The Immaculate Conception
Copyright © Brian Steel 2002
By: Brian Steel
There is scattered evidence to indicate that, in addition to his other Divine claims, SB publicly and privately claimed (probably in the early 1960s) that his allegedly Divine birth was by Immaculate Conception. Such a claim seems totally logical and congruent in the light of SB's other claims of Divinity. If only the Roman Catholic Church had such a documented claim from the lips of Jesus Christ! But the following investigation also indicates that SB (or the SSO) probably decided not to keep this potentially polemical claim by SB himself on public record in its original quite specific form. However, like so many frequently alleged facts about SB, it is still propagated by writers and unofficial spokespersons.
In the first volume of his biography (1961), when describing the birth, Kasturi makes no mention of an Immaculate Conception, but in his much later (1984) book about SB=s mother, Easwaramma, he quotes an undated conversation at which he was present. A Pundit had asked SB whether his was an Immaculate Conception (Pravesa) or a normal one (Prasava). SB had then allegedly turned to his mother, who was also present, and asked her to comment. Easwaramma then explained that she had been told by her mother-in-law not to be frightened if something happened to her through the will of God. SB=s Mother is then quoted as saying, "That morning I was at the well drawing water, a big ball of blue light came rolling towards me and I fainted and fell. I felt, it glided into me." Swami turned to Rama Sarma with a smile. "There you have the answer! I was not begotten. It was Pravesa [spiritual birth; entrance], not Prasava [biological conception]." (N. Kasturi, Easwaramma, p. 20)
M. N. Rao is a devotee author and also a very prominent and well-connected ashram resident. Through his books, he is a fervent and influential spokesperson for SB. In one of his three books, published in 1990 (p. 315), he gives part of the Kasturi quotation (without acknowledging his source) and adds, cautiously, "Swami's birth has to be considered perhaps as by Immaculate conception." In a later book (God and His Gospel, 1995, p. 183) Rao repeats the Immaculate Conception claim, and then, still without giving any sources, presents part of the Kasturi information and a quotation traceable to a Discourse, as we shall see below:
Rao begins with the "Easwaramma / ball of light" information already quoted, and then adds the following additional quotation: "Swaami concluded the topic by confirming that:
"I was [[not]] begotten. It was Pravesa and not Prasava. [Bold type added] No Avathaar is born from flesh and blood including this Avathaar ... The embryo of the ordinary mortals is Jalodakasayi, enveloped in watery stuff; the embryo of the Avathaar is Ksheerodakasayi, enveloped in the pure white milk of Holiness. That is why in the make-up of the Avathaar, there is no blemish."
In the (translated and edited) Discourses we find the following confirmation of most of this statement on 4 February 1963 (too late for Kasturi's first volume) but, curiously, without the more specific first two sentences given above. Have the intermittently vigilant editors excised them from the revised editions of Sathya Sai Speaks? And, if so, WHY?
"No Avathaar is born flesh and blood including this Avathaar ... The embryo of ordinary mortals is jalodhakashaayi (enveloped in watery stuff); the embryo of the Avathaar is encased in Ksheerodakashaayi (the pure white milk of holiness). That is why in the make-up of the Avathaar, there is no blemish, there is no trace of Guna." (Sathya Sai Speaks, III, 3:22)
There is further indirect (and apparently cautious) evidence on this matter in John Hislop's Conversations with Sai Baba (p. 75).
Hislop: "The Avathar is never born, but he appears to take birth in a body which then gradually grows to full size in the ordinary way. ..."
SB: "The Avathar takes only the body such as you have described. The difference is that men come into bodies with tendencies and the results of actions. Baba takes this body without any tendencies, completely free, no desires, no attachments, always happy."
From the evidence presented (and unless there is some other verbatim mention of Pravesa / Presava in Sathya Sai Speaks), it seems certain that SB not only made this quite specific claim in a witnessed conversation but also incorporated it into a 1963 Discourse, from which it has been partly censored. The only mystery in all this, given the total openness of SB's other frequent early claims to Divinity, is why he (or the SSO) should have such apparent reluctance to allow this direct claim to remain on record in the Discourses? An obvious hypothetical answer immediately suggests itself: so as not to provoke or antagonise other major religions, notably the Roman Catholic Church for which the person of the Virgin Mary and the dogma connected with the Immaculate Conception is of central importance.