Gerald Joe Moreno

Prof G. Venkataraman Writes About The Sai Controversy

Posted on: November 28, 2009

Having considered the service aspect in some depth, I now wish to deal with three topics together; they are, Swami as an Avatar, the acts of materialisation that He performs [popularly called miracles] and the transformations He effects. In a manner of speaking, they are inter-related. They are also connected with the statement attributed to Swami regarding His being God.

Let me start with the remark attributed to Swami, where He is quoted out of context and that too only in part. The detractors say: “Sai Baba says He is God. What nonsense! If He is indeed God, then why not this, why not that?” etc. The first comment I would like to make is that whenever Swami talks of God, it is always in the Vedantic context, and not in terms of how X or Y might think of God. This is an important point because the world is full of people who have all sorts of ideas of what they think God is or ought to be. Unfortunately, most people have the foggiest notion what the concept of God is in Vedanta, and I doubt whether Swami Agnivesh [who, by the way, has chosen to make some rather nasty and what I would regard as unwarranted remarks], has bothered to read Vedanta and analyse all these matters in that context.

In Vedanta, the central concept is that everything is God, and, as Swami reminds us often, there is nothing except God. Having said that, I must also add that in the manifested Universe, God is not directly visible. What is visible are physical entities, be they inanimate or animate. Whatever they are, one thing is certain, God is immanent in them. What do we mean by that?

I shall consider that by starting with a famous remark that Gandhi once made and one which I am very fond of quoting. Gandhi said: “There is an indefinable mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it though I cannot see it.” This power, Shakti, call it what you will, is identified by Gandhi with God. He bluntly declared that he knew very little about God but knew two things very well. The first is that God exists and is Omnipresent. The second idea is best conveyed in Gandhi’s own words. He said: “He is no God who merely satisfies the intellect. God to be God must rule the Heart and transform the senses.” Later, Gandhi identifies God with Love, which all religions also do incidentally.

In short, if we want to talk of God in the abstract, then we must talk of Consciousness or better, Universal Consciousness. If we talk of God in relation to the physical world then we must talk of Love. Are there two levels of Divinity? Krishna emphatically says there are. He says that He exists as Immanent Divinity in the manifest Universe, and also as Transcendental Divinity in the Unmanifest Cosmos, when the physical Universe ceases to exist. If we want to understand it all in the context of Science, I would say, in the manifest Universe, God is immanent as the energy of the atoms of every entity, both inert and animate. Further, in living beings, He is manifest as the life force or Praana. In the Gita, Krishna explains all this to Arjuna using two important words: Adi bhautika and Adi Daivika.

According to Science, our Universe came into existence about 13.7 billion years ago. For many decades there was much uncertainty about the exact age of the Universe but thanks to the COBE satellite, there is now very precise data that confirms that the Universe was born about 13.7 billion years ago. By the way, this year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to the people who conceived and designed the COBE and later made this incredible discovery. The question becomes: If the Universe was born 13.7 billion years ago andour Space and Time came into existence then, there must have been a state when our Universe did not exist. Krishna confirms that He [read Universal Consciousness] existed even then, and that is what Unmanifest Divinity is all about.

Let me say something more about manifest Divinity. Swami says everything is God. The same thing was told to young Narendra by Ramakrishna. That was before Narendra had become Swami Vivekananda. Narendra was cynical and indeed describes graphically how when one afternoon he was making his way to his Guru’s place he was frustrated by the remark that everything was God. In fact, he said, he went on telling himself, “I am supposed to believe this fence is God, this cast-iron gate is God. What nonsense?” But do you know what happened when he came to the presence of his master? Ramakrishna gently tapped young Narendra on the shoulder, and suddenly everything around began into dissolve one by one into a strange Cosmic Oneness. Narendra now found himself in a state of incredible peace, tranquillity and bliss from which he did not want to get out. But another tap on the shoulder and he was rudely pulled out of his incredible trance. The Guru said that Narendra had many things to do before he became eligible for permanent Bliss. You do not have to take my word for all this. It is all there in the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda.

Now what is the point of this recall? Simple. There exists a state of Universal Consciousness. This state not only exists when the physical Universe is absent but overlaps in a subtle manner the Universe even while it exists. All the matter one sees in the physical Universe came from this original Consciousness – that is the central thesis of Vedanta. As George Wald, Harvard Biologist who won the Nobel Prize in Medicine once declared, everything is a materialisation of this ‘mind stuff’. The human being is the ultimate Avatar of this Consciousness, being capable of cognizing this Consciousness, besides allowing it to flower in many ways via literature, art, science and so on.

So we come to this: Every material entity is an aspect of Divinity. This Divinity is not patently manifest but is certainly latent. Particularly in humans, it is latent as Medha Shakti or worldly intelligence [that permits great achievements in Science], it is latent as the power of Creativity [that results in great works of art, music, literature etc.] and finally as noble virtues. In inert matter, Consciousness, which is the essence of the Divine Spark within, is present in a passive aspect. In living beings, while the passive aspect is present in the constituent atoms, there is in addition an active aspect that confers awareness. A living being is aware it exists. In a human being the capacity for Self-Awareness is the highest. In other words, a human being has the potentiality of 1) discovering the Divine Spark within, and 2) living his or her life in accordance with the latent Divine nature. That is the very first lesson that Krishna taught Arjuna. He said, “O Arjuna, you are thinking of life in terms of the life and death of the body. You are not the mere body, which is but a transient casing for the embedded Atma. Your true nature is that of the Atman. Thus all your actions in life must be in accord with that nature.” And that precisely is also the very same lesson being taught to us by Swami any number of times, especially when He raises the question: “Who are you?” Like Krishna He reminds us that we are not the body but separate from the body. Likewise, we are not the Mind but separate from the Mind. We are the Eternal Atma.

This brings me to the statement of Swami quoted out of context by all and sundry. “I am God.” Yes, Baba does say that; but He does not stop there, does He? Does he not also add the following important remark: “YOU also areGod; the only difference is that I know it and you are yet to realise it”? God comes in human form, as Saakara Brahman, just to teach this lesson. Rama taught it in one way, Krishna did it in yet another. Sri Sathya Sai Baba also teaches that very same lesson but in a style best adapted to this current age. In other words, there is absolutely nothing wrong, at least in the Vedantic context, in Baba saying that He is God. Equally, there is nothing wrong in His reminding us that we too are God. And He wraps it all up with the fact that while He is AWARE of His Real Nature, we continue to remain ignorant about it. Indeed, it is because of that fact that some devotees say, “The one refutes also is God,” in accordance with the spirit of the famous Brahmaarpanam Sloka in the Fourth Chapter of the Gita.

The question then might be asked: “Well, if that is the case, where is the need for this long rebuttal?” Fair enough, but there is a point. You see, life is a Cosmic Drama in which we have to play our parts. True, it is all God everywhere, both the one who accuses and the one who is being accused. But, says Vedanta, like actors in a drama who stick to the script, we have to do our bit. Unknown to themselves, those yet to be awakened by spiritual light, would act so as to support Adharma; but those who have some inkling of what True Reality is all about, have to pitch in on the side of Dharma. In the Ramayana, we have the classic case of Ravana, who though well read and devout in his own way, nevertheless took to the evil path. And when a crisis was brewing, Vibhishana dared to contradict Ravana and give good advice. That was speaking for Dharma. In the Mahabharatha, we have a classic example of massive failure of duty as also a laudable illustration of duty come what may. Bhisma, the patriarch, well read and a noble person in his own way nevertheless failed to speak at a crucial moment when he ought to have and when his word would have carried a lot of weight. On the other hand, we also have Vidhura, who did not hesitate to speak sharply to Dhritarashtra [whose advisor Vidhura was], and call a spade a spade.

These examples are not without any meaning. I can say that in the years after Independence when slowly but surely, our educational establishment was being severely corrupted, there was no strong voice to speak out against it. When values drain out of schools and colleges, what can one expect from that Society? What it all boils down to is simply this: As far as I am concerned, I am a part of the Prashanti Digital Studio, established solely for spreading the message of love, peace and global harmony. Not having sufficient resources, we cannot reach out to millions but certainly thousands do lock on to us daily, deriving solace and comfort in their own way in this troubled world. Hurt and deeply pained by the attack on Swami, many have written to us to dosomething. I simply cannot ignore it saying that Baba does not need any defence. True, Swami is above this but then we have also a duty to perform, and by performing which we can also redeem ourselves.

In the Ramayana, when Rama is about to invade Lanka and Vibhishana is arraigned and brought before Rama, He is asked to get rid of Vibhishana. Rama listens carefully to all the advice and then says: “I appreciate your concern for Me which has prompted most of you to suggest that Vibhishana ought to be put to death. I am afraid I cannot agree. If it is just a question of getting rid of Ravana, I can do it without the help of any of you. In fact, I do not have to invade Lanka. Indeed, I could have done it from Ayodhya itself. However, I have gone through this particular procedure for certain reasons. One is that it gives a chance to all of you to redeem your lives by fighting for Dharma. Another is, it gives Me a chance to teach some lessons. Thirdly, by staging the Drama in this manner, I have ample opportunities for showering My Grace on you! Right now, the lesson I am going to teach is that when a person comes to you and surrenders, you simply cannot abandon him. The person might in fact be acting and harbouring evil intentions. But the Dharma of a king is that once his protection is sought, he ought to give it unconditionally. And that precisely is what I propose to do, having been born in a Royal family.” It is guided by that spirit of duty, and with much humility, that I am taking the trouble of writing this long piece so that devotees everywhere can get some idea of the complexity of the Divine Drama, and not get rattled by what ignorant people might say.

I am not through yet, for there are some more things I need to say, all related to the Avataric aspect of Swami. By way of starting on this topic, let me describe what happened during the very first Interview that Swami gave me and my wife, in 1990, I think. A few years prior to this, tragedy struck us, with the sudden and untimely death of our only son and child. He was eighteen when he suddenly left us. Our lives were shattered, and we sought solace by joining a Sai group near our house in Hyderabad, and regularly attending Bhajans. One thing led to another, and thanks to Prof Sampath, the third Vice Chancellor of Baba’s University, a fine gentleman whom I had the pleasure of knowing for many decades, I visited Prashanti Nilayam and finally was called to Swami’s presence. I had briefly met Swami earlier at the time of the Summer Course, but for my wife it was the first direct, face-to-face meeting, shall I say. At this point, I shall simply reproduce the following from one of my Musings broadcasts, given some years ago over Radio Sai.

That [during that Interview] was when I first got to know what sweet Divine intimacy really means. But I also got a stunning revelation, when Swami disclosed some details regarding the untimely death of our son, about which no one knew anything, we two excepted. After that, Baba asked my wife, “Why are you regularly fighting with Me?” My wife was stunned by this remark and so was I. When my wife recovered, she said, “Swami, how could I have ever fought with You earlier? This is the first time we are meeting face to face.” Swami smiled and continued, “No, you have been regularly fighting with Me!” This time she remained silent while I was most perplexed. Then Baba said, “Is it not true that every night when others are asleep you go to the Puja room, stand in front of the deities and demand, ‘God why on earth did you take away my son? What harm did I do to You? On the other hand, I have always worshipped You. And yet, You have done this to me. You are most unkind, and unjust.’ Did you not say such things day after day?” I was simply stunned. Till then, I knew nothing about the daily mid-night confrontation between my wife and God! My wife bowed down her head and said softly, “Yes, Swami, that is true.” Swami smiled and said, “See, I know!” In His own way, He was conveying to us that He was Lord Almighty and knew everything, all the time.

I am mentioning this just to convey to you that when Baba is hailed as an Avatar, there is a lot of meaning behind it. You may not believe it; others might simply dismiss it as a made up story and so on; but I do not care. I really have nothing to gain by creating or concocting a story. And my scientific training has taught me to be quite sceptical unless, there are strong grounds for believing. Which brings me to the question of what are popularly called miracles, and which are contemptuously dismissed by those who have never been exposed to such extra-ordinary events.

For years, I did not simply believe in Sai Baba. I too dismissed Him like many others did [and continue to do so]. What made me reject Baba at that time were primarily the stories of His miracles, which I completely distrusted. Later, when tragedy struck our lives, I concentrated on Baba’s Message of Love, which was perfectly acceptable to me, having been brought up for decades on the writings of Gandhiji and of Tolstoy – remember, Gandhi himself was influenced by Tolstoy, and even named his farm in South Africa after Tolstoy. At that point, I distinctly recall having an argument with my uncle about Sai Baba’s miracles. While I quoted why this ought to be impossible according to the laws of Physics, my uncle dismissed me by saying, “Bigger scientists than you have turned around. So I am not going to be persuaded by you kid!”

And then in May 1991, 22nd of that month to be very precise, I got the shock of my life. I had gone to Bangalore, to give a talk in the Summer Course organised by Baba’s University. Prof Sampath was the Vice Chancellor then, and he had invited me. I arrived on the morning of May 21st. That night, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated. Next morning the whole country was in turmoil and my talk scheduled for that morning, was cancelled. Instead, on Baba’s instructions, I gave a private talk. While asking Prof Sampath to arrange such a talk, Baba told him, “Tell everyone that I would be attending. Otherwise, some might skip the talk!”

At 3.00 PM, we all assembled for my talk. Swami did not come. He was then very busy with matters connected with the Super Speciality Hospital that was then under construction in Puttaparthi. However, as is usual, a chair had been placed for Baba. While introducing me to the audience, Prof Sampath turned to me and said, “Dr. Venkataraman, that is Baba’s chair. It might seem empty to you but be assured that He would be listening to every word of what you speak.” I did not take that seriously. I spoke on the importance of values, being guided mostly by Gandhi.

After my talk was over, Prof Sampath took me to Swami’s presence. I had to take leave and rush to the airport to catch a flight to Hyderabad. There were disturbances everywhere, and I was not even sure if I could reach the airport and that if I did, whether there would be a flight at all. As soon as I walked into Swami’s presence, the very first thing He said to me was, “I heard every word of what you said!” That was knock-out blow number one. A doubting Thomas might say, “Oh no, it was all rigged thanks to an earlier understanding between Baba and Sampath.” To such people I would say that not only would that be wholly unjust to Baba but also to Prof Sampath, a finer gentleman than whom is difficult to come across. For those of you who do not know, Prof Sampath studied electronics in Stanford, came to Bangalore in 1955 to teaching the Indian Institute of Science [in fact that is where I first saw him; but I did not know him then]. Later, he moved to IIT Madras, where he served as Deputy Director for many years, as also Professor and the Head of the Dept of Computer Science. After that, Prof Sampath served with the Union Public Service Commission, Director of IIT Kanpur and so on. His laurels are too long to recollect here. But he was a perfect gentleman and it would a heinous sin to accuse him of any complicity in this incident I am now narrating.

A few minutes after this came my second knock out blow. I took leave of Swami and prepared to leave for Bangalore Airport. I remember that scene very well. We were both standing near the door of Trayee Birndavan. Swami waved His hand and created vibhuti for me and poured it into my palm. The moment had come to wake up from the slumber. This shock was more than the shock of my son’s sudden death or of Rajiv Gandhi’s most unexpected assassination. I was too numb from the experience. Later I realised that I had to do some serious thinking to figure out what it all meant; that I shall come to in a minute.

The vibhuti materialisation that I witnessed on that day [and innumerable times later] made me realise that there were many things far beyond what I had known till then. Sorcar alleges that this vibhuti is just a salt pellet that is first hidden and then crushed. Let me tell Mr. Sorcar something. I have, since that occasion, witnessed vibhuti materialisation on over a hundred different occasions, in all sorts of places. I have also been personally been given materialised vibhuti on many occasions. And I have tasted it on all these occasions. IT IS NOT SALT POWDER BY ANY STRETCH OF IMAGINATION. That is my first point.

I have seen vibhuti materialised in the most unexpected circumstances. Here is an example. In March 1999, Swami went to Bombay and I was included in the party. Over there, He went to the houses of many and one afternoon, He visited the house of Mr. Sunil Gavaskar in Worli. Swami was seated in a large room, full of Bombay celebrities many, of course, drawn from the sports world and some from the film world. The room was packed and as per our unwritten code, we the members of the party sat outside. There were first Bhajans, and then a lot of small talk, after which Baba was led to a Dining hall for being served some snacks. People were giving Him letters and all that. As He came near the door, I could see Him clearly. Seated there were Polly Umrigar and G. S. Ramchand, cricketing heroes of my era. While Gavaskar was introducing them, Swami asked them casually as He often does, “Do you like vibhuti?” Without waiting for their reply, He materialised it on the spot. I can’t see how anyone could have anticipated that and carried salt pellets hidden between the fingers all the way during a long ride from Andheri to Worli, gone up a lift, sat for one hour and so forth. May be Sorcar can do it. There are many such occasions but I shall skip that. However, I would like to reproduce here an extract from an interview with Capt. Oberoi that we did for broadcast over Radio Sai. For those of you who might not know, Capt Oberoi served in the Indian Airlines, first as a pilot and later in the Commercial Department. He rose high before he retired. After retirement he came to Puttaparthi, where he was the airport officer here for over a decade. I knew him well.

Once when he was in service and stationed in Madras, Capt Oberoi came to Bangalore, having heard that Baba was going to Hyderabad. As the Chief Commercial Manager, he could just hop in and go any where on duty in his region. He wanted to see Swami urgently because he had a big problem. Swami told Oberoi that He was going to Hyderabad and would speak to him on the flight. So Oberoi joined Baba on the flight to Hyderabad.

At that time, Capt. Oberoi was having a severe problem – he had been diagnosed as having throat cancer. We now hear Capt. Oberoi himself recalling what happened next:

During the flight, Swami called me and asked me to sit next to Him. Radhakrishna who was in that seat vacated it to enable me to sit there. When I was seated, Swami asked me about my health. I replied, “Swami is Antaryami [the In-dweller], and He knows my problem.”

Tears came to my eyes; I was moved. Swami wiped my tears and said, “I know, but I want you to tell Me. It would lighten your burden when you talk about it.” I then told Him that the ENT specialist had diagnosed my problem as Throat Cancer.

Swami called for a glass of drinking water. He then materialised a blackish powder, dropped the powder into the glass, stirred the water with a spoon, and then gave the water to me to drink. The taste was very bitter but I drank it all. Swami then rubbed whatever was left of the blackpowder on His finger-tips, on my throat.

It was very soothing. The pain disappeared immediately, and the hitherto uncontrollable cough was almost gone. Swami then asked me to consult Dr. Kameshwar in Madras and get a second opinion about my problem. I pleaded that since I was now better, why go through another painful physical examination? Swami insisted and said, “Apne Swami ka agyapalan karo aur second opinion lo [Listen to the command of your Swami and seek a second opinion]”.

Oberoi went back to Madras and, as advised by Swami, consulted an eminent specialist, Dr. Kameshwar. This doctor was different from the specialist who had done very detailed tests and diagnosed the cancer. Dr. Kameshwar took a look at the test reports that Oberoi had brought with him and asked why he wanted another examination, especially as some of the tests were quite painful. After all, barely ten days had passed since the earlier test; what great miracle could happen in the short period? Oberoi told the doctor that he had been specially asked to consult Dr. Kameshwar, and was doing so as per his instructions. Reluctantly, Dr. Kameshwar went through the testing. When he was through, he did a double take – there was absolutely no trace of cancer – Swami had already cancelled it. Oberoi explained to me why Swami wanted him to go to Dr. Kameshwar instead of the doctor who had originally examined him. Kameshwar did not believe in Swami and after this incident, he completely changed! Just to repeat, the words of Capt. Oberoi I have reproduced are exactly as he recorded them for us for broadcast over RadioSai some years ago.

I know Capt. Oberoi very well. He is a very good bhajan singer, and a simple, straight talking man. Sorcar may declare this also to be trickery, although I do not know how black and bitter salt powder can cure cancer in one go. Maybe Baba knew Oberoi was going to come to Him with a problem, and He therefore carried a black tablet in advance!

I must here also refer to Sanghvi’s sarcastic remark: “Rich devotees got Omegas, the poor just got sacred ash.” It is only the spiritually ignorant who would talk like that. Speaking for myself, I would any day value vibhuti more than an Omega watch. A watch is useful and I certainly wear one when I go to work. But an expensive Omega promotes attachment and I certainly would not prefer anything of that nature. What about vibhuti? As Baba explains, when things are burnt, they turn into ash but ash itself cannot be burnt. It is thus a reminder of the state of ultimate spiritual purity that the scriptures recommend humans should aim at. The vibhuti is thus a symbol of ultimate purity.

No matter what I say, I am sure there would all kinds of arguments regarding how naive I am, and how I have been fooled and tricked by Baba, that I am too inexperienced to see through tricks of conjurers and so forth. Well, let me narrate this experience of mine. This happened about four years ago. It was early March I think, the time of the afternoon Darshan, and Swami was seated on the veranda, in full view of the Sai Kulwant Hall where several thousands were seated. It was damn hot; no wonder, summer was fast approaching. After about nearly an hour, suddenly during the course of the conversation with a few of us seated near Him on the veranda, Swami, in full view of all the people assembled there, waved His hand and produced a fig, a real fig, not a plastic one or a clay model. He then passed it around to the few of us near Him and when I received it I held it in my palm and saw it. It was absolutely fresh and cold, like it would have been if it had just been removed from a deep freeze! How do I know it was a real fig? Because Baba asked the fig to be made into small pieces and distributed. I got a piece that I ate. I do not remember who all were there besides me, but I do recall Mr. S.V. Giri was there because he was the Vice Chancellor then, and of course one or two boys, who go with Swami to be of assistance to Him. They too got a piece of the fresh and chill fig, materialized. All this before a huge crowd of several thousands. I mention all this because Sorcar, in the NDTV program not only alleged that Swami was a trickster, but added that Baba materialized things in His room behind a curtain. One can allege that the fig had been brought earlier and kept hidden in the sleeve – the favourite explanation. But how did Baba keep it ice cold? May be he has a deep freeze also hidden in His sleeve?

I have seen so many of these things, including materializations during flight, and in all odd places. When He suffered a hand injury and His right hand was in a sling, He produced vibhuti [which is what most devotees really wish for] using His left hand. The question now becomes: “Is there any explanation for this?” Drawing upon my scientific background, I venture to put forward a hypothesis, based on my current understanding of the bridge between physics and meta-physics. The last few decades have seen staggering progress in the last frontier of physics namely, the bridge between the micro and macrocosm. I have spent several years absorbing these developments in the context of a series of books I have been writing. [A very brief glimpse of this fascinating horizon would be offered in the H2H serial SEARCH FOR INFINITY.] It turns out to be amazing in one sense, and perfectly understandable in another, that the physical Universe exhibits a remarkable but very subtle Cosmic connectivity between entities that appear different to us. So much so, as one physicist puts it, there is only one electron but it appears to us as many simply because of the effects of Space and Time. This can be beautifully explained with the help of what are called Feynman diagrams but I do not wish to digress into that. Let me just state that in the process of exploring what is called the Einstein-Podosky-Rosen [EPR] paradox, in the mid seventies, some remarkable experiments revealed this Cosmic substratum. This discovery was most unexpected. Einstein in fact had ruled it out, but that was because he believed that different entities had separate existence. Nature now says: “To your senses they may appear so; to your scientific instruments which are nothing but extensions of your senses, they may appear so. But there is a hidden Cosmic connectivity, as a result of which all become one! And it is because of this, there is an apparent violation of the theory of Special Relativity!”

This is, in my opinion, a stunning discovery, and a few who have thought deeply about it have realized that Nature is actually validating the intuitive concepts of Cosmic interconnectivity through the Atma and all that, which our Rishis of the past spoke about.

Now comes another question: “If the Universe had a beginning, and we do believe that our Universe was born about 13. 7 billion years ago, then where did it come from? Where did the initial deposit of energy for this Universe come from?” There is much speculation in the scientific world concerning this, but using the language of the Gita, I venture to suggest that beyond the Space and Time that define our Universe, there is an “Unmanifest Something” from which our particular Universe was born. That our Universe could have had a “mother” is something many Cosmologists now freely accept. Accordingto me, that “mother” is Universal Consciousness, strongly advocated by Vedanta.

I admit this is just a speculation but a fairly plausible one nevertheless. The concept of Consciousness cannot be summarily dismissed, as some upstart and immature scientists of today tend to. Many modern physicists have reluctantly come to the conclusion that material reality did indeed flow from Pure Consciousness. As far as this Universe is concerned, no less a person that Freeman Dyson, a brilliant physicist who provided so much insight into quantum electrodynamics in the early days, went so far as to write a serious paper in the prestigious journal Reviews of Modern Physics, on life without flesh and blood. Dyson speculated that even if the planet earth became inhospitable to life as we know it, life could serve in a primordial form in the Universe as cloud of Consciousness. These profound investigations were carried out by Dyson when he was holding the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship.

What I am trying to say is: 1) Our Universe was born out of Consciousness, 2) our Universe evolved against a backdrop of Universal Consciousness that pervades the entire Universe, and 3) this Consciousness is immanent in every atom of our Universe, being most evident and in its richest form in humans.

Now why all this long digression into Consciousness? For the following reason. First let me point out that according to Sri Aurobindo, the energy of Pure Consciousness cascaded down many steps into the energy that created our Universe. This is an interesting thought. Vedanta starts way up in the abstract realm of Pure Consciousness. Somewhere below it is the physical Universe we occupy. Energy [somehow] cascaded from the “super-abstract level” down to create our “level”. Nevertheless, Pure Consciousness pervades our Universe also, present everywhere, rather like the concept of ether [now discarded] of classical theory. The discovery of quantum connectivity in the experiments carried out to check out the EPR paradox, allow one to state with a certain amount of confidence that there is indeed a subtle connectivity underlying the entire physical Universe, which could well be Pure Consciousness, as I claim.

The story does not quite end here. About 20 or so years ago, a Professor of Aerosciences in Princeton University named Robert Jahn, was asked to take care of a graduate student engaged in some experiments in parakinetics because her guide was going on leave. This student’s experiments involved exploring Mind-matter interactions. Jahn personally did not believe in such phenomena but as a courtesy to his fellow professor agreed to. Basically he was to supervise the electronics aspects of the experiment and also the statistical aspects. It turned out that in due course, Jahn became fascinated by the research and himself plunged into it fully. He made strange discoveries – basically that the Mind could influence matter [I shall presently describe what this means]. At first, he did not believe his findings; and so he tightened and tightened the controls; but he kept on finding that the Mind could influence matter! Jahn then came to the conclusion that the Consciousness latent in humans was able to influence inert machines, because it too was pervaded by Consciousness, though in a passive form. This led Jahn to write down a mathematical theory of Consciousness as a field, rather like the fields that form the basis of quantum electro-dynamics and quantum chromo-dynamics. I am not too sure I agree with the details of Jahn’s mathematical formulation, but about his basic premise, I have no doubts whatsoever.

By the way, Jahn published his findings on Mind-machine interactions in the prestigious Journal IEEE, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers in America. It is a top peer-reviewed journal and the paper must have some calibre if it is to be published there. True, Jahn’s findings are not universally accepted, but the fact is that Jahn has, without any prior knowledge of Vedanta, origin of our Universe etc., established the possibility that Mind can interact with matter.

Now what exactly is it that Jahn did? He conducted many experiments one of which [the most compelling one I would say] is the following. In this, Jahn had an electronic machine called the Random Number Generator [RNG]. Left to itself, this machine would keep on generating random numbers. There are very precise tests to check if the numbers generated do follow the distribution expected of purely random numbers. Jahn now had volunteers sit before themachine for hours and concentrate on the machine, almost telling it mentally, “O machine, I am asking you to deviate from the random distribution.” On the face of it, such an experiment would be deemed crazy and a total waste of time. Jahn himself started with such a view. But he told himself, “I shall not be prejudiced about the outcome. I do not expect anything to come out of this but let me try anyway.” And when he did, he found that people were in fact able to influence the machine! Naturally Janh did not believe it at first but after innumerable trials he came to the conclusion that there was something in it and that is when he started actively developing a theory of Mind-matter interactions, mediated by the field of Consciousness, as described above.

What am I really driving at is simply this: If Nature created matter from the Consciousness field at the time of the birth of the Universe, then it is conceivable, especially given Jahn’s experiments, that a person could directly connect to Pure Consciousness and materialize objects, and indeed will various things to happen. Question: “Can anybody and everybody connect to this Pure Consciousness and do “miracles” as we call them?” The answer is not everyone can but one who has trained himself or herself to dwell in the realm of Pure Consciousness can. Vedanta clearly identifies such powers as Siddhis and there are in fact many types of them. Vedanta also cautions that the true seeker should not be dazzled and distracted by the Siddhi powers for they can easily derail the person in the quest for the Ultimate.

What Sorcar calls a cheap trick is, in my opinion a manifestation of Siddhi powers, known throughout history. Baba says, that when a Pure Person wills, it simply happens. History records that Jesus performed many miracles. I see no surprise in that. Many mystics are supposed to have performed miracles – once again, quite possible. The ability of a person to will and have that will fulfilled or realized is dependent solely on the spiritual purity of the person; it has nothing to do with religion. Thus it is that there are stories of saints and prophets in all faiths performing what are referred to as miracles.

I went into this elaborate digression merely to convey that while I strongly disbelieved in miracles earlier, once I saw it and that too under so many circumstances – I wish I had the time and space to recount them all! – I had to find an explanation. It took years for me to come up with a plausible scenario based on Consciousness and while I cannot prove it, I assert it cannot be disproved either. All theories about the origin of life here on earth would fall into that category. Similarly, all theories of where our particular Universe came from would always remain a matter of speculation with a few convincing possibilities. As in the case of the Universe, we would have to say that extra-ordinary occurrences including the direct creation of matter via Mind power are not impossible; they can and do occur in certain circumstances. One can speculate about the various scenarios that make miracles possible and leave it at that. We might never be able to know the entire truth – indeed in this Universe, there will forever be many things [including “miracles”] we would never know fully about it. Oh yes, charlatans can take people for a ride – these things would always happen. But that does not mean all are charlatans. It is dangerous to get trapped by pre-fixed convictions in the belief that one is being rational.

Rationality as presently practiced, is within the confines of Space and Time. Yes, our ordinary lives are bound by Space and Time; but on that score canone totally dismiss as rubbish experiences that transcend and reach out to beyond? Einstein declared that he pursued Science to have the feeling of Cosmic religiosity. Was he talking rubbish? Was he a nut? May be some ofthose pouring scorn on Swami might think Einstein was a nut; in which case, let me say I am very happy I chose to be in that same nutty profession instead of in pseudo-journalism!

Talking of experiencing Cosmic religiosity, I should remind you once again that Einstein describes it as an experience beyond words and the Mind, are mark amazingly similar to the words used in the Upanishads to describe the Supreme One! Our Vedic seers also sought this by going into a trance through meditation. Ramakrishna, Ramana all had experience of this state of Supreme Bliss, the State of Cosmic Consciousness. Vedanta has another name for this state of Absolute Reality namely Brahman. Vedanta further asserts that by going within oneself, one can ultimately discover Brahman within. Thus the “God” within is the same as the God without, a truth embodied in the statement that Atman is Brahman. After a deep study of Vedanta, Nobelist Schrodinger came to precisely that conclusion, and I am drawing particular attention to it to drive home the fact that a Poorna Avatar is a human form of this Abstract and Formless God, referred to in the scriptures as Niraakara Brahman. By contrast, the Avatar having donned a form with flesh and blood is referred to as Saakara Brahman. And Krishna very clearly describes that God does indeed don the human form and descend when it becomes necessary.

Now if for a moment we keep all this in mind and reflect, then it is not at all difficult to see the following:

  1. All are aspects of the Atma – this by the way is the very first thing that Krishna taught to Arjuna.
  2. The Avatar is a particularly special form of the Embodiment of the Atma.
  3. While humans try to rise to the level of the Divine through self-purification, Bhakti and so on, the Avatar comes down to teach humans this very process and encourage them in that endeavour. Indeed Krishna makes it very clear.
  4. God comes down as man so that man can ascend to the level of God. In this drama, the Avatar is like pure fresh water coming down from above as cool rain, while the evolving soul is like water on earth’s surface evaporating and rising above, leaving behind dross. That is the difference between an Avatar like Krishna, say, and a devotee like Ramana who seeks to ascend.
  5. By the way, Sri Aurobindo recognised the descent of God in the form of Sri Sathya Sai in 1926, made a terse remark to that effect and later substantially withdrew into himself.

What it all boils down to is the following:

  1. Devotees of Sathya Sai Baba ardently believe that He is indeed an Avatar.
  2. An Avatar comes with His full complement of powers, as for example Krishna did, and as such, it should be no big deal that some of His actions appear miraculous.
  3. However, while ordinary people are wonder struck by these miracles, Baba Himself says they are nothing but expressions of His Love.
  4. Not all need believe that Baba is an Avatar. However, that disbelief does not give them the right to support unsubstantiated slander or cast aspersions on His social missions, and that too without even having bothered to become acquainted with the basic facts – anybody with decency would concede that there is no private charitable Trust that has done so much for the poor and the underprivileged of this country on the health and drinking water fields as Baba has done.

For a long time I did not accept Baba as anything more than a very good and saintly person, till I analysed deeply and studied carefully the life of Krishna. I also studied carefully the various books written by Baba, read transcripts of all His old Discourses, and listened carefully to many where I was present. Along with this, I studied the Bhagavad Gita, bits and pieces of the Upanishads, writings of Vivekananda, teachings of Ramakrishna, Ramana and so on. It was then that I realized that Sathya Sai Baba was something unique, not in external form but in dimensions that go far beyond the mere form. The famous Pakistani Physicist Abdus Salam, a devout Muslim by the way, was once asked how he a scientist could believe in God. Salam gave a terse reply. He said, “I see no contradiction. Through Science, I try to understand the outside world. Where God is concerned I explore inside. Where is the problem?”

Earlier I pointed out that Gandhi says that He is God who rules the Heart and transforms. That precisely is what Baba did to me and for me that is enough to accept Him as God. If that criterion was good enough for Gandhi, it is good enough for me. I have seen so many transform but those incidents are hardly known. The President of the All India Sri Sathya Sai Organisation recently told me that when he went to Chattisgarh recently on routine organizational work, he met a man there who is employed as a Sales Tax Officer. This man told our President that before he discovered Sai Baba he used to accept bribes freely and in fact demanded it. But now the Love of Sai has changed this person forever. There are any number of stories and they are nothing new; such transformations have occurred throughout the world at all times, to people belonging to all faiths – after all, there is only one God and we all are His children.

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