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November 23, 1926, is a red-lettered day in the history of mankind. On that day was born in the (then) obscure village of Puttaparthi, a charming young baby boy in the Ratnakara family. None realised then, and indeed for a long time thereafter, that Divinity had incarnated in human form as Ratnakara Venkata Satyanarayana Raju, grandson of Kondama Raju, and son of Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma.

THE LIGHT ENTERS THE WOMBThe birth of ordinary mortals is the direct consequence of earlier lives. The Karma or the track-record of earlier births, i.e., the nature of deeds performed, both good and bad, determine the future Janmas or births. In short, human birth is a Karma Janma (birth that is the consequence of earlier births). However, when the Lord comes down in human form, it is a different story altogether. He incarnates as a part of His unfathomable Cosmic Drama, to play as it were, a cameo role. He decides the time and the place of His incarnation, the parents, and also how His life would unfold. Thus the Lord's birth as a human is a part of His Divine Sport or Leela; in other words, His life is a Leela Janma.

In the Sathya Sai Incarnation, the Lord chose the Ratnakara family on account of the purity, the piety, and the devotion of its members. Prior to the incarnation, Pedda Venkama Raju and Easwaramma had been blessed with one son and two daughters - Seshama Raju, Venkamma, and Parvathamma, in that order. Some years passed and Mother Easwaramma longed for another son. She observed all the prescribed austerities and soon her prayers were answered - she was to become a mother again. Even before its birth, Easwaramma knew that the child to be born would be unusual. There was a definite reason for such a belief.

Sometime prior to the birth of Swami, Lakshmamma, the mother-in-law was engaged in the worship of Lord Sathyanarayana. The Lord then appeared in Lakshmamma's dream and blessed her, indicating that He would be born in her family. Promptly, Lakshmamma alerted Easwaramma that the latter might have strange experiences but ought not to worry about them. Shortly thereafter, Easwaramma had precisely one such experience.

One day as she was drawing water from the well, Easwaramma was startled by the sight of a big blue ball of light. The ball came directly towards her and entered her; Easwaramma fainted and fell. The Lord had entered her womb for the mandatory stay prior to physical birth as Sathyanarayana Raju. Thus the Lord was not begotten but immaculately conceived, even as His Son had been, two thousand years ago. WHERE HE WAS BORN

Sathya was born in the early hours of November 23, 1926. There were any number of unusual incidents accompanying His birth, as also in His childhood (as in the case of Krishna). Though they all gave strong hints of about His Divinity, few realised until much later that Sathya was the Lord Himself. But all unfailingly recognised that Sathya was most unusual, extra-ordinarily intelligent, precocious, and above all, always full of Love and compassion.

THE CARING FOR THE NEEDY In Primary School, Sathya helped His classmates in diverse ways. Though Himself from a poor family, He did not hesitate to give away His clothes to needy mates. More important, He never lost an opportunity to turn the minds of His friends towards God. Among other things, He formed a Bhajan group for this purpose, which later became very popular.

It was time to move on to Higher Secondary School but such a school was available only in Bukkapatnam, several kilometers to the north of Puttaparthi. Young Sathya now had to trudge back and forth every day, no matter what the weather, crossing fields, walking on bunds, and wading through water, as required. In the Bukkapatnam School also, He was a model student, ever helpful to others. Making students God-conscious remained His prime occupation, and to hold the attention of His mates, He would often materialise Prasaadam, much to their amazement. OFF TO A DISTANT SCHOOL

Sathya was an automatic choice for the class-leader (Monitor), but this brought its share of problems. Once, His teacher asked Sathya to slap all the boys in the class for some infringement of discipline. Instead of slapping hard as he was expected to, Sathya merely patted the cheeks of the errant pupils. This greatly angered the teacher, who then directed all his wrath on the class-leader. Sathya bore the punishment in stoic silence; for Him, it was all a part of the Drama scripted by Him, and this particular scene was being enacted to impart some lessons to humanity.

On another occasion, the teacher handling a particular class-hour (period) noticed that Sathya was not writing MIRACLE IN THE CLASSROOMdown what was being dictated, while all other students did. When questioned, Sathya replied that He was not taking down because He already knew that lesson. Interpreting the response as gross impertinence, the teacher asked Sathya to stand up on the bench, a form of punishment popular in those days. Sathya obediently did. After a while the School bell rang, signalling the end of the period in progress, and the commencement of a new period. It was time for the teacher to leave the room and make way for another one who was to handle the next period. Mr. Mahboob Khan, this other teacher, entered the classroom and to his utter surprise saw Sathya standing upon the bench. Khan loved Sathya very much, and to him it was inconceivable that Sathya would have done anything to deserve a punishment. He also noticed that the teacher who had handled the previous period was not vacating the chair. To his astonishment he then discovered that this teacher was not getting up from the chair because he was stuck or glued to it - whenever the teacher tried to get up, the chair also lifted! In a flash Khan understood the problem. He asked Sathya to get down from the bench and the stuck teacher promptly got his release! Years later Swami disclosed that this drama was staged not to inflict humiliation on the teacher concerned but to make people conscious of His Divine powers. Humiliation is something that does not exist in Swami's dictionary.

Around this time, Seshama Raju went to Kamalapuram to stay with his in-laws, and also qualify there as a teacher. Kamalapuram boasted of a good school and Seshama Raju thought that this was the school where Sathya ought to study - the entire family pinned its hope on Sathya, and dreamt that one day He would go to college and eventually end up as a big officer in the Government. And so to Kamalpuram, Sathya went.

Seshma Raju's in-laws being relatively well-off, looked down upon Sathya since He was quite poor. As a result, He was not only ill-treated but also called upon to perform arduous house-hold duties. He had, for example, to fetch drinking water everyday from a far-off well. Such chores left scars, which remain to this day.

In the Kamalapuram School, Sathya was a great favourite of the Drill Master who doubled also as the ScoutAT THE PUSHPAGIRI FAIR Master. Once, there was to be a grand General Fair-cum Cattle Show in the neighbouring village of Pushpagiri. The Scout Master wanted his troop to go Pushpagiri and render service of the type scouts were expected to. A subscription of ten rupees was collected from each boy for meeting the various expenses connected with the trip, including the bus fare. Not having the required amount, Sathya excused Himself from joining the group but assured the Scout Master that He would somehow or the other be in Pushpagiri at the appointed time for duty. While His friends went by bus, Sathya walked the entire distance, with little to eat on the way. When He finally reached Pushpagiri, He was very tired but did not flinch from discharging His duties. Just before returning, He thoughtfully bought a few small gifts for folks back home. When He returned, what greeted Him was not appreciation for the gifts but a severe punishment because His absence had created problems with the supply of drinking water. Much later Swami revealed that He deliberately created such painful situations for Himself in order to teach the lesson of forbearance and equanimity. Despite the harsh treatment constantly administered, Swami has never ever criticised either His elder brother or His sister-in-law, maintaining always that they were but mere instruments in His Drama, with specific roles to play.

SATYA LEADING BHAJANSHis teacher's training concluded, Seshama Raju moved from Kamalapuram to Uravakonda to take appointment as a Telugu teacher in a school there. Sathya went along and joined that school. Once again He excelled in everything, and became the cynosure of all eyes. But once He was back at home, it was the same painful routine; no let-up at all.

March 1940 marked a turning point. Sathya was allegedly stung one day by a scorpion, found in plenty in Uravakonda. His health became impaired and the village medics were consulted but it did not help. Sathya's behaviour also appeared to undergo a change, and He became an enigma to all. Convinced that Sathya had come under the spell of evil spirits, all sorts of quack remedies were tried but they were of no avail. An exorciser was summoned but before he could get started, he heard a mysterious voice warning him; obeying the warning he promptly withdrew. Meanwhile, a frantic message was sent to Sathya's parents in Puttaparthi, and they both rushed to Uravakonda consumed with anxiety.

Everyone was puzzled since Sathya was no longer the ideal and model schoolboy of the standard type. He WATER FOR THE FAMILYwas remote, withdrawn, and indifferent to worldly matters. If He spoke, which was rarely, it was always on spiritual matters. At times He would burst into non-stop recitation of Vedic hymns He had never learnt. On matters philosophical and spiritual, He dared even to correct elders, acknowledged experts, and scholars, something He was never known to do before.
Sathya was then taken to other places like Bellary and Dharmavaram for treatment but there was no improvement. One more attempt was made and this time He was taken to an exorciser in Kadri, a mean and cruel person. Here, young Sathya was put through incredible physical torture, unimaginable even in the proverbial Hell. The witch-doctor was verily an agent of death, and when his atrocities mounted, Sathya was whisked away back to home in Puttaparthi.

THE MOMENT OF THE TRUTHDays and weeks passed, and Sathya continued to be "abnormal". Came May 23, 1940, and with it a revelation. That morning Sathya was in a good mood, materialising flowers and sugar candy in plenty, and distributing them to all those who called on Him. Father Venkama Raju heard about this but was neither pleased nor amused. Suspecting trickery, he armed himself with a big stick, approached Sathya, and asked, "Who are You? Are You God, ghost, or Devil?" The big moment had arrived and Sathya calmly replied, "I am Sai." The stick slowly slipped out of Venkama Raju's hand but he still remained puzzled. And so he asked: "What are we to do with You?" Sathya replied, "Worship Me." The father's next question was, "When?" Came the answer: "Every Thursday." That was when the worship of Sathya Sai first commenced.

One Thursday, someone challenged: "If You are Sai Baba, show us some proof." Sathya then asked for someI AM SAI BABA flowers. A bunch of jasmine flowers were given to Him. He threw them on the floor; instead of falling randomly, they got neatly arranged to form the words SAI BABA in Telugu. Such revelations not withstanding, Sathya was forced to return to Uravakonda and resume school.

Looking back, one can see that starting from the very beginning and particularly from March 1940, Sathya had been gradually setting the stage for what was soon to follow. Right from the time He was a little boy, He had, constantly and consistently, displayed the Divine qualities of compassion, sacrifice, forbearance, and selfless Love. Occasionally, He performed miracles to drop hints that He was indeed far beyond the normal. Repeatedly He demonstrated His ability to absorb enormous cruelty and physical punishment without any trace of hatred or rancour towards those ill-treating Him. And last but not the least, He constantly diverted the attention of one and all from the mundane to the Divine.

OCTOBER 20TH 1940Came finally the day to snap all worldly ties and launch the Mission He had incarnated for. October 20, 1940 was that day. In the morning of that day, Sathya left for school as usual but within minutes He was back home. Standing on the doorstep, He flung aside the bag containing books and in ringing tones declared, "I am no longer your Sathya. I am Sai. I don't belong to you. I have My work. My devotees are calling Me. I am going. I can no longer stay here." Walking up to a neighbour's house, He sat on a rock in the middle of the garden there while people flocked, bringing flowers. And then, most lovingly and compassionately Sri Sathya Sai Baba led the congregation in a Bhajan that has now become very familiar to us. He sang:

Manasa bhajare Gurucharanam,
Dustara bhavasagara tharanam.THE JAGATHGURU

O mind! Meditate on the Lotus Feet of the Lord!
That alone will help you to sail across the turbulent sea called life.

The Avatar had finally revealed Himself. Physically, Sai was still a fourteen-year old. Yet, such was His magnetism, and such was the faith of the devotees who flocked to Him that they had no reservation in accepting Him as a Divine Incarnation.

Baba now decided to return to Puttaparthi and make it the base for His Mission. The residents of Uravakonda gave Him a ceremonial and tearful send-off, and Baba was carried in procession. En route, He was joyfully welcomed and worshipped in all the villages that He passed through. Back in Puttaparthi He stayed with His parents for a few days and then shifted to the house of a pious lady named Subbamma, who always had abiding faith in the Divinity of Sathya Sai. Soon, Subbamma's unostentatious abode became a pilgrim centre. They came in large numbers to worship Sai, and patiently and tirelessly, Subbamma played hostess to them all. The crowds kept growing bigger and bigger and a new residence had to be found for Sai. In 1944, Baba moved to a thatched hut in a vacant plot of land nearby. The plot was gifted to Swami by Subbamma. Later the hut was replaced by a tin shed with verandas on either side - this is the famous Paatha Mandiram (old Mandir) of Puttaparthi folklore. Baba stayed in the shed while devotees occupied the veranda. There was a total absence of creature comforts and indeed even elementary conveniences that one takes for granted. Yet, for those THE OLD MANDIRdevotees, sharing the same roof with Bhagavan Baba, was veritable heaven.

History repeated and Paatha Mandiram also began to overflow - Baba clearly needed a much bigger place to receive His devotees. Plans were made and in 1950, and what is now known as the Mandir (in Prasantinilayam), came into existence, in bare-bones form of course. Once Baba moved to Prasantinilayam, the tin shed previously occupied by Him was replaced by a brick and mortar structure - the Paatha Mandiram of yore had now become the Pedda Venkama Raju Kalyana Mandapam (marriage hall); to this day, marriages are celebrated in this hall.

Every Avatar has a Mission. In 1958, Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba revealed that His Mission would unfold itself in stages. The first sixteen years would be dominated by contact with individuals. Following this, attention would be given to groups. In the next phase, spiritual exhortation would be the dominant feature, after which service to humanity at large would become the principal focus.

Baba moves, lives, and acts like ordinary mortals do but His extra-ordinary Love (Prema), if noticed, would immediately reveal that He is nothing short of Divinity personified. At times, He uses miracles to draw attention to His Divine nature, which is why He refers to His miracles as His visiting card. On occasions, He has explicitly discussed the nature of the Sai Avatar.

Let us move on to the next section where you can get a glimpse of the nature of Avatars, in Swami's own words!


Volume 01: PDS / 06 Date : NOV 15 2003