Friday, December 29, 2006

Unseen Divinity (in Puttaparthi)

Sai Baba claims to be God. All around me are thousands of devotees from everywhere. Last night we ran into a couple of white aunties from Joburg who are filled with love for Sai Baba. Most folks I would guess have never even heard of Sai Baba. But telling by the number of South Africans walking the streets here, I would have to imagine that there are quite a number of folks who know him well.

See this wikepedia link for a general background on Sai Baba and the movement he heads:

I saw Sai Baba on my first day here. He arrived by car onto a stage of sorts. All around the stage area were thousands of followers sitting on the floor. When he emerged from the car several devotees helped him to walk and sit. His other devotees began chanting loudly as he made his way to his seat. The chanting continued for what seemed like an eternity.

Mooi and I have argued about his (Sai Baba) claim to divinity. I can't see that God would be a frail 80 year old who 'materializes' rings from his fingers as a sign of divinity. In this picture he is seen 'materializing' vibhuti (holy ash). A sceptic on a TV documentary I watched in Delhi argued that Sai Baba was just a bad magician. He said "if he is God then why did he not stop the typhoon that killed thousands around him?"

See this wikepedia link to read about vibhuti:

When I leave here on Sunday morning, I will have spent a week just amazed at the intense need that some have to believe in something. No devotee here will deny Baba's claim to divinity. Not even the Catholic priest from Nigeria who spoke at length on Christmas day about Baba's miracles. "Sai Baba is God and the father of Jesus" he said.

I like what the Muslim tailor said to us while Mooi waited for a package to be sewed and wrapped. He said "Sai Baba is a good man but he is not God. God is unseen and not a man."

Some would even disagree that he is a good man. See this website for example:

So while Mooi pressed me to define what God was/is I could only reply that "I don't know what God is in total. But I know what God is not. Sai Baba is not God."

I think it a shame and a scam that one man can pronounce himself God and a flock follows anyway (this is the Sai Baba organizational symbol).

As I walked around the ashram with its signs for "silence" and guides who move people along like cattle, I felt only pity. And I am not even feigning being respectful to him or his cause. I do however care about my boy Mooi, he is a good man with good intentions.

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