In August and September of 2009 I went to India. I have been travelling to India 12 times since 1990. The first few trips my only goal was to go to Sai Baba. Later I also travelled to other places, all over India. All in all, I think I have spent at least one year in Prashanti Nilayam, spread over those almost 20 years.
At age 14 in 1975, I was initiated in Transcendental Meditation (TM), from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. I did the advanced course, called Siddhi Course, at age 17.
Though they still tell you that TM will bring you enlightenment, I am certain that it doesn’t. But in the beginning I eagerly believed that at age 21, I would be enlightened. I meditated regularly in the beginning years, TM brings you a lot of inner peace, but there is a lack of evaluating your experiences and life. To me it was a sort of wild growth. Being raised with TM, reading books of Rajneesh, Yogananda and all the books that come on your path, I was already being indoctrinated with the Indian way of looking at saints and sages, i.e. with reference, but without sound research and reasoning. This was because of my age, I guess.
So from age 21 (1982) up to 1990, I was struggling my way through life. At the end of 1989, a friend of mine told me to go and see Sathya Sai Baba. I knew nothing about him, I only knew what he looked like, because somewhere down the years I saw a picture of him and remembered his name. He also gave me a picture of swami that had a text saying “No one can come to me unless it’s my will”. So this was my second conditioning. I prayed to Sai Baba to please let me come and I promised I would stay for 3 months.
So early 1990 I went to India. Once in the ashram I was immediately caught by his books, all telling about the satpoorna (full) avatar. I remember that I thought ‘if this would only be true, how fortunate am I and the people here in the ashram: An accumulation of many lives of hard spiritual work, now we are here in the presence of God himself.’ And here it seemed they had rules and regulations, I was missing in TM, and with love as its core.
I wasn’t particularly proud of myself, for all the things I had done wrong for the past few years. So trying to make up for it, I lined up everyday, but always hid behind someone else, because he could see right through me, I thought.
Six weeks passed and I had made a lot of western friends, as in the beginning I would walk up to anybody I saw going in for interview. So I heard a lot of amazing stories, saw all kinds of rings, necklaces etc.
I was in a Dutch group hoping for an interview and we got one after six weeks. But just some days before, a Swiss girl, who I thought was well balanced, she was a nurse and wasn’t much a person of outer appearance, had an interview with a Swiss group. She told me that Sai Baba scolded her for not dressing up properly, although all parts of her body were covered according to the rules. The only thing I saw was that she was wearing wide pants instead of a sari and the colours had faded from all the washing. She was devastated and so was I for her.
One or two days previous to our interview, an Argentinean group had an interview. A guy called R., was constantly harassing Sai Baba for interviews and successfully, as I saw Argentineans getting a lot of interviews, thanks to him. I think he was gay (I could not make it out, but one of the Argentinean girls told me), so I won’t mention his name, but I think it is important for the rest of the story.
So the Argentineans all walked up to the veranda, preparing for the interview. One Argentinean woman was not paying attention and only after somebody told her, she walked towards the veranda. Swami, by then, had finished his walkabout (darshan) and saw her walking towards the veranda. Then in a very cruel way he said to her ‘kssjjjt’, as if he was chasing away a dog. The woman, between 30 and 40 years of age, was shocked and walked back in disbelief. As she was walking back, you saw she was doubting whether this was meant for her, so she turned around and walked towards the veranda again. Then swami repeated his “ksssjjjt’ and she walked out crying. I was thinking to myself, that if he would do that to me, I would instantly drop dead on the spot, unable to bear something like that.
So, once in my room, I prayed to him not to chase me away like that, if we had an interview, but instead for him to treat me like he was my father. I was also asked, previously to the interview, by a lot of western guys to come with them to Goa. It was tempting, but I promised swami I would stay for 3 months. So I also prayed he would give me an answer as to whether I could go or not.
So, then finally after six weeks we got the interview. I was shaking and as I sat down on the veranda, I did not look at him, pretending not to see him in case he was going to chase me away. Once in the interview room I found myself sitting very near to swami, only an older Indian Dutchman in front of me. At least I had someone to hide behind a little, as he was not very tall. From what I have been reading lately on exbaba.com, he has the habit of walking to the fan, turning it on, as if making it comfortable, but also to take 2 vibhuti pills (‘holy ash’) , that are put there by one of his inner circle. He did the same thing at the beginning of the interview. He was already sitting and instead of asking the person sitting under the switch, he himself got up and turned it on. Walking back he materialized vibhuti twice, as there were a lot of women. All in all I estimated the gathering to consist of about 40 people; a Dutch group, a Swedish group and several Indians. Later on I started seeing that he has more of such routines.
After distributing vibhuti only to the women, he sat down. Then he shifted the attention to the back (one of his routines), asking a woman about her sight. She said she was happy with what she still could see. It turned out she had only about 15% sight in both her eyes. I never noticed. But he knew or was it a lucky guess or had he watched them while they were going in?
She was in my group for 2 weeks, but I couldn’t tell and she was always walking hand in hand with a girl friend. So swami ‘knew’ and ‘materialized’ a lingam. Explaining that it was the universe etc. He then, very proudly, showed it to everybody and said it had identical sides, that nowhere in nature this could be found, only God can make this. He gave it to her and told her to put it in a glass of water and drink the water daily.
Somehow this is contradictory to what he tells, that god doesn’t go against his own laws, yet for an ardent devotee who deserves it, he will make it out of nothing. Otherwise he would transfer it from somewhere. He obviously violated his own law, because he said that nowhere in nature it could be found. So he must have created it from nothing. Why, was she that special? Maybe, I don’t know.
Then again he shifted the attention to the back, asking a young Indian boy about his stomach. The boy said that he had no problems with his stomach. Swami said ‘yes, yes, not good’ and materialized a golden ring with a diamond. He explained that the diamond stood for ‘die mind’. He then called the boy to the front and placed it on his finger. It fitted and swami said ‘See, swami always makes perfect fit’. As I read more stories, this isn’t always the case, to put it mildly. Didn’t he know the stomach was ok, or didn’t the boy know about his bad stomach? Then turning to me, he said “what do you want?’ I said ‘just your blessing’ and he hit me on the head quite firmly.
Why did he shift attention all the way to the back, so that everybody would look around? Did they just happened to sit there, or did he need some time to grab behind his cushion?
The old Indian-Dutch man in front of me was so incredibly excited, that he couldn’t keep quiet. Sai Baba several times told him to shut up and otherwise didn’t pay attention to him at all.
(Sebastian Engelbarts, Holland)
Note: Much of how I formed my perception of Sathya Sai Baba has been described by a former Baba devotee – and also the way people make some (acceptable) sense of unclear or frequent things Sai Baba says is shown here