The passing of a popular billionaire Indian guru in the age of social media

It started as a passing conversation this week. I like to dialogue with folks from various faith traditions. This weekend, I focused on folks from the Eastern contemplative traditions. A friend told me that Sathya Sai Baba passed away. The passing date was April 24, 2011.

Sathya Sai Baba University, Puttaparthi A.P., ...
Image via Wikipedia

This wouldn’t normally be a big occurrence, if it were just anybody. But it was a very “controversial” figure, whom has been around for decades, has millions of worldwide followers and a massive array of humanitarian projects – costing millions or possible billions. This is also a figure whom is said to work miracles, has been the subject of inappropriate sexual overtures, and other waging controversies.

I actually met this controversial figure in the early seventies, after I finished Peace Corp teaching in Liberia, West Africa. I got a good deal on a flight to London, via a German mining company in Liberia. From there, it was easy to travel from London to India. I wanted to visit Indian holy people, to see if folks described in books like Be Here Now by Ram Das or Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda really existed.

Now other controversial figures existed at the time. Folks like “the sex guru” Osho (aka Rajnesh), was popular at the time. But I did end up meeting “interesting” folks like Dhyan Yogi Madhusudan (Dhyan Yoga Center i.e. in book entitled This House is On Fire), Ram ChandraMission (Ram Chandra Mission), Swami Munktananda ( Wiki on Swami Munktananda i.e. in book entitled Play of Consciousness) and Sathya Sai Baba.

I will make a few observations in passing of Sathya Sai Baba, based upon personal experience.

Sathya Sai Super Speciality Hospital in Bangal...
Image via Wikipedia
  • Since he believed he was an incarnation of God, he would draw attention to himself. This differs from Biblical accounts about Christ, who liked to defer attention to himself and focus people’s attention on the ‘heavenly father.’
  • He did know some things about me I told noone else there. While he didn’t mention me by name, he did say things that only I would know about.
  • I did witness the materializations. But to give the counter view, there are stage magicians who claim to be able to duplicate these events.
  • The workers of true miracles would criticize displaying any abilities in a public way.
  • If Sathya Sai Baba “claims” to be an incarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba, then what good are the promises after death of Shirdi Sai Baba? Wouldn’t this constitute a logical contradiction (i.e. following philosophy’s branch of logic)?
  • A contemporary Indian holy person said to have  duplicated the feats of Sathya Sai Baba can be found at Dadaji

The different Sathya Sia Baba humanitarian endeavors are impressive. The only two contemporary Indian figures reaching such a scale are Karunamayi (Karunamayi) and Ammachi (Ammachi) . While searching the Internet, I did find some interesting observations by someone spending time with Ammachi, Karunamayi, and Native American spirituality at Amma’s hugs

Let’s look at some Social Media outlooks – shall we?

Sri Sathya Sai University, Puttaparthi, A.P. India
Image via Wikipedia

There’s a facebook fan page at Facebook fan page Sathya Sai Baba. They only have about 200 thousand followers. This is a fraction of the estimated 10 million followers wordwide. On the other hand, the Shirdi Sai Baba facebook fan page at Facebook fan page Shirdi Sai Baba, has a million followers. Now Sathya Sai Baba “claimed” to be a reincarnation of Shirdi Sai Baba. It’s safe to say that the majority of Shirdi Sai Baba followers don’t accept that claim.

Now let’s go over to Twitter search at Search Twitter. If I type in Sathya Sai Baba, I find several real-time tweets. You will see a similar trend with figures like Shirdi Sai Baba.

Sathya Sai Baba was “controversial”. He’s as controversial in his own way as folks like “the sex guru” Osho (aka Rajnesh), the holy spirit healer Pastor Benny Hinn, the pastor Marie Exley Predicting Doomsday on May 21, 2011, pastor Fred Phelps protesting at gay military funerals, pastor Terry Jonesburning of a Koran, Islamic clerics preaching death and destruction, or the sex scandals of the Catholic Church.

It will be interesting to see how social media and history portrays Sathya Sai Baba, in the next few years.

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