By Thilak S.Fernando - Nov. 1997

The idea of being religious does not necessarily mean that it is absolutely essential to have an ' indelible label' to one's faith., The concept could be a simple and humanistic exercise where one could educate oneself how to live in peace with one's own heart This evidently requires a tremendous deal of unconditioning of our minds to what has been conditioned from our childhood by our parents, churches, temples and mosques equally.

" The greatest teachers belong to all mankind. To accept one of them as one's own and discard the rest, as belonging to others is a sign of pettiness. They are for all people everywhere. Love all religions and all nations. Recognise & accept all religions as paths leading humanity to the same destination; all of them teach love and compassion, humility and forbearance". Sri Sathya Sai Baba will be repeating the same words, over and over again, this year too today, on his 72th birthday - 23 November 1993

In the present Kali Yuga, man's pre-occupation with acquiring and adding to his material comforts has gone completely out of proportion. In his mad and unbridled pursuit of power and pleasure man has lost his sense of direction. Never before has there been felt such a need and urgency for a well-wisher and a friend, a guide or a master, to revitalise the spiritual values in the heart of man and reverse the trend of moral degeneration, as it is now. Millions of interfaith devotees in the world today believe that, at this critical time in the history of mankind, when strife and discord have robbed man of peace and harmony, and when the forces of evil are relentlessly pushing him closer and closer to the brink of disaster, a world teacher has once again come down upon earth to raise the consciousness of man and guide him to his own spiritual unfoldment.

Today Sri Sathya Sai Baba is being recognised by millions as the ' well wisher, friend, guide and the master who has come as a universal teacher to mankind. He is renowned for conducting a spiritual revolution, both individually and globally. Sai Baba has been saying from the age of 14 that "The Lord is understood only by his devotee; the devotee is understood only by the Lord, and others cannot understand them". As Baba's name spreads throughout the world today many are turning to be his devotee for multitude of reasons. Millions have turned to him after diving deep into the sea of spiritualism having probed, investigated and found answers to their own problems from personal experiences. Even for those who call them selves as true spiritual aspirants, Sai Baba is on record as saying to them: "Only a handful of you come to me for what I have really come to give you - LOVE" Today Sathya Sai Baba's name is reaching far & wide to every nook and corner of the world as a Universal Teacher, who propagates ' Swarma Dharmna' (multifaith). This is said to be in conformation with what the seers of ancient India has prophesied 5600 years ago in Upanishads that 'The Lord Vishshu will bring about a complete change in the world over a 250 year span by taking a human form, dark in colour." Sai Baba has pronounced that he has taken a human body out of his own Will, to be a full avatar (Poorna) with limitless powers. Today his devotees have come to accept that SAI BABA is ' Divinity' operating in the subtlest way and beyond the grasp of ordinary human intellect.

"The purpose of prayer, through any religion, should not be a petition for benefits. Such petitioning will always be regarded as either God does not know what we want and which will militate against His Omniscience". Sai Baba does not advise his devotees to publicise Him, and says, " My Leela are occurring in tens of millions of homes, Swami keeps His hands down so that publicity about the Leelas will not spread. Why do you waste your time and energy trying to explain me? If I had come as Narayana (son of the primal man) with 4 arms, they would have put me in a circus, charging money for people to see me. If I had come as only a man like every other man, who would listen to me? So, I had to come in this human form, but with more than human power and wisdom". For those millions of his devotees around the world, who have been touched by His ' Divine Love', Sri Sathya Sai Baba is the ' Divine Incarnation'. He is regarded as the 2nd of the three incarnations of SAI. Shridi Sai Baba was " the first to proclaim the message of the brotherhood of man under the fatherhood of one and only God". As he pronounced, before casting away of his mortal coil in 1918, he has " reincarnated 8 years later" as the present incarnation of Sathya Sai Baba. Sathya Sai has declared that he would remain in his present incarnation well into the 21st century (till he is 95 years old), and then return in his 3rd & final incarnation as PREM SAI BABA, to complete the avataric mission which began in the mid-nineteenth century. Dr. Hislop of Los Angeles has become the first human being or the recipient of the most extra ordinary ring ever created by SAI Baba. In 1987 Dr. Hislop was at a loss to witness Baba blowing the creative breath 3 times through the thumb and forefinger and opening his hand with a ring containing a photograph of Prema Sai. The ring was a silver colour, set with highly glazed, brownish stone. Sculptured on the stone, the bridge and the length of the nose were visible and a suggestion of the arch of the left eye, a noble head with shoulder length hair, moustache and beard which resembles very much like Jesus Christ. However, over the years, the face of Prem Sai is said to be ever so slowly becoming visible. Therefore, it is being suggested that in the millennia to come S A I will be looked upon as the most glorious chapter in the history of human experience when the Divinity in all its fullness made visible on earth in human form and those who were inspired were able to approach and experience Him.

According to Sathya Sai Baba, He has come armed with the fullness of his Divine attributes to establish the five values of Truth, Right Conduct, Peace, Love, and Non-Violence in the heart of man. Baba's miracles of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, making disabled to walk, curing incurable diseases such as cancer are an open book today. Wherever there is explicit faith, deep devotion and unconditional love, a miracle is said to take place. Books upon books are replete with such documentation of his miracles. However, his greatest miracle that mankind is witnessing today is the miracle of his Love - the transformation brought about in the heart and mind of man, the kind of transformation that impels a hardened criminal to give up his evil ways and plunge into the service of fellow man, that turns a violent person away from a life of violence and that gives a drug addict the strength to bid good-bye, and so on.

All religions attempt to implant holy ideas in the heart of man, because man does not allow them to sprout and grow. Man's egotistical craving for power and competitive success persuades man to use religion as an instrument of torture and persecution. Instead of uniting mankind in a common endeavour, some have today chosen to turn religion into a system of walled enclosures, guarded by hate and fanaticism. Religion, therefore, is allowed to be condemned and vilified by certain sections as the root of chaos and conflict.

According to Sai Baba, it is not advisable to engage in campaigns of vilification or exaggerated propaganda of any religion with a view to draw votaries. "If each one lives the ideas propounded by the founders of respective religions, unaffected by greed or hate", then Baba says, " the world will be a happier and a peaceful habitation of man". The idea of being religious does not necessarily mean that it is absolutely essential to have an ' indelible label' to one's faith. The concept could be a simple and humanistic exercise where one could educate oneself how to live in peace with one's own heart. Then the fear of one individual or a fanatical group taking someone else's religion to the 'cleaners' would not arise! This evidently requires a tremendous deal of unconditioning of our minds to what has been conditioned from our childhood by our parents, churches, temples and mosques equally. Should the clinging on to a particular religion or philosophy have boundaries? And does not that attitude make division of mankind into separate groups? Therefore, it only stands to reason that if the idea of interfaith could be developed, then, certainly, it is going to make every one's life much more pleasanter and help mankind to get on with each other harmoniously, without having to face the never ending conflict or having to protect or defend one's own's beliefs or even having to be frightened of one sect coming to ' conquer' another!