"The God Possessed" : An article on Sri Sathya Sai Baba from the 1969 edition of Newsweek

The cover of the final Newsweek print issue in December 2012
The cover of the final Newsweek print issue in December 2012 | Source

Published in New York City from 1933 to December 2012, the Newsweek (according to info on Wikipedia) was a weekly magazine with the second-largest print-edition circulation, only behind the iconic TIME magazine. During its prime, it had a worldwide circulation of over 4 million and it published in Japanese, Korean, Polish, Spanish, Rioplatense Spanish, Arabic and Turkish other than English.

Imagine my joy when somebody forwarded by email, a scanned page of the 'religion' section of this famous magazine which carried a story about my dear Lord, Master, Best Friend and Guide - Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba! I searched for the soft copy of that article everywhere on the world wide web but, sadly, it wasn't there. That is why I decided that I must type out from the image and post it for all to read. The original image of the scanned page is also posted in its full resolution in the article.

Apart from a single factual error the article makes in calling Swami the son of "a well-to-do matron in the village", I find that the journalist has done some homework in terms of researching and presenting honestly. There is also a mention of an incident from Mr.Charles Penn's life. A similar incident in Al Drukker's life is also popular among devotees. Of course, the devotion that one would see in a devotee's article is missing here but the reverence and awe can be easily perceived.

By the way, December 2012 was the last print-edition of the Newsweek. The article has been presented below after the heading.

The picture that accompanied the article
The picture that accompanied the article | Source

An Indian Holy Man builds a legend


The God Possessed

When Sathyanarayana Raju was born, his mother recalls, the family tambura twanged of its own accord and a cobra appeared mysteriously beneath his crib.As a child, he showed mystic powers and a love of sacred verse. And one day when he was 13 years old, he returned home from school and told his mother, a well-to-do matron in the village of Puttaparthi: “I am no longer your Sathya, I am Sai Baba. I do not consider myself related to you. My work is waiting. My Bhaktas(devotees) are waiting. Good-by. Worship me every Thursday.”

With that, Baba left home to begin the life of a god-possessed holy man. His mother pleaded with him to come back, but it was too late: throngs of Hindus were already crowding around the youth calling him “tiny prophet”, “mysterious prodigy” and “God on earth.”

Divine:

Such events are not unusual in India, where thousands of self-proclaimed gurus and holy men roam, begging for a living and teaching their faithful. But Baba, the god-possessed is unique. He claims to be “the Lord come in human form,” a reincarnation of Krishna, one of the major Hindu gods. And thousands of devout Hindus believe that the 42-year-old, bushy-haired holy man with flashing eyes, and a voice “like the sound of a bell” can perform miracles, heal the sick and project his mind through time and space. Each November, 50,000 Indians trek to Puttaparthi to celebrate his birthday. The former chief scientist in the government’s Ministry of Defense insists that Baba is “beyond the laws of physics and chemistry, a divine phenomenon, an incarnation.”

Since he began leading the life of a holy man, Baba’s miracles have become legend throughout India. A leading lawyer swears that Baba cured him of Parkinson’s disease with a wave of his hand, and Baba is said to have walked along the seashore at Cape Comorin in South India with prayer beads forming magically at his feet after each step. He reportedly produces the Bhagavad-Gitaand sandalwood statuettes of Krishna from the sand by magic, and once, when traveling in a car that ran out of gas, is said to have turned a bucketful of water into gasoline. When a murderer appeared at his religious school disguised in a holy garb, the story goes, Baba detected the villain immediately and told him:“Confess your crime. There is no escape.” And Charles Penn, an American pilot insists that Baba miraculously appeared at his side during a crash landing in India.

The article as it appeared in the Newsweek on November 17th, 1969
The article as it appeared in the Newsweek on November 17th, 1969

Stroke

But Baba probably performed his most spectacular miracle in 1963 at his Puttaparthi School. His doctors say he collapsed with a stroke and four heat attacks, and refused medical help for a week. Then he was carried into his prayer hall and miraculously cured himself before an audience of 5,000. Baba explained that he had taken on himself the heart attacks and paralysis of a forlorn person, since only he could survive them. “You may call these miracles,” says Baba, “but for me they are just my way. For me they are no mystery. They are part of my essential miraculousness.”

Baba apparently showed the promise of divinity at an early age: as a school boy, he is said to have amazed his classmates by making pens, pencils and books materialize out of thin air, and once he held a teacher helplessly stuck in a chair with mental whammy.

Today, Baba leads a colourful and a comfortable life, rising before dawn to lead his followers in chants and religious songs, and then withdrawing for meditation. He dines on milk and sweets, and each day selects several followers for interviews and counseling. Twice each day- in the morning and evening- his students throng around him for a bhajan (religious sons) meeting and burn ceremonial camphor sticks. Baba tells them to lead a clean life, observe strict silence, avoid gossip and study Hindu scriptures. Unlike nearly all-Indian holy men, Baba never accepts gifts or cash contributions.

Path

Westerners may remain skeptical about Baba’s miracles, but his skills as a minister and teacher are not to be lightly dismissed. Baba says his mission is dharma-samsthapana - restoring justice to the world teaching men how to follow the moral path. Sometimes Baba’s advice is full of mystical and double-talk, and sometimes he preaches the most threadbare platitudes. But occasionally he rises to the mystic simplicity that lies at the heart of Oriental religion. “Do not fall so much in love with the world,” he once said. “You find out the world is mad and foolish, full of crooks and cranks. Use the world as a training ground for liberation. Stand a little apart and watch both the play and the director who produces it.”

At bottom, Baba’s lasting appeal may lie not in his miracles or his claim to beKrishna reincarnated, but as one Indian Government official put it, in his “humantouch, his ability to enter into the hearts of men and plant a seed of faith.” Andthat he surely has done. As one devout middle-aged woman put it: “He is my god.He is divine. What else do I want?”

- end of article (Newsweek, November 17th, 1969)

A word on the media

While it is true that some representatives of the mass media indulge in 'non-journalistic', 'unscientific' styles of reporting - sitting at a desk, imagining, sensationalizing and then writing - there are also those that have thankfully retained the dignity of researching facts and presenting honestly. And as the days go by, am seeing more and more articles in reputed media like The Huffington Post (international) and Indian Express (Indian).

That definitely makes me happy for who will not feel hurt or sad when wrong things are written about the being they love with all heart - and that too without proper research? Truth always triumphs. It will always prevail.

God bless.

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Comments 9 comments

aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

Thank you Manjula Prasad.... :)


Manjula prasad 3 years ago

I always enjoy your page. Your writing is full of love. God bless you


deepa 3 years ago

thanks Aravind for presenting this before us. Sairam


aravindb1982 profile image

aravindb1982 3 years ago from Puttaparthi, India Author

@ Srin - Agreed! :)


Srin 3 years ago

"He dines on milk and sweets"- Don't think so! Swami himself said many times that he never liked to have either of them. Many people must be aware of how less Swami eats. He would finish his meal even before we could finish the first few morsels. And with that motherly love go around asking people to have more of their favourite items. The perfect host, every time!

But apart from this, a fairly good example of reporting.


Maria 3 years ago

Aravind this very affirming and meaningful for devotees in US, thanks for doing this research


Balasubramanya Subbarao 3 years ago

I had purchased the Magazine in 1969 at Church Street Bangalore, while returning from Whitefield.


Shruti 3 years ago

This is amazing.... wonder why such articles have not been digitalized!....


Aruna 3 years ago

Olden days people used to take pain in going to find the facts and present them.Unlike present media sensationalizing unnecessary things like snake dancing, people having domestic arguments to what not.

This is what is overuse and misuse of technology.

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