The Planned Avatar?
Copyright Brian Steel 2001
Date, 7 July 2002
From: Brian Steel
Originally published in "Sathya Sai Baba: God or Guru?",† November 2001, as a small section of Part 2 of Chapter 7 ('The Development of the Sai Baba Mission'). This† substantially revised chapter will be published soon on my website in "The Guru from Puttaparthi. An Alternative View of Sathya Sai Baba". Some other revised chapters are already available there.
The recent VERY important disclosures by Sanjay Dadlani in his highly original paper, 'Sai Baba: Shiva or Sadhaka' deals with the subject of SBís early period, specifically with a period of six months "in the caves". This inspired my short addendum to that paper (on http://www.exbaba.com). This new† combination of known facts and reasonable hypotheses instantly changes our state of knowledge of (and attitudes to) an† aspect of† SB's early life. This realisation prompts me to reissue the following relevant paragraphs of my 2001 web-book, which is now in the final stages of revision. The reason for doing this is that ANY light on that remote and murky early period of SB's life, which has been completely mythologised by countless writers, enables OTHER researchers to advance further in the completion of a difficult but extremely important jigsaw puzzle. The combination of several pieces of a particular section of that† jigsaw puzzle enable further connections to be made.
In the course of a long period of research and in spite of all the hagiographic overstatements, etc., I found that from time to time pieces of disconnected circumstantial evidence kept cropping up (tantalisingly), suggesting that SB may not always have been so 100% convinced of his Mission as we have all been led to believe. The new combination of 'pieces' reinforces that hypothesis. Hence this repetition of my 'bits'.
I hope that other seekers of the Truth (Sathya) may be able to use these fragments, and the many others which are being discovered - or in a few surprising (wonderful!) cases revealed by devotees' books -† to make further discoveries. At the same time, those who need to know more of the truth about SB may benefit somehow from seeing these small contributions and reflecting on them.
The Planned Avatar
There are some intriguing clues here and there in the SB literature that what is taken (and claimed) as a preordained Mission from birth and even before may in fact have developed later, during SB's adult life. Much of the following evidence comes from the invaluable recent work by a team of devotees who are attempting to put SB's biography on a more professional footing, LIMF (Love is My Form, Volume 1. The Advent (1926-1950). Other important gleanings are from the equally recent book by a longtime devotee Srimati Vijaya Kumari, Refuge Other Than You is there None.
One of the suggestions made in LIMF is that in the early years SB's claims were not accepted by the villagers of Puttaparthi, who saw him as crazy. The elders wanted an eye kept on him. He was hyper-charged with energy, according to his 'associates' and had to be restrained. (p.165) SB was unpopular with the villagers because of the "crowds" he attracted. There was also local criticism because a non-Brahmin (SB) was staying in Sakamma's house and it was therefore incorrect for him to enter the kitchen. (p. 237)
LIMF also suggests that SB's own father was still not convinced in 1944. (p. 170) His maternal uncle cared for him but a footnote (p.178) states that the latter "never thought of Baba as special or divine ..."
In 1947, his brother, Seshama, was concerned at SB's lack of acceptance locally and that his main devotees were from far away. That is why he wrote a warning letter to Baba telling him to give up his activities - for fear of SB's failure (LIMF, p.349). For SB's energetic and lengthy response, see pp. 350-351.(The compilers do not include Seshama's original letter, but I believe it is reproduced in one or two books, whose references I have misplaced.)
Samadhi in 1948?
According to Kasturi, after the extensive travels and activities in the years following his "Declaration", Baba became exhausted and lost his appetite. Kasturi suggests, logically, that his body was exhausted by the spiritual powers which were growing within him. But in LIMF it is clearly stated that he expressed the desire to attain Samadhi (self-absorption with Brahman) but was dissuaded from this by Sakamma and others!
"Around this time, Baba wanted to attain Samadhi. Sakamma and Savrithramma held His feet and said "You should not leave; You should live with us, Swami, for many years." Finally, Baba changed His mind." (LIMF, p. 447, quoting a personal interview with Shantha Krishnamurthy, on 24 April, 1998.)
An interview with another contemporary corroborates that 3 years previously, in 1944, SB "was telling us that He would attain Samadhi in three years and take birth again in Mandya near Mysore. We told Him we would not be able to live without Him." (LIMF, 197, citing an interview with D.M. Narayanappa on 27 February 2000.) (Mandya, incidentally, is the district allegedly named by SB as the future birthplace of Prema Sai.)
A Pre-ordained Mission?
In public, SB has made many claims that his Mission is planned and unstoppable; that the conversion of the whole of humanity is just a matter of time. And yet in an excited and delightfully warm 3-page letter to Dr. Gokak from Kampala (7-7-68), SB euphorically describes the wonderful welcome he and his party had received, on his first and only overseas visit, to Nairobi and then to Kampala. (Gokak, 1975: 242-243). On p. 244, Gokak quotes SB as writing to him: "Bangaru, no one ever imagined that the spread of Dharma will be done in this way in foreign lands. Even Kasturi, Indulal Shah, etc. are getting stunned at this." These words are open to different interpretations, of course, but IF SB is speaking excitedly of his OWN surprise, that would surely raise further questions about omniscience.
To be continued ...