Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

History

The Passing of Sri Sathya Sai Baba

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.

image
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.

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17 Comments

17 Comments

  1. Kim Peart

    April 28, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    Re: 16 A. Orange

    Some people don’t want to think about anything other than what they want to think about. Rather than citing “hogwash” as justification without explanation, a well explained reason would be welcome. For every story published in the Tasmanian Times, there may be some who consider it “hogwash”, but to wash the hog says no more than personal unexplained disapproval, like throwing tomatoes at someone who happens to be in the stocks in a public square and you have no idea why they are there other than they are a good target for a tomato.

    Kim Peart

  2. AnnoyingOrange

    April 28, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    I second the notion that having this hogwash on TT is embarassing. What next, the tooth fairy?

  3. Kim Peart

    April 27, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    Re: 14 Kevin Bonham

    Excellent. I like it.

    As I suggested, there are dozens of levels to the Sai Baba situation that one becomes aware of with a thorough investigation. It is entirely up to the individual, or the researcher, to make any investigation. That is their free choice.

    I have spoken with an elderly woman in Brisbane whose twin sister was unable to walk, was wheeled into an interview with Sai Baba and walked out. She was well known and her inability to walk was well-known. All present at the event were struck by this healing rather deeply. Such events have an impact, especially when one knows the people involved.

    Someone reading the book which the sisters wrote may become very interested in finding out about what Sai Baba had to say on many matters. That is just one story that has touched me personally. There are thousands of such stories of all different kinds that one can read concerning Sai Baba. It is these individual experiences that has captured the attention of a great many people and generated millions of followers.

    In the meantime, I look forward to the next exhibition of Ossacip’s art. It will be a hoot.

    Kim Peart

  4. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 27, 2011 at 2:47 am

    Kim, your Picasso analogy is not a good one (most analogies aren’t) but when we drag it off to the unsound analogy repair shop we might be able to come up with something useful.

    Imagine there was a person, Ossacip, who was claimed to be an indescribably and supernaturally brilliant painter, but who was also claimed to be a fraud. Ossacip himself claimed he could paint great paintings (and indeed this was one of the most minor and trivial things he could do), and very many people claimed they had seen him paint great paintings. Others said he could only paint forgeries.

    Nobody who had supposedly seen Ossacip paint great paintings could prove they had seen him do it, and even more strangely, whenever somebody produced a great painting they said Ossacip had painted, it could not be distinguished from the work of a five-year-old child, although some art critics said this work still might be brilliant art if it was painted using a technique unknown to any other painter. Furthermore, a documentary showed Ossacip constructing forgeries.

    When Ossacip was challenged to demonstrate his ability to produce great paintings by sitting in a room with some paint and some canvas and painting something, he refused. He said in justifying his refusal that art critics could never understand painting because art criticism was unable to investigate transcendental painting abilities beyond its reach, scope or comprehension.

    Now, it’s true that Ossacip still being a great artist is still possible despite all indications otherwise, but it would be irrational to believe him to be one on the evidence. If there is evidence that some of Sai Baba’s miracles are fraudulent, and there is nothing approaching reliable evidence that any particular one of them is genuine, then that places the onus on the believer to show that there was at least one genuine, definite miracle. A documentary should not be expected to be able to expose all such claimed cases individually.

  5. Kim Peart

    April 27, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Re: 12 Steve

    You ask “Was he a god or man?”

    If you would like to read John 17:21-23 in the Bible, you will find that Jesus is accredited with the claim, “that they may be one, even as we are one.” This same view of oneness is scattered throughout the Bhagavad Gita, the most venerated Hindu holy book, as in 2:44, “ever to be one in the one.”

    It is interesting that our science is now telling us a similar story. Hubble found that the Universe is expanding and cosmologists reversed the expansion to appreciate that the whole cosmos began as a singularity (an infinitely small point) that stretched to infinity. As the cosmos is stretched and not space multiplied, that means its primary quality is still that initial oneness. All that is and happens in space and time is one. Separation is an illusory experience, a play of energy that happens within the stage of oneness.

    What then is real? The underlying reality, the transcendent environment that cosmologists refer to as the multiverse? Is this Eternity? Sai Baba frequently referred to the Ocean of Bliss, in which our cosmos is a bubble, that has form for a time before merging back into the Ocean of Bliss. In the same way, each individual is the same as the bubble and is one with all parts of the bubble, has form for a time and ultimately merges back into the underlying reality.

    In this view of the cosmos, God is the cosmos and each of us is intrinsically God. We can become aware of the oneness of the cosmos and tune into this primary quality of the cosmos. This is our personal choice.

    Sai Baba would often tell people that they were God, that there was only one difference between himself and them, that he knew who he was. In 1997 he said “God is the seed of the cosmos.”

    If we can accept the view now nailed down by science, that all is one and we are one with all, then Sai Baba is God and Steve is also God. In this awareness of oneness, God becomes meaningless, because there is then no other.

    With no other to blame or be separate from, we must deal with all people in the context of oneness, as part of who we are, no matter who they are. With this view of identity we must take responsibility for our honesty, as there is no separation between us and any other part of space or time.

    The best we can do is to be who we really are.

    With justice we can deal with matters of truth as evidence is before us, but as the David Traynor case showed recently, when the Clarence Alderman was found guilty for having once downloaded onto his computer a legal document, was found guilty of a legal act and placed on the sex offenders register as a consequence, even truth can get really warped in the pursuit of law, so that justice is dumped on its head in the mud.

    What are you suggesting? That a person be tried by media and considered guilty until proven innocent? As with the Traynor case, we appear to be legally drifting back toward good old witch hunts and burn em alive in public.

    With Sai Baba my interest is in knowing the truth and not be carried away by a media show-trial. For a spiritual leader who attracted millions of followers globally while living in a little village in India and survived 7 decades of frequent public attacks, the truth will not be found in the first layer of documentaries. There are dozens of deeper layers to delve into with Sai Baba, should an individual be interested.

    Kim Peart

  6. Steve

    April 26, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    #11 A conspiracy theory?
    You are denying actual video footage clearly showing baba’s trickery, turning a blind eye to the multiple testimonies by people about serious sexual abuse and you tell me i’m propagating a conspiracy.
    I suppose you also believe in the divinity of baba. Was he a god or man?

  7. Kim Peart

    April 26, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    Re: 10 Steve

    My words were “film footage can be doctored”. I was not making a claim.

    What you are putting forward is a conspiracy theory. If there was resounding evidence, national governments should have pursued that. Now any case will be kind of closed with the lid of the coffin today as Sai Baba is buried.

    Many people have been attracted to Sai Baba because of the miracles and from my reading of the matter, they are too numerous for any documentary to easily dismiss. This is either a case of mass-hysteria over a period of seven decades, or there has been a very unusual phenomenon present on the Earth. The whole story of the miracles would need to be considered, not just one documentary.

    In the end it is up to an individual to consider the story of Sai Baba and if they wish to, investigate his message. This is personal choice, which may be influenced by an individual’s unexpected experience of any of the phenomena that has directly touched the lives of countless people in the past seven decades.

    Imagine dismissing the life work of a great artist like Pablo Picasso on the basis of a documentary that claimed that all his works were forgeries. There would need to be a lot more investigation of the life and work of Picasso to prove a claim like that.

    So it will be with Sai Baba. Investigators will examine his life work and deliver their reports. There may well be hundreds of such studies in coming decades. Time will tell.

    So in the end, it is entirely up to individuals to take an interest in the Sai Baba story and message, just as it will be the choice of investigators to check out the facts.

    Kim Peart

  8. Steve

    April 26, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    #8 So the BBC doctored the footage Kim?
    Thats a big call Kim.
    And Kim you and I both know the reason Sai Baba has not been bought to justice is because he has the full protection of the Indian Government.
    Do you really believe all the people from different countries that have come forward with stories of Baba’s abuse have just done so for fun?

  9. kim carsons

    April 26, 2011 at 2:01 pm

    I feel that, perhaps, all the above comments are contain grains of truth, and that the contridictions inherent between them are contridictions in how our societies rewards people, how wealth, over truth, or purity of spirit, becomes the dominant mode of transmitting ideas.
    There are far more venerable and spiritual holy people than Sai Baba – he just became particulary successful because he was able to juggle the spiritual and the charlatan-trickster in a strange cocktail.
    But he is rewarded because he played the fame game where other’s such as Nisargadatta Maharaj,
    was devoted to his work and his teaching without getting attached to the pitfalls of self-inflation and wealth creation that Sai Baba fell into.
    Beyond the parlour tricks and rumour mongering, this simple fact of ego accumulation through material wealth, and personal self glorification surely signs away Baba’s status as a true mystic.
    Ironically though, it is this very wealth that allowed him to convey his spiritual belief to a worldwide audience.

  10. Kim Peart

    April 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Re: 7 Steve

    I cannot speak for Sai Baba devotees, especially as I am not one.

    I once organised Sai Baba activities in Hobart, but have not been involved with any Sai Baba group since 1987. I am an observer who has researched Sai Baba’s life, work and teachings. I have examined claims over the years, including more recently, but all have come to naught and none have dented the progress of his work. That by itself is a very strong indicator.

    Claims can only be claims and film footage can be doctored, until they are thoroughly verified and proven and in those cases raised, in a legal context. Now he is gone and raking over the bones will be posthumous. For anyone interested, the Sai Baba organisation appears to be quite strong and is subject to government scrutiny, as the government has been looking at taking over the organisation, should there be any threat to the work.

    For abuse at an unbelievable level, we only need to look at the blood on our own hands has a nation, for allowing Indonesia to take over half of papuan New Guinea and begin the atrocities and genocide that still continues there, later moving onto East Timor. Would so many Australian soldiers and Iraqis have died, if enough of us had said “No!” to John Howard, “you cannot go running off to a war in Iraq on such flimsy evidence.”

    On balance, we have quite an extraordinary story with the life, work and teachings of Sai Baba. His life is now a rounded shore, his work continues and I suggest that there will be a growing interest in his books or message in coming decades and centuries. Time will tell.

    It is easy to get caught up on a bandwagon. People run with mobs more easily than stand alone and ask questions. Perhaps that is why I am not a devotee. I stand alone and ask hard questions, as any observer must who wants to get at the truth of a matter.

    Kim Peart

  11. Steve

    April 26, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Kim sorry to rain on your eulogising and burning of incense to mr sai baba. Have you watched the documentaries, the footage of his magic tricks and listened to the testimonies of his sexual abuse by former followers?
    Kim there have been persistent and extremely serious allegations (by victims) of sexual abuse against Sai Baba (of his young followers).
    Some of his accusers appear on the doco above giving chilling and graphic accounts of Baba’s abuse. Why do Baba devotees ignore this as well as clear video evidence exposing his so called miracles as sleight of hand?

  12. Kim Peart

    April 25, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    Re: 3 Steve

    There are times in life when the simple honouring of a person passing from this life is worth making, especially when there impact has been so great over so many decades and continued to grow year after year, despite all else that happened around them. For such growth to have continued indicates that there was something deeper going on beyond the media circus that can oft surround a famous person.

    If Sai Baba was such a complete fraud, interest would have disappeared and vanished. So there are questions there alone that need answering.

    The multi-million dollar organisation that Sai Baba set up to provide free education, free medical care, free drinking water and other services may continue. Time will tell.

    I was impressed never to have been asked for money and saw Sai Baba turn down a large donation from a gentleman in Melbourne (who was not present).

    I suggest that the major legacy of Sai Baba will be the word – his writings and discourses. I have carefully examined about 15 percent of them and find quite a powerful message. Time will tell if interest in his message grows. I suspect that it will.

    When we can no longer make observations, ask questions, challenge and be challenged, where are we beyond some fundamentalist backwater?

    Kim Peart

  13. Steve

    April 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm

    The ‘Sai Baba Exposed’ doco in its entirety
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=5490623303921005152#

  14. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 25, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    The other chap who (reportedly) died around Easter has also proved to be far more trouble than he was worth, and if there had been an active and sophisticated sceptical scientific movement and a modern media in his day and age then his “miracles” would now be taken a lot less seriously.

    And yes, Sai Baba did play down his own “miracles”, but his primary purpose in doing so was to big-note himself. As for the apparitions of ash and nectar on pictures of Sai Baba, try locking such a picture inside a glass box monitored permanently by video camera and if any ash and nectar then materialises on the picture I’ll be impressed. Until then more prosaic explanations are far more likely.

  15. Steve

    April 25, 2011 at 2:53 pm

    Kim, kim, kim. There are none so blind as those that will not see. I just cannot believe how gullible some people are.
    Sai Baba was exposed as a fraud years ago.
    The guy was a magician. He was exposed on camera.
    The videos have been available on you tube for years and have been shown on TV the world over. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwOecpMkHH0
    What more evidence do you need?
    Its actually embarrassing that the Tas Times would even publish this nonsense.

  16. Kim Peart

    April 25, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    Re: 1 Kevin Bonham

    Your comments could easily have been written two millennia ago by a Roman commentator in Latin about another chap who died around Easter. To appreciate the impact of Sai Baba over the past 7 decades, now and potentially over the coming millennia, we can consider three main topics.

    One – The miracles were not of great interest to Sai Baba. They just were. No big deal. However, it is not that he could generate the appearance of physical objects in various ways, it is his appearance to many people at a distance, sometimes to prevent a tragedy, that is poignant, but then can be dismissed, even in the face of so many reports. I do like the story of water turning into petrol. One inexplicable phenomenon has been the profuse appearance of ash and nectar on pictures of Sai Baba without any identifiable cause, which has puzzled many for decades and delighted those who cherished the images. To properly assess the miracles of Sai Baba, the rabbit hole is a deep one with many tunnels, but that is not the main game.

    TWO – In fact, I would suggest that Sai Baba took a very quiet path, compared to the highway he could have created if he had travelled the World. His primary objective was always to help India, as he saw India as a potential leader of the World. He always remained resident in his home village, because that is a promise he made to his mother, along with keeping his native tongue as Telegu. His work with education, health, providing water and disaster relief were to help the poor of India and all this is reflected in his teachings, where like Jesus, who he spoke of at the Christmas celebrations held at the ashram every year, the focus of his effort was on compassion.

    Three – Like the trail of a person interested in Jesus leads to the parable of the Good Samaritan, the teachings of Sai Baba will continue to inspire individuals to work to help others in need, often quietly, as intrinsic to the spiritual path of connecting to the heart and increasing happiness, just as with the universal law of cause and effect, where the happiness given will return to haunt you.

    Sai Baba did not set out to gather followers, often sending people off to continue in the faith they were in, whether Christian, Muslim or Odinist. Lets have another look at Sai Baba in two decades time and see how the teachings have fared, how they are presented and how much influence they may have.

    Whatever anyone may think of Sai Baba, gathering all the evidence is critical, or the case and claims are full of holes. Sai Baba managed to weather many storms over 7 decades and keep an ever larger ship afloat. Let’s now wait and see how the man of miracles weathers the next 7 decades, or 7 millennia.

    I would suggest that the show has just begun.

    Kim Peart

  17. Dr Kevin Bonham

    April 25, 2011 at 7:01 am

    The “miracles” may be too numerous to count but that doesn’t make even one of them real. Sai Baba repeatedly refused to perform “miracles” under controlled conditions and repeatedly gave contrived excuses for not doing so. A typical example of his copouts may be seen in the interview here: http://www.saibaba.ws/articles/interviewwithjournalistsept1976.htm

    …in which he rejected the idea of science investigating his “miracles” on the supposed grounds that science could not “investigate transcendental phenomena beyond its scope, reach or comprehension”. But if those miracles are claimed to have physical outcomes that can not be produced by known physical processes, but can be directed by an individual, then that causation most definitely can be scientifically investigated.

    Sai Baba was at best just the most prominent of India’s plague of holy (con)men and may have been far worse than just that, although no criminal case against him succeeded in his lifetime. Certainly he was not universally highly regarded, and as the scathing obituary from Indian Rationalist Sanal Edamaruku notes, philanthropy is no more an alibi for a loaded spiritual fraud than it is for a mafia boss.

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