I have encountered many devotees of Sathya Sai Baba who get doubts about what he says, what he expects them to do, what is good for them and so on… then decide to ‘ask Swami himself’. But, since they almost never can’t get to ask him in person, they use some other method for deriving his answer. One common practice is to draw one of three prepared papers left on the shrine. One will have the word ‘yes’, another ‘no’ and a third ‘wait’. Some just spin coins or roll dice! Special coins (Umi and Tumi) are even on sale at some Sai shops for this purpose.
Or the uncertain devotee may set up some other precondition of getting his answer like, “If I see a dog wagging its tail today when I go shopping, then Baba’s answer is ‘yes’. (They usually fail to consider that not seeing it must therefore mean ‘no’!).” If the person’s idea is realised, then this event becomes a ‘graceful leela of the Lord’ (his play with his creation) and is taken as further evidence of Sathya Sai Baba’s self-proclaimed omnipresence. If the desired result is not forthcoming, then one can always forget it and have another try with something else. I have witnessed many people at the Sai Baba ashrams and in his organization making the most absurd assumptions and conclusions in this way.
Flipping open a volume of Sathya Sai Baba’s discourses (like ‘asking the Bible’) is a typical method. Whether one sticks to the first sentence one sees, or chooses another which lends itself better to a somewhat relevant meaning, probably depends on the level of desperation of the seeker.
Those who get ‘the right answers’ are often unaware that this kind of phenomenon is by no means restricted to one name and form. It is a very common occurrence, and often works well when there has been greater investment of emotional and mental energy behind the question. In this way one may even enter communication with spirits of the dead, or aliens on an UFO, or the Director of the CIA… and get wonderful answers. As to religionists who communicate with God… well, that is the ultimate example! There are even those who base their life decisions on a throw of the dice. In all these kinds of case, coincidences that occur become meaningful messages from the beyond and whichever entity one may believe in.
The psychologist C.G. Jung, who experienced many ‘strange coincidences’ and investigated the question deeply, naming these effects ‘synchronicities’. He reckoned that they have to do with the power of projection of subconscious energies and that there is somehow a ‘collective unconscious’ whereby thoughts and symbols are processed and transmitted between minds across time and space. So far most of Jung’s ideas have not been scientifically tested, though a vast plethora of speculative thought has developed around his theory. It seems extremely unlikely that they are the work of what many – along with Jung – believe to be discarnate ‘elementals’. These include deities, earth spirits, djinns, ‘fairies’, demons, succubi, demons, mischievous spirits and the whole range of identities these forces have been given in different cultures and ages and represent powers that seem to exist without being embodied). There is, of course, no guarantee of goodness (let alone divinity) being attached to any such phenomena. It is an area fraught with deceits, delusions, self-deceptions, fraud. Such is life in many a guru cult…
Properly investigated explanations of these ‘meaningful coincidences’ may come in time. I have always followed developments in this area and, as neuroscience successfully delves deeper into the brain’s vast creativity, the re-creation of many psychic states and experiences through stimulating areas of the brain are showing that one may even have so-called ‘after-death’ experiences that way… or experience a range of hallucinatory states of mind, and even enjoy ‘mystical bliss’ and apparent paranormal perceptions.