Prayers to Sathya Sai Baba
Prayer plays a central role in the doctrine of Sathya Sai Baba, as one might expect. His overall claim regarding prayers is that all of them, by whoever and to whatever saint, prophet, deity or God, eventually arrives at his own feet. He has prnounced himself to be the Deity of Deities. Even deities and Gods pray to him! This must be the most enormous claim ever made, and the chutzpa is beyond all measure, even though India is full of person claiming to be Divine, one with God, and avatar, a reborn Rama, Krishna, Buddha, or whoever among the pantheon. One scan from his official biography should be sufficient to indicate the extent of his claims about his own status.
As the world knows, Hindus pray to a vast pantheon of Gods, divine figures, deities, saints, supposed ascended masters, gurus, idols and more. Sathya Sai Baba claims to be 'omnipresent', meaning his true being is (was?) the innermost reality in everything there is, in the 'heart' of every person and entity and not least every supposed divine being or Deity. He has repeatedly claimed that prayers can be directed to all manner of deity, and that in essence and in the last instance, the object of prayer is himself. In Hindu religious parlance, "all prayers eventually arrive at His Feet" where 'feet' represents the Lord to whom one pays obeisance by touching the feet or putting one's head on the ground before them.
As in "All hands, feet, eyes, faces, mouths are His" Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 11, p. 128
We also read:- "... who has to take it up? It was said that I have taken up this Form in answer to the prayers of sadhus (noble souls) and others... I have come, because I felt I had to come. I resolved upon this... This campaign will succeed, it will not fail. The welfare of the world will be ensured through the fostering of the Godly everywhere, and more particularly of these ancient reservoirs of the ancient wisdom of this land." (Sathya Sai Speaks Vol. 3, page 205)
Are prayers ever effective? It seems so to a great many people in the world. However, this is a matter of belief in a necessary (causal) connection between the prayer, its wording (or some possible interpretation of the words) or what the person who prayed thinks was in 'his heart' at the time. In short, the effectiveness of prayer is solely and purely a subjective judgement by the person or persons involved. Therefore, science cannot confirm that prayers are effective since the 'source data' - what was thought when praying - is dependent only on subjective testimony. There is also yet more (equally subjective) testimony to the effect that prayers are not answered, do not work or produce the results desired.
Various pseudo-scientific studies - including statistical comparisons - have been carried out (overwhelmingly by prior believers in prayer), but some have stood up to genuine scientific investigation of the methods used. Among Sai Baba devotees, however, the belief in prayer is a sine qua non of being included in the movement. This is firstly because of Sai Baba's pronouncements as to his always answering heartfelt prayers - especially those made in extreme anguish. Secondly, there are literally countless reports of how Sai Baba has (apparently) answered prayers... often in incredible miraculous ways. However, many of the hagiographic accounts are naive (I have studied over a hundred in detail, sometimes interviewing the authors) and the text often unwittingly betrays how the answer and the prayer do not fit at all well, and that other explanations for healing events or 'miraculous' dreams and visions seem obvious or, at least, more likely.
There are also cases of proven fradulent reports, made by persons wanting favours either from Sai Baba or from officials in his organization (who acted as an effective social barrier between their guru, his minions and ordinary devotees (often treated suspiciously or even as the 'hoi polloi'). There remain a considerably body of accounts which due to their allege 'miraculous' nature could not be disproven, nor could they be verified by any objectively reliable souces (i.e. scientific observations or controls) and are considered unrepatable divine events.
In the following we see two instances of Sai Baba claiming that prayers by his devotees to heal him - the self-styled avatar himself -were effective. In one instance he did recover (it was evidnetly a rotten tooth that caused a swelling in his left cheek), but in the second it was totally and permanently ineffective:-
From the published discourse 13-July-2003 (as in Sathya Sai Speaks Volume 36 (2003) also available on-line in pdf file at www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume36/sss36-12.pdf )
After having suffered a second and most serious hip fracture in June, 2003, Sai Baba claimed that he could walk long before any others could (which was entirely false as hip replacement patients are often walking with crutches 2 days after operation). He also falsely predicted he would be fully healed within less than one year.:-
On July 5, Sathya Sai Baba contradicted the surgeon and said in a discourse at Brindavan:- "After the surgery, I was able to walk within three days. This is because there is not even a trace of body attachment in Me." (Sanathana Sarathi July, 2003, p. 218)
"For anybody else, it would have taken at least two to three years to walk normally. The ball in the hip joint got separated." p.230
"The doctors said that one year's rest was required for the hip injury to heal completely. I told them it would, not take one year." p.259
"What medicine did I use? The intense prayers of the devotees are My medicine. During the last one month, be it in Madras (now Chennai), Hyderabad, Bangalore, or Mumbai, devotees have intensified their prayers and spiritual activities. Each and every house conducted bhajans and Namasmarana. Some devotees undertook penance and performed Yajnas. In this manner, a number of spiritual activities were undertaken praying for the well being of Swami. It is as a result of such fervent prayers that I am able to stand before you and address you. Neither did I want this suffering nor did I desire its cure. You wanted this body to be cured of the pain, and you achieved it through your prayers. This body is not Mine. It is yours. Hence, it is your responsibility to look after this body."
Comment: If the prayers and spiritual activities of the devotees were enough for Sai Baba's total recovery from his hip and eye problems, then how come he never recovered at all? Did Sai Baba have more faith in, his devotees' prayers and bhajans for him, or modern medicine? In fact, he did not recover being became wheel-chair bound - being able only to stagger a few paces with assistance for the rest of his life (i.e. 8 years). Yet countless patients of hip injuries recover fully all the time!
Prayers to Answer Questions or Clear Doubts There are
those who get doubts about Sathya Sai Baba or what his teaching implies for them and the like. They often decide to ‘ask Swami himself’. But, since
they almost invariably could not get to see him in person, or if they did were unable to put their question (or get an answer from him if they did so) they were prone to use some other method for
deriving his answer. There are many traditions among the died-in-the-woll aspirants on how to interpret a gesture, movement, overheard phrase and other observed behaviour in Sai Baba - including lack of certain usual behaviour - as applying to oneself and having a deep meaning which must be sought assiduously.
Flipping open a volume of Sai Baba’s discourses (like ‘consulting the Bible’) is a typical method. Whether one sticks to the first sentence one sees, or chooses another which lends itself better to a somewhat relevant meaning, probably depends on the level of desperation of the seeker. Much can be read out of very little... especially if a certain latitude in interpretation is allowed in one's zeal for a certain answer. Those who get ‘the right answers’ are often unaware that this kind of phenomenon is by no means restricted to one name and form. It is a very common occurrence, and often works well when there has been greater investment of emotional and mental energy behind the question. In this way one can, however, sometimes even ask one’s cat, an imagined alien UFO, or the Director of the CIA and get most wonderful answers!
One common practice among Sathya Sai followers is to draw one of three prepared papers left on the shrine. One will have the word ‘yes’, another ‘no’ and a third ‘wait’. Some just spin coins or roll dice! Special coins (Umi and Tumi) are even on sale at some Sai shops for this purpose. Or the uncertain devotee may set up some other precondition, like “If I see an Indian today when I go shopping, then Baba is answering me positively.” If the person happens to see an India, then this event becomes a big ‘graceful leela of the Lord’, an evidence of Sai Baba's omnipresence. If the desired result is not forthcoming, then one can always have another try with something else.
The psychologist C.G. Jung, who experienced many such ‘coincidences’ and investigated the question deeply, named them ‘synchronicities’. That they have to do with the power of projection of subconscious feelings or repressed energies seems very likely, and that there is a ‘collective unconscious’ or ‘astral plane’ whereby thoughts and symbols are transmitted, was occasionally Jung's explanation of them. Some are thought by many 'paranormally-inclined' persons to operate through so-called ‘elementals’, which are powers that seem to exist without being embodied (i.e. deities, spirits, djinns, ‘fairies’, demons and the whole range of identities these forces have been given in different cultures and ages). The hypothesis of 'souls of the dead' communicating through such events is also common in Sai Baba circles. There is, of course, no guarantee of divinity being attached to any such phenomena. It is an area fraught with deceits, delusions, self-deceptions, fraud and potentially very serious psychic disturbances like uncontrollable apparent ‘psychic invasions’ and even full ‘possession’.
Return to overview page