21 April 2006

Robert Priddy's Nectarean Experiences

Robert Priddy, former close disciple of Sathya Sai Baba and founder of the Sai Organisation in Norway, has some interesting insights into the amrit "miracles":

Sathya Sai Baba's liquid 'amrit' (i.e. honey nectar), a supposedly holy substance, does have a distinctive odour. It can be collected from the doubtful 'Thief's Temple" in South India near Mysore, run by a man called Halagappa, who has two small amulets with Sathya Sai Baba's picture on that supposedly give off amrit into the jar in which they are kept. The sweet, fragrant liquid was analysed and found to be sugar water, according to experts referred to on the Danish video 'Seduced' which caused such a furore in March 2002 in Denmark.

Halagappa also had some feet carved in black stone on a pedestal, representing the deceased Shirdi Baba's feet under a small portico, which somehow exude a particularly fragrant 'nectar'. These symbolic 'feet' were installed there on Sathya Sai Baba's directions by N. Kasturi in the 1960s, Kasturi told me. 'Amrit' is itself supposed to be the 'nectar of the gods', which - in the ancient and fabulous Ramayana myth of India - gave eternal life to those who were fortunate enough to taste it. Those who did not succeed were consigned to more lifetimes as demonic 'asuras'. Sathya Sai Baba says of (at least some of) the amrit he claims to materialise that it indicates that the receiver will be free from the cycle of birth and death... liberated. Therefore, it is always spoken of by devotees as having an otherworldly fragrance, unsurpassed sweetness and freshness etc. and is treated with reverence. When they finally taste some they believe they are thrice blessed and so on. Those who have smelt and tasted amrit, know its very distinctive taste and smell, a smell which cloys the more the older it gets.

In my previous days of occasional gaping wonder, I also thought that it might just be something 'out of this world.' But the other day I kept getting a whiff of amrit, as if 'from out of nowhere'. This kind of phenomenon has in fact occurred before to me, and reportedly to many others, not least with the scent of SSB-scented vibhuthi. Though I cannot explain the several previous experiences, the latest one could certainly not have been a 'leela', I figured, for I had just delivered some rather damning evidence against Sathya Sai Baba to one of his leaders in Europe (not an act that the 'so compassionate' Sathya Sai Baba would like or reward thus! Rather, quite on the contrary!). But that distinctive smell kept on catching my nostrils. I soon discovered that I had washed my hands with a new piece of soap. The amrit smell came from that.

In order to test my identification of the smell, I held my hands before my wife's nose and she almost jumped out of the chair. "Amrit!" she exclaimed. "What, what... have you been in the fridge?" [We have some of the stuff from Halagappa, kept for interest's sake - and possible future analysis.] I showed her the soap and, sure enough, she confirmed the unmistakable amrit smell. The soap is made by Yardley's and is called 'Tea Rose'. So there is one little mystery solved, it seems. The odour that is used in the mixing of amrit, is no more unearthly than are tea roses… but they can be rather special, I admit!

(Addition - 2006) To confirm that amrit is based on tea rose essence, one may search the words 'tea rose' on Google and select one of the huge range of tea rose scented products. Tea roses have long been famous for their exceptional fragrance and there are many variants. Some of these are literally identical to the scent of Sai Baba amrit.

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