Overview

One US Devotee by name of K. Narayan has written one book considering the return of Sathya Sai Baba to physical form. In the introduction, the author says (among other things):

We all have faith that Swami will return to earth as Prema Sai Baba. But the "return" I am talking about is His reappearance in the same physical form of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. (Author has bolded text.)

Such a statement is likely to elicit an immediate response from many devotees, both for and against the thesis the author proposes. It is noted that many devotees confess, in one way or another, that they (have experienced) (are experiencing) (continue to experience lingering) grief at the loss of the physical form of Sathya Sai Baba, and, due the grieving process, however they take up the material in this book, any reaction to the contents of this book is likely to be a strong reaction.

The text raises a number of issues (some of which have been done to death in many places) and merit careful consideration. Being a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba for many was (and is) an intensely personal experience, for many professed (and continue to profess) a strong personal connection to Sathya Sai Baba within.

It is useful to consider that Sai Baba devotees, on the surface of things, are now in the same situation as followers and adherents of other religions which had founders: the time of public revelation from the divine incarnation itself has ended, and henceforth, any experience, message, vision, inner apprehension of Sai Baba is likely to be classified as private revelation. Who then sets the criteria for devotees to follow? What is public, what is private, and who speaks for Sathya Sai Baba now that he has left his body?

These are serious questions that every devotee has to seek within, via use of discrimination and a clarified intellect, for their own answer. Every devotee, in one way or another, will have to answer these (and other) question for themselves. Not discriminating, not applying intellect, not seeking such an answer within is also a choice. Perhaps it may be a choice overpowered by loss and grief; perhaps it may be a choice flooded by maya, perhaps it may be a choice that a "devotee" might shirk to make and look to others to make for them. Any and all of these options are also a choice.

It has to be kept in mind that Sathya Sai Baba was not a guru and did not have disciples, what is called "shisya" in sanskrit. Many may demur such a definition and vehemently disagree. The external evidence is that Sathya Sai Baba frequently made references to devotee (bhakta) and not disciple (shisya) in divine discourses and in personal interviews.

Several questions were asked, in the light of Sathya Sai Baba leaving his physical form. The questions were, inter alia, "Who then sets the criteria for devotees to follow? What is public (revelation), what is private (revelation), and who speaks for Sathya Sai Baba now that he has left his body?"

This was the mess the media were in immediately after Sai Baba left his body (or "died" as some media representatives and organisations preferred to put it); many intimated that the "succession", the passing on of the Guru quality, would go to one Sathyajit Sailan, one of Baba's personal assistants of many years.

Photographs of Satyajit Sailan appeared in the newspapers and there was much speculation about who would be in charge of the ashram, the golds, the riches, the dhan (or dakshina) (personal wealth) that many devotees gave to Sathya Sai Baba. Many devotees scorned such speculation, for they knew that the succession, the "parampara" as it is told in Sanskrit, would go to one Prema Sai Baba, the birth of (or emergence of) whom is causing much speculation at this moment amongst devotees. Devotees throng to Mysore, Gunapathy in the Mandaya District of Karnataka, and aver that Prem Sai will be born in July; no, the answer is October, in Mysaloorum, Mysaloorum! Some even claim Prema Sai Baba has already been born!!!

Well, such speculation is rampant but not our subject here. However, the Parampara (succession) is relevant and we will take this issue up for some examination.

So a reader will be alert to the significant issues at stake here for many devotees of Sathya Sai Baba, among all of which there is considerable mystery about the birth of Prema Sai Baba and how Prem Sai Baba will be known and recognised. How will a devotee know the truth? Prema Sai Baba babies already exist on YouTube. Perhaps Anil Kumar will go and be his translator if he (Anil Kumar) is still alive? How does a devotee arrive at the truth amongst all these matters?

Into this maelstrom of questions, qrief, searching and seeking the presence of the divine, and perhaps, taking darshan of (visiting, worshipping) the Samadhi (tomb) of Sathya Sai Baba, comes this book with its opening assertion:

We all have faith that Swami will return to earth as Prema Sai Baba. But the "return" I am talking about is His reappearance in the same physical form of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. (Author has bolded text.)

What then, should a devotee consider in the material that follows? How does one identify Truth? How does one ensure one is not misled by the material therein? How does one arrive at knowledge, apply that skilfully to this material, achieve a balanced evaluation and thereby use their intellect gainfully with insight and maintain their own identity as devotee of their chosen teacher, guru, guardian and guide, Sri Sathya Sai Baba?

Such might be an avalanche of questions, but they strike right to the root of a central aspect of what it means to be a devotee: the issue of self-identity.