Meet a Guru: Sai Baba

I can’t recall how or where I first heard of Sai Baba. I don’t know much at all about him or his teachings (yet). I’m going to do some research today so we can both learn about him. I know I have at least heard of him before. Seeing his picture on the website of the congregation I’m going to be checking out, I instantly recognized it because of his wild frizz of hair.

Background

Śri Sathya Sai Baba is the spiritual name of a recent guru who was said to possibly be the reincarnation of  Sai Baba of Shirdi whose followers believed him to be an avatar.

Apparently Sathya Sai Baba is known for visual tricks and/or small miracles like making objects appear. Followers see this as proofs of divinity and skeptics see it as just magic tricks. He is also said to be a healer and able to heal himself from strokes, etc.

It’s hard to find out anything about his birth or early life because it is so obscured by stories and myths of all the miracles that supposedly surrounded him as a child. It is said that he was stung by a scorpion as a teenager and after that began to manifest spiritual gifts and proclaimed to his family that he was the reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi.

He established temples and did charity work such as providing water to impoverished areas of India. His followers seem to believe that Sathya Sai Baba is also an avatar.

Teaching

“I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added lustre. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love.” –http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume08/sss08-22.pdf

There is a focus on devotion and service. It seems that many of the groups centered on his teaching do a lot of bhajan (hymn) singing.

I found a summary of his teachings here: http://sathya-sai-baba.org/teaching.html

According to Wikipedia: “John D. Kelly, as of 2006 a professor of anthropology at the University of Chicago wrote in an article about Hindu mission in Fiji that the Sathya Sai Organization (which is part of the movement) reject the label Hindu. According to Kelly, they see their founder as the ‘living synthesis of the world’s religious traditions’ and prefer to be classified as an interfaith movement.”

My Experience

I have no experience yet with this tradition. I’ll be learning more about it this coming Saturday! [Update: I had an awesome time and will be attending services with this group regularly]

I’ve found in researching that you have to be careful to distinguish between Sathya Sai Baba and Sai Baba of Shirdi.

I am, as usual, skeptical of this guru. The teachings sound fine and in line with the basics of Hinduism/Sanatana Dharma, but the worship of the man himself does make me squeamish. I have a feeling this is going to end up for me exactly like my sojourn into Christianity: I don’t so much have any problem with the teachings (as long as I can interpret them to include reincarnation and the unity of all souls), but I cannot bow down and worship a person.

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* I am not endorsing any of the teachers highlighted in this feature


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About Ambaa Choate

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • towhommaybe

    The attack by Arjun on Robert Priddy, whose website is the most comprehensive and well-researched material available, including many of his own published words, is based on the lies by a fanatical and uneducated web troll who spent day and night for 6 years until he died in slandering everyone who criticised any of his several gurus. Priddy was a leader of the Norwegian Sai Baba Organisation for many years before he came to learn what few did, the total cover-up of fraud and wilful misinformation by his unquestioning devotees and those who he gave benefits to spread his propaganda. Sai Ba tricked people into giving money to his projects by pretending to give them valuable divine gifts, which were really cheap trinkets – though some contained gold. The world has countless good people who will take opportunities to do service to others, and this can be seen in many organisation which far exceed any good works of Sai Baba got others to do for him.

  • Ambaa

    That’s wonderful! I have continued to go to the Baba group and I really love it. I’ve been there about eight months now.

  • Ambaa

    Thank you for the book suggestions! :)

  • Ambaa

    That’s what I thought! So I’m not sure what the purpose of those magic tricks was, but oh well. It’s something for detractors to point out, but it doesn’t change the great wisdom I’ve found in Baba’s teachings.