Sai Baba's Shirdi LIES
To get to the heart of this issue, I have relied almost wholly on an independently-researched biography of Sathya Sai Baba, 'Love Is My Form' (hereafter referred to as 'LIMF'), which was produced by a team of devotees to commemorate his 75th birthday. The work is scintillating in the amount of new information turned up, old sites revisited and the sheer number of the Baba's contemporaries being interviewed about his history. Unless directly stated and to avoid confusion, Shirdi Sai Baba will be referred to by his full name whereas Sathya Sai Baba will be referred to by his civil surname ('Raju') and nickname ('Sathya').
Much has been made of Sathya Sai Baba's declaration to be the reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, and rightly so since everyone is in agreement over the fact that the proclamation was a pivotal event in the Puttaparthi Baba's life. The basic story goes like this: On the 23rd May 1940, the young Sathyanarayana Raju woke up and drew a sizeable crowd to him and proceeded to materialise various eatables for them. Raju had been exhibiting extremely strange behaviour for the previous couple of weeks after suffering an alleged scorpion bite, his moods having ranged from bitter weeping to manic laughter after being in a comatose state for several days.
The moods and the materialisations were increasing gradually with each passing day until this day, when Raju's father, Venkappa, could take no more. Brandishing a stick, he pushed and shoved his way through the crowd and stood before his son. Prof. Narayana Kasturi (Sathya Sai Baba's authorised biographer) relates the scene as follows:
Arming himself with a stick, he moved a step nearer and threatened to beat it out of him. "Are you a God, or a ghost or a madcap? Tell me!" he shouted. Prompt came the answer, the announcement, that had been held back so long, "I am Sai Baba."These events are described further in another of Kasturi's works - 'Easwaramma - The Chosen Mother' - with major revisions that allow much more verbosity on the father's part:
Further argument became impossible Venkapa Raju was stunned into silence; the stick slid from his hands. He stood staring at Sathya, trying to grasp the implications of that announcement, "I am Sai Baba." But, Sathya continued, " I belong to Apasthamba Suthra; I am of the Bharadwaja Gothra; I am Sai Baba; I have come to ward off all your troubles; keep your houses clean and pure." ... The elder brother, Seshama Raju went near him, and asked, "What do you mean by 'Sai Baba'?" He did not reply, but only said this much: "Your Venkavadhootha prayed that I be born in your family; so, I came." - Sathyam Sivam Sundaram 1, Chapter 5.