Gurus & Saints of India

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba  was born as Sathyanarayana Raju on November 23, 1926 or later than 1927 with the family name of "Ratnakaram" and is a South Indian guru, religious leader, orator and described by his followers - not uncontroversially - as a Godmanand a miracle worker.

According to the Sathya Sai Organization there are an estimated 1,200 Sathya Sai Baba Centers in 114 countries world-wide. The number of Sathya Sai Baba adherents is estimated sometimes as around 6 million, and followers cite "50 to 100 million. He is considered by his followers to be an avatar and the reincarnation of the saint Sai Baba of Shirdi.

Sathyanarayana Raju was born to Peddavenkama Raju and Eswaramma in a poor agrarian family in the remote village of Puttaparthi, located in Anantapur district, Andhra Pradesh. He was given the name Satyanarayana. It is believed that instruments played on their own accord in his household. An official four-volume biography, called a hagiography by the Daily Telegraph, was written by Prof. Narayana Kasturi in which he reported that Easwaramma found herself pregnant after dreaming of the Hindu Lord Sathyanarayana Swamy and after a huge sphere of blue light rolled in and made her faint. According to Kasturi, a cobra was found in the bedclothes of the baby shortly after Sathya Sai Baba was born which has led to his being identified as the Lord of Serpents, Sheshasai.  However, the Hollywood screenwriter Arnold Schulman contradicts this story by reporting that Sai Baba's sister denied the presence of a cobra and that "the cobra was not found under the blanket, but several hours after Baba was born a cobra was seen outside the house." He also affirms that "for any episode of Baba's childhood, there are countless contrasting versions and, at this point, the author discovered that it was no longer possible to separate the facts from the legend". The young Sathyanarayana was a vegetarian and was known for his aversion to animal cruelty and for his compassion for the poor, disabled and elderly. According to Kasturi and to Sathya Sai Baba himself, the young Sathya composed bhajans spontaneously (even as young as eight years of age).

At the age of eight, Satynanarayana Raju attended Higher Elementary School in Bukkapatnam. After that Sai Baba joined another High School at Uravakonda. On March 8, 1940, Satynanarayana Raju started behaving as if a scorpion had stung in his foot. He exhibited strange behaviour after this and entered a coma state. After some time, he got up and his behaviour worried his parents - he didn't want to eat, he would often keep silent for a long time, recited ancient shlokas or elaborated on holy Hindu scriptures. In May 1940, he proclaimed himself to be a reincarnation of the fakir and Saint Sai Baba of Shirdi (d. 1918) and subsequently took the fakir's name, Sai Baba.

According to Kasturi, on 20 October 1940 at the age of 14, Sai Baba threw away his books and announced, "My devotees are calling me. I have my work." He then spent the next three days under a tree in the garden of an excise inspector (government officer) and many people gathered around him. Baba taught them bhajans. From then on Sai Baba claimed to be the avatar for our age, i.e. a divine incarnation sent to Earth to bring about spiritual renewal. He has consistently maintained this position ever since. Sathya Sai Baba is listed in the 1942 school record of Bukkapatnam. In 1944 a mandir for followers of Sathya Sai Baba was built near the village which is now called the "old mandir". The construction of Prashanthi Nilayam, the current ashram, was started in 1948.

In 1958, Sanathana Sarathi, the official magazine for the followers of Sathya Sai Baba, was published for the first time.

In 1963, during a discourse, Swami made statements claiming to be a reincarnation of Shiva and Shakti. He also claimed that Sai Baba of Shirdi was an incarnation of Shiva and that his future reincarnation, Prema Sai Baba, would be a reincarnation of Shakti. He publicly repeated this claim in 1976 Baba's biography states that Prema Sai Baba will be born in Mysore State

In the late 1960s Sathya began to gain notoriety among Western spiritual seekers. Sathya traveled only once outside India to visit North East Africa in 1968.

In 1960, Sathya Sai Baba said that he would be in this mortal Human form for another 59 years.According to a 1984 book, Sathya Sai Baba said that "In this body I will not become old or infirm as in my old body." In 2003 Michael Goldstein, an official of the Sathya Sai Organisation, reported that Baba had suffered an accident that injured his hip. As of 2005, Sathya Sai Baba sometimes uses a wheelchair.

Sathya Sai Baba had two sisters, one older brother (the late Seshama Raju) and a younger brother (late R.V.Janaki Ramaiah).