My uncle had heard that a “miracle” was underway, but he didn’t know how to drive a scooter. I was a teenager, with exams behind me, and a Chetak under me, pressured to cart him under the scorching June sun halfway across city. When we reached the devotee’s house, I was told to be silent, take off my shoes. And then, we were ushered to the inner chamber.
On a wall, with the plaster cracking and the paint falling, was a huge picture of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Around the edges of this life-sized frame and towards the calves of Baba were patches of grey powder. “This is Baba’s vibhuti (sacred ash used for religious worshipping by Hindus),” the devotee, with tears in his eyes told us. “He has come and blessed my humble home.” Apparently, the vibhuti had materialised on its own. The tears moved to my uncle’s eyes and it was a long time before he could get himself to speak without trembling.
Today, after ingesting huge doses of religion and spirituality, meeting believers and atheists, studying four faiths and their interrelationships, and following the work of those who went beyond the narrow confines of religious dogma, I meet the miracle man all over again.
Baba’s most popular signature among his 37 million devotees was his capacity to deliver miracles. These could be pulling vibhuti out of thin air or even just looking at and giving a spiritual sanction to housing plans of believers. “The Baba himself has blessed this plan,” a 76-year-old retired pilot told me. “The vaastu of this house is perfect.”
Everyone, at some point or the other, needs a miracle. Anyone who provides it, or even claims to offer it, becomes god. Baba was one such. “This is not Swami’s illness; this is an illness which Swami has taken on, in order to save someone,” Baba said, referring to himself, through a translator in July 1963 after an attack of cerebral thrombosis and tubercular meningitis that kept him bed-ridden for eight days. “Swami has no illness, nor will He get ill at any time. You must all be happy; that alone will make Swami happy. If you grieve, Swami will not be happy. Your joy is Swami’s food.”
The faithful put hard demands on their gurus. They constantly want to be reminded of the guru’s powers to heal; to accumulate wealth; to get a spouse, a child; to do anything that an ordinary consciousness is unable to. The faithful need the dazzle and the glamour of a miracle; in its absence, they get impatient.
An insider to one such guru told me how an extremely wealthy and powerful woman was known to change her gurus: “Gurus came and gurus went, but she has remained where she was.” Very often, the guru’s assent to doing a certain thing in a particular manner is enough to label it a miracle — if it works, no questions asked, only stronger faith; if it doesn’t, “that was the best for me at that point”.
Baba’s miracles might be true. His claim to being an Avatar could also be correct. He said that he was the human form of Shiva, who would be born in the Bharadhwaja Gothra thrice: “Shiva alone as Shirdi Sai Baba, Shiva and Shakthi together at Puttaparthi as Sathya Sai Baba and Shakthi alone as Prema Sai, later.” But like science has decoded and turned every physical miracle into a replicable act, the development of spirituality will take the same path and turn all glamorous miracles into mundane day-to-day actions.
“I am God,” Baba told his devotees. “And you too are God. The only difference between you and Me is that while I am aware of it, you are completely unaware.” This is a line that is common to all followers of the Vedic spiritual system, from Ramanna Maharishi’s “I am That” to Swami Vivekananda’s “All that is real in me is God; all that is real in God is I. The gulf between God and me is thus bridged”.
Today’s miracle is tomorrow’s matter of fact, the destiny of man’s perfection. But the road to living miraculously is paved with effort and time — the effort of aspiration through yoga, concentration, meditation and other techniques; and the time that the process of evolution needs for man to become god. It is on this page of spiritual destiny that Baba scribbled his distinct signature of miracle. All the Baba's men