Saturday, April 16, 2011

My Experiences of Sai Baba as a Buddhist

I want share my experiences on Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba because based on these experiences, I have determined that Sai Baba is genuine. My believe in him is not something based on faith alone but through the experiences I have had of him through the years, especially in the early years of my spiritual development. During those days, I was just beginning to study and understand Buddhism.

I first got to know of Sathya Sai Baba from either my mother (or father I am not sure, but it is one of them) at a very young age, before primary school I think. She said she heard from a friend of an Indian holy man whose picture can produce holy ashes (vibuthi). I aroused interest to know him instantly. However it was not until my primary school days when I met a friend who lived near a Sathya Sai Baba centre that I began to read books and know him better through this friend and going to the centre a few times. Informally we would gather with some mutual friends and sing bhajan songs and discuss about his advices and miraculous deeds. It is from this group that I started to explore religions generally, and better understand major religions in the world such as Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Yes, by knowing Sai Baba we have better understood the different religions in the world and it helps foster a harmonious attitude towards other religions. I treat the faiths of others with respect until I have had dreams of Jesus and Hindu Gods. I have had dreams of the Muslim call to prayer (i.e. azan) which I took that to be a dream of the Muslim God since their God is not represented in any physical form.

Even though I heard of Sai Baba through my parents, they were not believers themselves. So, it was quite tough initially because I could not put a picture of Sai Baba on my family prayer altar. I had to make a mini altar in my cupboard were I keep my clothes and stuffs. They don’t really stop me from believer in him but at times my father did comment that “even satan could do miracles”. Yes, satan could also do miracles but he leads one to evil. And my experience of him has been all positive. I know of nothing that suggest otherwise. Since believing in Sai Baba, my understanding of my own religion, i.e. Buddhism has only grown more and deeper through the years. I have not been led to any satanic practices so far. I have been to two Sai Baba centres here and know of activities in other centres and I can declare here that I do not know of any cases of members practicing any black magic or activities that harm others.

One of my first letters to Sai Baba was in respect of my difficulty in praying to him. I wrote on a piece of paper a short letter to Sai Baba but which I handed it to my friend to be placed in the Sai Baba centre altar. Most devotees of Sai Baba do that. If they want to post the letters to India, they can do so. However, a lot of people merely place their letters in a sealed envelope and put it in front of Sai Baba photo on the shrine. If Sai Baba deems it necessary to reply, he will give the person a calling card. So, after placing the letter on the shrine for some time (it is not fixed how long it will take for a reply to come, and sometimes never) the person will find a reply manifesting inside the envelope or there will messages appearing elsewhere among inside the tray of thick vibuthi. The handwriting is all the same, i.e. that of Sai Baba’s. In my message to Sai Baba, I complaint that I did not have a proper place to do daily prayers because of my parents. But yet I told Sai Baba, I love my parents and do not wish to hurt their feelings. I also wished that they would believe in him too. After one or two weeks, my friend called me and told me he suspected there was a reply inside the envelope. It’s thicker than usual. He went there from time to time to pray to Sai Baba and properly whenever he is there, he could also see if there was any reply.

When I opened the letter, true enough there was a letter from Sai Baba. I was elated. Since the envelope was very thin, if someone had tampered with it, I would have noticed it. It was not possible for someone to tear the seal and re-seal it without some obvious signs that it had been opened. But the envelope was intact. It was still properly sealed as before. The first thing he said was “In you love. Become a true bhakta”. He knew I loved my parents and he did not ask me to go against my parents or anything like that to worship him. He just advised me to develop true devotion. That was sufficed to him. Many years later, I learned the true meaning of that sentence. Initially I thought that he had asked me to believe in him and be a devotee. However, now I realised that that initial understanding was very naïve. Had he wanted me to merely believe in him, he would have asked me to go against my parents and become a Sai Baba centre member. But he never asked me to become a Sai Baba centre member at all. And I never became one. I also did not know of Sai Baba members forcing me to donate money to them. In fact they never collected any donation from me at all whenever I was there in their centres. Buddhists centres and temples have approached and collected from me far more then I have ever donated to Sai Baba centres. And that is a fact. So, I can say that Sai Baba is not interested in my money at all. Nor is he interested in getting me to believe in him. Otherwise he would have asked me to visit him in India and would have sent me all the Sai Baba organisation newsletters and asked me to join their centres and all that. But none of those things matters to Sai Baba. All he had wanted to tell me was to have true devotion to the guru. And that is the first step in the Gelugpa’s Graduated Path to Enlightenment ( Lam Rim) and a key ingredient in other Tibetan Buddhist lineages. And because I do see him free of faults, you can see that in subsequent years, I have had the good blessings of meeting great Buddhist teachers such as Venerable Master Hsuan Hua, and many others. Hence it is true that true devotion to the guru is the root cause of enlightenment.

As you can see, believing in Sai Baba does not make me a Hindu. He never asks people to become Hindus. He asked people to believe and study their own respective religions. Practice it and to become better persons. That’s the message he gives to his devotees. He never tried to convert people into another religion. Sometimes people who had not experienced him say that he is a magician, i.e. that he uses sleight of hand to produce these objects just like other magicians. If that is the case, then David Copperfield and other like him would have had millions and millions of devotees and they would have been great spiritual gurus. But that is not the case. Even if it is a sleight of hand in producing the vibuthi, how do you explain the amount of vibuthi that comes out of his hand. Do you think he can hide so much vibuthi is his hand or body? Even if he did hide in his hand, what about those vibuthi and objects that is produced in the Sai Baba centres and in the homes of millions of his devotees worldwide? Sai Baba is thousands of miles away in India and not anywhere near these homes or centres. So, how can it be that it is by ordinary David Copperfield type of visual magic that all these are done? If that was the case, David Copperfield and others like him would have done similar magic in their shows. But David Copperfield could never produce anything in my home and in the homes of others simultaneously, could he?

Also, David Copperfield photo could never stick to a granite wall without the aid of some glue or something for us to hang it on. Well, it happened one night when I was in my bed. My “bed” was just a simple mattress placed against the wall, on a wooden plank which I shared with my brother at that time. I had this magnetic photo of Sai Baba which I kept near my mattress every night. It was like those magnetic fridge buttons that we stick to our refrigerators. Does magnet stick to walls made of bricks and cement? Not that I know of. Logically magnets should only stick to steel and iron, right? Before I sleep, I would usually hold the magnetic photo in my hand and pray to him. Sometimes I would hold it against the wall above my pillow and then “talk” to him. On one of these nights, a strange thing happened. I held the magnetic photo on the wall as usual but on that night, I had carelessly let go of my hand. I had expected the magnetic photo to drop to my mattress or the wooden plank, but it did not. I was stunned! It stayed there for quite several minutes. It was very strange. I could not believe it. But it dropped after a while. I can tell you there was not a thing made of steel or iron on the spot where it stuck. I placed my hand underneath it so that it does not drop to the wooden plank. After picking it up, I saw a thin layer of vibuthi on the magnetic photo. It was a bit in liquid form and there was no water anywhere near my bed at that time. It is like a thin layer of the rice powder cake (bedak) that many Asian women use. I tried for a second time and it stuck there on the wall again but for a shorter period. It did not work again after that. Had there been steel or iron there on the spot, it would have stuck all the time. I still have that magnetic photo with me. To Sai Baba, it is not miracles or magic, rather they are his calling cards to enhance and convince us of his qualities, especially the divine aspects. Could David Copperfield or other ordinary showbiz magicians do that?

There was also the case of money that got transferred from my friend to me. I was going to school on that day and I discovered there was an extra RM10.00 (if I recall correctly I think so, but if it is not, it does not matter  how much was the denomination of the bill I got) that I had found in my food container. My parents never gave me that much money, so I knew it was not from them. In school, my friend told me that he lost a RM10 cash. Then I related to him that I had found a RM10 note while I was in my home. I did not steal from him and he knew that. So he did not accuse me of stealing. A few days later, there was a “calling card” from Sai Baba. He refers in his letter to “Fifty rupees friend”. At first we did not know what he was talking about. But then when we realise that fifty rupees translates to RM10 during that time’s exchange rate, we realised that he was referring to me. Again this is on the basis that my recollection of the actual denomination of the cash bill I had received. So we knew that Sai Baba had transferred the RM10 from my friend to me. I offered to return the RM10 to my friend but he declined saying that that is what Baba wants to give me. I politely accepted it as a blessing from Baba. And I must add that at that time, Sai Baba was in India just as always. He was nowhere near Malaysia to do that sort of trick. No one else knew of this incident except my friend, Baba and I. So how can Sai Baba be a fraud? No way.

Sai Baba is definitely genuine and this is confirmed by my previous experiences of him. As a Buddhist, even though the Buddha taught us a lot of things, I am aware that there are many things unenlightened persons like me do not yet understand. Nevertheless the Buddha (especially in Mahayana Buddhism) did say that he and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas will manifest in myriad forms all over the world to help teach the dharma to sentient beings and liberate them. As Buddhists, we must be more open to the possibility of these kinds of beings around us. They are our touch point to the Buddha qualities, which includes omnipresence, and omniscience. Even though he did say that he is God, he did not directly say that he is Buddha. So in one aspect, he is different from the Living Buddha Lian Shen of Taiwan who goes all over the world declaring that he is the Buddha but lacks Sai Baba’s qualities. Again this is based on my experiences and not simply because I do not believe in him. I know someone who is a disciple of Master Lian Shen. From my observation, his life has become worse and worse since he started believing in him. He has had problems with debts at one time. He has changed jobs numerous times and lately had some family problems. I am not saying that all his problems are 100% due to this guru. Rather I think believing in the right guru is important as it is the root cause of our blessings.

I do believe that Buddha comes in different ways and not necessarily in the way of Gautama Buddha, i.e. showing the aspect of enlightenment after some period of practice. I do believe that religious saints like Krishna and Jesus are all manifestations of the Enlightened Being. But not everyone is. There are many pretenders nowadays who only want the status but lack the enlightened qualities to be one, and so we must be careful.

I hope this article is helpful to dispel some allegations against Sai Baba or any doubts about him. My testimony here will run counter to anyone who thinks he is a fraud or magician or anti-christ. He is none of these. However I am not doing this because I want you to believe in him. No. It is up to individual karma whether you believe or not. Surely it is not proper to believe in him on the basis of merely what I have written. You must experience him for yourself. But I am afraid there is not much time for you to do that. He is in a critical condition now and as you know, even Buddhas do pass away. Dying and being ill does not take away or reduce the enlightened qualities of a Buddha. It just conforms with the nature of phenomena , which is not different from Enlightenment if seen from the non-dual nature of samsara and nirvana, as we Buddhists put it. But normal people do not understand this and they say that if Sai Baba is God, surely he will not die. This kind of comments only shows one’s ignorance of the non-differentiation of samsara and nirvana. There is not much time left and I have only one regret. And that is, I have not physically met Sathya Sai Baba. But based on my experiences, probably a physical meeting is not necessary since he is able to receive my messages from far away and even reply to me in letters or in dreams. Whatever it is, I blame it on my karma but I do hope that we will still have strong connections in the future and not forsake me even when he may not be physically around anymore, and that he will guide me to final liberation. May he be well and live a long life to continue his dharma activities!

I regard this as a pure offering from my heart to Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba! Om Sai Ram.


alicia said...

Sai Ram,

he is Compassion Itself, and I can only hope that if He decides to leave He will keep guiding and helping us always. Thank you for your sincere testimony.


Mahabodhiyana said...

I have been wanting to write this for a long time but never got to doing it till now. Take care.

jnschelvan said...

sai ram god bless