Sai Baba Dies

Sai Baba Dies

Apr 25

 

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SATHYA SAI BABA: A VILLAGE BOY WHO BECAME DEMI GOD
IANS
April 24, 2011

Original Link

Sathya Sai Baba, who died on Sunday, was seen as a reincarnation of god by millions, having preached an eclectic blend of Hindu religion since the time he claimed to be an ‘avatar’ at a young age of 14.

The many attacks by rationalists on him and what he stood for did not derail the immense following he achieved as he grew from this once obscure hamlet to achieve demi god status in India and abroad.

Born as Sathyanarayana Raju in November 23, 1926 in Puttaparthi, his devotees claimed he started singing Sanskrit verses, of which he had no knowledge, one day in March 1940 after being apparently stung by a scorpion.

Within two months, the teenager claimed to be a reincarnation of the more famous Shirdi Sai Baba, who had reportedly stated before his death in 1918 that he would reappear in the then Madras Presidency eight years later.

In no time, the boy gathered a following as he stepped into the world of spirituality. Word spread that Raju could make objects such as food and sweets materialise out of thin air.

As time went by, and he came to be recognised for his mane and flowing orange robes, the boy transformed into Sathya Sai Baba, frequently producing with a flick of his hand ‘vibhuti’ (sacred ash) and small objects such as Shiv lings, rings and necklaces.

Puttaparthi became his base, eventually transforming the once small village into a lively pilgrimage centre, with its own railway station and air strip.

The spiritual guru built a temple in 1944. Four years later he founded Prasanthi Nilayam (Abode of Supreme Peace) at Puttaparthi.

He also opened ashrams at Whitefield on Bangalore’s outskirts and at Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. He made it a point to tell his followers not to give up their original religion.

He preached: “My objective is the establishment of sanatana dharma, which believes in one god as propitiated by the founders of all religions.”

Sathya Sai Baba, however, ran into critics who repeatedly challenged him to make the objects materialise in “controlled conditions” — to prove that he was not indulging in trickery.

The godman brushed away the attacks, which abated over the years, even as his spiritual empire expanded. Today, his devotees are spread over some 130 countries and number in millions.

Simultaneously, Sai Baba plunged into charitable work.

His movement began providing free medical treatment, both in Puttaparthi and Bangalore, as well as free education for the poor.

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SPIRITUAL GURU TO MIRACLE MAN: SATHYA SAI’S LIFE
ibnlive.com
April 24, 2011

Original Link

One of India’s most famous spiritual leaders, who counted a worldwide following of millions including top diplomats, sports icons and film stars, led a life dedicated to philanthropy marred by the occasional controversies.

Sathya Sai, or Sathya Sai Baba, as he was fondly known among followers, passed away at the intensive care unit of a hospital funded by his organisation in the town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh where thousands of devotees gathered to pay their last respects. He was 85.

Sathya Sai, whose devotees believe him to be an incarnation of God in human form, has a following believed to be over six millions in India and abroad.

Regarded as the god man of the god men, Sathya Sai, led a life full of claimed miracles for over 70 years. He was also a spiritual leader, educator, and philanthropist.

Sathya Sai was born in 1926 into an ordinary family at Puttapathi village in Andhra Pradesh. He was named Sathyanarayana. As a child he was unusually intelligent and showed no interest in worldly things. He was a writer of poetry. When he was just 14 years old, Sathyanarayana announced that he was a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi.

Hagiography has it that at a very early age he was bit by a poisonous scorpion, following which he started to show unusual powers such as reciting Sanskrit verses of which he had no knowledge of.

Prime Ministers, Presidents, Kings, Ambassadors and celebrities from every walk of life thronged his Aashram in Puttaparthi seeking his blessings for over 50 years. He founded over 1500 Sathya Sai Centres in 114 countries across the globe. He was visited by record number of heads of states during his life time.

Sathya Sai proclaimed himself as divinity and claimed miracles such as producing sacred ash or ‘vibhuti’, vermillion, fruits, precious gems and gold items from thin air at the time of his visitations with his followers.

He also claims to have brought back to life two persons from the dead apart from curing fatal diseases and disability in followers. His Aashram at Puttaparthi became a famous religious centre within just 20 years.

Sceptics and rationalists considered his miracles nothing more than parlour tricks. Retired Icelandic psychology professor Erlendur Haraldsson wrote that he did not get Sathya Sai’s permission to study him under controlled circumstances. In 1976, Dr H Narasimhaiah, a physicist and then vice chancellor of Bangalore University, founded and chaired a committee “to rationally and scientifically investigate miracles and other verifiable superstitions”.

He wrote to Sathya Sai to allow him to study the guru’s purported miracles under scientific conditions but was refused audience.

Another rationalist Abraham Thomas Kovoor who campaigned to expose as frauds various Indian and Sri Lankan “god-men”, believed that the Sathya Sai performed his ‘vibhuti’ through sleight of hand. Noteworthy is also the effort of Indian magician P C Sorkar Junior who was critical of the gurus “miracles.”

Sathya Sai gained immense popularity among the people of southern India for many philanthropic endeavours such as world class speciality heart hospitals, free water schemes to cities, towns and villages and educational institutions.

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CONTROVERSIAL INDIAN SPIRITUAL LEADER PASSES AWAY AT 86
AFP
April 24, 2011

Original Link

Sathya Sai Baba was said to be endowed with many magical powers, including the ability to save the terminally ill, produce sacred ash and foresee his own death in his 96th year.

Worshipped as a god by his followers but tainted by allegations of sex abuse, Sai Baba died aged 85 on Sunday in his hometown of Puttaparthi due to heart failure.

Born as Sathya Narayana Raju to a modest family in southeastern Andhra Pradesh, he claimed to be the reincarnation of a popular Hindu holy man from western India called Sai Baba of Shirdi who died eight years before his birth.

Legend has it that as a boy he was bitten by a scorpion — some accounts say a snake — and that afterwards he developed powers to conjure up objects such as sweets or jewelry and speak languages he had never learnt.

From his ashram in the tiny village of Puttaparthi, he built an empire of schools, hospitals and centers that spread his influence worldwide and brought him followers from the highest levels of society.

He counted former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, judges, actors, generals and politicians as devotees, as well as Indian cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar and Hollywood star Goldie Hawn.

One of his biggest financial supporters was the former owner of the Hard Rock Cafe chain of restaurants, Isaac Burton Tigrett, who went to live in Puttaparthi and donated much of his fortune to the Sai Baba trust.

Always dressed in saffron-coloured robes with his trademark afro-style hairdo, the guru had several earlier flirtations with death.

In 1993, four men armed with knives burst into his private apartment in what was described as an assassination attempt. A fight ensued in which two devotees were stabbed to death before police shot and killed the assailants.

Providing free health care and performing an occasional miracle cure was a central part of the image and mystique built around a man whose flock is thought to number tens of millions across more than 150 countries.

Backed with cash donations from wealthy believers, the Sai Baba organization has built a state-of-the-art hospital in Puttaparthi and another near the southern city of Bangalore.

It also operates drinking water schemes, a university, a museum, a planetarium and prayer rooms and centres across the globe.

The organization’s assets are estimated in the Indian press to be anywhere from 400 billion to 1.5 trillion rupees ($9 billion to $34 billion), but the source of these figures is unclear. There are no financial accounts publicly available.

While the charitable work and teachings brought him public respectability, his showman antics in which he would materialise gold coins or watches on stage at public meetings brought him fame and notoriety.

The half-kilo (one pound) of sacred ash he was said to materialise each day was thought by believers to have healing properties.

Throughout his life he was pursued by Indian rationalists. One magician, P.C. Sorcar, once went on tour to debunk his tricks and apparent miracles.

“He is no godman. He is not even a good magician,” Sorcar scoffed. “He is so clumsy that he is spoiling the name of all magicians.”

There were more serious allegations, too, of pedophilia and abuse.

In 2004, the BBC aired the “Secret Swami” documentary in which several former American followers recounted abuse at his hands.

The son of a couple that ran a center in Arkansas in midwestern America told how Sai Baba allegedly took him aside as a teenager and then massaged his genitals with oil before kissing him on the mouth.

The allegations were strongly denied by the Sai Baba organization and other legal cases, accounts of suicides and claims of abuse did little to dent his popularity.

And for his followers, there is hope: he forecast his own reincarnation eight years after his death.

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RELATED LINKS:

Pulse on Sai Baba
• The Dark Side

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