Sathya Sai Baba and the truth about God
Posted by robertpriddy on August 30, 2015
To get any understanding of an unknown phenomenon, we have to express what we think it may be in terms of known phenomena. But the supreme of unknowns – God – is constantly expressed in terms of equally unknown and intangible things…. omniscience, omnipotence, heaven or hell, salvation, total realisation, omnipresence, infinity, everlasting time and so on.
Consequently, there is no chance of attaining to understanding – let alone definitive proof – of any supreme being. Sathya Sai Baba was smart enough to realise that, so he makes a virtue of the ineffable mystery! No one could plumb the nature of God (i.e. of himself) as it is ‘beyond anyone’s understanding’. One had to have unshaken belief, engage in lifelong prayer, repetition of names, visualisation of a divine form and other mind-dulling activities (with the exception of doing constant social service) if one were ever to ‘know’ God.
One has to have intense faith that these ways produce results and must practice them assiduously for anything up a lifetime, by which it is too late to do anything about it if one finds it does not lead to what it claimed. Sathya Sai Baba, despite his humongous claims and prophesies about himself, did not fulfil them, even dying after multiple organ failure and huge weight loss long before he stated he would.
It was a requirement in the Sathya Sai Organisation to believe that he was divine, omnipotent and omniscient. It depends on how you define omnipresence, or imagine it. There are lots of quotes about it by Sai Baba, but they do not make a coherent account. His close servitor, famous former newsman V.K. Narasimhan, was (mostly privately) adamant that he was neither all-knowing nor all-powerful. He could not state these views while he lived in the ashram as it was totally against what Sai Baba claimed and a vast majority of those who approached Sai Baba believed. (This is evident from years of talking to people about him at the ashrams, in Sai groups in Europe and in the entire hagiographic literature and countless former on-line discussions).
Those who follow many Hindu gurus (I cannot speak for all) exist in the mental equivalent of delirium, something they do not recognise for what it is because they have been entrapped from childhood in a multi-faceted sphere of unfounded beliefs, handed down superstitions, rituals and prohibitions. A large section of the Indian population share a culture of this kind, one which has counterparts in other mainstream religions, but hardly to the same degree (except in extreme sects).
Intense forms of worship, unreflecting absorption of beliefs and doctrines or supposedly ‘spiritual’ practices to enhance awareness of divinity or lead to self-realisation and transcendence of all worldly desires and ills, lead to a cognitive torpor from which release becomes ever more difficult. The motivation to wish to recognise or seek the situation and its root causes is soon absent and it may require a traumatic experience or major personal shocks to reverse the process of dependency on religious panaceas.
The attraction of the idea that there is a wonderful all-powerful, all good universal What-Not can in many people feel as compelling as the love of one’s mother and father, as the realisation of all one’s (good) dreams and even the instinct for survival (especially after death, preferably in some unknown heaven). History demonstrates that this is one of the greatest weaknesses of humanity, causing endless confusion, delusion, individual suffering, and the horrors of conflicts and the devastation of religiously-inspired wars.