and three
children present. Baba stirred the air in the usual way, turned his
hand up, and opened it to show ash covering his palm like thin layer
of powder. Now before their watching eyes, keeping his palm steadily
upturned, he stroked a finger across the powdering of ash. As he did
so there appeared on his palm five large circular sweets - one for
each person present. The professor said that these confections were
made mainly from cheese, and belonged to a type of sweet not
well-known in India, being found only in certain parts of Bengal,
the Banerjees' own state.
Mrs. Banerjee, her husband says, is the "handyman" around the place.
Her practical capabilities range from driving in a nail to repairing
an internal combustion engine. She was brought up without any formal
religion and had never opened a book on spiritual subjects when she
met Sai Baba.
At her first interview Baba blessed her by placing his hand above
her head. Afterwards her husband saw a streak of vibhuti along the
line parting her hair. Strangely, within a few days he saw his wife
reading books containing Baba's discourses, and then later, other
spiritual literature as well.
Some time afterwards Baba remarked on this new interest in reading
and again blessed her. In doing so he placed his hand again above
her head, but a bit higher this time, and, those watching saw
vibhuti shower from his palm to cover the whole crown. Her interest
in spiritual writings strengthened, deepened, and like her husband
she has become a close devotee of Sai Baba.
Dr. Banerjee told me about three miracle cures of which he had had
personal acquaintance. The first, which concerned himself, was a
minor one but still amazing. In travelling by train to Penukonda en
route to Prasanti Nilayam, he had jammed his little finger in the
carriage window. It was black and swollen and very painful.
After arriving at the ashram, he was sitting with a crowd in front
of the prayer hall waiting for a sight of Baba. Presently the
heart-stirring figure appeared, walking in his accustomed way along
the narrow aisle between the sitting people. Banerjee was in a front
row, and when Baba reached this spot, he stopped. But instead of
looking at Banerjee, he turned his back and, leaning over, spoke to
someone in the opposite row. As he bent forward the back edge of his
robe stroked and covered the doctor's hands, resting in front of him
as he sat cross-legged on the ground. Then after a moment Baba moved
on without saying a word to Banerjee.
Shortly afterwards the doctor noticed that the throbbing pain in his
finger had practically subsided. Looking at it, he saw with
amazement that all the blackness and swelling had completely
vanished. The damaged finger was in fact now quite normal; healed by
the touch of the Master's robe.
Another cure concerns the champion parachute jumper who accompanied
Dr. Banerjee on his first visit to Prasanti Nilayam in 1961. This
Air Force officer was suffering from a long-standing "incurable"
disease, and for this reason, although married, was not able to have
Baba produced some vibhuti and gave it to the officer to take
internally, saying that he would be cured and would have a healthy
son. Whether it was through the vibhuti or the presence and will of
the great healer, or both combined, the impossible did happen. The
"incurable" disease was cured - and as Baba promised the champion
parachutist later had a son of sound health.
The third cure is equally "unscientific", yet the worthy scientist
of Bangalore tells about it, without turning a hair - in fact, with
obvious delight. The son of a friend, a wealthy manufacturer of
chemicals, was suffering from asthma. At least it seemed like asthma
to the family doctor.
But when Dr. Banerjee took the boy to Prasanti Nilayam into the
presence of Sai Baba, the latter remarked that it was not asthma at
all but a fault in bone structure that caused difficulty in
respiration. Then Baba waved the magic hand again and brought from
the Sai Stores, as he sometimes calls his mysterious source of
supply, a gold locket carrying the picture of Shirdi Sai. Baba said
that the boy must wear this as a talisman around his neck, and that
there would be no more respiration trouble. From that day, Banerjee
said, the boy had no more signs of the asthma. After a time the
locket began coming off its chain, and when Baba was told of this he
said that it had served its purpose and there was no longer any need
to wear it. It could now be kept in a box.
When a scientist has repeated experience, over a number of years, of
phenomena outside the laws and theories of modern science, what
should he do? Turn his back on it, making scornful, self-protective
noises, or admit that science has merely gathered a few pebbles and
shells beside the vast unexplored ocean of the unknown?
Dr. Banerjee has, along with some of the greatest of his scientific
brethren, taken the second course. He is now a devoted follower of
Sai Baba and loses no opportunity of travelling, often on his motor
scooter, over the hundred bumpy miles to Puttaparti or the twelve to
Whitefield if Baba is there.
In these places or his own home, which Baba sometimes visits for a
meal or a talk, the old Vedantist hears not infrequently, and not
without delight, from the lips of Sai Baba what he describes as "the
very gist of Vedantic philosophy".
Dr. Y.J. Rao, Head of the Geology Department, Osmania University,
Hyderabad, was an appropriate person to witness the transmutation of
solid rock to another substance - with a valuable spiritual lesson
thrown in for good measure.
One day at Puttaparti Baba picked up a rough piece of broken granite
and, handing it to Dr. Rao, asked him what it contained. The
geologist mentioned a few of the minerals in the rock.
Baba: "I don't mean those - something deeper."
Dr. Rao: "Well, molecules, atoms, electrons, protons."
Baba: "No, no - deeper still!"
Dr. Rao: "I don't know, Swami."
Baba took the lump of granite from the geologist, and holding it up
with his fingers, blew on it. It was never out of Dr. Rao's sight,
yet when Baba gave it back to him its shape had completely changed.
Instead of being an irregular chunk it was a statue of Lord Krishna
playing his flute. The geologist noted also a difference in colour
and a slight change in the structure of the substance.
Baba: "You see? Beyond your molecules and atoms, God is in the rock.
And God is sweetness and joy. Break off the foot and taste it."
Dr. Rao, found no difficulty in breaking off the "granite" foot of
the little statue. Putting it in his mouth as directed, he found
that it was sugar candy. The whole of the idol, created instantly
out of the piece of granite, was now made of candy.
From this Dr. Rao learned, he said, something beyond words and far
beyond modern science; in fact, beyond the limits of the rational
mind of men today. He is a great enough scientist and man to realise
that science gives but the first word: the last word is known only
to the great Spiritual Scientist.
The Rajah of Venkatagiri is a prince of the old school. He was
educated in England, mixed in international social circles, hunted
big game and played polo. He has a palace at Venkatagiri in his old
royal state and another in the city of Madras. He is a largely-built
man, with a princely demeanour, and the manners and speech of an
English gentleman. Yet in religious matters he has the reputation of
being a very orthodox Hindu, and his wife, the Rani, is still in
I have met the Rajah at several Sai Baba gatherings, and he has
called at our residence in Adyar to tell me of his strange and
wonderful Sai experiences. I believe his reason for doing this was
to orientate me correctly, as he saw it, towards the miracles.
Through the years he and members of his family have experienced many
of these. Here are some examples.
The Rajah's second son was one of a party of men driving by car from
Madras to Puttaparti on one occasion. Not far from Chittoor in
Andhra Pradesh they stopped to have a picnic by the roadside. After
they had eaten the main course, Baba asked what fruit they would
like for a dessert. They proved to be a very difficult party; one
asked for a mango, another for an apple, a third for an orange, and
the fourth for a juicy pear.
"You'll find them all on that tree over there," Baba said, pointing
to a wild tree growing nearby.
Full of excitement, because they had learned that anything was
possible with Baba, they went. Sure enough on one branch of that
wild tree hung the fruits they had named - a mango, an apple, an
orange and a pear. They plucked them and declared that the flavours
were of rare excellence.
Once at Puttaparti, before the hospital was established, a visitor
was suffering from acute appendicitis. There was no surgeon for many
miles. One of the Rajah's sons was among the dozen people present
when Baba waved his hand, materialised a surgical knife, and went
into the room where the patient was groaning.
No one was actually in the room to see Baba perform the operation,
but he showed them the removed appendix and the incision which had
already healed to a small scar. As usual he had used vibhuti and the
divine power it represents as both anaesthetic and instant healer of
the surgical wounds.
The Rajah has himself seen a good many of the divine miracles. One
that impressed him very much took place at Venkatagiri in 1950, not
long after he had met Sai Baba. It was one of the earliest visits of
the young twenty-four-year-old Swami to Venkatagiri.
A party of between twenty and thirty people left the palace in a
fleet of cars for a drive in the country. Baba, who had never been
in the area before, asked the Rajah to stop by any patch of sand
they might happen to see. A few miles further on, they came to a dry
sandy river-bed. Here they stopped, and all sat on the sand around
the young Swami. After talking for a while, he rolled his sleeve up
to his elbow and thrust his arm deep into the sand before him.
'Then," the Rajah told me, "we all heard a strange sawing sound - at
least that's what it seemed like. I asked Baba what the sound was,
and he replied enigmatically that the goods were being manufactured
Kailas, incidentally, is the abode of Siva, the God associated with
yoga, yogic powers and divine grace bestowed on mortals. Many of the
Sai disciples believe that Baba is himself an incarnation of the
Siva-Shakti aspect of divinity.
As the young God-man withdrew his arm from the sand there was a
great flash of blue light that spread to a circle of some ten feet
in radius. Then they all saw that Baba was holding in his hand
something about eight inches in height and made of pure white
spatika. It proved to be a statue of Rama, one of the avatars,
together with his consort, Sita. After everyone had seen this "gift
from Kailas", Baba handed it to the veiled Rani of Venkatagiri,
telling her to wrap it in silk and leave it thus covered until the
When it was unwrapped the day after, the white stone had turned
blue. The little statue now stands in the Rajah's shrine-room -
still the colour, he says, of the blue light that flashed forth at
the moment it was drawn from the sands.
The Rajah, like so many other Indians, has seen miraculous phenomena
produced here and there by ceremonial magic, by the tantric and
other occult arts.
"But," he said emphatically, "the Sai Baba miracles are on an
entirely different level, and the word 'miracle' is really
inadequate. It could be misleading to some people."'
"What other word can one use?" I asked.
"I don't know. But you must at least call them 'divine miracles',"
Like other close devotees, the Rajah and his family regard Sai Baba
as an avatar of divinity.
Dr. A. Ranga Rao, M.B.B.S., M.S. (O.P.H.) (U.S.A.), F.I.C.S., is one
of the leading eye surgeons of Madras. For some years at an early
stage in his career he was serving the community at Bhimavaram as a
general medical Practitioner and was haunted by the dream of
becoming some day a surgeon of renown.
He believes that the fulfilment of this dream had its beginnings on
a day when he went to attend an old man who was a devotee of Shirdi
Sai Baba, one who had seen Shirdi Sai in flesh and blood and had
built a temple to him. The doctor was so affected by the saintliness
and devotion of that old man that he himself began to pray to Lord
Shirdi Sai, and became his devotee.
From that day Sai remained in his heart. "As the years rolled by,"
he said, "Sai got more and more deep-rooted in me. I walked through
life with a smiling face. In 1954 I was asked to join the University
of Iowa, U.S.A., for higher studies ... By his grace I qualified for
the degrees, and returned an A class surgeon. I began practising as
an eye surgeon at Bhimavaram itself."
One day a woman came to his clinic complaining of dimness of vision.
She was suffering from cataract, with the complicating factors of
rheumatism and iritis. The surgeon told her and her relatives that
she was not a fit case for operation. Then she said: "I am a devotee
of Satya Sai Baba of Puttaparti. He directed me to come to
Bhimavaram, saying, 'At Bhimavaram there is an eye surgeon who has
been my devotee for many years. Go to him and tell him that I want
him to operate on you. He will do it, and you will have your sight
restored'." Baba had gone on to tell her exactly who this devotee
was, showing, in this telling that he knew details of Dr. Ranga
The doctor was perplexed and amazed. The woman told him that Satya
Sai was a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai and, because of Baba's words
to her, Ranga Rao felt faith in the truth of this statement. He
performed the operation against his professional judgement. It was
successful and the lady regained her sight immediately.
The surgeon wanted to go at once to Puttaparti, see the deity in
real human form and prostrate before him. Some months later he had
the opportunity to move to Madras and begin practice as an eye
surgeon there. Within a few days of taking up residence he heard
that Satya Sai Baba was visiting the city and staying at 3, Surya
Rao Road (the Venkatamuni house). He drove there, but felt desperate
when he saw the huge crowd. Then a young man unknown to him (it was
Ishwara, the eldest son of the house) accosted him: "Are you Dr.
Ranga Rao? Baba wants you to come in, with your family. He is on the
With beating heart the doctor climbed the stairs and immediately
fell at Baba's feet. The little saffron-robed figure patted him on
the back and lifted him up.
"Doctor," Baba said, "I have been with you and you have been with me
for ages. It was I who brought you to Madras. I am with you always.
You do not have to worry any more ..." It was, the doctor said, a
"soul-touching experience" that made him happy beyond words.
From then on the surgeon had, within his clinic, many rare
experiences. It sometimes seemed as if his hand was being guided
when he was performing difficult operations. If the patient was a
devotee whom Baba had sent, he (the patient) would sometimes see
Baba himself there. One said as Ranga Rao was operating, "Baba! You
have come. I see your face. Your fingers are moving. You are doing
the operation yourself."
At the same time the surgeon felt a peculiar phenomenon, as if other
fingers were moving within his, doing all the work. "It was over in
a few minutes ... it was a miracle. My ego fled," the doctor said,
"I knelt down to the doer of all things. I sobbed at heart, for I
could not see the Lord's face and garments as clearly as my patient
was able to."
But later Dr. Ranga Rao was able to see as well as feel the presence
of the surgeon of surgeons. Let him tell it in his own words.
"Baba directed another patient, Chaganlal of Santi Kuteer,
Royapuram, to me for cataract operation. He had fixed the time too
-10.30 a.m. This very patient had been refused operation by many
surgeons, including myself. He was a very complicated case. His
blood pressure was as high as 200; his heart was very dilated; he
was a heavy diabetic; his liver was cirrhotic; he had hernia on both
sides; so that any eye surgeon worth his salt would close his clinic
and take a holiday if asked to operate on this patient. But ... he
was admitted. Preparations were being made in the theatre. I was in
my office, nervous, moody, fearful of the loss of the patient and my
"Suddenly I felt Baba catching my hand and asking me to come up with
him to the operating room. I followed him, seeing clearly his
saffron robe gliding softly up the stairs before me. I washed and
scrubbed my hands in the routine way; put on gown and gloves. The
patient was on the table.
"But his blood pressure went up. His heart was throbbing. He was
feeling suffocated. It appeared as though he would die on the table
itself. Such fear had never before overpowered me. I felt helpless,
I yelled, 'Sai Ram, Sai Ram!' [This is a mantram used by many Sai
devotees.] My assistants too joined the chorus - 'Sai Ram, Sai Ram!'
The patient also repeated 'Sai Ram, Sai Ram!'
"To the astonishment of every one in the theatre, and to my own
surprise, the white apron I wore became saffron in colour. My gloved
fingers were no longer mine. Sai, the mighty surgeon, had manifested
in me, and he was performing the operation. In a few seconds it was
over, the finishing touches were given by the Master's hand and he
left. The surgeon's gown was white again. It was exactly at this
time that Baba informed the devotees around him at Prasanti Nilayam:
'Chaganlal's operation is over!"'
16 A Word from the
When at thy love a lamp we
light, Our barn of being is ablaze,
And of that inward glow so bright, A wisp of smoke to heaven we
Iraqi, a Persian Mystic Poet.
Pilgrims of the
spiritual search from all parts of the globe have found their way to
the "Abode of Great Peace" hidden in the wild hills. Some have just
managed to pay a flying visit: Baba has filled them with wonder and
joy, and almost always found the way into the deep recesses of their
hearts. Others have been able to remain months with the man of power
and love, and so have gone through a "deep-sea change"; their lives
are never quite the same again.
As the years pass what was at first a trickle from the far-off
places is increasing to a steady stream. That stream is being fed
from America (with emphasis on California), Australia, Europe,
Africa, the Far East and South-east Asia. People as a rule do not
come so far merely out of idle curiosity. They come with big
personal problems, or seeking the path to enlightenment. They come
with hope and at least a little faith, or they would not be there at
Who can describe his inner glow when his personal lamp has been lit
at the flame of Baba's love? For as the old Persian poet says, when
a man's "barn of being is ablaze" all he can give out are a few
smoke signals. These, rising heavenward, tell a little - but only a
little - of the story. They represent the limits of verbal
communication. And so the "wisps of smoke", the stories, the
experiences told, usually deal with the outer miracles, and scarcely
touch the great, glowing, inward miracle.
But it is interesting to know a little of the reactions of those
westerners who have been brought up within narrower spiritual
horizons than those of Hinduism, and of Sai Baba in particular. Here
I can mention only a few whom I know personally, and who have spent
a fair length of time with Sai Baba.
Earlier in the book I spoke of Miss Gabriela Steyer who was living
at the ashram when I first met Swami. She stayed there for many
months and when I visited Prasanti Nilayam the first time she told
me about many wonderful miracles she had personally witnessed. She
had had a very rich experience of these outward signs of power and
grace. But, as always, the most important factor was Baba's love;
this was the magnet that held her to the discomforts and austerities
of ashram life month after month. Gabriela finally had to tear
herself away and return to her own country and profession. But I
doubt if her life could ever be the same again after it had once
been kindled by the Great Flame. There were many outer signs of the
Two others we met in our early Sai days who have since become our
close friends are Bob and Markell Raymer of Pacific Palisades,
California. Bob, an aircraft pilot, was the red-haired American who
kindly went in search of Baba for me on my first visit.
Before coming to rest at Prasanti Nilayam this couple had, like us,
conducted their own "search in secret India", visiting many ashrams
and meeting some great yogis. They had gained some spiritual
nourishment here and there, but it seems that they have now found
their Sadguru and the true glory. Of their inner experiences I
cannot speak here, though in confidence I have been told of some.
Their outer experiences include a good range of phenomena of the
type described in these pages. They have often watched the magic
hand stir the air or dig into the sand to produce some charming
personal gift, or some confection for the enjoyment of all in the
magic circle. And they have seen the same hand transmute one
substance to another. Once Baba idly rolled in his fingers a scrap
of paper while Bob sat near him as one of a group. Unexpectedly he
told Bob to open his mouth, and popped the roll of paper into it.
But there was no taste of paper; the roll had changed to a delicious
piece of candy.
Like many westerners, the Raymers have learned that Baba's miracles
are genuine, varied, of daily occurrence, and yet always unexpected.
They have come to accept them as part of his divine nature.
Soon after our initial meeting the Raymers returned to America, but
since then they have flown back on a number of visits to Baba, and
they went with him from India on a tour in East Africa in 1968. Just
before that I saw them at the Satya Sai World Conference in Bombay,
following which they, with my wife and myself, travelled for a while
with Swami. It was during this pleasant period that I had the
opportunity of learning what sincere Sai devotees, and serious
sadhaks (searchers on the spiritual path) they really are.
But among the non-Indian followers of Sai Baba one of the best-known
names is Madame Indra Devi, the internationally famous yoga teacher
and authoress of several books on yoga.
Once when she was on a visit to the Theosophical Society
Headquarters at Adyar, my wife and I told her some of our
experiences with Baba. This was apparently the first time she had
heard his name but she at once sensed intuitively his great
importance. Immediately she seemed to have no doubt whatever that
this was one man in India she must see at no matter what cost in
time and trouble. She was scheduled to fly to Saigon for a lecture
engagement, and had originally intended returning to her Yoga
Foundation in southern California directly from Vietnam. But now she
changed her mind and came back to India in order to meet Sai Baba.
After a mountain of difficulties, because Baba was touring and his
movements were uncertain, she finally made the contact at Prasanti
Nilayam, reaching there in the hammering heat of an Indian summer.
She seems to have recognised his great spiritual stature from that
first meeting, and straight away became a fervent and very active
At that time she was just starting on her mission to teach and
encourage meditation throughout the world. Baba gave his blessings
to this work - her mission of "Light in darkness". Since then Indra
Devi has made the long journey from California to India several
times a year to spend a period with Baba at Prasanti Nilayam and
other places. I will leave her, as a writer herself, to tell
whatever she wishes of her own spiritual and miraculous experiences.
But of the various materialisations Baba has performed for her, and
which she has described to me, there are two I would like to record
here, for their interest as well as their evidential value, coming
from a witness of world renown.
One is this: in front of Indra Devi and a party of American
visitors, Baba "took" for her, from his "land of nowhere", a long,
bulky jappamala - a string of 108 large pearls. She was wearing it
when a little later I saw her at Adyar in company with one of the
Americans who had witnessed its production.
A good many people have seen Baba change one object to another or
one substance to another openly, without shield or covering before
their gaze. I myself saw this, for instance, when at Horsley Hills
he turned a piece of hard rock into sugar candy. The second incident
in connection with Indra Devi's experience concerns a dramatic
example of this type of transmutation through Sankalpa, or divine
will. It also involves some mind-reading.
One day Baba materialised for her an ornate ring, set with a large
spray of colourful stones. Indra Devi told me that she has no liking
for jewellery, particularly the striking, decorative type worn so
well by dark-skinned Indian women. She herself is a Russian-born
American citizen whose name, Indra Devi, derives from an association
with India earlier in her life. She has a very-pale skin.
Anyway she was not happy about the ring. It was a gift from Baba and
she felt she should wear it for that reason, but it did not suit her
and she did not like it. The dilemma worried her a good deal for a
day and a night, she said. Then she found herself invited to another
group interview, and wearing Baba's disturbing gift on her finger
she waited with several other people for his arrival.
Soon after he entered the room he asked her to hand him the ring,
making a remark from which she was sure he was fully aware of her
dilemma. Then holding the ring between his thumb and forefinger with
the display of stones uppermost, and in full view, he blew several
times on the stones as if blowing out a match. Suddenly, as all
watched the spray of brightly coloured stones merged into a single,
sparkling diamond. Baba handed the ring with its solitaire diamond
back to her. It was now something which she could wear happily and
Here is the story, in condensed form, of how one man of the western
world came to Sai Baba and of how it affected his life.
Mr. Alf Tidemand-Johannessen of Oslo, Norway, arrived in India with
nothing but the proverbial typewriter and his own ability, grit,
energy and ambition to make a fortune. Within twelve years, that is,
by 1962, he had built up one of the largest ship agency companies in
India, handling more ships each year than any other individual
company. His was India's pioneer company in grain discharging. It
handled more than half of the grain ships bringing enormous
quantities of food to India to avoid large-scale starvation there.
His big success did not pass unnoticed. Into certain minds entered
jealousy, envy, and schemes for getting control of his business.
Certain key men on his executive staff were soon actively engaged
behind the scenes in misusing their powers to divert the company's
assets into their own pockets.
"When I found out that malpractices were taking place," Alf Tidemand
told me, "I knew that I would have to face a furious battle with a
ruthless enemy. As soon as I took steps to seal the leakages, the
executives concerned terminated their services and started a
competing company. Their aim was to take away all my business."
As part of their scheme his enemies sent anonymous letters to Income
Tax, Reserve Bank and Customs authorities indicating that the
Tidemand Company was abusing the laws and regulations of the
country. Apparently it is customary for such authorities to take
action on anonymous letters: they soon discovered who the senders
were, and then months of investigations followed during which Alf
had to provide documents covering all the past years to prove that
the allegations against him were false.
Naturally his business clients were disturbed at the sudden exodus
of his key staff and the rumours that were floating around. To add
fuel to the fire his scheming enemies sent letters to all his
clients informing them that his company was in trouble with the
Government. All this put tremendous restrictions on his business
operations, and things looked very black indeed.
Nevertheless, because of his past integrity, Alf's clients did not
immediately desert him, and the new competing company established by
his defecting executives was not doing well. So then they made their
next move, a move that is apparently not uncommon in the concrete
jungles of modern India. They engaged a black magician to work
Alf said: "I could handle the other assaults, but was not prepared
for this attack from occult black science; nor did I at the time
have the slightest idea that such methods were being used. Even if I
had known, I would have laughed at it as pure superstition."
But Alf's lawyer in Bombay, who was working on the company's
problems, soon caught a whiff of the black magic. He had known
similar cases before. Being a good friend and knowing Tidemand's
innocence and integrity, the lawyer took him along to a Parsi priest
who lived in an old temple in Bombay. The priest, who was
clairvoyant and had other powers, confirmed that strong dark forces
were being used against Alf Tidemand. The latter kept in regular
touch with the old Parsi priest and, he says, "By many strange
methods he began piloting me and my business through the troubled
waters stirred up by the black magician."
The magician, himself, now came out of hiding. Discovering that
counter forces were being played successfully against him, he
decided to strike directly and boldly. He turned up at Alf's office
and by various methods, well-known to students of sorcery, tried to
gain dominion over his intended victim. But Tidemand had been warned
of this possibility by the Parsi priest, and immediately suspected
the evil-eyed old Indian who, by clever ruses, had gained admittance
to his private office.
Alf managed to avoid the initial traps, and then manoeuvred the
sorcerer into his car, planning to take him along to the old Parsi
priest. On the way, perhaps recognising Tidemand's strength and also
his liberality, he decided to change masters. He admitted
involuntarily that he had been employed by Alf's enemies to destroy
him, his family and Company. But he had changed his mind, the
magician said, and would work for Tidemand if the latter paid him
reasonably well. He would see to it that all Alf's enemies were
"Black magicians are very powerful," he announced, and added
meaningly, "they can even kill a child in its mother's womb." Alf
had just received that very morning a cable from Norway informing
him that his wife had lost her child in its seventh month. This must
be more than coincidence, he thought.
At the temple the Parsi priest immediately recognised the sorcerer
for what he was and chased him away, threatening to report him to
the police. He warned Alf to have nothing whatever to do with this
man of unclean powers.
Soon after that Alf Tidemand was taken by a business friend, his
Taxation expert, to Shirdi. There he had "the feeling that God had
opened a door to let me feel his greatness for a blessed moment,
during which the great weight fell from my shoulders and my troubles
evaporated". He learned that the old Parsi priest who was helping
him was a devotee of Shirdi Sai Baba, and he began to understand
that it was really the Sai power that was guiding him through the
reefs and shoals of strange, difficult waters.
Soon the black magician gave up the unequal struggle; the Government
authorities decided that the accusations were false and baseless and
all the intrigues of Alf's underhand enemies fell to the ground. The
difficulties that had threatened to destroy him were completely
overcome, and the troubled year came to an end.
Early in 1963 the Tidemand Company was getting back on its feet and
beginning to prosper again. Though the struggle had taken a toll of
Alf's strength, it had also shown him a light. This light, and a
power that brought peace and refreshment to his mind and spirit,
were at the village of Shirdi over which the spirit of old Sai Baba
seemed to brood. It was only a few hours car journey from Bombay and
Alf paid regular visits there during the next three years.
On February 26th, 1966 he was at Shirdi with the friend who first
took him there, and the Parsi priest, whom he now addressed as
"father". In front of the temple a short man in a blue shirt walked
up to Alf and asked, "Have you ever met Sri Satya Sai Baba?" Alf
replied that he had not, and the man went on: "You must see him. He
is coming to Bombay on the 14th of March. If there is any God on
this earth, he is God." Then he gave vibhuti from a silver container
to each of the party, and to Alf he gave a small locket with a
picture of Satya Sai in a blue shirt.
"Don't forget to see him in Bombay on the 14th of next month" he
repeated, and went away. Later as they were about to leave Shirdi,
they again saw the man - by the side of the road. He greeted them,
and repeated again the advice to Alf, that he should see Satya Sai
on March 14th.
The Norwegian was at this period in the middle of another deep
problem. Because of his wife's bad health she could not live in
India and really needed him with her and the children in Norway. He
felt that he must somehow sell his business and return there. But
how could he find a good buyer?'
He had built the business on his own personal integrity and
efficiency. He knew that it depended very much on the goodwill felt
towards him personally in the shipping world. Potential buyers would
think that with Tidemand himself gone, the business might not be
worth much. He had faced many mountainous obstacles in his life, and
this was one of the biggest.
He had learned that the Sai power was very great. If in fact Satya
Sai was a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai, and was a divine avatar as
people said, he could solve this or any other problem. Alf decided
that he must have an interview with this man if he should come to
Bombay as predicted by the character in the blue shirt. But deciding
such a thing and achieving it are two different things. Most people
have to work hard and overcome obstacles to reach Sai Baba. Some
have to go through the labours of Hercules; Alf was one of these.
Certainly Satya Sai was in Bombay by March 14th, just as blue-shirt
had foretold. Day after day for many hours the Norwegian sat
cross-legged in the broiling sun with the big crowds outside the
place where Baba was staying; first the Gwalior Palace and then the
house of Mr. Savant, the Food Minister of the Maharashtra
Government. Or he sat with even bigger crowds in the Stadium
listening to Baba lecture in Telegu, with a translation into Hindi
by Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao. Alf understood neither of these
During this time he saw the little figure of Satya, with his shining
robe and black dome of hair, walking among the people signing
photos, blessing objects presented for his touch, producing vibhuti
here and there. The big blond Norwegian was favoured with a nod, a
friendly smile, a greeting now and again, but there were no signs of
the longed-for interview.
Being one of the very few Europeans in the crowds, Alf was becoming
well-known among the Sai following. He was invited to homes of
devotees and heard wonderful stories about Baba's love, grace and
miraculous powers. This was all very inspiring, but it did not solve
his problem. After four days of trying and getting nowhere, he
almost decided to give up.
It was then that a strange man with a curved nose and black beard
said to him: "Would you like to meet Sai Baba?" The stranger said
that he could arrange an appointment, and Alf decided to take a
sporting chance with him.
There was still much to go through. Under the direction of this
bearded stranger Alf had to buy grass for a cow, give something to
beggars, visit a temple and touch the floor with his forehead before
an image there, buy garlands of flowers and kan-kans (circlets) of
Mogra flowers. Perhaps all this ritual helped, or maybe the stranger
knew the right people near to Baba. Anyway, on the morning of March
18th Alf went for his first appointment. Stepping out of the car in
front of Mr. Savant's house, he took off his shoes, and with a
garland kan-kans in his hand, began to climb the steps. Suddenly he
looked up and there stood Baba as if waiting for him.
"I am so happy to see you," Baba said with simple friendliness.
Usually Swami will not let people place garlands on him, he merely
places it aside. But now before the ministers and V.I.P.s who had
gathered in the entrance, he permitted the tall Norwegian to garland
"Please come up," he said, patting Alf on the back. The latter soon
found himself on the first floor of the huge house occupied by the
Food Minister. There, sitting on the carpet with about twenty
people, he heard Swami give a discourse - again in Telegu with Hindi
translation. But every so often during his talk, Baba paused to
perform a materialisation miracle.
In one pause he materialised vibhuti, in another a small locket with
a picture of Shirdi Baba. These were for Alf, who writes that "they
were taken right out of the air in front of the ministers, who all
consider this to be a normal procedure for him". Then the Master
went on teaching, mainly in parables, which were later translated
into English for Tidemand. Came another pause in which he
autographed a photo for one of the women and materialised for her a
locket of Vishnu. Then he got up and put a vibhuti mark on
everyone's forehead. During the talk he had been playing with Alf's
kan-kans. Now he gave the big Norwegian another friendly pat and a
few encouraging words before leaving the room.
Although Alf had at last gained regular access to the house where
Swami was staying, the long-awaited private interview and the
solution to his big problem still seemed difficult to obtain. But
other things happened. Urged on by the man with the curved nose, who
also seemed to Alf to have a precognitive nose for Baba's movements,
he even had the temerity to invite the great Master to his top-floor
apartment. The latter graciously accepted and came with a small
group of close devotees on March 24th, ten long days after Alf had
first sighted him at the Gwalior Palace.
Elaborate arrangements had been made under the direction and
supervision of that curved, precognitive nose. These included lavish
floral decorations, a children's band, a young woman (she was
supposed to be, and probably was, a virgin) to blow a conch shell
and wash Baba's feet on his arrival. She blew the shell
successfully, but Swami would not permit the feet-washing ritual. He
was more interested in some sick people who had been brought than
the display and splendour of decorations. But he listened to the
children's music with pleasure and "took" vibhuti for each and a
nine-stoned ring for the leader out of the fresh sea-breeze stirring
the flowers in the roof garden. Most important of all he invited Alf
to come to him for a private interview on the following morning.
During this hard-earned climactic interview, Alf Tidemand
discovered, as many have done before and since, that Sai Baba
already knew his problems and his past.
"I have been thinking about selling my business," Alf said.
"I have been thinking about the same thing," Swami answered.
Then the Norwegian began to explain the difficulties.
"Do not worry," Swami told him. "I will help you find a reliable
buyer and obtain a good price." He went on to say that it was now
right for Alf to get away from life in the Bombay business circles
with all it entailed, and settle down in Norway with his family. In
this way his wife's health would improve. Perhaps to infuse more
confidence and dispel any doubts in the mind of the worried shipping
man, Baba said, "Do you remember the black magician? I helped you
In his notes on this interview, the turning point of his life, Alf
writes: "He gave me convincing evidence of his divine powers and I
was made to understand the purpose of my life. I knew that all the
prayers I had made to God during my lifetime, and all the help I had
got as a result of those prayers, were known to Baba. I knew too
that though there had been many obstacles in the final stage of
reaching him - many tests to my faith and courage - he had really
called me to him through strange and miraculous ways. The man in the
blue shirt at Shirdi, for instance, who was he? I had found on
enquiry that none of Sai Baba's closest devotees, not even Mr. N.
Kasturi, knew that Baba would be coming to Bombay on March 14th.
"Swami seemed to know too that I had long been searching for a
living spiritual teacher, and at this first interview he said: 'You
need not look for a guru any more. From now on I will guide you.' At
the end Baba materialised for me a locket with his picture, some
sweets to eat and some vibhuti.
"The next day the manager of the Bombay branch of one of the largest
companies in India phoned me to say he had heard I might be
interested to sell my company. He would like to talk to me about
"During the negotiations that followed I was in regular touch with
Swami, seeing him often. And in my early morning meditations, which
Swami had told me to observe with regularity, I received amazing
inspiration for solving the complex problems in connection with the
proposed selling contract, for which there was no sample precedent
of any kind available. After some months of difficult negotiations,
helped by the ever-present guiding hand of Baba, a very favourable
contract materialised for the sale of my shipping agency business in
Alf Tidemand returned to his wife and family in Oslo. His early
dream had come true; he had made his fortune. But something much
more important had happened to him in India. He had found his
Sadguru his spiritual guide and mentor, who brought meaning to the
chaos and emptiness of life lived only at the material level.
Talking to him recently, learning something of his eventful and
sometimes heroic saga, I came to the conclusion that my friend Alf
Tideman-Johannessen will always have hard problems to solve because
he is of the type whose spiritual muscles grow through solving such
problems. He is essentially a man of action. But in the future his
karma will, I feel, be nishkama karma - action without greed for the
fruits of action. It will be action that in some way in keeping with
his own dharma will help to spread the glory of God and his message
of light for this age. All this through the grace of Sai Baba.
I might have to speak of
laws and forces not recognised by reason or physical Science. - Sri
A man who had quite a
distinguished career in public life was the late Dr. B. Ramakrishna
Rao, who died in September 1967. The obituary notices in the press
at the time stated that he had held several important positions in
public affairs and administration. He was, for instance, during the
early 1950s Chief Minister of the old Hyderabad State, and as such
helped create the modern State of Andhra Pradesh in 1956. In later
years he held office as Governor of two different Indian States,
Kerala and Uttar Pradesh. The newspapers, however, did, not mention
what to Dr. Ramakrishna Rao himself was by far the most important
factor in his life, his discipleship of Sai Baba.
The little doctor, as we often called him because of his diminutive
stature, was a first-class linguist and often acted as interpreter
for Sai Baba. It was in this capacity that I first met him in Mr. G.
Venkataswara Rao's house in Madras. On that occasion he, Mr. Alf
Tidemand-Johannessen, my wife and I were sitting on the carpet with
Baba while the last was giving some advice to the Norwegian, who was
shortly leaving India. The little doctor was acting as interpreter
That was in my early acquaintance with Baba, who knew telepathically
that I still half-doubted the genuineness of his miraculous
productions. In his gracious understanding way he seemed to make use
of this opportunity - as of many others - to help remove some of my
It was a hot night and he wore half-sleeves go that his forearm from
the elbow was bare. My knee as we sat cross-legged on the floor was
practically touching his, and for much of the time he let his right
hand rest on my knee instead of his own. I could thus see beyond all
question that his hand was empty as it lay loosely, palm exposed,
below my eyes -- and it was from this position that the hand went
out to wave before our noses like a magic wand and produce from the
air a number of things, including the usual vibhuti for all of us,
and a large nine-stone ring for Alf Tidemand-Johannessen.
I developed an admiration and affection for the little Ghandi-capped
doctor who, while distinguished and cultured, had true humility.
Fortunately I was able to have a good talk with him about a month
before he died when we were neighbours in the ashram guesthouse.
That was in August 1967, and Dr. Ramakrishna Rao was present in
Prasanti Nilayam at the time for its official inauguration as a
township. I had heard a good many bits and scraps of stories
concerning his miraculous experiences with Sai Baba, and I took this
opportunity to get the facts from his own lips. He knew, of course,
that I wanted the information for publication and he had no
objections to that, or to the use of his name, so very well-known in
India if not perhaps abroad.
Here is one remarkable story that he told me. In 1961, when he was
Governor of Uttar Pradesh, he and his wife were travelling by fast
train from Bareilly to Nainital in the Himalayas. They were the only
occupants of their first-class carriage and the train had no
corridor by which anyone could enter or leave their compartment.
At about 11 p.m. the Governor noticed some sparks coming from the
electric fan. These rapidly increased in volume until he and his
wife grew quite alarmed, thinking the compartment would catch fire
any minute. He looked for a cord or bell by which he could sound the
alarm and stop the train, but could find none. It began to look as
if the Governor and his lady might be burned to death before anyone
learned of their plight. There was nothing they could do but pray -
which they did, wholeheartedly.
Then there was a knock on one of the outer doors. Very surprising
this was, because the doors simply led to the open air through which
the train was roaring at a good speed. The doctor walked over and
opened the door. In from the dark night stepped a man dressed in the
khaki uniform of an electric wireman. Without a word this man went
to work on the faulty fan from which the sparks were now flying
"like chaff from a threshing floor''.
About a quarter of an hour later the electrician said to them:
"There's no danger now. You can go to bed and sleep." With this he
sat down on the floor near the door.
The Governor's wife lay down on her bed and closed her eyes. But she
kept half opening them to watch the man by the door because, as she
told her husband later, she thought that anyone who risked his life
to walk along the running board of a fast-moving train was probably
a burglar who, when they were both asleep, would rob them. The
Governor himself, with no such suspicions, was deeply engrossed in a
Suddenly he was startled to feel the touch of the workman's hand and
hear his voice asking quietly if the doctor would mind closing the
carriage door after him, because he was now leaving. The little
doctor was astonished that the electrician did not wait until the
next station before leaving, but before he could say anything the
khaki-clad figure had opened the door, and the night air was
whistling in to the carriage. Dr. Ramakrishna Rao jumped up, and
stepped to the open doorway in time to see the man stand a moment on
the running board, then vanish into the darkness.
It was all rather mystifying. How in the first place did he know
that the fan was giving trouble? How did he get to the carriage and
why did he choose to leave and make his way along the running board
of this swaying, fast-moving express when he could have easily
waited until the next stop? He either liked living dangerously or he
was simply crazy, but in either case he must also be clairvoyant to
know about the fault in the electric fan. With a mental shrug the
little doctor lay down to sleep.
About a month after this incident the Governor was again travelling,
this time by the aeroplane that was kept for his official use. With
him on this occasion, besides his wife and the pilot, were his
A.D.C, his personal assistant, and the pilot's wife. They were
flying from Kawnpur to Benares.
Above Benares the Governor noticed that they seemed to be circling a
very long time over the airfield before landing. He asked if there
was anything amiss and was informed that the under-carriage was
stuck; the wheels would not come down. Furthermore, they were now
almost out of petrol. With Dr. Ramakrishna Rao's agreement, the
pilot decided to attempt a crash-landing on the grass of the
airfield. He signalled the ground to this effect. The fire-engines
were brought out, and everything made ready for the attempt. All
knew, of course, that it was a highly dangerous operation, and both
the little doctor and his wife sent fervent prayers to their
Gurudev, Sai Baba, for his much-needed protection.
Perhaps the A.D.C. was praying too, for he also was a devotee of Sai
Baba. Like the doctor he wore on his hand a talisman, a ring that
had been materialised by Baba. The pilot knew this and, as a last
resort before trying a crash-landing, asked the A.D.C. to try his
hand at working the lever for releasing the jammed undercarriage.
The A.D.C. placed his hand on the lever and pressed as directed. The
undercarriage came down without any difficulty. They were able to
make a normal landing.
The next day Mrs. Ramakrishna Rao, knowing that Baba was at
Bangalore in the south, phoned him from Benares in order to thank
him for his grace and protection, which, she believed, had saved
them from their perilous predicament in the plane. She found, not at
all to her surprise, that he knew all about the event, and mentioned
Then he remarked: "But you have said nothing about the train
"What train incident, Swami?" she asked, for it had slipped from her
"Why, when the fan was almost on fire and you thought I was a
thief," Baba laughed.
Dr. Ramakrishna Rao was sure the train story could not have reached
Baba in the ordinary way because neither he nor his wife had talked
to anyone about it. They had refrained from mentioning it on the
following morning, not wanting to upset any of their staff; then the
incident had faded into the background of their busy lives.
Nothing superhuman that Sai Baba did could ever surprise the little
doctor; he had through the years seen and experienced so much. For
example, when he was Governor of Kerala, and was entertaining Baba
and some devotees at the Guesthouse in Trivandrum in 1962, his wife
had arranged a dinner party one evening for sixty people. But when
Baba is around, crowds have a habit of multiplying their size, and
about a hundred and fifty people turned up. It was impossible to
obtain extra food at the time; Mrs. Ramakrishna Rao became very
worried, and asked Baba what she should do about it.
"Feed them all," Baba told her, "There will be enough. - don't
So the extra places were set and the whole crowd sat down. Baba
moved among the guests and servers, blessing the food, seeing that
all were happy and turning the meal, as always, into a banquet. No
one went short because of the extra ninety mouths to be fed. Somehow
Baba increased the food, and there was enough for all.
I knew that it was on this visit to the south that one of the
dramatic miracles described in N. Kasturi's book took place. A
number of Baba's disciples were walking with him on the sands of
Kanyakumari where three seas meet and play around the southernmost
tip of India. Suddenly a kingly wave swept high up the beach around
Baba's feet, and on receding it left about his ankles a magnificent
necklace, 108 fine pearls on a thread of gold.
I have spoken to a number of men, including Dr. Sittaramiah, who
were present and witnessed the arrival of this treasure from the
deep, and I asked Dr. Ramakrishna Rao if he had been there as well.
He replied that, unfortunately, official duties had taken him
elsewhere that day. In fact he was meeting Dr. S. Radhakrishnan who
had just been appointed President of India. But, he said, a number
of his friends and acquaintances including the Chief of Security
Police were with Baba on the beach and saw it happen. They described
the event to him on the following day and he was shown the pearl
necklace. Baba later gave this to an old devotee whom the doctor
It was while he was still Governor of Uttar Pradesh that Dr. B.
Ramakrishna Rao saw the miraculous events that moved him most
In the summer of 1961 Sai Baba with a party of devotees was touring
in the north, and decided to visit the famous temple at Badrinath
high in the Himalayas. Dr. Ramakrishna joined the party at Hardwar
on the Ganges for the 182-mile mountain trek to Badrinath. The
devotees say that the object of Sai Baba's journey was not only to
take them to this holy place, but to reinfuse it with spiritual
efficacy. It was established some twelve hundred years ago by Adi
Sankara, one of the foremost spiritual leaders of all time. He it
was who brought the Upanishads into the light of day from where they
had been collecting dust for centuries in caves and monasteries. At
Joshimath he wrote his celebrated commentaries on the Upanishads,
the Bhagavad Gita and the Brahmasutras, thus making these spiritual
classics accessible and intelligible to a wider and ever-widening
Adi Sankara not only travelled all over India and taught the people
but organised and established centres in the north, south, east and
west which he hoped would remain as beacons of light to carry on his
work after he had gone. Badrinath was one of those spiritual
But in the course of twelve centuries - albeit millions of devout
pilgrims had brought their adoration and veneration there - the
power was certain to run down, the life was bound to ebb from the
ancient form. Even though a particular priestly caste may not be
corrupt it has most of the human weaknesses, and cannot maintain the
high level set by a God-man such as Adi Sankara. The only thing that
can recharge the spiritual battery of such a place is the presence
and power of another God-man.
However, there appeared to be an obstacle in the way. By tradition,
the doctor told me, the only persons ever permitted inside the
temple sanctum sanctorum to perform puja were the members of a
special sect of Kerala Brahmins. This caste of priests had held the
position and exclusive rights since the days of Adi Sankara. The
request of Doctor B. Ramakrishna Rao, the Governor of their State,
counted for nought; they had heard of Sai Baba, the miracle-worker
who some said was an avatar, a God-man, but they could not make an
exception even for him. God himself in human form would not be
allowed to enter here, for what human eyes can read the credentials
"No matter," Baba said; ''let them keep to their traditions."
However, before some two hundred people outside the temple he
materialised a statue of Vishnu. This was about ten inches high and
was, it is said, a replica of the big idol within the temple. With
another wave of his hand he produced a silver tray on which he
placed the little Vishnu idol. Then in the same way he created a
thousand-petalled lotus of gold. Everyone gasped at its beauty; and
while they were wondering what it was for, Baba waved his hand again
to produce a Siva lingam. This, some three or four inches in height
and made of a beautiful crystal material, he placed in the centre of
the golden lotus.
With the idol, lotus and lingam on the silver tray, Baba and his
followers came away from the temple to the guesthouse where they
were staying. There, while they all sang bhajan songs, Baba carried
the lingam around and showed it to everyone, pointing out the beauty
of the material, and the form of an eye which was mysteriously
incorporated inside it.
Then Baba materialised a silver vessel full of holy water, 108 bilva
leaves of gold, which fell in a shower from his hand onto the tray,
and a heap of thumme flowers with the dew still fresh upon them.
These are described as "tiny bits of fragrant fluff, plucked from a
hundred little tropical plants".
All of these were materials for ritualistic worship. Baba performed
Abhisheka (sacred ceremonial bath) and then, in his presence, N.
Kasturi writes, "the Puja was performed, on behalf of all present,
by Dr. B. Ramakrishna Rao, appropriate mantrams being recited by the
Afterwards Baba handed all the materialised items to the Governor's
lady, Mrs. Ramakrishna Rao, instructing her to take good care of
them, because she would be held responsible if anything was lost.
The poor woman felt very apprehensive about such a responsibility -
as well she might. She locked the precious articles in a cupboard in
her bedroom and kept the key on her person.
Some time later Baba asked her to bring the lingam. Unlocking the
cupboard, she found that it was missing; everything else was there,
but the lingam had vanished. In great consternation she hurried to
Baba and reported the loss.
At first he scolded her for not taking proper care, but then he
laughed and said he was only teasing her. He explained to all
present that he had sent the lingam back to the place from where it
had been apported by his power, to the base of the idol in the
temple. This "Nethralingam from Kailasa", as he called it, had been
placed in a secret niche in the holy of holies long ago by Adi
Sankara himself. There it had rested through the long centuries
until that day, June 17th 1961, when he had brought it out to
consecrate it anew and recharge it with spiritual potency. So the
work he came for was done in spite of the hampering traditions of
Baba later asked for the other articles in the cupboard. He
distributed the 108 gold leaves among the two hundred or more people
around him, and as usual there were enough for all. Mrs. Ramakrishna
Rao was then greatly rewarded for those few moments of anguish she
had suffered at the disappearance of the lingam. She was presented
with the materialised idol of Vishnu, the golden lotus, and the
silver tray on which they both stood.
The doctor told me that these sacred objects were still in his puja
room at Hyderabad where the regular family worship was held.
It may be surprising to many people - though in fact it should not
be - to find that a scientist of the calibre of Dr. S. Bhagavantam,
M.Sc., Ph.D., D.Sc., is a devoted follower of an Adept in that field
of high transcendental magic which science tends to scorn. Dr.
Bhagavantam, formerly Director of the All India Institute of
Science, holds the prominent position of Scientific Advisor to the
Ministry of Defence in Delhi, and is well-known in scientific
circles outside India.
When I met him at Prasanti Nilayam he was occupying a room furnished
only with two bed-rolls and a few cushions on the floor. Like all
good Indians he was quite happy to use the tiled floor as bedstead,
chair and table. With him in the same room was one of his sons, Dr.
S. Balakrishna, Assistant Director of the National Geophysical
Research Institute of India. Both were visiting the ashram for a few
I sat on the floor with these two cultured scientists and charming
gentlemen, anxious to hear of their experiences with Sai Baba.
Outside the open door and windows the July sun gleamed on the sandy
soil, white buildings and rocky hills. Inside Dr. Bhagavantam spoke
in his quiet, friendly concise way, while his son confirmed many of
the strange events which he too had witnessed. Dr. Balakrishna has
had some wonderful experiences of his own with Baba, but here we are
concerned with the remarkable reports from his eminent father.
At Dr. Bhagavantam's first meeting with Sai Baba, which was in the
year 1959, they went for a walk on the sands of the Chitravati
river. Others were present, but Bhagavantam was walking by the side
of Baba. After a while Swami asked him to select a place on the
sands for sitting down. When the doctor hesitated, Baba insisted,
explaining that only in this way could Bhagavantam's scientific mind
be quite sure that Baba had not led him to a spot where an object
had been "planted" in the sands.
After the scientist had chosen an area and the party was seated on
the sands, Baba began to tease the doctor a little; he made fun of
the complacent "all-knowing" attitude of many men of science, and
deplored their ignorance of or indifference to the ancient wisdom to
be found in the great Hindu scriptures.
The doctor's pride was stung. He retorted that not all scientists
were of this materialistic outlook. He himself, as an example, had a
family tradition of Sanskrit learning and a deep interest in the
spiritual classics of India.
Then in an endeavour to establish the bona fides of his scientific
colleagues he told Baba that when Oppenheimer, after exploding the
first atom bomb, was asked by the press representatives what his
reactions were, he replied by quoting a verse from the Bhagavad
Gita, thus showing that he was a student of that great work. "Would
you like a copy of the Bhagavad Gita?" Baba asked him suddenly,
scooping up a handful of sand as he spoke. "Here it is," he
continued, "hold out your hands."
Bhagavantam cupped his hands to catch the sand as Baba dropped it
into them. But when it reached the scientist's waiting palms, it was
no longer the golden sand of the Chitravati. It was a red-covered
book. Opening it in stunned silence, the doctor found that it was a
copy of the Bhagavad Gita printed in Telegu script. Baba remarked
that he could have presented the doctor with one printed in
Sanskrit, but as the latter read Sanskrit script with some
difficulty, Baba had given him one in Telegu, Bhagavantam's native
tongue. Bhagavantam had not mentioned his limited proficiency in
Sanskrit; this was something that Baba just knew.
As soon as he could, Bhagavantam examined this miraculously produced
volume closely. It appeared to be quite new and was well printed,
but where? The names of printer and publisher, always given in the
normal way, were nowhere to be found.
One day in 1960 Sai Baba was visiting the great scientist's home in
Bangalore. At this time Dr. Bhagavantam was Director of the All
India Institute of Science in that city. He had known Sai Baba for
about a year and was struggling to make the incredible phenomena he
had witnessed fit in with his scientific training.
He said on one occasion at a public meeting: "I was a fairly lost
person at that time for all this was an utter contradiction to the
laws of physics for which I stood and still stand ... Having learned
the laws of physics in my youth, and having taught others for many,
many years thereafter, about the inviolability of such laws - at
least so far as any known human situation is concerned - and having
put them into practice with such a belief in them, I naturally found
myself in a dilemma.
One of Dr. Bhagavantam's sons, at this time a boy of about eleven
years, seemed to be mentally retarded. Some medical men had
recommended as treatment the piercing of the lumbar region of the
spine to remove cerebro-spinal fluid, and so relieve pressure on the
brain. Others had been against such treatment, saying that it would
only make the boy worse. Dr. Bhagavantam had decided not to have it
Baba, who loves and understands children, saw the boy and asked a
sympathetic, question about him. The scientist began to talk about
his son's case, and then Baba took over the narration and himself
related all that had happened, including the medical debate about
the advisability of a lumbar puncture. He went on to say that this
would in fact would do no harm, but on the contrary would help the
boy, making him appreciably better as time went on. Then casually,
as if it were nothing at all, he said that he would himself do the
puncture, then and there.
The scientist was startled. Doubt and fear agitated his mind. He
began to wonder about things like professional qualifications for
such an operation. But before he could utter a word, Baba had waved
his hand and materialised some vibhuti. Uncovering the boy's back,
he rubbed this sacred ash on the lumbar region. Next, with another
hand wave, he took from the air a hollow surgical needle, about four
The father felt himself in the presence of a power so far beyond his
understanding that he could, say nothing; he just waited, watched
and hoped for the best. The boy seemed to be semi-conscious,
apparently anaesthetised by Baba's vibhuti. Without hesitation Baba
inserted the needle, showing that he knew the precise spot at which
such insertions must be made. To the watching father the needle
seemed to go right in out of sight, and he began to worry about how
it would be recovered.
Meantime Baba was massaging the back and removing the fluid that
came out through the needle; he seemed to take away about one cubic
centimetre of this fluid, the scientist said. Then massaging more
strongly or in a different way, Baba brought the needle out of the
boy's back. He held it in the air as if handing it to some invisible
nurse. Immediately it vanished.
"Have you a surgical dressing?" Baba then asked the watching,
spellbound people in the room: Bhagavantam, another of his sons
called Ramakrishna, and a friend named Sastri who was a Sanskrit
Young Ramakrishna replied, saying that by phoning the Institute he
could get a dressing within ten minutes.
"Too long!" Baba laughed, waving his hand again, and taking a
dressing of the right type, as if from a trained assistant in
another dimension. Carefully he arranged it on the boy's back, and
then brought him around to full consciousness. The patient seemed to
suffer no pain or discomfort either during or after the operation.
''And is he any better?" I asked the good doctor.
"Yes, his condition has improved though not remarkably," he replied
cautiously, "but who knows what he would have been like without the
operation. Swami says that he will go on improving as he grows
Dr. Bhagavantam has seen Baba produce many things by his magical
hand-wave. These include medicines in bottles and other packs,
properly sealed, but without any name of the maker marked on them.
He has seen Baba change one stone or decorative figure, set in
jewellery, to another of an entirely different character, simply by
stroking his finger across the face of it. The relevant item of
jewellery did not for a moment disappear from view during such
Once he saw Baba produce amrita in a container which the physicist
estimated from his experience of capacities would hold enough for
about fifty people, each receiving the spoonful which Baba doled
out. In fact, though, Baba fed about five hundred people with the
ambrosial liquid, which apparently was miraculously increased to ten
times its original volume.
On another occasion the doctor was sitting with a group of devotees
around Baba on a beach in southern India. The talk turned to the
various names by which the ocean had been known in Indian mythology.
Someone mentioned the name "Ratnakara", which means, he said, "Lord
of Diamonds or Precious Stones". "In that case," Baba remarked
playfully, "the ocean should produce some diamonds for us." Putting
his hand in the water, he took out a sparkling diamond necklace.
Everybody was enthralled at the sight of this circlet of large
stones, and someone asked Baba to wear it. Bhagavantam could see
plainly that it would not go over Baba's head, being too small and
apparently without a clasp for opening the necklace. But such
problems did not bother the miracle-man; he simply pulled it outward
with both hands as one would stretch a rubber ring. It increased to
the right size, yet there were no gaps between the stones. Then, to
please his devotees Baba put this diamond garland from "Ratnakara"
over his head and wore it on his neck for a short time.
Dr. Bhagavantam has also had his own personal experience of Sai
Baba's faculty of knowing what is taking place thousands of miles
away, without benefit of telegraph or radio.
When Dr. S. Balakrishna, Bhagavantam's son, moved into a new house
in Hyderabad, Baba agreed to go there and perform a house-blessing
ceremony. The auspicious day for the ritual was named by Baba and he
promised to come on that day. Dr. Bhagavantam was himself away on a
government mission to Moscow, but he was scheduled to be back in
Hyderabad on the morning of the day of the ceremony, which was to
take place in the afternoon.
However, engine trouble in the aeroplane by which he was returning
developed somewhere near Tashkent, and he was forced to spend the
night in that city. This was the night before the ceremony and Baba,
who was at Balakrishna's house in Hyderabad, informed the family
that there was engine trouble and that Dr. Bhagavantam was spending
the night at Tashkent, but would be flying on to Delhi the following
day. No one else in the area knew that there had been any trouble
with the plane or that Bhagavantam was at Tashkent. No word of this
had come through ordinary channels. But Baba had his own way of
knowing, and also of foreseeing that the fault would be righted by
the following day.
In the afternoon of the auspicious day, as prearranged, Sai Baba
carried out the house-blessing ceremony. During this he produced in
his usual miraculous manner a beautiful statuette of Shirdi Baba
which the two scientists informed me is about three inches in height
and seems to be of solid gold. Baba said it was to be kept in the
shrine-room of the Hyderabad house where it was materialised. And
there it is still.
All felt sorry that the head of the family, Dr. Bhagavantam, could
not be present at the important ceremony, and that evening they
talked about where he might perhaps be spending his time. Was he
back in Delhi, they asked Baba. Yes, the latter told them, and he
was at that moment in the office of the Minister of Defence, New
Then Baba booked a telephone call to the Minister's office, making
it a personal call to the Scientific Adviser, Dr. Bhagavantam. At
that period, I am told, there was always a considerable delay for a
trunk call over such a long distance. But Baba's call came through
in a few minutes.
Dr. Bhagavantam was at the office, as Swami had stated. He was
closeted with the Minister, and in the middle of an important
conference. The Minister had in fact given strict instructions to
his staff that he was not to be interrupted no matter who telephoned
or called to see him. Nevertheless, and no one knows why, one of the
secretaries did interrupt him to say that there was a phone call
from Hyderabad for Dr. Bhagavantam. With the Minister's concurrence,
the doctor left the room and took the call; then Swami's sweet-voice
was in his ear, telling him that all had gone well at the
house-blessing. Baba elated him further by saying that he would
remain in Hyderabad with the family until Bhagavantam returned on
the morrow. With joy in his heart and renewed spirit, the scientist
went back to discuss his country's defence problems with the
Minister responsible in those days, V. K. Krishna Menon.
When I asked Dr. S. Bhagavanam if I could use his name in support of
the incredible things he had told me, he promptly answered: "Yes,
I'll stand behind every word of it." The earlier dilemma, the
conflict between his scientific training and the evidence of his
senses, has been resolved. He says, "In our laboratories we
scientists may swear by reason, but we know that every time we have
added a little to what we know, we have known of the existence of
many other things, the true nature of which we do not know. In this
process we become aware of further large areas, to understand which
we have to struggle more. Thus while adding to knowledge we add more
to our ignorance too. What we know is becoming a smaller and smaller
fraction of what we do not know." He goes on to say: "Sai Baba
transcends the laws of physics and chemistry, and when he transcends
a law, that fact becomes a new law. He is a law unto himself."
Once in Madras, addressing an audience of some 20,000 people who had
come to hear Sai Baba's message, the worthy doctor said, inter alia,
"Scientists are aware that knowledge is not the same as wisdom.
Wisdom to be got from Bhagavan (Sai Baba), and the like of him, who
come among us from time to time for this express purpose ...
He is a phenomenon. He is transcendental. He is divine. He is an
incarnation. He is our nearest kith and kin; turn to him for the
eternal message. That alone can save us."
18 Reality and
Significance of the Miraculous
Flake of the world fire,
spark of Divinity, Lift up thy mind and thy heart into glory. Sun in
the darkness, recover thy lustre. - Sri Aurobindo.
The wealth of
miraculous things that my own eyes have witnessed assure my
acceptance of things of similar nature about which I have heard.
This acceptance is aided by my knowledge of the integrity,
intelligence and high moral character of the many witnesses. But,
though to many eminent community leaders, and to thousands of
ordinary folk like myself, the Sai miracles are indisputable facts,
the eye witnesses represent only a small fraction of mankind. So
what about the millions beyond the orbit of those who have been
fortunate enough to see for themselves? What about the masses of
materialists and atheists, conditioned by the superficial philosophy
of modern technological progress? Is there the slightest likelihood
that they may credit the truth of the incredible events described in
Nearly a hundred years ago when a Theosophist, A.P. Sinnett, Editor
of British India's Pioneer, was trying to convince the western
public through his writings that similar miraculous phenomena were
taking place, a great Himalayan Adept wrote to him: "None but those
who see for themselves will ever believe, do what you may ... But so
long as men doubt there will be curiosity and enquiry."
The human mind by its nature regards anything outside a commonly
accepted framework of rationality as impossible and rejects it. A
materialisation phenomenon, for example, is so foreign to everyday
experience that, even after watching it happen, it is not easy for
one to believe that it really took place. One seems to have been in
some odd way out of space and time. When one is back in the normal
dimensions of space and time, the reality of a miracle seems to
vanish. It goes as the reality of a dream goes on waking.
"Did the miracle really happen?" the thinking mind asks. But the
glittering jewel, which came from nowhere, lies in the hand; the
taste of the candy, which a moment ago was granite or paper, is
undeniably on the tongue. The effects are apparent; the
comprehensible causes are missing, and they are not to be found by
our rationalistic thinking.
Of course the apport, the transport of a material object without any
known material agency, is well-known to spiritualist and other
occult circles of the west. I myself have witnessed them there. The
theory behind them is that the object, which is already in existence
somewhere, is de-materialised and brought in that state by psychic
force to the circle where it is re-materialised.
Baba has said that some of his "productions" are apports. In this
regard the observation of one Sai devotee is suggestive. A
well-known Indian princess told me that she was once sitting close
in front of Baba while he stood above her on a dais, waving his hand
to "produce" something. She was able to look for anything happening
beneath the down-turned palm. First she saw a small luminous cloud
appear there; this condensed quickly to form a small shining object
over which Baba's hand closed. The object proved to be a gold ring.
The old, gold ten-dollar piece which Baba "produced" for me at
Horsley Hills was no doubt an apport. But what of the interesting
phenomenon he performed for Dr. V.K. Gokak, Vice-Chancellor of
Bangalore University? On an early visit to Dr. Gokak's home Baba saw
on the wall for the first time a portrait of an Indian saint, Shri
Panta Maharaja of Balekundri, and asked about its presence there.
The Vice-Chancellor replied to Baba that the saint had been his
father's guru, and that he, himself, held the holy man in great
Baba: "Have you a smaller portrait of him to carry when you're
Dr. Gokak: "No."
Baba: "Would you like one?"
Dr. Gokak: "Yes, Swami, very much."
Baba waved his hand, for a little longer than usual, remarking, "He
is coming." Turning the palm up, he handed the doctor a small enamel
pendant. It bore a miniature replica of the saint's portrait.
Apports are perhaps better known to all classes in India than to
those in the west. The ex-Government minister, great educationalist
and well-known writer, Dr. K.M. Munshi, states in his excellent
Bhavan's Journal that he has seen apports "produced" by a man
sitting near him on the sofa of his own drawing-room. First there
was "kum-kum (red powder) on a tray, another time flowers, a third
time prasad, and a fourth time currency notes".
Munshi goes on to say that he thinks the sacred ash materialised by
Baba and used for curing ailments and evoking faith must amount to a
pound in weight per day, and is not apported, but "produced in some
other even more mysterious way". It seems obvious that the sweets
made while you watch from age-old solid rock, and many other
phenomena performed by Sai Baba, cannot be apports.
But whether objects are "transported", created on the spot by divine
will, or materialised in some other way, what amount of evidence,
what number of attestations from people of intelligence and
integrity, does it take to convince those who have never seen such
Of course, within India itself there are large numbers of people who
have no difficulty whatsoever in accepting the reality of miracles.
Beneath the surface of life the miraculous has always been going on
in that country. There have always been men who could perform some
supernormal feat or another; create a perfume from the air, read a
sealed letter, crack a tumbler from a distance, heal with a touch,
drink strong acid with impunity, levitate, and so on. These things
are part of the fabric of the common culture. They are accepted not
only by the masses but by thinkers and thought-leaders, of the
status of Dr. K. M. Munshi, for instance. On this subject I have
spoken to many of the well-educated and highly cultured; most of
them have seen some examples during their lives of miraculous
phenomena, quite apart from the Sai Baba miracles. The possibility
of siddhis is so basic to the Indian heritage that even those who
have never seen anything of the kind are ready to believe in the
Yet for this very reason, it seems to me, some of the intelligent
are inclined to miss the main point of the Sai Baba miracles. I have
heard them say: "Advanced yogis are able to perform miracles, but so
what? What is the value in such things?"
Some go further and say that miracles should not be performed, that
they are an obstacle to spiritual progress. They quote statements
from their scriptures and yogic texts to support this view. But if
we examine such statements properly we find that the warnings about
the perils of performing miracles are given to disciples, to those
at an intermediate stage on the spiritual path. Patanjali, for
instance, points out that, at some level of training in yoga, latent
supernormal powers of various kinds are liable to make their
appearance. That is to say the disciple will find that he has the
power to perform certain "miracles".
But there are several grave dangers inherent in this. It may stir
his pride and egotism. He may start using it for selfish purposes.
It may make him think that he has reached his goal. Instead of
understanding that these psychic and psycho-kinetic powers are mere
by-products, he may consider them the final product or at least a
sign that he has reached a high level of spirituality. But psychic
powers are not in themselves a sign of spirituality. Thus the pupil
enamoured of such powers, will be led astray and make no further
progress towards life's true goal.
Baba himself, while in his former body at Shirdi, often gave
warnings to his devotees on this matter. He pointed out that the
acquirement of supernormal powers often takes a disciple, who has
not reached the highest levels, farther away from the main object of
his spiritual disciplines, which is the realisation of God. To one
of his devotees who had just developed clairvoyance, for instance,
Baba said: "Why are you gazing at the strumpet's performance? It
does not behove us to dally with a strumpet!"
The man's wife, who was present, thought that Baba was referring to
some fleshly concubine, but the devotee himself understood that his
Sadguru, Baba, was giving him a timely warning, lest he be carried
away by the charms and seductions of his newly-acquired powers.
But such dangers, and such warnings, apply only to chelas, pupils on
the path, not to those who have reached the final goal - not to a
fully God-realised man, a God-man or avatar. There is no desire for
earthly gain, no pride, no egotism, no self-glory in the miracles of
a Christ, a Krishna, a Sai Baba. Therefore there is no danger,
neither to the performer of the miracle nor to the recipient of its
However, though the recipient can suffer no ill effects from divine
miracles, he may not always obtain all the good effects potentially
there. To every such miracle there is a spiritual string, so to
speak. If the receiver fails to perceive the string he has lost a
golden opportunity. He may perhaps have gained a golden jewel, or he
may have been blessed by merciful healing, helped in a practical
problem or saved from some deadly peril. These are important things,
no doubt, but small compared with what he might have gained.
If he continues to dodge the spiritual string, he will in time
become surfeited with miraculous phenomena. They will no longer
impress or delight him. Moreover, they will not continue to serve
him; and when the point is reached where the miraculous powers of
the God-man work no more that materialist's way, where he no longer
gets the worldly benefit he expects, he will drop away from the
God-man's following. As Captain James Cook when he discovered the
east coast of Australia, sailed past and missed the narrow inlet to
the fine harbour where Sydney stands, so such a one will miss the
narrow way to the divine harbour for which all human ships are
searching. And how long must he wait, how many years, how many
lifetimes, for such another opening?
What, then, is the significance of the divine miracle, the high,
transcendental magic that works never for the benefit of the
performer, but always for mankind? Some of its purposes are obvious,
some more hidden. As the great Himalayan Adept suggested to Sinnett,
miracles do tend to lead men towards investigation and enquiry into
the deepest mysteries of the universe. Colonel H.S. Olcott, after
seeing a stream of miraculous phenomena during the final quarter of
last century, wrote.
"For my part I can say that the great range of marvels of educated
will-potency which I saw made it easy for me to understand the
Oriental theories of spiritual science. "
This effect - helping the understanding of "spiritual science" - the
miraculous will have on minds that are open, alive and anxious to
explore the deeper strata of existence. Though the wonders in
themselves are subordinate to and less important than the spiritual
truths behind them, they are signs more powerful than words to guide
men towards those truths, which at their deepest levels cannot be
expressed by either wonders or words. For men are in general
apathetic, and need something spectacular to shake them out of their
inertia. B.V. Narasimha Swami wrote: "One common feature in the
lives of both Sai and Jesus is that people always had to be
convinced of the divine nature of the two, only through the miracles
they performed. Miracles are a concession that divinity allows for
Concerning words, spoken or written, men nod or shake their heads,
agreeing, disagreeing, debating, comparing ... For there are many
who have spoken wise words. But if, as they say in journalism one
picture is worth a thousand words, one miracle is worth many
When the Almighty ordered Moses to lead the people of Israel out of
Egypt, Moses protested that the people would not believe he was sent
by God, and would not accept him as their leader. So the Almighty
told him to throw his staff on the ground. Obeying, Moses saw the
staff become a serpent. Then the Lord ordered him to pick up the
serpent by its tail, and doing so he found the serpent was a staff
again. This was the first of the many miracles that Moses was able
to perform through the power of God. The purpose of such marvels was
not only to make the Israelites - and Pharaoh - realise that Moses
was a divine messenger, but also to overcome the many tremendous
obstacles in the long journey from bondage in Egypt to freedom in
the promised land. Like all the immortal stories of man's
pilgrimage, this one has deeper meanings too. It teaches among other
things that miraculous powers have a value in freeing Man from the
bondage of the flesh, leading him through the many obstacles of life
and his own vain mental strivings to the promised land of spiritual
freedom and liberation.
So, beginning with the nucleus of disciples around him, the God-man
uses miracles to help them grasp the truth about his divine nature,
and also to help them overcome blockages in their spiritual
progress. The nucleus of disciples grows to a large following, and
gradually - as the religious history of the past shows - the good
news, the gospel, spreads until millions become his followers.
Thereby the heavy karma of mankind is lifted a little, and more and
more souls are brought from darkness towards the light.
But it is wise to remember that the greatest miracles are not always
the obvious ones. In the presence of the man of divinity our
awakening spiritual perception beholds a demonstration of the most
stupendous miracle in the very existence of such a man. We, who are
ourselves bond slaves to desire, see one who is master of earthly
desire. We, who are always centred in our little, separate,
self-important selves, see one who is centred in the Self of all
mankind, all life. We, who struggle on through sorrow and passing
joys, see the embodiment of eternal joy. We, who constantly confuse
love with lust, possessiveness, self-love, feel from the great one
the nectarine flow of a love that is divine, universal, embracing
all life. Yet at the same time this love is not vague and
impersonal; it is very personal, focused on each devotee's innermost
heart. And in it there is no taint of egotism.
If our feet are on even the beginning of the spiritual path, we know
that these great qualities are goals towards which we ourselves are
struggling in life's pilgrimage. But often such goals have seemed a
long way off. We have wondered sometimes if we could ever reach them
- if any human being ever really came to them. Perhaps after all, we
ponder, they are no more than a beautiful dream of the heart. But
now before us in the flesh is one who has scaled the spiritual
Everest. An ideal, a dream, has thus become an actual, living
reality in time. Human nature, we thus see, can indeed be changed,
the lower animal self of man can be completely transmuted into a
Here lies, perhaps, the deepest significance of divine miracles;
they demonstrate the God-like potentialities, the "flake of the
world-fire", in each human being. They build our faith, and help us
to work with new zeal towards the production of a divine edition of
ourselves. And this is accomplished not only through the great
inspiration of the living example before us, but also through the
silent, transforming ray that emanates from the divine one and
unbeknown to us reaches to our depths. By his very nature of pure
love the avatar calls all men to him, and the many who come he
guides along the razor-edged way.
Sai Baba, while still in his Shirdi body, stated that he would lead
hundreds of thousands of people onto the path and take them to the
goal, right up to the very end; right to God. On this work he is
still energetically engaged.
Narasimha Swami, and others who have imbibed deeply at the Sai
fountain, have stated that the universalist religion of love and
brotherhood as taught by Sai Baba is destined to embrace the world.
Certainly it is spreading through the length and breadth of India
and beginning to take root in places abroad. Satya Sai Baba made his
first trip overseas in July 1968. He went to Uganda in East Africa,
where there was already a nucleus of devotees. His visit became a
national event. Great crowds swarmed around him - not only the few
thousand Indians there but also the many thousands of Africans, not
only the masses of the "lowly" but the "high-ups" as well.
Government ministers, the Inspector-General of Police, the Army
Chief of Staff and other top officials gathered to pay homage to
Baba. Crowds danced with joy at the sight of him, and ranks of
police guards went on their knees as he walked between them.
There is little doubt that all continents and all peoples will have
the chance to see Sai Baba in the years ahead. So here is something
never known before in the world's history. A God-man, a living
worker of miracles, will be able through the use of modern global
communications to travel the world, and make his message known to
all people during his lifetime.
Of old, this could not happen, and tidings of such amazing events
reached the mass of mankind either through verbal reports or by
accounts written long after the events took place. Now the sceptic,
the doubting Thomas, who cannot believe in either the greater or the
lesser miracles, can prove their reality for himself. If keen
enough, he can visit Prasanti Nilayam to witness them; otherwise he
can wait until Sai Baba comes nearer to his part of the globe.
The miracles of Christ and Krishna must be taken on trust or through
faith, those of Sai Baba you can see for yourself.
19 Some Sai
Truth stands on its own
evidence, it does not require any other testimony to prove it true,
it is self-effulgent. - Swami Vivekananda.
Readers who have not yet had the opportunity of
enjoying English translations of Sai Baba's spiritual discourses
would no doubt like to have here some idea of the verbal teachings
of this God-powered man of miracles. It is no easy task to give in a
chapter even a gist of these vital, luminous teachings. But I am
somewhat helped by the fact that the truism "there is nothing new
under the sun", applies also to spiritual instruction and
Christ's Sermon on the Mount, for instance, seemed no doubt to be
quite revolutionary to its original hearers, and to many people
since. But in fact all its "new" teachings can be found in the
age-old but ageless sacred writings of the east. It seems, indeed,
that all the great spiritual truths man is capable of understanding
at his present stage of evolution were given out long ago by the
ancient masters of India. Since then the basic stock of wisdom has
been many times revived, restated, revitalised by the great world
teachers who have come. Each presents it with different accent,
different emphasis, new interpretations and up-to-date illustrations
to suit the age to which he teaches. But a study of the recorded
ancient wisdom - in the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the
Shastras (Indian scriptures) - show that all the fundamental truths
that can be stated have been stated already in some form or
This does not mean that the recurrence of new teachers is
unnecessary or unimportant. In time any temple built to truth
becomes its sepulchre. Enlightening words between the covers of
ancient manuscripts or books are inevitably forgotten or
misunderstood or twisted by knavish priests to make a trap for the
unwary and ignorant. The ancient wisdom has to be brought out and
re-dressed, re-energised to give it a new interest and living
significance. This can only be done by one who really knows; knows
not from books but from his own being. His words will not have the
speculative note of the philosophers, but the confident certainty of
Every great teacher who speaks this self-effulgent truth has his own
individual approach and method of presentation. Some have addressed
only the few, in their own lifetimes, others the many. Those like
Christ who spoke to crowds, have cast the wisdom largely in the form
of parables, to be easily understood by untutored minds.
Sai Baba has many similarities to Christ, not only in the miracles
but in the style of his presentation. In his discourses he uses an
abundance of parables, figures of speech, analogies and homely
illustrations. This is no doubt one of the reasons why he draws the
great crowds; another reason is the authority that sounds through
his words, He speaks as one who knows. And he is not afraid to
hammer his lessons home, to repeat, to re-emphasise. In this he
demonstrates the fact, as all great teachers have done, that it is
not enough for men to hear and know about the truths; they must live
them. The knowledge and the action must be done as one. Now I will
try to give some little idea of what he teaches.
Man is essentially the Atma (which may be translated as "spirit").
He is not the body and must never identify with the body which is
merely a temporary vestment. Even those who agree with this truth
intellectually act most of the time as if they were no more than the
body; so Baba is never tired of hammering in this fundamental
He says, for instance, "You are the invincible Atma, unaffected by
the ups and downs of life. The shadow you cast while trudging along
the road falls on dirt and dust, bush and briar, stone and sand, but
you are not worried at all, for you walk unscathed. So too, as the
Atma substance, you have no reason to be worried over the fate of
its shadow, the body."
This true self of man is "something subtler than water or air or
ether; for it must go into the eye in order that you may see; into
the hand so that you may hold; into the feet to enable you to walk.
The senses themselves are inert materials; the self must operate
before they can function."
The Atma itself is formless, but it creates the forms it requires.
It has created the five sheaths of man. The grossest of these is the
annapmyakosha (food sheath). More subtle is the pranamayakosha
(sheath of vital breath). These two are part of the physical body.
Two more sheaths make up the subtle or astral body. These are the
manomayakosha (mind sheath) and the vijnanamayakosha (sheath of
intellect or higher mind). The fifth is the anandamyakosha (sheath
of bliss) which serves the highest body of man, the causal body,
known in Sanskrit as the karana sharira. All these components and
compartments serve the lord of the castle, the Jivatma (individual
But the lord, fully preoccupied with these instruments of his own
creation and the experiences they bring has forgotten his true
Nevertheless, deep within there is the dim echo of a memory.
Sometimes he hears it. So that when a call comes from the immortal
regions, he responds. As Baba says: "Man is not a despicable
creature, born in slime or sin, to eke out a drab existence forever.
Man is immortal and eternal. So when the call comes from the region
of immortality, he responds with his whole heart." He "seeks
liberation from his bondage to the trivial and the temporary.
Everyone craves for this in his heart of hearts. And it is available
in only one shop, that is in the contemplation of the Atma, the
highest self, which is the basis of all this appearance."
But liberation is a struggle that stretches over a long period of
time. It does not come automatically with death as some may think.
After shedding the physical body, the Atma is still immersed in
other vehicles; it still has links with the earth, links of memory
and desire, which bring it back into reincarnation again and again.
To reach liberation and eternal bliss, man must get rid of all
earthly desires and attachments. In one of Baba's graphic similes he
says: "Man is like rice. Provided the husk is removed, it will not
grow. Man's husk is his body of desires; if this is liquidated, he
will not reincarnate."
Of course, the conquest of earthly desires and attachments is
something that calls for long sadhana, or spiritual practices. Most
of Baba's teaching is aimed directly towards assisting people in
this great struggle, and he uses many homely illustrations to help
them grasp and remember the basic principles involved. For instance,
he says, "Man's many desires are like the small metal coins he
carries about in his pocket. The more he has, the more they weigh
him down. But if he can convert them all into one paper note of
higher currency, he will not feel any weight. In the same way if he
can convert his many desires into one desire, that is, into the
aspiration for union with God, then there will be no weight to pull
him down to the earth level."
Once man comes through the long school of phenomenal existence in
this world and on other planes as well - he begins to understand
that his main aim is to break out of the cocoon that has held so
long. The cocoon has had its uses, but the time of its usefulness is
over. He is ready for his flight into the new life of freedom, the
The fact is that every man is a spark of divinity; every man is
potentially God - not God as we usually think of him, with form, but
the formless God, the divine ocean from which comes all existence.
Baba states this plainly: "If you realise the Atma-principle you
become God himself. Each one of you can become God by merging your
separate individual souls in the ocean of the universal Atma".
The basis of the love and brotherhood between men is the truth that
they are all of this one Atma-principle, no matter what their
colour, caste or creed. The analogy that Baba sometimes uses here is
that of the electric current lighting globes of many colours, shapes
and sizes. The reality behind the globes is the current flowing
within them - the same for each. The Atma can be likened to the
electricity flow. Men are varied expressions of this one current.
God is formless, yet he has form. He is that which lies beyond all
forms yet he creates, maintains and destroys everything that exists.
God is really in every form, but in Man more than in anything else,
and in some men more intensely and completely than in others. A few
men in the world's history have been one hundred per cent God.
The fact is, though, that God, who expresses some aspect and part of
Himself as an essence in every form, can actually manifest as God in
any chosen shape, be it human, partly human, or otherwise. Also he
can respond to any name. Baba puts it this way: "The Lord can be
addressed by any name that tastes sweet to your tongue, or pictured
in any form that appeals to your sense of wonder and awe. You can
sing of him as Muruga, Ganapathi, Sarada, Jesus, Maitreyi, Sakti, or
you can call on Allah or the Formless, or the Master of all Forms.
It makes no difference at all. He is the beginning, the middle and
the end; the basis, the substance and the source."
But we must never think that the omnipresent God is completely
contained in any particular form of our choosing, or answers
exclusively to the one traditional name we have been conditioned to
worship. He manifests through such limited finite channels if our
worship is sincere, but he is not confined to them. As the Sufi poet
writes, "His dust is here, but He in the Infinite".
In one sense, God is nearer than our hands and feet. We do not have
to search for him out beyond the starry constellations "where the
wheeling systems darken, and our benumbed conceiving soars", for the
loving merciful God is ever close at hand, he is the very core of
our spiritual heart. But particularly, "as the doctor is found where
the patients gather, and the surgeon in the operation room," states
Sri Sai, "so the Lord is ever with the suffering and the struggling.
Wherever people cry out for God, there God will be."
As the ultimate object of every man - his true purpose whether he
knows it or not - is to realise the God within himself, how should
he live his life, in order to achieve this?
Baba does not teach that the only way to reach this spiritual goal
is to go away and live in caves, forest hermitages or walled-in
monasteries. It is right for the majority of us to live the ordinary
life of the world, but we must not become bond slaves to the world's
allurements. A boat, he says, is meant to go into water, but the
water must not get into the boat. In the same way we are meant to be
in the world, but the world must not get into us. He adds another
illustration: "Man must grasp God with the right hand and the world
with the left. Gradually the left will lose its hold. Do not worry
about this; it has to be so; that's maybe why the hand is called
'left' - the world will be left behind. But the right hand must not
loosen its grip. Being called 'right', it is right for it to grip
right and hold on."
How to do this? We must realise that the great drama of this world
in which we are now playing a part is no more than a passing show.
We must not identify ourselves with the drama, or become attached to
its vestures and "properties" which we will soon be leaving behind
anyway. In other words we must learn to discriminate between the
permanent and the transitory, the substance and the shadow.
The shadow is the great illusion that we are our bodies and that the
physical world around us is the ultimate and only reality. The way
to correct that error is to keep our thoughts and aspirations
towards God, our faces towards the divine light. Baba gives this
analogy: "Move forward towards the light and the shadow falls
behind, but if you move away from the light, you have to follow your
own shadow. Go every moment one step nearer to the Lord and then the
great illusion, the shadow, will fall back and will not delude you
Actually, what we all seek is happiness, but through the deluding
shadow of our own ignorance, we seek it in the wrong places. "Once
you turn towards the path of worldly happiness," says Baba, "you
will be led on and on to greater and greater discontent,
competition, pride, jealousy. Just stop for a moment and examine
your own experience. Are you happier when you grow richer, do you
find more peace when your wants are satisfied? You will yourself be
witness to the truth that an improved standard of living is no
guarantee of happiness."
When we seek happiness through the pleasures of this world, we
always find as much pain as pleasure, as much sorrow as joy. The
pairs of opposites, the black and white twins, are ever near to each
other. But let them come; the pleasures and the pains, the joys and
the sorrows, they are part of the divine Leela or play. Beyond them,
and in spite of them, we will find a great peace and abiding joy
once we turn our faces towards the light and understand that we are
a part of the divine substance, the Atma, and that our real
existence lies beyond this shadow-show on the space-time stage.
But is there any special guidance and yogic training that will help
men break the grip of the world's allurements; help them make that
difficult about-turn from the tinsel glitter to the greater light?
Baba often discourses on the three classical yoga pathways to
enlightenment. He points out that all of these - karma (action),
jnana (knowledge) and bhakti (devotion) - must be used. They are
three lanes on the one great highway to God.
Baba says: "Base your action on knowledge, the knowledge that all is
one. Let the action be suffused with bhakti; that is to say,
humility, love, mercy and non-violence. Let bhakti be filled with
knowledge, otherwise it will be as light as a balloon which drifts
along any current of air, or gust of wind. Mere knowledge will make
the heart dry; bhakti makes it soft with sympathy, and karma gives
the hands something to do, something which will sanctify every one
of the minutes that have fallen to your lot to live."
I once heard Baba talk in other terms of these three lanes to
Self-realisation. He called them "the three Ws", work, worship and
wisdom. Work (karma) alone is, he said, the slow passenger train,
with long stops and some changes at junctions before you reach the
end of the journey. But if you add worship (bhakti) to the work, you
will have an express coach, and get to your destination more quickly
and easily. Work and worship together will furthermore develop
Wisdom, or knowledge of the real (jnana). With this you will then be
on a non-stop express train right to your journey's end. So worship
while you work, and strive meanwhile for the self-knowledge that
will help these two to bring the true wisdom.
Speaking of the spiritual books, he says, that they are only like
maps and guide-books. "Scanning a map or turning over a guide-book
will not give you the thrill of the actual visit, nor will it give
you a fraction of the knowledge and joy of journey through that
"In fact," he says in another place, "you need not even read the
scriptures, the Gita or the Upanishads. You will hear a Gita (divine
song) specially designed for you, if only you call upon the Lord in
your own heart. He is there, installed as your own charioteer."
So the great scriptures of the world are guide-books, taking us as
far but only as far, as the written word can. The real knowledge
must come from our own inner experience. We must ourselves travel to
that land that lies within. But it is very difficult, well-nigh
impossible, to find one's own way through the forests, though life's
dense jungle encircling that divine land. So it is by far the best
to have a guide who has been there, who from personal experience
knows the route. In other words, the surest, easiest, swiftest way
to self-realisation is to have a spiritual guru - a Sadguru who is
himself fully self-realised. If in ordinary life you have an
experienced guide who is taking you through strange forests or
deserts or the intricate ways of an unknown city, you don't stop to
argue and debate with him about the route. You put your trust in him
and submit to his guidance. Likewise with your Sadguru; you must put
yourself completely in his hands. Your own foolish ego and pride and
self-will will only lead you astray. Your spiritual guide knows how
to take you where you want to go, so the first thing you must learn
is the difficult science of self-surrender.
Of course, you are greatly helped in this by the love you inevitably
feel towards your Sadguru, who has your true welfare at heart, and
helps you onwards, with no other motive than that of his selfless
love. It is taught in the Hindu spiritual philosophy that there is
no difference, between the Sadguru and God, and in this bhakti love
the Sadguru expresses the love of God. "When God loves," wrote St.
Bernard of Clairvaux, "he wants nothing else than to be loved; for
he loves for no other purpose than that he may be loved, knowing
that those who love him are blessed by that love." This selfless
love of the Sadguru for the disciple, and the responsive,
ever-growing love of the disciple for the Sadguru is the heart of
the bhakti marga, the way of devotion.
So while the other yogic lanes must not be forgotten, and must be
utilised as required, bhakti is pre-eminently the lane-way for the
great journey. Or - to change the metaphor - though bhakti is not
the only ingredient in the alchemical formula for transmuting man's
base elements to spiritual gold, it is the most important
ingredient. Baba has often said that for this age the bhakti marga
is the easiest and surest way to the goal, and many great teachers,
from Lord Krishna onwards, have said exactly the same thing. Baba
uses many stories and similes to point the value of the bhakti
marga. Here is one:
A bhakta and a jnani (a follower of the jnana marga) were walking
through a forest and became very thirsty. They came to a deep well
with water far down and the sides overgrown with bush and briar.
There was no way of obtaining water. The jnani overcame the
difficulty by expending great psychic force to assume the form of a
bird. Then he flew down through the bushes and briars, losing many
feathers on the way. On the other hand, the bhakta yearned for the
Lord's grace and called fervently on his name. The Lord hearing and
responding, the waters rose to the level of the bhakta who was thus
able to slake his thirst completely.
Sometimes Baba likens God to a magnet and says, "Remember that the
magnet cannot draw to itself a bit of iron that is rusty and covered
with dust. You cannot be drawn by God when your mind is laden with
the rust of material desires, and the dust of sensual craving sits
heavily upon it."
There is on record a story of how a rich man came to Sai Baba when
he was in his Shirdi body and asked to be shown the way to God
realisation. Baba first put the man through several tests, and then
gave a dissertation on the qualifications necessary before any
person can hope to realise God in his lifetime. A number of Baba's
disciples were there along with the rich man, listening to this
I have at various times, and in various places, heard Satya Sai Baba
give the same instructions concerning the self-disciplines, training
and austerities necessary in order to make progress along the Sai
way, which is, the bhakti way as taught by Sai Baba. So I will give
the substance of that memorable Shirdi discourse here. In it Baba
elaborated ten points.
(1) The aspirant must realise the absolute triviality and
unimportance of the things of this world and of the next. He must in
fact feel a disgust for the honours, emoluments and other fruits
that his action will bring in both this world and also in the one to
follow, for his aim is higher than that.
(2) He must fully realise that he is in bondage to the lower worlds
and have an intense aspiration to get free. He must work earnestly
and resolutely to that end, and care for nothing else.
(3) Our senses have been created with a tendency to move outwards
and so Man always looks outside himself. But he who wants
self-realisation, and the immortal life, must turn his gaze inwards,
and look to his inner self.
(4) Unless a man has turned away from wrong-doing and composed
himself so that his mind is at rest, he cannot gain self-realisation
even though he has great knowledge.
(5) The candidate to the spiritual life must lead a life of truth,
penance, insight and right conduct.
(6) Two classes of things constantly present themselves to man for
acceptance - the good and the pleasant. A would-be disciple has to
think and choose between them. The wise person chooses the good; the
unwise, through greed and attachment, chooses the pleasant.
(7) The aspirant must control his mind and senses. If his mind is
unrestrained and senses unmanageable, like wild and vicious horses
drawing a chariot, he cannot reach his destination. But when the
intellect and enlightened will exercise the control, like the hands
of a good driver manipulating the reins (the mind) expertly to guide
the horses (the senses) steadily along the right road, then the true
self who is the master of the chariot reaches his journey's end -
the supreme abode of the all-pervading God. Sometimes, using another
simile, Baba likens the mind to an electric cable. "Do not establish
contact with the mind; that is as bad as contacting the cable! Watch
it from a distance; then only can you derive bliss." That is to say,
becoming too closely identified and involved with the mind
incapacitates one for seeing the real that lies beyond the mind.
(8) As well as controlling the mind a man must purify it. To do this
he must discharge satisfactorily, and at the same time in a
non-attached way, the duties of his station in life (his dharma). He
must get rid of the great delusion: "I am the body", or "I am the
mind"; this will help him to lose egoism, get rid of avarice and
purify the mind of all lower desires.
(9) The aspirant must have a guru. The knowledge of the self is so
subtle that no one by his own effort could ever hope to attain it.
The help of a great teacher, who has walked the path himself and
attained self-realisation, is absolutely necessary. There is no
difficulty about finding a guru; when the pupil has done all he can
in self-enquiry and self-training the guru will come, either in the
body or unseen. Baba sometimes says, "If necessary God himself will
come down and be your guru."
(10) Last, but not least - in fact the most important of all - is
the Lord's grace. When the pupil goes on trying and failing over and
over again, when all seems quite hopeless, and he fully realises his
own utter helplessness, then the divine grace comes, the light
shines, the joy flows through him, the miraculous happens. He takes
another step forward on the spiritual way.
After the Shirdi dissertation was over, Baba said to the rich man,
"Well, sir, in your pocket there is God in the form of two hundred
and fifty rupees; please take that out." The man took out his bundle
of currency notes and, counting the money, found to his great
surprise that there were twenty-five notes of ten rupees each. He
had not known previously the exact amount of money in his pocket and
so, feeling Baba's omniscience, he fell at the holy feet, and asked
Baba said: "Roll up your bundle of God. Unless you completely get
rid of greed you will never get the real God ... The love of money
is a deep whirlpool of pain, full of crocodiles in the form of
conceit and jealousy ... Greed and God are as poles apart; they are
eternally opposed to each other ... For a greedy man there is no
peace, contentment, nor steadiness. If there is even a little trace
of greed in the mind, all the spiritual endeavours are of no avail
... The teachings of a guru are of no use to a man who is full of
egoism, and who always thinks about the sense-objects. Purification
of the mind is absolutely necessary; without it all spiritual
endeavours are nothing but useless show and pomp. It is, therefore,
better for one to take only what he can digest and assimilate. My
treasury is full and I can give anyone that he wants but I have
first to see whether he is qualified to receive what I give. If you
listen to me carefully you will be certainly benefited "
Baba knew that the rich man to whom he spoke was mean and greedy.
His preliminary tests had demonstrated this fact to all present.
Having wealth is not in itself a crime. It is our attitude to the
wealth that matters. If we are "poor in spirit", that is, unattached
to our possessions, understanding that they are held in trust from
God and must be used properly, then it does not matter how much or
how little we own.
This wealthy man, unlike the rich young man who came to Christ and
asked for salvation, apparently did not go sorrowfully away. The
chronicler states that, on the contrary, after getting Baba's
blessings, he left the place quite happy and contented. He like the
others present, had enjoyed the spiritual feast served by Baba and
perhaps he felt some hopes that the insights thus gained would
eventually enable him to reduce the size of the camel of his
attachments, so that it might pass through the eye of the spiritual
Whether we seek self-realisation via the bhakti marga or one of the
other lanes, it is necessary to purify the heart of greed, desire,
hatred, falsehood and the other vices. One of the great purifiers,
for those who can practise it, is that inward-looking self-raising
exercise known as dhyana or meditation. As taught by Baba,
meditation can be on God with form or the formless God - or on one
leading to the other.
Long ago Lord Krishna taught the self-same method (as recorded in
the Srimad Bhagavata). Speaking not as the warrior, but as the
supreme God, Krishna said: "Having withdrawn his mind from the sense
and fixed it on my form, the devotee should now focus it on only one
part of it, preferably the smiling face, to the exclusion of all the
others. Then, withdrawing it from even there, he should concentrate
it on my all-pervading Self which is free like the sky. Leaving that
too, and becoming one with me, he should cease to think of anything.
He will see me, the inner ruler, in himself, and himself in me, like
light that has united with fire. All doubts about matter, knowledge
and action will then come to an end."
In his former incarnation Sai Baba struggled valiantly to remove the
dangerous misunderstanding and conflict between Hindus and Moslems;
in this life he strives constantly to show the basic unity between
all religions. Among his devoted disciples are men of all the
leading faiths. He shows his approval by materialising appropriate
things for each .... including, for the Christians, crosses and
images of Christ. "This is the greatness of the Sanatana Dharma, the
eternal spiritual law... this insistence on the one-ness behind the
apparent multiplicity. The Atma, which it declares to be the basic
truth, does not contradict the doctrines of any faith. God is
unlimited by space and time. He is undefinable by names or forms."
Speaking of the evils of our day, Baba says, "Nations are arming
wildly and breeding hatred ... Man has reduced himself to the status
of a wild beast ... The spark that arises in the individual mind has
spread a world-wide conflagration of hate and greed. This has to be
scotched in the individual, the family, the village, the city, the
nation; in fact wherever it raises its head. Man is suffering
because he is not aware of the treasure he has in himself. Like a
beggar ignorant of the millions hidden under the floor of his hovel,
he is suffering dire misery." Four firemen are capable of putting
out the world conflagration: satya, dharma, santi, prema. Nothing
else can do it.
Satya is truth; it is that intellectual clarity which enables us to
see beyond all the shams, falsities, illusions, right to the heart
of things. Through satya we know the truth of our own being, of God,
and of the universe.
Dharma is the spiritual law of living. It is the executive power of
carrying out satya, the basic truth, in the circumstances under
which we are placed. Sometimes dharma will demand that we act one
way, sometimes the opposite way, but in each case it will be in
accordance with the unalterable, immortal law of spirit. Through
dharma we live the truth; dharma is satya in action.
Santi is the great peace that comes to men through satya and dharma,
through knowing and living the truth. It is that "peace that passeth
understanding, abiding in the hearts of those who live in the
Prema is the divine love which in all the great religions is named
as the highest expression of God on earth. Christ said that God is
love and that we must love our neighbours as ourselves. The Sanatana
Dharma gives the reason for this: that through our real selves, the
Atma, we are actually one with each other, with all men, and with
Defining this prema, which flows constantly from God, and which all
men are capable of feeling for one another, Sai Baba says: "It is
sustained in bad times as well as in good. It is not like the pepper
or salt with which you flavour your dishes; it is the very bread and
butter, the essential substance itself. It is an unchanging
attitude, a desirable bent of the mind, standing steady through joy
And one of the many stories he tells on this theme is about Radha's
love. One day Yasoda, the foster-mother of Krishna, was searching
for the child who had strayed away. She sought almost everywhere in
vain, and then went to the house of Radha, but Krishna was not there
either. Then Radha closed her eyes and meditated on Krishna for a
while, and when she called his name, he appeared. Yasoda shed tears
of joy that her beloved was found, but after thinking about the
incident, she said to Radha, "I love Krishna as a mother, with some
egoism and possessiveness in me because he is my son. Your prema is
pure; it has no egoism prompting it." And so it was more effective.
Pure prema has the power to call God into manifestation before our
eyes. Sai Baba is himself a personification of pure prema, as Christ
was. If through his example, influence and Power, enough of this
love can be sown in the hearts, of men, the world will be changed.
Finally, it must he said that Baba's most important teachings and
training are given individually through words, hints, directions for
action, example and (perhaps most important of all) silent
influence. Such spiritual guidance differs for each individual
disciple for it depends on the disciple's temperament, state of
progress and needs at the time. As it is personal and secret, it
cannot be extracted and expounded by any observer. I can only say
that to some he gives mantras, to some special guidance in
meditation, to some yogic practices and austerities. Others receive
none of these, but different types of help. Some followers seem at a
certain time to be given much leeway, while others have to keep
their sails trimmed close to the wind. The many are taught by simple
parables and analogies; the few who can understand are told deeper
The underlying theme of all his training is that we must seek God
through self-surrender and devotion. The soul which has completely
surrendered itself, blotting out the lower ego, is able to absorb
and gain full benefit from the silent, wordless teaching which the
At the same time, Baba often says, "It is all within you. Try to
listen inwardly and follow the directions you get." To show the
importance of this inner voice, he tells the story of Lord Krishna
and Arjuna taking a walk together.
Seeing a bird in the sky, Krishna said, "There's a dove!"
"Yes, a dove", responded Arjuna.
"No, I think it's a pigeon."
"You're right, it is a pigeon. "
"Well, now I can see that it looks more like a crow."
"Beyond doubt it is a crow."
Krishna laughed and chided Arjuna for agreeing to every suggestion.
But Arjuna said, "For me your words are more weighty than the
evidence of my own eyes. Whatever you say it is, it is."
Here Lord Krishna represents the divine voice within each one of us.
Our physical senses may give us a wrong report, but the inner voice
will never do so. The purpose of the outer Sadguru is to help us
hear the voice of our inner guru clearly, surely, and at all times,
so that it becomes our infallible Guide.
Higher and nobler than all
ordinary ones are another set of teachers, the Avatars of Iswara.
They are the Teachers of all teachers, the highest manifestations of
God through men. - Swami Vivekananda.
When I discovered on
my first visit to Prasanti Nilayam that most of Sai Baba's devotees
spoke of him as an avatar, I began to enquire and read all I could
find on this Indian doctrine of divine incarnations. Actually, of
course, it is not an exclusively Indian doctrine. Christianity
teaches that Jesus, the carpenter of Nazareth, was an incarnation
from the Triune Godhead, but it states that this was the only divine
incarnation, a unique event in the long history of man on the
Hinduism, or the Sanatana Dharma, and Mahayana Buddhism on the other
hand teach the more reasonable doctrine that there have been many
incarnations on earth from the Godhead. In its simplest, most
elementary form, this Hindu doctrine means that Vishnu - that member
of the Triune Godhead concerned with the maintenance and evolution
of the universe - takes human birth. Narayana, another name for
Vishnu in his all-pervading mode, is considered the origin or seed
The Srimad Bhagavata states the truth of the avatar principle in
allegorical language in its first Book. "The Purusha [that is, the
first person, or God] known by the name of 'Narayana' is perceived
by the yogis as possessing thousands of heads, of eyes, of arms, of
feet, etc., and is the seed of all avatars."
On the same subject it states, "As countless rivers are born from an
ocean that never goes dry, so countless are the descents of the
lord; some of these are major, like Rama, Krishna, etc., but most
are minor amsas (rays) from his supreme radiance."
So according to this teaching there are degrees of "avatarhood", and
many of the great spiritual teachers of India are believed to have
embodied rays of the divine radiance and to have been partial or
minor avatars. The few, the Teachers of teachers, those who have
brought about a great forward movement in man's spiritual evolution,
are called the major avatars.
But how shall we understand this question in its deeper metaphysical
sense? According to the truth-religion, that is, the wisdom at the
foundation of all the great religions, every human being is a
descent of the divine into matter. But as well as being a descent
from God, Man also represents an ascent from lower forms of life.
Because of the immortal divine spirit that has come into him, Man
has struggled upward along the path of spiritual evolution, and will
continue to ascend until he fully understands and realises himself
to be of nature divine; or, to put it another way, until he is
merged with God, and knows himself to be merged. The end of his long
journey of many lifetimes through the phenomenal worlds of matter
will be to arrive where he started, as T.S. Eliot says, but to know
the place where he is, and who he is, for the first time. Changing
the metaphor, the divine seed will have become a fully grown plant.
So Man is at present a meeting point of the animal and the divine.
As he climbs upward from the mud and the mire, the higher light
descends into him, inspiring and aiding his climb. All men as well
as being sons of earth are sons of God, as Christ said. But when an
individual has reached the end of the pilgrimage and washed away the
dust of earth in the "cool kingdoms of celestial dew", what then?
There will be no desires to draw him back to earth, no karma, no
"unfinished business", to drag him back. If he returns, if he
reincarnates, it will be because of his love of mankind, his desire
to help his fellow men in their titanic struggle. Great compassion
can be the only motive for the descent of one who has reached
enlightenment, freedom, divinity.
We must keep in mind that one who has lived as man and finally and
fully realised himself as God merges with the divine ground of all
being, the Godhead. He becomes, in mythological terms, part of the
myriad eyes and hands and feet of Narayana. If he incarnates as a
human being once more on earth surely this is God incarnating, for
the freed soul and God are one.
The metaphysicist may try to draw a distinction between the divine
man and the divine in man, the "descent" and the "ascent". But when,
a highly-intellectual devotee of Baba questioned him on this point,
Baba said that there is no real difference that you can call it
"ascent" or "descent" because both are involved and both are true.
The fact is that our finite minds cannot really grasp this deep
abstruse question. All we can understand is that a major avatar,
though man in appearance, human in body, is totally God within.
What are the signs and signals by which we may know a major avatar?
The most obvious are, of course, the siddhis the supernormal powers.
Being completely merged with God, he will have command of all of
these without the use of mantra, tantra or yantra. He will have, for
instance, the power of creating anything on the spot from the akasha;
that is, from apparently nothing and nowhere. The same power enables
him to increase or diminish quantities and sizes as required, and to
cause objects to vanish or change their nature.
Important points to note are that, with an avatar as distinct from a
magician, these siddhis do not disappear or decrease no matter how
much they are used, and they are never used for personal gain -
always to bring blessings and benefits on others, or to glorify
Another major avataric sign is the power of bestowing divine grace.
Sai Baba says that such grace is really a reward for good things
done in the past, perhaps in a past life. It is like personal
savings that have been fixed in the karmic bank, and are suddenly
released by the power of the avatar. We don't remember the good
deeds, the causes, and so the "windfall" is regarded as a gift from
But, Baba says, there is also special grace. This has nothing to do
with past good actions. There are no assets in the karmic bank on
which you can draw, but you desperately need some funds. A rich man
with understanding and compassion may go guarantor for you, and the
bank will advance you the money. Special grace is something like
this, and the avatar has the power to bestow it. It may come as a
result of one's repentance and self-surrender to God, and is thus
similar to redemption.
Special grace may change a person's fate, and so also may its
opposite - the power of laying dooms. By the laws of karma, or moral
compensation, all men will suffer sooner or later for their errors
and misdeeds. But if the crimes are very great, the avatar may
hasten and concentrate the karmic effects by laying a doom. Thus
Lord Krishna put the doom of prolonged wandering, with physical and
spiritual suffering, on Ashvatthama, the killer of infants and
If the avatar shows anger, it will be righteous anger, to overcome
evil and promote human welfare. Behind it will be the sweetening
leaven of love. The surface personality may sometimes show human
emotions, but behind them is the constant bliss of one who lives in
the eternal. From the eternal heights, beyond maya (illusion), where
his centre always is in full consciousness, the avatar sees the
past, present and future. Untrammelled by restrictions of time and
space, he perceives causes and effects far beyond our human vision
and judges accordingly. Therefore his words and actions are often
hard to understand. They may seem puzzling, sometimes even
unreasonable, to ordinary humans who see only a small portion of
life's great tapestry. So we say that the avatar is inscrutable.
These then are some of the outer signs by which men with perception
may recognise the God in human form. Minor avatars, possessing
perhaps a few of such features, come fairly frequently, particularly
in India. Several have lived and taught during the last hundred
years, for example. The great avatars, on the contrary, are rare;
many centuries elapse between their advents. They come only when
conditions on earth have reached a critical stage, when there is
grave danger of the evil, demoniac, or backward-pulling forces
overpowering the good, devic, or forward-pulling forces. They come
as a drastic medicine to destroy the evil toxins in humanity, and
give a spurt to the evolution of human consciousness. In the
oft-quoted verse of the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna, speaking as God
himself, says, "Whenever virtue subsides and wickedness prevails, I
manifest myself to establish virtue, to destroy evil, to save the
good, I come from Age to Age. "
There is no doubt that we are living today in an age of great
crisis. "The world is the body of God," Baba says. "There is a
cancer in the body and it must be removed." Can the cancer be
treated or must it be removed by drastic surgery? That is the
question. In other words, must there be a catastrophic war, an
Armageddon, before mankind (what will be left of it) learns to live
in brotherhood and peace? Or will a gentler therapy be effective?
Long ago Lord Krishna, both heavenly avatar and earthly king strove
first for peace. But he found in the end that the surgery of war was
necessary to remove the cancer of that day - a powerful military
caste that had grown arrogant and evil and forgotten its dharma.
Many centuries earlier avatar Rama was forced to deal with the same
problem in the same way. He had to fight to destroy the rakshasas,
the demons in human form, who were dominating the earth, and
obstructing the divine plan of human evolution.
What about today, with the human race riding the precipice of
nuclear doom, with ignorance and greed sharing the reins? Can the
powers of light take over direction in time? Baba uses a different
metaphor: "White ants are in the tree again. In ancient times the
tree was cut down. Now we try to save it." So perhaps there is
"But why should an avatar be necessary?" the religious-minded man
may ask. "If the direct intervention of God is essential, why can't
he act from where he is? Why must he incarnate?" Sai Baba once said:
"A person wishing to save a man from drowning must jump into the
same pool; the Lord must come here in human form to be understood by
In taking on human form, we should note, the divine one takes on
certain human features and limitations. He has a physical body to
which, as Swami says, he "must pay the taxes." If we study the lives
of known avatars, such as Rama and Christ, we find evidence of some
emotional attributes that are more human than divine - sorrow,
anxiety, partiality towards certain people, for example.
We may be surprised to find these human touches in the personality
of the incarnated God, but actually they bring him closer to us.
Through them we are able to understand him a little, and so come to
the divine qualities beyond the human. Hence it is by becoming a
human being with some of its imperfections that an avatar is able to
promote human welfare.
Concerning his mission in the world Baba has said many things. Here
are just two of them: "I have come in order to repair the ancient
highway leading man to God. Become sincere, skilful engineers,
overseers and workmen, and join me. The Vedas, the Upanishads and
the Sastras are the road I refer to. I have come to reveal them and
revive them." And also: "I came to sow the seeds of faith in
religion and God. You might have heard some people say that I became
Sai Baba when a scorpion stung me. Well, I challenge any one of you
to get stung by a scorpion and transform yourselves into Sai Babas.
No, the scorpion had nothing to do with it. In fact, there was no
scorpion at all. I came in response to the prayers of sages, saints
and seekers for the restoration of dharma."
Practically all the close devotees of Baba, especially those who
have known him for a number of years, regard him as undoubtedly a
major avatar. Their personal experiences, their deeper feelings and
insights have convinced them of this.
Some people, like Dr. K.M. Munshi, sense the divinity of Baba at the
first contact. Writing in his journal soon after his initial
interview with Baba, Dr. Munshi said, "The true test of a
God-possessed individual is whether he has the capacity to plant the
seed of faith in men a seed which when it blossoms, will liberate
them from greed, hate and fear. This quality Baba has in abundant
People from the west as well as the Indians see Baba as a divine
incarnation. After her first visit to Prasanti Nilayam a woman of
Germany, a devout and earnest seeker on the path, said, "Baba is the
incarnation of purity and love." Later, after spending more time
with him, she wrote in a letter: "I get more and more convinced from
within that he is Jesus Christ who has come again, in the fullness
of Christ, as Satya Sai Baba..."
Some people, however, who have visited Baba and seen him as a holy
man with supernormal powers, do not regard him as an incarnation of
divinity. But this has ever been the way of the world. Most of
Krishna's contemporaries saw him only as a man; even some of the
great yogis of the time seem to have doubted his avatarhood; only a
few saw his infinite splendour and knew beyond doubt what he was.
The same seems to have been true of Rama. And how many accepted
Christ as of the high Godhead when his sandals trod the dust of
Palestine? Even some of his disciples were not convinced.
But when one spends days and weeks with Sai Baba, be it in the
special atmosphere of the ashram or on tour in many places, one soon
begins to feel that he is far beyond the measurements of man. Apart
from the miracles which show his command of nature, his power to be
anywhere and know what his devotees are thinking and doing ("I am a
radio and can tune in to your wave," he says), and his ability to
bring protection and help; apart from all these superhuman
qualities, there is the pure ego-less love. This above all stands as
a sign of a Christ-like divinity. In man sometimes we see flashes of
this love shown towards children, the sick, the weak. In Baba it is
there all the time, flowing freely from the divine fount of his
nature, embracing everybody, collectively and individually.
And this love is backed by a great wisdom, a deep intuitive
perception that sees the real beyond the play of shadows. His
devotees have countless proofs that Baba sees their past, present
and future, that he knows their karma, and what suffering they must
go through to pay old debts and learn the deeper truths of life, to
reach deliverance. And he helps them to bear that suffering when its
immediate removal is not expedient. He becomes the kind, gentle,
indulgent mother, the courageous, compassionate, merciful father
until his children's hearts and eyes overflow with bhakti tears.
They wonder: "What have I done to deserve this? Surely I am not
If we were asked to list the attributes in our concept of God, the
spiritual parent, most of us would name these: compassionate concern
for our welfare, knowledge of what that welfare truly is, the stern
strength to make us take the nasty medicine when necessary, the
power to help and guide us along the narrow way to our spiritual
home, the forgiveness and mercy of the father who welcomes with joy
the returning prodigal, the power to bring essential innovations to
the human drama which he has himself created, and a love that is
equal towards all his human children. These are surely the salient
qualities in man's mental image of God. And these qualities - all of
them - those who have the eyes to see have seen in Sai Baba.
Furthermore, a tree is judged by its fruit, as the Bible tells us.
Baba's fruits are those devotees who have surrendered themselves
fully to his influence and through the years been moulded thereby.
After meeting a number of these, several western visitors have
remarked: "Baba's devotees are a wonderful advertisement to him.
After being with them, one knows even without meeting him that Baba
is something very special." I myself can say that never before,
after years of experience in many places among many groups of
seekers, have I met a set of people with such fraternity, such
generosity, such warm-heartedness and sincerity. It is a joy to be
among them, and often I think of the words of St. John concerning
the early followers of Christ: "We love each other because he first
To a Vedantist devotee of Baba I once said: "Do you think Sai Baba
is an avatar?" He replied: "That's really a subject well out of my
metaphysical depths. But of his God-like love, power, infinitude,
inscrutability and final mystery, there is no doubt." I find myself
echoing this. Why bother about a metaphysical label over which men
will argue anyway? There is certainty concerning the divine
attributes, and there is, too, the feeling of unfathomable waters.
As I once remarked in an address to one of Baba's mammoth audiences,
"Writing a book about him is like trying to enclose the universe in
a small room."
The point is put more graphically in a symbolic story. When the
child Krishna was running around getting into all sorts of mischief,
his foster-mother Yasoda tried to tie him to a post with a piece of
rope. But the rope would not go around his body. She took a longer
piece but that also proved a little too short. Whatever length she
obtained, it was never quite long enough to encircle the divine
So, too I find that every description of Sai Baba - of his miracles,
his personality, his qualities, his teachings - is short of the
actuality. There is always something important that eludes and
escapes one. On this matter Baba himself says: "No one can
understand my mystery. The best thing you can do is to get immersed
in it. There is no use arguing about pros and cons; dive and know
the depth; eat and know the taste. Then you can discuss me to your
heart's content. Develop truth and love and then you need not even
pray to be granted this and that. Everything will be added unto you
At another time he said: "Of course you must discard all evil in you
before you can evaluate the mystery. Do not proclaim before you are
convinced; be silent while you are still undecided. When faith
dawns, fence it around with discipline and self-control so that the
tender shoots are guarded against the goats and cattle - the motley
crowd of cynics and unbelievers. When your faith grows into a big
tree, those very same goats and cattle can lie down in the shade
that it will spread."
 Krishna and the
Theory of Avatars, by Bhagavan Das.
 See The Occult World, by A.P. Sinnett
(The Theosophical Publishing House, London)
 The Incredible Sai Baba, by Arthur Osborne. (Rider & Co.
 The Life of Bagavan Sri Satya Sai Baba, by N. Kasturi.
 Esoteric Buddhism, by A.P. Sinnett (now out of print)
 This story was first published in the magazine, Sanatana Sarati
("Timeless Charioteer"), and checked by the Editor, Mr N. Kasturi,
M.A., B.L., lately of the History Department, and ex-College
Principal at Mysore University.
First published in
Great Britain 1971
by Frederick Muller Ltd., Fleet Street, London, E. C.4
Copyright @ 1971 Howard Murphet
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any
means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise,
without the prior permission of Frederick Muller Limited.
Paperback Edition by Macmillan India Limited 1972, 1974, 1975, 1980
by S G Wasani for Macmillan India Limited and
Printed by T K Sengupta at Macmillan India Press, Madras 600 002
PUBLISHER'S NOTE TO THE SECOND INDIAN EDITION
Many readers of the first edition, coming to India from different
parts of the world, or from within India itself, have tried to
contact Miss Leela Mudaliar at Queen Mary College, Madras, in order
to find the address of the Sai Baba Guindy Temple, the story of
which is given in these pages. As she has now moved to another
college, as Professor of Botany, we think it would be useful to give
here the address of the temple. It is 31D Mount Road, Guindy, Madras
Many more readers have been writing to the publishers or the author
for the address of Sri Sathya Sai Baba in India. So for the help of
those who may desire this information, his two main ashram addresses
are given below:
1. Prasanthi Nilayam, Anantapur District, Andhra Pradesh.
2. 'Brindavan', Kadugodi, Near Whitefield, Bangalore, Karnataka