Sathya Sai Baba: lingam photos-liberation from rebirth
Posted by robertpriddy on July 23, 2009
Promises of liberation? In common with most other Indian gurus, Sai Baba has promised liberation from the cycle of rebirths to a number of his followers… sometimes in private, sometimes in public. That this is a much sought-after boon is perhaps hardly surprising, not least when considering the longing for salvation that is a driving force in much religion, frequently doubtless stronger even than the desire to be physically healed of serious chronic or fatal illness. This makes a bond with very strong binds!
Since 1999, Sathya Sai Baba again produced Shiva lingams from his mouth during Shivarathri (after over 20 years of not doing so in public) and has said that all those who see one actually emerging will get liberation. This is a guarantee he had announced on a few occasions during past Shivarathri celebrations and again after the Shivarathri celebrations in 1999.
The promise of being free from the necessity of being reborn certainly exerts one of the most powerful psychological bonds there is, in this case to the guru. It has long been part and parcel of the guru-disciple relationship in India. To keep believing in the guru, obeying him implicitly in all things, is apparently most often ‘part of the deal’, but the guru’s promises may only be conditional… for who can ever tell? This definitely applies to Sathya Sai Baba’s promises of liberation too, judging by the people I know who imagine they can be granted such a boon, or actually believe that they have been promised it.
Naturally, those who consider they have achieved this apparent boon will be very loath to relinquish it, such as by refuting anything Sathya Sai Baba says or does. Such a promise by someone one accepts on his own word to be the God Avatar of an entire aeon – once given – ought to be as if ‘set in rock’. However, there are instances where this promise is not to be honoured, according to Sathya Sai Baba’s own (self-contradictory) words. Dr. John Hislop, who passed over in 1996 without taking any medication for his cancer – wrote that he had once seen Sathya Sai Baba bring one linga out of his mouth complete with a 3-legged metal stand. Another time he is said to have witnessed the linga coming from the mouth as a blue light that then coalesced into the object. Despite this, he was told by Swami that he would have to be reborn:-
Baba said: “Another birth is best for you…”
Hislop: “No freedom yet!”
Baba: “Yes, another birth is best. In that you will get total, final liberation”
Hislop: But, Swami, I don’t want to go through youth again. Youth is not a good experience – it is dangerous and difficult.”
Baba: “It will be a better life than this one. Don’t waste time thinking of the future.”
(“Conversations with Bhagavan SSSathya Sai Baba” by J. Hislop. 1996 revised extended edition, p. 227)
What does this tell us about Sathya Sai Baba’s ‘guarantee’ of liberation for all those who see the lingam actually emerge from his mouth? It has been pointed out to me that Sathya Sai Baba – being God -may countermand this or any other promise (for one lifetime… or more?) and this could even be a boon… to be reborn, for example, to accompany Prema Sai, as two others who also often saw the lingam emerge, Prof. Kasturi and his closest attendant Swami Karunyananda (both now deceased), were both told they would. But this is certainly not how Baba many times has described rebirth… which he holds to be the greatest tragedy that can befall anyone, to have to cry ‘Koham?’ in complete ignorance of our nature and so forth! He had even once before told Hislop, as recorded in his writings, when he had suggested it could be a boon to be reborn with Prema Sai, that it was definitely not so!
It is frequently described by devotees how Sathya Sai Baba makes promises, but fails to keep them. These broken promises are usually ‘explained away’ somehow by the writer. Sathya Sai Baba has himself sometimes tried to explain them away too. He will promise an interview next day, but ignore this completely when the time comes, and so on again and again. Like many people I have met at the ashrams, I have experienced broken promises by Sai Baba both as regards trivial matters, such as when he promised my wife and I a room in Brindavan, but also as regards several much more weighty matters, one of which was a promise of ‘a healthy life’ and ‘I will look after his health’. However, my chronic back problems have slowly deteriorated, while various other ailments have come (all this long before I began to discover things which made me doubt much and consider Sathya Sai Baba as something quite other than what he claims to be). Why should he promise so much if he doesn’t (intend to) carry it out, or can’t manage it? Does he wish to play on our hopes so as to bind us to his purposes? A question worth asking, also whether this is deceitful and immoral too! Therefore, Sathya Sai Baba’s promises of liberation also look decidedly shaky!
Sathya Sai Baba has time and again made a great fuss about how “it is impossible for anyone to understand or explain the meaning and significance of Swami.” (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 10 new ed., p. 170) and, “In truth, you cannot understand the nature of my reality either today, or even after a thousand years of steady austerity or ardent enquiry, even if all mankind joins in the effort.” (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol II. Old. ed. p. 90). If this is so, how can one really trust anyone who is so non-understandable, so unpredictable? And who makes greater boasts than any person ever known! Good luck to those who can swallow it all, they’ll most probably need it, but rather them than I!
It certainly seems that Sathya Sai Baba needs to get more and more followers so badly that he now promises to anyone who will come to his ashram at Shivarathri, not the earth, not even heaven, but eternal bliss in some undefined, unproven limbo. It is remarkable that so many so unquestioningly take all these guarantees as more than boasts and entrapments…. but then most people choose to believe just what they want should be true, even though they don’t have a clue what this might involve. However, billions of people – including Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and many another denomination – will obviously never accept Sathya Sai Baba’s claims about this, that is for certain. This does not look tremendously positive for Sathya Sai Baba’s claims about his effect on world affairs!