Writing about Sathya Sai Baba is like trying to describe an iceberg, after getting acquainted with the tip that is visible over the water. What remains hidden in unfathomable mystery is by far the greater and more significant part, than what is revealed to human observation and understanding. The iceberg and other natural phenomena at least lend themselves to scientific exploration and analysis. But, the only way to understand the Sai mystery is, as Baba Himself says, to merge in it. No small task that! Besides, success in such merging might find one engulfed in a vast area of silence!
Sathya Sai Baba is no ordinary saint or guru. He displays powers, knowledge, compassion and comprehension of the phenomena of the universe which are quite beyond the ken of normal human grasp or experience. The sure instinct of our people did not take long to recognise in Him as the Avatar of our age, a Divine Being in the line of our redeemers, Rama, Krishna and Sai Baba of Shirdi.
Like the high personages of other ages, Sathya Sai Baba too has His critics and detractors who call Him a fortuneteller, a magician, a clever mind reader, a miracle maker, perhaps, and other names besides. However these are mostly people who have not seen or known Sathya Sai, or, people whom He has, for some good reason, kept at arms length. Some among them are natural doubters, whose ego, blown high by a little philosophy, inclines them to a general disbelief in everything except their own infallibility.
There are others turned sour because of jealousy or grudge of those who, in their worldly reckoning, undeservedly enjoy Sathya Sai's favour. But, their number is small; and, in recent years, Sathya Sai's following has grown by leaps and bounds. His devotees count by the million and the tide is ever rising, ever surging forward.
To my mind, two happenings of daily occurrence, less noticed perhaps because of their frequency, are the most miraculous of all his works.
(1) The creation, on several occasions each day, of Vibhuti or fragrant ash possessing curative and elevating qualities, is, I think, a most moving thing. He produces Vibhuti by moving His right hand, palm turned downward in circles, two or three times. Not many are lucky to induce Him to this novel, though entirely simple and spontaneous, creative act, which always seem related to the needs of its beneficiary. During my first meeting with Sathya Sai Baba on the eve of my departure for an assignment abroad, He created some Vibhuti and giving to me said, "Take it with you." It was no more than a pinchful, but, it lasted me, with liberal personal use and the gifting of a few grains of it to others every now and then, a good year and a half, till the time came for me to receive His blessings personally once again. There it was—a miracle, within a miracle.
Watching the circular motions of Sathya Sai's down turned hand, I have often felt as if He were churning the depths of a devotee's being to pull out from there the poisons of all his lust and anger, greed attachment and fear, malice envy and arrogance, which he would then incinerate in the pure fire of His love, and return the remains to the owner, without their original burden. The act has always struck me as a sort of Yajna, Sathya Sai performs, to help quicken the step of a weary but unfaltering devotee in His march on the highroad of liberation.
(2) The transformation of character that Sathya Sai Baba brings about in ordinary men and women is a still more remarkable miracle. A man who goes into a meeting with him seldom comes out the same. He emerges from the encounter exalted and radiant, as if Baba had stripped him of his motley cloak of many patches and fitted him out in love's pure raiment for a fresh journey towards a bright new destination. The transformation begins almost at the first moment of contact and the process of a ceaseless irresistible uplift never stops thereafter.
Perhaps this is his greatest appeal which draws to Puttaparthi and Brindavan men and women of all faiths and belief from all the continents of the world. The impact of his personality on men, women, and children is instantaneous, electrifying and elevating. In his luminous presence, they feel part of a higher order of reality, lifted out of themselves, as it were, on to a different, altogether pure plane of existence, where there is no lust, no sensuality, no greed, no anger, no wrong doing, and where, while there may be suffering and pain, there is no fear.