Resurrection: the paradox of worshipping Sathya Sai Baba’s form or body
Posted by robertpriddy on June 30, 2014
It is rather extraordinary that there are a fair number of devotees of Sathya Sai Baba who stick to the conviction that he will resurrect himself. Yet he NEVER ONCE STATED THAT HE WOULD RESURRECT HIMSELF! Nothing in his recorded discourses and nothing even in any reported or published private conversations before he died so much as suggested that he would ‘resurrect’ himself, certainly not in the Sathya Sai Baba form (i.e. Afro frizz, short stature, somewhat buffalo-like face etc.) It is well documented (such as by Professor N. Kasturi and others like Dr. John Hislop) that he had occasionally stated that he would eventually return in a new incarnation of Prema Sai, born in one of two named villages in Karnataka. He never made clear how many years would pass before that (one or eight, as some have claimed), but he said that he would not be identified or known as the third Sai incarnation during his boyhood.
So how is one to explain the misguided and twisted belief hung to with such tenacity despite countless disappointments ! Day after day, week after week, months after month, year after year, he failed to reappear when devotees who said they had assurances from him in some shape or form (dreams, visions, coincidences etc) that he would return shortly or soon. The answer lies partly at least in the trickery by the Sathya Sai Trust people and his doctors, who announced that he died on the same day of the year that Jesus supposedly was resurrected (Easter Sunday)!
Everything points to Sai Baba having been brain-dead well before he was disconnected from his life support system, which was put in place as the one vital organ after the other failed completely. The question was what they should do. One can imagine the obvious uncertainty, anxiety and disagreements between doctors, insider VIP office-bearers (all Indians) and others devotees. Sai authorities had secretly ordered an embalming coffin on April 4th 2011 while the doctors and cagey spokespeople were still insisting that he was improving, that his chances of recovery were better etc… and that was 20 days before the date they chose to announce his decease (April 24th). The day was auspicious, suggesting identity with Christ (who Sai Baba said had been his chosen Son) and with divine resurrection. So the dignitaries were alerted days in advance and aircraft and helicopters were reserved, itineraries planned and very considerably security police and even military units and deployed in advance of the day! What could be more transparent evidence of connivance and trickery about his actual death!
The ‘premature’ death, so unexpected and unbelievable to so many trusting followers who had been told he would not leave the body until in his 90s, caused great anguish among very many who had built their entire lives around the belief in him as an omnipotent avatar who could never be wrong and would never deceive anyone, let alone his faithful devotees. The emotional instability and cognitive dissonance they were certainly experiencing – witnessed by any number of their postings on the internet, interviews in newspapers and so forth – was in need of some alleviation, some solution. Even before ‘the third day’), postings began to appear on newspaper comment pages an elsewhere directly after the announcement stating that Sai Baba would resurrect this day, next day, sometime… (and replying sceptics responded with ‘never!’). We were then witness to the known phenomenon of ’emotional contagion’, whereby emotional states, behavioral attitudes affect others, often through many subtle and automatic cues like body language, vocalisation which are not simply products of discussion, reasoning or imagination but can act subconsciously to ‘infect’ others and ‘synchronise’ their moods, feelings, moods.
Sathya Sai Baba often reprimanded followers who collected endless photos of him, though his physical presence was a necessity for leading a successful pious life or whatever. He insisted that he was not the body, but was something far beyond it and all forms… a transcendent and all-embracing and loving Divine being-bliss-consciousness and so on ad. inf. Despite this, the fixation on his ‘bodily form’ and person was constantly encouraged and blessed by him in most of his doings, and he recommended strongly that devotees should concentrate continually on his name and form, whether in thought, in prayer, by chanting or by singing bhajans in his praise. Little wonder, therefore, that the remaining devotees who fervidly hold onto belief in him and all he stood for, having lost his living form to visit and beg to confer benefits or whatever they wanted, are extremely confused (further aggravated by the fantasies of Isaac Tigrett and others)… and are now awaiting his physical resurrection, no less. They seem to find the promise that Prema Sai would appear insufficient. Obviously there will be people who will claim to be Prema Sai in future, probably many. There have already been claimants, and even his nephew – the frequently violent and wholly untrustworthy Ratnakar, claimed (or otherwise uttered the suggestion) that he himself – having inherited SB’s fortune and the properties named after him – was the promised Prema Sai!
On occasion Sai Baba would mention that worshipping his physical form was for aspirants who were at an elementary stage, but the formless eternal spirit itself was that upon which the true devotee could attain to. One question followers asked themselves was, ‘which am I?’. It is in fact impossible to concentrate on the formless as such – because the subjective mind always posits some outer or inner object when it is conscious. The is itself part of the advaitic teaching – which was also on Sai Baba’s pick and mix menu of conflicting doctrines – that realisation occurs only after the death of the mind (‘die mind’)! How to destroy the mind, though? Even tougher than trying to see the formless… especially as Sai Baba said suicide would not help! Such was his super-eclectical doctrine in which every difficult question drives one from pillar to post, experience to speculation, from mere assumption to fact, from fact to fiction, from thesis to antithesis unable to reach a synthesis as one struggles through the spiritual wilderness towards the desired destruction of the mind! Good luck to those who try, may the force eventually be with you and save you from such teachings as those.