Sai Baba's Shirdi LIES 4
As a reminder, the reason for spending enough time in discussing Raju's 'scorpion trauma' is because it is widely believed to be the turning point in his life. Bearing in mind the new facts about the Shirdi culture present in Puttaparthi way before Raju debuted on the guru scene, we have to re-evaluate all of the pre-Annunciation reports and insinuations of Shirdi connections in that light.
There are reports of his altruism even as a toddler of three years of age, by way of providing the local beggars with food and clothes. Upon Raju's indiscriminate giving of food and being threatened with starvation himself, he patently refused to eat in spite of the apologetic coaxing he received. Despite going without food for several days in this way, Raju appeared to show no signs of starvation and claimed that he had been fed sumptuously by an 'old man' whose identity was never discovered.
Sai devotees generally flirt with one of two explanations for this:
- Raju simply 'fed himself' on account of his own inherent and avataric miraculous power, talking of an 'old man' in order to put his relatives off the scent, or
- An 'old man' (none other than Shirdi Sai Baba) really did feed Raju, coming to him in an extra-corporeal form invisible to human eyes.
The first would make sense only in the belief of Raju's divinity; as an 'avatar' he could naturally look after himself and need not have gone hungry. The second option operates on the understanding that the young Raju was the recipient of some miraculous good fortune wherein the discarnate spirit of Shirdi Sai Baba was looking for a fortunate soul in whom to invest his powers and instate as his de-facto successor.
Unsurprisingly, the idea of Shirdi Baba's taking possession of Raju was mused upon by none other than Seshama Raju, and was seriously considered in a greater depth within the hagiographical work of Ra. Ganapati. Raju's aside to Kasibatla Sriram Murthy clearly indicates that something was happening beyond his control, and that he was confident of his protection by the Baba of Shirdi. Ironically, many of Raju's critics complaine that he is the one who has taken 'possession' of Shirdi Baba's name and fame, and in the midst of refuting these accusations, Ganapati first discusses the putative explanation and provides his refutative reasonings:
"Then there is the question of how the boy came to know and misuse the name of the Super-saint [Shirdi Sai Baba], a stranger in those parts then. The reply given by his critics runs like this: Whether by the [merit] of former births or due to the inexplicable compassion of Shirdi Sai, Satya [Raju] had been the recipient of that divine saint's grace right from childhood. Perhaps Sai had bestowed a little of his supernatural powers on the boy. Giving Satya milk and rice, curing him of his fever and swollen eyes (announcing his presence, as it were, with the distinctly heard steps of the sandals) - these were instances of Grace of the old Saint. Does it not follow that the two were different then, and the Saint had blessed Satya? The supernatural powers that the boy demonstrated should have been his gift. Satya the donee, had now twisted the truth and proclaimed himself the donor, Sai Baba.
"Let us ponder over this. Would Shirdi Baba have gifted such powers indisciminately onto undeserving hands? ... We came across Kusa Bau earlier. A close devotee of Shirdi Sai, he obtained certain powers like materialising sweets. But Baba stopped this and said, 'In future when you invoke me, only vibhuti will appear in your hands, nothing else.' Thereafter, Kusa Bau lost his powers of materialising sweets. Does not the Kusa Bau episode have it's application here? ... The Shirdi devotees who ought to have the conviction that their Baba's power have not terminated with his Mahasamadhi [exit from the body], will do well to ponder over this point.
"A doubt remains. Was not Shirdi Baba apparently independent of Satyawhen he came to feed the latter with milk-rice and cure the boy's eye-trouble? Then, how could Satya claim oneness with him?Is there an explanation for this? Yes, certainly. Jesus normally called himself the son of God. But at the end of his preachings, he said, 'I and my Father are one.' Samarth Ramdas is the avatar of Hanuman, but he received initiation at the hands of Hanuman himself! Why? This is true of Shirdi Baba too! He described himself differently as the disciple of Kabir, and also as the avatar of Kabir! ... Likewise, Shirdi Sai had given of his grace as a grandfather to the Satya form though it was his own rebirth. Ultimately, he consummated the role of the grandson." - Baba Satya Sai (Part 1), p. 157-159.
This is a very obtuse, tangled and unsatisfactory explanation for why it is possible for the powerful spirit of Shirdi Sai Baba to take possession of the young Raju and continue his works through him. Not only would this be an unacceptable proposal for Shirdi devotees, but also to most people. Sensible and rational people who are logical and down-to-earth do not believe in things like reincarnation, spirit possession, miraculous materialisations and the like.
For starters, Sathya Sai devotees make a big issue out of a popular story involving Hari Sitaram Dixit, a close devotee of the Shirdi Baba. As evidenced in a compilation printed by Narasimha Swamiji, 'Sri Sai Baba's Charters & Sayings', Shirdi Baba had apparently confided to Dixit that he would come again as a boy of eight years of age. Sathya Sai seizes on this and claims that Dixit had a weak memory and misheard what 'he' said in his 'former incarnation', that he would appear again in eight years rather than as an eight-year-old boy. This makes more sense when you consider that Shirdi Baba passed away in 1918 and Raju was born in 1926, but one cannot help noticing how this explanation is very convenient and self-serving to Raju's cause. Moreover, additional information has come to light that generates considerable suspicion on 1926 as the supposed year of Raju's birth, but that's another story.
Dixit had no problem remembering every other of his notable experiences when narrating them to Narasimha Swami for posterity, so this type of reasoning is a slight on the both of them for suggesting that they have misrecorded the words and intention of Shirdi Baba. Moreover, Shirdi Baba was well known for making very abstrract and cryptic remarks about anything and everything, and the bulk of Shirdi literature testifies to that! So this is another reason why Sathya Sai's "mishearing" explanation can be doubted on perfectly reasonable grounds.
Any amount of self-serving reasoning by Ganapati or other authors favourable to Sathya Sai needs to be taken with a pinch of salt; Ganapati's first mistake was to be influenced by the idea that Shirdi Sai Baba was a "stranger in those parts" as he says, which we have already seen was untrue. How Raju would know about the Shirdi saint is explained by the bhajan sessions he used to attend as well as the possible deep study of the Satcharita, so much so that he was able to correct people's misinterpretations. The rest of it is pure speculation; Ganapati's error was creating a hagiography that was built on an earlier hagiography, as he himself wrote in the introduction to his work that he had extensively consulted with Narayana Kasturi - Sathya Sai's authorised biographer - in order to formulate his work. There is very little evidence that Ganapati performed any independent research except for that which serves the cause of propagating the name of Sathya Sai, because one of the big problems with all of these quaint reasonings is that the people who made them did not know enough about Shirdi Sai Baba in the first place, and why it is virtually impossible to accept Raju as a reincarnation.
We shall attempt to expand on this in the next instalment but, as an aside, it is no wonder that due to their attitude, devotees of Sathya Sai are not perceived respectfully by Shirdi Sai devotees due to their reckless aggrandisement of Shirdi Sai Baba's name and fame. As recently as January 2006, Shirdi devotees launched a punitive legal action against the devotees of Sathya Sai, specifically aimed at halting their claims of reincarnation. The Shirdi Sansthan has also publicly disavowed any claimed reincarnations by reaffirming that the Shirdi Baba had no successor and no reincarnation.
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