Sai Baba: A humanist more than a godman

Written by: Radha Radhakrishnan

Satya Sai Baba
Satya Sai Baba is dead. As the news started to break this morning, Indian news TV Channels began brazing themselves to a hectic and intense coverage of the death, reactions from who"s who from the world of politics, entertainment, sports and the like. Condolences pouring from Congress President Sonia Gandhi to Sri Lankan cricketer Arjun Ranatunga, from former Andhra Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to former Pakistan Cricket Captain Zaheer Abbas… From BJP"s L K Advani to singer Ricky Martin.

Miracle man, con man, spiritual leader of the rich, magician, reincarnation of God… For every supporter he has, there is a critique criticizing his work and philosophy. It is almost like 'you can love him or hate him. But you cannot ignore him". He attracted extreme emotions from people world over.

That"s probably true for most of the renowned God men and God women India has. Many have received international acceptance for their spiritual wisdom by a section of the society while another section has put them under microscopic lens to pick on any lacunae they see in their words and deeds. Sai Baba was no exception. While every act of his brought him millions of supporters and followers world over, it also brought him detractors who drubbed him a magician or a con man or simply being opportunistic. Those who stood by him hailed him as a great spiritual leader capable of healing them. People opposing him branded him the Leader of the rich - just exploiting opportunities to extract money from them.

As a child, at an age when I was too young to form an opinion of my own, I was exposed to the concept of Satya Sai Baba. Am deliberately calling it a concept because that was an age when I had no idea of God let alone God men. Few of us from my school would gather at one of our teacher"s house once a week to chant Baba bhajans. Today I feel this was the teacher"s way of ensuring a crowd for these events probably! For us kids the incentive was the prasadam we get to eat after the chanting. I don"t remember how and when.

I got out of this ritual. Probably it did not last more than a year…

Many years later during my college days I used to read in some media or the other about either the miracle Baba would do or criticism from atheists about his self-proclamation of being an incarnation of God. His mystery man status continued in my mind.

Today, decades later I am still not willing to unwrap this mystery… There are several men and women who are self styled or self proclaimed Gods in this country and I do not wish to go to the depths of understanding who is genuine and who is not. However what I have understood about Satya Sai Baba is this – he has also done some service to the society. His Institutions run several elementary and high schools. It has a deemed university for higher learning, an Institute of Music. Students in these institutions get free education.

The Satya Sai trust also runs General Hospitals at Bangalore and Puttaparthi where free medical aid is rendered to the poor. Majority of the patients are from socially and economically weaker sections of society though like all other systems in India this too probably has been misused by the not-so-poor as well to avail free treatment.

The Satya Sai Trust has also brought water to more than 700 villages in Andhra Pradesh covering 9-lakh population…Satya Sai Baba"s biggest contribution is also to the people of Puttaparthi which today is a tourist destination and boasts of a healthy economy in an otherwise barren area of Rayalseema in Andhra Pradesh.

This is the picture and image of Satya Sai Baba I would like to remember. His spiritual intent, his godly status are things beyond my comprehension and understanding. That he chose and attempted to distribute the wealth he was able to gather among the poor, among the needy of this country is a cause noble enough to appreciate.

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*The views expressed in this article are solely that of the author and do not necessarily represent those of or of Greynium Information Technologies Pvt Ltd. *

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