SOME PERSONAL EXPERIENCES OF 'MIRACLES' AND 'LEELAS' EXAMINED
The above account is a correct summary of some of the claims made by persons around Sai Baba, but whether such physical events did take place or are at all possible is another matter. (See here for further information) Many people who returned to visit Sathya Sai Baba at his ashrams, often regularly, will give accounts of miracles they claim to have witnessed, or at least of minor miracles usually known as 'leelas' (playful acts by the divinity. Adding to the confusion is the facts that not a few regard almost anything unusual as a miracle or interpret the most trivial everyday event as miraculous... say, because of when something occurred, or what they were 'coincidentally' thinking or feeling at the time.
The "Jula Leela" of 1958
From the 70th birthday to after New Year, we were in Bangalore (1995-6) on several occasions, staying with Mr. V. Ramnath (and IAS official), who introduced us to various devotees, and family members. Among them was Sri Kantalya, a middle-aged Indian who had taken to going around to hold talks about Sathya Sai Baba. With him and Ramnath, we spent the day visiting the Sai school/college at Muddenahalli (40 kms outside Bangalore) and met the teachers, the architect who designed the lingam-shaped mandir there and various Sai officials from Brindavan.
transcript: "1958 during the Birthday Juula, the power failed. Then it came on again - then failed and recovered each time the jula swung back and forth!! For a long time, this went on! (Srikantalya was there)"
Comment: In an excited atmosphere of devotion, Sri Kantalya's telling of his perceptions of the wonders of Sai Baba, this incident assumed much more significance than it would in most other connections. What the spiritual significance was or could have been was totally unclear, as it very often is. Maybe his intended message was some esoteric wisdom like "Now you see me, now you don't"
One might think that an electrical engineer would laugh and have a technical explanation, say, that the power contact was affected by the back and forth movement... a loose electrical plus even!
Knowing the levels of deception exercised by Sathya Sai Baba, his 'officials' and Trust members, however, the simpler answer to what devotees took as an 'amazing leela' is that someone hidden backstage turned the power on an off to coincide with the movements of the swing!
Here is another illustrative example of a reported miracle:-
A Swedish lady called Lena who I knew well was at Prashanthi Nilayam in early 1989 and met an Australian couple before they had yet had their first glimpse of Sai Baba. The man had dreamt of Sai Baba often and had come to see him with huge expectations. At their very first darshan, Baba went straight out towards the man, spoke to him and made him vibhuthi. But at the canteen afterwards the man was very disappointed indeed because, he claimed, it was not Sai Baba at all! He had been misled to believe that this person was Sai Baba and had travelled all the way from Australia for nothing etc. etc. But that evening he went for 15 mins. meditation and entered the temple for the first time. There he saw the life-size picture of his Sai Baba, Shirdi Sai, and began to realize that he had come to the right place after all! This incident finally convinced Lena herself of the Divinity of Sathya Sai Baba too!
Comment: So the man mistakenly thought he was visiting Shirdi Sai Baba. This alone indicates that he was confused and easily misled, since the two Sai Babas are easily distinguishable and their ashrams are in entirely different parts of India. Did he - and his wife too - just go to Prashanti Nilayam without ANY prior investigation of the issue? Leaving that aside now, one must wonder what on earth is so remarkable about seeing from the temple pictures that he was simply visiting another person also calling himself Sai Baba? Obviously the man was perplexed by his blunder but probably decided to make the best of his errors and stay on.
To be finally convinced of Sathya Sai Baba's divinity (as Lena was) on such extremely weak grounds is, however, not untypical. As coordinator for the Norwegian Sai Organization nearly two decades - and also during visits to conferences and long stays the ashrams - I met a considerable number of persons who had decided as if by a whim that he must be God because of something they interpreted as a mystical message or sign from him, things which could easily be explained in other ways. But the inner and even outer pressures to want to be recognised by him, accepted by God and feel good etc. are very considerable, especially if a person has travelled so far and has built up hopes or expectations of experiencing the miracles which are so widely reported in countless ill-written hagiographies, as well as in fanciful video interviews and films.
Piet Vroon investigated Sai Baba's materializations and wrote an article in the Indian Sceptic (Santa Claus in India)
Working on behalf of the Dutch newspaper DE VOLKSKRAANT, Piet Vroon was at Puttaparthi to film Baba at "work". He and his partner reported that they saw Baba remove rings, necklaces and watches from behind flower vases and from pillows on his chair. They also detected Sai Baba holding vibhuti balls in one hand, transferring them to the other hand, pulverizing them and distributing them. Vibhuti was also alleged to be hidden in his mouth and removed while wiping his face, which Baba does very often. In his report of December 5, 1992 Vroon's conclusion is unambiguous: "we just think that he's a trickster and a cheat."