Sai Baba's Moksha Boo-Boo
I thought it would be amusing to include the following quote from Sai Baba as part of my email signature:
"For [the] Lord, both abuse and praise have no meaning. However, in the world many persons secure liberation Moksha by abusing the Lord, many other achieve salvation by adoring God ... But wicked persons achieve liberation more easily than those who love the Divine. The wicked person achieves merger in the Divine very quickly." - Sathya Sai Baba, 9th September 1992.
I intended for it to annoy Sai Baba devotees and it did! What could raise up their hackles more than the idea that the Baba's critics have a much better chance of attaining liberation that his devotees? :-) However, this quote is more evidence that Sai Baba's knowledge of theology and Vedantic philosophy is not quite up to standard. This is a huge topic so I'll explain as simply and as concisely as I can:
Sai Baba teaches that there are four types of moksha (liberation from the unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth). In order of importance, these are:
- Saalokya - Liberation of living in the same abode as God.
- Saaroopya - Liberation of attaining a form similar to that of the Lord.
- Sameepya - Liberation of attaining proximity to the Lord.
- Saayujya - Liberation of attaining mergence in the Lord.
All very well and good, but the Bhagavata Purana mentions a fifth type of moksha; sarsti, the liberation of attaining the same opulence as the Lord. What's the reason for Sai Baba not including this category or informing his devotees about it? Perhaps he is envious of someone equalling or surpassing his position on the rich list? That would make more sense.
In any case, the issue of attaining moksha remains. A stalwart saint (Sri Rupa Gosvami) performed a momentous task when he composed an encyclopaedia of 'bhakti' (devotion) - Bhakti-rasamrita-sindhu - that has been copied and plagiarised by other religious traditions including Sai Baba's. The text itself promotes the opinion that devotion is the surest way to attaining liberation, and it's concise definition of devotion is as follows:
"Devoid of other desires, uncovered by jnana, karma and so forth, and favourable in the constant service of Krishna, that is the highest kind of devotion." - BRS 1.1.10
Please note the highlight; one of the major and overriding characteristics of pure devotion is it's favourability towards the service of the Lord. In other words, constantly thinking of the Lord with an attitude of love is the royal road to liberation. In stark contrast, those who constantly think of the Lord in an unfavourable way, i.e. by means of hatred, envy, and so on, such people are not granted the same privileges as a loving devotee.
Why is this, and why is liberation selectively bestowed? Even where common sense is concerned, are you more inclined to be kinder to your enemies than to your friends? The same logic operates in matters of devotion; liberation is granted according to the quality and proportion of your absorption in the Lord.
At the risk of repeating things discussed earlier, Kamsa was notorious for his constant absorption in thoughts of the Lord which were marked by the unfavourable characteristics of fear and hatred. However, due to the Lord's munificence and magnanimity, Kamsa was granted the boon of merging into the Lord's 'Brahman' effulgence. Here's the kicker: Whereas Kamsa's ultimate fate may be something of a surprise, it is interesting to note that some traditions consider this to be a lesser goal compared to what else is available, namely the other four types of liberation. As indicated by the scriptural reference, favourable devotion brings much higher things.
The long and the short of it is that Sai Baba has made a most extraordinary boo-boo in regards to his position on moksha; it makes little difference whether wicked and abusive people attain liberation more "quickly" than the devotees when the wicked ones are not granted the privilege of a loving relationship with the Lord, but something decidedly inferior. Even so, it's nice to see the Baba's devotees continuing to be annoyed at the thought of his critics attaining liberation faster (according to his own words) than they will. :-)
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