Major news channels, BBC, Sky TV and others, and our broadsheet newspapers, such as the Daily Telegraph reported the death of the internationally renowned Indian mystic, Sri Sathya Sai Baba on 24th April.
The word ‘Sri’ is an honorary title related to the Goddess Lashkmi who bestows wealth. Sathya means ‘the path of truth’, Sai means ‘divine’ and Baba means ‘father’.
Miracles were reported at the birth of this child in a poor province in India in 1926. He was given the name Sathyanarayana Raju and, whilst a young teenager, he was stung by a scorpion and developed paranormal powers. From then, he took the name of one of India’s most famous saints, Sai Baba, who was born a Hindu in 1838 and brought up as a Sufi Muslim, uniting these two beliefs. He had no interest in perishables and lived a life of renunciation, studying self-enlightenment by sitting under a tree in contemplation and keeping alive the sacred flame of the Mosque in Shirdi village until his death in 1918. There were no successors to his teaching until it was announced slowly to the world that the latest incarnation of this saint could perform miracles, often materialising objects such as holy ash, gold statues, jewellery and Rolex watches and laughed when people were impressed with materialisations and teleports, as he regarded the paranormal as a method to attract all kinds of seekers so that he could teach them the importance of living a true spiritual life. His creation of ashrams and spiritual centres around the world from the late 1960s onwards led in 2011 to the ‘Watkins Review’ (which lists the most influential people in the world) awarding Sai Baba 37th place. Goldie Hawn, Sarah Ferguson and Hard Rock Café founder, Isaac Tigrett are said to be among his famed devotees. He preached oneness of God’s love, introduced moral teaching into many schools (including the UK), re-told ancient Hindu scriptures and related stories and parables that explained his personal philosophy of global peace, generosity, unity and the ending of poverty around the world.
Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral ceremony at his major ashram In Puttaparthi, Southern India, including political and spiritual leaders. Also among the mourners were judges, generals, sports stars and international celebrities. He was described as a selflessly caring person who used huge donations to his charity to set up schools and hospitals for the poor. Though he had many vociferous critics, this controversial swami left an estimated £5.5billion. Because he never married and has no children, there is a scramble for this inheritance but, as yet, no successor has been named. We await his incarnation for the twenty-first century and wonder in which ways his message will have changed for our time, perhaps no longer teleporting Rolex watches but speaking about pollution and overpopulation of our world.
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