Followers of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba around the world celebrate his birthday today, November 23. Sri Sathya Sai Baba was born on this day in 1926 in a tiny, hilly, isolated village called Puttaparthi in the Anantapur District of the present Andhra Pradesh state of India. Not only his father Sri Pedda Venkappa Raju but his grandfather Sri Ratnakaram Kondama Raju had been very pious people belonging to the Raju lineage of the Kshatriyas.
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The family had rich musical, literary and dramatic traditions. Sri Sai Baba’s mother Srimati Eswaramma was also very religious like her mother-in-law Srimati Lakshamma. Sathya Narayan Raju, now known as Sri Sathya Sai Baba, or Swami to millions of his devotees, was the fourth child of Sri Pedda Venkappa Raju and Srimati Eswaramma.
At the age of 14, Bhagavan declared His mission as “I have come to light the lamp of love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added lustre. I have not come to speak on behalf of any teaching, like the Hindu teaching. I have not come on any mission of publicity for any sect or creed or cause; nor have I come to collect followers for any doctrine. I have no plan to attract disciples or devotees into my fold or any fold. I have come to tell you of this unitary faith, this Atmic principle, this path of love, this duty to love, this obligation to love.”
With the aid of many thousands of active service workers Sri Sathya Sai Baba runs projects to help poor and suffering people in India and inspires many others. All this work is done anonymously by members of the organization with no public fund-raising, which Swami strictly forbids. The Sathya Sai Organization in many communities in India provides free services like village hygiene, basic education in human values and home industry etc. A most significant event for the population of a large part of the poor state of Andhra Pradesh was the inauguration on Sai Baba’s 70th birthday of the enormous Rayalaseema water project. In the presence of a crowd of about 200,000, the President of India officially started the turbines that opened this project, which brings a year-round water supply to each of over 750 villages and several towns in this dry state.
The establishment of the modern and spacious Sri Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital in Puttaparthi could be undoubtedly described as a milestone in Swami’s selfless service to humanity. All services at this hospital including complicated surgeries are done free of charge. Leading surgeons from Italy, USA, UK and India work free for the hospital. The infection rate at this hospital is reported to be 0.8%, which would be extraordinary even in Britain or the US The mortality rate is less than 2%, which is regarded as virtually unprecedented.
Already, more than a dozen Sathya Sai Colleges have been built in India, admitting several thousands of students annually. These are all run through private donations, as are numerous Sathya Sai schools, male and female colleges and one central university, the Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning.
These institutions are regarded as the foremost educational centres in a number of Indian states. Sri Sai Baba predicted many years ago that there will eventually be at least one major Sai college in each State of India. Sai schools and colleges also exist in other countries, especially Thailand. Another Sathya Sai College in Zambia has been in existence for many years. This college teaches the unity of religions, charges no fees, is run on donations and serves children from low-income families with scholarships.
A Sai school has also been started near Gothenburg, Sweden and a Sai College is to start up in Odense, Denmark shortly. The first Sai School in Sri Lanka is in Jaffna. As a unique service activity, the Sri Sathya Sai Service Organization of Sri Lanka has established the Sathya Sai Suva Sevana in Hanwella, a 50-bed Centre for Symptom Control and Palliative Care of cancer patients. Due to financial constraints, this centre is presently catering to 15 patients but the Organization hopes to increase its services in the future.
The Sathya Sai Education in Human Values (SSEHV) for young people from 6 to 16 years of age and a Trust for that purpose were inaugurated by Sri Sai Baba in 1981. SSEHV is a universal system of spiritual education, not bound specifically to any particular religion, sect, church or other single system of moral belief. The five human values – truth, right action (righteousness), peace (of mind), love and non-violence – which are the universal ideals in all world cultures and form the essence of all religions form the basis of SSEHV.
Sri Sai Baba has told his followers that, even though God is in everyone and everything, he is aware of this divinity in a way which others are not. The breadth and depth of spirituality in India’s ancient culture, with its great tolerance and universality, is well reflected in the works and teachings of Sri Sai Baba. Whether Sri Sai Baba is the avataric incarnation of Vishnu come again to save the world from the crisis caused by its periodic decline is a question of personal conviction, for no one can fully perceive and know the true nature of such divine incarnations.
In conclusion, let us quote Swami: “Service to man may deal with his physical or spiritual needs, but serving him by example is best of all. Do not be a bad example to your neighbours or family members. Be good and radiate goodness. The truth must be spoken without hypocrisy or deceit; there must be no motive to injure. Acts must be regulated by the overall supremacy of righteousness. He is asked not to neglect the knowledge he has acquired but to ruminate on it and cultivate it by putting it into practice. Treat the mother as God; treat the father as God; treat the preceptor as God; treat the guest as God. These important declarations should be honoured.
The teacher has some very fine advice to give about the gift of service. Give in reverence; give in plenty; give with modesty; give as to a friend; give without any thought of reward. Do not give ostentatiously. All has to be done with humility and reverence. Only then will these acts bring about cleansing of the mind, which is the main benefit to be derived from service.”