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.

Learn More:

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

About Ambaa

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.

  • Arjun

    Aamba be careful of that link to robert priddy because hes already being exposed as a liar suffering from some personal issues and hes attacked hindus in article entitled “How can so many Indians be fooled so much of the time?”,
    in which he mentioned various stories in the Ramayana and Srimad
    Bhagavatam and bashed them as being believed by people who are naive,
    gullible, “backward intellectually” and “ignorant peasants”
    http://sathyasaibaba.wordpress.com/2007/06/22/

    • Ambaa

      I didn’t know that!

      I like to try to present a balanced view, so I include some links to criticism when I find them. But the truth is that we have to take both praise and criticism with “a grain of salt”

  • Arjun

    ‘Apparently Sathya Sai Baba is known for visual tricks and/or small
    miracles like making objects appear. Followers see this as proofs of
    divinity’

    Most of his devotees in india and outside who are in their millions are not devotees because they saw some magic tricks.They wouldnt be doing all service for free like running top hospitals, schools, universities and much more for free to the public if it was based on a few magic tricks.If it was that easy based around a few tricks then david blaine or david copperfield would just take over the world.Its way beyond what some simple street magic tricks when u experience what many devotees do experience.

    • Ambaa

      That is a great point!

  • http://twitter.com/subashcv CVSubash

    Like your approach to do research & explore… When we approach anything with attitude, ESP spiritual, we are on the right track. But often we start off with a bias, we get lost. As a teenager, over two decades ago, I belonged to the latter category. But was fortunate to know Baba, since 1988. live has been truly blissful since then.

    You can travel to Prashanthi Nilayam, Puttaparthi, near Bangalore, and do research on His early life. He has not set up temples, but only hospitals, schools & colleges, service projects such as water-project.

    Books you may love check : Man of Miracles by Howard Murphet, Sai Baba by Bill Atkins, Loving God by Prof Kastuti, Books by Dr Samuel Sandweis, etc.

    Blissfully

    • Ambaa

      Thank you! I will check out those books. And maybe next time my parents visit their guru near Bangalore I can travel to those areas to learn more.

  • http://h2cl.co.uk/ g Vijayank

    Hi Ambaa ,

    Glad to know that you are making an attempt to know more about BABA.

    GOD doesn’t demand bowing down to Him or worshipping Him. It all in our perception .

    I am a devotee of BABA from a very young age , but I share a different kind of relationship with Him. It ‘s relationship based on friendship, love and self surrender. He is more like my Best Friend ,who is always beside me through kith and kin and I know He is there protecting me and loving me .

    I have been fortunate to see and feel the presence of BABA a number of times .I vividly remember that every time I saw Him in person I had unexplained tears in my eyes. Maybe my soul recognised Him as the Almighty even before I did ..Its like a child recognising his/ her mother even in a crowd and that doesn’t require magic tricks or miracles.

    • Ambaa

      That sounds good to me! I can handle that kind of relationship with a guru :)