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Every year, April 24th, the day when Sri Sathya Sai Baba left his physical form is celebrated as Sri Sathya Sai Aradhana Mahotsavam and considered auspicious by millions of devotees around the world. ‘Aradhana’ means worship or prayer and ‘Mahotsavam’ means grand festival.
Sathya Sai Baba was born in a village in South India called Puttaparthi, on November 26, 1926, to two pious parents. As a child, he was loved by all the residents of the village because of his caring nature, offering food to anyone seeking help.
On May 23rd 1940, at age 14, he told his parents, “I am no longer yours. I am Sai Baba (his given name was Sathya Naryana Raju). My devotees are calling me.” From that time, he gave up attending school and began his journey of spiritual regeneration of mankind. Sai Baba stated, “My life is my message, and my message is love.”
His family could not understand his actions and on May 25th 1947, he indicated his vision for the future: “I have a task: to foster all mankind and ensure for all of them lives full of bliss. I have a vow: to lead all who stray away from the straight and narrow path again into goodness and save them. I am attached to a ‘work’ that I love: to remove the sufferings of the poor and grant them what they lack… I do not belong to any place. I am not attached to any name. I have no ‘mine’ or ‘thine’. I answer to any name you use.”
Legacy: educare, healthcare and socio-care
During his lifetime, Sai Baba promised his mother that he would never leave their hometown. Hence, Puttaparti, located 160 km north of Bengaleru, became the hub for all the activities of Sathya Sai Baba. Coincidentally, the three major planks of his service were the result of small requests from his mother, Easwaramma.
Easwaramma approached her young son saying when so many people come to visit, they bring their children and there must be a way to take care of them. That was the beginning of his education programme based on the philosophy of Educare, meaning to bring out (into action) that which is latent in you. Children were taught to practice the inherent values (and their aspects) of truth, right action, peace, love, and non-violence. They were taught through stories, quotations, songs, and role-play.
This has expanded into free schools and universities, from kindergarten to tertiary in India and 31 other countries around the world through 31 Institutes of Sathya Sai Education.
Healthcare – healing with love, at no cost
Then Mother Easwaramma told him, “Son, we have no hospitals in Puttaparthi. Villagers must travel long distances on foot or a bullock cart to get expensive treatment.”
Sathya Sai Baba immediately set up a small hospital providing free medical care to anyone in need. Then, over time, this has expanded into a network of general hospitals, super specialty hospitals, mobile medical clinics that are based on the philosophy ‘Help Ever Hurt Never’ and propelled by the currency of love.
Sai Baba’s instructions were clear: “Look upon the patients as your own kith and kin, as your special guests and as your closest friend and attend to them lovingly and with unflinching care. I call upon you to maintain that attitude in every situation.”
Today, these hospitals hold a cumulative capacity of 500 beds, 19 operating rooms, eleven ICUs, four cardiac, Cath Labs and specialty departments of cardiac sciences, urology, ophthalmology, orthopedics, gastroenterology, plastic surgery and neurosciences. What distinguishes the Sathya Sai hospitals from others is that the aim here is not to merely treat the diseases, but to heal the patient.
Water: transforming lives and landscapes
Sai Baba’s unprecedented water projects have not only rescued millions of neglected people, but are also serving as a universal model for authorities to follow.
In November 1994, Sai Baba asked the government to solve the water woes in the Rayalaseema region, where people had to walk long distances just to get a few pots of drinking water. However, when the government paid no heed, Sai Baba declared that he would take up the project himself. The Sathya Sai Central Trust moved fast to bring safe drinking water to as many people as possible in as many villages as possible, in the shortest possible time, no matter the cost.
A year later, the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was in Puttaparthi in 1995, to declare the Summer Storage Tank Scheme in Anantapur open. Expressing deep admiration, Rao said that having served earlier as a minister in Andhra Pradesh with special responsibility for Anantapur District, he was familiar with the obstacles in the region and yet, Baba had accomplished a massive drinking water project under one year, something no government has ever done.
Eighteen months after Baba’s first announcement, safe drinking water flowed out of water taps in 730 villages in the parched district of Anantapur. The Sri Sathya Sai Water Project has provided water to over a million who had lived all their lives at the edge of drought and despair. Nearly 5,020 km of pipeline was laid across 1, 500 villages to provide pure drinking water to ten million people.
Presenting the Sathya Sai Water Project at the third world water forum at Osaka, a spokesman described it as not just a case study, but a story that was also a love story. At the fourth world water forum in Mexico, the Project was adjudged as one of the ten best local action programmes in the world contributing to the millennium development goals set by the United Nations.
The Sathya Sai International Organisation is based in over 110 countries and is represented in over 2, 000 Centres (excluding India). In the West Indies, the Organisation has affiliates in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Curacao, Guyana, Suriname and Barbados.
Sri Sathya Sai Baba Organisation of Barbados Inc.
Lalu N. Vaswani , Deputy National President, SSSIO Barbados
Affiliated to the Sri Sathya Sai Baba Organization of the West Indies, Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago