What is an Avatar?

An Avatar is Divinity taking a human form, 'whenever there is a decline of values, or when strife, discord and disharmony overwhelm the world, with a view to reestablish Dharma and save mankind from destruction.' In the course of such a mission, the wicked are punished and the good are protected. Having undertaken and completed His Mission, the Avatar once again merges back into the Formless.

That is what the previous Avatars had done.

Two Great saints that took Birth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are the two Sai Babas. One from Shirdi and the other from Puttaparthi. Multitudes that include devotees from most of the countries in the world consider them, especially Sri Sathya Baba as an Avatar. And He has said this Himself- that He is an Avatar. He goes a step further and states that He is Divinity and He knows it. And that we too are Divine, but we are not aware of it. And that He has come to help us realize our Divinity.

However, in the case of Sri Sathya Sai, besides coming in this present Form as an Avatar, He has also come with a Mission. In this Mission, in addition to protecting the good, He uplifts the wicked, which is in contrast to what the previous Avatars had done. This in itself is very unique. He is thereby showing mankind the way to Love, Harmony and Peace.

It must be borne in mind that between the last Avatar, which was Sri Krishna, and the present Sai Avatar, eons have passed by. Time, situations, and locations are totally different.

In the Dwapara Yuga, the area of action was localized. There was no concept of nationhood, nor were other nations beyond the 'Jambu Dwipa' and the Meru Mountains, which were relevant. The Mission then was to bring in peace and love, which the Avatar accomplished, after a bitter internecine battle between the Kurus and the Pandavas, which He tried to prevent. He was the Embodiment of Love, and radiated Love and Peace wherever He was.

'In my present Avataar I have come armed with the fullness of the Power of the Formless God to save humanity' ' Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Sathya Sai's advent was in the early twentieth century, going into the twenty-first, and His Mission is to foster-
Sathya, Dharma, Shanti, Prema And Ahimsa -
- in a world filled with anger, hate, and violence.

He is bringing in a gradual transformation in people, through His Institutions, educational activities and through some of His followers, who are throughout the world.

And Swami is confident that He will accomplish His Mission. He has said so in no uncertain terms.

It is therefore necessary to understand the uniqueness of different times, places and situations when we are referring to the Avatars and their Missions.

TIME: When we consider time, we have to go back over five or six centuries, or even more, when Europe was coming out of its Dark Ages, and under the influence of Islam was transforming into a 'civilised' society. Till then, that continent was steeped in superstition and myths, with the Bible, as it was then interpreted by various clergy, as its source of understanding. Those who had propounded the Truth were termed as 'heretics', and more often than not, burnt at the stake or poisoned or tortured. Scientific principles were thus ignored, as they did not conform to the interpretation of the Book.

Then between the 17th and 19th centuries, science did start playing a major role, with new discoveries and thesis, which was followed by the 'invention of the wheel' or the Industrial Revolution. The pace of activities increased, leisure in different forms was available, and the family systems gradually eroded, giving way to nuclear families.

(It must be remembered that America, as it is known today, was not known then, though it did have its own civilization throughout that continent, which was of a highly advanced nature.)

Exploitation of nature, of human beings, of colonization of other nations, especially in South America, Africa and Asia took place on a large and aggressive scale, with no respect for human lives and values, all of which eventually led to the decline of morals and 'family values.' Counties like England, France, Holland, Spain and Portugal, 'prospered' and as a result 'advanced' towards 'civilised societies', changing the value systems completely. America was busy butchering and exterminating the Red Indians in their country after usurping their lands, before they could talk of 'human rights violations'!

Situation: As time advanced into the 20th century, technological developments became more rapid, and exhibited 'Logical Dominance'. This changed dramatically after the Second World War, when the advances were in geometrical progression. The era of nuclear technology and satellite communications, of the microchip and the internet, of rapid transnational movement and space travel, of improved life span through advances in medicine, had all arrived. With this, even the nuclear families have started disintegrating. Broken marriages, 'single parent' homes, corrosion of existing family ties and social values rein high aided with artificial stimulants like the hard drugs that are now so freely available. Scant respect for fellow beings, especially of women, decline of faith, (which is almost non-existent in many cases) erosion of character and integrity, narrow religious outlook and total intolerance, and finally dominance of man-made laws over Nature's laws, are all what we are witnessing.

Such rapid advances in science and technology have naturally led to resources crunch, (coal, wood, oil, labor) population explosion in under-developed nations, scarcity of food and water, shrinking of land area, and finally the huge North-South divide, or the divide between the 'haves'and the have-nots, eventually resulting in the evolution of embittered nations. Thus, despite the 'shrinking' world, through technological advances, making it a 'global village', the differences and divide between man and man has enlarged and has engulfed the world, and more important, the human mind, which is even larger. Intolerance, hatred, ego, jealousy, non-adherence to truth, erosion in personal character, fission in family ties, disrespect to social norms and institutions, all are widely practiced today. 
We have witnessed wanton killing of fellow humans in the recent past, unmindful of whether it is a child or a woman or a man- all in the name of religion. Such despicable killings are never known in the animal world. Animals adopt and follow Nature's Law ' that of reason and season. But not man! Hence the need for an Incarnation, which is there in our midst now.

The Avatar And His Advent

'In the first place, man has to develop into mankind in the fullness of its integrated potential. At present mankind as such is absent in this world. There is no synthesis between thought, word and deed. Man today thinks one thing, says something different, and acts quite the contrary. So what we have is the individual man, confused, confounded and bombarded with contradictory thoughts. What we do not see is mankind in him motivated by good thoughts, good words and good deeds. We have to make him realize God within him to develop a synthesis correlating thought, word and deed." ' Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Science gave a powerful tool in the form of technology in the hands of man, and in the mind, logic, cause and effect relationship, and dependence on the objective world. Heart was ignored or 'by-passed.' The higher logic or holistic approach was forgotten or ignored. Unity of Consciousness was not understood.

'Life without desire means the realization of the pure, genuine Self, that is Atman. Bound to desire, the Self degenerates into Selfishness. Atman turns into ego. The way to self-realization is to cleanse the Self of this ego of selfishness. Then you reach a state of consciousness beyond the mind or intellect revealing the true Self, that is God. The mind is like the cloth that covers and stifles consciousness, the threads of which are desires. If we give up the desires, the threads fall and the cloth disappears revealing our true nature. That is what the Vedanta means when it enjoins that one must get rid of the ego to realize oneself." ' Sri Sathya Sai Baba

If we can achieve these, then a lot of what Bhagawan wishes can be achieved.

Unity Of Faiths
All religions have taught
only what is good for humanity.
Religion should be practiced
with this awareness.
If the minds are pure,
how can religion be bad?
Sri Sathya Sai Baba ' SSS. Vol. XXIV. Ch.29

Baba has always dwelt on the Brotherhood of Man and Fatherhood of God.

'Continue your worship of your chosen God, along the line already familiar to you. Then you will find that you are coming nearer and nearer to Me. For all names are Mine and all forms are Mine. There is no need to change your self-chosen God or adopt a new one, when you have seen Me and heard Me'.Bring something to your daily practice, as evidence of your having known the secret of higher life from Me'
' Sri Sathya Sai Baba (from 'A Blind Man meets Sai Baba on the Road to Puttaparthi ' Luigi A. Sacco.)

No other Teacher anywhere, nor any other Avatar before Him, has harped on this great principle. He further goes on to say that the teachings of all religions are sacred, as the basic doctrines are founded on truth. Atman-tatwa or the Truth of the Spirit is the essence of religions, the message of all the scriptures and the basis of all metaphysics. This in essence is Sanatana Dharma or the Eternal Truth, and the tenets of Bharatiya culture, handed down to the present world over the centuries. 
Dr. V.K. Gokak has described this socio-economic 'experiment' of Swami as the Revolution of revolutions. Swami says that He has no 'methodology' in the accepted organizational sense, and He adopts a simple method based on conversion by love, using the machinery of human cooperation and brotherhood.

'What we need today are one single caste of humanity, one common religion of love and one universal language of the heart.'
'After all, in spiritual terms all mankind belongs to one and the same class, caste or religion. The Divine Principles in each and all of them derive from one and same God. This fundamental oneness has to be made manifest to them through direct contact with spiritual realities and the persuasive expanding power of love, till they become part of the Universal Religion of Work, Worship And Wisdom.' 
-Sri Sathya Sai

Bharatiya Culture

In the ordinary sense, the term 'culture' is 'social heredity'. With the prominence that science and technology received in the West over the past few centuries, the Western world lost the essence of culture, and today, it is truly languishing in the world of 'darkness'. In contrast, the Eastern world, particularly tribal societies preserved their cultures, mainly due to the remoteness of such an impact on daily lives and living. But, that is also slowly eroding away, and the danger is looming large as 'scientific culture is spreading, with the concept of the 'global village' becoming real and present, the media playing no small role towards this end!

Bharatiya Culture is most ancient, and has been present before any religion grew. This culture is 'holistic' and it strives for permanent continuity in a transient world. Thus the term 'heredity. This culture is universal and catholic. It is for living in this world, and is not based on, nor derived from any religious principles, but from proper living, through love, tolerance and humility. Bharatiya culture allows free worship of different deities that the individual has faith in, and is never regimented nor is it dogmatic. Its Renaissance is integral to Swami's Mission. And that is what He has undertaken and what He is doing. Swami's words here are most significant.

'The Mahabharata and the Ramayana teach the laws of righteousness not only to Bharat but for the whole world. From the most ancient times, Bharatiya culture has been promoting security and prosperity in all countries. Transcending all differences of nationality or religion, Bharatiya culture taught to the world the unifying mantra: 'Lokaas samasthaas sukhino bhavanthu.' (Let all the worlds be happy) This message transcends the barriers of time, space and circumstances and preaches the Doctrine of Oneness. Bharat alone has held forth the broad-minded principle of the happiness of all people everywhere, eschewing the idea of 'I' and 'my people'.
SSS. Vol. XXIV. Ch.19.

Global Acceptance Of Sai Avatar

Looking back, it can be firmly said that no Avatar before that of Sri Sathya Sai has had so much positive influence on people from various countries and different cultures which is resulting in such high levels of transformation in people. The last Great Avatar, Sri Krishna, known as the 'Poorna Avatar, had His influence only to a very limited geographical area. And recognition of His Avatarhood developed only after His lifetime.

This is not the case with Sri Sathya Sai.

Today, there is no country in the world, where He is not known or worshipped. Prashanti Nilayam, at any given time is filled with overseas devotees, speaking different tongues, but united in a common language- that of Love. The extent of devotion and the work that is done as Seva or Service in these countries is indeed of a very high caliber, filled with sacrifice and love. In many cases it is 'one to one' relationship with Swami. And the surrender is total and complete.

What is that which is in Him that attracts these millions from outside, besides those from within, who braving the hardships and the hostile weather of the country, yet come all the way to Puttaparthi? And what is it that is in Him that also brings in devotees from countries like Iran, Iraq, Morocco, Malaysia and Indonesia, regularly each year? Or from countries like Italy, Spain, Brazil, Israel, Russia, Japan, China, USA and the UK? They are from different faiths which has been strongly embedded in their own cultures and lives.

(I have personally seen women from Jordan and Iran, standing in front of Swami's photo in Dharmakshetra, talking to him in whispers! What it is, I do not know. But their faces are all lit up and they seem at peace!)

It is His expression of Love. It is His method of providing solace to a wounded mind, and it His process of changing and transforming people to higher levels, from that of man, to that of Mankind. All these are by His personal examples.

What are His miracles? Are these the rings and lockets that He produces for a few, or the Sacred Vibhoothi that He materializes from His Sankalpa? Or is it the Healing that He does for some who need it most? These, as Swami Himself says, are His calling cards, to instill faith in that person so that he or she may start on a new path in life shown by Him.

At the present time, strife and discord have robbed peace and unity from families, schools, communities, societies, villages, cities and states. The arrival of the Lord is also anxiously awaited by saints and sages. Sadhus prayed, and I have come'
Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Discourse on 23 November 1968.

The miracles of Bhagawan are in fact His constant highlighting the 'Brotherhood of Man' and 'Fatherhood of God' and eschewing all to follow their own faiths. The miracles of Swami are in His Hospitals, in His Educational Institutions, in the village upliftment project, His Water projects, all of which He has been able to accomplish just within one year of its first inauguration. In fact, when the foundation stone for the Super Specialty Hospital was laid by Baba on His Birthday some years ago, He declared, that the massive complex would be completely functional on His next Birthday. At that time, not even the plan had been cleared. But, exactly a year later the Hospital was in full operation. But the greatest miracle of them all is the Transformation that he brings about in all of us.

Change is transient and dynamic. Transformation is permanent. (Normally, when we talk of transformation in a person, the reference is when the Transformation is positive.) According to Swami, His last Mission in this Avatar is that of Educare. Educare in all walks of life and in all activities and professions, bringing about total harmony and oneness of thought and action, with a completely catholic outlook in one's life.

Educare in Latin, means to 'bring out.'

According to Bhagawan, the end of education is character. Education should instill humility. If these are fulfilled through education, then it is Educare.

Educare is Divine. Education, per se, is not.

In this Universe, everything is inter-connected by Divine Force. It is essential that we recognize and be aware of this inter-connectivity between the five elements, the five senses and the Five Human Values. Absolute integration of these is the underlying plank of Educare.

The balance within us can be restored and maintained if we practice Purity, Patience and Perseverance. Also, for our spiritual upliftment, it is important that we adopt and follow the 5D's, which are the Pathway to Educare. These are: Duty, Devotion, Discipline, Discrimination and Determination.

And above all, as Swami always says, practice restraint and moderation in all activities.

The Sai Organizations are filled with people from different walks of life, of different social strata, and wide economic differences. But they are all gathered under one umbrella, all with the single purpose of adhering to and following the Avatar's pathway towards spiritual progress.

What needs to be done therefore, is our constant striving towards that goal of excellence by adopting Educare in all our activities and in our daily living, which is Swami's final Sankalpa in His present Avatar.

Where Is Baba?

This is a question by many of us have when we plan to visit Puttaparthi, to find out if He is in Puttaparthi or in Whitefield, or at'? Is His presence restricted to a specific place? Or are we binding him to a small physical area?

That is something that the Sadhaka can alone answer for himself. But to those who know and have understood Swami, He is all pervasive, as He Himself has declared on a number of occasions. Binding Him to a location shows that the heart has still not 'enlarged' itself to accept this Phenomenon. And so, when there is so much of Sai's work to be done wherever we are, we still rush to Whitefield or Puttaparthi to see Him. And more often than not, we come back disheartened and sad that He did not even come towards us in the Darshan lines. This can be overcome only when we are able to accept that He is our 'Hridayavasi' and find Him within us. And that can take place, when our Sadhana is steadfast, and our faith in ourselves is strengthened, aided by our Seva to society, and unsullied love towards one and all. Here again, faith has to be total, which means, faith in oneself has to be complete, so that Faith in Him is Absolute. Then He is everywhere, and can be seen everywhere!

What Swami Means To Us

Each one of us has a different perception of Bhagawan Baba. To some, He is one who grants wealth and position; to some He gives health and contentment; to a few, He creates various material objects out of nowhere; to some others, He cures. But none of us have been able to perceive Him in His true Majesty and Glory, and we are all like the 'Blind Men of Hindustan' and their perception of an elephant! Baba Himself has said not to try and fathom Him. Because we can't. What we need to do is to follow Him, not physically, but by following His Teachings and His way of Living. If we just think, there is nothing that Swami has said, that He Himself has not followed or practiced. As a child He went through untold hardships, like having to walk long distances to school. Or, He had to carry on His tender shoulders, for many miles, vessels laden with water for the family. In His Avatarhood, He has given schools to all the surrounding villages and towns, so that the children of that locality need not trudge miles to get basic education, to overcome the illiteracy that the villages and towns have. He has provided for free and quality education to all, from the primary to the Masters levels.

In like manner is His Water Projects, provides clean drinking water to lakhs of people in various locations.  His Super Specialty Hospitals providing free medical services, is another example of His Karuna.

By example, He has shown us how to put 'ceiling on desires.' Many of us know that at one time, Swami used to take betel-leaf with lime, as a source of calcium. When He announced to the world that it should practice a ceiling on desires, He had, before then, given up this habit, to set an example. Likewise, He is very fond of Sitaphal. That too, He gave up as His offering towards ceiling on desires.

His movements are graceful, His speech, mellifluous. His looks are compassionate. His words and actions, absolutely meaningful. He is full of concern and kindness to one and all. He shows by His actions that all are equal to Him. He is Love Incarnate.
When one goes into Prashanti Nilayam, or for that matter, even into Dharmakshetra, we feel the Positive Vibrant Energy that fills and radiates in these Holy spots, despite the fact that it is filled with people, with different thoughts and moods, many a time, negative. And that Positive Vibrant Energy changes even the most negative, most violent of people into Human nature and into Mankind.

Swami always Gives, as is His Nature. It is also observed that Swami does not accept any offering from people who go to 'see' Him.

'My hand stretches out for receiving,
Only when a pure heart full of Prema is offered.
On other occasions it gives,
Never takes.

-Bhagawan Baba

Blessed is that Soul from whom Swami accepts!    


More by :  C.R. Gopalakrishna

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