I learned today of the death of Sathya Sai Baba, the Indian spiritual leader. He had been in hospital for a few weeks, suffering from kidney issues.
Sai Baba was revered by millions the world over, not just in India, for his spiritual leadership and for his volunteer and educational works. He was 84.
Followers claimed that Sai Baba could produce jewelry from thin air, as well as an ashen substance called vibhuti.
Sai Baba, however, was not without controversy. Skeptics often claimed his “powers” were something of a trick, and there were even reports of abuse against him.
Whatever one’s views on Sai Baba, or spiritual leaders in general, one thing is clear — he had a tremendous spiritual impact on people in India, and abroad. When someone with a reputation of this magnitude dies, there is bound to be a great deal of mixed emotions around the globe. Don’t just think Sai Baba. Think Michael Jackson. Think Princess Di.
I did a Google search for Sai Baba today, upon hearing of his death. There weren’t a whole lot of stories about his death. But the real stories aren’t what we can easily read.
It’s what we find in our hearts.
For all of his controversy, there was something powerful in his message. I have met some of his followers (though I never met Sai Baba himself) and they all appeared to be quite enamored with Sai Baba, and quite sincere in their devotion.
At the end of the day, what is it that matters most? A person’s image or his impact? I can’t claim to answer that question, but as a scholar of religions, I can say that often, image and impact that go hand in hand. In other words, how we view the person says a lot about how we view the teachings. Finger-pointing and accusations after death often do little to sway strong faith.
Will Sai Baba take a rebirth? Will he appear on earth again? Do such phenomena even exist? Will more information about him come out as days and weeks turn into months and years? Hard to say.
But keep this in mind: Think of a living person who has changed your life in some significant way, and then imagine your life without them…if their impact was strong enough, would anyone be able to deter you from good memories and gratitude?
Goodbye Sai Baba. I don’t know which side of the fence I’m on about your life (as I certainly don’t know enough to judge), but if you can still see your followers from wherever you are, please help them to continue whatever good you started…because good is all we have to hold onto while we’re here.