Sai Baba has moved on, but his memory will not fade.
He would often say, “I give you what you want, so you will come to want what I have to give.”
A bad experience with a Christian church in the early 1970s had left me steering well clear of religion, as I pursued an interest with Viking culture, but I was prepared to examine evidence. When someone borrowed a book from the library for me by the Tasmanian writer, Howard Murphet, I found myself confronted with the question of evidence, in the East. Murphet’s ‘Man of Miracles’ tells the story of a holy man in India who could actually perform miracles and this book led to many more books, examining the accounts of thousands of witnesses. Reading of people being raised from the dead and food being multiplied seemed out of our age, a matter of myth, even ludicrous. This was either a giant hoax to be disproven, or a matter quite amazing. I entered the Sai Baba world with eyes wide open.
Once past the miracles, which became too numerous to count, I found quite an amazing body of teachings and some quite brilliant quotes, such as, “You will attain equanimity of mind only when you treat happiness and sorrow alike.” One of the interesting aspects Sai Baba’s way was how he encouraged people to stick to the faith or religion that they were already in. When visiting Sai Baba’s ashram in India in 1986, I met an elderly woman from Queensland who was an Odinist. She told me how she had been a little worried about worshipping Odin and also being interested in Sai Baba, but had not mentioned the matter. One day, when at a meeting with Sai Baba, he pointed at a pendant of Odin that she was wearing and said, “You follow your God.”
Sai Baba passed away on Sunday morning in India at 7.40am and will be buried in a State funeral at the Ashram, Prasanthi Nilayam on Wednesday. His home state has declared 4 days of mourning. He is so highly regarded in India, because he has helped so many people through providing free education, healthcare and water, not to mention how his organisation responds when disasters strike.
Death was never a concern for Sai Baba, who encouraged people to be aware of who they really were and would say, “The individual self is the supreme self and the supreme self is the individual self.” He saw the only reality as being eternal and the eternal as the underlying reality, which each person would in time awaken to.
Time in the Sai Baba universe, however, could span over many lives. He always claimed to be reborn and that his last life was as the Indian saint Shirdi Sai Baba and that he will return to finish the work of his current life as Prema Sai Baba, who would be born near Mysore in Mandya district in Karnataka. That is an interesting message of hope for the future.
Shirdi Sai Baba
Now that Sai Baba has moved on, we not only have the legacy of hundreds of books like that by Howard Murphet describing the life of the man of miracles, but also such a body of teachings given in writing and speeches over seven decades that they would fill an encyclopaedia. In coming years there will be great interest in this vast ocean of instruction, quite often about Christianity and Hindu traditions, as well as direct guides for living in the age of science. Some may take to the fundamentalist trail and attempt to live by every word, but Sai Baba’s mischievous grin would be better kept in mind. He would say, “You must dive deep into the sea to get the pearls.” (July 1959).
Once he stood by the shore and a wave came up and washed around his feet and when it had receded, a string of pearls was seen about his legs by the party on the beach with him. Having sifted through many of the volumes of Sai Baba’s teachings, I have found that, submerged within this vast ocean of words. there are often precious pearls such as, “Liberation happens when you love every being so intensely that you are aware of only one.” (13 August 1971).
If more people in the world had such love, could there be war, could there be starvation? Sai Baba is gone, but the temple he built lives on among people of every faith, who he encouraged to continue in the religion that they were in.