Sathyanarayana Raju was born to Eswaramma and Peddavenkama Raju Ratnakaram in the village of Puttaparthi, Andhra Pradesh, India. Almost everything known about his life stems from the hagiography that has grown around him, the presentation of narratives that hold special meaning to his devotees and are considered evidence of his divine nature.
His birth, which his mother Eswaramma asserted was by miraculous conception, was also said to be heralded by miracles. As a child, he was described as "unusually intelligent" and charitable. He was exceptionally talented in drama, music, dance and writing, and was an avid composer of poems and plays. He was said to be capable of materialising objects such as food and sweets out of thin air.
On 8 March 1940, while living with his elder brother Seshama Raju in Uravakonda, Sathya was apparently stung by a scorpion. He lost consciousness for several hours. Within the next few days there was a noticeable change in Sathya's behavior. There were "symptoms of laughing and weeping, eloquence and silence." "He began to sing Sanskrit verses, a language of which he had no prior knowledge." Doctors believed his behavior to be hysteria. His parents brought Sathya home to Puttaparthi. Concerned, they took him to many priests, "doctors" and exorcists.
On 23 May 1940, Sathya called household members and materialized sugar candy and other items. His father became furious upon seeing this, thinking his son was bewitched. He took a stick and asked him who he was. To this Sathya announced calmly and firmly "I am Sai Baba," a reference to Sai Baba of Shirdi. He proclaimed himself to be a reincarnation of Sai Baba of Shirdi—a saint who became famous in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Maharashtra, and who had died eight years before Sathya was born.
Later that year, Sathya Sai Baba declared that he had no worldly relationship with anyone, and around this time, devotees began to gather to him. In 1940, Sathya Sai Baba began to travel to Madras and elsewhere in South India and soon had a large regional following. In 1944, a mandir (temple) for Sathya Sai Baba's devotees was built near the village. It is now referred to as the old mandir. The construction of Prashanthi Nilayam, the current ashram, began in 1948 and after 2 years, was completed in 1950. In 1957 Sathya Sai Baba went on a North Indian temple tour. In 1954, Sathya Sai Baba established a small free General Hospital in the village of Puttaparthi.
In 1963, Sathya Sai Baba suffered a stroke and four severe heart attacks. It is believed by some that he healed himself of these, and on recovering announced that he would be reborn as Prema Sai Baba in the state of Karnataka. He stated, "I am Siva-Sakthi, born in the gothra (lineage) of Bharadwaja, according to a boon won by that sage from Siva and Sakthi. Siva was born in the gothra of that sage as Sai Baba of Shirdi; Siva and Sakthi have incarnated as Myself in his gothra now; Sakthi alone will incarnate as the third Sai (Prema Sai Baba) in the same gothra in Mandya district of Karnataka State."
On 29 June 1968, Sathya Sai Baba made his first and only trip overseas, to Uganda. During a discourse in Nairobi, Sathya Sai Baba stated, "I have come to light the lamp of Love in your hearts, to see that it shines day by day with added luster. I have not come on behalf of any exclusive religion. I have not come on a mission of publicity for a sect or creed or cause, nor have I come to collect followers for a 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 spiritual principle, this path of Love, this virtue of Love, this duty of Love, this obligation of Love." In 1968, he established Dharmakshetra or Sathyam Mandir in Mumbai.
In 1973, he established Shivam Mandir in Hyderabad. On 19 January 1981, in Chennai he inaugurated the Sundaram Mandir. In March 1995 he started the water project to provide drinking water to 1.2 million people in the drought-prone Rayalaseema region in Anantapur. In 2001 Sathya Sai Baba established another free Super Speciality hospital in Bangalore to benefit the poor. In April 1999 he inaugurated the Ananda Nilayam Mandir in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.
Since 2005, Sathya Sai Baba has used a wheelchair and his failing health has forced him to make fewer public appearances. In 2006 he suffered a fractured hip when a student standing on an iron stool slipped, and both boy and stool fell on Sathya Sai Baba. He gives darshan now from a car or his porte chair.
Sathya Sai Baba's assertion of divine status is expressed in the first person; he states it boldly and repeatedly."I am beyond the reach of the most intensive enquiry and the most meticulous measurement. Only those who have recognized my love and experienced that love can assert that they have glimpsed my reality. Do not attempt to know me through the external eyes."
He is also known as a singer, having released several CDs of bhajans (devotional songs).
It was reported that Satya Sai Baba was admitted to the super-specialty hospital at Prashantigram at Puttaparthi on March 28, 2011 following respiration-related problems. As per the April 5th, 2011 evening bulletin reported in the Times Of India "Sai Baba continues to be in a stable condition. All other vital parameters are normal and satisfactory. He is under constant watch of a panel of experts. However, he continues to be on ventilator". This was released by the doctors at the Sri Satya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences (SSSIHMS). It was also reported that he is responding to CRRT and that his heart beat and BP have improved and continues to be on continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT).
Sathya Sai Baba has said that his followers do not need to give up their original religion, saying "My objective is the establishment of sanatana dharma, which believes in one God as propitiated by the founders of all religions. So none has to give up his religion or deity."
Internationally, Sathya Sai Baba devotees gather daily or weekly on Sundays (and/or Thursdays) for group devotional singing (bhajans), prayer, spiritual meditation, service to the community (Seva), and to participate in "Education in Human Values" (SSEHV) known as "Bal Vikas" (meaning Blossoming of the Child), that can also be described as Sai Sunday School.
A primary aspect of Sathya Sai Baba's teachings is the spiritual benefit of darshan for his students. At that time, Sai Baba may interact with people, accept letters, materialize and distribute vibhuti (sacred ash) or call groups or individuals for interviews. Devotees consider it a great privilege to have an interview and sometimes a single person, group or family will be invited for a private interview.
There is no published formal doctrine or set of rules for the Sai Baba movement.
Puttaparthi, where Sathya Sai Baba was born and still lives, was originally a small remote South Indian village in Andhra Pradesh. Now there is an extensive university complex, a specialty hospital, Chaitanya Jyoti (a world-religions museum that has won several international awards for design), a Planetarium, a railway station, a hill-view stadium, an administrative building, an airport, an indoor sports stadium and more. High ranking Indian politicians, like the former President Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Andhra Pradesh former Chief Minister Konijeti Rosaiah and Karnataka Chief Minister B. S. Yeddyurappa have been official guests at the ashram in Puttaparthi. On Sathya Sai Baba's 80th birthday celebration, it was reported that well over a million people attended, including 13,000 delegates from India and 180 other countries.
Sathya Sai Baba resides much of the time in his main ashram called Prashanthi Nilayam (Abode of Highest Peace) at Puttaparthi. In the hot summer he leaves for his other ashram, called Brindavan, in Kadugodi, Whitefield, a town on the outskirts of Bangalore. Occasionally he visits his Sai Shruti ashram in Kodaikanal.
Sathya Sai Baba established three primary mandirs (spiritual centres) in India. The first mandir, founded in Mumbai in 1968, is referred to as either "Dharmakshetra" or "Sathyam". The second centre, established in Hyderabad in 1973, is referred to as "Shivam". The third centre, inaugurated on 19 January 1981 in Chennai, is referred to as "Sundaram"
Sathya Sai Baba supports a variety of free educational institutions, hospitals, and other charitable works in over 166 countries. The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning (now changed to Sri Sathya Sai University) in Prashanthi Nilayam is the only college in India to have received an "A++" rating by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (an autonomous body established by the University Grants Commission). Sri Sathya Sai University for which Baba is the Chancellor, has three campuses, one at Puttaparthi for men, one at Whitefield, Bangalore for men and one at Anantapur for women. His charity supports an institute for Indian Classical Music called the Sri Sathya Sai Mirpuri College of Music. Baba's educational institutions aim to impart Character Education along with Excellence in academics with emphasis on Human Values and Ethics.
Sathya Sai Baba chairs the Muddenahalli-Sathya Sai Loka Seva School and Sri Sathya Sai Loka Seva Trust Educational Institutions in Muddenahalli-Kanivenarayanapura regions. In addition, a Sathya Sai Baba University and Medical School as well as a world class Hospital and Research Institute are being constructed on over 200 acres (0.81 km2) to serve the destitute population. Baba has said that the campus will be modeled after Puttaparthi and will infuse spirituality with academics
The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Puttaparthi is a 220 bed facility that provides free surgical and medical care and was inaugurated by the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao on 22 November 1991. The Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences in Bangalore is a 333 bed hospital meant to benefit the poor. The hospital was inaugurated on 19 January 2001 by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. The hospital has provided free medical care to over 250,000 patients.
The Sri Sathya Sai General Hospital was opened in Whitefield, Bangalore, in 1977 and provides complex surgeries, food and medicines free of cost. The hospital has treated over 2 million patients.
The Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust runs several general hospitals, two specialty hospitals, eye hospitals and mobile dispensaries and conducts medical camps in rural and slum areas in India. The Trust has also funded several major drinking water projects. One project completed in 1996 supplies water to 1.2 million people in about 750 villages in the drought-prone Anantapur district in Andhra Pradesh. The second drinking water project, completed in 2004, supplies water to Chennai through a rebuilt waterway named "Sathya Sai Ganga Canal". Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi praised the Chennai water project and Sai Baba's involvement. Other completed water projects include the Medak District Project benefiting 450,000 people in 179 villages and the Mahbubnagar District Project benefitting 350,000 people in 141 villages. In January 2007, the Sri Sathya Sai Central Trust said it would start a drinking water project in Latur, Maharashtra. In 2008, 2 million people in the state of Orissa, India were effected due to floods. As a after relief measure, Sri Sathya Sai Seva Organization, has built 699 houses as a part of their first phase in 16 villages by March 2009.
Sathya Sai Baba's Educare program seeks to found schools throughout the world with the goal of educating children in the five human values. According to the Sai Educare site, schools have been founded in 33 countries, including Australia, Mexico, the United Kingdom and Peru. The Times of Zambia states, "The positive influence of Sathya Sai is unprecedented in the annals of education in Zambia. Sai Baba's education ideals as embodied in his human values-based approach in education are an eye opener to educationists in Zambia."
In Canada, the Fraser Institute, an independent Canadian research and educational organization, ranked the Sathya Sai School of Canada as one of the top 37 elementary schools in Ontario. The Sathya Sai School scored a perfect 10 out of 10 in the Institute's overall rating for academic performance.
On 23 November 1999, the Department of Posts, Government of India, released a postage stamp and a postal cover in recognition of the service rendered by Sathya Sai Baba in addressing the problem of providing safe drinking water to the rural masses.
On 23 November 2001, the digital radio network Radio Sai Global Harmony was launched through the World Space Organization, United States. Dr Michael Oleinikof Nobel (distant relative to Alfred Nobel and one of the patrons for the radio network) said that the radio network would spread Sathya Sai Baba's message of global harmony and peace.
In January 2007, an event was held in Chennai Nehru stadium organised by the Chennai Citizens Conclave to thank Sathya Sai Baba for the 200 crore water project which brought water from the River Krishna in Andhra Pradesh to Chennai city. Four chief ministers attended the function.
Though the condition of spiritual leader Sathya Sai Baba is worsening, some of his devotees are confident he will recover and live for 96 years as he had once predicted.
A group of eminent devotees, including former judges, police officers and physicians, believe that the 85-year-old Sathya Sai Baba's present condition is because he has taken on himself the sufferings of one of his devotees.
As the guru battles for life at the Sathya Sai super speciality hospital at Puttaparthi town in Anantapur district, a group of devotees on Thursday held a press conference here to say he would recover and appeal to the media to respect their sentiments.
"Sai Baba is incarnation of god. He will recover and will live for 96 years as he himself had once said," said R Prabhakar Rao, former police chief of Andhra Pradesh.
Some devotees said Sathya Sai Baba himself was god and hence not like other human beings. They believe he is passing through the current phase of illness as he has taken human form. The group also said that faith had no logic.
The eminent devotees dismissed reports in a section of the media that Sathya Sai Baba died 20 days ago and that his death was not being announced to get funds from his devotees in India and abroad.
Former chief justice of Andhra Pradesh high court J Eswara Prasad claimed that Sathya Sai Baba had cured his childhood paralysis when doctors had termed it incurable. "He always protected me and I did not even avail the official security during some key assignments," said the former judge.
Eminent agricultural scientist and former vice chancellor of Andhra Pradesh Agricultural University M.V. Rao said he, too, believed that Sathya Sai Baba would come out of the present illness and go on to live for 96 years.
"Though as a scientist I see everything scientifically, the powers of Baba and his extraordinary social work impressed me," he said.
Former police commissioner of Hyderabad Appa Rao said the Sathya Sai Baba possessed supernatural powers and he had seen him materialise objects like wristwatches and rings out of thin air.
Facing a volley of questions, the devotees did not respond to a query if they would stop believing Sathya Sai Baba was an incarnation of god if he did not live for 96 years.
Physician and vice president of Narayana Hrudayalaya-Malla Reddy Hospital Anil Kumar said only four organs of the guru had either failed or not functioning well and claimed that there were hundreds of instances where such patients lived on ventilator for 25 years.
Anil Kumar quoted doctors attending on Sathya Sai Baba as saying that he was not in coma. He said though millions of devotees had come forward to donate their organs, it was not possible to transplant the vital organs.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba passes away
Sri Sathya Sai Baba, whose spiritual clout ran far and wide, passed away this morning in this town in Andhra Pradesh's Anantapur district due to cardio-respiratory failure.
Sai Baba, who was 86, breathed his last at 7.40 AM at the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, its Director A N Safaya said in a bulletin.
"Bhagwan Sri Sathya Sai Baba is no more with us physically. He left his earthly body on April 24, 2011 at 7:40 am due to cardio-respiratory failure," it said.
The body will lie in state at Sai Kulwant Hall for two days -- Monday and Tuesday, it said, adding that arrangements will be made for darshan after 6:00 pm today at the Hall.
"We appeal to all not to rush to the hospital, but to remain calm and have Darshan in an orderly manner," it said.
A pall of gloom descended on this town, 450 km from Hyderabad, as the news of Sai Baba's death spread. His family members, four ministers and government officials rushed to the hospital following reports that the Sai Baba's condition had deteriorated further.
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