By T S Sudhir
“God, Man or Godman?” I ask Muralidhar, a bank employee and an ardent devotee of Puttaparthi Sri Sathya Sai baba. We are at the Shivam temple in Hyderabad, where Muralidhar, like many other devotees, has come to mourn Saibaba’s death.
“It does not matter whether he is considered God or Godman or just another human being. I would say, if he is a human being, he is the best among all human beings,” says Muralidhar.
“Where else would you find a person doing so much to help others. So many people earn money but not many spend that money for others. Anantapur, the place where he hails from is drought-prone area. There people are literally crying today because every drop of water they drink is because of this God.”
There is a sense of quiet among the devotees who have gathered to mourn the passing away of Bhagawan’s earthly body. It is as if Baba during his 28 days in hospital, had prepared them to face the news with fortitude.
A B Sharma has come to the temple with daughter Pratyusha. He tells me about the 5 feet tall portrait of Saibaba at his home which collected ash all over on its own. A miracle is what it is, is what he is inclined to believe. But he is only too conscious of those who dismiss Saibaba as just another Godman, because he produced ash or a gold chain from thin air.
“Don’t you have to do some tricks if you want to attract some small boy to you? Similarly, these are steps that even God had to take initially to attract people to him. You may call it magic or tricks but it was necessary to then get people drawn into the essence of his teaching and become his devotees.”
Every devotee tells you the mantra that Saibaba preached. “Manav seva is madhava seva”.
“Baba always used to say that pujas are only class one and class two of studies,” says Sharna. “You have to migrate to 3rd, 4th, 5th, class and that you can by serving the people. Puja is only a small discipline and do not restrict yourself to that. And that all my sons and daughters are the same. So long as the strong brothers and sisters take care of the weak brothers and sisters, I am happy. There is no need to serve me, serve your brothers and sisters.”
For Deepa and Selvan, Saibaba is God. The two married each other because Baba willed so. Deepa, whose family lives in Puttaparthi, says they never even met each other.
“It was he who decided which boy my parents should choose for me. I did not see him, he had not seen me and both of us willingly agreed, just because Swamy had said: `yes, go for this boy.”’
Selvan who works in a multinational firm says his strong belief in Baba helps him overcome any kind of obstacles. “I don’t fear obstacles anymore. I don’t fear problem in business anymore. I only ask for strength to overcome that. And it happens.”
Little wonder then that for Deepa, Selvan and their two children, each day begins and ends praying to the man they consider God on earth.
Sai Leela, a school teacher says Baba is her father. “He means everything to me. Right from my childhood, I was introduced to him by my parents. My very name was given by him. At present, he is playing the role of my father, after my father is no more. In 2005, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Colon cancer, third stage. By the time we took her to the doctor, it was too late. But thanks to his kindness, whoever he decides to take care of, his children, his devotees, he will go to any extent. He personally arranged a doctor and got the surgery done.”
Individual experiences like these clearly feed into a social phenomenon.
“Human minds cannot comprehend where science ends and spirituality begins. He has shown it in his own way,” says Sai Leela. “Whenever we go to Puttaparthi, it is like our batteries get recharged. That is why he means everything to us.”